The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

gemmaThe reviews for this book are all over the place.  Some think it’s a pale, boring retelling of Jane Eyre while other readers loved it.   The comparison isn’t only about Gemma and Jane Eyre, our author was also without a mother at age nine and grew up lonely in Scotland, as Gemma did,  reading Jane Eyre from her own father’s library.  Obviously her experiences were quite different.

The old adage imitation is the sincerest form of flattery holds true for me, at least with this book.  Wuthering Heights is retold in a contemporary setting in Solsbury Hill by Susan Wyler (very popular modernized version with all the heartache you’d expect) and what about Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, a modern version of King Lear?  Anyway, I very much enjoyed this story.   I thought Gemma was an intelligent headstrong girl. Obviously well-educated thanks to her uncle and without formal schooling, she showed remarkable maturity and resilience.

Gemma’s life is filled with tragedy.  We are introduced to Gemma when she is 10 years old, living in her aunt’s home in Scotland.  Although she previously lived in Iceland she was born in Scotland, her mother being Scottish and her father an Icelander.  When she is young her mother dies after falling and hitting her head on a rock.  A few years later her fisherman father drowns.  She is taken in by her Uncle Charles and becomes part of the Hardy household in Scotland. She was only 3 years of age when she moved in with the Hardy family.  Then Uncle Charles died and Gemma’s place in the household changed.  This is the start of the book, how she went from family member to the status of hired help.  She was relegated to the kitchen, removed from the family dinner table, wore old, old clothes and was treated shabbily.

When the chance came to send her away to a school her aunt jumped on it.  For a smart young lady you would think this would be the ideal escape for Gemma but alas, that was jumping from the pan into the fire.  The “working girls” who did not pay tuition were basically slaves.  Cleaning, cooking, gardening and their studies came last.  It was a horrible situation.

It just seemed to be one thing after another for Gemma but she never lost her determination.  Rather than rehash this entire book I’ll say that I enjoyed reading how she overcame many obstacles and fretted for her when something overwhelming cropped up.   Oh, another thing I liked about Gemma was her quest for knowledge and her love of birds.  There was a large book in her beloved uncle’s study called Birds of the World.  She loved looking at the photos and learning where they lived in the world.  Her only friend at school noted this love of birds and gifted Gemma with a book about Scottish birds.  There are references as she points out curlews, lapwings, grebes, blackbird, curlew, jackdaw and puffins when she is working as an au pair and later as a nanny.

There were a couple of things I didn’t like in the book and rather than have spoilers here, I put those thoughts on Goodreads as there is a format for hiding them.

The setting is mostly in Glasgow,  a rural setting of Aberfeldy and the Orkney Islands.  As I note foodie items in most books I read I can say there are many mentions of food here yet it’s not a foodie book by any means.

This is an author I will most certainly seek out, Margot Livesey can paint a vivid picture.

Sharing with Joy’s Book Blog for her British Isles Friday event.

BriFri

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Into the Night by Sarah Bailey

intothenightFractured relationships abound in this novel, the second book in the Gemma Woodstock series.

We have a murdered homeless man, elderly and kind, knifed in the early hours of the morning.  Gemma is not assigned lead detective on this case so straight away we can see her mopey side.  Next murder is a high profile case.  A good looking young actor, Sterling Wade, is killed on the set of a movie being filmed locally in Melbourne.  This will take priority as it’s a media nightmare.  Gemma is lead on this one but descriptions of her personality don’t exactly have her leaping off the page.

In the first book, The Dark Lake, she was a lead detective in a rural town in Australia.  Gemma transferred to another detective position in busy Melbourne after her relationship with her partner Scott fails.  She leaves her young son Ben with Scott and has issues with the separation yet doesn’t seem to want custody, only visits. It’s a good transition from book one to this story.

In my opinion, Gemma Woodstock’s personal issues detracted from this story. You do want a little bit of the personal side of your main character, that’s one of the things I like about the DCI Banks series, but Gemma’s internal turmoil could have been toned down.  I was actually warming more to her partner Nick Fleet, incorrigible as he is. Hoping he shows up in the next book and we get more information about his back story.

If you like multiple story lines with more than one murder investigation then you will enjoy that aspect of the book.  Hoping Gemma conquers her many demons and becomes confident and energetic.  We need some flaws in our main characters but Gemma’s issues are legend.

Much thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for the review. This book was published in December 2018.

Sharing with the Aussie Reading Challenge and Girlxoxo for January’s Monthly Motif.

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Scrublands by Chris Hammer for the Australian Reading Challenge

scrublands I’ll say straight away that I liked this book and would read more by this author. There were a few things that I didn’t care for but overall, what a great plot. Anyone can read from the book cover/descriptor the story of a priest who guns down 5 men in front of his church. The journalist, Martin Scarsden, arrives in town to report on how the residents are coping a year after the tragedy. Martin is suffering from PTSD after an incident in the Gaza strip, his editor sending him out on this story to give him a chance to get back in the journo game. Why would an admired priest turn killer?

Best I can describe the way the story unfolds is to think of a nesting doll. There are layers and layers of stories that intertwine, the residents’ dark secrets, the greed, guilt and love and motivations of the characters. There are multiple crimes that are revealed in this investigative journalist’s report.
Some of the character names are a hoot – you have Harley Snouch and Mandalay “Mandy” Blonde who are supporting characters.

I’m learned about bush fires in the Scrubland, how they work, quite different from a house fire. Smoke inhalation gets you in a house fire but a bushfire flat out cooks you. This was addressed in another Australian book I enjoyed, Jane Harper’s debut book The Dry. The scenery described is almost apocalyptic, the land has a harshness and character of its own.

What I didn’t care for was how the character Codger Harris was introduced. He’s waaaay out in the Scrubland where it’s dry and extremely hot. When Martin arrives at Codger’s dilapidated house he finds the old man inside, naked and masturbating. Sorry but that part just didn’t fit into the story, it didn’t blend and it was an unnecessary detail to introduce us to Codger. It was established how unbearably hot it is, so much so that Codger didn’t wear clothes in this isolated part of the scrubland. By the way, he is an integral part of this story and has his own interesting past which dovetails with the ending.

Let us meet the author, Chris Hammer!

This book is the first one for the Aussie Author Challenge. It could cover the male author or new author category. Also linking with Girlxoxo for the January Monthly Motif – “category new to me author.”

Much thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy. Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for the review. Publication date is January 8, 2019.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I am very late getting to the party with this movie.  The book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling was advertised as a guide, a textbook of sorts that related to the Potter stories.  At the time I didn’t have an interest in the books as there wasn’t a story line.  I was a straight up Harry Potter fan and this prequel, such as it is, just didn’t appeal.

So now I am just getting around to seeing the first movie.  Loved it!


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has a few stars you may be familiar with Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton and Johnny Depp.  I loved the characters Queenie and Jacob – I’m happy to know they will be in the second movie.

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Now I have to wait for the next movie, The Crimes of Grindelwald where Jude Law stars as Albus Dumbledore.  Looking forward to that one.

Sharing with Joy’s Book Blog for her British Isles Friday event.

BriFri

The Flight Attendant By Chris Bohjalian

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I have been a fan of this author for quite a while. While this ended up being a pretty good book, I will say, in my opinion, it wasn’t my favorite of his books.

The flight attendant in question, Cassandra Bowden, just wasn’t a very likable person. I understand about addiction and it shapes the way a person behaves, but you really couldn’t have very much sympathy for this woman.

Cassie Bowden wakes up in a Dubai hotel room next to a dead man.  He’s the man she met on the flight, a passenger whom she flirted with, had dinner and sex and too much to drink. What is your first instinct here?  Mine would be to call the police but Cassie decides to flee the hotel room, after wiping the room of her fingerprints.  Did she kill him?  She doesn’t know.

It kept my interest yet seemed to drag a bit.  I was hoping it would pick up and refrain from the detail about how Cassie liked to drink and have sex with strangers and her blackouts and self-loathing.    Around the 50% mark it really started picking up so I was invested by then. Russian operatives, secrets, police investigations and more lying.

I thought the end wrapped it up but not as strongly, or believably as I had hoped.  Would I read more by Bohjalian?  Absolutely.  This just wasn’t my favorite book by the author.

This one was finished up last year but I am just getting around to posting about it so it doesn’t count towards my 2019 reading goals and challenges.

 

 

 

 

 

First book of the year hosted at Book Journey

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I’m joining Sheila at Book Journey  for the First Book of 2019.

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The Flight of Gemma Hardy By Margot Livesey is set in Iceland and Scotland, a literary inspiration from Jane Eyre. This has been on my to-read list for many years so why not tackle something from my old Goodreads list.

This modern retelling of a classic takes us from the moors and visits Iceland and the Scottish Orkney islands. I’m looking forward to this one and will report back after I’m done.

Thank you, Sheila, for inviting me again this year!

Aussie Author Challenge 2019

It’s the last week of December – how did this year fly by so fast?!
One of the things I like to do near the end of the year is evaluate which books are must-reads for the upcoming year. This leads me to reading challenges and for 2019 I am sticking with two that I love.

There is the Monthly Motif Challenge hosted at Girlxoxo and the Aussie Author Challenge.  The Aussie challenge is in it’s 10th year but this is only my second time participating.  (here is my roundup for 2018)

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I completed the Wallaby level this year and now I’m thinking of taking on the Wallaroo level.  Wish me luck!  A few of the books I am planning are:

Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Sarah Bailey’s The Dark Lake and Into the Night

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

I’ll need at least one book but I hope to find more as I read and see what others have read.  If you’d like to sign up check it out HERE.

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