Talking About ‘Love, Iris’ with Bibliobeth!

Love, Iris

How did I get it?:
It was a present!

Synopsis:

Tess has a secret – one which is going to turn her life upside down in just nine months’ time.

The only person she can confide in is her beloved grandmother. But Iris is slipping further away each day.

Then chance brings a stranger into Tess’s life.

Gigi’s heart goes out to Tess, knowing what it’s like to feel alone. She’s determined to show her that there’s a silver lining to every cloud.

As their unlikely friendship blossoms, Tess feels inspired to open up.

But something still holds her back – until she discovers Iris has a secret of her own. A suitcase of letters from another time, the missing pieces of a life she never shared.

Could the letters hold the answers that Tess thought lost for ever?

CHRISSI: I knew you would initially be unsure of reading this book. What was it that made you unsure?

BETH: Ah, you know me too well. I’m afraid to say that one again it was the cover that was initially a turn off for me. I have to be compelled to pick up a book and a beautiful cover can be the magic moment where I’ll pick it up and want to read the blurb on the back. I’m afraid with Love, Iris, if I ordinarily saw it in a bookshop, I wouldn’t even pick it up to read the back. I would (wrongly) assume that it wasn’t going to be the book for me. I’m glad that reading books with you as part of our “Talking About” series is making me pick up books that I wouldn’t normally and being pleasantly surprised as a result!

BETH: Interspersed amongst the story are Tess’ letters to her developing baby. Did you enjoy these and what do you think they added to the narrative?

CHRISSI: Great question! I did enjoy the letters to her developing baby. I think they made Tess really relatable especially to prospective mothers. You could sense Tess’ insecurities about motherhood but also her growing bond with her developing baby. I thought that was really sweet.

CHRISSI: Discuss the novel’s varying depictions of marriage. What kinds of relationships seem most likely to fail or succeed? Ultimately, do you think marriage is seen as a positive or negative in the story?

BETH: Such an interesting question. Okay, so we have various relationships in the book – we have the older generation of Iris and her husband who were very happily married compared to Gigi and Richard who have been married for years and have three grown children together but recently Gigi has been feeling unhappy and taken for granted and decides a period of separation would be a good idea. Then there is Iris’ grand-daughter Tess who is pregnant but not in a relationship and her mother Donna who has raised her as a single parent. I don’t think you can ever predict what relationships will fail or succeed to be honest and I also don’t think marriage is the be all and end all. As Gigi has shown, you can be married for years and then realise you’re not happy and personally, I supported her decision to bail out if she wasn’t content. You never know what’s going to happen in the future and how your relationship with your partner will evolve (or not evolve which is sometimes the problem!) On a personal level, I’ve been with my partner since 2002, we aren’t married and have no plans to do so and we are perfectly happy. I don’t think marriage is always necessary to ensure a successful relationship.

BETH: Tess has quite a difficult relationship with her mother, Donna. How do you think this developed as the story continued?

CHRISSI: She really did have a difficult relationship with her mother. I think it developed into a sort of understanding throughout the story. As Tess began to lose Iris, and become a mother herself, I believe it made her want to sort things out with her own mother. I think losing a close friend or family member gives you perspective and makes you want to sort out issues that could be in relationships. I don’t think Tess and her mother will be the closest, but I think their experiences brought them together.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character? If so, who and why?

BETH: I can’t choose! I have so many favourite characters in this novel. I loved our main female leads – Tess, Gigi and to a certain extent, Iris (although I would have loved to know even MORE about her life). I felt that as characters they were all personable, easy to like and I found myself rooting for their happiness from the very start of the story.

BETH: What effect does keeping secrets have on each of the characters? What about when they reveal these secrets?

CHRISSI: I feel like both Tess and Gigi’s secret was better for them when it came to light. Tess was hiding her pregnancy and although her boyfriend was a bit of a turd about the pregnancy, her life was definitely on the up after the secret was revealed. Gigi wasn’t happy in her marriage. I think she had kept it secret for so long to keep up the happy family vibe with her children that she clearly adored. Even though it was tough for her to leave her marriage and upset her children, it was the best thing for her. No one wants to stay in a relationship like that. Life may have been a little messy for Gigi, but the future could be brighter. Iris… oh I loved that character. She kept so many secrets about her brother Tom from her family. I wish we could have known more from Iris. Secrets was definitely a common theme in this story but mainly love, family and self-discovery.

CHRISSI: Discuss whether you agree with Wilf’s entreaty to Iris that ‘love is the simplest thing in the world.’ How do the relationships in the novel support or contradict this statement?

BETH: Wow. Tough. It is and it isn’t is my answer! I think it can be very easy to fall in love with someone – after all, it doesn’t take much effort and is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. However, I think staying in love with someone can be very difficult, both of the individuals have to make a concerted effort with each other otherwise they can end up in a stagnant place where they take each other for granted, much like Gigi and Richard find themselves. Also, being in love with someone where the feelings aren’t reciprocated as strongly can be quite dangerous because you open up your heart enormously and leave yourself vulnerable to becoming very hurt.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I thought this was a great read! 🙂

Would I recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

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A Version Of The Truth

A Version of the Truth

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Avon Books

Synopsis:

2019: Julianne is preparing a family dinner when her son comes to her and says he’s found something on his iPad. Something so terrible, it will turn Julianne’s world into a nightmare and make her question everything about her marriage and what type of man her husband is or is pretending to be.

1990: Holly is a fresher student at Oxford University. Out of her depth and nervous about her surroundings, she falls into an uneasy friendship with a group of older students from the upper echelons of society and begins to develop feelings for one in particular. He’s confident, quiet, attractive and seems to like her too. But as the year progresses, her friends’ behaviour grows steadily more disconcerting and Holly begins to realise she might just be a disposable pawn in a very sinister game.

A devastating secret has simmered beneath the surface for over twenty-five years. Now it’s time to discover the truth. But what if you’re afraid of what you might find?

Thoughts:

I didn’t know much about this book before I picked it up. The synopsis sold it for me, so I took up the opportunity to read it. I meant to have finished it way before now, but unfortunately work was incredibly hectic, so I couldn’t get this book out as anticipated on its release day. I’m always up for discovering new authors, especially debut authors. There’s no denying that this book is well written. I just found it to be very intense.

It centres around Julianne who is preparing dinner when her son Stephen comes to tell her that he’s found something awful. He was on the home computer when he found something among his dad’s files. Julianne is nervous to see exactly what it was. After she sees it, she realises life won’t be the same again. Her marriage starts to unravel as a secret from the past comes back to haunt them.

What I liked about this book was that it was told in a dual narrative that really worked. We heard from 1991 and the current 2019. Julianne’s story was told alongside Holly. Both girls were students at Oxford University. They weren’t particularly good friends, but they knew of each other and both wanted to keep something that happened back in 2019.

I would warn that there is some incredibly sensitive content within its pages. There’s rape and homophobia to name a few themes. Yet, there’s something about this book that keeps you turning its pages. I found it incredibly difficult to read at points. It also used some quite strong language that always makes me cringe. The writer deals with these subjects incredibly well and creates a story that’s quite the page turner!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Worth a read! Just beware of the subject matter!

The Fear

The Fear

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.

Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.

But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey…

Thoughts:

I have been really enjoying catching up on this author’s books. I believe I am now all caught up! Yay. I was somewhat hesitant to start this book because I had seen some very mixed reviews surrounding it. I can see why it had mixed opinions. Certainly, it’s subject matter is very difficult to read about. As a teacher myself, I find it really hard to read about books that include relationships with young children/teenagers. However, there was something about The Fear that kept me reading.

The Fear centres around Lou Wandsworth who ran away to France with her teacher Mike when she was younger. Mike turned out to be as lovely as he seemed and he shattered Lou’s confidence and left her life in pieces. Now an adult, Lou finds out that Mike is involved with another teenager. She doesn’t want the same thing to happen to young Chloe, so she is determined to confront him. Mike is clever though and it’s not certain that Lou won’t the one being hurt…

There were a few points of view in this story and plenty of twists and turns along the way. I have come to expect a lot of twists when I read a C.L Taylor book and this book certainly does have twists and turns. I did see some coming, but I think that’s because I’m quite familiar with this genre and I’ve come to expect or at least anticipate some twists.

The characters are fantastic, even if Lou does make some very silly choices throughout. You want to reach into the book and tell her to get her act together. I have to say, I think Wendy was my favourite character. She’s not exactly a lovable character, but I thought she was the most interesting!

There were some inaccuracies within this story which is why I dropped half a star for its rating. I agree with other reviewers, that the social media involved in the story wasn’t around when the story was set. Other events described weren’t also around in the time period. I know it’s being really picky commenting on that, but when the story is as good as it is, inaccuracies can be incredibly frustrating. I think, aside from that, I would’ve rated it a 4 stars.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Not an easy book to read, but addictive all the same!

The Alchemist

The Alchemist

How did I get it?:
It was a gift!

Synopsis:

Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.

Thoughts:

I was bought this book, told that I had to read it, because it was one of the best books in existence. Hm. Whilst I can see why some people absolutely love this book, it wasn’t really for me. I have to admit that it really surprised me. My first degree at university was a very philosophical one, so I thought that I might really ‘get’ this book. I appreciated its sentiment, but I had a real disconnect from it.

The Alchemist follows Santiago, a shepherd on a quest for treasure. He travels and experiences many things, each teaching him something along the way.

I loved the message of following your dreams and listening to your heart. However, I didn’t feel as connected to it as I wanted to. It was a sweet read, but despite how short it was, it felt like a very slow paced read. I wasn’t compelled to keep turning the pages. I was left feeling slightly underwhelmed and wondering what I had missed. That said, I can’t deny that this book has a lovely, spiritual message which is why I would recommend it to others.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Whilst I didn’t have the connection I expected with this book, I still thought it had some very profound statements and one I’m sure others will connect with more.

The Silent Patient

The Silent Patient

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Orion Publishing

Synopsis:

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….

Thoughts:

Ahhh this book. I had seen it absolutely everywhere and I held off until February to read it, as I had an ARC. The struggle to wait for it. The struggle. I can confidently say that I’m so pleased I waited. It was an amazing read. I’m absolutely blown away that this is a debut novel. It was incredible. I really should stop gushing now and get into my review.

This has a really exciting premise. It’s about a woman named Alicia Berenson who is accused of murdering her husband. The trouble is, since the crime, Alicia hasn’t spoken. For six years she’s been living in a mental health unit called The Grove. The Grove is for very dangerous people with serious mental health issues. Readers then meet Theo Faber, who has had a tough childhood. He’s now a psychotherapist. He’s intrigued by Alicia and wants to be the one to ‘cure’ her and getting her to speak again. He wants to help solve the mystery as to why she murdered her husband.

This is one of those reviews where I’m going to be terribly vague because I don’t want to ruin the story. I will say that it’s an incredibly well written story. It’s so compulsive. I desperately wanted to find out what was going on. I absolutely loved the inclusion of Alicia’s diary. Argh. I want to say so much but I can’t because of spoilers. It is a bit of a slow burner, which I don’t usually enjoy, but this one had me from the very beginning.

I have to admit that I didn’t see the twist coming. I know many people will do, but for me I was quite shocked which is why I had to give it a 5 star rating. I think this will be an excellent book club read. It truly deserves all of the praise it’s getting.

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

A truly excellent 2019 debut. Alex Michaelides is truly one to watch!

I’ll Find You

I'll Find You

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Bonnier Zaffre

Synopsis:

Emily Jacobs, a nurse, is in hospital for a minor operation. When she wakes in the night, woozy with anaesthetic, she sees the doctor frantically trying to resuscitate the woman in the bed next to her. In the morning, she is told that she must have had a nightmare. The bed has been empty all along . . .

When Emily returns to work she discovers a bracelet that she believes belonged to the missing woman. Soon, she becomes convinced that her colleagues at the hospital are hiding a terrible secret.
What if she’s wrong? What if her own troubled past has affected her more than she knows?

But what if she’s right?

What else could they be capable of?

Thoughts:

I had heard mixed reviews about this book, so I was somewhat hesitant to start it. However, I try as much as I can not to let reviews sway me. I went into this book with an open mind. I did find it enjoyable and it didn’t take me long to read at all, but I can see why some reviewers have had some trouble with it.

The premise of this book is really exciting.  Emily’s sister, Zoe, went missing from a hospital 12 months ago. Emily has been signed off work as a nurse after suffering with her mental health. Emily is about to return to work after deciding that she needs distraction. However, Emily discovers a lump in her breast and needs to get it removed. After surgery, Emily comes around to a young girl being revived by several members of staff. When someone notices Emily, they inject her, sending her into a deep sleep. In the morning, staff deny any knowledge of anyone ever being in the room with Emily. Emily won’t let it lie though and is determined to prove she was telling the truth, no matter what…

I was really intrigued by the plot line but I’m sad to say that it became a little unbelievable in places. It didn’t seem like real life. I’m not saying that stories should be similar to real life, but in thrillers, I do tend to like some sense of reality within the pages. A good thriller creeps you out because you know it could happen.

There are some really interesting characters in this story and there was certainly enough to hold my attention. It was clear that the writer has good medical knowledge, being a nurse herself. I just wish it had been more believable.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! (just!)

 

Despite my reservations about this book, I think many would enjoy it, so I would recommend it!

Banned Books #55- Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread by Chuck Palahnuik.

Make Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread
First published: 2015
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2016 (source)
Reasons: profanity, sexual explicitness and being “disgusting and all around offensive.”

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: As this collection was first published only a few years ago now, my answers for the first two questions in this post are going to be similar as it’s a relatively recent release. I have to be honest and say I had a really hard time reading this book and am now having an even tougher time trying to answer these questions. If you follow our Banned Books series I think you’ll probably realise that I don’t think any book should be challenged or banned however if it were a situation within a school library, perhaps access should be monitored when we think about more controversial books. However, I haven’t read that many banned books in this series so far where I think access should be limited – perhaps apart from the graphic novel Saga in a primary school situation. This is one of those cases where I think (in my personal opinion) that Stories You Can’t Unread isn’t particularly suitable in an educational setting. That is not to say I agree with it being challenged or banned, I think I’ve already made my opinion clear on that but with this collection, I can unfortunately see why parents might have issues with it if their child brought it home from the library.

CHRISSI: In an educational setting, I can totally understand why it’s challenged/banned. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with teenagers reading this book. I, myself, felt very uncomfortable through several of the stories. I think the author has an incredibly aggressive writing style, that I couldn’t get on with. Would I want it to be banned in general? No. The author clearly has an audience and I imagine so many would enjoy his writing. Me, however? No. It’s certainly not for me. I could barely read some of them because they were incredibly twisted. I like twisted but there’s a line, for me personally, and I think this book crossed that line.

How about now?:

BETH: Should Stories You Can’t Unread be challenged/banned? Well, no I believe people should be able to access all works of literature if they want and not be subject to rules or regulations that prevent them having that freedom of choice. Do I agree with the reasons that it was challenged? Well, not agree but it’s one of those rare times that I do understand the potential problems that this collection has raised. I don’t have a particular issue with profanity but I know a lot of people do and this collection doesn’t hold back on that count. The same is true for sexuality which can be incredibly graphic in some of the stories and not necessarily to everyone’s taste as some of the tales are quite twisted regarding sex. I’m not easily offended and the stories in this book didn’t shock me so as to speak but I did find myself reading some of them with a little bit of a grimace nevertheless. Especially the stallion story – say no more!

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I’m not easily offended. Yet, there’s something about this book that didn’t sit right for me. There’s too way much content that could offend others and the writing style just made me feel uneasy. I know the author makes you want to feel that way and he was highly successful with this book. I don’t think any book should be banned because I believe every person should be able to read what they want. However, challenged in education? Yes.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I think the thing is with Chuck Palahniuk is that he likes being shocking and deliberately controversial. You have to take the stories you read in here with a pinch of salt, open your mind as wide as it could possibly go and prepare to be a little bit grossed out by what you’re about to read. If that’s not your thing and you are sensitive or easily offended, this collection definitely isn’t for you. I like to think of myself as quite open-minded and I only had a very strong reaction to a couple of the stories in this book but my problem was that there only seemed to be a few pieces that I genuinely felt interested in. The rest of the stories just didn’t seem as well constructed and none of them (even the intriguing ones) ended satisfactorily which was just frustrating for me as a reader. I’ve still to read some of the author’s novels but as a short story writer, I just don’t think he’s for me.

CHRISSI: I didn’t like it at all. I don’t often come out and say that. I usually look for positives, however, for me, I felt too uncomfortable and I didn’t enjoy the author’s tone.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- I couldn’t get into the author’s writing style and certainly won’t be reading more from him.