Talking About A Song For Issy Bradley with Bibliobeth

A Song for Issy Bradley

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

Ian used to think that his life had been disappointingly easy, compared to the pioneers. He had a happy marriage, four children, a satisfactory job and, for just over a year, he has served the church in his role as Bishop of the local congregation, an enormous responsibility.

And then Issy died.

Now his wife, Claire, won’t get out of their dead daughter’s bottom bunk and she won’t speak. Claire doesn’t want a blessing or a sympathy card and she’s got nothing to say to the Lord. She just wants to be left alone to be sad.
Ian doesn’t know what to do to make things better. Zippy and Alma are trying to combine living with grieving and being Mormons with being teenagers. Only seven-year-old Jacob has a plan. He knows that his faith is bigger than a mustard seed; it’s at least as big as a toffee bonbon, maybe bigger. It’s clear that if he wants Issy back, it’s up to him to perform a resurrection miracle.

Incredibly moving, unexpectedly funny and so sharply observed it will make you feel as if you could pick the woodchip off the bedroom wall, A Song for Issy Bradley is about doubt and faith. But most of all it’s about a family trying to work out how to carry on when their world has been blown apart.

CHRISSI: Did you have any preconceptions of the Mormon faith before reading this book? Did they change at all?

BETH: I didn’t really. I haven’t read much about the Mormon faith apart from one Sherlock Holmes story and am sadly lacking in general knowledge about it. It was nice to read a contemporary novel that explored being a Mormon in today’s world especially in their interactions with non-believers and the children of the family especially one of the older adolescents Al, who is beginning to question his faith. Compared with Zippy who desperately wants to be a “good” Mormon and the youngest child Jacob who believes he can resurrect his sister it was interesting to see how the faith manifested and changed throughout the family.

BETH: Did you have any expectations going into this novel and were they met?

CHRISSI: I didn’t have any expectations at all. To be honest, I went into this novel without knowing what it was about. I just picked it up and started to read it. It was only when there was a strong religious tone to the novel that I went and looked up the synopsis to see what I was letting myself in for. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book even though it frustrated me greatly at many points.

CHRISSI: Examine the treatment of grief in the novel. How is it expressed through the different members of the family?

BETH: When I first started this book it had lots of lovely jokes in it which really amused me and I thought – “Okay, so it’s going to be a funny-sad novel, great!” And then Issy dies. And it’s horrible. Each member of the family deals with their heart break in their own ways – Ian tries to assimilate all of the Mormon teachings and tries to get on with things, Al seems to be repressing a lot of his emotions, Zippy leans on her faith to get her through and sweet little Jacob doesn’t seem to realise that Issy really isn’t coming back (despite his best attempts!). Poor Claire is the worse affected, it is a struggle for her to put one foot in front of another and it was quite emotional to read about how she became a virtual recluse as the result of the loss of her daughter.

BETH: Who was your favourite character and why?

CHRISSI: My favourite character was the ever so sweet Jacob. I loved reading about him as he struggled to come to terms with the loss of his sister. He really needed his mum and she wasn’t able to be there for him as she drowned in her own grief. I wanted to reach into the book and give him a cuddle. When he was trying to ‘resurrect’ his sister it absolutely broke my heart. I just thought he was an incredibly lovable character.

CHRISSI: What did you think of Ian as a character?

BETH: Oh my goodness, Ian annoyed the hell out of me. I felt terrible for him as he tried to deal with his loss the best way he thought he could, by carrying on but his whole reaction to his wife’s unbearable pain seemed cold at times (although we see his real emotions towards the end). He was so devoted to his religion that it was hard for him to take on any other point of view and in some points, it almost felt like he was brain washed, married to his religion rather than to his wife, Claire.

BETH: The relationship between Claire and Ian is a key part of the novel. What do you think about the dynamics of their marriage?

CHRISSI: This is an interesting question. I really questioned Claire and Ian’s relationship. I felt like Ian was definitely the dominant partner. Claire had taken on being Mormon to be with Ian even though it completely changed her life, so she must have really loved him. I found his dedication to his religion incredibly intense and at times, it felt like his faith was more important to him than his family. His lack of warmth for his wife’s awful experience with grief was frustrating. I felt like he was trying to hide her grief away from members of the church as if it was something to be ashamed of. Ooh, he frustrated me. I’m fine with people having religious beliefs, but it certainly seemed like Ian’s religion was more important to him. I wanted him to see how much his family needed him not his faith. I think be begins to redeem himself towards the end, but it was too little too late for me!

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, were you satisfied with the ending of this novel?

BETH: Unfortunately, I wasn’t. It was such a shame as I was completely engrossed in the story right up until the end and without giving anything away, it felt slightly abrupt and that things were left a bit unfinished. Saying this though, we do see a slight glimmer of hope for the future so I managed to put my tissues away!

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes! I thought it was an enjoyable read, sad but funny in parts. I thought the writing style was good too!

Would we recommend it?
BETH: Of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!

Talking About ‘I Let You Go’ with Bibliobeth

I Let You Go

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life for ever.

DI Ray Stevens is tasked with seeking justice for a mother who is living every parent’s worst nightmare. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, it begins to consume him as he puts both his professional and personal life on the line.

As Ray and his team seek to uncover the truth, Jenna, slowly, begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating.

Thoughts:

CHRISSI: The author Clare Mackintosh is an ex policewoman. Do you think this is evident in the story telling?

BETH: The author has an immediate advantage over all other authors working in the crime genre because of her previous profession! She’s someone that has seen things first hand and is aware of all the necessary protocols and procedures. If I hadn’t known she was in the police I would say she is an author that has done her research very well and I’m sure she still had to do a bit of research to write this fantastic story.

BETH: What kind of effect did this book have on your emotions?

CHRISSI: I have to admit, it was a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions. I think I went through so many emotions throughout the course of this story. I had a bit of everything, from heartbreak, to confusion, to doubt, to anger and to hope. There really a journey (sorry, that’s cheesy!) throughout this story and I was completely invested in the story. I felt a real connection to the characters, and that’s why I experienced such strong emotions!

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, discuss what you think the future holds for Jenna.

BETH: This is going to be so hard! Okay, Jenna has been through the mill in this novel and has suffered more than any person should have to. However, I think her strength shines through in the way she manages to pick herself up and get on with her life as much as she can. She also has the support of a good man beside her and her family and friends so I have high hopes that Jenna is going to be okay. Maybe a bit of therapy would be good though?!

BETH: There are two stories going on in this novel – the story of Jenna and the one of Kate and Ray. How do you think the author dealt with this?

CHRISSI: If I’m being completely honest, I felt like Kate and Ray’s story sort of fell flat for me. I think it was an interesting element to the story, but at the same time I don’t think it really added much (but some relief from the confusion of Jenna’s life and back story). I feel like Kate and Ray’s story could have been fleshed out a little more, just to add some more depth to it, but that’s purely my opinion. Perhaps it was intentional to not have them as a focus but more of a support in the story. Hmm. Definitely interesting to think about.

CHRISSI: Did you predict at any point where the story might be going?

BETH: No way. At no time! The twists and turns in this story absolutely floored me and I love being surprised by a novel, even when I think I’ve got it all sorted in my head. It often seemed to change genres as well from contemporary to psychological to thriller which proves just how versatile a writer Clare Mackintosh is.

BETH: Discuss the relationship between Ray and Kate

CHRISSI: I kind of touched on this in your last question, but I didn’t think their relationship was as fully fleshed out as it could have been. I mean, it was believable that’s for sure, but I didn’t think it had much depth to it. This could be intentional of course. I could completely understand how they would find a connection with one another, but I’m really not sure what Kate meant to Ray. Was it a longing for his old life/his single days? Did she remind him of his wife before their lives changed with having children? It could have been all of the above, but I was never really fully clear of how he felt about his wife and how his feelings for Kate compared.

CHRISSI: How do you think this book stands up to others in its genre?

BETH: It doesn’t stand up. It stands out! As a debut novel, this is a fantastic piece of writing that keeps you guessing and constantly amazes you. I’m really excited now to see what Clare Mackintosh is going to do next, she’s definitely one to watch. No pressure or anything Clare!

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Oh yes. I said to you as I was reading this book that I thought I had predicted what was going to happen. I totally hadn’t and I love that. Clare Mackintosh is one to watch out for!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Without a doubt!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

Talking About ‘A Man Called Ove’ with Bibliobeth

A Man Called Ove

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

CHRISSI: The emotional strength of the novel hangs on our view of Ove. Discuss how the author draws the character.

BETH: I definitely agree about the emotional strength hanging on how we view the character. Ove is both our main character and narrator with not too many additional characters on the sidelines to hide behind. I think the author was very clever in how he created Ove as he made him very “real to life.” He was someone with a lot of flaws but also someone we could believe in with a back story that instantly tugs at your heart strings.

BETH: What did you think of the writing style of this book?

CHRISSI: I thought it was immediately engaging. I remember saying to you that I thought it had a very unique vibe about it. I was pulled into the story and found myself racing through the story. It captured my attention and kept it throughout.

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of Ove?

BETH: It might sound a little strange but actually I warmed to him almost immediately! He was an intensely grumpy, rigid old man that was completely stuck in his ways but he also had so many redeeming qualities and reasons why he acted the way he did. I think in a lot of ways, Ove was very misunderstood and he had a heart of gold and although he complained a lot I really believe it was a front that he put up to protect himself.

BETH: Discuss the relationship between Ove and his wife.

CHRISSI: The relationship between Ove and his wife really touched my heart. It was clear to me how much Ove adored his wife. It came across like Ove couldn’t believe his luck, he really didn’t seem to understand why he deserved her. They were so different to one another, yet they had such a special connection. A beautiful relationship. I found his grief over his wife to be absolutely heart-breaking.

CHRISSI: Discuss the relationship between Ove and Parvaneh.

BETH: From the moment that Ove and Parvaneh first meet – when her “idiot” husband is driving and reversing (very bady) in a clearly labelled no drive area in the neighbourhood I thought this is going to be interesting! I think Parvaneh is one of the few people that sees Ove for who he really is and genuinely worries about him, as she has cause to in the early part of this novel. I loved their quite fiery remarks to each other and the way their relationship develops to where Ove has a (grudgingly) newfound respect for her.

BETH: The author treads a fine line between humour and sadness in the novel. Which do you feel wins out?

CHRISSI: This is a tricky question, because there is such a fine line between humour and sadness. I think it’s really going to be down to individual opinion on which one wins out, but for me, I thought the sadness did. It was a heart breaking read that touched my heart, but that was because of the sadness. The absolute despair that Ove was experiencing. The love for Ove’s wife was so strong, it was hard to read about his struggles with his grief and how he felt his world was ending. I did really enjoy the humorous elements of the story though. I think this book would have been depressing without some light relief!

CHRISSI: What message did you take away from this book?

BETH: I think there were quite a few take home messages from this book and I can see why it has become a bit of a talking point. A lot of it is about not judging a person until you get to know them, respecting the older generation by realising they have had a lot of life experience and as a result can give very good advice. It’s incredibly funny and poignant as well as a beautiful love story and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

BETH: Would you read another novel by this author?

CHRISSI: I think I would. The writing was engaging and the story was touching!

Would I recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars!

Talking About ‘No Safe House’ with Bibliobeth

No Safe House

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

Seven years ago, Terry Archer and his family experienced a horrific ordeal that nearly cost them their lives. Today, the echoes of that fateful night are still audible. Terry’s wife, Cynthia, is living separate from her husband and daughter after her own personal demons threatened to ruin her relationship with them permanently. Their daughter, Grace, is rebelling against her parents’ seemingly needless overprotection. Terry is just trying to keep his family together. And the entire town is reeling from the senseless murder of two elderly locals.

But when Grace foolishly follows her delinquent boyfriend into a strange house, the Archers must do more than stay together. They must stay alive. Because now they have all been unwillingly drawn into the shadowy depths of their seemingly idyllic hometown.

For there, they will be reconnected with the man who saved their lives seven years ago, but who still remains a ruthless, unrepentant criminal. They will encounter killers for hire working all sides. And they will learn that there are some things people value much more than money, and will do anything to get it.

Caught in a labyrinth between family loyalty and ultimate betrayal, Terry must find a way to extricate his family from a lethal situation he still doesn’t fully comprehend. All he knows is that to live, he may have to do the unthinkable….

CHRISSI: This book is a sequel to No Time For Goodbye. How do you think it compares?

BETH: No Time For Goodbye was the first book by Linwood Barclay I ever read and I remember being pleasantly surprised by it. I continued to read his novels although I haven’t read one for a while I have to be honest. At the start, I didn’t really remember No Time For Goodbye too well although bits and pieces came back to me as I made my way through No Safe House. I think both books are stand-out in the genre and kept me turning the pages, eager to find out what was going to happen next.

BETH: Grace has a very difficult relationship with her mother. Discuss this and if it felt resolved to you at the end of the novel.

CHRISSI: Grace was really rebellious and seemed to want to really push the limits and test her parents. Especially her mother. Grace’s family are understandably very protective over her, due to the things that have happened

CHRISSI: This novel is definitely a real page-turner. Discuss how Linwood Barclay structures his novels to create this pace.

BETH: I don’t think the author needs any fancy gimmicks or multiple narrators to tell his story. He has a sterling plot, compelling and intriguing characters, lots of action and bags of mystery which all equal a read that is unputdownable.

BETH: What did you think about Cynthia’s decision to live apart from her family? Did you understand her reasons?

CHRISSI: This is where I have to admit, that I didn’t really like Cynthia as a character. She was so paranoid. I know given her families history it’s only natural to be anxious, but I think it would’ve felt more believable if she wanted to be close to her family and build a better relationship with her daughter. Cynthia moves away to give Grace space after her overprotectiveness almost suffocates her daughter, but I would have preferred to read about a mother who works more on a relationship with her daughter than one that moves away.

CHRISSI: Was there a stand out character for you?

BETH: I loved the father, Terry. His love and devotion to his family were clear to see and I loved that he would go to ANY lengths to protect his daughter, even if she was in the wrong at the time. I also really enjoyed the character of Victor who I remembered from No Time For Goodbye quite vividly once I began reading. He is a crook and there is no doubt that he has no remorse when he kills but he was VERY readable.

BETH: Who was your favourite character and why?

CHRISSI: Terry was my favourite character although in this particular book, I didn’t always feel that his decisions were believable, but like you, I loved his devotion to his family, especially his devotion to his daughter. He wasn’t as overpowering as Cynthia!

CHRISSI: Discuss the ending of the novel.

BETH: I don’t want to give too much away but I was pleased with how it ended. There was some sadness, which I wasn’t expecting but I think things were pulled together perfectly and in a way that would give every reader some satisfaction. I sure hope this poor family gets a break now!

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would, but at the same time I’m not rushing to read another book by him. I find his books gripping and exciting, but I have to admit I was a little let down by the sequel to No Time For Goodbye!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Talking About ‘Us’ with Bibliobeth

Us

Synopsis:

Douglas Petersen understands his wife’s need to ‘rediscover herself’ now that their son is leaving home.

He just thought they’d be doing their rediscovering together.

So when Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again.

The hotels are booked, the tickets bought, the itinerary planned and printed.

What could possibly go wrong?

CHRISSI: How do you think this book compares to the author’s highly successful book ‘One Day?’

BETH: Gosh, that’s a tricky one! Okay, so in this novel I felt like we got to see a more “grown-up” view of love and marriage than in One Day where it felt like it was targeted at a young-ish audience. I’m not sure why I felt this, perhaps because the characters in this novel, Douglas and Connie are slightly older (although we do hear from their younger selves also). I can’t really choose between the books as to which I liked better as I liked both novels for different reasons.

BETH: The novel is all about the complexities of the relationship between husband and wife. Can we ever really understand other people’s relationships?

CHRISSI: No, I don’t think we can understand other people’s relationships, simply because we’re not inside their hearts. We’re not with them every moment of their relationship. We can never truly know how a person feels because we’re not that person. We may think that we know how our friend or family member feels, but we can never really understand it because we’re not fully a part of it!

CHRISSI: This is a relationship novel told from the man’s point of view – does this make a difference to the way you view the story?

BETH: Yes, I think so. Throughout the novel even though we go backwards and forwards in time we only hear the story from Douglas’ point of view and through his eyes. This automatically means that we’ve only heard one side of the story. If we had heard what Connie felt or how their son Albie felt in certain circumstances perhaps you would get a whole different range of emotions or reactions as a reader. I do think the author did an amazing job of presenting the story fairly and I think Douglas always knew deep down if he had wronged, although perhaps he was surprised at certain times of how he had been perceived or how he had acted.

BETH: Albie/Egg has quite a difficult relationship with his father. Can you understand why and do you feel optimistic for their future?

CHRISSI: I could understand why. Some people aren’t natural parents, no matter how much they want to be. At the end of the day we are all different individuals and we don’t always connect well with each other. That’s just a fact of life for me. So I could totally understand. I don’t think Douglas is a bad parent, I just thought that parenthood wasn’t what he was expecting. I do feel optimistic for their future, as I believed that they would learn and grow a relationship together.

CHRISSI: What did you make of the character of Douglas?

BETH: Well, Douglas had me in a bit of a spin throughout the novel to be honest! I went from thinking “Oh, I don’t think I like this guy,” to “Hmm, he’s improving on me,” to “Okay, I get this guy now!” I love being proved wrong when it comes to characters and I think the author wrote a fascinating character in Douglas with many hidden layers.

BETH: What did you think of the character of Connie?

CHRISSI: I wasn’t sure to begin with if I’m totally honest. Connie is the polar opposite to Douglas, but they worked somehow. I flip flopped between my opinion of Douglas too, so I definitely had mixed feelings about the couple. However, I think their relationship was really authentic. I completely believed in it.

CHRISSI: Was the end of the novel the one that you hoped for or expected?
BETH: It wasn’t, not really. But it this case, it was actually okay and I didn’t find myself shouting at the book when I closed it. I think the author wrote an authentic ending that screamed real-life and no, we don’t always get the prince or wake up after a hundred years of sleeping. Life sometimes throws you these issues and it’s how you deal with them that determines your future. I admired his honesty, got a bit surprised then just shrugged it off and enjoyed it.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Totally, I have read all of David Nicholl’s books now and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.

Would we recommend it?:
BETH: Of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!