Book Reviews

Welcome to my one stop page for book reviews!  These are posts that I have previously published on the blog but putting them together will help those looking for a good read!


“Don’t ever pray for love and health, Mother said.  Or money.  If God hears what you really want, He will not give it to you.  Guaranteed.”

Ladydi Garcia Martinez has her prayers to comfort her but little else in this story of life, love and community; Prayers for the Stolen is set against the backdrop of fear, that fear felt by women living in a world ruthlessly run by men.  There is a brief moment of love found within the pages but this is soon replaced by the comfort of  sisterhood,  an overarching theme of Clements’ novel.

As I read the first page, the first chapter, I am right in there – in the mountain heat of Guerrero, Mexico,  ‘one of the hottest places on earth’, and in the fear of living as a girl.  Girls are stolen in this place.  No one wants to admit to giving birth to a girl, they are all ‘boys’.

I feel afraid as I read.  I feel afraid for the women who are constantly on the look out for the next SUV driving up the tracks; the girls ready to dive into holes like rabbits.  Even a humanitarian visit by Mexican Doctors is one full of fear and suspicion; guarded as they are, even the soldiers fear the appearance of the SUVs that pass by whilst the women wait for the operations to take place.

Colour is a recurring theme in this story but the colours weave in and out of the webs of sanctuary and evil.  There are red fingernails, snakes, ants and rivers of menstrual blood and there are deadly white scorpions and white worms who can only be found buried underground.  The blood of menstruation symbolises a community of women whose friendships are steadfast and strong. And, yet it is also  a symbol of women’s loneliness and abandonment.

This is a compulsive read; the matter-of-fact voice of  the narrator Ladydi engages the reader’s sense of outrage for a life lived in such a fearful setting.  Clement does not sensationalise the lives of whom she writes, rather allowing the reader to fill that box for themselves.  In doing so, the reader will find a book filled with injustice, humour and friendship.

An exceptional portrait of the tragic lives of a community of women, Prayers for the Stolen is a ‘must have’.

(Please note:  I received this book from the Blogging for Books programme in exchange for this review.)

Product Details

‘Are we so precarious in our sense of self that the mere existence of difference throws us into molecular chaos?

Nobody can mention the genocide with the emotion it deserves and in J, this becomes the rather diluted refrain, WHAT HAPPENED, IF IT HAPPENED.  There is a maybe, a disregard for the facts of the past as, it is suggested,  they serve no purpose.  In Jacobson’s J, people live in the here and now.  There is much that is not forbidden and yet much that is frowned upon.  Keeping mementos, for example, immigration another.    Love songs play on the radio and a generation apologises repeatedly.  Everyone has something to be sorry for.

Except Kevern ‘Coco’ Cohen.  An obsessive, paranoic character, he keeps himself to himself, cherishing  his old records and furniture inherited from his family.  He lives in fear, without quite knowing what it is that he fears.

And then he meets Ailinn, or rather is led to meet her by someone who knows a little too much about them both.  Why is there so much interest in Kevern?  And why was the policeman called off his investigation of Kevern following a murder?  There are so many questions in J.

J is a fascinating read and one that, in many places leaves the reader wondering why?  Why was J a letter that needed to be marked by a silencing gesture?  Kevern’s surname surely cannot escape the reader and neither can the absence of Jewish words in the book.

Although sometimes the plot tumbles around and extracting meaning takes some thought because of the lack of details, I found myself wondering how much I needed to know?  I think that I had an expectation that everything would be made clear .  But in the end, the lack of details are symbolic of a society who believes it can be fixed through Operation Ischmael.  And like the absence of words in this novel, so the plot tells us that their society is also missing a vital something.  People need contrast in order to see themselves.

This is a thought provoking read; darker than it at first appears, I would certainly recommend this book.

(This book was a review copy from given in return for writing an independent review )

Facing Up by Bear Grylls

‘We never conquered any mountain.  Everest allowed us to reach her summit….and let us go with our lives where others died.  We certainly never conquered her……Everest never has been nor ever will be conquered.  It is what makes the mountain so special.’

A book review

Generally speaking, I am not a fan of autobiography or of non-fiction.  Unless a must-do read, I like to lose myself in fiction; as a reader, I want to walk the path of creativity.

But last week I found myself bookless and being abroad, I had no choice but to accept the offer of the book my partner had, Facing Up by Bear Grylls.

Not a spoiler, for it is well known (and included in the back cover’s blurb),  Grylls tells the story of  fulfilling a boyhood dream of reaching the summit of Everest; and whilst doing so, became one of the few men under the age of 25 to have achieved this feat.   Originally published in 2000, and reprinted in 2011, the story of Grylls’ courage, patience and humility had me gripped from start to finish.  I inhaled the thin air and shivered in the cold.  I nursed each altitude headache and felt my body heave with each hacking cough.

Grylls reveals his hopes, dreams and fears with humour and great sensitivity as he takes you up the laborious climb to and from the five camps in the shadows of Everest.  His dogged determination and faith helps keep him going through hardship and pain, though he passes the corpses of those who had tried before.  He understands what he is risking whilst he is up there.

I would highly recommend this book!  If you haven’t caught up with this book over the last few years, I would seriously try to find a copy!  Utterly gripping!


The Divorce Papers

Mia and Daniel are getting a divorce. And as in most divorces, there is huge animosity between the couple that spills over into the life of their child.

But Mia and Daniel are not your average divorcees. Mia Meiklejohn Durkheim is a member of an important American society family and her husband the eminent Chief of Paediatric Oncology. There is money and reputation on the line.

But it is Sophie Diehl, the rather unsuitable lawyer, who is assigned the initial interview with Mia; she is a criminal lawyer and a young associate in the firm of Traynor, Hand, Wyzanski.  She is asked to take on the initial interview with her client Mia and is subsequently hired, despite all her protestations of her own incompetence.   As Mia sees it, they are both on their first divorce!

Written in the form of an epistolary novel, novelist Susan Rieger tells her story through letters, memos, emails, articles and a raft of legal papers. Although an interesting vehicle through which she attempts to traffic human misery, Rieger ensures that our sympathies, like our characters are kept at arm’s length. The legalese and the endless documents help us to experience some of the tedium of the world of law and the endless frustration of offer and counteroffer, but it is like reading a story through translucent glass – the light comes in but it is difficult to tell what is on the other side.

This is a valiant experiment and it certainly has a refreshing originality; for this I applaud Rieger.  However,  I found it difficult to read and would be reluctant to recommend it to others.

(Bloggingforbooks allowed me to download this book for free in return for this review.)

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