Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What Are You Reading Now?

So what are you reading guys ... anything good you'd like the rest of us to know about?

After I blogged about the shortlist for Romantic Novel of the Year Award, one of the nominees Linda Gillard was kind enough to put a copy of her book, Star Gazing into the post for me. And looking for a lighter read, I picked it up a few days ago.

Now I've always had certain preconceptions about romantic fiction, based on the one-and-only Mills and Boon novel I read years ago on a fishing boat from Tioman (there being no other reading material at hand), but Gillard manages to very nicely shatter them, and to keep this fussiest of readers with her throughout.

Marianne is in her forties, and has been blind from birth. She was widowed in her twenties when her husband was killed in the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster. She's long given up on love, and now, living with her sister finds her pleasure in attending concerts and long walks. She's fiercely independent, and so stubborn you sometimes want to shake her. But her courage comes through time and again.

Of course, the author places a bloke in her path. She encounters Keir literally on her own doorstep when she accidentally drops her shopping and he comes to her aid. Later, she agrees to visit his home on the Isle of Sky where he lives an almost hermit like existence when he isn't on the rigs. (He's another oilman, yes, and there are for Marianne disturbing echoes of the past throughout the novel.)

Keir's the kind of hero I would fall for myself in two shakes. Never mind the tall, dark and handsome (which Marianne of course can't appreciate in the same way, of course) he loves classical music and nature, is involved in conservation work, and is able to paint the beauty of the island for Marianne through words alone.

I loved though the second love-story in the humourous sub-plot - Marianne's sister Louisa writes vampire novels set in Edinburgh and falls for her much younger goth assistant.

The writing is good, the charcters well drawn and the dialogue realistic. An interesting theme of ways of seeing and perception runs through the novel, and Gillard helps the reader to inhabit Marianne's blindness.

The pacing of the novel just right and (quite cleverly because you always believe romance novels are written to a formula) the reader is led to a point where the happy ending no longer seems a safe bet. One of the main events that propels the plot, Keir's misadventure in Kazakhstan, and its aftermath could have done with a bit more space (but then, I suppose, Gillard would be wandering into the territory of the thriller and away from the romance).

So, yes, there are love stories that steer clear of all the mush and the cliches and heaving bosoms and provide even a jaded old cynic like me with an enjoyable read.

And now I've wandered into genre fiction of a different kind - caught up in the darkness of Irving Welsh's Crime.

Am also savouring Alina Rastam's new collection of poetry All the Beloveds ...

And you?

23 comments:

simon said...

lemme see... spring moon by bette bao lord and false impression by jeffrey archer.

linda gillard said...

Thanks for the great review, Sharon. Glad to hear you enjoyed STAR GAZING. Your readers can find out more about my books on my website - www.lindagillard.co.uk

EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY is a similarly painless read for "jaded old cynics". ;-)

bibliobibuli said...

haha you were so fast Linda! was about to email you and tell you that i had read it. thanks for a very enjoyable read and for busting prejudices!

bibliobibuli said...

oh ... and Linda, what are you reading?

Chet said...

The Selangor Journal 1894 (can't even remember the date)

Drachen said...

Miss Marple's short mysteries. Looking for words to beef up my vocabulary.

Also reading Five Goes to Smuggler's Top to my 9-year-old. I read them because I dare not let his clumsy hands touch my precious collection of Famous Five books! He loves them, by the way.

Damyanti said...

Writing down the bones by Natalie Goldberg. Usually I read a few books at a time, but this one has got my entire attention right now.

Ms Ulat Buku said...

I'm currently reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame -Smith. Its absolutely hilarious!

Linda Gillard said...

I'm in the throes of re-writes of my 4th novel and I have my aged mother staying for a month, so I'm in desperate need of light relief. So it's a Georgette Heyer for me - THE CORINTHIAN.

Some people (who haven't read her) think she's as corny as the many romance writers who've tried to emulate her, but GH is inimitable. Her comic dialogue is second only to Wodehouse IMHO.

I agree with the comment about WRITING DOWN THE BONES. It's inspiring. A creative writing book that actually stimulates creativity.

KerinchiGuy said...

The Centhini Story. I placed an order for it with Kinokuniya KLCC less than a month ago after Amir Mohamad wrote of it and collected it a couple of days ago. Good service :-)

lil ms d said...

Just finished The kiss Murder - a Hop Ciki Yaya thriller. Very funny and campy

Michelle said...

I'm juggling 4 at the moment, Dan Brown's Angels and Demons, Austen's Sense and Sensibility, Andrew Leci's Once Removed and The Penguin Book of International Women's Stories which includes contributors like Alice Munro and Bharati Mukherjee.

Kak Teh said...

sharon, I met Dr Ang Swee Chai, the doctor who took a team of volunteers to Sabra-Shatilla and she gave me her book - From Beirut to Jerusalem. Am reading this after devouring Once Removed by Andrew Leci.

btw, did you receive a picture I emailed you a few weeks back?

mel said...

Colm Toibin's "The Master" & Ian McEwan's "Saturday".

Michelle said...

Kak Teh, how did you find Once Removed?

Kak Teh said...

Michelle, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Was reading it mostly on the tube going to work and couldnt stop my chuckles. I found it hilarious, reading about malaysia/malaysians from 8,000 miles away.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Reading Isak Dinesen, The Life of a Storyteller by Judith Thurman, which won the American Book Award. Found it on my shelf, don't know how long I've had it or even remember getting it, possibly second hand. This got me thinking in so many different directions right now and will have a huge impact later. Can sense this and have taken down notes for ideas.... Another book, that is also having a big impact because of its sheer size and its fascinating content is Mythology, The Illustrated Anthology of World Myth and Storytelling (General editor C. Scott Littleton). The illustrations alone are excellent. The book is so huge I can only read it during lunch at work.

gnute said...

From Beirut To Jerusalem is a gripping read. I got my hands on a copy when Dr Ang came over to KL a few years ago with her slideshow reel.

christinejalleh said...

One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell :) which was a surprise gift from a dear friend!

Yusuf Martin said...

Reading Chasing a Mirage by Tarek Fatah, giving greater insight into Islam. Not really finding time to read anything else.

Still writing at least 1000 words a day.

Fadz said...

Sharon, thanks for recommending Star Gazing.

And Linda, thanks for sharing the story with the whole world.

I went to Kinokuniya during lunchtime and bought the book (the only copy left on the shelf) using my April 28% discount quota (sigh, I love the Daruma Card). I would have bought the book even without a discount, to fill my personal at-least-three-books-a-month quota.

I fell in love with Marienne, Lou, Kier (and even Garth) from the start. I couldn't put the book down. I love how Linda uses other senses for description. How the rain falls, how the trees whisper, and I have an urge to visit Skye (Linda didn't even have to use visual description).

Using music as a comparison: superb.

Linda's description of stars and constellations: flowing with resonance.

Multiple points of view and perspectives: brilliant!

But, the use of different fonts for each PoV/perspective seems a bit jarring. You could've retained the same fonts and we would still know. And past tense for 1st person PoV and present for 3rd person PoV....

That being said, even my 7-month-old niece approves of the book. She can't seem to let go of it. Her gum marks are everywhere!

I look forward to reading your other novels, Linda.

Kudos for writing such a brilliant story.

And thanks again, Sharon for recommending it.

Anonymous said...

Right I have to check it out now.

Anonymous said...

"Marianne is in her forties, and has been blind from birth. She was widowed in her twenties when her husband was killed in the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster."

Fiction, eh.