11/10/2017

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

Idaho
Author: Emily Ruskovich
Publisher: Random House UK
Publication Date: 16th February 2017
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Wordery
One hot August day a family drives to a mountain clearing to collect birch wood. Jenny, the mother, is in charge of lopping any small limbs off the logs with a hatchet. Wade, the father, does the stacking. The two daughters, June and May, aged nine and six, drink lemonade, swat away horseflies, bicker, and sing snatches of songs as they while away the time.
But then something unimaginably shocking happens, an act so extreme it will scatter the family in every different direction. 
In a story told from multiple perspectives and in razor-sharp prose, we gradually learn more about this act, and the way its violence, love and memory reverberate through the life of every character in Idaho.

I had high hopes for this one as I'd heard great things about it - slow paced, beautifully written, scenic - thumbs up. But my days did it take me a long time to read. Incredibly character driven this is the story of Ann, Jenny and Wade, how they're relationships coincide and the terrible act that is the underbelly of the entire book.

It is told in a non-linear fashion through a series of almost vignettes. Some of the scenes from this book are completely ingrained in my mind - the physical attacks Ann tolerates, the ostrich eggs being carved when Ann runs away, the portraits painted of June. June's smell. She is an incredibly talented author and I look forward to reading more by her, but for me this book wasn't quite as compelling as I would have liked. I'm okay with unanswered questions, I actually like books that are brave enough to do this. June's story in the book rings true, but, for me, May's did not. There is no answer as to why Jenny did what she did that day in terms of her character. We don't gain an insight into what made her flip, just that she's incredibly sorry and will never forgive herself. This is what didn't quite work for me. There were also some passages that I felt were over done and Ruskovich gets a bit lost in her own knowledge of a subject - there was one particular passage about writing music that completely threw me out of the story.

Having stepped away from this book and talked about it with a fellow reader, I was amazed at the detail I remembered and the conversation it generated. We agreed that Emily Ruscovich is a talented writer and I'm eager to read what she publishes next.


Verdict:
Story - 3/5
Writing - 4/5
Character - 4/5
Memorability - 4/5
Overall rating - 4/5

9/12/2017

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

See What I Have Done
Author: Sarah Schmidt
Publisher: Tinder Press
Publication Date: 2nd May 2017
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Wordery

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

Told from the perspective of four narrators See What I Have Done is Sarah Schmidt's re-imagining of the notorious Borden murders. I picked this book up in Waterstones and had a read of the first chapter purely based on its beautiful cover. I'm a big fan of true crime and historical fiction, this book had the potential to be a perfect blend of the two.

Unfortunately the book can't quite seem to find the balance between a character driven whodunnit or a plot driven thriller. It seems to meander between the two, which sadly meant I found it slow going and I never really developed an understanding of the motives for any of the 'suspects.'

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

The story is told over the days leading up to and following the murders. We hear the tale from Lizzie Borden, her sister Emma, their maid Bridget and a seemingly random character named Benjamin. All have a motive although, as I said earlier, these motives felt quite weak and underdeveloped. The only character with any real motivation seemed to be Benjamin, who ironically is the only character that is fictional, presumably included as a plot device. Any momentum in the book came from this character, a vagrant hired by the Borden sisters' uncle, John, to murder Andrew Borden for inheritance reasons.

For a debut novel See What I Have Done is by no means a bad book. Sarah Schmidt's writing, in places, is incredibly evocative, particularly scenes involving food and the more gruesome elements of the novel. I will certainly read future work from her.


Verdict:
Story - 2/5
Writing - 3/5
Character - 2/5
Memorability - 2/5
Overall rating - 2.5/5

The Bookcast Club // Episode 4



Welcome to the fourth episode of The Bookcast Club where Alice and Jenny discuss See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt and book to movie/TV adaptations.

Send any future questions or topics you would like us to cover to @bookcastclub on Twitter or email thebookcastclub@outlook.com

Books mentioned - See What I Have Done, Wuthering Heights, The Princess Bride, The Shining, Matilda, Pride & Prejudice, Song of Ice & Fire series, Suite Francaise, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, The Light Between Oceans, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Bridget Jones' Diary, Notes on a Scandal, Taming of the Shrew, The Time Traveller's Wife, My Sister's Keeper, The Other Boleyn Girl, Never Let Me Go, Atonement, The Martian, Labour Day, The Fault in Our Stars, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Fight Club, The Book Thief, Cormoron Strike series, Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, A Little Life, The Secret History, The Tales of the Ketty Jay series, Half Bad, Sherlock Holmes, Gone Girl, Murder on the Orient Express, Sharp Objects.

The Bookcast Club // Episode 3




Welcome to the third episode of The Bookcast Club where Alice and Jenny talk current reads, Harry Potter and our childhood reading habits, we also announce a read along of See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt.

Send any future questions or topics you would like us to cover to @bookcastclub on Twitter or email thebookcastclub@outlook.com

Books mentioned - The End We Start From, Funny Peculiar, Hot Milk, Jane Eyre, Notes on a Scandal, Tampa, Harry Potter, The Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, Goosebumps, Enid Blyton and Animal Ark.

The Bookcast Club // Episode 2



Welcome to the second episode of The Bookcast Club where Alice and Jenny talk current reads, favourite summer reads and books that changed our lives.

Send any future questions or topics you would like us to cover to @bookcastclub on Twitter or email thebookcastclub@outlook.com

Books mentioned - Idaho, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, Falling Leaves, American Gods, Bird Box, The Secret History, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, A Little Life, The Goldfinch, The Essex Serpent, Birdsong, Just Mercy, Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, The Versions of Us, Wild, Station Eleven, When Breath Becomes Air, The North Water, Suspicions of the Witcher, The Cormoron Strike novels, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, The Opposite of Loneliness, How to Breath Underwater, No One Belongs Here More than You, Suite Francaise, Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, This I Know: Notes on Unravelling the Heart.

The Bookcast Club // Episode 1


Welcome to the first episode of The Bookcast Club where Alice and Jenny talk current reads and literary prizes. Send any future questions or topics you would like us to cover to @bookcastclub on Twitter or email thebookcastclub@outlook.com

Books mentioned - How to Be a Grown Up, Happy: Finding Joy in Everyday and Letting Go of Perfect, The Roanoke Girls, The Essex Serpent, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, A Whole Life, A Little Life, The Goldfinch, The Sellout, A Brief History of Seven Killings, The Luminaries.

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