Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

notes on a scandal

Synopsis from Amazon:

When the new teacher first arrives, Barbara immediately senses that this woman will be different from the rest of her staff-room colleagues. But Barbara is not the only one to feel that Sheba is special, and before too long Sheba is involved in an illicit affair with a pupil. Barbara finds the relationship abhorrent, of course, but she is the only adult in whom Sheba can properly confide. So when the liaison is found out and Sheba’s life falls apart, Barbara is there…

Sheba is a new teacher at school; she is a pottery teacher and is instantly spotted by Barbara. She is different from the other new teachers, she keeps herself to her room and doesn’t participate in staff room gossip. Sheba meets Steven Connolly in detention, where she discovers he has some artist talent. She starts giving him tutorials after school, where their relationship blossoms. Soon they are having a sexual affair, a pupil and a teacher. During this time the friendship between Sheba and Barbara has been blossoming. Sheba confides in Barbara about Connolly. This affair cannot remain hidden forever, and when the people find out what has happened Barbara is there for Sheba; but what is her motivation?

This is a book which focuses on a controversial issue – pupils having sex with students when they are underage. Heller is brave writing this book, especially as she questions the portrayal of these teachers, and the different treatment male and female offenders receive. Heller looks at reasons why teachers would enter into this relationship, the effect feelings have over a person, regardless of age and who will stand beside you whatever you have done. She also studies spinstership, how the woman is portrayed and what it could do to you.

I enjoyed this book but I didn’t like the characters – I was gripped by the story and what the outcome would be. I found it an interesting read; a sensitive subject manner and I wanted to know how Heller would write it. I found Barbara manipulating and judgmental and Sheba delusional and a liar. This is a good read because even though I didn’t like the characters they did spark a reaction.

This was not a fast read but a well written book and a good read.

8/10

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The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

the-reader-jpg

Synopsis from Amazon:

For 15-year-old Michael Berg, a chance meeting with an older woman leads to far more than he ever imagined. The woman in question is Hanna, and before long they embark on a passionate, clandestine love affair which leaves Michael both euphoric and confused. For Hanna is not all she seems. Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to realize that the person in the dock is Hanna. The woman he had loved is a criminal. Much about her behaviour during the trial does not make sense. But then suddenly, and terribly, it does – Hanna is not only obliged to answer for a horrible crime, she is also desperately concealing an even deeper secret.

This is a brave book. It follows Michael, who after a long period of illness goes to thank the women who helped him when he was sick in the street. This second encounter leads to a love affair that will haunt Michael for the rest of his life. Suddenly Hanna disappears and Michael thinks that is the end – until he sees her in court answering to crimes committed under Hitler’s reign. Yet as the trail proceeds Michael discovers something about Hanna that she is hiding, and which leads her to punishment.

This books looks at Germany, the aftermath of the war, the Holocaust and the guilt of a generation. It also looks at love and sex, and books. I thought this book was a good read. It isn’t a long book and it didn’t take me long to read. I did find the philosophy in the second part hard to grasp, and found it difficult to concentrate whilst reading those bits, but they are really my only complaints.

I liked Michael – he was a simple 15 year old who hadn’t been in a proper relationship, then a man trying to work out how to condemn those who had been involved with the Holocaust, and ultimately he proved himself a good friend. I felt sorry for Hanna and the secret she felt she needed to keep however she had a mean streak that I didn’t like.

As already said, this is a brave book. I think it addresses these sensitive issues well – I don’t think people will be offended when reading this book. I would recommend this as a good book.

8/10

The Chocolate Run by Dorothy Koomson

the chocolate run

Synopsis from Amazon:

Amber Salpone thinks in chocolate – talk to her for three minutes and she’ll tell you what kind of chocolate you’d be. In fact, most days, if she was asked to choose between chocolate and relationships, there’d be no contest. At least chocolate has never let her down. Unlike her family. Growing up in the Salpone household has taught Amber to avoid conflict – and love – at all costs. So, when she does the unthinkable and has a one-night stand with womaniser Greg Walterson, her uncomplicated, chocolate-flavoured life goes into meltdown. Especially when Greg announces she’s the love of his life – and Amber finds it hard enough to decide if she wants plain or Fruit & Nut …Meanwhile, her best friend, Jen, seems to be launching a bid to become Bitch Of The Year and Amber’s family are making unreasonable demands. Amber has two choices: to deal with her past and the people around her, or to go on a chocolate run and keep on running …

Amber is not a chocoholic – if you ask her – she is just a chocolate sniffer, needs chocolate to think, and compares everyone to chocolate. It is her constant in life, her safety net.  But running for chocolate is not going to help her this time. She has been off relationships for 18 months, and has loved it. Yet she is falling for Greg, the womaniser. As she pursues this line she realises that her best friend is being turned into skinny, selfish, horrid person, who Amber doesn’t know, or want to know. The some dark secrets come out – not only does Amber have to confront her childhood fears, but she must make choices about friends and lovers.

I really enjoyed this book. This is the second book by Koomson I have read and liked it so much I have bought a third novel. Koomson is a great writer. She is exciting and gripping. I didn’t want to put the book down. The story flows easily off the page and incredibly readable.

I loved the characters. Koomson writes in a way that you feel how Amber feels – so when she was sad you were too; when her heart broke, so did yours. I really liked Renee and Martha her work collegues – they were funny but good people – great friends to have around.

This is chick-lit, but anyone who likes a good story of friendship, love and family should read this book.

9/10

The Teahouse on Mulberry Street by Sharon Owens

the teahouse on mulberry street

Synopsis from FantasticFiction:

The old tea house on Mulberry Street in Belfast hasn’t changed much over the years. But it’s about to bear witness to some significant transformations Daniel Stanley might make the most glorious deserts in the whole of Ireland, but he won’t support his wife Penny’s desire to have at least one bun in the oven. And the owners of Muldoon’s Tea Rooms are just two of the people inside hoping for change. Struggling artist Brenda sits penning letters to Nicholas Cage and dreaming of a better life. Sadie finds refuge from her diet and her husband’s infidelity in Daniel’s famous cherry cheesecake. Clare returns home from twenty years in New York, still cherishing the memory of the one night she truly loved and lost. And Penny herself discovers a secret from the past and a sexy estate agent very much in her present. They all want their lives to change but are they willing to face the consequences? And the possibility that you might not always be able to have your cake and eat it.

This was another author I had not read before and found her to be OK. The book is a bit disjointed. The characters don’t really mix – all of them led separate lives which did not connect.

However, I enjoyed the story. I found it interesting to discover what would happen to Penny as she tries to change her unhappy life, Sadie plots revenge on her cheating husband, Clare pines for and hunts down the love of her life and Brenda as she paints and longs for Nicholas Cage. There were more characters that I can’t even remember much about. There was just a little bit too much going on and it didn’t come together neatly.

All that said, I did read to the end and wanted to know what happened. Maybe the ending wasn’t too convincing but then that didn’t spoil the story too much.

This is an OK chick-lit book.

7/10

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

living dead in dallas

Synopsis from Amazon:

Cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse isn’t happy. Her co-worker has been murdered and no one seems to care. If that wasn’t enough she’s got blood-poisoning and a raging fever. Luckily, some friendly vampires graciously suck the poison from her veins (like they didn’t enjoy it). But, seeing as they did save her life, when they come asking for a favour she can hardly refuse. She quickly finds herself using her telepathic skills in the search for a missing vampire, but when they break their good behaviour condition over a tasty blond, things go rapidly and horribly wrong …

This is the second book in the Sookie Stackhouse Vampire Mystery series by Charlaine Harris. In this adventure, Sookie is attacked on her way to see Eric, by a mythical creature, and after having had her poisoned blood sucked, is told she is off to Dallas to use her gift. There she meets the anti-vampire group, and has to fight for her life. While all this is going on, she is trying to find out who murdered her friend and why.

There is a lot going on in this book. It starts with a murder and ends with an orgy. In between there is a lot of fighting and maybe mythical characters. Up until the last fifty pages I really enjoyed this book. It was exciting and gripping. The last bit of the book was full of sex and that put me off.

I like how Harris is introducing more mythical beings instead of just including vampires – I think this adds a new dimension to the story. It will be interesting to see where she takes the stories with all these characters and beings.

Harris is a very distinctive writer. She has her own style, which comes through in both her Sookie Stackhouse books and her Harper Connelly books. I like how she writes, for the most part she is engaging and gripping.

Apart from all the sex, which I still think is unnecessary, I think this is a good book.

8/10

Savage Tide by Glen Chandler

savage tide

Synopsis from Amazon:

This is a Steven Madden mystery. For Steve Madden, Brighton is no longer beaches, fish and chips and amusement arcades. It’s also a place of murder. Estranged from his son and grappling with the jealousy that comes from watching your ex-wife getting closer to another man, his world is thrown into turmoil when he is called to investigate a particularly savage murder. But there is something else, something that will change his life forever. Dragged into the twilight world of nightclubs, drugs and prostitution, Steve is about to realise that being a Detective Inspector in a seaside town is far more dangerous than he could ever have imagined.

Steve Maddon is called is called to a murder scene in Kemp Town, Brighton – the place notorious for where the homosexual community live. What he finds in the flat is a shock – and will completely rock his world. The murder is sex fueled and gruesome, and personal. Maddon is taken off the investigation, but unsatisfied with the police work, investigates himself, where he makes some shocking discoveries.

This book is not for faint hearted. The description of the murder was graphic, and horrific. The is a lot of violence, drugs and sex in this book, which aren’t really my cup of tea. That said; it was a good read, with a few twists and an interesting portrayal of the seedier side of Brighton.

Chandler wrote well – it flowed easily, I was able to keep up with the story and remember who all the characters were. It didn’t take me long to read and I was quite surprised by the revealing of the murderer. If you like crime novels, or a good murder book, this is for you.

7/10

Dying Unfinished by Maria Espinosa

dying unfinished

Synopsis taken from information given to: http://www.bookclubforum.co.uk

Using her own love-rage relationship with her mom as a catalyst, American Book Award winner Maria Espinosa weaves fact and fiction in her latest highly acclaimed novel Dying Unfinished. A novelist, poet, translator, and teacher, who has been reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, New York Review of Books, and The San Francisco Chronicle, Maria is featured in the Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series. This latest book is the follow-up to her critically acclaimed novel Longing.

“Dying Unfinished is a lyrical novel that takes place over three generations and that reminds us of the arduousness, and even desolation, of love relationships-between husband and wife, spouse and lover, mother and daughter…”–Kirkus Reviews–

Dying Unfinished is about a mother and daughter’s difficult relationship made more so by the mother’s affair with her daughter’s husband. Narrated by both women this tumultuous story coincides with a 70 year period where the world under went massive change.

This story is about Eleanor and her daughter Rosa. Both have problems – Eleanor finds it difficult to communicate and there is a deep sadness in her, and Rosa has mental health problems. The book recalls events in both their lives – flashing from the present to the past. Eleanor remembering her childhood, searching for her identity and happiness, raising three children and trying to love Rosa. Rosa, struggling with her schizophrenia, trying to find her identity and trying to please her mother. The book is narrated by both Eleanor and Rosa, giving an insight into how each is feeling.

I am not sure what to write about this book. I didn’t really enjoy it but wanted to keep reading. There is a lot of sex in this book – Eleanor has many affairs, and is raped – but sex seems to be how she gets enjoyment and how she connects with people. Rosa has tremendous mood swings, also likes sex, has a little girl who helps her find herself and places all the blame for her struggles on Eleanor.

I’m not sure I had a favourite character. I don’t think I liked anyone in the book particularly. There were those I definitely did not like – such as Rosa’s abusive and manipulative husband, nor Aaron, Eleanor’s husband, an artist who seemed very self-involved – life had to revolve around him.

I didn’t feel there was particularly a story – just lots of memories and experiences. And I didn’t feel that anything was really resolved by the end of the book.

Overall, I wasn’t particularly happy reading this book, but was hooked anyway. I have come away unsatisfied.

5/10