What is it to be educated? Is it to have spent every day of your life from the age of four until the age of twenty-one in a classroom? Is it the ability to read and write? How about being able to reflect deeply on your own personal experiences?
Tara Westover was not educated in the way one might expect. She did not have school records. In fact, she didn’t have medical records. Tara Westover didn’t even have a birth certificate – officially, she didn’t exist. Tara grew up in Idaho with a father who didn’t trust in intervention.
From the moment she was born, Tara was to be taught to prepare for the End of Days. Her mother ‘home-schooled’ Tara and some of her siblings while their father proselytised about the dangers posed by doctors, teachers, government and law enforcement.
At the age of sixteen, Tara decided to educate herself. That decision took her to Harvard and then to Cambridge.
Having recently heard Tara talk at Forum Books about her experiences growing up a Mormon with an increasingly radical father and erratic brother, I was moved by the erudite way in which she spoke about her unusual childhood and her decision to make a change in her life.
‘Educated‘ is a beautifully written memoir. Westover’s prose is almost lyrical, featuring evocative descriptions of the rolling hills. Her gorgeous writing is juxtaposed with the terror I felt when reading about some of the things she had lived through. At times, the events were so out of my sphere of understanding, I had to check online that this was a memoir and not fiction!
Throughout ‘Educated‘, there is a sense of not quite knowing what will happen next. At times, the tension was almost too much to bear. Westover masterfully allows the reader to tread the fine line she walked on a daily basis. There is also a feeling of sadness and grief that pervades this memoir. Ultimately, though, ‘Educated‘ is a hopeful book about the power of taking control and never giving up.
Tara Westover is my hero.
Posted in Books, reviews, Writing
Tagged book, descriptions, educated, fiction, memoir, prose, read, reader, tension, write, writing, written
One fateful, clear-skied night, three friends embark on a secret trip. Only two return home. Thirty years later, the body of a teenage boy rises from the depths of England’s biggest reservoir and threatens to expose a killer who has lain dormant…until now.
Detective Chief Inspector Ryan is back following an idyllic honeymoon with the love of his life but returns to danger from all sides. In the depths of Kielder Forest, a murderer has evaded justice for decades and will do anything to keep it that way. Meanwhile, back at CID, an old adversary has taken the reins and is determined to destroy Ryan whatever the cost.
As usual, LJ Ross excels in her descriptions of the landscape where the story is set. What I really like about the DCI Ryan series is that LJ Ross sets macabre discoveries and heinous crimes in beautiful locations, ‘Dark Skies‘ is no different in that respect.
Add to that a number of intriguing sub-plots and a recurring cast of compelling characters and it’s no wonder that this series is one of the most successful in recent times.
With ‘Dark Skies‘, however, there’s a new element to the series with malevolent forces within the force bringing extra tension to the narrative.
As with the previous novels in the series, there are some unresolved issues which will undoubtedly keep readers hungry for more.
Posted in Books, reviews
Tagged characters, descriptions, honeymoon, love, murderer, narrative, novels, readers, series, stories, story, sub-plots, tension
I’m delighted to be reviewing ‘Whiteout‘, the fifth book in the ‘Dark Iceland‘ series by Ragnar Jónasson, as part of his blog tour.
Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of a deserted village. Questions swirl as to whether the woman took her own life or if it was taken from her. As the snow continues to fall unabated, Ari Thór Arason discovers that the victim’s sister and mother also died in exactly the same place over two decades ago. More secrets are revealed and the death toll continues to rise as the Siglufjordur detectives battle to stop a killer before anyone else is harmed.
‘Whiteout‘ is the first book by Ragnar Jónasson that I have read and I really enjoyed it. Although I found it a little slow to start, once it got going the tension didn’t let up until the very end! I must also add that Quentin Bates has done a marvellous job with the translation of this compelling story.
Featuring an interesting cast of characters that, in my mind, could have easily come out of an Agatha Christie story, ‘Whiteout‘ makes everyone a suspect. This device ensures that the reader ends up pretty much accusing everyone at some point!
Through the development of the narrative Ragnar Jónasson manages to set up several mini-mysteries within the overarching question of what happened to the young woman. This is a very clever technique which ensures the reader is frequently satisfied throughout the novel.
Jónasson uses beautiful descriptions of the setting to drop the reader right into Iceland at Christmas. The weather throughout this novel adds an extra level of peril to everything the characters do: whether it’s driving or chasing someone on foot, the driving snow and black ice make almost every action potentially fatal. The descriptions make the action so vivid that I could see it happening in my head.
Although ‘Whiteout‘ is the fifth book in the ‘Dark Iceland‘ series by Ragnar Jónasson, I found that this book worked perfectly as a standalone. You definitely do not need to have read the others to follow this plot – it’s a self-contained mystery.
‘Whiteout‘ is the perfect novel to read from cover to cover while you’re snuggled under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter night.
Posted in Blog Tour, Books, reviews
Tagged book, cover, descriptions, narrative, noir, novel, read, reader, readers, series, story
‘There were times I felt I would always be death’s passenger. It moved one step ahead of me wherever I went, shading me from the world other people lived in.’
Dan Smith’s latest novel is set in deepest, darkest Brazil where shadows of every kind lurk, waiting to strike. The protagonist, Zico, is looking to leave behind a life of violence and death in order to live a ‘normal’ life with his girlfriend, Danielle. However, he is given one last kill which could net him everything he needs to start afresh. Throughout the novel, Zico struggles with the man he’s been his whole adult life and the man he wants to be.
Although I initially took a few chapters to become fully engaged with the characters, I became hooked by the narrative and was desperate to know how it would play out. The scenes on the river and at the mine featured fast-paced, heart-in-mouth action. Smith really evokes the setting with his detailed descriptions, as I was reading I could feel the cloying heat of the jungle.
Throughout the novel, the reader is drip-fed Zico’s backstory and that technique works very well, helping the reader understand how Zico became who he is. I really cared about the characters and completely understood the difficult position Zico had been put in. I was eager to find out how the dilemma could possibly be solved. The ending, for me, was satisfying but bittersweet. The evolution of the main characters was really realistic.
This is absolutely a novel worth sticking with!