User Profile

Stephanie Jane

StephanieJane@ramblingreaders.org

Joined 11 months ago

Reader, #writer, wanderer, #vegan and #Gàidhlig learner.

Right now I'm collating all my book reviews, going back a decade or so, from across various sites onto #BookWyrm. (Apologies for glut posting at times!)

I've been been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. I love discovering new authors from all around the world and am happiest when engrossed in a compelling novel with tea and cake to hand.

I also sporadically review books on my #KoFi - ko-fi.com/StephanieJane - a vegan-themed hub with book and product reviews, badly photographed recipes, and my little #Veganuary memoir, Finally a Vegan, for sale in the shop. You can also find me @StephanieJane@veganism.social

If you like an #audiobook, I use Libro.fm (supporting the independent House Of Books & Friends). Sign up to Libro.fm with my link libro.fm/referral?rf_code=lfm483950 or code lfm483950 to give them a try. (If you start a monthly membership at signup I would earn a book credit.) I also have a vegan authored/themed books storefront @ Amazon UK www.amazon.co.uk/shop/stephanie_jne

#CanalLife #DoctorWho

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Stephanie Jane's books

Currently Reading

Venetian Blood (2017, She Writes Press) 4 stars

Struggling to forget a crumbling marriage, forty-year-old Anna Lucia Lottol comes to Venice to visit …

Nicely engaging

4 stars

I've done well for Venice-set novels recently and I enjoyed Christine Evelyn Volker's addition to their ranks, Venetian Blood. The story plays itself out in the present day and I recognised several of its locations from my own brief visit to the city. Volker also takes us behind the scenes so to speak. We see into affluent homes and their courtyards as well as atmospherically exploring its narrow streets and alleys by night. I felt this author has a real affinity for Venice and appreciated her attention to detail in its presentation. Scenes such as a night-time chase came vividly to life as I read.

It did take me a few chapters to get into this story, but once this happened I was keen to keep reading. Anna is an interesting person to follow although I thought she was lucky that so much of her private investigation just happened to …

Dreams of Maryam Tair (2015, Interlink Publishing Group, Incorporated) 5 stars

Outside of time, the legendary queen Sheherazade tells a little girl a story that has …

Absolutely brilliant!

5 stars

I had no idea what to expect from this novel. I thought its cover art indicated a young adult story and its lead character is a young girl for much of the narrative, however Dreams Of Maryam Tair is a wonderfully rich and lusciously detailed novel that I believe must garner dedicated fans from every age from late teens upwards. Alaoui is an incredible storyteller and I found it hard to believe that not only is this her first book, but that it hasn't been trumpeted from the rooftops. I loved every minute of reading this book!

Alaoui weaves together the ancient stories of Lilith and Adam, and Cain and Abel, and sets them into a modern-day Casablanca - a repressive society where government agents appear as black-winged demons to tear people from their homes. Narrating the story, an elderly Sheherezade breaks occasionally to smoke a pipe or listen to …

As White As Snow (2020, Random House Children's Books) 4 stars

Lumikki Andersson may be innocent, but she's no Snow White . . . Three and …

Good sense of pace

4 stars

Contrary to the statement on this book's cover, I think fans of Nesbo and Larssen would be disappointed in As White As Snow because this novel is very much a young adult version of the Nordic crime thriller. That aside though, I did enjoy reading this book. It has a good sense of pace - slow to start with lots of detail, then speeding up to positively breathtaking by the end. Simukka does a great job of evoking her Prague city setting as well. I visited there for the first time a couple of months ago and the experience stood me in good stead for envisaging locations such as the funicular railway, Prague Castle, and the Charles Bridge chase.

I didn't particularly warm to Lumikki. For someone so psychologically damaged I felt she chose to believe to easily, but her antics stayed just the right side of plausible. Her awkward …

A Small Place (2000, Farrar, Straus and Giroux) 4 stars

A brilliant look at colonialism and its effects in Antigua--by the author of Annie John …

Justified anger

4 stars

I wasn't prepared for the vitriolic anger of Kincaid's short book, A Small Place, or the sense of guilt on behalf of my country that it would engender. Antigua is one of many nations completely altered by a British empire presence and, as we learn from Kincaid, her people are still suffering the effects decades after their supposed independence. As readers of this essay we are taken on a tour of Antigua and are shown both the obvious tourists sites and the ruined unequal society hidden behind beautiful beaches. The perpetually under-repaired library is a particularly effective metaphor. Kincaid contrasts Antiguan life for rich white and Middle Eastern immigrants against that of black Antiguans who are still unable to escape their slave and servant heritage regardless of how hard they may work. A Small Place is a powerful indictment of Empire and would be useful reading for present-day Brexiteers who …

Broken dreams (2011, Caffeine Nights) 4 stars

Joe Geraghty, Private Investigator, is used to struggling from one case to the next, barely …

A good start to the trilogy

4 stars

I really liked how the Hull setting, and its social problems, wer incorporated into Broken Dreams. This aspect reminded me of Sjowall & Wahloo's Martin Beck series. The gangster narrative is gripping and just convoluted enough to be unpredictable without becoming implausible. I did think some of the character portrayals could have been deeper - particularly the women - as, when people reappeared later in the story, I couldn't always remember who was who.

A Patchwork Planet (Paperback, 2001, Ballantine Books) 5 stars

Wonderfully believable dialogue

5 stars

Fascinating novel about the delinquent son of a rich American family who has reformed and found his place in the world, but still believes himself to be a failure because he doesn't meet up to his family's ideals. Anne Tyler writes wonderfully believable dialogue and every one of her large cast of characters are real people, even those who might only appear for half a page. She's becoming one of my favourite authors and I'm pleased that I still have so much of her back catalogue to discover!

Aquarium (2016) 5 stars

"Twelve year old Caitlin lives alone with her mother-- a docker at the local container …

Superb writing

5 stars

I received a review copy of Aquarium from the publisher, via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. And I'm very pleased to have done so - it's a strong, powerful novel! I am including this review in Sophie and Suze's NetGalley Challenge.

Aquarium is set in Seattle and tells of a short period of the life of a twelve-year-old girl, Caitlin, who lives with her mother, Sheri, a woman struggling to make ends meet by working long hours in a dead-end job. They have a poor standard of accommodation and Sheri's work means Caitlin is often left alone for several hours, time she chooses to spend at the local aquarium gaining an encyclopaedic knowledge of rare fish. I liked the inclusion of the line-drawn fish illustrations. Caitlin's meeting there with an older man is the catalyst for the events that drive the novel, but Vann does not take us …

Parable Book (2016, Quercus) No rating

The Parable Book is described in its synopsis as 'the true story of a love …

I hadn't read any of Enquist's work before and was attracted to this book by reports of its great success in the original Swedish version. Unfortunately I now don't think it was a good place to start! I managed to struggle just over half-way through before giving up, still really none the wiser as to the underlying narrative. The prose rambles around various reminiscences of family and childhood and statements are frequently italicised although I usually couldn't interpret their importance. Perhaps readers familiar with Enquist's previous writing would get more from this book, but I was just baffled.

Mrs Dalloway (2007, Penguin Books, Limited) 5 stars

On a June morning in 1923, Clarissa Dalloway is preparing for a party and remembering …

Superb!

5 stars

I put off reading Mrs Dalloway for months because I was somewhat underwhelmed by my previous Virginia Woolf book, The Waves. The two are very different though and, once I got started, I soon found myself engrossed in Mrs Dalloway's world. The story is written in a stream of consciousness style which takes readers deeply into the thoughts and emotions of its characters. Mrs Dalloway herself is a memorable creation and I loved seeing and experiencing Edwardian London through her eyes. Woolf's attention to detail allowed me to vividly picture streets, shops and parks, and the people therein.

Mrs Dalloway is set over the course of a single day, one in which three events threaten to completely change the lives of those involved with them, however the majority of the novel explores the innermost thoughts and memories of its characters. One man returns from India and is unsure of his …

Picture Perfect (EBook, 2008, Penguin Group USA, Inc.) 3 stars

To the outside world, they seem to have it all. Cassie Barrett, a renowned anthropologist, …

Flawed

3 stars

The central storyline of Picture Perfect is an accurate and moving portrayal of domestic abuse which manages to understand both the abused and the abuser and gives frightening insights into both worlds. However, the tale is shrouded in a lot of superfluous description of movie star, Alex Rivers', wealth, houses and possessions which I didn't need to read about again, and again. The detail of Native American lives was interesting, especially as seen in contrast to the rich white enclave. Overall, I felt as though this book hadn't really decided whether it wanted to be styled as a serious literature or a frothy romance. Ultimately it falls between the two stools which detracts from its important message.

Everything I Never Told You (Paperback, 2015, Penguin Books) 4 stars

"Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet. So begins the story of this …

An interesting story to mull over

4 stars

Dave bought Everything I Never Told You for his Kindle months ago so I get to also read it thanks to Amazon's Family Sharing policy which is a great idea. We can use the campsite's wifi at our current CS so I seized the opportunity to download most of the books he has bought that I have not yet read!

Everything I Never Told You is marketed, on its cover at least, as being similar to The Lovely Bones and I think that does this book a disservice. Yes, both are set in the 1970s and the catalyst for both storylines is the death of a girl, but that could apply to dozens of books. Everything I Never Told You is an exploration of family relationships and tensions in a biracial household where two generations of wanting the best for their children has spectacularly backfired.

Marilyn, a white American woman, …

Rumi (Paperback, 2000, Thorsons) 4 stars

Collection of translations of poems by Rumi, illustrated with Persian calligraphy.

Beautiful

4 stars

This short book contains a hundred Rumi quatrains newly translated into English by Maryam Mafi and Azimi Melita Kolin and prefaced with an introduction to the poet's life. It is not so much a book to be read through, I thought, as one to be saved and savoured, dipped into for inspiration or reassurance as the need arises.

I have seen Rumi extensively quoted and referenced before, especially when reading Arabic and Persian novels, but I hadn't actually read a collection of his work before so wasn't sure what to expect. The four line poems themselves are deceptively simple statements which I felt could be taken at face value and satisfy. They also however can be pondered to reveal deeper meanings many of which are religious or spiritual in nature but also seemed intensely personal which surprised me. Other than a brief glossary at the back of the book, the …

Lettre à Zohra D. (French language, 2012, Flammarion) 5 stars

Lettre à Zohra D. is an autobiographical narrative exploring the author's experience as a child …

Thought-provoking

5 stars

As well as simply wanting to practice and improve my French language skills and vocabulary, I hoped that by challenging myself to read some books in French this year I would be able to discover works as yet untranslated into English. I also wanted to find books from countries as yet unrepresented in my WorldReads posts and Lettre à Zohre D absolutely fits the bill. This memoir is written by a woman born and raised in Algeria, who had to emigrate to France when Algeria gained its independence. Aged just five, she survived a terrorist bomb attack although in reading her book I learned why she doesn't appreciate being labelled as a 'survivor'.

Michel-Chich wrote Lettre à Zohre D fifty-five years after the Milk Bar bombing, having spent most of the time in between just getting on with her life and not dwelling on the past. Now a grandmother herself, …

Maybe Esther (Hardcover, 2018, Fourth Estate) 4 stars

Katja Petrowskaja’s family story is impossible to untangle from the history of twentieth-century Europe. There …

Who do you think you are?

4 stars

For me, reading Maybe Esther was like an in depth literary episode of the television programme Who Do You Think You Are, but one where all the relatives had interesting stories. Katja Petrowskaja shares her thoughts and emotions with us every step of the way so I was just as fascinated by her journey into her genealogical past as I was in what she discovered. This nonfiction book actually followed on well from my previous read, the novel The Woman At 1000 Degrees, because both explore darker aspects of twentieth century Europe and unveiled Second World War events about which I had not previously been aware.

Maybe Esther introduces a dozen or so of Petrowskaya's ancestors, most of them ordinary people who would otherwise probably never had chapters of books devoted to them. Other than one assassin, these people bore the brunt of history rather than making it, yet I …