The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
Narrator: Gillian Burke
Published by Orbit on May 17, 2016
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fiction
Length: 16 hrs 36 mins
Format: Audiobook
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My name is Hope Arden, and you won't know who I am. But we've met before - a thousand times.

It started when I was sixteen years old. A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A friend who looks at me and sees a stranger. No matter what I do, the words I say, the crimes I commit, you will never remember who I am.

That makes my life difficult. It also makes me dangerous.

I discovered Claire North earlier this year with her Gameshouse trilogy and loved her style, so I had to pick up The Sudden Appearance of Hope. I was not disappointed. I like how North writes, her ways of describing things, of conveying her characters’ thoughts. She takes an idea, bases her story around it, and makes them amazing.

Hope can’t be remembered – that’s the idea in this one, the bit that the rest of the story revolves around. You could meet her, have dinner with her, and once she’s left your sight, your hearing for a minute or two, you forget and your mind fills in that blank with whatever’s most reasonable – you dined alone. Hope is many things – chief among them a thief. An interesting point – since she can’t have relationships, she isn’t a lover, a friend, an employee, she is free (cursed?) to define herself. Her ethnic backyard, dark skin and hair, have helped form her worldview, but North doesn’t let her become a stereotype. Since she isn’t bound by other people’s expectations, she has her own code, her own disciplines that allow her to live a pretty comfortable life. She’s a thief, but when we meet her, she’s a high-end jewel thief. She works on her own, with a bit of help from people on the darknet – her digital footprint isn’t forgotten.

Her latest score brings her into contact with Perfection, an app designed to make people “perfect,” and the people who own/designed it. Perfection is fascinating and disturbing, a look at how marketing and self-image can be/have been affected by the technology that has become an intrinsic part of most of our lives. (Where’s your phone right now?) And, even worse, the potentials when things are taken a stop or two further. I feel like with Perfection and some of the consequences, we just barely cross over into the land of sci-fi, the kind of sci-fi that could easily enough happen in the very near future.

The book is a bit slow in the middle, but I enjoyed the side trips into literature and history and all the knowledge Hope has acquired over time. I like the words and the spaces and her reflections. She really only has herself to talk to – yes, she can have conversations with people, but unless it’s recorded, they’ll forget. The story is told in the first person and Burke does an excellent job with the narration. She gets across Hope’s fears and triumphs and anxieties. Burke did a great job with the pauses and phrasing, with varying the speed depending on the situation.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope is like two stories that weave in and out of each other. In one we have hope and her daily life, her interactions, her musings, her near brushes with the law. The other is a suspenseful thriller involving Perfection and a woman who is bound and determined to destroy it with Hope’s help, whether given willingly or not.

About Claire North

Claire North is the pen name for the Carnegie-nominated Catherine Webb, who also writes under the name Kate Griffin. Catherine currently works as a theatre lighting designer and is a fan of big cities, urban magic, Thai food and graffiti-spotting. She lives in London.

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett First Impressions by Charlie Lovett
Narrator: Jayne Entwistle
Published by Books on Tape on October 16, 2015
Source: Library
Genres: Fiction
Length: 10 hrs 52 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.

I almost quit listening to First Impressions about halfway through, mostly because I had an audiobook waiting in the wings that I was really, really looking forward to, but I stuck it out to the end. I’m not sure if that was a good choice or not. It wasn’t torture, but it wasn’t great either. The story alternates between chapters focusing on Sophie in now and Jane back then, which worked well really, even if from what I understand a lot of the Jane portion was as fictional as the Sophie part. I knew who the bad guy was – from the moment he showed up; I knew that Sophie would find proof that Jane Austen was not a plagiarist; I was sure Sophie would end up with the right guy and that Jane Austen would become a well-known novelist. And guess what- I was right.

What kept me listening was that Sophie, and especially her uncle, love books. The libraries and books shops and the books themselves were marvelous. I enjoyed learning a bit about early book publishing too.

Sophie, though I appreciated her love of books, was not someone I actually liked. She fell for the guy #1 too easily and then fell for, and slept with, guy #2 too easily. Maybe she didn’t fall for guy #2, but she did go on and on about how good-looking he was and how awesome the sex was. I found her annoying. She didn’t have much compunction against stealing or breaking and entering – apparently her love of Austen and her uncle justified most things.

The narrator however, had an adorable voice, just British enough. She made even the corny lines sounds fun and amusing. She made it seem cuter, funner than it was.

If just the fact that it features Jane Austen makes you want to read it, at least wait for the paperback – it comes out at the end of the month.

About Charlie Lovett

Charlie Lovett is a writer, teacher, and playwright whose plays for children have been seen in over 3000 productions worldwide. He served for more than a decade as Writer-in-Residence at Summit School in Winston-Salem, NC.

The Paradise of Devils by Franco Di Mare

The Paradise of Devils by Franco Di Mare The Paradise of Devils by Franco Di Mare
Published by RCS Libri / Rizzoli on April 15, 2014
Source: Open Road Integrated Media
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 376
Format: eBook
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Naples is a city with two sides: the sun-kissed coast and the shadows of the back alleys. It is at once beautiful and full of suffering. It is the paradise of the devils.

This novel by Franco Di Mare is a mournful hymn of love for Naples and the compelling story of its eternal contradictions. A vivid and dreadful portrait of the city, setting the stage for a diverse cast of characters, from Carmine—a man with a double soul, a refined intellectual and a hitman—to the men who take part in a bloody showdown. The reporters, the housewives, the killers are all in some way tainted by the evil that inhabits the most beautiful gulf in the world.

I enjoyed the rather meandering quality of The Paradise of Devils. The story centers around Carmine Cacciapuoti, but skips around in time from his present, to his childhood, to defining moments in his life. Carmine is a lot like Naples itself. He’s a philosophical former scholar, who has become a hit man. His girlfriend Lena, a teacher, thinks he’s a computer salesperson of some type and he is trying to keep the two parts of his life, his home and his job, separate. Of course, you can only keep secrets like that for so long before the whole thing starts to unravel.

The book is translated from Italian and as far as I could tell it was done well enough. There are a couple of odd Americanisms, like Lena wondering if Carmine would say he was working with the Secret Service or FBI – of course not, he’s in Italy; that would be a stupid lie to tell. Carmine is many things, but not stupid. I don’t know why the translator used American institutions instead of just naming the Italian equivalent.

I like how we see the lives of the people who Carmine interacts with. We see Lena and her class of mostly spoiled, unmotivated kids as they explore the catacombs. We meet his boss’s girlfriend, a sexy woman who had big dreams. We meet the man who “trained” Carmine, a psychopath who enjoys the killing. Then there’s the journalist for the local paper, who picks up on the difference in Carmine’s killings and others around the city. I enjoyed seeing their lives all intertwined, to see how one’s decisions affect another.

We tour Naples too, a place I would love to visit one day. We see its beauty, its churches, its beach, the food, the shops. We also see its darker sides, the corruption, the rampant unemployment, the street gangs whose members are little more than children, those who sell “protection” and those who sell drugs.

I found Carmine’s story and the city itself engrossing. With its changes in time period and viewpoint, it’s maybe not the easiest book to follow, but it’s worth it. I was sad to see it end.

About Franco Di Mare

Franco Di Mare (born in Naples in 1955), after many years as a war correspondent for RAI, moved on to hosting TV shows. With Rizzoli he has published Il cecchino e la bambina (2009) and the bestselling Non chiedere perché (Premio Roma 2011, Premio Fregene 2011, second place in the Premio Bancarella).

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