Book Review – Keep Them Close by Betty Rose

Genre: Family saga

Similar to: I’m not sure as this isn’t a genre I usually read. Angela’s Ashes maybe?

Could be enjoyed by: Anyone who is interested in multi generational, heartfelt stories

Publication date: 30th January 2020

Full disclosure – I read this book because I met the author at my local library and she was lovely enough to gift me a free copy. So, although Keep The Close is not my usual fare, I decided to give it a go and I have to say was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Thank you Betty!

The book starts with the early life of Robina in her hard working rural Irish family. Robina is a fascinating character – a charming dreamer who is also a tiny bit magical. She moves to Liverpool to study nursing which brings a culture clash so abrupt that innocent Robina is left not knowing which way is up. She meets Moses, falls in love and begins her happily ever after – except that life doesn’t work that way.

I loved the way that although I’ve referred to the book as a family saga, it has a bleaker, more realistic edge which made the story feel more true to life. It could have been quite one dimensional – a tale of two soulmates finding each other and starting a family – but the plot is far more complex and nuanced than that. There’s a lot of elements at play; an interracial relationship at a time when that was very much frowned upon, immigration, poverty, religion, mental health issues, racism… it’s all woven into a storyline which spans a lifetime.

I really liked the characterisation in this novel, especially the main protagonist Robina.  Each individual in the book has been really well depicted, so much so that I’d be shocked if it wasn’t based on real life events. I liked how human everyone was, often making bad decisions for good reasons and frequently getting things wrong! What really shone out though was the love that the characters had for each other and the close family bonds which kept them together – even when they were physically far apart.

As the book progressed I became more and more emotionally engaged with Robina and her family. Even though the ending wasn’t what I expected AT ALL it again felt very realistic and tied up all of the loose ends.

The only criticisms I have for Keep Them Close are that the cover is quite misleading – I think it makes it look like a gothic horror story rather than a family saga and I got a little bit annoyed by the use of quotation marks around every colloquialism. I’m all in favour of using dialect but my own personal preference is if it doesn’t have speech marks round it.

Overall though I very much enjoyed reading Keep Them Close and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading true-to-life novels about family and relationships.

 

Four “Is this real life?”s out of five.

Perfect for lockdown reading – heartfelt, comforting yet somewhat unexpected.

 


Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of Betty Rose the author. It was so lovely to meet her and very kind of her to give me a copy of her book. Thanks Betty!

Share this post on Pinterest!

Copy of Pinterest - mini reviews

 

Author Focus – C. J. Skuse

Hello bookworms!

Long time no see! I’ve been SUPER busy recently so haven’t been blogging much but I’m trying to get back into more of a routine. Anyway, enough of my excuses – let’s crack on.

You know when you find an amazing book and you IMMEDIATELY have to read everything written by them? This happened to me recently when I came across another-book-blogger-whose-name-I-have-completely-forgotten (sorry!) talking about Sweetpea by C. J. Skuse. I thought I’d give it a go and, well, this post is the result.

35720349 I  guess there really aren’t that many comedic novels about psychopathic murderers. The whole premise of Sweetpea is very dark but also very, very funny – after all, who hasn’t wanted to stab someone for walking slowly in front of them? The difference is, Rhiannon actually goes away and does these things. Admittedly, she usually has a better reason (like the person is a paedophile) but there’s also plenty of examples of people getting maimed/killed because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Despite this, I really warmed to her. Rhiannon represents all of the thoughts and feelings that we’re not allowed to have and reading about them was deliciously addictive – a real guilty pleasure. I loved the unkind nicknames that she makes up about people and the way that she absolutely speaks her mind, no matter how offensive. Clearly, she’s a monster and has a huge amount of issues but she’s also hilarious, kind to animals and retains a certain degree of control over her murdering-y tendencies, allowing her to have a pretty ordinary life.

38739384In Bloom continues in the same vein, with Rhiannon pregnant and killing for two. There’s the same high bodycount, murderous urges (made worse by hormones) and inappropriate humour but this time she has more of a moral compass in the form of her very talkative fetus.

I would say that this book would not work as a stand alone – you really need to read Sweetpea first in order to fully understand what’s going on. That’s not exactly a hardship though, as both novels are incredibly fast paced and you can whip through them at a rate of knots.

The conclusion to the book suggests an ambiguous ending and I really REALLY hope that Book Three is in the making. I can’t wait to see where Rhiannon goes to next!

alibiThe final book that I’ve read by C. J. Skuse isn’t part of the same series but a stand alone novel with a different type of vibe. The Alibi Girl follows the “life” (if you can call it that) of “Joanne” (not that that’s her actual name) who has a lonely life in “her” flat (not actually hers) with “her” cats (not her cats)… can you see how this is going to go? The narrator is so unreliable but that’s what draws you in – you can’t wait to find out who Joanne really is and what the hell is going on. The plot was really intricate and there were so many twists and turns that I was kept on my toes throughout.

The dark humour is still peppered through the text but there’s something bleaker and more desperate about Joanne – Rhiannon may be a psycho-killer but you’d never see her cowering in the corner.

The Alibi Girl is, in some ways, harder to get into but it feels like it has far more scope than the Sweetpea books. The flashbacks to a previous life and the multiple points of view make it feel like a more complete novel, more emotionally charged and with greater depth.

If you don’t like gruesome depictions of killing, bad language or black comedy that’s right on the border of acceptability then these books definitely aren’t for you. If, however, you find yourself snorting at a dismembered penis in a Ford Transit being referred to as the “cock au van” then C. J. Skuse will be right up your street. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

Five “I f*cking love these books” out of five.

Funny, dark and oh-so engaging, C. J. Skuse is my new favourite author – even if I’m now concerned that I might not have fared much better on Buzzfeed’s “Am I A Psychopath?” test 


Save this post on Pinterest!

Pinterest Pin

 

Blog Tour – Five Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Maurice Barkley

#thewritereads blog tour!

Genre: Short stories, Mystery

Similar to: Classic whodunnits like Agatha Christie, or…you know… Arthur Conan Doyle

Could be enjoyed by: Everyone! I found these stories really enjoyable and suitable for all ages

Publication date: 6th July 2017, according to Amazon (which seems weird but ok)

 

I’m going to say this right at the start – I’ve never actually read any Sherlock Holmes stories before. I’m vaguely familiar with some of the TV adaptations but the actual novel seems to have passed me by. So, it was with some trepidation that I began to read this book.

I have to say, I was really impressed! I found the stories very engaging and I was immediately drawn into the world of Victorian London. All of the stories feel like classic tales of murder, intrigue and suspense and I thought that the overall tone of what I’d expect a Sherlock Holmes novel to be was captured really well. If you’re not familiar with Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing then the nearest thing I could liken it to was Jonathan Creek.

There was no backstory given as to how Holmes and Watson began their partnership or who they even were as people (what is Watson a doctor of? How does Holmes support his somewhat lavish lifestyle?) but even with my limited knowledge I was able to piece together their working relationship. It was nice to see familiar places and phrases pop up, although there was no “elementary, my dear Watson!” which I was waiting for. I did spot one tiny Americanism which I found somewhat jarring but overall I thought that the book was well written and completely evoked the feeling of foggy, repressive Victorian London.

My only real issue was that every time Baker Street was mentioned, that bloody sax solo kept popping into my head:

 

 

Overall, I really liked the Sherlock Holmes short stories. Perhaps the characters could have done with a little more fleshing out and maybe Watson could have done a little more than stand there wetly with absolutely no idea of what was going on but these are minor criticisms. I found the stories to be nicely bite-sized chunks of mystery, murder and suspense, very cleverly written and easy to read. A great little book to dip in and out of if you need to immerse yourself in another world – and let’s face it, we could all do with a bit of that right now.

 

Four “I cannot get this song out of my head”s out of five.

Really well captured, a great addition to the cannon.

 

 


Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of #thewritereads. Thanks Dave!

 

Blog Tour – Kingshold by D. P. Wooliscroft

Kingshold picture

Part of #TheWriteReads Blog Tour!

Genre: Fantasy (possibly high fantasy? I’m not knowledgeable enough about the sub-genres)

Similar to: A bit Assassin’s Apprentice with occasional Terry Pratchett overtones

Could be enjoyed by: People who like multiple POV, political fantasy

Publication date: 17th April 2018

I haven’t written a book review in months, so I think the first thing that I should do is apologise for how rusty I am. As always, life has gotten in the way etc. etc. I’ll try my hardest not to ramble but after the week I’ve had even this opening paragraph is a bit of a stretch!

Soooo, Kingshold. To summarise: the King and Queen get assassinated, there’s a city wide search for someone to run the newly-founded republic.

Chaos ensues.

(This is easier than I thought! Oh no, wait…)

To start with the positives – I thought the book was well written. There was the occasional repetition of a more unusual word and the inclusion of some more modern phrases which sometimes felt a little incongruous but overall the tone was refreshingly light, especially for something as serious as a political fantasy. In particular, I loved how I don’t have a single bad thing to say about sexism – the female characters were likeable, had autonomy and didn’t act as “sexy lamps” (standing around in the background waiting to be turned on by men). One of them even got introduced as Ms! I don’t know a single thing about any of their breasts and there were no bad sex scenes so kudos to the author for not writing like a misogynistic dickbiscuit.

On to the not-so-good bits…

I thought that the characters needed a little more fleshing out as a lot of the time they were somewhat interchangeable. Alana and Petra? Motega, Trypp and Florian? I’m still not exactly sure who was who and I struggled to picture them in my head. I also had some issues with some of the names; Neenahwi… Neena-h-wi? Nee-nah-wi? Neenah-wi? Who knows. I did find that every time that character was mentioned, the pronunciation of her name pulled me right out of the story.

I also couldn’t help but notice some of the – ahem – similarities between certain other books. Now clearly Kingshold is a genre novel so you’d expect certain tropes but in the absence of clear character definitions my mind started to default to, well, mostly the Discworld. We had Rincewind a dodgy wizard, Gimli bearded dwarves, Great A’Tuin a draco-turtle with a town on his back, Inigo, Fezzik and Vizzini a group of three marauding brothers-in-arms and The Luggage some floating luggage. 

There was a large cast of characters and plenty of interaction between them all but in terms of action I found it all a bit, well, admin based. I guess the thing about writing a political fantasy is that there’s quite a lot of tedious going-to-curry-favour-with-Lady-such-and-such and although there were plenty of diversions and random events, I found the plot quite slow overall. The events happened in a kind of “oh look, fire!” or “who is that unknown assassin?” type way, with very little tension or build up. There were also some interesting hooks thrown in that weren’t followed up – was Mareth’s singing actual magic? Where on earth did that demon come from – is she banished? I guess we will find out more in subsequent books in the series.

Overall, I liked Kingshold but I didn’t love it. For me, the pacing was too slow, the characters and setting needed better descriptions and I would have like to see a bit more build up and tension to the events that unfolded. I imagine that if you read a lot of fantasy then you’d probably really enjoy this book (after all, I am the woman who found Assassin’s Apprentice quite tedious) but it wasn’t really for me.

 

Three “Is her name Need-A-Wee?”s out of five.

Good writing, an interesting premise but overall just not for me.

 

 


Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of The Write Reads. Thanks Dave!

 

Why I’m Not Doing A 2020 Reading Challenge

Hello Bookworms!

If you’ve read my previous New Year’s resolutions post, you may have noticed that there was something missing. Achievements? Stunning examples of my excellent organisational skills? Well, yes… but also something else.

Reading challenges.

You see, I’m oddly motivated by prescribed reading lists (initially, anyway) so for the past few years I’ve undertaken a number of challenges. Popsugar? Check. Book Riot? Completed it three years in a row, mate. I’ve done chapter-a-day read-alongs, I’ve done recommended reading, I’ve played bookish bingo. And I’m kinda… over it.

That’s not to say that I haven’t gained an enormous amount from reading challenges. I love how they force you to read more widely. I’ve had my eyes opened to genres I’d never even heard of and I’ve found some real gems along the way. I’ve found a previously undiscovered love of food memoirs, I am addicted to non-violent true crime and I’ve discovered a whole host of black, asian, trans, queer, feminist and disabled writers/stories that I may not previously have sought out. The thing is, now that I’m more aware of the sheer breadth of diverse offerings out there, I want to find them for myself. I want to read more Octavia E Butler. I want to hear more about Japan and Mexico and New Zealand. I don’t want to be forced to read poetry, or romance (although the Courtney Milan book that I chose was quite enjoyable) or to ever have to read another adult novel out loud. Ever.

I also don’t want to get to October and think “only ten books left!” then realise that they’re the books that I really don’t want to read. The pressure that I feel every bloody year is immense. And of course, after spending hours checking that the books you’ve chosen actually fit within the criteria (the discussion groups on Goodreads can get pretty spicy) you REALLY don’t want to DNF any of them. That means hours of grudgingly progressing through dull novels (“I need to read 50 pages before I can sleep!”) in the hope that there’s a massive reference section in the back that will knock 10% off your target. For example, one of Book Riot’s prompts for their 2020 challenge is “read an audiobook of poetry” (please God no – if there’s anything worse than the majority of poetry out there, it’s slow poetry) or “read the last book in a series” (soooo… read the whole series first? Or just read the last book like an absolute psychopath and ruin the whole thing?)

One of the problems with reading challenges that no-one ever mentions is cost. If I were to buy a paperback for each of the 24 categories in the Read Harder challenge at an average cost of, lets say, £7, that works out to be £168 per year on books that you may not even want to read. Yes, there’s libraries and NetGalley and your already-purchased TBR but with such narrow categories you’re often left with no choice but to fork out. Think of how many amazing, interesting books you could get for £168. Think how many titles you could knock off your TBR if you didn’t feel forced to read around five books a year that you really didn’t want to and inevitably put you into a reading slump.

There’s also an issue with repetitiveness. I often eagerly check a newly released reading challenge, only to find that many of the categories define books that I’ve already read for a previous challenge. There’s only so much diversity out there that still gives readers a good choice of material and you often find that the only books that you want to read for a specific prompt are ones that you’ve already tackled. If you consider that the main point of a reading challenge is to make you read more widely but you’re already aware of the genres/types of books defined, you have to question its effectiveness. Remember how I said that I love a good food memoir? One of Book Riot’s prompts this year is “read a food book about a cuisine you’ve never tried before”. Hmmmm.

So, I am officially Taking A Year Off. We’ll see how long that lasts.

TBR, I’m coming for you!!!!!

 


Are you taking part in any reading challenges this year? Do you enjoy them or have you found similar issues to me? Let me know in the comments!

 

Review: Love Punked by Nia Lucas

40901749. sx318

Genre: That’s a tough one. New adult (is that really a genre?)/ Romance (of the most down-to-earth, realistic kind – as in “I’ll let your kids be sick on me just so you can have a break”/ General fiction (surely this is too realistic to be anything other than autobiographical?)

Similar to: Nothing. See my previous post about Why I don’t like YA because everyone is too well behaved and middle class

Could be enjoyed by: Teenagers – this book would be brilliant for anyone who found themselves in a situation like Erin’s

Publication date: 21st July 2018

Controversial opinion: I’m not a fan of Young Adult or New Adult books (and yes, I know they’re not strictly genres but everyone else treats them like they are – don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about Karen). So, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I agreed to read Love Punked. I was swayed by the idea that the central characters did all of the things that I’ve previously criticised YA books for not having enough of -drinking, drug taking and having irresponsible, contraceptive free sex in a totally relatable and realistic way. Finally!

The novel centres around Erin, a feisty teenager who accidentally gets pregnant after having sex on a sun lounger in her Mum’s garage with someone she’s just met at a rave (we’ve all been there). She brings up her twins (yes, TWINS!) with the support of their father and her family, plus lots of help from her friends. It’s cute, sad, exciting, depressing and often downright hilarious to see the situations that Erin gets into and how she uses her trademark temper to forcefully get herself out of them.

Love Punked feels like it’s an autobiography because it’s so beautifully observed. It was great to read about characters who spoke… like they were teenagers. I am SO SICK of reading books where the young protagonists all sound like fifty year olds, debating the merits of da Vinci vs Michelangelo and saying no to literally everything in favour of doing their homework. Dawson’s Creek, this is entirely your fault.

I really enjoyed the characters – I thought that they were all very well fleshed out, believable and nuanced. No-one was perfect – far from it – and in particular it was really refreshing to see a mother who wasn’t saintly, breezing through life or standing in the background, telling everyone off all of time. Erin absolutely had her own agency and it was great to see her hold her own against some really challenging situations.

I liked the storyline and seeing Erin grow into an amazing Mum, whilst still getting to appreciate how bloody hard it was for her. It’s so difficult to find stories from ordinary working class families like my own and I really liked how you could feel the love that everyone in her family had for each other. Awww. My only criticism is that the book was a tiny bit overly detailed in some areas and could do with a little bit of trimming down but that’s a very minor issue.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Love Punked and would highly recommend it to everyone!

Four “You’ve got this, Erin!”s out of five.

Amazing, funny and hugely entertaining, I loved this book!

 


Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of the author. Thanks to the lovely Nia for sending me a copy and for being such a nice human being!

 

TBR Alphabet Tag!

Hello bookworms!

I’ve been tagged by the awesome Grey at Use Your Words (aaagggges ago – I’m sorry!) in the huge TBR Alphabet tag! All I have to do is list a book that I’ve been meaning to read for each letter of the alphabet. So let’s crack on!

 

A: The Alibi Girl by C. J. Skuse

44450879. sy475

After reading Sweetpea and In Bloom and absolutely bloody loving them I’m really excited about this book! I’ve got it as an ARC from Netgalley so I’ll get round to it soon.

 

B: A Bit of a Stretch by Chris Atkins

48569093

I’ve also got this as an ARC from Netgalley because one of the tasks in the #ReadHarder challenge is to read a book that was written in prison. I need to finish it before the end of the year so it’s an imminent current read.

 

I: I Capture the Castle by Dodi Smith

31122

I always see this book on “Best Books of the 20th Century” list but I’ve never got round to reading it. It looks like everything I usually enjoy – it’s set in the 1930’s, it’s a coming of age story and its main protagonist is a teenage girl, so I have no idea why I haven’t read it yet!

 

D: Dracula by Bram Stoker

17245

I really wanted to read something spooky for Halloween and since this is the quintessential horror story I added it to my TBR. As usual, life got in the way so I haven’t actually started it yet but it’s an imminent read.

 

E: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott-Card

Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)

I’m a bit dubious about this so called classic because of the views of the author (both homophobic and sexist) and I believe his chauvinism is overtly expressed in this novel. However, I’d like to see for myself so I will get to it when I’m in the right mood.

 

F: Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

42123790. sy475

I adore anything by Jeanette Winterson so as soon as I saw this in the library I added it straight to my TBR!

 

G: Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

415

Gravity’s Rainbow has been on my TBR FOREVER – I did actually start reading it once but at over 700 pages it’s going to take a considerable effort. Definitely a book for 2020.

 

H: Hunger by Roxane Gay

26074156

I came across Roxane Gay via Hannah Gadsby and I’m really looking forwards to reading it. I love a good memoir – especially a food memoir – so this looks right up my street.

 

I: Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

41104077. sy475

I keep hearing about this book EVERYWHERE and it looks soooo interesting – I can’t wait to read it!

 

J: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

14201. sy475

This book WILL NOT DEFEAT ME! I started reading it years ago but the text is so tiny and I kinda got bored. I will pick it back up again, honest…

 

K: Kane and Abel by Jeffery Archer

78983

True story: I met Jeffery Archer when he’d just come out of prison and he made a joke about it that only I laughed at (in a room full of about 300 people). Awkward. Anyway, I’ve never read any of his work so although he was a bit slimy in real life I’m kind of intrigued.

 

L: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

22733729

This is one of those books that somehow doesn’t appeal to me but everyone always says  how brilliant it is, so on to the longlist TBR it goes!

 

M: My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer

I’ve heard both good things and bad things about this book so I thought I’d find out for myself.

 

N: No Good Deed by John Niven

No Good Deed

This has been floating around my NetGalley backlog for years and I honestly have no idea why I requested it! I will get to it eventually (can you hear the excitement in my voice…)

 

O: On Beauty by Zadie Smith

3679. sy475

Oooh, Zadie Smith. I quite liked White Teeth (even if the ending was a bit weird) but I thought her writing was beautiful so I expect great things from this book.

 

P: The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

15047

More Jeanette Winterson! I just love her writing so much and I found this in a National Trust bookshop, so I immediately bought it.

 

Q: The Quiet American by Graham Greene

3698

I love all of those mid-century, middle class authors who write about odd, awkward characters not really doing very much. I liked Our Man in Havana so I’m looking forwards to this.

 

R: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #1)

I keep hearing excellent things about Mark Lawrence from some of my most trusted blogger friends but for some reason I’ve never got round to reading him. I’ll get to this once I’ve finished The Priory of the Orange Tree.

 

S: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

Yes I know, everyone in the world loves this book and I STILL haven’t read it! I’m not always a huge fan of YA fantasy so I’m perhaps not as excited about it as I could be but I will read it just to see what all the hype is about.

 

T: Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

Tipping the Velvet

I ADORE Sarah Waters and this is another one of those books that’s been on my TBR forever – I literally can’t wait to read this. Why is it taking me so long?

 

U: Unhappenings by Edward Aubrey

UnHappenings

I bought this book last year and… I can’t remember why? Is it good? Has anyone else read it? Let me know!

 

V: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

5797

This is another one of those books that WILL NOT DEFEAT ME! and yet I can’t be bothered to actually, you know, read it. Maybe if the publishing industry implodes and books stop being written I’ll get round to it.

 

W: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race

In the period between starting this post and finishing it, I have actually begun reading this book and OMG IT IS AMAZING! Highly recommended to everyone.

 

X: The X-Men, Vol 1

707656

Considering I’ve been “reading” i.e. started then ignored Watchmen for years now I doubt I’ll be getting to this any time soon but it’s definitely something I want to read. I just need more hours in the day!

 

Y: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

6080337

I stupidly bought MaddAddam before realising it was the third book in a series so I will get to this once I’ve read book one. I love Margaret Atwood so I’m excited for it.

 

Z: Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

11785

I just checked Goodreads and this book appears on both “the most disturbing books ever written” and “I like serial killers” lists so it looks right up my street!

 

And that’s it! Thanks to Grey for tagging me, I tag:

The Orangutan Librarian

NS Ford

Travel in Retrospect

Sucker for Coffe

…and anyone else who wants to join in!

 

So, have you read any of these books? Is your TBR as terrifyingly long as mine? Let me know in the comments!

Mid-Month Mini Reviews – November

Hello bookworms!

Welcome to another (resurrected) edition of my mid-month mini reviews! I haven’t done one of these for such a long time so it’s nice to be back. This month, I’ve decided to look at meta-reads; books that are about… books!

 

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

39507318. sx318

Urgh, this book. On the surface, it looked like everything I could ever want – an ode to libraries and reading, a tale of a bookish community coming together to overcome huge odds, an intriguing investigation into a dreadful crime. However, I felt like The Library Book was trying to be all things to all people – and in doing so, fell a little flat.

I was initially gripped by the description of the fire that raged through the LA Public Library – Susan Orlean has a fantastic writing style and some of the imagery she used (the inferno was so hot that firefighters said it was like looking through glass) has really stayed with me. However, I didn’t like the meandering nature of the narrative. There was the description of the fire, the history of libraries in the US, the methods used to preserve the books, the importance of libraries, the figures involved in creating the library, the aftermath of the fire, the possible suspect and the investigation into him, the history of the building, the local community, library workers… all lumped together in a way that didn’t seem coherent to me.

I did enjoy reading about the historic elements of libraries in the US but ultimately the investigation into the main suspect responsible for the fire was sketchy at best and failed to hold my attention. Not a terrible book but it failed to live up to my expectations.

 

Three “so… who was responsible?” out of five

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge #19 Read a book of non-violent true crime

 


 

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

39873227

I saw this book as one of my libraries “hot buzz must borrow bestseller” (or whatever they call it) books so I dutifully gave it a read. And while it was a perfectly nice book, that was really the problem with it. It was just… nice. Mild-mannered. The literary equivalent of a french manicure – basically, a bit dull.

The story actually hit quite close to home – a woman with no children who gets put upon by everyone including her colleagues at the local library *tries not to think how much this sounds like me* has a chance encounter which leads her to unravel a family mystery. Whilst the idea was quite original, the writing was so full of tired tropes that I found it quite frustrating. A poor thirty-something singleton with no children, filling her empty days by helping others? Check. A glaringly obvious same sex relationship that takes the main character half the book to recognise because straight is the default? Check. A red wine drinking, cravat wearing eccentric who sells old books? Oh, hello Giles from Buffy!

So, whilst this wasn’t a badly written book it failed to hold my attention for more than a few chapters at a time. Perfectly pleasant is the best way I can describe it.

 

Three and a half “this is too close to my own life” out of five

 


 

Writers as Readers: A Celebration of Virago Modern Classics

38223804. sy475

I say this every time I read a VMC Designer Edition book but LOOK AT IT. I absolutely adore how pretty these books are and I always, always love the content. Even though it’s not a novel, this book is no different.

The idea behind Writers as Readers was to take forty authors and ask them to write a short essay on their own favourite books or writers. It had everyone from Margaret Drabble to Sandi Toksvig talking about well known individuals like Daphne DuMaurier and Angela Carter but also lesser known writers like E. M. Delafield and Elizabeth Von Armin. I loved the wide cross section of novels/authors chosen and picked up a huge number of TBR additions!

Due to the brevity of the “chapters” (a few pages for each essay) I found that this book was easy to dip in and out of  – usually as a break from reading a heavier tome. It was great to see all the positivity and enthusiasm for different books – a bit like blog hopping! I thought the whole concept was a great idea well executed – even though the whole thing is basically just a big advert for Virago.

 

Four “This is seriously damaging my TBR” out of five

 

So, have you read any of these books? Do you like reading books about books or do you prefer things to be a bit less meta? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

I’m not dead, I just needed a break

Hello bookworms!

On the off chance that any of you are still reading my blog after not being present on here for months, I’ve dedicated this afternoon to catching up on comments, tags and ACTUALLY WRITING SOME ACTUAL REAL LIFE BLOG CONTENT. Crazy, huh?

I feel like I should start with an apology. Everyone, I’m so, so sorry for disappearing and basically ignoring you all. Life has been somewhat different recently and one of my worst personality traits is hiding myself away when things get overwhelming. However, I’m going to make a concerted effort to get back into blogging, blog hopping and responding to you all. I genuinely feel quite guilty about my absence and I hope that none of you are too mad at me. Here, have a kitten in a basket

So, I guess you’re all wondering what I’ve been up to, huh? Well, you might remember that I was volunteering with my local library. What initially started as a few hours per week shelving books has now turned into me being part of the management team, running events, fundraising, being half of the social media team and getting involved in all kinds of projects that don’t in any way relate to my skill set (this is on top of my actual property development job). To say I’m busy right now is something of an understatement but I’m really enjoying myself.

The current “project house” is almost…ALMOST nearing completion. The last of the big jobs is painting (everything, at least four coats as it’s entirely new plaster) then loft insulation, carpet fitting and internal door hanging… and I think that will be it!  I cannot tell you how excited I am. In the past few months my cousin has been amazing, building us a new staircase, a boiler cupboard and putting in all of the interior woodwork. I’m sure there will be a million other tiny jobs to do along the way and literally as I’m typing I’m thinking “we need to seal the brickwork in the fireplace and build a new doorstep and clean up the front path and put some plants in and…” but the end is in sight… finally!

Despite all of this (and perhaps because I’m spending so much time on the library) I’m still on track with my Goodreads target of 100 books. Expect many, many reviews to come in the next few weeks! God only knows where I am with #ReadHarder, I’ll have to look later on at where I’ve got to. I have two months to sort it, fingers crossed it will be ok.

So, what have you all been up to? How are you doing with your reading targets? Talk to me, I’ve missed you!

Lots of love,

Lucinda xxx

P.S. I had a little play around with some new blog graphics. Let me know what you think!

 

Blog Tour – Sapphire Smyth and the Shadow Five Part One by R. J. Furness

Genre: YA Fantasy

Similar to: A little bit Golden Compass, serialised à la The Green Mile

Could be enjoyed by: People who like their fantasy in bite-size chunks

Publication date: 16th March 2019

Blurb (4)

Have you ever seen something you can’t explain? Did it vanish as fast as it appeared? Perhaps that thing you saw was lurking in the shadows, and you caught a glimpse of it before it went back into hiding. There’s a good chance, of course, that the thing you saw simply emerged from your imagination. Or maybe, just maybe, it didn’t… Sapphire Smyth is no stranger to rejection. When she was only a baby, her father abandoned her after her mother died. Since then, Sapphire has never felt like she belonged anywhere, or with anyone. To make things worse, her foster carers have now turned their back on her – on her eighteenth birthday. After living with them throughout her childhood, Sapphire has to find a new home. Is it any wonder she finds it hard to trust people? Abandoned by the people she called family, Sapphire is alone and searching for some meaning in her life. Except that meaning has already come looking for her. When she discovers mysterious creatures lurking in the shadows, Sapphire soon realises that her fate is unlike anything she had ever imagined.

Blurb (3)Now don’t get me wrong, I love a big epic fantasy novel. The Chronicles of Amber, The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time; I’ve really enjoyed them all (actually, I’m only on book four of WoT… so perhaps let’s gloss over that one. Guys it is SO LONG)… Anyway, I adore getting stuck into a huge heavy tome that I struggle to fit into my handbag and gives me backache. So, I was a little concerned about reading a fantasy novella – how would they fit in all the world-building? Surely the first 100 pages of any fantasy book barely scratches the surface of the storyline? How on earth do you build a narrative arc – won’t it end just as I’m getting into it?

FEAR NOT READERS!!!

Sapphire Smyth and the Shadow Five worked reaaaaaalllly well as a serial. The writing was immediately engaging and fast paced. There was a good narrative arc – the book ended in a *ahem different place to the beginning, which meant that there were some nicely defined boundaries and a natural place to pause. Despite my reservations, I actually quite liked the short novella style – it was different, sure – but once I had got my head round the idea that the story was to be continued, it was much like mentally agreeing to read to the end of chapter four.

EXCEPT YOU CAN’T IGNORE YOUR OWN LIMITATIONS AND READ ON ANYWAY AAAARRRGGHH WHAT EVEN IS THIS

Unfortunately, I did find that the payoff for having such a direct, action filled plot was that the word building suffered a little. I struggled to visualise some elements and thought that in places more detail was needed. I also thought that there were certain parts where a slower build up/acceptance of what was going on would have worked better. For example, Sapphire seemed pretty accepting of certain situations – like her almost comically quick assertion that she was in a different realm – which I felt let the storyline down a little.

However, as a character I really liked Sapphire and her kick-ass persona. I thought that her and Ben’s relationship was great and I’m excited to see how it will develop. I loved the idea of the mythical daemon/patronus/familiar fox that kept appearing and the concept of terrifying shadow creatures was truly creepy.

The only thing I couldn’t get out of my head was the ending on the futuristic transport thing… I’ll just leave this GIF here…

 

Overall, I loved this little gem of a fantasy novella/part one of an epic. The pacing was super quick and engaging, the characters were awesome and the overall idea was really unusual and just the right amount of creepy. I would have preferred slightly more description and perhaps a slower pace in some areas but this was a minor criticism. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

 

Four “What the fox say?”s out of five.

Brilliant writing, an engaging storyline and a fantastic format make Part One of Sapphire Smyth… a winner for me. Can’t wait to read more!

Blurb (2)Author R. J. Furness has been passionate about great stories since he was able to read. At an early age, he would frequently create new characters, worlds and creatures then write crazy tales all about them. However, until now, he has always kept those ideas completely secret. After having a lifelong interest in animals, music and anything spawned from pure imagination, R.J.’s first loves are now his wife and children. Over time, he has also developed an overwhelming desire for mugs of tea and good biscuits to dunk. He lives in Southport, England, with his family, a dog and several fish, chickens and quails.


Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of The Write Reads. Thanks Dave!