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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

 

Blog Tour – The Gilded King by Josie Jaffrey

The Gilded King – Sovereign Book One

Genre: Paranormal romance

Similar to: Well, it’s a romance about gentle vampires… (DON’T SAY TWILIGHT!)

Could be enjoyed by: People who have read the prequel

Publication date: 25th June 2018

Firstly, I’d like to say thanks to Dave and everyone in The Write Reads gang for all of the love and support and for including me on this tour. It’s been AAAGGGEEESSS since I’ve published anything on here so being forced to post asked to participate in a blog tour has been a great way to get me back into the swing of things!

Synopsis…

In the Blue, the world’s last city, all is not well. Julia is stuck within its walls. She serves the nobility from a distance until she meets Lucas, a boy who believes in fairytales that Julia’s world can’t accommodate. The Blue is her prison, not her castle, and she’d escape into the trees if she didn’t know that contamination and death awaited humanity outside. But not everyone in the Blue is human, and not everyone can be contained. Beyond the city’s boundaries, in the wild forests of the Red, Cameron has precious little humanity left to lose. As he searches for a lost queen, he finds an enemy rising that he thought long dead. An enemy that the humans have forgotten how to fight. One way or another, the walls of the Blue are coming down. The only question is what side you’ll be on when they do.

My thoughts…

My initial reaction to this novel was “is this self published? Wow!” Now, I don’t mean to have a go at any of the excellent authors out there who have published their own amazing stories BUT The Gilded King feels… professional. It reads like it’s been edited by someone who isn’t a family friend. The narrative flowed well and I was soon hooked into the story. Most importantly… no typo’s.

Unfortunately, as I began to get deeper into the story, I started to get a little confused. I was expecting some kind of world building or backstory… anything to explain all the things going on like The Fall or the location of The Blue or the link between the vaccine, Silvers and the Weepers. However – nada. In fairness to the author, there is a prequel novella (which I haven’t read) which I guess would explain things in a bit more detail but as a stand alone novel I felt that there should have been more explanation. Plus, every time The Fall was mentioned I pictured this:

 

I quite liked all of the characters, even if Claudia was a bit wet and Cameron was often utterly clueless. There was some good, slow building m/m queer representation and I loved Felix – I think his character will really develop in book two. I liked Julia too and thought it was fantastic to have a self-described “plain” looking girl as the main heroine – what a refreshing change!

As far as the storyline went, I really got into the book and read it in only a couple of days. I have to say though, I did get a bit confused by the three different names for vampires, plus the elite vampire guard and I sometimes struggled to work out who the characters were and what side they were on.

Overall, I liked The Gilded King and now that I’ve got my head around the setting I think books two and three will be really interesting. The novel wasn’t without it’s faults but it was a good narrative  – I could just have done with reading the prequel novella beforehand!

Three and a half “they’re VAMPIRES???”s out of five.

Well written, exciting stuff from a genre that I don’t normally read. The scene is set nicely for book two!

 

*PSSSSSST The Gilded King is FREE right now on Kindle! Links here:

Amazon US and Amazon UK

 

About Josie Jaffrey…

I live in Oxford, UK, with my husband and two cats (Sparky and Gussie), who graciously permit human cohabitation in return for regular feeding and cuddles. The resulting cat fluff makes it difficult for me to wear black, which is largely why I gave up being a goth. Although the cats are definitely worth it, I still miss my old wardrobe.

 


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

 

Mid-Month Mini-Reviews

Hello Bookworms!

Welcome to another edition of my mini reviews! Today, I’ve chosen three novellas to discuss, all of which manage to be short on word count but big on ideas…

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Minutes from the Miracle City by Omar Sabbagh

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Last year, I read my first novel published by Fairlight Moderns (Bottled Goods by Sophie Van Llewyn) and absolutely bloody loved it so I was really excited to find that there were a new batch available on NetGalley – woop!

Set during Ramadan in Dubai, Minutes from the Miracle City features several different characters all narrating their interwoven stories – not something that can be easily achieved in such a slim volume. There were some unusual choices – in such a city of wealth I expected to be reading about upper middle-class expats or local rich businessmen but instead there was a real breadth to the types of individuals personified – a taxi driver, a hairdresser, a security guard, an academic, a journalist/writer/mother. I loved seeing their behaviour around Eid regardless of their religion and the challenges that living with the juxtaposition of a modern, metropolitan but also traditional Islamic society afforded them.

My issue with this novella was (as I seem to be writing more and more frequently) that not very much happened. Yes, it was interesting to read about a city that I’ve never been to and to look at the lives of people who are all different to me but I felt like the narrative needed more of an event to pull all of the characters together.

Overall, this was an interesting character driven novella but I personally would have appreciated a more dynamic plot.

 

 

Two and a half “But what happens???” out of five.

 


 

Atlantic Winds by William Prendiville 

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More from Fairlight Moderns – but this time a totally different take on life in an odd pocket of society.

Atlantic Winds is set in Bear Lake, Canada during the 1970’s. It’s a claustrophobic town with just one main employer and a close-knit community who have their own sense of right and wrong. I imagined a family diner, lots of young families with stay-at-home Mums and plenty of men in plaid. Traditional, poor-but-making-ends-meet, safe.

Or not.

Right from the start you get the impression that there are some families who are just a little… off. This creeping sense of unease permeates the text like the mist that I imagined rolled off the lake every morning. The writing is wonderfully atmospheric and added to the overall themes of justice, guilt and duty.

Written primarily about the teenagers in the town, the novella explores the roles of men vs women in a town with limited options and little scope for upwards mobility. I found the characters to be a little one-dimensional (the “hero”, the “victim” and the “villain”) but I could have lived with that… had the hero not been involved in one of the most dubiously consensual sex scenes I’ve ever read:

“And so she’d followed him there… until the moment it happened and she’d seized up and tried to show him, by a tremulous, calming smile, that it didn’t hurt.”

Then:

“‘I’m fine’ she told him, and hugged him to make him feel better.”

I could write for several pages here about how sex is something that women – even young women losing their virginity – can and should be actively, happily engaged in and that THIS IS NOT OK. I mean – seized up? How much more obvious can it be that this girl doesn’t want to have sex? Plus that line about making him feel better (because he clearly feels guilty) REALLY made me angry. However, I understand that a) this is the 1970’s and b) the novella explores the extent to which the female character (Sasha) is denied her own agency through the expectations put upon her to be a good, dutiful daughter – and perhaps the author is trying to show how this affects her life in a myriad of ways.

Maybe.

Overall, I found this complex, evocative little novella to be a really compelling read, even though it did make me incredibly angry. It certainly raised a lot of issues but for me they weren’t fully resolved, perhaps due to the brevity of the text. I can’t say that I liked it, but it definitely made me think.

 

 

Three and a half “THAT’S NOT OK” out of five.

 


 

Skellig by David Almond

Skellig (Skellig, #1)

There’s a part of me that wants to ask “what even is this book?” but I think that would be doing it a disservice. Sure it’s a very weird story but it’s also one of those rare occasions where the precise writing and the not-fully-explained subject matter come together to create one of those wonderful little novellas where it’s as much about what isn’t said than what is.

Skellig is the name of the dusty, shrivelled up old man* who is found by 12 year old Michael at the back of a collapsing barn in the garden of the house that he and his family have just moved into. Michael decides to help him, not least as a distraction from his very poorly baby sister who is in and out of hospital.

What is Skellig? Is it all a dream? Is his presence a coping mechanism? Is he *spoiler* an angel? What is he doing eating spiders in the back of a barn? Is he only there because Micheal’s sister is ill? Is he helping her?

Who knows. All I can say is that this wonderfully written, odd little book is an utterly charming one off (or at least, it would be if Patrick Ness hadn’t essentially written the same story in A Monster Calls). It’s about friendship and worry and magic and there’s no kissing and everyone is a kind and compassionate individual – so it’s basically perfect.

*maybe

 

Five “a number 27 and a number 53 please” out of five.

 


 

So, have you read any of these books? Do you enjoy a novella? Is it ok to add them to my Goodreads goal? Let me know in the comments!

 

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TL;DR June Review

Hello Bookworms!

SUMMER IS HERE!!! THIS IS NOT A DRILL!!!!

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I’m currently sitting by my french doors, smelling the flowers and picking at my peeling sunburn (yuck!) It’s been so hot recently (although, thankfully, quite cold at night) that everything in the garden has gone mad, although the previous heavy rain has meant that most things on the allotment have been ravaged by slugs 😦. So, I’m rushing to plant more beans, kale and french beans in the hopes that we might be able to salvage something.

I’ve been out and about this month for my Dad’s birthday (75!) including a nice family meal with my cousins. We went to Gardener’s World Live! where I bought some nice bits and pieces and generally had a lovely day out and I also went to a plant sale where everything was £1.25 and bought a load of stuff with my friend who is just getting into gardening – I think I’m a bad influence! I had a night out locally with friends too which was great and won a pub quiz with my library friends where we got a hamper of books to split up between us ☺

The saga of the other house is never-ending but we’ve had the gardens gravelled and a boiler installed so that’s another few jobs ticked off the list. I’ve got a big green wooden planter and a lavender to go inside it which can go in the front garden and I’ve given the back a bit of a tidy up too. In a couple of weeks my cousin is coming round to make a start on the bannisters and to box in the boiler so that’ll (hopefully) be the last of the major jobs done. We found a giant hole in the outside wall when we were digging down in the garden – it seems that someone knocked out some bricks to lay a gas pipe then removed it and never bothered to fill it back in! No wonder we had damp.

The library is starting to take over my life again! We’re short staffed due to holidays and there’s so much going on that it’s been pretty busy. I’ve got some exciting authors coming to do talks from September onwards which is great – just need to firm up dates and confirm content. I’ve never done anything like this before so it’s a bit trial and error but I’m hoping it will go ok.

I’ve had another bad month of blogging – I think I should revert to a reduced summer schedule! I’ve caught up with my Goodreads challenge with the help of a few cheeky novellas and I’m back into Read Harder, so at least there’s that. I’ve taken part in the Calendar Girls meme where I chose Women by Chloe Caldwell as my favourite book with LGBTQ+ representation and I published some Mid Month Mini Reviews and started a new series called Gateway Books where I looked at what books from my childhood influenced my reading tastes today.

I posted three reviews in total:

Affinity by Sarah Waters: I loved everything about this gothic lesbian sort-of romance. I don’t usually go for creepy books but I was totally sucked in – even though I had to stop reading it at night! Four and a half out of five stars.

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal: I really enjoyed this beautifully crafted Victorian tale – it was so richly evocative of the era. Would highly recommend. Four out of five stars.

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd: I just couldn’t connect with this book at all. It’s well written, it was really imaginative and unique – just not for me. Two and a half out of five stars. 

 

So that’s June wrapped up! Are you slumping like me? Is anything interesting going on in your gardens? Let me know in the comments!

TL;DR May Review

Hello Bookworms!

Mmmmm, it feels like summer might finally be on it’s way!

It’s been so nice and warm recently that we’ve almost run out of rainwater in our water butts so I’m probably one of the few people in the country hoping for a downpour! This is England though, so I expect my wish will be granted pretty soon. I have been sooooo busy getting the allotment prepped and ready for our crops – we’ve got the peas, beans and squash in, the strawberries are coming on nicely, the onions are doing well and the brassicas, celery and spring onions are all growing strong in the greenhouse ready to be planted out.

We had a lovely bank holiday working as per usual, sorting out the never-ending sanding, filling and generally tidying up of the woodwork at our other house. We’ve had the final last few electrical bits sorted, dealt with a mini-flood (upstairs windowsill is faulty) and got people booked in to fit a new boiler and hard landscape the gardens. It’s still nowhere near ready, but once these items have been ticked off the list we’ll be onto painting and then it should hopefully look habitable.

I went out to see “We’ve Got Each Other – the almost entirely imagined Bon Jovi musical” at Warwick Arts Centre with the BFF Juliet which was incredible – a one man show where the narrator asked the audience to literally imagine a musical based 50% on West Side Story and 50% on the lyrics to Livin on a Prayer. Loved it! If you get the chance to see it you should definitely go along, it’s already won loads of awards. May was also the month of Eurovision, so we had a party for that (where there was a SAUSAGE DOG!!!) which was super fun and camp and awesome.

We had a nice day out to High Wycombe and Amersham Old Town, which was gorgeous and old fashioned (and posh). We had a lovely picnic in the park and picked up what will be a very nice new tortoise enclosure (once we’ve got round to building it). We also had a lovely day out at Croome Court where we saw (amongst other things) their Grayson Perry exhibition, which was amazing:

 

I’ve had a fair few library meetings this month including one with the lovely Ellen from the Coventry 2021 team (when Cov becomes the City of Culture). We’ve got some very exciting ideas for a complete library revamp that may or may not come to fruition – watch this space!

I’ve had a terrible month blogging wise (but still managed to gain new followers. Not sure how? Also, hello!). I’m behind in the Goodreads challenge, although it’s hard to track when you read seven books at once – I can go for weeks without finishing anything then suddenly I’ve finished six in one day. I’ve not even looked at Read Harder as I knew I’ve been ahead for so long – I need to finish off a load of old ARCs then I’ll get back onto it.

I did manage to take part in the May Calendar Girls meme where I chose Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine bu Gail Honeyman as my favourite book with a mother/daughter relationship. I also published Mid-Month Mini-Reviews and Monthly Wrap-Up Mini-Reviews.

I posted seven reviews in total:

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman: I couldn’t believe how powerful this book was. What an amazing story, pitched exactly right for the YA audience. Just a shame I was too old to have read it as a teenager when it first came out. Four and a half out of five stars

Becoming by Michelle Obama: A fantastic autobiography that really showed what an amazing person Michelle is. I thought it would be boringly political but it wasn’t at all. Loved it. Four out of five stars

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: I loved how much this book made me think, long after I’d finished it. The characters were all horrible, the plot didn’t really go anywhere… and yet I still really liked it. Weird. Four out of five stars

Come Back For Me by Heidi Perks: This was such a page turner! I loved the setting of an island for a thriller (what a great plot device) and the atmospheric writing. A great book to take on holiday. Four out of five stars

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney: Despite seemingly everyone not liking this book – I did. I felt oddly compelled by the characters and completely identified with that post-teenage angst that comes partly from boredom and partly from not having any sense of who you are or what you’re meant to be doing. A great read. Four out of five stars

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend: Amusing but lacked direction – I needed more plot! Not her greatest work. Three out of five stars

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh: I felt like this was kind of a nothing-y book. Not much plot, horrible characters, a distinct lack of tension. I’m sure it’s meant to be a subversive comment on modern art or something but I’m afraid that went right over my head. Two and a half out of five stars

So that’s May wrapped up! Are you slumping like me? Is anything interesting going on in your gardens? Let me know in the comments!

End of Month Mini-Reviews – May

Hello bookworms!

I’ve had a terrible months blogging activity so I’m desperately trying to get reviews done for all of the books that I’ve recently read! Thank goodness for mini reviews!

So, in light of the fact that I’ve not really done very much recently, today’s theme is…

Taking a Break.png

 

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend

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Eva’s twins have finally been packed off to university and she’s decided that she’s had enough. Enough of the daily drudgery of housework, enough of her tedious husband, enough of being at everyone’s beck and call. So, she decides that it’s time for a well earned rest. Eva takes to her bed and decides that everyone else can look after her for a change. In typical Sue Townsend style this quickly develops into a farcical comedy, with Eva’s husband Brian moving into his purpose built shed-cum-lovenest with his new squeeze Titania (Tit) and Alexander the white van man being left to hold things together.

I liked the easy style of the writing but what this book (and all of the books in this post) suffered from is a lack of robust plot line. Yes, it’s a fun, light book but it’s hardly a page turner. I love Sue Townsend as a writer so it’s still good but it’s nowhere near her best work.

 

Three “It’s not Adrian Mole” out of five

 

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

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Well, this has certainly turned out to be a controversial choice – it’s had accusations of being un-feminist, lacking in plot, failing to follow the basic rules of grammar, being confusing, poorly written… I could go on. And yes (she says, flouting the rules of grammar herself), perhaps all of those things are true – although I don’t think it’s un-feminist to write complicated, emotional female characters – but I still liked it.

Frances is a young, possibly bisexual woman who becomes involved with Nick and Melissa, a slightly older monogamish married couple. Nick begins an affair with Frances, whilst Frances’ ex-girlfriend Bobbi begins a flirtation with Melissa. Frances does very little in the way of work – she’s a performance poet with Bobbi, she lives rent free in a flat owned by her uncle, she states that she never wants a job. Indeed, she’s only forced to get one when her father’s allowance stops, following his descent into alcoholism. Her lack of structure leads to an awful lot of soul searching, in the way that you can only do when you’re young and in love and don’t have to also worry about a million other boring adult issues.

Despite the annoyingly millennial (Gen Z?) characters, I loved the subtlety of the prose, the devastating one liners, the horrid complications of trying to love someone when you don’t love yourself. I could really relate to Frances and her unemotional dialogue which betrayed an ocean of pain and suffering below her bland exterior. I thought that Sally Rooney absolutely caught the aimless horror of being in your early twenties, indecisively drifting between friends, partners and jobs. Urgh. Youth really is wasted on the young.

Four “Not entirely sure how I just enjoyed a book where nothing happened” out of five
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
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An unnamed narrator (I never realise that until I come to write the review) decides that

she needs a rest, so visits a quack “doctor” who prescribes her with ever increasing numbers of sedatives, uppers, downers and everything in-between. The narrator then proceeds to quite literally sleep for an entire year – not going out, not really eating, not menstruating… nothing but popping pills and occasionally buying coffee from the local shop. Whilst I’m sure we’ve all had days where this type of self induced coma sounds rather appealing, it doesn’t exactly make for a page turning novel.

I didn’t like any of the characters in the book (I say any, there’s really only two) but even the peripheral boyfriend and dead parents are incredibly narcissistic, unlovable people. The only vaguely interesting bit of tension comes from your realisation that the “year” is 2001 and the setting is New York City… as you get closer to September you obviously know what’s about to happen but even that gets passed over with very little emotion.

There is something oddly compelling about the writing though. In a weird way it reminded me of American Psycho – that ultra-privileged antipathy, the desire to do something destructive just because you’re bored and you’ve got the money to get away with it. However, murder makes for a far more interesting storyline than sleeping, so I’m only able to give it a Goodreads-unfriendly…

Two and a half “And I thought nothing happened in Conversations With Friends” out of five
AAAAAND RELAX!

 

So, do you think the idea of doing absolutely nothing sounds really appealing? Could you manage to get an interesting book out of it? Do you like books that are more focused on characterisation than plot? Let me know in the comments!

Review: Come Back For Me by Heidi Perks

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Genre: Thriller

Similar to: Now You See Her, The Girl on the Train… all the usual suspects

Could be enjoyed by: Thriller fans – this is definitely a good example of the genre 

Publication date: 1st June 2019

I feel like I need to start this review with an apology – I received an email giving me super early access to read this book AGES ago and I’ve only just got round to writing the review. Luckily I’ve just about managed to beat the publishing date soooo…. yay? Ooops? Not really sure. Anyway, life has taken over a bit from the blog recently so I’m sorry that I’ve not been around much and I’m sorry that it’s taken me until now to write this review – especially as I really enjoyed Come Back For Me.

Grovel over… on to the review!

Stella grew up on a tiny island just off the British mainland and had a seemingly idyllic childhood – think The Famous Five but without the racism. Then one day – completely out of the blue – her Dad decides that they all have to leave, despite the huge storm that makes it totally unsafe to travel. Despite the fact that the family survive the ferry crossing to the mainland, they’re oddly changed by their move. Stella’s parents split up, her brother moves away and severs contact, her mother dies. She has no idea what happened and longs for her picture perfect childhood home. Then one day she spots her old house on the news – it seems that a body has been found buried in the garden. Stella is both horrified and intrigued and as she struggles to understand the implications of the discovery, she realises that it’s not just human remains that have been uncovered – it’s a web of family secrets too.

I really love the way that Heidi Perks writes. Her descriptions of the island and it’s inhabitants were brilliant and I could see the kind of utopia that she’d created – all children doing wholesome activities like climbing trees whilst their mothers baked bread and hung out the washing. There was a real risk that her setting could have felt too old-fashioned for the 1990’s but it was just the right side of modern but cozy.

The family exodus takes places in the first chapter and my heart was absolutely in my mouth. The writing was so tight and the situation so dangerous that it really kicked things off with a bang. It opened up numerous possibilities for the reasons behind the family needing to urgently leave and I loved how I was immediately drawn into the novel, inventing my own theories as to what had happened straight away.

As the book progressed, the tension built brilliantly and there was a good number of red herrings thrown in to the twisty turny plot that kept me constantly re-evaluating what I thought I knew. I loved the way that island setting slowly moved away being safe and secure to being smotheringly claustrophobic once secrets started to be revealed. I actually struggled to put the book down, so much so that I put off doing some major household tasks so that I could sneakily finish it off. Sorry bathroom ceiling, you’ll have to wait for that final coat of paint!

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Come Back for Me and thought that it was a thoroughly engaging read. My only issue with the novel was with the name of the island – Evergreen. Guess what I was singing in my head every time it was mentioned…

 

 

Four “We’re gonna take this life and make it…” out of five

Really addictive, exciting and fast paced – a hard book to put down.


Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of NetGalley and Penguin Random House. Thanks to Natalia Cacciatore for giving me advanced access!