Big Ol’ Book Binge

After I read the Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination I thought I would struggle to fall in to my next read.

WRONG! I have been on a good book binge! I’ve managed to go a few months without picking up a stinker.

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So, after the Japanese spook-fest I read Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. I really enjoyed Uprooted so I was super excited when a copy of her newest novel came my way. A fantastical retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. Novik’s tale of a young moneylender’s success attracting the fairy king of winter is every bit as magical and thrilling as Uprooted. Written with style and enchantment, you’ll be whisked away with every page. I enjoyed Spinning Silver more than Uprooted, the ending felt like it was paced better. My only reservations were that I wanted a bit more time spent on the Winter King’s mythology and history.

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I was on a roll, I was all about the books. Next up I was sent a collection of short stories called Things To Make and Break by May-Lan Tan. I hate short stories. I just want a full book. I started this book with shrug going “well I probably won’t like it”. WRONG AGAIN. This is the book that may have cured my fear of short stories. Every story in this collection is a total banger. Ending with notes of ebbing loneliness or leaving readers with a gut-punch, May-Lan Tan’s writing is sleek and razor-sharp. I genuinely believe this book made me cooler and I was already pretty cool.

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Next up was Legendary by Stephanie Garber. It took me a while to get round to this one. I enjoyed Caraval, it didn’t blow me away but more I began talking to people about it I realised how much love there was for this series. Maybe it just wasn’t the right book for me? When I started Legendary I could barely remember the end of Caraval which was a bit of a brain ache as this book picks up pretty much from where Caraval ends. Three chapters it took and I was so on board. Legendary was the girliest fantasy fun I’ve had in a long time. In fact I was hoping Spinning Silver would be a bit more like this. There was enchanted dresses, mysterious guys who smouldered and smelt like ink and starlight (whatever that meant??), otherworldly games and the wondrous world of Caraval. I loved Legendary, I finished the book feeling giddy. Read it, even if you haven’t had a chance to read Caraval yet.

When I finished Legendary I picked up another book. A book that became my book of year… So it’ll have it’s own post.

I wanted to keep the fantasy theme going. I called out to my fellow bookish peoples and asked what to read next. They did not fail me. I was sent in the direction of Sarah J Maas. It took me two days to read Throne of Glass. It was a real easy one to get through. Calaena, the eighteen year old master assassin finds her time as prisoner come to an early end when she is recruited by the crown prince of Adarlan to take part in tournament to become the king’s assassin. This book goes in a couple of directions that I wasn’t expecting, it was a real treat. If you want something refreshing but easy, then give Throne of Glass a try. I really enjoyed it but I’m going to take my time to get to the next books in the series.

I wound down my big book binge with a book I hadn’t intended to read. My friend gave me this book and said “you have to read this book whilst we have long summer evenings!”. Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker came out in 2012 so it wasn’t a book that was on my radar. The rotation of the earth begins to slow, gradually at first, just by a few minutes but within months it has changed life drastically. For eleven year old Julia the summer of the slowing becomes an age of miracles. This novel is just beautiful. It’s bittersweet, my heart felt full but everything seemed to be twinged with sadness when I finished Age of Miracles. A stunning book, get a copy and read it while we still have these summer nights.

I have no idea what I’m going to start next but hopefully this reading bug will keep biting. I’m not giving you links for these books, take time for yourself and go visit your local bookshop. Believe me, they’ll be happy to see you.

 

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Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination

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I think I’ve found my new favourite Japanese fiction book! A while back I shouted into the twitter ether for help finding some Japanese horror novels. I’d read Koji Suzuki, Junji Ito and Ryu Murakami but I needed something new and just as scary. Someone (and Im sorry I cant remember who) pointed me in the direction of Edogawa Rampo.

I had never heard of Edogawa Rampo before and I was massively missing out. I managed to get hold of one of Rampo’s books called Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination, translated by James B. Harris and published by a fantastic little publisher called Tuttle Publishing.

Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination is a creepy collection of some of Rampo’s short stories. Much like his name these are very similar in style to Edgar Allen Poe but Rampo delves deep into the psychological darkness that haunt his characters. Rampo’s writing style feels modern considering some stories in this collection were written in the 1920’s. Compared to other Japanese authors of that time you can see the western influence in his writing.

If you’re not convinced so far then let me tell you about the first story in this collection:

It’s called The Human Chair and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted from a weird Japanese short story. The main character, ugly and unloved decides that his route to happiness means embedding himself inside a chair. The pleasure he derives from those who sit on him is grim to say the least.

This book is fascinating and has been beautifully produced. Harris’ translation is totally brilliant, he keeps the clues subtle and the captures the sense of mystery Rampo wants his readers to feel.

Anyway, if you’re a Japanophile like me make sure this book is on your TBR piles.

P.S. The chapter titles of this book use a Buffy The Vampire Slayer style font. What more could you want?!

The Water Cure

The reading bug bit me hard last week. I managed to get through a steady flow of books; This Is Going To Hurt, The End We Start From and The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh.

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Compared to the works of Shirley Jackson and Han Kang, The Water Cure is going to be the literary debut to take the book market by storm this summer.

Sisters Grace, Lia and Sky live a life disconnected from the rest the world, they are pure, they are safe and they are protected by Mother and King. They know of the toxic air that consumes the women across the sea and when three men come across their secluded home their world begins to crack.

I started reading The Water Cure on a train up to London. It was a hot, stuffy day and the heat in the Quiet Carriage mirrored the sweltering land the sisters resided. Grace, Lia and Sky’s relationships with each other was harrowing, spiteful and petty but not for one moment did you doubt their bonds as sisters. The Water Cure is a story of isolation, the seclusion the girls live breeds curiosity and destruction amongst them.

Mackintosh’s writing style is ominous, she places subtle sentences that will leave you cold. Her characters are so emotionally damaged it was hard to gage and sympathise at first but the story draws you in quickly. The themes of femininity, growth and love are so warped by the characters you question their every action, every glance is sultry or dangerous.

I have a few reservations about the very last page of this novel, it took nothing away from the enjoyment of this hazy and provocative story of sisterhood but I yearned for a little more clarity. I’d become so invested in these bizarre girls I just wanted to know a little more, there you have it, I actually wanted the book to be a little longer.

I can’t recommend The Water Cure enough, this book is an outstanding debut. If you read The Girls, Ponti or The Virgin Suicides you need to put The Water Cure on you list right now.

 

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh published 24th May 2018

This Is Going To Hurt

Last week I finished reading This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay. I only started reading this book because my colleague insisted on reading me passages on a regular basis. With every passage I found myself cackling with laughter or recoiling in horror.

Diary entries from Kay’s time as a junior doctor for the NHS is a fresh and humorous account of what it takes to be a doctor in Britain today. The extreme hours, the heart breaking decisions and the numerous items that people get stuck up their bums.

Adam Kay has readers laughing one paragraph and crying the next. Some entries gave me such a visceral reaction that I’d never experienced with a book before. I’ve always have a level of ‘ignorance-is-bliss’ approach to medical situations and this book put me in my place. I genuinely believe that everyone with a human body should read this book, even more so if you’ve experienced the horror of having another human expelled from within you.

This Is Going To Hurt is one of the most life affirming books I’ve had the pleasure to read. I want to put a copy of this book into every reader’s hands. Adam Kay has done an outstanding job of bring the real pain and issues of our struggling health service to the forefront of peoples minds.

Get this book, it’ll be the best thing you do today.

P.S. my favourite account is on page 18.IMG_7272

Bedtime Bangers

It’s been a while! But I’m still reading!

After having to suffer through two rather rubbish reads in a row I’ve found solace in some new (and classic) children’s picture books.

I promise you that all of these will make the bedtime routine the best part of the day.

First off The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton. This was everything I wanted from a picture book, it was reminiscent of films such as Song of The Sea and Ponyo. Poignant, beautifully written and an all round great read. The Secret of Black Rock recently won the Illustrated Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.

Do Not Open This Book by Andy Lee. We had THE MOST fun reading this debut picture book from Australian presenter and comedy wife of Hamish Blake, Andy Lee. With every page teasing and urging the reader not to go any further, Do Not Open This Book had my daughter screaming with laughter by the end.

A Mighty Bitey Creature by Ronda Armitage, illustrated by Nikki Dyson. This is a cute and cheeky story that involves lots and lots of bitten bottoms! But who’s biting these bottoms? Well the mighty bitey creature of course!!

Everybody Poos by Taro Gomi. Has this book helped in my potty training endeavour? 100%! A very sweet book that will help little ones become comfortable about doing what comes naturally. Plus it’s got loads of funny pictures of poo.

If I Had A Dinosaur by Alex Barrow and Gabby Dawnay. This book is the best! The illustrations are really cute, the story is lovely and if you’re going to buy one book today make it this one.

Suicide Club

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2018 publishing just keeps on getting better and better.  There’s already so much to look forward to not mention Ponti by Sharlene Teo, Circe by Madeline Miller, a new novel by Haruki Murakami and now it’s time to add Suicide Club by Rachel Heng to your lists.

There’s already been a lot of buzz about this book online so I considered myself very lucky to get a proof copy of this one. I mean the cover alone, I know don’t judge… but totally judge, this book looks striking. Plus having your debut novel published by Sceptre is ridiculously cool.

Set in the near future humanity is on the brink of immortality, well the elite are on the brink of immortality. Lea surrounds herself with the right people, has a high powered job, hasn’t eaten sugar in years, exercises everyday. One small mistake puts her under the surveillance of the ministry and slowly her perfect life starts to unravel.

I got about five chapters into Suicide Club when I realised what I was reading was a big deal. Heng’s novel had touches of Black Mirror in the sense that she had created a future that wasn’t farfetched, it was completely acceptable and imaginable that people would modify their bodies to extend their life expectancy.

One of the first themes that Heng explores in her novel of near immortality is how society grieves. The grief obviously lasting a lifetime but when that lifetime is hundreds of years.

Suicide Club has really stuck with me. I finished it a few days ago and I can’t stop thinking about this book, I can’t get into any other books. My mind keeps going back to this book! There was a lot I really connected with this book, I loved Heng’s writing style and the story was original.

I can’t recommend this enough and believe me, Suicide Club will be HUGE.

Suicide Club by Rachel Heng is published by Sceptre Books on 10th July 2018

Trying something new

Some times I get stuck in a rut with reading the same picture books over and over again. It’s easy to pick up Oliver Jeffers, Rob Biddulph and Jon Klassen constantly throughout the day and night when we’re reading together but I thought I’d try something new with my daughter.

Every Monday for the past few weeks we’ve made a point of watching Cardcaptor Sakura. It’s lovely, it’s cute and it’s fun, perfect for a toddler. Seeing as the show was such a hit in our house I thought I’d test the waters with the manga. I was almost certain this would be a wasted effort, I didn’t think the black and white illustrations would hold P’s attention and I was worried the right-to-left format would be too confusing.

I was so wrong. Cardcaptor Sakura was perfect, as I read though the text P described each scene, she remembered all the characters and we had the best time reading together.

If you’ve read manga before you’ll know that CLAMP have created some of the most beloved characters and stories so they’re a perfect starting point for new readers. They write exquisite fantasy manga and the illustrations are gorgeous.

After Cardcaptor Sakura we tried a few different mangas and most were a hit. It’s hard finding content that’s suitable for much younger readers but here’s a few we’ve been reading:

Prétear by Kaori Naruse & Junichi Satou – This is pretty much a super shojo magical retelling of Snow White.

Kingdom Hearts by Shiro Amano – The Final Fantasy and Disney Square Enix game but in manga format. These mangas are so beautiful. They’re exciting, page turning and great for younger readers.

Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninomiya – A weird romance story revolving around classical music students. Noda Megumi the titular character is my all time favourite manga character. There was also an anime and drama that were equally as good as the books.

And finally…

Pokemon.