Category: Books

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

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

The Last Chip

For the past couple of weeks we’ve had a reoccurring picture book, most books are on a rotation otherwise I’ll slowly go insane reading them but The Last Chip by Duncan Beedie has been picked out every night.

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The Last Chip is the story a very hungry pigeon called Percy. Little Percy does everything he can to go in search for the smallest scraps of food but is constantly met with disappointment.

I can’t praise this story enough, Beedie’s first two picture books were such a delight so we were ecstatic to get a third book. The Last Chip is a thoughtful story about perseverance and kindness. This is the sort of picture book that make your toddler a more considerate person. It’s the first picture I’ve come across that really tackles poverty in a tasteful way but doesn’t divert from being a lovely story that everyone will love.

Like with The Bear Who Stared and The Lumberjack’s Beard Duncan Beedie’s are gorgeous. I really can’t wait to read whatever Duncan Beedie writes next, his books have entertained my daughter for HOURS.

Grab a copy, read it about 20 times, be a better person.

10% of the profits from the sale of this book go to The Trussell Trust, supporting a network of 425 foodbanks across the UK.

The Silent Companions

The Silent Companions popped up on the proof list for a second time, it had caught my eye the first time but I had just read The Wicked Cometh and didn’t fancy another book set in the 1800s. When it popped up again I knew I had to request a copy, @smokintofu from What Page Podcast had raved about this book and two other booky people had recommended The Silent Companions so I was ready to dive in.

Set in 1865, the recent bride and widow Elsie Bainbridge goes to see out her pregnancy in peace at their country estate, The Bridge. The Bridge is resented by locals and up in the locked garrett Elsie come across the two-hundred year-old hand painted wooden statues – the companions.

The Silent Companions is really REALLY good. It’s eerie from the off, the start of the novel reminded me a little of See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt. Elsie is a wilful character, she’s quite no-nonsense but as the book progresses you see more tragic side to Elsie. The starts going in a bit of a Woman In Black direction quite early on and there’s one part of the book that went a little Final Destination and gave me actual chills.

Purcell’s writing has great pace, she keeps the tensions going with every page. There’s sections of the novel that take place in the 1600s and Purcell keeps the pages turning and  weaves her timelines together perfectly.  The line “Perhaps you don’t belong in an at all.” plays in the back of your mind while your reading Elsie’s story and I found myself trying to constantly guess the outcome of the novel. You’re given hints at the start as to where the story will end but there’s more than a few unexpected dark twists.

I was reading this book on a dark, windy night and credit to Purcell her story was so good it made me question every creak in my house. The Silent Companions took me all of two days to read and it was one of the most enjoyably, twisty books I’ve read in a long time. It’s a gothic delight which will leave you shivering.

Definitely one for the long winter nights.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell published by Bloomsbury