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.
I don’t often post about books I haven’t even started yet but today I received the most exciting proof.
Sucide Club by Rachel Heng is one to watch in 2018. I’ve been (excuse the pun) dying to read this since the moment I saw that Sceptre had acquired this novel.
In near-future New York, life expectancy averages three hundred years.
Immortality is almost within our grasp.
I mean, just look at how this book has arrived!! I feel like I’m going to end up rushing my current read just so I can start Suicide Club.
I’m about the get really gushy about a book. A really, really, REALLY good book. I’ve just finished Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I was one billion percent wrong when I thought that I wasn’t going to get much from this book.
Eleanor Oliphant is about the titular character who has the same lunch routine everyday, she wears the same outfit everyday, she’s worked in the same mundane job for years, she doesn’t have any friends but… She’s completely fine. After winning a work raffle Eleanor ends up seeing a band and decided that the lead singer is THE ONE. Eleanor goes about changing everything about herself so she can become the perfect woman for the musician.
I expected a easy, fluffy read with this one but what I got was one of the best novels I’ve read in ages. Eleanor Oliphant is so funny, I can’t remember a time I’ve laughed out loud so much. Eleanor’s observations are cutting, blunt and honest. And Oliphant isn’t a character you laugh at in a mocking way, there’s a real warmth and compassion you create for this character. Honeyman has crafted one of my new favourite characters and I just want everyone to read this book.
Trust me, just get this book. It will make your week so much more enjoyable and it’ll make your life so much better.
I was currently part way through two novels when Lullaby crosses my path.
I’d seen this book floating around twitter and Instagram with rave reviews. A novel with is creepy baby blue front cover. A novel with the tag line “The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.”
Lullaby by Leïla Slimani, translated by Sam Taylor is the story of stressed out, stay-at-home mum Myriam, the pressures of motherhood are taking its toll on her. When the opportunity of returning to work arises Myriam and her husband Paul make the decision to hire Louise as a nanny for their two small children.
Lullaby has one of the most shocking and upsetting opening pages I’ve ever read. It’s a razor sharp novel that holds the reader in the heady grip of paranoia and tension. After the initial shock of the opening chapter Slimani lures you into a sense of sympathy for a mother who has lost her identity as woman. Much like Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima, Lullaby is a brutally honest portrayal of motherhood.
When the nanny Louise comes into the picture you spend every chapter looking for a darker meaning in all of her actions and reactions. You’re constantly waiting for it all to kick off and you find yourself holding your breath at the end of each paragraph.
I was disappointed with the ending of Lullaby but that’s not to say it’s not a compelling read. I just found myself going “oh ok then.” at the end then moved on to my next book without another thought. I thought Lullaby would be a book to stay with me.
If you enjoy creeping thrillers and great writing then Lullaby is a must read. Plus it’s super short so you’ll whiz through it in an afternoon.
Lullaby by Leïla Slimani is out now. Published by Faber & Faber
I finished last year on such a bum note. Reading was good but it was a naff year for me.
It’s the 4th January and I’ve already finished two books. Yes, one of them was an audiobook (I’ll pop a review up as soon as I can) the other book was one of the best short novels I’ve read in years.
Last year after reading Can You Hear Me? By Elena Varvello my colleague V showed me a book called I’m Not Scared by Niccolò Ammaniti. After telling me all about it I ordered a copy and I could not wait to start this book. For some reason I forgot about this book. A few weeks later my friend @ObvsItsAmy recommended me the same book! I went to get the copy of ordered and couldn’t find it anywhere. I forgot about this book again UNTIL TODAY!
I found my copy.
I’m Not Scared is a short, dark novel. Set one blisteringly hot Italian summer, nine-year-old Michele Amitrano makes a stomach churning discovery… but he tells no one.
I read the first few pages in the afternoon, I was gripped. I was counting down the hours until I could get home and read more… I ended reading the entire book in one evening. Ammaniti’s writing is tense and weighs on the reader like the heavy Italian humidity. The translation by Jonathan Hunt is brilliant.
This book is nothing short of a masterpiece and just a really cool read. It’s shocking and the ending left me numb. This is the book you want to give to your coolest friend or you want your coolest friend to recommend to you.
If you haven’t picked out your first read for 2018 then start with this powerful loss of innocence.
You know when a book falls into your life and just blows your mind?
Well that’s Ponti.
Set in 2003, Singapore, Ponti is the story of sixteen-year-old Szu. Living in the shadow of her mother Amisa a beautiful but has-been actress, Szu finds herself in her first real friendship with Circe. Seventeen years later, Circe is navigating a work project when she is suddenly confronted with the guilty memories of her friendship with Szu.
Ponti was one of those books that I keep spotting on twitter. Some of my favourite bookish people were talking about this brand new voice in literature. Using my mystical book lover powers, I managed to somehow summon a copy to my desk.
I could not put Ponti down. Sharlene Teo has a way with words which is up there with the greats. I felt like I was reading a prizewinner, the descriptions of sweltering Singapore left me heady and drained. Teo weaves three generations together through her amazing portrayals of young womanhood.
Ponti was everything I wanted in a novel: beautifully written, compelling and perfectly witty.
2018 is all about Ponti.
Ponti by Sharlene Teo will be published by Picador 19th April 2018
So 2017 has been properly awful but PUBLISHING HAS BEEN AMAZING!!!!!!
Compared to last year this 2017 has seen a crazy amount of outstanding debuts and brilliant new work from much loved authors. On twitter I post my top five for this year but it got me thinking about the other books that I couldn’t stop thinking about from the year.
First off I can’t end the year without mentioning The United States of Absurdity by Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds (from The Dollop, one of my favourite podcasts). This book is ridiculous, gross, funny and the illustrations by James Fosdike are so, so, so, awesome. You don’t have to be a listener to The Dollop podcast to get massive enjoyment from this look at the weirdest parts of American history.
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman is unavoidable at the moment. Voted Waterstones book of the year and loved by so many, I couldn’t wait to get read The Book of Dust. You know what? It was so much more than I wanted or expected. Pullman has a way with words that rivals the best storytellers and every sentence broke my heart and fixed it back together. I spent the last few pages of The Book of Dust in denial about the fact that this book would end and I would have to wait to read volume two. Haven’t read His Dark Materials? The get yourself a set of these books immediately. IMMEDIATELY.
Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King, I keep thinking about this book. I want to re-read it, I feel like I rushed this book and hastily compared it to The Stand. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I took it in fully. 2018 will be the year of the Sleeping Beauties re-read (when it’s in paperback and easier to carry).
Annhilation by Jeff Vandermeer. Just read it.
Strange Magic by Syd Moore. This book is so much fun! Sharp, sassy writing and a main-character that you just want to neck a bottle of wine with. I haven’t had a chance to read Strange Sight yet but I can’t wait to find out what happens to Rosie Strange. It’s one of those books that I have had so many genuinely lovely conversations about and I’m excited to see where this story goes.
Do you have a child? Then you need to buy Mopoke by Philip Bunting. Don’t have a child? Then you need to buy Mopoke by Philip Bunting. It was upon my 487th read of Mopoke that I really felt the frustration of the poor little Boobook owl, he just wanted to chill on his branch BUT no he has to put up with a whole lot of nonsense. Mopoke is totally genius and look forward to the next 487 reads.
Finally, Ms Ice Sandwich by Meiko Kawakami. It’s a strange little novella about a young boy who is smitten with a woman working behind a deli counter he called ‘Ms Ice Sandwich’. This story is pure, sweet and off-the-wall. If you’re a fan of Japanese fiction then appreciate the translation of this novel, Louise Heal Kawai has done an outstanding job with this beautiful piece of fiction.
So that’s it. Everything I’ve read recently is due to be published next year and so far 2018 is looking impressive.