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PONTI

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

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Urgh… 2017

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.

Territory of Light

Most people have their in with Japanese fiction with Murakami or some manga, for me it was the novel In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami. When I finished reading Ryu Muakami about 10 years ago I started making a list of Japanese authors I wanted to read. At the moment there’s roughly 30 authors I’m eager to get through and right at the top of this list has been Yuko Tsushima. She’s a heavyweight when it comes to prize winning Japanese authors with both the Akutagawa, Yomiuri and Tanizaki prizes under her belt.

When I got a message saying my friend had received a proof of Territory of Light which is due to be published by Penguin Classics in April 2018 I was thrilled. I watched the post day after day waiting for this novella.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when starting Territory of Light, it’s such a short book.

A young woman who has recently separated from her husband moves into a new apartment, in Tokyo with her two-year-old daughter. The story is sheathed in light, whether its the warm, comforting light streaming through the apartment windows or the threatening glow from a mysterious distant explosion.

Starting this book was incredible, every few pages I found myself taking a deep breath and really had to process what I had just read. As I was reading about this character adjusting to living alone with her young daughter, I was sitting on my stairs, half doing everything I could to stop myself from crying my eyes out at this book, half listening for my daughter to stir in the night. The main character’s depiction of motherhood is honest and overwhelming. Passages about the child testing the mother’s endurance were hard hitting and weaved beautifully with descriptions of the mottled light shining through cherry blossoms or the glimmering reflections from flood water.

Considering Territory of Light was written in the 70s I found it relevant and the writing didn’t feel dated at all. Tsushima’s way with words will get the even the sturdiest of hearts, I was an emotional wreck by the time I finished the novella.

Yuko Tsushima is possibly my new favourite author.

The Wicked Cometh

I just finished a wonderful book.

The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin is set in 1831. The darkest London is home to Hester White, she’s sharp, intelligent and doesn’t belong in the slums. Hester is doing everything she can to get back to her old life in Lanachesire, a time when her parents were still alive, a time away from the slums of London.  Men, women and children are going missing from the streets of London in broad daylight, the police aren’t doing a thing. Hester becomes embroiled with the Brock family and slowly begins to uncover the wickedness behind the disappearances.

I alway tend to steer clear of historical fiction, I couldn’t get on with The Essex Serpent and I’ve only read one Sarah Waters novel (which I enjoyed but haven’t taken time read any of her other works). I massively enjoyed The Wicked Cometh, I was expecting a slow burn of a book but Carlin’s writing style is action-packed in some chapters. There’s chases, deceit and some passages so intense you can help but give a little gasp under your breath as you read Hester’s story. The last third of the novel is quickly paced and takes some twists and turns I couldn’t have foreseen.

Carlin fleshes out her female characters well, they’re slightly tied by their time period but Carlin makes up for it with the dialog and sultry glances they throw towards each other. Hester is a formidable main character and reminded me of a grittier version Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart.

I was so engaged with this book. I could not stop turning the pages of The Wicked Cometh, my favourite chapters were the ones that took place at Waterford, it had hints of Du Maurier’s Rebecca.

If you enjoy twisting Victorian tales you must pre-order a copy of The Wicked Cometh, it’s great for fans of Sarah Waters or Daphne Du Maurier. Get this book on you TBR pile now!

The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin

Published 8th February 2018 9781473661370.

Picture this

We’ve read I Want My Hat Back and Sunk to death. They’re great books but it’s time for an autumn refresh of the pre-bedtime toddler fodder.

First up is Kevin by Rob Biddulph. A new Biddulph book is always a cause for celebration, I’ve read Grrrrr more time than I can count and Sunk is still one of my daughter’s favourites. Kevin is a funny, charming, rhyming story of little Sid Gibbons who blames his cheeky behaviour on his imaginary friend Kevin. Every page is beautiful and it’s guaranteed to get your little one to sit still for ten minutes.

Mopoke by Philip Bunting. If you’re only going to get one of the books I recommend: get this one. It’s one of the best I’ve come across this year. Mopoke is a weird little book about some strange variations of this Australian breed of owl. This is one that parents will have lots of fun reading. It’s also super stylish and a must have for Klassen fans. I can’t wait to see what Bunting’s next book will be.

Oi Cat! By Kes Gray and Jim Field. This is the one we’d been waiting for. We LOVED Oi Frog! and Oi Dog! Guess what… Oi Cat! Doesn’t disappoint, it’s hilarious and ridiculous and just a total joy to read at any age. The rhyming in this book is next level and the illustrations are ace. As soon as my daughter saw Oi Cat! she was bouncing off the walls with excitement.

The Wolf, The Duck And The Mouse by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Another treat from the best selling duo that brought us Triangle, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and Extra Yarn. Darkly funny tale with lots of funny twists. Every illustration in this book looks like it could be a wall print in the chicest nursery.

The Grotlyn by Benji Davies. This book is lovely. The delightful mystery of the Grotlyn who’s scuttling through houses will keep any toddler entertained. It’s a must read if you enjoyed Davies’ The Storm Whale.

Thank You Mr Panda by Steve Anthony.

If there’s one thing my spawn loves, it’s a good panda story. After reading this book my daughter wanted to read it again, which is always the sign of a great kids book. Thank You Mr Panda was our first Steve Anthony book and since reading we’ve ordered all his other Panda titles.

There Is A Tribe Of Kids by Lane Smith. Winner of this years CLIP Kate Greenaway Medal, this book is just lovely. I don’t tend to go for prizewinning books but I couldn’t resist this title. It’s got everything. A beautiful story, it’s fun, lovely illustrations and by the time you get to the last page you’ve learnt something valuable.

I try my hardest to get my daughter to read nothing but the best picture books but even I can’t escape the odd Hey Duggee book but who cares, as long as she’s enjoying a book I don’t mind.

Don’t Wake Them Up

I’ve fell off the blogging wagon over the summer. But I’m back! I read so many ace books over the summer but I’m not here to talk about those, I’m here to talk about the new 718 page behemoth that hits shelves next week, Sleeping Beauties.

What makes this even more exciting, not are we getting one King, we’re getting two! Sleeping Beauties is co-written with his son Owen King.

All across the world something strange is happening to women: as soon as they fall asleep, a mysterious virus shrouds their bodies in a cocoon like gauze.

Now time is the enemy.

Women are fighting to stay awake.

Men are fighting each other.

And the women of Dooling, West Virginia are about to open open their eyes to a new world altogether…

I was lucky enough to get an exclusive proof copy from the great team at Hodder, I was so excited starting this book. I was also taken back by the size of the book but on second thought if a novel’s going to have two authors it might as well be a long story.  One of the most interesting things starting Sleeping Beauties is the dedication. Stephen and Owen King dedicate this novel to Sandra Bland, this is a particularly heartbreaking dedication and I urge you all to google her story. The other interesting thing about this novel is the character list at the start of the book, I didn’t look at this as I was worried it might spoil some of the story but there’s so many characters in this book I found myself referring back to this page a number of times when I was roughly about halfway through.

From the start you can tell that this is co-authored, Owen’s style is noticeable amongst Stephen’s style. I makes this book fresh. Even though the start gives you flashbacks of The Stand and I figured it was going to be reminiscent of that novel it quickly changes direction. There’s touches of Alderman’s The Power and Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale at the edges of this novel but I found it to be one of King’s most politically charged novels. There’s a good few comments about Trump and lots of references to other stupid men such as Cliven Bundy (Dollop fans’ll know who this is).

Unlike The Stand, Sleeping Beauties unfolds slowly and the main characters the plot follows are some of the most interesting that the Kings have developed. It’s a book with pace, dark gender politics and it sucker punches you in latter end of the novel.

I wanted to post my thoughts on Sleeping Beauties before I finished the book for a couple of reasons: firstly I’m just so excited about this book and secondly I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I’m just coming up to the end, I don’t want this book to end but I can’t wait to see everyones reaction to it when Sleeping Beauties is release.

There’s been so much buzz about this book and more than any other Stephen King book before fans in my hometown have come in force. Since the release of Dark Tower and IT, I’ve had about 5 conversations a day about Stephen King.

Constant readers will not be disappointed by this book and possibly down to Owen King this has been one of the best of King’s modern novels.

Sleeping Beauties is out on Tuesday 26th September, it’s not too late to pre-order your copy and for the hardcore fans Waterstones is doing a stunning limited slip-cased edition (it really gorgeous) AND IT’S SIGNED!

Gunslinger Re-read

I forgot the face of my father…

It’s been three years since I first read The Gunslinger and it feels like it’s been too long. After reading a significant number of other King novels going back to The Dark Tower really makes you go ‘Wow… I’ve read something phenomenal’. I actually forgot how much I loved this saga. It’s so well written and is easily some of King’s finest work, as soon as I read the first page I had a rush of nostalgia and that’s it, I was on the path of the beam once more.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. Just that first line is the perfect blurb for The Gunslinger. If you haven’t come across The Dark Tower before then it’s almost the perfect first novel in a fantasy epic. It’s not too long, just over 200 pages and can easily be read in an afternoon.

Upon re-read so many things in The Gunslinger had me just yearning to read the entire series again, I forgot how much affection I had for The Dark Tower and re-rereading was such a pleasure.

We’re introduced to Roland, The Gunslinger, as a surly, quiet man. He’s the last of his kind and he’s on a mission. The whole first part of the novel which is Roland recounting the events of Tull to Brown, a lonesome guy who lives in the desert is so brilliant. King sets the playing field perfectly and straight away you’re on board with Roland and his noble nature. As so as I got to the Way Station chapters I was so wrapped up in the story and king does a great job of introducing Jake. As a reader you feel for Jake as Roland does so coming back to these characters is so much fun and you really find yourself rooting for them.

If you haven’t read The Gunslinger, do so now. There’s no better time, especially if you’re not one for fantasy. I love this book so much and I just hope that one day Stephen King takes us back to Mid-World with another novel.

And if you have read The Dark Tower; make sure you download the Sombra Group app…

At the moment it’s a great time to be a Stephen King fan and it’s almost crazy to believe that a Dark Tower film is finally happening. With Idris Elba as Roland and Matthew Mcconaughey as The Man in Black, it’s going to be an amazing adaptation and February 2017 can’t come quick enough. There’s also a number of other Stephen King works in the process of being adapted: IT, The Stand, Revival, Mr Mercesdes and The Mist. My only hope is that they make The Dark Tower and The Stand as epic as the books are.

 

Long days and pleasant nights.

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