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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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 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.
I reckon about a third of my life is dedicated to books and another third to my toddler but that last third is taken up by gaming. I’ve always had a console, my mum got me a Sega Megadrive when I was tiny and I haven’t been without a console since. I’ve never considered myself a gamer as growing up it was always a mild interest but in the past few years I’ve fallen in love with RPGs. I love the epic sprawling ones that take way too much to complete like the Final Fantasy games, Kingdom Hearts, Bioshock and the Tales series.
This week I finally caved and got Persona 5. I’ve played the others and I avoided getting this one as I knew it’d take over my life. I only started Persona 5 a few days ago and I’m already nine hours deep, it was while I was playing I was mulling over why I got so absorbed in these types of games and it’s obvious: they’re great stories.
The story writing and editing of these types of games parallel the best novels out there. Bioshock Infinite for one left me shook and years on I’ll still go back and watch the ending on Youtube just to fathom it once more (and tbh I’m still trying to get my head round it). More recently I’ve devoted a large portion of my life to Final Fantasy XV. I bloody love everything about this game, I haven’t been as emotionally invested in a FF game since FFX which left me in bits by the time I got to the end. The fact that each part of the game is divided into chapters says that you’re not just playing a game, you’re taking part in a story that a team have put their heart and soul into.
If like me you love a game for it’s story you might find these books right up your street.
Lyonesse by Jack Vance – I read the first book in the Lyonesse trilogy about six years ago. I picked up a copy purely because the Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks edition has a stunning front cover and I wasn’t expecting much from what sounded like a paint-by-numbers fantasy novel. This book is very epic considering it’s the first in a trilogy, it’s a heady mix of fantasy, fairytale, myth and legend. I’ve not made it round to books two and three yet but I managed to get copies with the original 1986 cover.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – Taylor’s previous series was wonderful escapism so obviously this new novel was going to be just as ace. Strange the Dreamer starts with Lazlo running away from his abusive life and he takes refuge and solace in a library where he becomes to inhabit. Lazlo’s love of books is so beautifully written and as he starts to discover that there’s a strange truth to the books he considered as fairytales you find yourself being sucked into an emotionally deep fantasy. It’s got really brilliant characters and some wicked cool Gods, have a read.
The Dark Tower by Stephen King – OBVIOUSLY THESE BOOKS WOULD BE MENTIONED! I think everyone should read them, not only has King created an epic intricate world that could rival any Final Fantasy game, he also gives readers an amazing journey. Seven books (and Wind Through the Keyhole) which leave you wanting so much more and a cast of characters so rich you can’t help but agonise that you hadn’t read them sooner. This is must for Bioshock fans, the complexity of the story is outstanding. Most of The Dark Tower books read like really cool RPGs and there’s so many chapters and fights that you can’t help but think “this would make an amazing video game”.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – It’s magical realism at it’s finest. 1Q84 is a book made up of three volumes and from the start you feel your world changing around you as you become so completely involved in Aomame and Tengo’s story. When her taxi becomes stuck in a traffic jam Aomame is warned by the driver that getting out of the cab could change reality the world, not wanting to be late for her meeting Aomame gets out of the car. 1Q84 is one of the greatest novels I’ve ever read. It’s long, it’s complicated but it’s as close to perfect as a novel gets. It’s David Mitchell meets FFXV.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer – Now this is a bit of a life-ruiner of a book. It’s weird, really weird and mind bending and amazing and just head-shattering. I finished Annihilation about three months ago and I’m still numbed by the ending. I can’t bring myself to even consider book two in the Southern Reach trilogy yet. The story follows a nameless biologist and her companions as they set out to explore Area X. That’s all you need to know about Annihilation, just go and read it.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman – This is one of the best road stories out there. After being released from prison Shadow ends up travelling across the States with a ‘man’ only known as Mr Wednesday. American Gods is beautifully written balance of travel, mystery and mythology. This is a must read and I’m about to re-read this as I first finished it about five years ago. I just finished the television show (which was brilliant) and after watching I had the strangest sense to play Devil May Cry for the billionth time.
Honourable mention – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
I hope you enjoy these recommends for gamers and give me a shout if you know of a stand out RPG I must play!
Last week I finished reading Parade by Shuichi Yoshida. Villain had been a novel on my radar for a while but the blurb hadn’t gripped me enough to buy it. That’s when I saw Parade, I read the back cover and figured that this book sounded cool.
It’s a fairly short book that surrounds four people flat sharing in Tokyo. I really loved the way Yoshida nails the mundanity of modern life, especially when you’re in your twenties, you live in a big city but it’s lonely as hell. Parade took almost no time to read but I found myself let down by the ending. It’s something you sort of see coming but the build up didn’t feel good enough. Considering you have such a cast of such complex characters and their situations vary so much it seems insane that they know each other, let alone live together.
Having read a lot of Japanese fiction this book didn’t connect with me the way that Kawakami or Minato did. Or so I thought.
It’s currently 3AM and I’ve sucummed to an awful summer cold. All I can think about at this time of night is Parade. I wasn’t going to review Parade as I concluded that it was just a bit ‘meh’ but this book has gotten more under my skin than I orignally thought.
Maybe it’s the Lemsip induced delirium or maybe it’s Yoshida’s subtle writing style. I dunno.
Any way here’s to an averagely enjoyable book that has stuck with me for no apparent reason. Read it… or don’t.