Tagged: Reading

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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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.

How To Stop Time

So Penance properly got to me. That book was a different level of twisty darkness so I needed to read whatever was the opposite of that book.

We received a proof of the new Matt Haig book a couple of weeks ago and like a greedy troll I snapped this book up.

So you’ve heard of Matt Haig right?…. RIGHT?! If you haven’t I urge you to read Reasons To Stay Alive, it’s a life changing book and really is the sort of thing everyone should read.

Now, his new novel How To Stop Time had been on my periphery for quite a while. There’s a lot of twitter buzz about this book, it’s already being turned into a film starring Benedict Cumberbatch so I wanted to get on the hype train and find out why everyone was banging on about this book.

Tom Hazard looks like a seemingly average 41 year old man, but he isn’t. Tom Hazard has been alive for centuries, he suffers from a rare condition that means he ages slower than average humans.

From the start, How To Stop Time, is such a breath of fresh air. Tom Hazard has an overwhelming sense of pity about himself but as you get your teeth into the story you suddenly realise that it’s not just his body that is afflicted by this slow process of ageing but also his emotions, joy is quick but grief is so much slower. As I was reading I found myself putting myself in Hazard’s shoes and just fathoming how you’d take the mental toll of loss if it lasts hundreds of years. This isn’t a bleak book, it’s massively uplifting and How To Stop Time thrusts the reader through the peaks and troughs of life.

The charm of Matt Haig’s writing whisks you through the story, jumping between present day and various points of Tom Hazard’s life. The characters that Hazard engages with in his long and varied life are so fun, plus you can’t fault a book that has a decent dog.

I love this book, it was utterly breathing and it just makes you stop and think “we all need to stop being such massive dicks to each other”. This is a humane novel that is a proper book lovers book. Haig’s writing reminded me a little of David Mitchell and it spent most of time as I was reading, hoping that one day I’d be able to write as magnificently as Haig.

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig published by Canongate Books – 6th July 2017

Strange Magic

The past few months I’ve been super lazy with the proofs I’ve been reading, I have a monumental stack of books from autumn, winter and spring which I haven’t touched… Not to mention all the other books I have bought in the meantime.

One of these books was Strange magic by Syd Moore.

Syd used to be my tutor, so when OneWorld sent me an advance copy of Strange Magic it went to the top of my pile…then I moved house, then Christmas happened and I still hadn’t gotten round to reading Strange Magic.

When it rolled round to April I got an invitation to the launch of Strange Magic, so the overwhelming guilt I felt when I realised I hadn’t read the book yet was ridiculous. I started Strange magic ASAP.

When Rosie Strange becomes the inheritor of the Essex Witch Museum she soon finds herself deep in the mystery of locating the bones of Ursula Candence, a witch put to death many years ago. With curator Sam Stone, Rosie’s thrust out of her day-to-day and is wrapped up in the secrets of the past and an all too present danger.

You know when you just ‘get’ a character? After a couple of chapters I thought ‘If Lyra from His Dark Materials had grown up and gone into benefit fraud, she’d be Rosie Strange”. Syd Moore totally nails the concept of making a character feisty without making her annoying and Sam Stone, well your cold dead heart will beat a little beat for him. Even if you’re not into paranormal fiction this is one to read just for the characters.

I was lucky enough to sit in on a talk Syd gave on Saturday and there’s so much research that’s gone into her novels. Her comparisons between witch hunts and feminism are eye opening. Plus she’s unbelievably captivating, she talks the talks and writes the… book.

Having recently gone through a couple of books I thought were dark, it was so refreshing so read something that was FUN. Yeah, it goes into some of the outrageously horrendous crimes committed against women thought to be witches, but you’ll find yourself getting to a point in the book where you won’t want to put it down.

Strange Magic has been compared to Ben Aaronovitch and that’s so true. The River’s of London books are fab, so Strange Magic is the perfect wine to go with that cheese.

Strange Magic is the first in the Essex Witch Museum series and Strange Sight will be published in October 2017. Read this book! ***And if you get a chance try and attend a talk by Syd Moore, it was one of the best events I’ve been to in years***

#wtfthatending

A couple of weeks ago a proof copy of a new novel by Sarah Pinborough arrived. I’d never read any of Pinborough’s work before but on the back cover of the book was a whole bunch of praise from Joe Hill, Sarah Lotz and Neil Gaiman so I couldn’t help but be interested. I went to put the proof in my bag, knowing it would sit on my ‘to-read’ pile for a good few weeks when a colleague had said “that looks interesting” so I gave it to her.

Two days later my colleague shoved Behind Her Eyes into my hands and said “I need you to read this! I need to talk to somebody about the ending. I can’t stop thinking about the ending of this book!”

That night I started reading Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough and by the time I reached chapter ten I could not put this book down.

Behind Her Eyes is set in present day and switches point of view from Louise, a single mother who smokes, drinks, has night terrors and is holding it all together for her seven year old son. Whilst at a bar she ends up drinking with David, a psychiatrist who admits that he’s married before things go too far. Ending their brief romantic encounter with nothing but a kiss they go their separate ways only to meet each other again at work the next day. (My first thought was “OMG this is going to be just like Grey’s Anatomy!”)

After avoiding each other at work, Louise literally runs into Adele, David’s pretty but suppressed and lonely wife. Trying to do the right thing Louise tries to hurry off but ends up feeling sorry for this kind, shy woman and befriends her over a cup of coffee.

From the start of their friendship Adele shows some some subtle obsessive behaviour, buying Louise a gym membership, getting her to quit smoking. She turns Louise into her project.

The novel is interjected with flashbacks of Adele’s past, the early years of her relationship with David and her only real friendship with a boy named Rob.

Pin borough does an amazing job of making the reader care about the characters and be interested in the relationships enough to put the characters on equal footing. It’s really hard to over sympathise with one particular character and by the second half of Behind Her Eyes it’s very unclear who the victim is.

In the last quarter of the novel it’s clear where the story is heading, Pinborough has placed all the pieces of the puzzle perfectly and I was ready for the pay off.

WRONG!!!!!!!

On the back of the book, underneath the praise and quotes, in bright orange text was #WTFTHATENDING and oh my goodness, never has a sentence been so true! I’ve never been so wrong about ending of a book before. I read it once and thought “no way”. I went back a few pages to re-read the end and out loud I exclaimed “WHAT THE FUCK?!”

This book completely knocked me sideways.

I worry that people will try to compare this to Gone Girl because of the toxic marriage in the main plot by Behind Her Eyes is so much better. The characters are real, down to earth and actually likeable. The writing is fast paced and there’s pages where the writing makes you feel like you’re on a knife edge. Behind Her Eyes is so much fun to read and you’ll be thinking about the ending for days!

Behind Her Eyes is out in January 2017 and it’s going to be huge! Pre-order a copy from your local bookshop ASAP and make sure you read it the moment it’s released… You really won’t want anyone spoiling the ending for you.

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The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet

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It’s taken me over a year but I finally got round to reading The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. This book has been recommended to me more time than I can count, by colleagues, friends and strangers. I think I was putting this off because all I rarely read science fiction or books set in outer space.

Being the first sci-fi novel I’d read in a long time I wasn’t the most enthusiastic going into the novel but within a couple of hours I was 100 pages in. This book was… out of this world.

TLWTASAP starts with Rosemary Harper joining the crew of The Wayfarer, a ship built for making tunnels in outer space. Rosemary is a brilliant point of view to see the Wayfarer’s crew for the first time.Captain Ashby and the crew of the Wayfarer are given job of a lifetime, when they’re offered the opportunity to build a tunnel to a unfamiliar and far-off planet.

Chambers writes non-human characters in such a non-threatening and interesting way so that science fiction novices like myself aren’t intimidated or put off by entities that are so bizarre and you feel the initial excitement that Rosemary feels when meeting the more alien-like crew members. Chambers also goes out of her way to excellently describe how aliens perceive us. Her description of human beings and humanity as a whole is fantastic.

When you enter the story with Rosemary the crew takes her under their wing so quickly and so naturally that you as a reader feel like you’ve been upon the Wayfarer for an age.

Even though there were a couple of characters that I found irritating, it didn’t stop me from enjoying every page of The Way To A Small Angry Planet. Becky Chambers takes on standard science fiction ideas in new and unconventional ways.

Drama and action are beautifully written and blended together in such a way that you’ll find yourself roaring through this book. This is easily one of the best books I’ve read in years, it’s fun, exciting and wonderfully humane. It’s the sort of book I never want to see an adaptation of as every page is perfect.

Read this amazing book, I guarantee it’ll make you a better person.