Tagged: Review

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?!

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

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***

Spaceman of Bohemia

Ages ago a proof turned up from Sceptre books called The Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar. Remember that old saying ‘never judge a book buy its cover’ thats only ever partly true. This book looked super cool, sprayed red edges and beautiful cover illustration to boot.

What I wasn’t expecting when I started Spaceman of Bohemia was a warning letter from the editor, which left me buzzing with excitement.

Jakub Prochazka, Czech scientist sent into space to investigate a dust cloud that has formed near Venus. As Jakub embarks on his eight month mission, his marriage starts to deteriorate and potentially his mental health when he starts conversing with a spider named Hanus.

Considering I hate spiders (I don’t want them in my vicinity and I don’t want to read about them), this book was tremendous. The writing is intelligent, witty and incredibly humane. The book goes  back over Jakub’s political upbringing, there’s chapter towards the beginning about the annual slaughter of a pig. It was written in such a visceral and morbid way but was a happy childhood memory for the main character.

There’s a bleak beauty to Kalfar’s writing. It’s well paced and I can’t wait to see how Kalfar is going to follow up this novel.

Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar is realised on 9th March 2017 published by Sceptre Books.

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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.

We Found A Hat

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The past year or so I’ve pretty much read nothing but children’s books. Most are fairly terrible. But there’s one trilogy of books that stand out more than any other; Jon Klassen’s Hat trilogy.

Five years ago I came across one the best children’s books that has ever been published. I Want My Hat Back was funny, witty and had a sly dark nod to older readers. A bear has lost his hat and goes around asking if anyone has seen his hat but he has no luck. No one’s seen the hat, not even the sneaky rabbit in a red hat…

The first time I read I Want My Hat Back to my daughter she was fascinated was Klassen’s soft illustrations but was genuinely freaked out by a page in which the bear is very wide-eyed.

It was followed up by the equally brilliant This Is Not My Hat in which a naughty little fish steals a hat from a very big fish… I’m pretty sure you can guess what the out come will be.

The final book in Klassen’s hat trilogy is published by Walker Books on 11th October is his finest work yet. Every page of this book is an utter delight and the most refreshing picture book my daughter and myself have had the pleasure to read.

Read this book. It’s probably the most perfect thing you’ll ever lay your eyes on.