Saturday, 19 October 2013

Book Review: A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

            A Single Man is one of those novels that is seemingly about an ordinary day in an ordinary man’s life. It begins at dawn and follows George throughout another day. However, as I’m sure you have guessed, it’s not really that ordinary. George is dealing with life, after losing the man he loved while still trying to negotiate everyday life.
            Isherwood’s writing style is really very good and easy to get used to. You get a wonderful sense of this character, almost as if you’re actually spending this day with him, which is weird seeing as though this a novel where nothing much really happens. It’s much more about emotion and there is a lot to talk about here so this would be perfect for a book club.
            So to summarize, the is a subtle tale, that has immense strength and emotion in the writing.
            Oh, just quickly also, it’s been made into a lovely film by the designer Tom Ford too.

A Single Blurb:

            “Celebrated as a masterpiece from its first publication, A Single Man is the story of George Falconer, an English professor is suburban California left heartbroken after the sudden death of his lover, Jim. With devastating clarity and humour, Christopher Isherwood shows George’s determination to carry on, evoking the unexpected pleasures of life, as well as the soul’s ability to triumph over loss and alienation.”

Friday, 18 October 2013

Book Review: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

            I love asking customers when they buy a McEwan novel, if they are a fan or whether it’s the first McEwan novel they are reading. Everyone’s answers are really interesting and I’ve come to find that he’s a real marmite author –love him or hate him.
            Personally I love a McEwan novel. Atonement is probably one of my favourite books I have ever read. The Cement Garden is another really good one of his which is his debut. In my opinion, his earlier work is a lot stronger than his more recent work. I did not care for Solar. So this is his latest, published last year in PB, and it is good. But just good. It centers on Serena Frome, who eventually is groomed for the intelligence services and what happens from there is a web of intrigue and interest. I just feel like McEwan doesn’t do his characters justice in this novel. Or maybe it’s just the fact that none of the characters are very likeable, and the ones that are supposed to be are quite irritating.
            Although I think McEwan falls short of his usual magic, I did actually enjoy this. As I say, if you’re a McEwan fan, its worth a read but if you are new to McEwan, you’re better off with one of his earlier ones.

Blurb Tooth:

            “Serena Frome, the beautiful daughter of an Anglican bishop, has a brief affair with an older man during her final year at Cambridge, and finds herself being groomed for the intelligence services. The year is 1972. Britain, confronting economic disaster, is being torn apart by industrial unrest and terrorism and faces its fifth state of emergency. The Cold War has entered a moribund phase, but hr fight goes on, especially in the cultural sphere.
            Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is sent on a ‘secret mission’ which brings her into the literary world of Tom Haley, a promising young writer. First she loves his stories, then she begins to love the man. Can she maintain the fiction of her undercover life? And who is inventing whom? To answer these questions, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage – trust no one.
            McEwan’s mastery dazzles us in this superbly deft and witty story of betrayal and intrigue, love, and the invented self.”

Book Review: Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

            Now I realize that this is a 5-8yrs children’s book, so I’m not necessarily recommending it to you other adults… However if you were to give this a try, here is why you will enjoy it.
            It is so much fun. Basically a father needs to go and but some milk for his children to have some cereal. He later returns and recounts his story to his children of his adventure. Turns out, on the way to the corner shop, he was abducted by aliens and captured by pirates and harassed by vampires and befriends some kind of dinosaur professor thing.
            The illustrations in this book, by Chris Riddell, are absolutely charming so they compliment the story perfectly. So if you need any gift for anyone young, this will be perfect. It is fun and playful, charming and has a beautiful amount to heart to it. Love-r-ly.  

Fortunately, The Blurb:

“You know what it’s like when your mum goes away on a business trip and Dad’s in charge. She leaves a really, really long list of what he’s got to do. And the most important thing is DON’T FORGET TO GET THE MILK. Unfortunately, Dad forgets. So the next morning, before breakfast, he has to go to the corner shop, and this is the story of why it takes him a very, very long time to get back.
Featuring: Professor Steg (a time-travelling dinosaur), some green globby things, the Queen of the Pirates, the famed jewel that is the Eye of Splod, some wumpires, and a perfectly normal but very important carton of milk.
The award-laden, bestselling Neil Gaiman, author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Stardust, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book and Coraline, brings his biggest ever publishing year to a spectacular conclusion with this gloriously entertaining novel about time-travel, dinosaurs, milk and dads.”

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Book Review: My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

            This book has everything. There’s murder, romance, thrills, suspense, betrayal, love, friendship, deceit, and the list goes on. Its probably one of the only novels I have read that encompasses so many different themes.
            This is set in 1590’s Istanbul, and Pamuk’s writing style shines here as you get such spicy and evocative prose, its almost like you can smell the spices and experience the heat of the Turkish sun. A murder mystery begins the novel and things unfold from there. An illustrator of beautiful and elaborate books is thrown into a well, which sets a whole series of events into motion that sustains a 500-page rollercoaster of a novel. Each chapter chops and changes between each different character’s perspectives, so the story is interestingly and cleverly built up from all perspectives like a 3D puzzle. This really is great, great writing displayed at its best here. it’s a super ride and there is something for everyone.

My Name is Blurb:

            “In Istanbul, in the late 1590s, the Sultan commissions a great book: a celebration of his life and his empire, to be illuminated by the best artists of the day – in the European manner. But when one of the miniaturists is murdered, their master has to seek outside help. Did the dead painter fall victim to professional rivalry, romantic jealousy or religious terror?
            A thrilling murder mystery, My Name is Red is also a stunning mediation on love, artistic devotion and the tensions between the East and West.”

Me In Bookshops

I love being on holiday and going to another bookshop that I don't work in just so I can browse.

Book Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

            I picked this up because I knew it would satisfy my hunger for a good bit of fantasy-esque teen fiction. (Yes, every now and then this hunger becomes too strong and gorging is so good).
            So I embarked on this with all the expectation of trashy teen fantasy romance fun. However what I found was a beautiful, lyrical love story that is full of soul and emotion.
The novel starts and you learn that a certain faerie who is later named as ‘Tinkerbell’ narrates our story (first sign of teen fiction addiction satisfied). As the story unfolds, ‘Tink’ introduces us to a solitary and introverted Tiger Lily, who is seen as a bit weird by the other members of the clan. Anderson does a superb job fleshing out characters you can really feel for – Tiger Lily’s meeting and subsequent relationship with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys is honest and believable and Wendy’s entrance into the story is brilliant. I just loved the epic feel that Anderson manages to weave into this story that at its base is about three people. I really enjoyed this take on the story, and I was not disappointed for one moment as I read this story. I loved the sense of place, the fully-rounded characters and the subtle story that was so evocative and moving.

Tiger Blurby:

            “Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the feather in her hair…
            This is a love story unlike any you’ve ever heard…
            Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings…until she meets Peter pan in the forbidding woods of Neverland. Immediately, she falls under his spell – holding him like a secret in her heart.
            Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Reckless and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. She will risk everything – her family, her future – to be with him.
            But Tiger Lily soon discovers that the most dangerous enemy can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.”

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Book Review: Stay Where You Are & Then Leave by John Boyne

            After the wonderful and heartbreaking “The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas” John Boyne has a massively amazing novel to try to match. Unfortunately, quite frankly, he doesn’t match it with this new novel, which is published in late September. “The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas” is so fantastic, honestly it might one of the most amazing books I have found in my book career. So the fact that this new novel doesn’t quite match it, doesn’t disappoint me because it is still really good!
            Its about a little boy, whose father goes to war when WWI breaks out on the 5th birthday of out protagonist little boy. Soon the father goes missing and the little boy creates his own adventure to find him.
            This really does tug at heart-strings so be warned, but Boyne has an absolutely endearing writing style that perfectly narrates the story with a sense of naivety. If you enjoyed “The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas” then you will like this but try not to compare them as much as I did! Enjoy.

Papa Blurb:

            “This is a story about a boy.
            It’s a story about his father.
            It’s a story about a shoe-shine a train journey, a white feather
            And it’s a story about a secret.”

Book Review: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

         This is such a great debut from a new young author. It is based on real events that happened in Iceland in the early Nineteenth Century and Kent has put her own twist on things. And she does a great job of it too. It has had some really good reviews from some of the top newspapers and I would really like you to read it!
            So the story is two men are murdered and the farm they are on is burned to the ground. Then a man and two women are arrested for the crime and sentenced to execution. One of the women, Agnes, is sent to live on a farm with a family until her execution date, and here she is treated as a criminal and eventually her side of the story is told.
The novel shows real maturity for a debut, and I think it has a brilliant and important message to say. The difference between what we hear and believe and what is told directly to us is very significant and it is an issue that is relevant all the time and throughout history.
            I thoroughly enjoyed Kent’s writing style here, and the plotline had me constantly wanting to know more and so I cheesily say, I couldn’t put it down.

Blurbial Rites:

            “In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover.
            Agnes is sent to wait out her final months on the farm of district officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderer in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes. Only Toti, the young assistant priest appointed Agnes’s spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’s story begins to emerge – and with it the family’s terrible realization that all is not as they assumed…
            Based on actual events, Burial Rites is an astonishing and moving novel about the truths we claim to know and the ways in which we interpret what we’re told. In beautiful, cut-glass prose, Hannah Kent portrays Iceland’s formidable landscape, in which every day is a battle for survival, and asks, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?”

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

            To be an absolute cliché about it, this book is such a page-turner. Once you immerse yourself in the world, the plot has so many twits and turns that it keeps you flicking those pages all the way till the end.
            So there’s a couple on their wedding anniversary and when the husband wakes up, the girl is gone. What follows is the fall-out from this event, and as I said before there’s twists and turns galore. Nothing is as it seems and this really paves the way for interesting, gripping and intense reading. You constantly flick your opinion of people back and forth and it really is a book you can’t put down!
            Things do take a completely bonkers route at the end, which having spoken to customers and colleagues about, some people find unbelievable and slightly too bonkers. Personally I think the ending fits for how each character story arc culminates. Gone Girl has been number 1 in our chart for ages now and it’s not slowing down either. It is definitely one I recommend for people who just want to read something a bit lighter, that’s fun and an easy read. Perfect for beaches and sun loungers and just as good tucked up in bed.


            “Just how well can you ever know the person you love? This is the question that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that’s she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren’t his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?
            In this novel, marriage truly is the art of war…”

Reading Is Fundamental

Book Review: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

            This won the Booker Prize in 2011 and to be completely honest I’m not 100% sure why. Don’t get me wrong this is technically a very good book.
            There were really interesting elements to this book which I really enjoyed. I think Barnes is a talented writer and the crux of the plotline takes the story in an intriguing direction. However, that had nothing to do with the main character, who narrates the book. He is whiny and egotistical and extremely annoying. In a way, this just shows off Barnes’ talented writing skills - because essentially it is this character and the way he is that moves the story along - so in that sense Barnes is incredibly successful in his characterisation.
I felt like this was the only downside to a book that I actually quite enjoyed. This would be very good for a book club because I think it would spark some interesting talk. If anything it is one to read so you can make your own mind up…(!)

Back blurb-blurb-blurb:

            “Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry they would navigate the girl-less sixth from together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.
            Now Tony is retired. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove.
            The Sense of an Ending is the story of one man coming to terms with the mutable past. Laced with trademark precision and insight, it is the work of one of the world’s most distinguished writers.”

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Book Review: Silk by Alessandro Baricco

Lord knows I love short chapters. Therefore I knew this book would please me. And lo, so it did.
Like it’s chapters, this book is very slim. Yet somehow, through the brilliant, subtle writing, this novel has an epic quality of huge scope as the main character, a French silkworm merchant, travels between France and Japan. It is on a trip to Japan that our silkworm merchant sees and falls in love with a woman he sees there. Infatuation ensues and what comes next challenges ideas of loyalty, desire, love and betrayal. Read it. End of story. Read it.

Blurb please and thank you:

 “This sensual and hypnotic novel tells a story of adventure and obsession. In 1861 French silkworm merchant Herve Joncour travels to Japan, where he encounters the mysterious Hara Kei. He develops a painful longing for Kei’s beautiful concubine – but they cannot touch: they do not even speak. And he cannot read the note she sends him until he has returned to his own country. But the moment he does, Joncour is enslaved.
Subtle, tender and surprising, Silk is an evocative tale of erotic possession.”

Book Review: Alex by Pierre Lemaitre

            Apparently Scandi-Crime is o-v-e-r. It’s all about French Crime now. And you heard it here so give me credit when it happens thank you please.
Hold on to your wig and definitely don’t read after a meal because you will probably gag. This book is incredibly raw, violent and gory so be prepared, but don’t let that put you off because it’s a really good story. There are twists and turns galore here, from the first page to the big reveal twist at the end. There is a really good and even mix of the story of the victim – Alex -, and the story of the police who attempt to help her and solve the mystery of what happened.
If you don’t usually read crime novels then I really recommend this title because I did actually really enjoy it. Then again, if you do read crime novels then give this a go – apparently there’ll be plenty more in the series – and I think they will be a really good series to invest yourself in.

Back blurb time:

“Alex Prevost – kidnapped, savagely beaten, suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in a wooden cage – is running out of time. Her abductor appears to want only to watch her die.
Apart from a shaky eyewitness report, Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on: no suspect, no leads. To find the young woman, the detective – a man with a tragic past and extraordinary abilities as an investigator – must first understand more about her.
Beautiful, tough, resourceful, always two steps ahead – the enigma that is Alex will keep Verhoeven guessing till the bitter, bitter end. Before long, saving Alex’s life will be the least of Verhoeven’s considerable challenges.”

Friday, 23 August 2013

Book Review: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

            So last week I took my partner of a year to London to see Wicked The Musical. And oh my goodness it was absolutely incredible. So I managed to cram reading the book into the week before that because I always like to read the book first (you know so that I can judge how different it is and sit there all judgmental, constantly saying “well that didn’t happen in the book”). I was surprised, as I’m sure you can imagine, when I didn’t even say it once! I was too awestruck because it was AMAZING!
            The musical is very different from the book because, well, it’s a musical and they need to jazz things up and make them family friendly and what-not. Which was why I was so curious to see how they would adapt it for the stage because the book is very adult and there are some very prominent themes that are almost political and there’s a lot about equal rights in there too.
            I really enjoyed Maguire’s take on this story of how Elphaba became the Wicked Witch of the West and the most hated person in Oz. the depth to which Maguire went was very impressive, and apart from that he just simply writes very well. Oh, oh, and also, if you enjoy this you’ll be pleased to know it’s only the first in a series! It’s oz-mazing.


            “When Dorothy triumphed over The Wicked Witch of the West in the classic novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, we heard only one side of the story. But what of her arch-nemesis, the mysterious witch?
            Long before Dorothy drops in, a girl is born in Oz with emerald-green skin. Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous witch, is a smart, prickly and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived ideas about the nature of good and evil.
            Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world, Gregory Maguire’s novel is a rich and triumphant feat of imagination and allegory. It is an acclaimed New York Times bestseller and the inspiration for a hit Broadway musical, and has sold over two million copies.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Book Review: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

In the immortal words of one Ms Oprah Winfrey... “GAAAAAAAAAAHH!”
The only way I can start this is by saying - this a bloody brilliant book. Not only is it so pretty (!) but omg the story, the writing, the everything is amazing.
            The story follows a very narcissistic man who is involved in a car accident that leaves him horrifically burnt all over his body. While he spends a long time recovering in hospital, a woman named Marriane Engel comes into his room, befriends him, and tells him that they were once lovers in a former life. What happens next is a beautifully told, with a real sense of intuition and imagination. This novel is so wonderfully epic, its hard to believe that it is all kept within the pages of a book and I love that about reading. Davidson does a great job of then guiding the reader along as we follow our nameless main character, as well as the story that Marriane Engel gradually unfolds.
            The only negative I can find with this book is that it does take a while to get into. But, good lord, if there’s ever a book that you just need to invest a bit of time in, this is it because you will be so rewarded in the end. I finished this with a mixture of every different feeling and it is definitely one I plan on rereading again and again!

The blurb now I’ll stop blurbing myself:

“A young man is fighting for his life.

Into his room walks a bewitching woman who believes she can save him.

Their journey will have you believing in the impossible.”

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Book Review: The Small Hand by Susan Hill

Every now and then, you want a book that’s a bit spooky. Look no further than Susan Hill. She’s probably the Queen of Frights in the literary world and when you read any of her books you’ll see why! Again, I’m not going to give away any of the plot, suffice to say there’s a guy who loses his way and finds himself at an old derelict house. There he feels a small hand put itself in his and from here some weird stuff begins to happen.
Hill is very, very good at bringing suspense yet her writing is subtle and understated. This book manages to really grab you from the offset, and in my opinion rivals The Woman in Black. It’s not as terrifying as this other great novel, however I think it is more moving and spine-tingling than the actually scariness of The Woman in Black. It’s even quite sad actually… I thought it was good, so if you are in the mood for a bit of Susan Hill, this is a great one to go for.

Blurb, if you will:

            “Late one summer’s evening, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow is returning from a client visit when he takes a wrong turn. He stumbles across a derelict Edwardian house and, compelled by curiosity, approaches the door. Standing before the entrance, he feels the unmistakable sensation of a small cold hand creeping into his own, ‘as if a child had taken hold of it’.
            At first he is merely puzzled by the odd incident but then begins to suffer panic attacks, and to be visited by nightmares. He is determined to learn more about the house and its once-magnificent, now overgrown garden but when he does so, he receives further, increasingly sinister, visits from the small hand.”

Book Review: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

There are a few books that we have in the shop that customers tell us they loved – not just simply liked it. This is one of those books. Every colleague I have who has read it says they loved it – not just simply liked it. And I am telling you now that I loved it – not just simply liked it.
The narrator of Zusak’s brilliant novel is Death. The descriptions of Death “collecting souls” are both poetic yet tragic, and Death’s voice is extremely successful in lulling you into actually liking him – a bizarre thought in itself. He tells us the story of Liesel, who has been sent to live with a foster family, after her parents are sent to a concentration camp. I never want to ruin the plot for you in these reviews so lets say that from there, the story follows her as she grows up and that’s all I’ll say.
On the surface, this is simply a fantastic read, but if you look at what Zusak’s subtext is, I think there is so much that one can get out of this novel. It’s a real “actually, I really appreciated what I have right now” book. I’m so pleased I read this – it is moving, expertly crafted and utterly engrossing. Enjoy.

Blurb from the back:

“Here is a small fact: You are going to die.
1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
Some important information: This novel is narrated by Death. It’s a small story, about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.
Another thing you should know: Death will visit the book thief three times.”

Book Review: The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

            This book has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013, which I was really pleased about and not a little bit surprised.
            This is only a short little book but it is so good! It is the story the events that lead to the end of Jesus’ life, but told from the perspective of his mother, Mary. Tóibín does a flawless job of getting inside the mindset of a mother, and this is such an interesting take on probably the most famous story that everyone knows. It’s heart-felt and engaging, completely powerful and it has such a great sense of realness.
If you are in a book club this is a perfect pick because there is so much to talk about – I was looking around for people to talk about it with when I finished it and I think discussion would easily flow. It has huge scope and showcases Tóibín’s brilliant writing style.

Back blurb time:

“From the author of Brooklyn, in a voice that is both tender and filled with rage, The Testament of Mary tells the story of a cataclysmic event which led to an overpowering grief. For Mary, her son has been lost to the world, and now, living in exile and in fear, she tries to piece together the memories of the events that led to her son's brutal death. To her he was a vulnerable figure, surrounded by men who could not be trusted, living in a time of turmoil and change.
As her life and her suffering begin to acquire the resonance of myth, Mary struggles to break the silence surrounding what she knows to have happened. In her effort to tell the truth in all its gnarled complexity, she slowly emerges as a figure of immense moral stature as well as a woman from history rendered now as fully human.”

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Book Review: The Misunderstanding by Irène Némirovsky

Yet another book where I was seduced by the cover (yes, I’m aware of “never judge a book by it’s cover” but I always do…), The Misunderstanding tells the tale of a man who embarks on an affair with a married woman. Their infatuation, however, soon turns slightly sour and relationship takes twists and turns that are completely out of the ordinary. It’s only a short novel, but that doesn’t mean it loses any of the depth of a longer book…
I loved Némirovsky‘s glamorous and evocative writing style that beautifully manages to flesh out well-rounded characters and create a fantastic sense of place. Better yet, it’s the subtle desperation and tensions that bubble underneath this alluring façade that grab you so deeply as you navigate the plot line. Put simply, this is a great novel, and a really interesting take on a story that has been done a hundred times. Némirovsky has made it fresh and exciting and it only made me want to read more of her work, and for me that is the mark of a truly great author. I want you to read it. Now. Then tell me what you thought.

For those interested, I give you the back blurb:

"Yves Harteloup is a disappointed young man, scarred by the war. He returns for the summer to the resort where he spent blissful childhood holidays and immediately becomes infatuated by the beautiful, bored Denise, whose rich husband is away on business. Intoxicated by summer nights and Yves' intensity, Denise falls passionately in love, before the idyll has to end and Yves returns to his mundane office job. In the mournful Paris autumn their love founders on mutual misunderstanding and Denise is driven mad with desire and jealous suspicion until, acting on her sophisticated mother's advice , she takes action...which she may regret forever..."

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Book review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Forgive me for this, because I am going to totally relish this post. For anyone who has ever spoken to me directly about books before, you may ignore this because you already know how much I adore this book, so continue on down the page to the next literary genius that I am serving.
Anyway, for those of you who are new, firstly welcome, and secondly I am demanding that you go now and buy this book. And I will tell you for why...
One perk of being a bookseller is proof copies!! And for anyone who doesn't know what that means, it is simply the manuscript of the book before the publishing date. So when the longlist for the Orange Prize came through to us lovely booksellers, this title jumped out at me because I love anything Ancient Greece. Essentially The Song of Achilles is a reworking of The Iliad that took Miller 10 years of research and love to craft and you really get a feeling of this in the writing. Every sentence is there because it needs to be and you can literally feel the love that she has poured into every character and every scene in this novel. It's the story of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, who narrates the book, from when they meet each other as young boys to when they go off to Troy.
Miller beautifully manages to capture the essence of first love, through young love and on to legendary love. Her characters are truthful and solid, and her story is fleshed out, thought through and well informed. You can tell Miller has put all her love into this.
Since I read this book, I recommend it to everyone (I literally mean everyone) who is looking for a good read, and as I say - that's a great part of my job. What makes it brilliant is that, and this still happens to me now, people come back to me to tell me how much they have enjoyed it. And that is down to the book, not my recommending skills (even though they're good too).
This went on to win the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012, and I was absolutely thrilled. Congrats on the win Madeline, and congrats on giving me a book that I will treasure.

The back blurb if you please:

"Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear."

Me In My House

'Nuff said...

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Book Review: The Vanishing Act of Emse Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell

Good, sweet lord above. Do not read this if you are even slightly sad (the picture above is all you will need for this reading experience… and remember that’s a TWIN PACK of the man-size tissues… actually you may need bottled water to replenish your fluid levels). Having said that, make sure at some point you do read this. I cannot describe to you how much of a brilliant author Maggie O’Farrell is – as soon as I finished her newest book Instructions for a Heatwave, I went straight for this title, recommended to me by my colleague, Rach. No word of a lie, I read this from start to finish in one go – reading while I ate, brushed my teeth, got ready for bed and got into bed.
As I say, this is incredibly sad, so be aware, but please make sure you read it. The premise is Iris receives a letter from a psychiatric unit telling her that her great-aunt Esme Lennox is to be released. But Iris has never heard of Esme, so what happened all those years ago, and why has Iris never heard of her great-aunt? There is a fantastic sense of loss that oozes from this novel, as strands of plot-line from ‘now’ and ‘then’ are weaved expertly together to form the story. O’Farrell does a great job of giving her characters a real soul; I just loved it. This is a really gripping read and honestly so well written I can’t even say. It’s tense, haunting, heart breaking and ultimately brilliant. All praise O’Farrell.

Here is the blurb as usual:

"Edinburgh in the 1930's. The Lennox family is having trouble with its youngest daughter. Esme is outspoken, unconventional and repeatedly embarrasses them in polite society. Something will have to be done.
Years later, a young woman named Iris Lockheart receives a letter informing her that she has a great-aunt in a psychiatric unit who is about to be released.
Iris has never heard of Esme Lennox and the one person who should know more, her grandmother Kitty, seems unable to answer Iris's questions. What could Esme have done to warrant a lifetime in an institution? And how is it possible for a person to be so completely erased from a family's history?
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is a stunning depiction of a life stolen, and reclaimed."

This Is My Life...

The Man Booker Prize 2013 Longlist

The Man Booker Prize 2013 Longlist has been announced!

Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw (Fourth Estate)
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo (Chatto & Windus)
Harvest by Jim Crace (Picador)
The Kills by Richard House (Picador) 
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Bloomsbury)
Unexploded by Alison MacLeod ( Hamish Hamilton) 
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann (Bloomsbury) 

Some of them aren’t even published yet… But that doesn’t stop me – I have 9 at the moment and 2 of those are already read so only 11 more to go. I’m determined that this year I will get through them all… Wish me luck!

Book Review: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

OMG stop. Wait. Have you heard?? Robert Galbraith IS JK Rowling! No way! What, you have heard? Eugh I’m always late on the gossip…
Being honest here, I totally read this book because JK wrote it – I’m a huge fan (I will review The Casual Vacancy soon as well…). In a way I think it’s good that she was busted for writing this because, and I am a perfect example of this, it encourages people read a certain genre that they wouldn’t normally go to. I’m not really a crime fiction and it’s always good to try new things #somethingnew. I genuinely think that she has a very good writing style and I think this book is another testament to that. Rowling achieves a really good balance of description, characterization and dialogue that sustain the 450 pages that start this “classic detective” crime series. I say series because you really get the sense that there is so much more for her to give us. The “who-dun-it?” plot line is laced with the personal life and history of the private detective main-character - an ex-war-hero who has lost the leg below his knee. He’s got a famous rock-and-roll father and an infamous mother too and I’m sure that we’ll get a lot more of that in the other books…
So to summarize the plot, a model falls from the window of her very swanky apartment. Did she jump? Was she pushed? Why? And what? So many questions! Enter our detective to solve the mystery, hired by the model’s adopted brother.
I really enjoyed this book, and the twists and turns are great leading you on piece by piece to the satisfying conculsion. I loved the writing and the whole mystery of it, and even keeping up with all the characters and all their different stories through the middle section completely maintains the interest in the story. It’s like a modern-day classic reworking of an Agatha Christie-esque novel. So get involved – I, for one, am looking forward to the next one…

The back blurb...:

"When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts, and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case.
Strike is a war veteran - wounded both physically and psychologically - and his life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model's complex world, the darker things get - and the closer he gets to terrible danger . . .
A gripping, elegant mystery steeped in the atmosphere of London - from the hushed streets of Mayfair to the backstreet pubs of the East End to the bustle of Soho - The Cuckoo's Calling is a remarkable book. Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith."

Book Review: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

Kevin Powers is a man who definitely lives up to his name; producing what could only be described as a truly power-ful (see what I did there?!) novel.
Powers himself served as a machine gunner with the US Army in Iraq and this experience really seemed to translate through the construction of the text, reading this book about a veteran during his time in Iraq and his coming home to the States, you really get a sense of truth and even an almost semi-autobiographical quality.
The story of the veteran retuning to society is inter-laced with what actually happened to him whilst he was serving. There’s a really nice balance of  the ‘now’ and the reflective within the story which makes his storytelling, at the book itself all the more compelling. I need to take a second out here for just one thing. I need to say to you that for a first novel Powers needs to be given every award going because his prose is absolutely outstanding. Honestly if you want to read an amazing book this year, this is it. As the story unfolds, and you learn everything this character has gone through, you are left with a beautifully told harrowing, tense, raw and tragic account of a life that most of us will never encounter.
As an avid reader, and I’m sure I’m not alone here, I am not always looking just for enjoyment and fun out of books. I am looking for books that change my thinking, that open my eyes, that move me in indescribable ways. This is one of those books. 

The back blurb for those wanting more is:

"Kevin Powers served as a machine gunner with the US Army in Iraq. On his return, he was asked one question more than any other:
'What was it like over there?'
In his attempt to answer that question. Powers has written one of the most haunting, true and moving novels of our time. It offers a powerful insight into the impact of war on both soldiers and their families, ultimately revealing how it feels to return home, but never be able to leave the memories behind."