Personal Post – Chronic Illness, Blog Slumps, New Job(s), Stressful And Exciting Times!

Published March 19, 2019 by bibliobeth

Hey everyone, hope you’re all doing well. I thought I’d write a little catch up post to explain why I’ve been a bit quiet or MIA on bibliobeth recently. It’s been for a variety of reasons really that have kind of merged into one and stopped me posting as much as I would have liked. I’m trying not to beat myself up too much about it but I can’t help but get the nagging feeling that I have such an enormous backlog of reviews to write and if I had been on top of things like I anticipated mid March 2019, I would have almost cleared that backlog and be able to participate in many more fun stuff like memes.

First of all, my chronic illness has been up, down, upside down and back round again. (If you want to read more, check out a personal post I did HERE). To be fair, it has been a lot better than it was in the past so I don’t want to complain too much and considering the extra personal life events I’ve had recently, it’s been a hell of a lot better than I could have expected with the addition of these stressful times. In addition to my fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and hypermobility, I have now been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism caused by Graves’ Disease so that hasn’t helped matters but luckily at the moment, my thyroid is currently stable so there has definitely been an improvement in that area. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

Then there’s the job situation. I started a new job near to my home in September last year, purely for health reasons so that I wouldn’t have to commute into London and back (three hours a day). I started the job and everything was going okay until I got offered an even better job in the same Trust (I work for the NHS) but in a different department and building five minutes walk away from the current job. I had to give a presentation as part of my interview and I don’t know about you guys but presentations are my worst thing ever. Seriously, I’m a mess with them. I have severe anxiety issues and the thought of talking in front of other people is my idea of a nightmare.

In fact, I got a lower mark in my first degree because I couldn’t do the presentation and had to take beta blockers from the doctor to get through the presentation in my Masters degree. That’s how bad I am. I was absolutely determined that if I wanted my dream job (which was a dream…. 9-5, no night or weekend shifts!) I needed to get through this and just DO IT. Well, I got the job but had to give twelve weeks notice so I didn’t actually start the new job until the beginning of March, a mere six months after I moved jobs from London the first time!!

I had already been aware that there was a Senior role going to made available in this new job at some point as the current Senior was due to retire but I thought I might have a chance to settle in and find my feet before going for it sometime in the summer. I was wrong. The Senior wants to retire a little earlier so on my first day at my new job, there I was – ANOTHER presentation and interview. And guess what? Less than three hours after I started my new job they offered me the promotion to the Senior role.

You’re probably confused right? So to make it clearer – I started a new job in September last year, interviewed for another one before Christmas in a different department, started it in March this year and within a few hours was offered a promotion! I’m now part of the senior management team in a department that focuses on bowel cancer screening and I couldn’t be happier.

SO…..all of this nonsense going on with my health/job/personal life etc has made my blogging quite sporadic. It’s the reason why I’ve been especially quiet since the beginning of this year but also, all of the stress and uncertainty of everything also put me into a major blogging slump. I just haven’t feel motivated to blog at all which is a real shame. I’ve still managed to read an absolute ton which I’m very happy about (I’d be so cross if my reading suffered, haha!) but when I think about sitting down and writing a post my brain is just so tired, I don’t want to even think about doing it.

I’m really hoping things will be back on track now it’s calmed down a bit and I’m in my new post but I am worried that things like my poor health and new work responsibilities will lead to my posting being a bit erratic from time to time. I think I have to accept that I might not be able to blog daily like I’d like to and if I need to take a week off, I should be able to give myself permission to do that without feeling guilty!

I’m still loving reading all my fellow bloggers posts out there and I apologise if I’ve been slow to like, share or comment on them. (I blame Twitter jail too, haha!). Finally – to whomever nominated me for Best Blog at the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards THANK YOU!!. It means the absolute world to me, especially when I’ve been so inconsistent lately.

What I’d like to know from you guys is:

Have you ever been in a blogging slump and what did you do to motivate yourself again?

Do you find life just sometimes gets in the way of being a consistent blogger?

It would be great to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 🙂

Love Beth xx

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The Devil Aspect – Craig Russell

Published March 18, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A terrifying novel set in Czechoslovakia in 1935, in which a brilliant young psychiatrist takes his new post at an asylum for the criminally insane that houses only six inmates–the country’s most depraved murderers–while, in Prague, a detective struggles to understand a brutal serial killer who has spread fear through the city, and who may have ties to the asylum 

Prague, 1935: Viktor Kosárek, a psychiatrist newly trained by Carl Jung, arrives at the infamous Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The state-of-the-art facility is located in a medieval mountaintop castle outside of Prague, though the site is infamous for concealing dark secrets going back many generations. The asylum houses the country’s six most treacherous killers–known to the staff as The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demon–and Viktor hopes to use a new medical technique to prove that these patients share a common archetype of evil, a phenomenon known as The Devil Aspect. As he begins to learn the stunning secrets of these patients, five men and one woman, Viktor must face the disturbing possibility that these six may share another dark truth.

Meanwhile, in Prague, fear grips the city as a phantom serial killer emerges in the dark alleys. Police investigator Lukas Smolak, desperate to locate the culprit (dubbed Leather Apron in the newspapers), realizes that the killer is imitating the most notorious serial killer from a century earlier–London’s Jack the Ripper. Smolak turns to the doctors at Hrad Orlu for their expertise with the psychotic criminal mind, though he worries that Leather Apron might have some connection to the six inmates in the asylum.

Steeped in the folklore of Eastern Europe, and set in the shadow of Nazi darkness erupting just beyond the Czech border, this stylishly written, tightly coiled, richly imagined novel is propulsively entertaining, and impossible to put down.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Clara Diaz and Constable, an imprint of Little Brown Publishers for getting in touch via email and providing me with a complimentary digital copy of The Devil Aspect via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. After reading that incredible synopsis, I couldn’t help but be excited to read this novel, the first of Craig Russell’s work that I’ve come across and now I’ve discovered him, definitely won’t be the last. This fascinating and occasionally unsettling work of fiction is part historical, part crime and mystery, part thriller with a drop of horror thrown into this heady mixture of genres to make it a story that I still find myself thinking about weeks after finishing it.

Craig Russell, author of The Devil Aspect.

You don’t need to know anything extra about this novel save what is in the synopsis above. In fact, if you’ve already skipped the synopsis and headed straight to my thoughts, I might even boldly suggest that you go into this novel knowing as little as possible. This isn’t because the synopsis gives away spoilers but because I read the synopsis a long while before I actually physically started the book and had forgotten much of what the novel encompassed. This meant that the juicy little surprises revealed throughout the narrative came as a welcome shock compared to if I had been overly familiar prior to starting my journey into Russell’s delectable writing. All you really need to know is that it’s the story of a psychiatrist in the 1930’s who begins work at a Prague asylum harbouring incredibly dangerous prisoners who will never be released back into the general public. He is investigating new medicinal and hypnotic methods into unravelling the evil deeds that they have done with the hope that he can make them better people as a result.

Prague, 1935 – the setting for The Devil Aspect.

Image from: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/62768988526418513/?lp=true

That’s The Devil Aspect in a nutshell. However, you can’t really put this book into a nice little box and wrap a bow around it. It’s about so much more than that. It explores the unpredictability of madness, the power of the human brain, the danger of psychopaths, the difference between evil and good and how folklore and superstition can be used against already fragile and vulnerable individuals to take advantage. It’s definitely a thought-provoking read that made me consider how frightening the human mind can be, especially as we don’t know half of what it’s capable of OR how the terrifying way in which our memory can fail/change, sometimes without our conscious knowledge that it has occurred.

I’m not usually too bothered about graphic events in a work of fiction but holy hell, some parts of this really were brutal – Russell definitely doesn’t shy away from detail. I’m sure all I need to mention is Jack The Ripper for you the reader, to understand what I’m alluding to? As an aside, I would have been interested to see the fascist angle in this book to be explored in more depth however I completely understand why the author didn’t do this. He has SO many irons in the fire with what he chooses to write about and perhaps another thread to the story would have been slightly too much to deal with. I was a perfectly willing and happy participant to the surprises and shocks I received throughout The Devil Aspect and will absolutely be seeking out more of the author’s work.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Talking About The Colour Of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris with Chrissi Reads

Published March 14, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Whatever happens, don’t tell anyone what you did to Bee Larkham…

Jasper is not ordinary. In fact, he would say he is extraordinary…

Synaesthesia paints the sounds of his world in a kaleidoscope of colours that no one else can see. But on Friday, he discovered a new colour – the colour of murder.

He’s sure something has happened to his neighbour, Bee Larkham, but no-one else seems to be taking it as seriously as they should be. The knife and the screams are all mixed up in his head and he’s scared that he can’t quite remember anything clearly.

But where is Bee? Why hasn’t she come home yet? Jasper must uncover the truth about that night – including his own role in what happened…

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: This book has been compared to The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time. Do you understand and/or agree with that comparison?

BETH: Absolutely. It also reminded me a little bit of The Trouble With Goats And Sheep by Joanna Cannon.You started reading this novel a little bit before me and I saw your post saying that it reminded you of The Curious Incident. Now I’ve had a chance to read it myself, I completely agree. Both stories follow a young boy with autism as he struggles to cope with the suspected murder of one of his neighbours. There are differences however which made it unique in its own special way. For example, Jasper has synaesthesia which offers an additional quirk in how he views the world. Secondly, whilst our main character in Curious Incident is desperately trying to investigate his neighbours murder, Jasper appears more troubled by the situation.

BETH: Was this book what you expected? If not, why not?

CHRISSI: Not at all. I expected it to have Curious Incident vibes and it did. However, I thought it was totally unique. The character of Jasper was so well thought out and well developed that it made me absolutely adore him. I thought the family dynamics were fascinating. I basically can’t rave enough about this book because I thought it was fantastic. I really did. It will stay with me for some time!

CHRISSI: What did you think had happened to Bee Larkham? Did your opinion change throughout the book?

BETH: I had no idea. The author drops little hints along the way and it does become quite worrying, especially in the clues that are given throughout the narrative and how they connect to our main characters but as for the details of what happens to Bee, it is left deliberately vague until the very end. It’s much more a story of Jasper, his relationship with his father and his struggles with face blindness and how to recognise people, even those that should be completely familiar to him. I wouldn’t say my opinion changed through the novel exactly but I was surprised by the final reveal.

BETH: Did you have a favourite character in this novel? Who was it and why?

CHRISSI: My favourite character was Jasper. He was so endearing. I have taught children very similar to Jasper before, although without the synaesthesia, so he reminded me of them. I have a special place in my heart for children with autism. I think it’s fascinating how they see the world and Jasper certainly fascinated me. He’s such a delightful character and I think, if you’re going to read this book, you’re in for a treat when you meet Jasper.

CHRISSI: Had you heard of synaesthesia before reading this book? If so, did you think the author’s interpretation was accurate?

BETH: I had heard of it before but was always a little bit confused about what exactly it entailed. This is one of the only novels I’ve read that focuses on the subject and explains it to the reader in a way I could finally understand. Jasper has problems with face blindness and is only able to recognise people (even his own father) by either focusing very hard on particular items of their clothing or the colour of their voice. Whenever there is noise, be that music, bird song or just people talking, they emit a very specific colour. Some of these are more palatable to Jasper than others and he will recognise that person in future by concentrating on the specific colour he sees when they speak.

BETH: If this book was a colour, what would it be and why?

CHRISSI: My initial thought is blue. I don’t know if that’s because my version had a blue cover. I feel like the colour blue has such a strong representation in this story that it just has to be blue!

CHRISSI: This book is undoubtedly unique. What was it that made it so unique for you?

BETH: Can I say everything? Even though the similarities to Curious Incident are there, it stands on its own completely as a very separate, very special piece of writing. I loved how it explored Jasper’s world and the growth of his relationships with other characters, even his own father. The description of the colours was done so beautifully it made the writing more vibrant and an absolute pleasure to read. Then there was the mystery element of what exactly happened to Bee Larkham and I adored how this was unravelled – from her very first days on the street until the present time when her demise is much more convoluted than you could ever imagine.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Certainly! I thought this was an incredible read!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

Golden Child – Claire Adam (buddy read with Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader)

Published March 7, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It’s dark now; the bats are out. Insects knock against the light on the patio and the dog sits at the gate. A boy has not returned home and a family anxiously awaits. A father steps out into the night to search for his son.

As the hours turn into days, this man will learn many things. He will learn about being a father to twin boys who are in no way alike. He will learn how dangerous hopes and dreams can be. He will learn truths about Trinidad, about his family, and himself. He will question received wisdom and question his judgement. He will learn about sacrifice and the nature of love – and he will be forced to act.

Claire Adam’s electrifying first novel reckons with the secrets of the human heart. It tells a story about wanting more for our children; it casts its spell with uncommon wisdom and grace.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Crown Publishing via Penguin Random House for sending me two copies of this astonishing novel (one of which I immediately passed on to blogger bestie, Janel @ Keeper Of Pages) and to another blogger bestie, Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader for not only recommending that I be sent this book, but for being fabulous enough to buddy read it with me and enrich my reading experience. Golden Child is a debut novel filled with so much glorious detail that it’s hard to believe the author isn’t already highly established in the literary world. I have to admit, it took me a little while to become invested in the story but once I was, it was impossible to tear my eyes away until I had completed the entire novel.

Claire Adam, author of Golden Child.

Set on the vibrant island of Trinidad, Claire Adam takes the story of one family – mother and father Joy and Clyde and their two twin sons Peter and Paul. I really can’t give too much away as this is the kind of story you definitely need to discover for yourself but it’s a beautiful literary exploration of family, poverty, tension and life-altering decisions. Each character is written so splendidly that I could feel their individual personalities bursting off the pages but what impressed me further was the way in which the author describes the country and culture. I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that I’m always hungry to experience a new way of life through the fiction/non fiction that I read and she provides such an illuminating look at a place and its people that I felt as if I could have been walking the streets for myself.

Trinidad, the setting for Claire Adam’s Golden Child.

Golden Child may be a bit of a slow burner, particularly in the first half of the novel but I feel the events that occur afterwards make all the build up completely worth it. You may be slightly unsure about the steady, languid pace initially but prepare yourself – it’s about to get all kinds of crazy. From this moment onwards, it almost becomes a different kind of novel and I didn’t have a “Scooby Doo” what was going to occur or how much it was going to affect me emotionally. I love when stories take me by surprise like that and additionally, lead me to the realisation that I cared a lot more about the characters within the narrative than I had believed previously. This is a gut-wrenching, thought-provoking tale that really needs to be talked about to be fully appreciated, in my opinion. I’m so grateful to Jennifer for being that person and sharing my moments of worry, disbelief and heart-break as we made our way through this gorgeous debut novel.

For Jennifer’s beautiful review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry (buddy read with Stuart from Always Trust In Books)

Published March 6, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The Greek myths are the greatest stories ever told, passed down through millennia and inspiring writers and artists as varied as Shakespeare, Michelangelo, James Joyce and Walt Disney.

They are embedded deeply in the traditions, tales and cultural DNA of the West. In Stephen Fry’s hands the stories of the titans and gods become a brilliantly entertaining account of ribaldry and revelry, warfare and worship, debauchery, love affairs and life lessons, slayings and suicides, triumphs and tragedies.

You’ll fall in love with Zeus, marvel at the birth of Athena, wince at Cronus and Gaia’s revenge on Ouranos, weep with King Midas and hunt with the beautiful and ferocious Artemis.

Thoroughly spellbinding, informative and moving, Stephen Fry’s Mythos perfectly captures these stories for the modern age – in all their rich and deeply human relevance.

And now for something a bit different…

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special review on my blog. A little while ago, I participated in my first ever buddy read with Stuart who blogs over at Always Trust in Books (and is an awesome blogger so you should all go follow him if you don’t already!). So far we’ve read the first two books in the brilliant Arc Of A Scythe series by Neal ShustermanScythe and Thunderhead and we’ve read a little non-fiction too – Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt. In December we read The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton more recently we dived back into the world of Neal Shusterman in his collaboration with his son Jarrod which resulted in the novel Dry.

Stuart and I ummed and aaahed for a little bit about how we wanted to review our books – individually or more of a collaboration and he had the brilliant idea of capturing our Twitter chat and then including it as part of our review. So please find here before our thoughts and feelings about Mythos at the moment of reading it. If you’re worried about spoilers, never fear! Stuart and I deliberately kept the juicier parts of the narrative very vague so if you haven’t read this yet, no big secrets are given away.

What did WE think?:

Stuart: All finished and ready for Mythos! How about 3 parts this time? P129, p273 and finish?

Beth: Great plan! See you soon 👍🏻

Stuart: Is it just me or are you reading it as if Stephen Fry is saying it as well? 😂

Stuart: He had me at palaeoanthropological!

Stuart: ‘It screws with the head, but there it is’. Classic Fry!

Beth: Just about to start, very excited! I think I might have a different edition to you – p129 for me is halfway through a story. Do you mean up to the part beginning The Punishments? 🤔

Beth: Ooh a map and a family tree!

Beth: Seminal semantic semiology from the semen of the sky?! 😂 I love how his voice comes across!

Stuart: P129 for me is the page after the pictures section. Maybe p131 is better?

Beth: That’s perfect! 👌🏻

Stuart: ‘I will shout in triumph, just to annoy that prick Poseidon’ 😂 another quality Fry translation!

Stuart: I am ready. We always get the most interesting stopping points. Zeus is pissed!

Beth: I know – oooh he does NOT want to piss Zeus off!! How are you finding it so far? Did you know anything about Greek mythology prior to reading this?

Stuart: I knew of quite a few of the Olympians like Hera, Hermes, Poseidon, Hephaestus and such. I also knew the other collectives like the fates and furies. I had no idea how it gelled together though. I couldn’t believe the creations of Aphrodite, Athena and Hermes though. Fry is just class through and through. I want him to narrate everything 😂.

Beth: He absolutely should! What you said at the beginning was so true – it reads almost as if he’s in the room with you, it’s fantastic! I studied Greek mythology for a little while at school

but it was a long time ago and we didn’t cover everything. There’s certainly brand new parts for me that I really enjoyed like how the honeybee got its sting! 🐝 I was a bit worried at the start because it seemed to be name after name and was quite overwhelming but now it’s more about the stories I’m really enjoying it. 😁

Stuart: It is a lot to take in, I completely agree. I am going to have to read this multiple times I think to solidfy it into my memory. I am enjoying the imagery of the myths and lore but its Stephen Fry’s approach to the material that makes this book amazing for me. Its almost a soap opera but with all the Fryisms you could ask for.

Beth: Yes! Just the little one liners and the way the gods have conversations with each other that just shriek of Fry’s classic humour. He’s such a legend. What do you think of the gods themselves. That Zeus is a bit of a one isn’t he? 😂

Stuart: I find the idea of each generation of leader being destined to be destroyed or overpowered by their children an interesting concept. I think all the loop holes and accidents that create natural occurences to be compelling. Like the Honey Bee or the Cyclopes bringing thunder and lightening with them. Having a divine explanation for each and every element of existence instead of just saying, yeah God created it. I am interested in the God side of things bit I am more looking forward to the demi-gods and creatures that will hopefully pop up. Medusa got a fleeting mention but I hope Fry will pick that up again later. What is one thing you want to gain from reading this book?

Beth: Yes I love the story of Medusa, looking forward to that one. I really enjoy all the different monsters, my favourite is probably Theseus and the Minotaur but I think Fry suggested this might be covered in the Heroes book? 🤔 I think I’d like to re-discover my love for Greek mythology and also get a glimpse into how the Greeks have affected contemporary times, like the words we still use today. How about you?

Stuart: I want to learn more about how the Greeks developed language, art and story-telling through the worship of their gods. I find mythology fascinating and I am keen to flesh out my knowledge of how all of the Greek Legends fit together. Fry’s own passion for Greek lore is infectious, I think it is going to be easier and easier to get lost in this book!

Stuart: In a good way 😃

Beth: For sure. I’m really enjoying the pictures/sculptures too. I saw the Aphrodite Botticelli painting recently (in real life) and it was pretty amazing!

Stuart: Art is one thing I would definitely like to get more into. I could read about art and painters all day but I hardly get the opportunity to go out and visit a gallery. Shall we continue our excursion into the world of Greek Legends?

Beth: Yes let’s do it! See you soon. 👋🏻

Stuart: I’ve made it! How are you getting on?

Beth: I’m at the checkpoint too! Oh I’m loving Fry’s dry wit so much. Especially that last section with Death and the “Mwahahaha!” 😂

Stuart: He does add a great aesthetic to the individuals and how they come to interact with each other. The mid section is even more packed than the beginning! Pandora. Demeter. Humankind. Heart and Soul. What do you think so far?

Beth: I’m enjoying it! His flair with story-telling just adds to the myths themselves and makes them feel richer somehow and even a bit contemporary if that makes any sense? I was so pleased to see my favourite story in there – the one with Persephone but had forgotten how they brought the changing of the seasons into it. Have you got a favourite so far?

Stuart: Definitely Phaethon crashing Apollo’s chariot into the earth and creating the Sahara desert. Amazing imagery. With so many stories packed in here, there are so many to choose from. I really liked the healthcare section too and how close humanity got to immortality. It is hard to keep track of it all though. Well for me at least 😅

Beth: No definitely for me too! So many names and who is related to whom, I am finding that tricky. When he starts rolling off name after name I find my eyes start glazing over a bit until we get to another story. 😂 Like you said, I’m loving the parts that relate to our world now like the changing of the seasons and the misery unleashed from opening Pandora’s *jar* not box! 😆

Stuart: So glad it wasn’t just me. It’s great that you pick up on moments like the jar instead of the box because I totally do too. I took that bit of trivia and tucked it away in my brain for later 😂. I have to say that the greeks have some insane explanations for how the world came to be, mainly how humanity was reborn… I wonder what other disturbing events we have in store in the third act…

Beth: I totally did that for the trivia too haha!! 😂 I think we’ve got plenty of interesting things in store for us for the final section (probably more parts of Zeus’ body to bear children from?!) Shall we read till the end? 😁

Stuart: You can’t get better than a thigh baby though, can you? Let’s do it! See you at the end.

Stuart: Consistently inconsistent 😂. The third section was really good! I’m ready to talk!

Beth: Me too! Ah I’m kind of sorry it’s all over. 😓

Stuart: It’s okay, we have Heroes to look forward to in July 😃

Beth: That’s very true! 😁 What are your thoughts overall? For me it was quite nostalgic being reminded of my favourite Greek myths and I loved that I got to learn brand new ones. Yes all the names were a bit too much at times but his voice and sense of humour really made up for that.

Stuart: I was more aware of the actual gods and mortals than how they actually fit into the bigger picture. I got my greek mythology lessons from video games and movies but it was great to go right back the source. Stephen Fry did an impressive job of being both informative and passionate with the subject matter which can sometimes be difficult for writers. I’m just amazed about how much depth there is in this book!

Beth: Yes absolutely the effort he put into researching it was incredible. Did you pick up that he mentioned he studied Ancient Greek in the Afterword? It must be a topic he’s passionate about and that definitely comes across in the writing.

Stuart: Fry is a knowledgeable man and he breathes new life into these legends and adds up to date insights into how the mythology grew, expanded and translated over the centuries which is exactly what I was looking for. I was also looking for laughs from Fry and he delivered that as well. How did you get on with all the themes and tones of the writing. It got quite unabashedly explicit at times which Fry encouraged I think 😂. It is easy to believe that Ancient Greek Legends is where the substance and meaning of stories was born. Do you agree?

Beth: I certainly do! 😆 he brought far more personality and vibrancy to the Greek Gods than I ever could have imagined. I liked that he focused on a few different topics like what happens when the gods fall in love, get jealous etc. I was already familiar with the story of Arachne and what happens to her when she dares to challenge a goddess at weaving but Fry really made it come alive by the way he told it, making it a sadder tale than I remembered! 🕷🕸

Stuart: He really hit his stride in the last chapters of the book and I couldn’t get enough. Sisyphus and the boulder. Marsyas The Musical. Arachne the Weaver. Midus. The swallow and nightingale. Arion and the Dolphin (so good). I didn’t want it to end after hearing all of those tales back to back.

Beth: Aw I loved Arion and the Dolphin 🐬 especially what happened to those sailors in the end! I also thought the story of Echo and Narcissus was very sad. They seemed to have a story for all moods didn’t they?

Stuart: So much imagination and creativity is present in every single story here and it is hard not to be inspired. You’re right, a story for every mood. A lesson or warning for every reader. We owe our language and our ability to tell great stories from this culture and I couldn’t think of a better person than Stephen Fry to convey that in a charming and meaningful way that makes you want to know and understand these figures and stories better.

Beth: Perfectly put! 👍🏻 We’re going to be reading Heroes together right?! 😆

Stuart: Absolutely. Are you happy to wait till June 27th for the paperback release?

Beth: Oh yes. 😁

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

I had Mythos on my radar for a while now, ever since I started hearing the buzz about it and then realised it was written by Stephen Fry whose personality and dry wit I just adore. As I mentioned in the Twitter chat, I studied Greek Mythology for a little while at school but hadn’t read anything for a while so I was excited to remind myself of my old favourite stories and satisfy my curiosity as to how Fry would put his spin on the classic myths. Well, from the very first moment, as we mentioned, it felt as if Fry was almost jumping off the pages towards us. His voice, intelligence and sense of fun came across beautifully and personally, I feel he brought a modern and rather unique flavour to these stories, making them accessible for a potentially brand new audience.

Stephen Fry, author of Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold (Stephen Fry’s Great Mythology #1)

There were parts of this book where it wasn’t all plain sailing but in the grand scheme of things, they’re such minor quibbles that it didn’t affect my enjoyment of Fry’s work in the least. Fry begins telling us the story of the Gods of Mount Olympus from the very beginning i.e. how the Earth came to be, the battles between the titans, the founding of the twelve principle Gods under the helm of head man, Zeus and even how humans were created (and occasionally messed around with!). This was all incredibly interesting and something I don’t believe I studied in much detail at school but I have to admit, there are a lot of names and intricate relationships to get to grips with initially and there were points where I felt quite overwhelmed by the amount of detail we’re given as a reader. However, please don’t let this put you off as once Fry gets into the meat of each individual story, it’s as juicy and riveting as you might expect.

Stand-out stories? I immediately go back to particular favourites that just became even richer on a second reading as an adult – primarily the story of Persephone and the god of the Underworld, Hades and additionally, the tale of Arachne the weaver and the proud goddess whom she manages to infuriate. I was also pleasantly surprised at the extra little mythological details Fry included like the reason behind the changing of the seasons, how the honeybee got its sting, why the spider spins a web, to name a few. The author makes this collection so much more special by including instances like imagined conversations between gods or gods versus humans where his unique and hilarious humour is allowed to shine through and makes the stories instantly more readable, relatable and almost up-to-date in their execution. Stuart and I enjoyed this collection so much that we’ve instantly agreed to read the second book in this series, Heroes together when it comes out in paperback in the summer and I’m eagerly anticipating another brilliant, illuminating book from the genius that is Stephen Fry.

Thank you to Stuart from Always Trust In Books for another amazing buddy read – check out his review on his blog at some point today!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Blog Tour – The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl (translated by Don Bartlett)

Published March 5, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The international bestselling godfather of Nordic Noir takes on one of the most horrific periods of modern history, in a stunning standalone thriller…

‘A masterclass in plotting, atmosphere and character that finely balances shocking twists’ The Times

In 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In a great haste, she escapes to Sweden, saving herself. Her family in Oslo, however, is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, who helped Ester get to Sweden. Their burgeoning relationship ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire.
And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…
Written with Dahl’s trademark characterization and elegant plotting, The Courier sees the hugely respected godfather of Nordic Noir at his best, as he takes on one of the most horrific periods of modern history, in a exceptional, shocking thriller.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and all at Orenda Books for inviting me onto this blog tour and for providing a complimentary digital copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. I have to admit, I’m not familiar with the author’s work but I was instantly intrigued by the promise of a gritty thriller set within the period around the Second World War. It’s one of my favourite periods of history to read about and I’m always on the hunt for an author who can bring something fresh and unique to an era that we often see explored in multiple works of fiction. I’ve also found a new hunger as a reader for reading more translated novels and for me, Don Bartlett’s words felt seamless and effortless to read which is always a pleasure to experience.

Kjell Ola Dahl, author of the standalone thriller, The Courier.

I found The Courier to be quite a fascinating reading experience and it was certainly one that has left me still mulling over it a few days now after finishing. Set across multiple timelines from the early 1940’s to the 1960’s and then contemporary times we follow a number of different characters but primarily Ester, who delivered illegal newspapers during the war, making a stand against the harsh Nazi regime. However, the focus of this novel is ultimately directed towards the suspicious death of one of Ester’s friends Åse. The narrative follows Ester just prior to Åse’s death and additionally, Åse’s husband, Gerhard who becomes the primary suspect in his wife’s murder but until now, has been presumed to have died in a fire. Piece by piece and across the years, the truth about what happened is gradually revealed and the unravelling of a multitude of secrets has the potential to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Oslo, Norway 1940-1945

Image from: http://www.norvege-fr.com/norvege_photos.php?id_photo=36645642345&mots=winter+oslo&couleurs=all&sort=&page=1

In general, I have quite mixed feelings about this novel. It’s definitely what you would call a slow-burner and whilst it’s true that I usually gobble up stories that take their time to unfold, there were points where I couldn’t quite gel with the pacing. That is to say, at times I couldn’t get enough of where the author was taking the plot and then there were other times where it didn’t work as well, personally speaking. Kjell Ola Dahl has an undeniable talent and a genuine flair for the dramatic and there were moments where I was “thrilled,” on the edge of my seat and frantically turning the pages.

I honestly believe fans of espionage novels will devour this story, particularly the political relationships between the characters and the slow, considered reveals that have the reader questioning everything. Perhaps it wasn’t a stand out read for me because I’ve struggled so deeply with espionage in the past? Although this particular novel was not primarily espionage I hasten to add, it did read at points for me like an espionage thriller. In the hands of a different reader I’m certain this would be a hugely rewarding reading experience and I think the author has a clear, individual writing style all of his own that has already gained him a legion of loyal fans. I would certainly urge anyone with a love of history, intricate plotting and strong female leads to give it a try!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

AUTHOR INFORMATION

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in
Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the
most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological
thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the
Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and
Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14
countries, and he lives in Oslo.

Find Kjell Ola Dahl on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/605240.Kjell_Ola_Dahl

or on his website at: http://www.salomonssonagency.se/php/author.php?lang=en&authid=17

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Courier will be published on 21st March 2019 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to The Courier on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42957863-the-courier

Link to The Courier on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Courier-Kjell-Ola-Dahl-ebook/dp/B07KGLHC5X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1551731622&sr=8-1&keywords=the+courier

Talking About Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce with Chrissi Reads

Published March 2, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

London, 1940. Emmeline Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent suddenly seem achievable. But the job turns out to be working as a typist for the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.

Mrs. Bird is very clear: letters containing any Unpleasantness must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant notes from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding. As the German planes make their nightly raids, and London picks up the smoldering pieces each morning, Emmy secretly begins to write back to the readers who have poured out their troubles.

Prepare to fall head over heels for Emmy and her best friend, Bunty, who are gutsy and spirited, even in the face of a terrible blow. The irrepressible Emmy keeps writing letters in this hilarious and enormously moving tale of friendship, the kindness of strangers, and ordinary people in extraordinary times.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: We all know now that you’re a cover judger. (Tee hee!) What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: Sssh, that’s a secret! Oh well, you’re right, everyone probably knows by now. To be honest, with Dear Mrs Bird, I didn’t really have any impressions of the cover, positive or negative. I thought it was an okay cover, remarkably inoffensive but something that didn’t give away much about the contents of the novel (which can both a good and bad thing!) or stands out in any way. Luckily, I had heard good things about it from my fellow bloggers and had some vague idea about the arc of the story so I was looking forward to reading it.

BETH: Author AJ Pearce incorporates charmingly old-fashioned expressions to help convey a sense of the time period. What were some of your favourite terms? Did the language help your understanding of the era and the characters’ personalities?

CHRISSI: My impression of the book was indeed that it was charmingly old-fashioned. It was awfully British. I loved how Mrs Bird described anything ‘naughty’ in the letters as ‘unpleasantness.’ I also loved the use of the word ‘jolly’ too. We don’t use jolly enough. I’m going to make it my mission to bring it back. I liked it said someone was ‘awfully lucky.’ There was a lot of ‘awfully’! Two of my favourites were ‘Right-o!’ and ‘Crikey!’ It definitely gave me a sense of the era and of the characters’ personalities.

CHRISSI: One of the major themes of the novel is friendship. Discuss Emmy and Bunty’s relationship, and all the ways they support and encourage each other over the course of the novel.

BETH: I do love a strong female friendship in a novel, especially one like Emmy and Bunty’s where they are so close that they literally become part of each other’s family. I think both girls needed the other one in their lives for strong support, humour and to confide in during the tough and dangerous times that they are living in. This is particularly evident when a crack forms in the relationship and the two girls are almost lost without the other to lean on.

BETH: Did you have a favourite character in this novel and why?

CHRISSI: I did have a favourite character. I did enjoy the friendship between Emmy and Bunty, but I have to say I liked Emmy more. I thought she was a very easy character to like. I was rooting for her throughout the story. I really wanted her to do well.

CHRISSI: Did you enjoy the pace of the story? Was it ever too slow/fast for you?

BETH: I did enjoy the pace. It wasn’t particularly action-packed and exciting but I don’t think that’s what the author intended it to be. It was about very ordinary characters doing extraordinary deeds and displaying huge amounts of resilience when placed in war-torn London and having their lives put at risk every single day. At some points it did feel slightly too “jolly hockey sticks,” and “British stiff upper lip,” but at the same time, I really enjoyed the quintessential and classic British-ness of it all.

BETH: Do you think Emmy was right to confront William after he rescued the two children? Was his reaction warranted?

CHRISSI: I could see it from both Emmy and William’s point of view. Emmy was worried about William losing his life and wondered how her good friend Bunty would deal with that if it happened. William was purely doing his job though so I can totally see why it got his back up.

CHRISSI: If you were to put this book into a genre, which one would you put it in?

BETH: I think I would put it in historical fiction, purely for the World War II aspect, the emotional accounts of the bombings and the brave efforts of so many volunteers to keep London and its inhabitants safe each night.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes, I liked the author’s rather gentle writing style!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0