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Talking About The Cactus by Sarah Haywood with Chrissi Reads

Published January 3, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO BLOOM

People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green—a prickly independent woman, who has everything just the way she wants it and who certainly has no need for messy emotional relationships.

Family and colleagues find her standoffish and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself, and that’s all she needs.

At forty-five, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward—a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one; a job that suits her passion for logic; and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other, more intimate, benefits.

Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control.

When she discovers that her mother’s will inexplicably favours her brother, Susan sets out to prove that Edward and his equally feckless friend Rob somehow coerced this dubious outcome. But when problems closer to home become increasingly hard to ignore, she finds help in the most unlikely of places.

This sparkling debut is a breath of fresh air with real heart and a powerful emotional punch. In Susan we find a character as exasperating and delightful as The Rosie Project‘s Don Tillman. An uncompromising feminist and a fierce fighter, it’s a joy to watch her bloom.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Initially, you didn’t think this book would be a book for you. Did your opinion change?

BETH: Kind of! I hadn’t heard much about this novel or author prior to seeing it on the Richard and Judy book club list and I know it’s bad and I shouldn’t do it but I totally judged it by its cover. I really should know better by now and NOT do that as occasionally it has no reflection on the story within but I can’t help myself, I still do it! Generally, I found The Cactus to be an enjoyable read with a fascinating female lead that I was intrigued to know more about and the narrative was interesting enough to make me want to carry on reading.

BETH: What did you make of the relationship between Susan and her brother Edward?

CHRISSI: Ooh, I think it was a rather broken relationship. I think there was a lot of sibling rivalry between the two. I don’t feel like it was a very loving relationship at all. I think Susan was too different. I feel like Susan felt her brother wasn’t as organised as her and she looked down on him for the way he was. Susan felt superior to her brother and couldn’t possibly understand why he would be left the house in their mother’s will.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character in this book? If so, who and why?

BETH: I think Susan herself was a very well drawn character and as I mentioned above, I was curious enough about her story to become invested in the novel as a whole. She has quite a prickly disposition when you first meet her (one of the reasons for the name of the book?) and she appears to be quite a difficult individual but she does grow on you and when you understand more about her past, you can understand why she has such an impenetrable wall built around her.

BETH: How would you classify this novel? i.e. which genre does it fall into?

CHRISSI: Tricky question. I think I would probably put it in contemporary fiction, that’s if you don’t let me just call it adult fiction. Is that cheating? Oh well. Contemporary it is in my opinion! I think it’s a book that can be enjoyed by both sexes. It actually reminded me a little bit of The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. That’s a book that I feel appeals to both male and female readers too.

CHRISSI: Share a favourite quote from this book. Why was it your favourite?

BETH: “But these days fairy-tale endings come in all shapes and sizes. It’s okay for the princess to end up with the prince, it’s okay for her to end up with the footman, and it’s also okay for her to end up on her own. It’s okay for her to end up with another princess, or with six cats, or to decide she wants to be a prince. None of these make her any more or less a feminist. It’s about finding out who you are and what you want, and then being true to it.”

I actually resonated with this quote so much that I shared it to my personal Facebook page! I love that it refers to fairy-tales, I love that the author is saying that it’s okay to be who you are and do what you do as an individual, as a feminist and as a woman. She hits the nail on the head and I just adore it.

BETH: Susan has a unique way of interacting with other people. Did you sympathise with her at all?

CHRISSI: I did! I can see that Susan would irritate a lot of people and put people’s backs up with her ways of interacting. To me, Susan was a character that would be diagnosed with autism. Her way of dealing with the world reminded me of a few children that I teach that are on the autistic spectrum. As you get to know Susan, I feel like you begin to understand why she is the way she is. The past can define us and I think it does define Susan.

CHRISSI: Can you compare this book to another or is it quite unique?

BETH: I have to admit, when I first started this book I thought it was going to be quite similar to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fineby Gail Honeyman. In a way, it kind of is – with a tricky, somewhat isolated main female lead but in other ways The Cactus is very different. This was such as a relief as even though Eleanor Oliphant was one of my favourite books of 2018, I didn’t want another book so similar to it. Luckily this novel stands on its own perfectly.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would definitely give it a go! 🙂 I thought it was a decent read.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

CHRISSI’S Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

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Elmet – Fiona Mozley

Published January 2, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Fresh and distinctive writing from an exciting new voice in fiction, Elmet is an unforgettable novel about family, as well as a beautiful meditation on landscape. 

Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned sour and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. When they were younger, Daniel and Cathy had gone to school. But they were not like the other children then, and they were even less like them now. Sometimes Daddy disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.

Atmospheric and unsettling, Elmet is a lyrical commentary on contemporary society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.

What did I think?:

So, I finally got round to reading Elmet! After being short-listed for a number of prizes including the Man Booker and The Women’s Prize For Fiction here in the UK I had heard so much about this work of literary fiction and knew it was something I just had to experience. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to do it alone. The wonderful Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader, blogger extraordinare, beautiful bookstagrammer, all round good egg and one of my blogger besties read this with me as our very first buddy read and that’s just one of the many reasons why this book will now always have a special place in my heart. Elmet is not only a literary masterpiece and one of the very best examples of the genre for those wishing to dip their toes into literary fiction but is a debut novel for crying out loud! It’s almost impossible to believe, the author writes with such beauty and conviction that you’d assume she’d been mistress of her art for decades.

Fiona Mozley, author of the debut novel, Elmet.

Jennifer and I had such a wonderful discussion about Elmet and it really was a pleasure to share this quiet but powerful read with her and feed off each others insights. The story of Daniel, Cathy and their Daddy who live quite a simple, meagre existence out in the wilderness moves along at the beginning at a relatively slow pace but the emotional punch it ends up packing is truly a mighty one. There are so many questions and reasons for wanting to carry on reading and each moment we stopped to discuss what we had read, I found myself eagerly anticipating not only how the narrative would continue but how interesting our chat was going to end up being! Why have the family isolated themselves in the woods? What has happened to Daniel and Cathy’s mother? Furthermore, when their way of living is threatened, how will each character individually respond and what will be the ramifications of their actions?

Imagine our contemporary world right now and a dwelling built right here in these woods where our characters live, surviving on what the forest gives them for food and comfort. Enter the world of Elmet.

It was fairly obvious to me from the very start that Mozley is a spectacularly gifted writer. Her words drip from the pages like honey and she talks about the landscape in particular so vividly and in so much glorious detail that you could almost smell the mud under your feet. Elmet is a celebration of nature and how we can harness it to live a far less complicated existence but more importantly, this is a story of the bond between a father and his children. Daniel, Cathy and Daddy are such outstanding and impressively drawn characters, all with their own unique personalities that it was exciting to follow their journey, celebrate their eccentricities and worry about their futures.

If you like your fiction to have a clear and distinct resolution, I have to say this might not be the novel for you. Elmet can be kind of vague, nothing is wrapped up neatly with a little bow, occasionally the reader makes up their own mind about what a specific individual might be thinking or indeed, by the end, how their story may continue. However, the subtle little clues the author expertly drops along the way left me in no doubt about my particular interpretation of events. Even now, weeks after finishing this novel, I’m still thinking about where our characters might be and how they might be coping after a dramatic finale that left both Jennifer and I reeling.

Elmet is a book that works even better when the finer points of the narrative are chewed over with a friend and I’m so grateful to Jennifer for being that person that I was fortunate enough to experience it with. If you like your literary fiction descriptive, full of heart and thought-provoking, I would definitely suggest this novel and hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

For Jennifer’s fabulous review please see her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

An Act Of Silence – Colette McBeth

Published January 1, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

MOTHER. WIFE. POLITICIAN. LIAR.

THEN: How far did she go to conceal the truth?

Politician Linda Moscow sacrificed everything to protect her son: her beliefs, her career, her marriage. All she wanted was to keep him safe.

NOW: What will she risk to expose the lies?

When the voices she silenced come back to haunt her, Linda is faced with another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line . . .

An Act of Silence is about the abuse of power, the devastating effects of keeping the truth buried, and the lengths a mother will go to save her child.

What did I think?:

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve had this book, my first read by Colette McBeth on my Netgalley TBR list for a long time now and all these naughty other books kept getting in the way, preventing me from starting it. After finally getting round to experiencing the author’s style, I’m delighted to report that she writes precisely the sort of books I want to be reading. I was instantly pulled into the world of our lead female character, her son and her past and the story moved at such a steady pace (with some very clever reveals) that even when I wasn’t reading it, I was THINKING about reading it, a sure sign that I’m invested.

Colette McBeth, author of An Act Of Silence.

An Act Of Silence is McBeth’s third novel, following Precious Thing and A Life I Left Behind and although I can’t make any comparisons as yet with her previous work, it reads like an established and very confident thriller writer with oceans of expertise under their belt. We follow our female protagonist, Linda Moscow in an utterly compelling opening where she is tasked with the ultimate quandary – her only son is accused of murder and she must decide first of all, whether she believes his protestations at his innocence. Secondly, as a can of worms from the past is well and truly opened up, she must protect herself and her family in the safest way possible whilst ensuring any villains have the potential to be finally unmasked.

The Houses Of Parliament in London, UK where our character Linda Moscow spent most of her political career as Home Secretary.

I have to admit when I read initial reviews of this novel and I saw it marketed as a “political thriller,” I was slightly wary. I’m not the biggest fan of politics, in or out of literature and novels that I’ve read in the past that tend to follow this particular narrative have more often than not, sadly fallen flat for me. However, I had no need to worry. The politics does play an important part in the narrative, specifically concerning Linda’s past and a horrific scandal that she found herself embroiled in but, interestingly enough, the novel focuses much more on characters, the relationships between them and how events from the past have influenced their individual actions and reactions in the present.

From the very first early moments of this story, I was captivated by the relationship between Linda and her son Gabriel. If I had to describe it in three words I would say: complicated, fractured and uneasy. As a reader, I became desperate to know what precipitating events had led to the point where every word and movement they make around each other becomes so tentative and weary. There’s so much more bubbling under the surface of An Act Of Silence than that which is initially suggested and the joy of reading this is discovering all those surprises for yourself. The author visits some very murky places and incredibly dark subject matters but this only results in an even more fascinating plot which unravels slowly, deliberately and quite brilliantly as all begins to be revealed.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Thank you so much to Headline books for providing a complimentary digital copy of An Act Of Silence via Netgalley.

Talking About Only Child by Rhiannon Navin with Chrissi Reads

Published December 14, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

For readers of Room and The Girls, a dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children, narrated by a seven-year-old boy who reminds us that sometimes the littlest bodies hold the biggest hearts and the quietest voices speak the loudest.

Squeezed into a coat closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor can hear gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen lives and irrevocably changing the very fabric of this close-knit community. While Zach’s mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter’s parents, holding them responsible for their son’s actions, Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and art. Armed with his newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach sets out on a captivating journey towards healing and forgiveness, determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion needed to pull them through their darkest hours.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: Wow. As soon as I read the initial few chapters I have to admit, I found it a struggle to put it down. It begins with Zach and his teacher in a closet desperately hiding from a gunman in their school with numerous other children and it was so powerful and moving I had trouble catching my breath at points. I have such strong opinions on gun violence myself and to read a book about a school shooting was poignant and troubling. It certainly left its impression on me.

BETH: As a teacher yourself, how was the reading experience of Only Child for you?

CHRISSI: Absolutely terrifying. Absolutely. It is my worst fear. I can’t even begin to imagine something this awful happening in my classroom which I try to create as a home away from home. Like many other educators, our classroom is our home and a place for the children to feel safe. A teacher likes to control their classroom and rightly so. Something this horrific makes you lose control and that is terrifying. I hope I am never in the position where I have to save my children’s lives. I’m not sure I could go back to the classroom if that happened to me. I’m in awe of educators that do return to the classroom. I can’t even begin to imagine how much strength that takes. Gun crime is horrific and I feel blessed that I work in a country where this kind of crime is incredibly rare. It doesn’t mean that dangerous things wouldn’t happen in the classroom. We’ve even had to develop a lock down policy, just in case, which is a terrifying idea. It really would be my worst nightmare.

Excuse my little rant. Aside from the fear it gave me, this book was utterly compelling to read. I was really impressed with Zach’s narration. How clever to tell the story from his point of view. It’s horrifying what children go through when this happens in their safe place. 😦

CHRISSI: Many books have been written about gun crime, but rarely from the point of view of a child as young as Zach. What did you make of Zach’s narration?

BETH: That’s true! I never realised that before. I think writing it from the point of view of a child was an incredibly clever thing for the author to do. In a way, it made it more horrific as you were seeing it directly through a child’s eyes and although in some instances, Zach came across a little older than his years, I think these parts were necessary so we could feel the full impact of what he has been through, how he continues to suffer and how he manages to pull himself and his family through the other side.

BETH: How do you think Zach, his mother and his father differed in their experiences of grief?

CHRISSI: Zach, his mother and his father definitely differed in their experiences of grief. Grief affects in all in different ways. Zach has nightmares, bed-wetting and feels guilt because initially he feels his life will be better without his brother. Zach’s father retreats into work. He tries to be there for Zach as much as he can. Zach’s mother is initially very shocked and then her shock turns to seeking revenge and justice for her son.

CHRISSI: Do you think this book should have been longer?

BETH: For me, I felt it was the perfect length. I don’t think there was anything else the author could have done or said – I think she got her point across and it ended on a rather hopeful note for the future which was pleasant to read amidst all the darkness and despair.

BETH: Reading the Magic Tree House books aloud “to Andy” helps Zach cope with his grief. Which books have helped you through difficult times in your life?

CHRISSI: One of the most powerful books I’ve read that have helped me is Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive. I was absolutely amazed and how Matt Haig just ‘got’ me. I believe I have suffered from anxiety since I was younger. Matt’s words were the only words that I’ve really connected with. I felt like he understood what was going on in my head which is a very powerful thing.

CHRISSI: Should Zach have returned to school earlier?

BETH: Absolutely not. He had obvious PTSD about the terrifying incident that he had to go through and was amazingly resilient considering how he suffered. I know if it was me, I’d have trouble going back into that situation, especially if I was still having nightmares so a child as young as Zach was certainly shouldn’t have been forced into going back before he was ready. Yes, it’s important to move on and realise that it was a rare occurrence that was unlikely to happen again but the extent of the trauma that people go through in these situations is not realised enough, in my opinion.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would definitely. I was really impressed with this book.

Would WE recommend it?

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’S Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Uncommon Type: Some Stories – Tom Hanks

Published December 12, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A collection of seventeen wonderful short stories showing that two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks is as talented a writer as he is an actor.

A gentle Eastern European immigrant arrives in New York City after his family and his life have been torn apart by his country’s civil war. A man who loves to bowl rolls a perfect game–and then another and then another and then many more in a row until he winds up ESPN’s newest celebrity, and he must decide if the combination of perfection and celebrity has ruined the thing he loves. An eccentric billionaire and his faithful executive assistant venture into America looking for acquisitions and discover a down and out motel, romance, and a bit of real life. These are just some of the tales Tom Hanks tells in this first collection of his short stories. They are surprising, intelligent, heartwarming, and, for the millions and millions of Tom Hanks fans, an absolute must-have!

Featuring additional performances by Peter Gerety, Peter Scolari, Cecily Strong, Holland Taylor, and Wilmer Valderrama on “Stay With Us.”

What did I think?:

When famous actor Tom Hanks released his first collection of short stories I have to say I was a little sceptical and wasn’t sure I would be rushing to read it. Two things changed that for me – firstly, I started to see the positive reviews come flooding in and secondly, Richard and Judy chose it for their book club here in the UK. I tend to follow their lists every season and most of them I review with my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads in our “Talking About” feature. So….the million dollar question, can Tom Hanks write? The answer is simple, yes he can. As with most short story collections I read, I connected with some stories more than others but there were a few stand-out pieces of work that were incredibly memorable and made me realise that Hanks does indeed have a talent for story-telling.

Tom Hanks, Hollywood actor and author of Uncommon Type: Some Stories.

In Uncommon Type, the stories all share one common theme. Somewhere within the narrative, a typewriter is referenced. It may be purchased, used by our characters or referred to but either way, it is a prominent feature of each short story. For another fun fact, apparently Hanks actually wrote this entire collection on his very own beloved typewriter which brings another nice little connection to the proceedings! The stories within this book are about very ordinary people doing everyday things and provides a slice of their life in a defining moment of their history which had the effect of feeling like you’re experiencing each character’s intimate and private moments.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a couple of gems in this collection, namely “Christmas Eve 1953” which follows a veteran called Virgil who makes a routine call every Christmas to a fellow veteran. Personally, I found this to be the strongest story in the collection, I adored Virgil as a character and thought he had amazing depth and heart as the reader explores his colourful and heart-breaking past. “Welcome To Mars,” the story of a nineteen year old boy celebrating his birthday surfing with his father and how their relationship alters within moments was also another blindingly good piece of work and clearly demonstrates how much subtle emotion Hanks can place into his fiction in such a short space of time. Finally there is “The Past Is Important To Us,” a wonderful mixture of historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction where a man travels back to 1939 over and over again in search of just a little more time with a particular woman.

Tom Hanks’ love for New York, the myriad of interesting and fascinating people that live there and his own knowledge and experience over the years is prominent throughout this collection. He comes across as remarkably down-to-earth, intelligent and warm-hearted and I felt as if through these short stories, I was getting a deeper insight into what he’s like as a person, divorced from his Hollywood persona and fame. It’s not a perfect collection and there were a few instances where I felt his character development or plot needed a bit of fine-tuning and finessing but for a debut offering, the strength of the stories I’ve mentioned above made for a generally enjoyable reading experience. I’ll certainly be interested to see what he writes next, especially if the quality of his next work matches the stories in Uncommon Type that I really loved.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) – Sylvain Neuvel

Published December 11, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

What did I think?:

I was lucky enough to read the second book in The Themis Files with the lovely Janel from Keeper Of Pages as our October buddy read after we thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the trilogy, Sleeping Giants, a couple of months prior to that. A huge big “I’m sorry!” to her for being so slow in finally getting this review up, life has been kind of crazy work wise but I’m hopefully now back on the horse so as to speak, and can catch up with my backlog of reviews. As with all second books in a series, I always approach it with slight trepidation, after all, if I’ve enjoyed the first one so much – could it possibly match my elevated expectations? Hmm, well yes and no. There were things about this novel that I loved, particularly the format (which is one of the most fabulous things about this series) and in general, this is still a trilogy that so far, I would highly recommend. However, there were some minor niggles that were just a bit disappointing and unfortunately, has led to me giving Waking Gods an ever so slightly lower rating in comparison to Sleeping Giants.

Sylvain Neuvel, author of Waking Gods, second novel in The Themis Files.

As with all trilogies/series, the second book and any following novels become really difficult to review especially as you’re wary of releasing spoilers into the world for the readers who haven’t experienced the series yet. But never fear readers, I shall be deliberately vague and shall tell you the absolute bare minimum you need to know so that you can check out whether this trilogy might be for you. In a nutshell, this series follows the discovery of large parts of a strange robot hidden in different places around the Earth. In Sleeping Giants, this robot is assembled and its purpose discovered. Our characters learn how to operate said robot and its devastating, mind-blowing potential becomes realised when it is revealed that it might not have been built by human hands. In Waking Gods, a decade after the events of the first novel, our lead characters return when a host of new robots begin to appear around the globe. What do these robots want? More importantly, what does their arrival mean for the future of our planet?

As with Sleeping Giants, the story is told in the format of journal entries and interview transcripts by an unknown male protagonist who appears to be leading the research and usage of the discovered robot – referred to as Themis. I was delighted once more with this fascinating way of approaching the novel, especially as it makes it so very tempting to read just one more entry before putting the book down. As a result, once more it was a relatively quick and thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. My favourite bad-ass, independent, intelligent and feisty female protagonists are back and there’s multiple surprises and exciting incidents that the author springs upon the reader, meaning that you’re never quite completely sure what’s going to happen next – I adore that in a novel.

I’ve been racking my brains to try and figure out why I didn’t enjoy Waking Gods as much as I did Sleeping Giants and I think there’s a couple of different reasons. Firstly, I believe it might suffer from that “age-old trilogy problem,” as I like to call it. That is, the first book sets the scene and makes you eager to continue whereas the second novel occasionally acts as a bit of a “filler,” basically preparing the reader for the explosive events which will occur in the final novel. That isn’t to say there weren’t exciting events – there certainly were, including the appearance of a robot in London, how the community responded, and the after-effects of the robot’s presence. I have to admit, that was a particularly tense and captivating moment and after this, I had high hopes for the rest of the narrative. Additionally I appreciated Neuvel paving the way rather excellently for the final novel with some shocks and unexpected events that had both Janel and I reeling.

However, apart from the above mentioned moments, things kind of just chugged along with a bit less oomph and pizzazz in Waking Gods and it just didn’t feel as dramatic or unique as what we had already experienced when we were first introduced to our rag-tag bunch of fascinating characters. Perhaps it was because we were already familiar with the set-up, the format, the individuals concerned? I’m not sure. Nevertheless, for the compelling moments, the brilliance of the science-fiction and imaginative quality of the writing, I still had a fantastic reading experience and am very much looking forward to completing the trilogy with Janel as we read Only Human this month.

Thank you so much to Janel @ Keeper Of Pages for another excellent buddy read. Check out her review of Waking Gods HERE.

Also look out for our November buddy read review of The Three by Sarah Lotz coming soon!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Previous buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages 

The Fireman by Joe Hill – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Girls by Emma Cline – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

 

 

Blog Tour – Attend by West Camel

Published December 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah. Seamstress, sailor, storyteller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, a history of hidden Deptford and ultimately the solution to their crises.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books for the complimentary digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I have to admit, when Anne first emailed me about this book I was immediately entranced by that simplistic yet stunning front cover. It really draws the eye (and perhaps also threads the eye?!) and is a perfect example of how beautiful cover art can entice a reader to want to know more about the story. Luckily it had a fantastic synopsis too – I mean, “self-proclaimed centenarian immortal?” I simply HAD to read this book when that line jumped out at me! Please pardon the pun but this is a beautifully woven story that I thoroughly enjoyed. It has its darker moments, which to be honest, I’m always a fan of but there were softer, more gentle periods too that I really appreciated.

West Camel, author of Attend.

This is the story primarily of three people. Anne is a former heroin addict, mother to Julie and grandmother to Tom. She has been away from her family for some time while she recovers from her addiction and is determined not to see any of them until she can ensure she won’t succumb to her demons and let them down again. As a result, she hasn’t even met her grandson and at the time the novel is set, she is slowly trying to integrate herself back into their lives whilst attempting to fight her own personal battles. Sam is a young gay man who has also had some hardships in his life and eases his loneliness by going out a lot, desperate to find someone who will finally “see” and appreciate him. Our final protagonist is Deborah, an older lady with a plethora of stories to tell, primarily how she has become immortal through working on a small piece of sewing. All three characters are drawn together by seminal events that occur in their lives and by finding each other, there is an opportunity for each one to eventually find happiness and contentment.

Deptford, South-East London, England where Attend is set.

The more I think about this novel, the more I realise what the author might have been trying to say and how moving the narrative is in general. We have three characters, all three are intriguing, have a story to tell, have had difficulties in their lives in the past and present and crucially, all of them are struggling with being seen by other people. I think my favourite part of the narrative had to be Deborah’s story, particularly when she told parts of her past that were incredibly heart-breaking. There’s a particular moment during the war when she is trapped in a shelter that was so moving and written so beautifully I couldn’t put the book down until I had finished that specific chapter. Additionally, I loved how all the characters find that inner strength they eagerly desire from each other and they emerge more resilient by the end.

Finally, I really appreciated that you can’t really categorise this novel. It’s such a heady mixture of contemporary fiction with a dashing of historical and crime elements and a sprinkling of magical realism. I feel like the more fantastical, whimsical parts of the story worked very well as a whole and it never strayed into the realms of unbelievable. From that beautiful front cover, to an equally beautiful story within the pages, Attend is an imaginative piece of work that will touch your heart and potentially make you believe in magic all over again.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village
with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in
higher education and business before turning his attention to the
arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist,
and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best
European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press
Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his
work as editor at Orenda Books with writing and editing a wide
range of material for various arts organisations, including ghostwriting
a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the
European Literature Network. He has also written several short
scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres,
A highly anticipated debut, blending the magical realism of Angela Carter
and the gritty authenticity of Eastenders
and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.

Find West on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8283285.West_Camel

or on Twitter at: @west_camel

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. Attend will be published on 13th December 2018 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 book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41967084-attend

Link to book on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Attend-West-Camel/dp/1912374390/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1544092398&sr=8-1&keywords=attend+west+camel