Challenges

All posts in the Challenges category

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):

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit – The Titles For 2019 Revealed!

Published January 2, 2019 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the reveal for myself and Chrissi Reads Kid-Lit challenge for 2019. We’re very excited for our list this year and think we’ve picked some wonderful titles, a mixture of old favourites, authors we’ve read before but are keen to read more of and new-to-us authors/reads. Without further ado, here’s what we’ll be reading this year. Join us at the end of January for our first post!

JANUARY – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret- Judy Blume

FEBRUARY- The BFG -Roald Dahl

MARCH – The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3)- Rick Riordan

APRIL- Demon Dentist- David Walliams

MAY – The Enchanted Wood (The Faraway Tree #1)- Enid Blyton

JUNE- What Katy Did- Susan Coolidge

JULY – The Dreamsnatcher (Dreamsnatcher #1) Abi Elphinstone

AUGUST- The Royal Rabbits of London- Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore

SEPTEMBER – I Capture The Castle- Dodie Smith

OCTOBER- Just So- Rudyard Kipling

NOVEMBER – The Worst Witch- Jill Murphy

DECEMBER- The Christmasaurus- Tom Fletcher

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.

Banned Books – The Titles For 2019 Revealed!

Published January 1, 2019 by bibliobeth

I’m delighted to say my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads and I will be continuing our Banned Books challenge into 2019. Here is what we’ll be reading each month:

JANUARY: Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread– Chuck Palahniuk

FEBRUARY: Northern Lights/The Golden Compass– Philip Pullman

MARCH: Uncle Bobby’s Wedding– Sarah S. Brannen

APRIL: We All Fall Down- Robert Cormier

MAY: Crazy Lady– Jane Leslie Conley

JUNE: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture– Michael A. Bellesiles

JULY: In The Night Kitchen- Maurice Sendak

AUGUST: Whale Talk– Chris Crutcher

SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

As always, we’ll be talking about each book on the last Monday of every month so if you’d like to join in, you’re more than welcome! Happy New Year everyone!

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – The Round Up

Published December 31, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018, The Round Up where we’ll be talking about our highlights (and lowlights) of our Kid Lit year. As always, we’ve read some fantastic books and series, some of which we will be continuing into 2019. Please find below all the books we read and the links to my reviews. For Chrissi’s reviews the link will be at the bottom of each original post.

JANUARY – The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader -C.S. Lewis

FEBRUARY- Matilda-Roald Dahl

MARCH – The Girl Of Ink And Stars- Kiran Millwood Hargrave 

APRIL- Ratburger- David Walliams

MAY – The Wide Window (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #3)-Lemony Snicket

JUNE- The Face On The Milk Carton-Caroline B. Cooney

JULY – Murder Most Unladylike- Robin Stevens

AUGUST- The Creakers- Tom Fletcher

SEPTEMBER – Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing -Judy Blume

OCTOBER- Nightbirds on Nantucket  (The Wolves Chronicles #3)- Joan Aiken

NOVEMBER – Number The Stars- Lois Lowry

DECEMBER- Time Travelling With A Hamster- Ross Welford

So, in the style of the “Talking About…” reviews we normally do, we thought we’d answer a quick few questions about our year in Kid-Lit blogging.

1) What was your favourite Kid-Lit book of 2018 and why?
BETH: This is such an easy one for me! It would be Matilda by Roald Dahl. It was a childhood favourite of mine and each time I re-read it I fall more and more in love with it. Sorry other kid-lit authors on this list – it was always going to be a no-brainer with the king that is Roald Dahl.
CHRISSI: It has to be the legendary Matilda. It’s a wonderful story that is one of my all time favourites. I don’t think many will ever beat it. I found out recently that my 6 year old nephew loves Matilda which is amazing!
2) What was your least favourite Kid-Lit book of 2018 and why?
BETH: This is so tough but I would have to pick something that might be controversial – The Girl Of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. It was so gorgeously written but unfortunately I just didn’t connect with it as much as I was hoping to.
CHRISSI: The Voyage of The Dawn Treaderby C.S. Lewis. I wasn’t the biggest fan of it, if I’m honest. I don’t recall reading this one as a child and I wouldn’t be surprised if I started it and gave up! Young Chrissi had no problems DNF-ing books.
3) What was the Kid-Lit book of 2018 that surprised you the most?
BETH: Perhaps The Face On The Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney? I was eagerly anticipating this book as both Chrissi and I were huge Cooney fans back when she wrote Point Horror. However, I believe we were both a bit disappointed with this particular offering and unfortunately, it surprised us in a bad way. 😦
CHRISSI:  I have to agree with Beth. I had such high expectations for The Face On The Milk Carton but I really did find it to be a quite unremarkable read which was a shame.
4) Have you been inspired to read any other books from a Kid-Lit author of 2018?
BETH: Most definitely, from Tom Fletcher. I was really excited to read something from him as I had heard such great things about his children’s books. The Creakers was everything I had anticipated and who knows, perhaps there will be something else on our Kid-Lit list for 2019 from him?
CHRISSI:  Ooh yes. I want to read more from Tom Fletcher and David Walliams for sure. I’m loving that young children (and young at heart adults!) have so many wonderful authors out there to explore.

For anyone who reads these posts, thank you so much for your continued support, we love doing this challenge and hope to continue it indefinitely. Coming on January 2nd – the big reveal for Kid-Lit 2019! Which titles made it this year? And which titles are we going to have to do er…. another year?!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kit-Lit 2018 – DECEMBER READ – Time Travelling With A Hamster by Ross Welford

Published December 30, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

“My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty nine and again four years later when he was twelve.

The first time had nothing to do with me. The second time definitely did, but I would never even have been there if it hadn’t been for his ‘time machine’…”

When Al Chaudhury discovers his late dad’s time machine, he finds that going back to the 1980s requires daring and imagination. It also requires lies, theft, burglary, and setting his school on fire. All without losing his pet hamster, Alan Shearer…

What did I think?:

When Chrissi first chose this book for our kid-lit challenge this year, I have to admit I was intrigued. Who couldn’t be with that title? I hadn’t heard of the book or the author before now and when I read the synopsis and it mentioned our lead character travelling back to the 1980’s I started to get a little bit excited. I grew up in the 1980’s and recently have been on a real nostalgia trip, particularly for the music of that era which I’ve always adored. BBC Four here in the UK have been re-playing classic Top Of The Pops episodes from the eighties in order and I’ve had the most wonderful trip down memory lane enjoying tunes from 1986, when I would have been six years old and just getting into music in a big way. I was gleefully anticipating some eighties references that might take me back to that time through the magic of literature and perhaps that was what was a slight disappointment about this novel for me – my expectations and the fact they weren’t really met in this specific way.

Ross Welford, author of Time Travelling With A Hamster.

I have to stress though that I am nit-picking. In general, this is a brilliant read for children and what I was personally expecting shouldn’t be taken into account if you’re considering whether to pick this book up or not. Time Travelling With A Hamster is about so much more than just the 1980’s. It’s about the relationship between families and in addition, the different generations within the same family. It packs a definitive emotional wallop to the system as we follow our young protagonist travelling back in time to prevent his father’s death in the future. As a story of time travel, it’s a fascinating and exciting account of how events can be altered dramatically by tiny, seemingly inconsequential decisions that end up having enormous repercussions for more than one individual in the future.

One of the stars of the story is a small hamster named Alan Shearer. NOTE: Not the ACTUAL Alan Shearer, obviously!

As a fantastical adventure story, Time Travelling With A Hamster does everything you would expect and hope for as a work of children’s literature. There is some interesting character development in both our lead, Albert and his father Pythagoras (or Pye for short) and there is the wonderful addition of Grandpa Byron and his phenomenal feats of memory to give the reader a warm, gooey feeling inside. It certainly made me remember my own grandfather, a remarkable man, with fondness and longing for the times we spent together and the close bond that we were incredibly lucky to have had. The story rattles along at a nice pace and it certainly made for a pleasurable reading experience, particularly with the inclusion of several surprising events that I wasn’t expecting and always appreciate to shock me out of that comfortable, safe and predictable narrative.

With the element of time travel, the diversity of the characters and the loveable hamster companion, I can see why many children would really enjoy this story and I would definitely be open to reading more from this author in the future.

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP ON 2ND JANUARY 2019: Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – The Titles Are Revealed!

 

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