Fantasy

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Mini Pin-It Reviews #18 – Four Random Books

Published February 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four random books for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales Of Madness, Love and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements – Sam Kean

What’s it all about?:

The Periodic Table is one of man’s crowning scientific achievements. But it’s also a treasure trove of stories of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The infectious tales and astounding details in THE DISAPPEARING SPOON follow carbon, neon, silicon, and gold as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, war, the arts, poison, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.
We learn that Marie Curie used to provoke jealousy in colleagues’ wives when she’d invite them into closets to see her glow-in-the-dark experiments. And that Lewis and Clark swallowed mercury capsules across the country and their campsites are still detectable by the poison in the ground. Why did Gandhi hate iodine? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium? And why did tellurium lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?

From the Big Bang to the end of time, it’s all in THE DISAPPEARING SPOON.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) I Am The Messenger – Markus Zusak

What’s it all about?:

protect the diamonds
survive the clubs
dig deep through the spades
feel the hearts

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That’s when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

3.) The Moth – Catherine Burns (editor)

What’s it all about?:

With an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

Before television and radio, before penny paperbacks and mass literacy, people would gather on porches, on the steps outside their homes, and tell stories. The storytellers knew their craft and bewitched listeners would sit and listen long into the night as moths flitted around overhead. The Moth is a non-profit group that is trying to recapture this lost art, helping storytellers – old hands and novices alike – hone their stories before playing to packed crowds at sold-out live events.

The very best of these stories are collected here: whether it’s Bill Clinton’s hell-raising press secretary or a leading geneticist with a family secret; a doctor whisked away by nuns to Mother Teresa’s bedside or a film director saving her father’s Chinatown store from money-grabbing developers; the Sultan of Brunei’s concubine or a friend of Hemingway’s who accidentally talks himself into a role as a substitute bullfighter, these eccentric, pitch-perfect stories – all, amazingly, true – range from the poignant to the downright hilarious.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) The Chimes – Anna Smaill

What’s it all about?:

The Chimes is set in a reimagined London, in a world where people cannot form new memories, and the written word has been forbidden and destroyed.

In the absence of both memory and writing is music.

In a world where the past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphemy, all appears lost. But Simon Wythern, a young man who arrives in London seeking the truth about what really happened to his parents, discovers he has a gift that could change all of this forever.

A stunning literary debut by poet and violinist Anna Smaill, The Chimes is a startlingly original work that combines beautiful, inventive prose with incredible imagination.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI PIN IT REVIEWS: Four Author Requests.

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The Ocean At The End Of The Lane – Neil Gaiman

Published February 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

What did I think?:

I really do not know where to start with this book. Disclaimer: I’ve not read too much Neil Gaiman before, in fact I’ve barely begun on my Gaiman journey but I’m starting to believe after reading The Ocean At The End Of The Lane that he is a true master of his craft. It’s a bit odd, a bit quirky, occasionally quite dream-like and vague but if you can deal with all of that and in fact, you enjoy that in your novels, you are in for a wonderful time if you haven’t read this book yet. I found it quite a surreal reading experience in general, but infinitely worth it and now I definitely see what all the fuss is about with Neil Gaiman. I’m just delighted I have so much of his back catalogue to dip into at my leisure, I don’t think I’ve even gone past the tip of the iceberg of what this man can do with his words.

This story opens with a middle-aged man who is going back to his home town to attend a funeral. He deliberately makes a diversion to his childhood home and more specifically, to a very special place in his childhood. This is to his best friend Lettie Hempstock’s childhood home which she shared with her mother and grandmother. He remembers as he sits in her back garden that she told him she had an ocean back there, then all the memories of that occasionally terrifying part of his childhood comes racing back to him. We learn about his struggles at school being bookish and unpopular, his family’s financial difficulties that forced them to take in lodgers and how he met Lettie. The events that follow are precipitated by a suicide in a car near to his home, then followed by venomous strangers, cruelty, monsters that turn out to be real and a dangerous mission to rid the world and protect themselves from a very unwelcome creature.

I’ve only started dipping my toe into the realm of fantasy quite recently and I’m thoroughly enjoying what I’ve discovered so far, particularly Neil Gaiman who creates these magical worlds with fantastical elements that take you right back to your own childhood. I really remembered what it was like to be a child, how I used to make-believe, how little things like a shadow by a door (which actually turned out to be a dressing gown!) could be so terrifying and the beauty and terrors of an over-active imagination. I loved the strong friendship that the author created between Lettie and our male lead, who remains nameless throughout the novel and I just adored the vivacious, strange Lettie who seems like she has been eleven years old forever, and is the boy’s soulmate at a very terrifying, difficult time in his life. I think although this is probably a more adult read, I really believe older teenagers would enjoy this book too, particularly the child narration which is just perfect. For me, it was a nostalgic, adventure-filled and occasionally eerie story that I devoured in no time at all and had a great time whilst doing it!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – Dibblespin by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories.

Published February 3, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s Dibblespin all about?:

Dibblespin follows the relationship of two very different sisters with themes of jealousy, revenge and betrayal.

What did I think?:

Sourdough And Other Stories couldn’t be a more “me” short story collection even if it tried. Rooted in fairy tales with quite a modern twist, I’ve enjoyed every single story I’ve read so far and that’s hugely surprising as generally in a collection, there’s a couple of stories that perhaps don’t speak to you as much as others. Dibblespin is another corker and like the previous tales, has a cracker of an ending that will make you want to go right back to the beginning and start all over again. When I’m reading Sourdough And Other Stories, I feel like I’ve slipped into a deliciously different world, filled with fairy-tale creatures, magical moments and as always, with the best fairy-tales, a snicker of darkness.

This story follows Dibblespin and her half-sister Ingrid who have a close relationship despite coming from quite a fractured family situation and being very different physically speaking. Ingrid is your archetypal beautiful little girl, beloved and used to getting everything she wants purely because of the way she looks. Dibblespin is, well…she is a magical creature who is not blessed with conventional beauty but boasts a sunny personality and a kind-hearted nature, dotes on her sister and enjoys spending time with her. Ingrid is no stranger to heartache and has lost all the parental figures in her life, although they sort of stick around in animal form near the house to keep an eye on her. This is particularly true of her mother, Olwen who spends most of her time in wolf form and has reared a human/wolf pack all of her own in the wild. Olwen is furious about the relationship between her daughter and Dibblespin, mainly because Dibblespin is the daughter forged from her husband’s betrayal and is determined that Ingrid should make a choice about where her loyalties really lie.

Dibblespin was a wonderful little story and like the others in this collection, the author has written the fantastical element just wonderfully. I adored the independent, yet soft nature of Dibblespin and felt she really came into her own as the narrative continued, particularly at the spectacular ending. Of course, the “evil stepmother,” addition is always welcome in any fairy tale and Olwen was a wickedly brilliant character to whisper theatrical boo’s at from the comfort of your sofa! I’m also now starting to see connections between the other stories in Sourdough and when I researched a bit deeper on the web, I learned that Ingrid and Dibblespin’s father has created quite a few children in this collection (what a philanderer!) and Olwen is actually the baby Patience Sykes rescues in the story Gallowberries. I don’t think I’ve ever read a collection like this, where there are links to other stories in each individual story and I find it thoroughly fascinating. I’m really excited to get to the next story in the collection and see if I can spot any more subtle connections!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: Remmy Rothstein Toes The Line by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone).

18 Books I’d Like To Read In 2018

Published February 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and welcome to a bit of a different post on my blog. I’ve already made some Bookish Goals/Resolutions for the year but I also made a little promise to myself that I would do a random post every month that I have been inspired to participate in from seeing it either on booktube or from a fellow blogger. A lot of the booktubers that I follow have been posting videos about 18 books they would like to read in 2018 and I thought I’d join in with the fun. So, without any further ado, here are the 18 books I’d like to get to this year!

1.) Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Jane Eyre is tied for one of my all time favourite classics (with Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen). My mum got me a beautiful clothbound classic for my birthday a couple of years ago and I’m definitely due a re-read so I’m excited to read it in this beautiful edition.

2.) The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I’ve read a few John Boyne books now and loved every one of them. I’m really trying hard not to buy hardbacks at the moment but when I read Renee’s @ It’s Book Talk review of it HERE, I bought it immediately. I’m actually reading this very soon as it’s part of the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club 2018 and I’m beyond excited.

3.) The Wisdom Of Psychopaths – Kevin Dutton

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is a non-fiction book that I think does pretty much what it says on the tin. The reason I want to read it this year is that it’s been on my “to read soon,” shelf for too blinking long now. This needs to happen.

4.) Stasi Wolf – David Young

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I went to see David Young talk about this first novel in this series, Stasi Child at Guildford Library last year and was determined to read the second book in the series. Of course, life and other books got in the way but I’m going to make it one of my priorities this year.

5.) Midwinter – Fiona Melrose

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Midwinter was long-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction last year and I always love to read some of the nominees for this fantastic prize, I find such interesting books are picked. This book got a lot higher on my list after I watched a video from one of my favourite book tubers Simon from Savidge Reads who loved this book and sold it to me incredibly well!

6.) The Rest Of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Patrick Ness is one of my favourite authors and I am shamefully behind with his books. That’s a good enough reason for me! I hope to get to his most recent book, Release as well but we’ll see how I get on.

7.) Everything But The Truth – Gillian McAllister

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is another one of those books that I heard rave reviews about last year and just didn’t get round to reading. I will this year!

8.) End Of Watch – Stephen King

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is a no brainer for regular visitors to my blog. End Of Watch is the third novel in the Bill Hodges/Mr Mercedes trilogy and I’m really excited to see how the story ends. It left on quite the cliffhanger in the second book, Finders Keepers.

9.) Sleeping Beauties – Stephen King and Owen King

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Oh look another Stephen King book! This is Stephen King’s latest release that he wrote with his son, Owen and this cover does not do justice to how beautiful the book is in real life. My boyfriend bought me a copy to cheer me up after a rough year as I was trying to wait for it to come out in paperback. It’s a chunky beast but I’m so glad and grateful he got it for me, now I can read it even sooner!

10.) Charlotte Bronte – Claire Harman

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is a non-fiction account of the life of Charlotte Bronte (as I mentioned before, Jane Eyre is one of my all time favourite classics/books). I have been neglecting my non fiction recently and this is another present from my wonderful boyfriend albeit a couple of years ago – oops. This is why I need to get to it this year!

11.) English Animals – Laura Kaye

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I had been aware of English Animals last year and the cover is obviously stunning but it was only after watching book tubers Mercedes from Mercy’s Bookish Musings and Lauren from Lauren And The Books give glowing reviews for this novel that I knew I had to make time for it this year.

12.) Her Husband’s Lover – Julia Crouch

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I met Julia Crouch at a bookish event a little while ago and she kindly signed my copy of this book and was lovely to talk to. I gave this book originally to my sister to read as she’s a big Julia Crouch fan but now I’m determined to read it for myself, especially after seeing Chrissi’s wonderful review.

13.) The House In Smyrna – Tatiana Salem Levy

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Confession time. This is a review copy that the lovely people at Scribe were kind enough to send me that I thought I had lost and have found recently. I remember why I was so excited to read it when it arrived and I’m definitely going to be checking it out soon.

14.) Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer

Why do I want to read it this year?:

This is another non-fiction book that I’ve had on my shelf for a long, long time and I keep meaning to read it but keep getting distracted by other books. It promises to change the way you look at eating meat so I’m intrigued. My boyfriend and sister are vegetarians but I still love the taste of meat…even if I feel very guilty about doing so!

15.) The Man Who Died – Antti Tuomainen

Why do I want to read it this year?:

My lovely blogger friend Stuart from Always Trust In Books sent me some wonderful books and I loved the sound of all of them but I’m especially intrigued by this one, just read his review to see why.

16.) We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

Why do I want to read it this year?:

Yes, it’s been on my shelves for ages. Sigh! It won a host of awards and was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2014. Plus, I think my sister is quite keen to read it so I need to get started so I can pass it on to her!

17.) The Death House – Sarah Pinborough

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I can’t even remember buying this book (hangs head in shame) but re-reading the synopsis right now and hearing great things about this author from other bloggers I know that I need to start reading some Sarah Pinborough. As I already have this book this seems the perfect place to start.

18.) Miss Jane – Brad Watson

Why do I want to read it this year?:

I bought this book on the London Bookshop Crawl in Oxford last year which I went to with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. Of course I’m a sucker for a beautiful cover so it was that I have to admit that initially attracted me. However, the synopsis cemented the deal and I couldn’t resist buying it.

So that’s the 18 books I’d like to read in 2018! I’d love to hear from you guys, have you read any of these books? If you have, what did you think? What books would you recommend I get to sooner rather than later this year? If any other bloggers fancy doing (or have done) their 18 books to read in 2018 please leave your link down below, I’d love to check out what you really want to read this year.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – JANUARY READ – The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

Published January 31, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Lucy and Edmund, with their dreadful cousin Eustace, get magically pulled into a painting of a ship at sea. That ship is the Dawn Treader, and on board is Caspian, King of Narnia. He and his companions, including Reepicheep, the valiant warrior mouse, are searching for seven lost lords of Narnia, and their voyage will take them to the edge of the world. Their adventures include being captured by slave traders, a much-too-close encounter with a dragon, and visits to many enchanted islands, including the place where dreams come true.

What did I think?:

I really can’t believe this is my fifth year of the Kid Lit challenge I participate in with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. This is one of our favourite challenges to do and we always love picking the books we’re going to be reading for the year. Every year, we’re slowly making our way through entire series and The Narnia Chronicles is one of those so it was fitting that we chose the fifth book, The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader as our first book for 2018. As an adult reading it, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. I remember it being one of my favourites as a child but I couldn’t remember any major details about it, apart from it being set on a ship so I was looking forward to re-discovering it and finding out whether it was still one of my preferred books in the series.

By and large, I really enjoyed this fifth novel, it was lovely to see two of the characters from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Lucy and Edmund (which were also my two favourites) back again in Narnia and off on another adventure, meeting up with old and new friends and learning a few lessons on the way which C.S. Lewis fondly slots in on a regular basis! They enter Narnia this time through the painting of a ship and manage to bring along a rather unwelcome visitor, their cousin Eustace who does nothing but complain, shirk any hard work, make horrible remarks and generally acts rather unpleasantly until he is taught quite a valuable lesson of his own. The children are on board The Dawn Treader, a Narnian ship in the company of their friend and current ruler of Narnia, Prince Caspian and the wonderful brave mouse, Reepicheep. Their quest is to find out what happened to the old Lords of Narnia, explore forgotten lands and generally have many exciting adventures.

I was really surprised when I read this novel that I actually didn’t remember anything about the plot at all! I remember Eustace as a character, let’s face it, he’s kind of difficult to forget but the rest of the adventures that the children have and the strange lands they discovered I didn’t recall in the slightest. That’s not a bad thing at all, in fact it felt like a fresh, new story to devour and I did enjoy many moments of it. As I mentioned, it was wonderful to be back with Lucy and Edmund again and even Eustace improves on further acquaintance, especially when he goes through a traumatic body-shifting experience of his own. One of the things I adored most about this story though was the illustrations in my copy on my Kindle, which I’ve been lucky to have with all the Narnia books so far. They’re so gorgeous, make me smile even if I’m at a slower point of the narrative and just all around make my heart incredibly happy.

This is also the first book where if I hand’t known whom C.S. Lewis meant Aslan to represent, I think I would have probably guessed – it felt a lot more obvious. This kind of thing really doesn’t bother me though, I’m not especially religious but I don’t have any problems with it either, if it’s a great story with some fascinating creatures and exciting adventures, that’s good enough for me!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT UP IN FEBRUARY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2018: Matilda by Roald Dahl.

February 2018 – Real Book Month

Published January 31, 2018 by bibliobeth

It’s time for one of my favourite months – real book month! This is where I try to bring down that pesky TBR as much as I can. I try to focus on books I’m really excited about and roll my eyes that I haven’t managed to get to them before now. I normally have a list of about ten I want to read, however, because I also participate in Banned Books and Kid-Lit with my sister as well as reading the Richard and Judy book club titles, I’ve felt under too much pressure lately so am just easing that slightly. This month I want to focus on some more of the titles my sister Chrissi Reads and I bought on our trip to the wonderful Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath. This is what I’ll be reading:

1.) The Gracekeepers – Kirsty Logan

What’s it all about?:

A lyrical and moving debut in the tradition of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood, introducing an original and commanding new voice in fiction

As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives–offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age.

2.) If I Fall If I Die – Michael Christie

What’s it all about?:

A heartfelt and wondrous debut about family, fear, and skateboarding, that Karen Russell calls “A bruiser of a tale . . . a death-defying coming-of-age story.” 

Will has never been outside, at least not since he can remember. And he has certainly never gotten to know anyone other than his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who panics at the thought of opening the front door. Their world is rich and fun- loving—full of art, science experiments, and music—and all confined to their small house.

But Will’s thirst for adventure can’t be contained. Clad in a protective helmet and unsure of how to talk to other kids, he finally ventures outside.  At his new school he meets Jonah, an artsy loner who introduces Will to the high-flying freedoms of skateboarding.  Together, they search for a missing local boy, help a bedraggled vagabond, and evade a dangerous bootlegger.  The adventure is more than Will ever expected, pulling him far from the confines of his closed-off world and into the throes of early adulthood, and all the risks that everyday life offers.

In buoyant, kinetic prose, Michael Christie has written an emotionally resonant and keenly observed novel about mothers and sons, fears and uncertainties, and the lengths we’ll go for those we love.

3.) The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge

What’s it all about?:

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy – a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.

In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father’s possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder – or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.

4.) Hideous Creatures – S.E. Lister

What’s it all about?:

An extraordinary, magical odyssey into the dark heart of the New World . . .

Arthur Hallingham is the youngest son of an English earl. He’s on the run from his former life – from a family where painful, half-understood secrets lurk.

Arthur travels on a slave ship to the coast of America. Amidst the teeming squalor and vaulting ambitions of the New World, he encounters Flora, the tough daughter of an outlaw, and Shelo, a native medicine man with mysterious powers who seems to have a plan for him.

The three set off on a journey through the thick forests and along the wide rivers of the lush southern wilderness. As they near their destination, Shelo’s terrible and destructive purpose is gradually revealed.

Hideous Creatures is a rich, beautiful and compelling novel that will appeal to fans of Audrey Niffenegger, Erin Morgenstern and Neil Gaiman, by a young debut author destined for literary stardom.

5.) Into The Trees – Robert Williams

What’s it all about?:

Harriet Norton won’t stop crying. Her parents, Ann and Thomas, are being driven close to insanity and only one thing will help. Mysteriously, their infant daughter will only calm when she’s under the ancient trees of Bleasdale forest.
The Nortons sell their town-house and set up home in an isolated barn. Secluded deep in the forest, they are finally approaching peace – until one night a group of men comes through the trees, ready to upend their lives and threaten everything they’ve built.

Into the Trees is the story of four dispossessed people, drawn to the forest in search of something they lack and finding their lives intertwining in ways they could never have imagined. In hugely evocative and lyrical writing, Robert Williams lays bare their emotional lives, set against the intense and mysterious backdrop of the forest. Compelling and haunting, Into the Trees is a magisterial novel.

 

As with everything that Mr B’s recommended us, the booksellers there did such a stellar job and I’m looking forward to every single one of these books. I’m particularly intrigued by Hideous Creatures by S.E. Lister as I read The Immortals by her recently (another Mr B’s purchase!) and absolutely loved it. I’ve also spent far too long waiting to read The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, especially as it has had much critical acclaim, winning the Costa Book Award in 2015. The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan also looks like such a “me” book – fairy tale-esque, literary and lovely. Can’t wait to get started!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think and what should I read first?

Talking About How To Stop Time by Matt Haig with Chrissi Reads

Published January 25, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong.

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret.

He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life. Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him.

The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.

How to Stop Time is a wild and bittersweet story about losing and finding yourself, about the certainty of change and about the lifetimes it can take to really learn how to live.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: We have now read a few of Matt Haig’s books. What did you make of this one compared to this others?
BETH: We certainly have. Previously I’ve read The Radleys, The Humans, Echo Boy and his amazing non fiction Reasons To Stay Alive. I think apart from the latter book I mentioned, which really effected me emotionally, How To Stop Time has to be my favourite thing he has ever written. It’s beautifully poignant, I love the characters, especially our main protagonist Tom Hazard and in almost every paragraph, there was a sentence I wanted to fix in my mind forever.
BETH: I fell in love almost immediately with the character of Tom. How well do you think he was drawn by the author?
CHRISSI: I absolutely loved the character of Tom. I think Matt Haig has done an exceptional job of writing his story and creating such an ever so lovable character. I immediately loved Tom and wanted the best for him. I thought he was such a thoughtful, insightful character who was desperate to find that love he once had, even though he’s governed by the rules by those that look out for him. Truly, Matt Haig has created a stunning character.
CHRISSI: Is Tom Hazard’s condition a blessing or a curse? Is a long life always a good life?
BETH: Great question! I think a lot of people would definitely see Tom’s condition as a blessing. He’s got to see some amazing periods of history and meet some fascinating people, William Shakespeare and Captain Cook to name a few. However, as soon as he joins the secret society for others like him, his life becomes even more restricted in a way. He can only spend eight years in a particular place, he has to carry out an assignment for the society after this time and he can never, ever get too close to people or fall in love. I don’t think long life is always a good life, especially if you’re suffering because of it.
BETH: How did Tom’s relationship with Rose suffer because of his condition?
CHRISSI: Tom’s relationship with Rose was my favourite relationship in this story. I think it suffered because Tom knew inevitably that Rose would pass on and he would have to live life without her. *sob* Tom was caught up on the romance with Rose as he wasn’t supposed to fall in love as per the rules of the Albatross Society. Rose was special to him because of their daughter.
CHRISSI: Matt Haig has said that this book was partly inspired by his own experiences of mental illness. In what way has this shaped the novel? What are the consequences for Tom of having a condition that is invisible to the outside world?
BETH: That’s very interesting and I’m such a strong advocate of speaking out about mental illness. Matt opened up and put so much personal stuff in his non-fiction book Reasons To Stay Alive that it must have been quite a difficult writing process and it was nice to see hints of mental turmoil in How To Stop Time. One of the trickiest things for our character Tom is that he is forbidden to get close enough to people to share what he is going through for fear of what people might do to him and indeed, who would ever believe him? At the same time, he has a horrendous time trying to cope, feeling completely out on his own without anyone to talk to and having to move on regularly to prevent people making comments on his lack of ageing.
BETH: The novel is set amidst multiple time periods, did you have a preference for Tom’s story in the past or the present?
CHRISSI: I don’t know what it was about it, but I preferred reading about Tom’s story in the present. I wanted to see what life was like for Tom now. I also loved him being a teacher, being a teacher myself, I always like to read about teachers. His wealth of knowledge as a history teacher must’ve been incredible! I’m envious! 😉
CHRISSI: What made this book stand out for you?
BETH: It was a lot of things I think. It was the gorgeous writing, the beautiful character development and how Matt Haig made me feel so much for Tom and for his situation. Then there’s the way it was set out as different chapters jumped around hundreds of years in Tom’s life where we get a real sense of how much he has seen and how much he has suffered.
BETH: How would you describe this book to a friend? Would you say this was a historical novel, science fiction, literary fiction or something else?
CHRISSI: Oh my goodness, that’s such a hard question because it really is a mixture of all of those things. It’s historical because of the elements of history within its pages. It’s also science fiction, again, because of some of the content. It certainly reads like literary fiction as well (and literary fiction) is not my thing. The something else? Just Matt Haig. Can he be a genre? No? Well, what I mean is that it’s just so lyrically written and so utterly quotable. It’s moving, unique and makes you think deeply about your own life. Written by a true master of his craft!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Without a doubt!
BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):
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CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):
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How To Stop Time is the sixth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!