Humour

All posts in the Humour category

Blog Tour – The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw

Published June 16, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini appears to be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s the daughter of a beautiful and loving mother, and her father is one of the most famous film actors of his generation. She’s also the granddaughter of a rather eccentric and obscure Italian astrophysicist.

But as her seemingly charmed life begins to unravel, and Emma experiences love and tragedy, she ultimately finds solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe.

The Space Between Time is humorous and poignant and offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

What did I think?:

Firstly, thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and Accent Press for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of The Space Between Time in exchange for an honest review. I very much enjoyed reading Charlie’s previous novel, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead and jumped at the chance to read something else by him. I have a personal interest in the settings of Charlie’s books, being a Scottish lass myself and so each foray into his writing becomes almost like a nostalgic experience, taking me back to my own adolescence and childhood. The author also has a real talent and intuition for writing believable female characters and for myself as a reader, I have great admiration for any author who makes their female leads authentic and refreshingly non-stereotypical.

Charlie Laidlaw, author of The Space Between Time. 

In similarity to his previous novel, the author chooses to focus on a female protagonist, Emma Rossini. From the very beginning, we delve into her interesting upbringing with a famous Hollywood actor for her father and a (celebrated in certain circles) Italian astrophysicist for a grandfather – with his own infamous theorem and book in addition to his highly intelligent and enquiring mind. We follow Emma from a young girl as she sees her father for the first time in film at the local cinema, to her relationship with both her parents, the effect on her life when tragedy strikes and how the fractured moments of her past affect the decisions she makes in her present and potentially, her future.

Aside from our female lead Emma, I think one of my favourite things about The Space Between Time was the perceptive way in which Charlie Laidlaw explored the intricacies of relationships. It evidenced the cold, hard fact that no family or friendship is perfect and we all have our little quirks and foibles that we must muddle through to become a well-rounded person in our adult life. I enjoyed that it didn’t shy away from the darker side of life – it’s challenging, it’s unpredictable and it’s vital that we all have some kind of support network around us, whether that’s family or friends so that we can make it out the other side.

Image from: https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/780101/Dark-matter-mystery-deepens-DROUGHT-universe

The author presents the murkier depths of Emma’s coming of age beautifully, with sensitivity and a light-hearted touch of humour that never feels forced or unnecessary. I thought it portrayed some difficult subjects in a sensible, thoughtful way that certainly had me thinking about the characters and their situations long after I had finished the final page. Furthermore (and very strangely), for someone who had to give up Physics at Standard Grade level (GCSE in England), I really connected with the more mathematical parts of the novel where black holes and the secrets of the universe are discussed. Anyone who knows me well might have their eyes popping out of their head right now as Maths and I do NOT get on. Somehow in this book, it worked for me and I found the ideas presented incredibly interesting and insightful.

The Space Between Time is a fascinating contemporary novel for anyone interested in family dynamics, the universe and female protagonists you can’t help but root for.

Would I recommend it?: 

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Charlie Laidlaw was born in Paisley and is a graduate of the
University of Edinburgh. He has been a national newspaper journalist
and worked in defence intelligence. He now runs his own marketing
consultancy in East Lothian. He is married with two grown-up
children.

Find Charlie on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16124556.Charlie_Laidlaw

on his website at: https://www.charlielaidlawauthor.com/

on Twitter at: @claidlawauthor

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater and Accent Press for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Space Between Time is due to be published on 20th June 2019 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to The Space Between Time on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45448136-the-space-between-time

Link to The Space Between Time on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Space-Between-Time-Charlie-Laidlaw/dp/1786156946/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+space+between+time&qid=1560702038&s=gateway&sr=8-1

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Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 – APRIL READ – Demon Dentist by David Walliams

Published May 6, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Darkness had come to the town. Strange things were happening in the dead of night. Children would put a tooth under their pillow for the tooth fairy, but in the morning they would wake up to find… a dead slug; a live spider; hundreds of earwigs creeping and crawling beneath their pillow.

Evil was at work. But who or what was behind it…?

What did I think?:

First of all, apologies (especially to my sister!) for getting this post out so late. Chrissi and I usually try to get our kid-lit posts out at the end of the month but this past week, I’ve been feeling a little under the weather and have only got round to doing it now. It’s always a pleasure to pick up a David Walliams book and even though I only discovered him a few years ago and was slightly sceptical, I can really see why he’s so beloved, particularly amongst children. You always know what you’re getting when you pick up one of his books. He has such a wonderful sense of humour, brilliant characterisation and an edge of reality that make his books such a joy to read.

David Walliams, author of Demon Dentist.

I say you always know what to expect when picking up a Walliams books but to be perfectly honest, Demon Dentist completely surprised me. I found it much darker than the author’s previous books with a villainous character that was nothing short of terrifying. However, I loved that he wasn’t afraid to explore some more difficult aspects of life. For example, our young protagonist Alfie’s father is chronically ill in a wheelchair and as a result, some parts of the narrative make for a very emotional and hard-hitting reading experience. Despite his father’s health issues, Alfie still has a wonderful relationship with him and it was heart-warming to read about their interactions. I can only applaud the author for choosing to write about a father-son relationship that is not conventional or expected so as to illustrate that not all families have the luxury of having parents who are healthy and well.

Alfie’s dad, beautifully illustrated by Tony Ross.

Image from: https://www.worldofdavidwalliams.com/book/demon-dentist/

In Demon Dentist, Alfie hasn’t been to the dentist for a long, long time after a bad experience when he was younger and his teeth are now rotten. Then when a new dentist, Ms Root comes to town and starts taking a rather obsessive interest in all the children’s teeth, Alfie begins to realise that something is seriously wrong and vows to get to the bottom of it. The villain of the piece who is of course, Ms Root as you may have guessed, is a fantastic villain in every sense of the word. She looks a bit strange, she definitely acts a bit strange and, as with all good baddies, she has an evil plot afoot that involves all the children of the town and their teeth.

As I mentioned earlier, things get quite frightening in Demon Dentist but it’s all done with Walliams’ trademark wit and style accompanied by the most glorious illustrations by Tony Ross. The action never lets up for a second and I whizzed through this book in less than a day very easily as I found it very difficult to put down. Just when I thought there may have been a resolution, there was another crescendo of tension and terror that our poor hero Alfie was subjected to! Eventually it does end – not particularly in a satisfying way I have to say, there is quite a bit of heart-break but it is also accompanied by hope for the future which as it turns out, is a far more realistic ending to a fantastical story.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP IN MAY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The Enchanted Wood (The Faraway Tree #1) – Enid Blyton.

Blog Tour/Social Media Blast – The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Published April 18, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…
 

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

What did I think?:

This book comes with a little bit of a story behind it and if you’ve followed my blog for a little while now, you might be aware that I’m fond of a bit of a ramble, especially when it involves a book that surprises me beyond all expectations or that I feel passionately about. I first came across The Flatshare in a bloggers event late last year for Quercus where they were celebrating some of the fiction they were most excited to publish in 2019. Now, I am painfully honest about the fact that I tend to judge books pretty quickly – sometimes on the synopsis, sometimes on the cover and whilst I’m not completely adverse to a little bit of romance, it has to be done just right otherwise I can end up feeling rather nauseated. I saw The Flatshare and initially I have to admit, I thought this book wasn’t for me at all. As part of the sought after “uplit” genre, it looked slightly fluffy and I wasn’t certain about it at all.

Beth O’Leary, author of the debut novel, The Flatshare.

This is where publicists and marketing peeps are all kinds of wonderful. I had a lovely chat with Bethan Ferguson, Marketing Director at Quercus Books and she spoke about this book so passionately that I was completely sold. Thank you to her, Ella Patel for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Quercus Books for the complimentary copy which was provided to me in exchange for an honest review. And honestly? I was blown away. The Flatshare is one of the most extraordinary and incredibly memorable books I’ve read this year and I connected with it in ways that I would never have expected prior to picking it up. I’m heartily ashamed of myself that I even considered letting it pass me by and eternally grateful for the opportunity to discover such a touching, amusing and feel-good novel that I’d be delighted to re-read again and again in the future.

What made The Flatshare so special? A few different things actually. Instantly, I was utterly charmed by both the characters and the author’s wry sense of humour but as the story continued, I appreciated the smaller details of the narrative, including the darker side of relationships and the importance of a strong support network. Tiffy and Leon became instant favourite characters of mine and I adored how we got to see challenging aspects of each of their lives and how their personal struggles are affected when they choose to open up and become vulnerable. There is a romantic element – sure, but it’s written in such a way that it becomes impossible to resist, melting this heart of mine that before now, I was convinced was starting to resemble a large, rather cold piece of stone!

Tiffy answers an advert for a room/bed in London to be shared with Leon yet the two seem destined never to meet as they work opposing shifts i.e. days versus nights.

Personally, there were points of this novel that I found quite challenging, mainly due to my own individual experiences with a specific man in my past. However (if this doesn’t sound too odd), this is one of the additional reasons why I want to rave about it so much. Readers need to find something in a novel to connect with to pronounce it a worthwhile, unforgettable experience. Obviously, that might be different for each reader, some might connect with the characters, the humour, or events that have happened in the characters lives that they themselves have gone through and relate to on an emotional level. For me, it was all these things combined that made The Flatshare such an engrossing and mesmerising affair. I experienced such an automatic click with the writing style and the delightful Tiffy and Leon that I tore through this novel in a very short space of time, gobbling up each word and momentous event with a ridiculous kind of fervour that I normally reserve only for my very favourite authors.

As I was reading this, I couldn’t help but compare it in my head to Bridget Jones’ Diary for a new generation. Although the plot and topics covered are not totally comparable, I could see the same humour, endearing characters and pivotal events that made Bridget Jones such a classic, well-loved piece of literature. The Flatshare is one of those wonderful books that sticks in your head. It makes you smile and leaves such a satisfying lump in your throat that was truly surprising, ESPECIALLY for a cynical, suspicious soul like myself! Please, don’t do a “me,” and think you know what this book is going to be about. You’d be wrong and I’d love you to give it a shot.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Beth studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being within reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work.
You’ll usually find her curled up with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).

Find her on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13038484.Beth_O_Leary

on Instagram at: @betholearyauthor

on Twitter at: @olearybeth

Thank you so much once again to Ella Patel and Quercus Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Flatshare is published on 18th April 2019 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour/social media blast for some amazing reviews!

Link to The Flatshare on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36478784-the-flatshare?ac=1&from_search=true

Link to The Flatshare on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flatshare-Beth-OLeary/dp/1787474402/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=325SMIVPR2L7K&keywords=the+flatshare+beth+oleary&qid=1555615002&s=gateway&sprefix=the+flatshare%2Caps%2C338&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

 

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

Published March 6, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

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

And now for something a bit different…

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

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

What did WE think?:

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

Beth: Great plan! See you soon 👍🏻

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

Stuart: He had me at palaeoanthropological!

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

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

Beth: Ooh a map and a family tree!

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

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

Beth: That’s perfect! 👌🏻

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stuart: In a good way 😃

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beth: Oh yes. 😁

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Nonfiction November Week 4: Reads Like Fiction

Published November 24, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the fourth week of Nonfiction November! If you’d like to find out what it’s all about, please see my post two weeks ago where I revealed my Nonfiction November TBR. my post for Week 1 where I talked briefly about my year in nonfiction so far and Week 2 where I paired up three nonfiction books alongside similar fiction tomes. Week 3 invited us to Be The Expert/Ask The Expert/Become The Expert.

This week as the title suggests, it’s all about non-fiction that “reads like fiction,” and is hosted by the lovely Rennie from What’s Nonfiction. You can check out her post HERE.

Nonfiction books often get praised for how they stack up to fiction. Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques? What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences?

I’ve found this topic so interesting this week and have been racking my brains regarding my personal thoughts on it. I have to admit, it took me a little while to find my niche in nonfiction, I used to read solely fiction and found the nonfiction I was picking up a little dry and uninspiring. It’s only over the past six or seven years or so (and mainly due to the interaction with all you lovely bookish folk) that I’ve found nonfiction that really works for me.

As I mentioned in my previous posts this month, this tends to fall in the categories of popular science (particularly neuroscience but I’ll read anything really!), psychology, feminism, books about books and anything animal/nature related. I’ve only recently started getting into memoirs after reading two stonkingly good ones this year – I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death by Maggie O’Farrell and Educated by Tara Westover and am dipping my toes into the true crime genre after enjoying I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara.

Nonfiction doesn’t have to read like a novel for me to get something personal or moving from it – the memoirs I’ve mentioned above are a perfect example but I have to say, the O’Farrell and the Westover did have a bit of a “fiction flair,” and gave me the same sort of feeling as if I was reading a novel i.e. all the emotions and all of the pace and grittiness that you get from a captivating story. Then there’s the books that fall in the middle. They don’t necessarily read like fiction but at the same time you’re completely gripped throughout and find it difficult to put the book down.

Animal:The Autobiography Of A Female Body by Sara Pascoe for me is one of those in-between books which I read and reviewed last year and if you’re interested you can read my review HERE. It was hilariously funny, eye-opening, feminist and frank and made me angry for all the right reasons. I find it difficult to give nonfiction five stars usually as there’s almost always a certain point of the book, no matter how brief where either the pace slows or the topic becomes a little dry. This wasn’t the case with Animal, it was an easy, no-brainer of a five stars and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

On the other hand, a lot of the popular science I read certainly doesn’t have a story-telling or gripping “must read another page right now” style and that’s okay too – sometimes when I read a nonfiction, I want to be informed, educated and learn something a bit different and usually, I prefer to read these books in smaller chunks to absorb all the information I’m being given.

One book that pops into my mind is Stiff: The Curious Lives Of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach, which I read in my pre-blogging days but was another automatic five stars from me. It is a fascinating and occasionally humorous look at death and what happens to our bodies postmortem and was a completely fascinating and illuminating read. It’s a book filled with mind-boggling facts that I read in small doses but was written in such an approachable way that I never felt overwhelmed with the scientific aspects of the topic. I must get round to reading some more Mary Roach soon!

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and have found something you might be interested in reading too. I’d love to know your thoughts on the books I’ve mentioned so please let me know in the comments below if you’ve read them or want to read them!

Coming up next week on Nonfiction November Week 5: New to My TBR (hosted by Katie @ Doing Dewey) – the last week of Nonfiction November!

 

Nonfiction November Week 1: My Year In Nonfiction

Published November 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to the first weekly post of Nonfiction November! If you’d like to find out what it’s all about, please see my post yesterday where I revealed my Nonfiction November TBR. The host for this week is Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness (please see her post and all the links HERE) and the topic for this week is my year in nonfiction. Here’s the discussion question for this week:

Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Here we go!

What was your favourite nonfiction read of the year?

I think a good nonfiction book should be one that stays with you and continues to have an impact long after you’ve finished it so my answer for this will be I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death, a memoir by Maggie O’Farrell. It was a wonderful, hugely memorable read and I still continue to think about parts of it today. I actually listened to the audio version (which I also highly recommend) but received a physical copy as a gift after I had finished. I was delighted by this as it has a firm place on my favourites shelves and I will definitely be re-reading it in the traditional way in the future.

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?

I don’t think so, this year I have tended to stick to the topics I know I love like popular science – particularly anything that involves the brain, psychology, nature writing (especially animal-based) and feminism. However, I am open to trying new things and I’ve been particularly intrigued by the true crime genre after I read I’ll Be Gone In The Dark: On Woman’s Obsessive Search For The Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara recently this year.

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

Apart from I Am, I Am I Am, I think I have (or would) recommend Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (review to follow shortly) or This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries of A Junior Doctor by Adam Kay which is hilariously funny and a very illuminating read on the NHS currently.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November this year?:

I currently have two overflowing shelves of nonfiction that I’ve been woefully behind in getting to. I thought Nonfiction November was the perfect opportunity to clear some of my backlog and read some of that amazing nonfiction that I’ve been looking forward to for months (and in some cases, years!). I can’t wait to get started!

Thank you so much to Kim for hosting this week, I’ve really enjoyed taking part and looking back over my year in nonfiction so far!

Coming up next week on Nonfiction November Week 2 (hosted by Sarah’s Book Shelves) – Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairing.

My Non-Fiction November TBR

Published November 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to a very exciting month ahead – Nonfiction November! I really wanted to take part in this last year but had so many commitments for review copies that I just couldn’t fit it in but this year I’m determined. I still have a few ARC’s to read in November so I won’t be reading solely non-fiction but I’m hoping the majority of my reading will fall into that genre.

First, a little bit about Nonfiction November – it’s hosted by Katie of Doing Dewey, Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness, Rennie of What’s Nonfiction, Julz of JulzReads, and Sarah of Sarah’s Bookshelves. Each week of the month there will be a discussion question and link up related to non-fiction on one of the host’s blogs above and I can’t wait to join in! There is also an Instagram challenge going on starting today with various prompts for each day of the month and I’m going to attempt to join in with as many as I can (bibliobeth on Instagram if you fancy giving me a follow). I can’t promise the world’s most beautiful pictures but I can promise some interesting non-fiction recommendations for sure! The Instagram challenge is co-hosted by Kim (@kimthedork) and Leann (@Shelf_Aware_). and if you’d like to join in, they’d love to see your pictures using the hashtag #NonficNov.

But back to today’s post. I thought that today I’d talk about my Nonfiction November TBR or what I HOPE to be getting to this month. I’ve chosen eight books, which is quite optimistic considering the other fiction books I’ve promised to read so perhaps I won’t get to all of these but I’m going to give it a good go. Any that I don’t read will be read soon enough as I often read a non-fiction book alongside my current fiction read and an old favourite.

Here we go!

1.) The Diary Of A Bookseller – Shaun Bythell

What’s it all about?:

Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover’s paradise? Well, almost … In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.

Why do I want to read it?:

I’ve heard SO much about this book and now I just can’t help myself, I have to submit. It sounds cosy, amusing, interesting and is a book about books. What could be better for a bibliophile like myself?

2.) The Education Of A Coroner: Lessons In Investigating Death – John Bateson

What’s it all about?:

An “entertaining” (Booklist) account of the mysterious, hair-raising, and heartbreaking cases handled by the coroner of Marin County, California throughout his four decades on the job—from high-profile deaths and serial killers to inmate murders and Golden Gate Bridge suicides.

Marin County, California is a study in contradictions. Its natural beauty attracts celebrity residents and thousands of visitors every year, yet the county also is home to San Quentin Prison, one of the oldest and largest penitentiaries in the United States. Marin ranks in the top one percent of counties nationwide in terms of affluence and overall health, yet it is far above the norm in drug overdoses and alcoholism, not to mention the large percentage of suicides that occur on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ken Holmes worked in the Marin County Coroner’s Office for thirty-six years, starting as a death investigator and ending as the three-term, elected coroner. As he grew into the job—one that is far different from the forensics we see on television—Holmes learned a variety of skills, from finding hidden clues at death scenes, interviewing witnesses effectively, managing bystanders and reporters, and preparing testimony for court to how to notify families of a death with sensitivity and compassion. He also learned about different kinds of firearms, all types of drugs—prescription and illegal—and about certain unexpected and potentially fatal phenomena, such as autoeroticism.

Why do I want to read it?:

This book appeals to the morbid, scientific side of me. I was always intrigued by forensics and this book came up on my recommendations when I bought another book on this Nonfiction November list. Of course as soon as I read the synopsis I couldn’t resist buying it!

3.) The Secret Lives Of Colour – Kassia St. Clair

What’s it all about?:

The Secret Lives of Colour tells the unusual stories of seventy-five fascinating shades, dyes and hues. From blonde to ginger, the brown that changed the way battles were fought to the white that protected against the plague, Picasso’s blue period to the charcoal on the cave walls at Lascaux, acid yellow to kelly green, and from scarlet women to imperial purple, these surprising stories run like a bright thread throughout history.

In this book, Kassia St. Clair has turned her lifelong obsession with colours and where they come from (whether Van Gogh’s chrome yellow sunflowers or punk’s fluorescent pink) into a unique study of human civilization. Across fashion and politics, art and war, the secret lives of colour tell the vivid story of our culture.

Why do I want to read it?:

This book was taunting me from bookshops for months. I used to always see it as I walked past a particular bookshop in London Waterloo station where it held a very prominent position and I was instantly entranced by the cover. I eventually pre-ordered it in paperback and it’s just as gorgeous, with rainbow coloured pages to illustrate the particular colour being talked about. I’m intrigued – particularly with the historical information behind the colours.

4.) Dark Banquet: Blood And The Curious Lives Of Blood-Feeding Creatures – Bill Schutt

What’s it all about?:

For centuries, blood feeders have inhabited our nightmares and horror stories, as well as the shadowy realms of scientific knowledge. In Dark Banquet, zoologist Bill Schutt takes readers on an entertaining voyage into the world of some of nature’s strangest creatures—the sanguivores. Using a sharp eye and mordant wit, Schutt makes a remarkably persuasive case that vampire bats, leeches, ticks, bed bugs, and other vampires are as deserving of our curiosity as warmer and fuzzier species are—and that many of them are even ­worthy of conservation.
Schutt takes us from rural Trinidad to the jungles of Brazil to learn about some of the most reviled, misunderstood, and marvelously evolved animals on our planet: vampire bats. Only recently has fact begun to disentangle itself from fiction concerning these remarkable animals, and Schutt delves into the myths and misconceptions surrounding them.

Examining the substance that sustains nature’s vampires, Schutt reveals just how little we actually knew about blood until well into the twentieth century. We revisit George Washington on his deathbed to learn how ideas about blood and the supposedly therapeutic value of bloodletting, first devised by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, survived into relatively modern times. Schutt also tracks the history of medicinal leech use. Once employed by the tens of millions to drain perceived excesses of blood, today the market for these ancient creatures is booming once again—but for very different reasons.

Among the other blood feeders we meet in these pages are bed bugs, or “ninja insects,” which are making a creepy resurgence in posh hotels and well-kept homes near you. In addition, Dark Banquet details our dangerous and sometimes deadly encounters with ticks, chiggers, and mites (the ­latter implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder—currently devastating honey bees worldwide). Then there are the truly weird—vampire finches. And if you thought piranha were scary, some people believe that the candiru (or willy fish) is the best reason to avoid swimming in the Amazon.

Enlightening, alarming, and appealing to our delight in the bizarre, Dark Banquet peers into a part of the natural world to which we are, through our blood, inextricably linked.

Why do I want to read it?:

I read Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, Bill Schutt’s second non-fiction book as a buddy read with Stuart from Always Trust In Books and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. As a result, I was determined to read his first book which sounds just as fascinating and of course, Nonfiction November is the perfect time to get down to reading it!

5.) The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life In Death, Decay & Disaster – Sarah Krasnostein

What’s it all about?:

Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife…

But as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less.

A woman who sleeps among garbage she has not put out for forty years. A man who bled quietly to death in his loungeroom. A woman who lives with rats, random debris and terrified delusion. The still life of a home vacated by accidental overdose.

Sarah Krasnostein has watched the extraordinary Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to these, the living and the dead—and the book she has written is equally extraordinary. Not just the compelling story of a fascinating life among lives of desperation, but an affirmation that, as isolated as we may feel, we are all in this together.

I call my dad from the car and ask him about his morning, tell him about mine.
‘What kind of hoarder was she?’ he asks.
‘Books and cats, mainly,’ I tell the man who loves his cats and who I know is now actively considering his extensive book collection.
‘What’s the difference between a private library and a book hoarder?’ he wonders.
We are both silent before we laugh and answer in unison: ‘Faeces.’

But the difference is this phone call. And the others like it I could make—and how strong we are when we are loved
.

Sarah Krasnostein was born in America, studied in Melbourne and has lived and worked in both countries. Earning her doctorate in criminal law, she is a law lecturer and researcher. Her essay, ‘The Secret Life of a Crime Scene Cleaner’, was published on Longreads and listed in Narratively’s Top 10 Stories for 2014. She lives in Melbourne, and spends part of the year working in New York City. The Trauma Cleaner is her first book.

Why do I want to read it?:

The Trauma Cleaner was the book that prompted me to buy The Education Of A Coroner earlier on this list. It’s my fascination with the forensic world again that makes me want to pick up this book but also I like that it has a transgender element which I’m also interested to read and learn more about.

6.) Animals Strike Curious Poses – Elena Passarello

What’s it all about?:

Beginning with Yuka, a 39,000-year-old mummified woolly mammoth recently found in the Siberian permafrost, each of the sixteen essays in Animals Strike Curious Poses investigates a different famous animal named and immortalised by humans. Here are the starling that inspired Mozart with its song, Darwin’s tortoise Harriet, and in an extraordinary essay, Jumbo the elephant (and how they tried to electrocute him). Modelled loosely on a medieval bestiary, these witty , playful, provocative essays traverse history, myth, science and more, introducing a stunning new writer to British readers.

Why do I want to read it?:

Along with science, nature writing (particularly anything that involves animals) is something I love to read about and this book looked too good to pass up. I love that it’s a series of essays and I adore that it follows “famous” animals. I’ve got high hopes for this one!

7.) When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

What’s it all about?:

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?

Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

Why do I want to read it?:

Similar to the next book coming up on my Nonfiction November TBR, this is one of the books that has been on my shelves the longest. Everyone keeps telling me how great it is (and I LOVE reading about neurosurgery/the brain) but this one also has a bitter-sweet emotional aspect that I wasn’t sure I was in the right place to read about in the past eighteen months or so. Now however, I am stronger and I am ready! This WILL happen.

8.) Bad Science – Ben Goldacre

What’s it all about?:

Have you ever wondered how one day the media can assert that alcohol is bad for us and the next unashamedly run a story touting the benefits of daily alcohol consumption? Or how a drug that is pulled off the market for causing heart attacks ever got approved in the first place? How can average readers, who aren’t medical doctors or Ph.D.s in biochemistry, tell what they should be paying attention to and what’s, well, just more bullshit?

Ben Goldacre has made a point of exposing quack doctors and nutritionists, bogus credentialing programs, and biased scientific studies. He has also taken the media to task for its willingness to throw facts and proof out the window. But he’s not here just to tell you what’s wrong. Goldacre is here to teach you how to evaluate placebo effects, double-blind studies, and sample sizes, so that you can recognize bad science when you see it. You’re about to feel a whole lot better.

Why do I want to read it?:

I think this is probably a work of non-fiction that I’ve had the longest. As a scientist in my daily life, I really need to get round to reading this – it’s a travesty I haven’t read it before now!

 

So, there we have it! My TBR for Nonfiction November has been revealed. What I’d love to hear from you guys is if you’ve read (or want to read) any of these books and what you thought? Let me know if you’re participating in Nonfiction November and what you’ll be reading – links welcome down below in the comments. 

COMING UP TOMORROW ON bibliobeth – Nonfiction November Week 1: My Year In Nonfiction.