literary fiction

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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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Broken River – J. Robert Lennon

Published February 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A modest house in upstate New York. One in the morning. Three people—a couple and their child—hurry out the door, but it’s too late for them. As the virtuosic and terrifying opening scene of Broken River unfolds, a spectral presence seems to be watching with cold and mysterious interest. Soon the house lies abandoned, and years later a new family moves in.

Karl, Eleanor, and their daughter, Irina, arrive from New York City in the wake of Karl’s infidelity to start anew. Karl tries to stabilize his flailing art career. Eleanor, a successful commercial novelist, eagerly pivots in a new creative direction. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Irina becomes obsessed with the brutal murders that occurred in the house years earlier. And, secretly, so does her mother. As the ensemble cast grows to include Louis, a hapless salesman in a carpet warehouse who is haunted by his past, and Sam, a young woman newly reunited with her jailbird brother, the seemingly unrelated crime that opened the story becomes ominously relevant.

Hovering over all this activity looms a gradually awakening narrative consciousness that watches these characters lie to themselves and each other, unleashing forces that none of them could have anticipated and that put them in mortal danger. Broken River is a cinematic, darkly comic, and sui generis psychological thriller that could only have been written by J. Robert Lennon.

What did I think?:

I have to admit, I’ve never heard of Broken River or the author, J. Robert Lennon before so I was delighted when it was the first book from my Daunt Books Annual Subscription that my lovely boyfriend gifted me for Christmas last year. I have made it my mission to read and review each book I receive as part of my Bookish Goals/Resolutions which I posted about in January. I’m always slightly concerned about a book subscription as I have a LOT of unread books on my shelves and I always worry that a book is going to be picked for me that I already own. Well, not only did I not already own Broken River but as I mentioned, I hadn’t even picked up on it being published so I was very excited to check out what it was all about.

It’s clearly a crying shame that I didn’t know about this book as it is a wonderful novel that is written in quite a literary style (i.e. gorgeous!) but has that edge of thriller that keeps you gripped, turning the pages quicker than you might do a “normal” literary novel. In fact, when I first started reading it, I was pretty determined that it was going to be a five star read for me. Unfortunately, I had a minor issue that stopped me from giving it the big five but I still insist that this is a fantastic book that needs to be read by more people.

Broken River is initially the story of a family – Mum, Dad and a young daughter who get into a horrific situation where the parents are killed, inches away from their surviving daughter. The perps responsible for the brutal murders are never found and brought to justice. After the daughter is taken into care, the house becomes abandoned, gathering dust, rodents and other house guests, including your typical teenagers who use it as “party central” and the homeless and drug addicts where it becomes a convenient place to sleep/get high.

This is until a new family moves into the house: Karl, Eleanor and teenage daughter Irina, all of whom have their own issues and deep, dark secrets. As we follow their story, we also learn how they all deceive each other, for one reason or another and witness the struggles of their relationships, particularly when an obsession develops with the murky history of the family that came before them and Irina’s insistence that she has found the previous daughter who saw her parents being murdered in such a terrible way. Of course, this news doesn’t stay quiet for long and the family find themselves embroiled in a now very deadly situation when some people think the secrets and crimes of the past should remain buried.

There’s so many things to love about this book, particularly the writing style and most definitely, the variety of intriguing characters that the author develops beautifully. They’re all flawed in some way, particularly the villains of the piece (of course!) and especially the father, Karl whose little ways and the mistakes he makes, potentially hurting his family forever, really got under my skin and made me cross but I literally loved to hate him. Yes I might have made a little huff of anger at him during several parts of the narrative but who hasn’t groaned at a nasty character that you can’t stand in a novel? For me, that just means that J. Robert Lennon has done his job properly and written people that I can either really connect with i.e. Eleanor, Irina or others that I just want to throw in a river.

Additionally, I thought it was fantastic that he gives some of his more villainous characters quite a human edge and you can really see their regrets about what they might have done in their past and the sticky situation that they feel they can’t run away from in the present time. Personally, there were only a tiny, minuscule part of this novel that I didn’t quite connect with and stopped me from giving it five stars. There were a few chapters interspersed between the main narrative from the point of view of The Observer. He/she watches certain events as if he is with the character at the time and gives a whole new perspective of their actions. Now I really enjoyed this at the beginning and thought it was quite frankly, a genius move by the author. However, the chapters nearer the end starting getting a bit too philosophical for my liking and sadly, it didn’t evoke the same emotions in me as it did at the beginning. Apart from this, I would urge anyone with an interest in literary fiction and crime to try this book, it might just surprise you. It definitely surprised me.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

 

The Tidal Zone – Sarah Moss

Published February 4, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is also working on a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. He is a good man and he is happy. But one day, he receives a call from his daughter’s school to inform him that, for no apparent reason, fifteen-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing. In that moment, he is plunged into a world of waiting, agonising, not knowing.

The story of his life and the lives of his family are rewritten and re-told around this shocking central event, around a body that has inexplicably failed. In this exceptionally courageous and unflinching novel of contemporary life Sarah Moss goes where most of us wouldn’t dare to look, and the result is riveting – unbearably sad, but also miraculously funny and ultimately hopeful.

The Tidal Zone explores parental love, overwhelming fear, illness and recovery. It is about clever teenagers and the challenges of marriage. It is about the NHS, academia, sex and gender in the twenty-first century, the work-life juggle, and the politics of packing lunches and loading dishwashers. It confirms Sarah Moss as a unique voice in modern fiction and a writer of luminous intelligence.

What did I think?:

The Tidal Zone was one of the most anticipated reads on my TBR last year and I had heard so many great reviews of it from dear friends whose opinion I trust implicitly and from all you wonderful bloggers out there. It seemed every review I read was a universal outpouring of joy about how wonderful this book was and how I had to read it immediately, I wouldn’t regret it. Now, I get excited about leaving books for a little bit until the hype dies down where I’m not too anxious that I’m not going to feel the same as everyone else but I couldn’t leave this book any longer gathering dust on my shelves, I simply had to read it. Did the dreaded hype monster get me? Well, not really however I felt like I couldn’t give it it five stars in the end BUT it was very, very close.

This story follows a family consisting of Adam, the primary care-giver, mostly stay at home dad and part-time lecturer at the local university, Emma the mother and harassed GP, bread-winner for the family and two daughters, Miriam and Rose. One day, their world is rocked forever when Adam receives a phone call from the school saying that Miriam has been involved in an “incident,” and is being rushed to hospital via ambulance. This incident is a lot more serious than initially expected, Miriam was diagnosed at the hospital with “idiopathic anaphylaxis,” a life-threatening allergic reaction which caused her heart to stop and her to stop breathing, leading to the P.E. teacher having to perform CPR on her. The rest of the narrative follows this family as they attempt to re-build their lives after this horrific incident. They never really find out what caused Miriam’s episode and although she is given an epipen to counteract future problems, Adam and Emma are constantly worried that any slightest, unanticipated event could mean that they lose their daughter forever.

This story is wonderfully dramatic but so gorgeously written, it’s like slipping into new bed sheets with a cup of hot chocolate, complete silence and a long, interrupted night of sleep ahead of you. Well, that’s what it made me feel when I was reading it! I was on tenterhooks especially at the beginning when everything that is happening with poor Miriam is so unsure and I really felt for the parents, Adam and Emma who I think coped admirably considering the precarious situation that they found themselves in. Although I wasn’t expecting the direction the story then went in, it doesn’t mean to say that I enjoyed it less.

In fact, I loved getting to know the family as individuals and it became so much more than a story about a young girl who almost dies, it became a real character study with so many inter-connecting themes like gender roles in the family, the importance of love and support from your nearest and dearest and most importantly, how to rebuild after a disaster takes hold. Interspersed between this family’s story is snippets from Adam’s father’s life, his Jewish grandparents life as they fled the Nazi’s and Adam’s current project, the history of Coventry Cathedral.  We learn many historical details about it, particularly when it was re-built and completely re-designed after being almost totally destroyed during the war.

I have to admit, this latter portion of the narrative is why I’m not giving The Tidal Zone five stars, some parts were very interesting (particularly details of the bombing) but sadly, I felt myself switching off a little bit during these sections and I didn’t feel as gripped as I perhaps should have done. Nevertheless, I’m sure other people will find this a lot more fascinating then I did, so please don’t let this tiny, insignificant niggle of mine put you off if you’re intrigued by this book. It’s a novel that has continued to play on my mind a long time after finishing it and I’m so excited that I still have another three books by Sarah Moss to read on my shelves, after this stunning piece of work, she will definitely become one of my must read authors in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

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.

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?

The Green Road – Anne Enright

Published January 26, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

From internationally acclaimed author Anne Enright comes a shattering novel set in a small town on Ireland’s Atlantic coast. The Green Road is a tale of family and fracture, compassion and selfishness—a book about the gaps in the human heart and how we strive to fill them.

Spanning thirty years, The Green Road tells the story of Rosaleen, matriarch of the Madigans, a family on the cusp of either coming together or falling irreparably apart. As they grow up, Rosaleen’s four children leave the west of Ireland for lives they could have never imagined in Dublin, New York, and Mali, West Africa. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother announces that she’s decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Her adult children come back for a last Christmas, with the feeling that their childhoods are being erased, their personal history bought and sold.

A profoundly moving work about a family’s desperate attempt to recover the relationships they’ve lost and forge the ones they never had, The Green Road is Enright’s most mature, accomplished, and unforgettable novel to date.

What did I think?:

The Green Road is (I think) my first novel by Anne Enright although I’ve heard a lot of great things about her other novels, especially The Gathering which won the Man Booker Prize back in 2007 and is on my radar to read. The Green Road came to my attention when I attended the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction 2016 shortlist readings as it was one of the short-listed books. After a reading from the novel, I was determined to check it out as the passage read was absolutely hilarious and made the audience howl. I’m eventually getting round to reading it (in early 2018 – shame on me!) and generally, I really enjoyed it but not quite as much as I was expecting to. This is a categorically Irish story about members of a typical Irish family and how the mother of this family copes when all her chicks fly the nest. It was gorgeously written and parts of it still play on my mind long after finishing, as do many of the characters.

Our story begins in 1980 and we follow the youngest daughter of this family, Hanna as a young girl. Furthermore, the following chapters follow a single character of the family in a different city at a particular struggle of their life. For example, the chapter immediately following Hanna is one of the sons, Dan in 1991, New York as he battles with the American way of life, finding a job and most importantly, his sexuality. Then we see the oldest daughter, Constance in 1997 as she is attending a very crucial hospital appointment, desperately worrying that she might have breast cancer. The penultimate chapter in the first half of the novel is the other son, Emmet in 2002 as helps the sick and injured in Mali, Africa and experiences difficulties in his relationship with a young woman. Finally we see the mother, Rosaleen in 2005 as she writes Christmas cards to her children, desperately hoping they will all come home for Christmas and worries that the relationships she has with them are all disintegrating. In the second half of the narrative, we see all the children back home with their mother for Christmas but realise how fractured their relationships and indeed their lives actually are.

Essentially, this is a quintessential family saga with all the major and minor dramas that large personalities in a family can bring. It’s written at points almost like a stream of consciousness, particularly when characters are speaking to each other with classic Irish phrasing and slang. I loved this latter part, it was so visceral I could almost imagine myself in Ireland, listening to people speaking but unfortunately the stream of consciousness part didn’t work so well for me, it was sometimes a bit difficult to follow and it made me want to skip entire parts of the narrative. However, I was surprised at the range of emotions this novel elicited from me. I felt such sadness for Constance when she was in the hospital and for Hanna as she struggled with alcohol, her relationship with her husband and being a mother of a young baby (potentially post-natal depression?).

I was also touched by Dan’s story as he was so horribly determined not to be homosexual in the beginning but ended up finding happiness, and of course Emmet and the good he did in Africa whilst never really managing to love anyone. As I’m writing this, I’m remembering how wonderful parts of this novel really were but unfortunately there were other parts that I didn’t love so much and just didn’t flow for me the way I wanted. Perhaps from the reading I mentioned early at the Baileys short-list event I was expecting this novel to be a lot funnier that it actually was and wasn’t anticipating the seriousness I discovered so was slightly taken aback. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this novel, I did very much but I think expectations are strange things and I am a bit of a slave to them, once I’ve made up my mind how I might feel about a novel prior to reading it. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by the slow pace and the intricate character studies which I always appreciate in a good literary fiction.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

The Green Road by Anne Enright is the seventh book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Unseen World – Liz Moore

Published January 24, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Ada Sibelius is raised by David, her brilliant, eccentric, socially inept single father, who directs a computer science lab in 1980s-era Boston. Home-schooled, Ada accompanies David to work every day; by twelve, she is a painfully shy prodigy. The lab begins to gain acclaim at the same time that David’s mysterious history comes into question. When his mind begins to falter, leaving Ada virtually an orphan, she is taken in by one of David’s colleagues. Soon she embarks on a mission to uncover her father’s secrets: a process that carries her from childhood to adulthood. What Ada discovers on her journey into a virtual universe will keep the reader riveted until The Unseen World’s heart-stopping, fascinating conclusion.

What did I think?:

The Unseen World has been one of my most anticipated reads in a long time. I have been so excited at the thought of reading it after seeing some amazing reviews out there and finally got round to it at the end of last year. You know when you just have a feeling that you’re going to love a particular book and it goes beyond even what you expected of it? This was the case with this mesmerising novel. Let me just tell you the synopsis does not do it justice. I got about thirty pages in and realised this story was something very special indeed. It’s about so much more than what “it says on the tin,” and I adored every single moment I spent reading it. It’s one of those books that’s automatically earned a place on my favourites shelf, I definitely plan on re-reading it in the future and I’ve already pushed it into the hands of a good friend and will continue to recommend it to others.

Our main female protagonist is Ada Sibelius who is twelve years old when the story first begins. Ada has a bit of an unusual family situation, although for her it is perfectly normal and all she has ever known. She has been raised by her father David, never known her mother and is home schooled often assisting her genius father in his laboratory where they are working on ELIXIR, the first Artificial Intelligence program. Like David, Ada is highly intelligent and proficient in coding, physics, technology and literature and counts her family as David’s lab colleagues who she can converse with like an adult about numerous subjects.

However, Ada is beginning to notice differences between herself and the average twelve year old girl in America and these differences become far more apparent when her father starts to lose his mental faculties and she is forced to live a whole other way. Before things get too awful, David left Ada a floppy disk that contains a code. If she deciphers what the code means she will finally discover secrets she could have never imagined about her father. As she struggles to unravel the puzzle she learns not only about her father’s mysterious past but who he really is as a person with clues for her own identity and this discovery is set to change her life forever.

I really hope I’ve made at least one person suitably intrigued about what this novel is about because it’s one of those books that just deserves to be read by anyone who loves literary fiction. I’m not into coding or computer based narratives at all but there’s something about The Unseen World that makes it so much more that just a geeky science narrative. Ada is a wonderful, memorable protagonist and her relationship with her father stole my heart from the very beginning. I loved that we also got to see much more of her life than you might do with any other novel i.e. we first meet her in the 1980’s as a twelve year old and throughout the novel the narrative shifts between this time period and the present time of the 2010’s when she is in her forties. It made me feel like I knew her much better as a character, watching her grow up and develop from a tentative teenager into a confident woman.

It’s a slow build up and a fantastic little mystery regarding David and who he really is and by the end of the novel I really felt like I had been on the most exhilarating journey that I just wanted to take all over again. I really cannot gush enough about how brilliant this book is and I’m actually running out of adjectives to describe how beautiful it is. If you love literary fiction and methodical character studies I’m pleading with you to trust me and please read this book!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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