debut authors

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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

Published May 24, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

What did I think?:

If you haven’t read this book yet and have been umming and aahing about picking it up, please finish your current read and read it next! I put off reading this book for the longest time, even after it won the Costa Award for Best Debut Novel and even still when it was long-listed for The Women’s Prize For Fiction this year. I have heard so many rave reviews and sometimes all the hype can make me steer clear of a book rather than gravitating towards it. After all, what if it isn’t as good as everyone says? What if I’m the lone wolf in a sea of popular opinion? I’m delighted to tell you, I’m most definitely a sheep. I ADORE THIS BOOK. Janel from Keeper Of Pages (please follow her, she’s one of my blogger bezzies and a wonderful reviewer!) finally convinced me to pick this novel up in our second buddy read this month and like The Fireman last month, we both can’t speak highly enough of it. Please check out her awesome review HERE. This novel has the strange accolade of being heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time. It made me laugh, it brought me close to tears and finally, now I see what all the fuss is about.

Gail Honeyman, author of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

So, is Eleanor Oliphant Completely Fine? Well, no she’s not. You know that very British thing that most of us do when we’re feeling rubbish and yet someone asks us how we are and we say: “Fine, thank you,” when we’re clearly not?! This is poor Eleanor. Her life consists of working nine to five, five days a week in an accounting firm in Glasgow. She barely interacts with anybody except to do her job and her social awkwardness and blunt way of speaking does not endear her to her co-workers. In fact, she becomes quite the figure of fun. As soon as Friday hits, Eleanor grabs a couple of bottles of her favourite vodka, shuts herself up in her house and doesn’t speak to another living soul until Monday morning when the whole cycle starts again. This is until she meets Raymond who works in IT at her company and they both help a stranger when he falls ill in public. From here on, Eleanor’s life changes dramatically and will never be the same again. She begins to realise she is not in the slightest “fine,” and never wishes to be so miserable or lonely again.

Glasgow, Scotland where our story is set.

I can’t even deal with how many emotions this book evoked from me. I felt an instant connection when I realised it was set in Scotland, as my veins do run blue with Scottish blood but besides the setting, this is such a stunning piece of debut fiction that it took my breath away. Beginning in quite a melancholy way, where we see the loneliness and hopelessness of our female lead’s life was gut-wrenching to say the least. However, then it changes and the story is so very uplifting that it made me cheer silently multiple times as I got to know Eleanor, broke my heart for her, rooted for her and at the end, felt real and definite hope for her future. Eleanor is a complex character that really gets under your skin. Because of her past, she is not aware of the intricate niceties of interacting with other people and can come across rude, abrupt and brutally honest.

I couldn’t believe some of the things that she came out with sometimes, there were plenty of laughs but I remember at the same time shaking my head in disbelief and sadness at her naivety when facing the modern world. Things like smartphones, going to gigs and getting her nails done are big deals for Eleanor and as she continued to force herself into new, sometimes scary situations, I couldn’t help but smile at the endearing nature of it all. You don’t find out what has happened in Eleanor’s past until quite late on in the novel and although Janel and I desperately wanted to know what had gone on with her, I completely believe this was the perfect way to structure the book. You fall in love with Eleanor first as a character and it only makes it more heart-breaking when the trauma of her past is finally revealed in full, horrific detail.

Please do me a favour and read this book if you haven’t already. Eleanor is such a special character and both her and her story will play on my mind for a long while to come.

Thank you once again to Janel for an amazing buddy reading experience!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Sealwoman’s Gift – Sally Magnusson

Published May 21, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In 1627 Barbary pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted some 400 of its people, including 250 from a tiny island off the mainland. Among the captives sold into slavery in Algiers were the island pastor, his wife and their three children. Although the raid itself is well documented, little is known about what happened to the women and children afterwards. It was a time when women everywhere were largely silent.

In this brilliant reimagining, Sally Magnusson gives a voice to Ásta, the pastor’s wife. Enslaved in an alien Arab culture Ásta meets the loss of both her freedom and her children with the one thing she has brought from home: the stories in her head. Steeped in the sagas and folk tales of her northern homeland, she finds herself experiencing not just the separations and agonies of captivity, but the reassessments that come in any age when intelligent eyes are opened to other lives, other cultures and other kinds of loving.

The Sealwoman’s Gift is about the eternal power of storytelling to help us survive. The novel is full of stories – Icelandic ones told to fend off a slave-owner’s advances, Arabian ones to help an old man die. And there are others, too: the stories we tell ourselves to protect our minds from what cannot otherwise be borne, the stories we need to make us happy.

What did I think?:

The Sealwoman’s Gift had been on my radar for a little while after I saw it being advertised as a highly anticipated read for this year from some of my favourite book-tubers. I mean, that gorgeous cover is enough to draw you in and make you want to read it, right? Then when I found out that it was a re-imagining of an actual historical event that happened in Iceland in the 17th century which tore apart countless families, I knew it was something I had to get my hands on. I am trying to be good at the moment with a book-buying ban and a determination not to buy hardbacks on the cards, so I was delighted when Two Roads Publishers via Book Bridgr sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It came at a time when I really needed cheering up so a huge thank you to them. Generally, I found this novel to be a solid, beautifully written story that at points, was comparable to being told an old folk-tale. Of course, the fact that this event actually occurred makes this tale all the more intriguing and I thoroughly enjoyed Sally Magnusson’s fictional version of it that was quite obviously extensively researched.

Sally Magnusson, author of The Sealwoman’s Gift.

The event I’m referring to is one many people may not be overly familiar with. It happened in 1627 and involved a host of pirates who attacked the coast of Iceland, removing many men, women and children from the nearest towns, sailing them back to Algiers and selling them all into slavery. We follow one woman in particular, Ásta, who is pregnant at the time of the raid and is captured along with her husband, Ólafur and most of her children. Ásta ends up being separated from her husband and this is the story of how she copes in the house she is sold into, her relationship with her children and her absent husband and especially, how she changes as a person when she is wrenched away from a much simpler life and everything she has ever known.

The beautiful Westman Islands, mentioned by Ásta in the novel.

I always worry when I fall in love with a book’s cover that the inside won’t match the outside, so as to speak. Luckily, I had no worries on this account with The Sealwoman’s Gift. I was absolutely captivated by Ásta’s tale and the people that she met along the way, particularly in Algiers where the course of her life changes forever. I have to admit to being slightly nervous when I saw the cast of characters in the front of the novel, especially the Icelandic names which I’m not too familiar with. However, there was no need to panic, the book is written in such a way that you can easily get your head round who is who in a very short amount of time. I also loved the inclusion and translation of some common Icelandic words which just added to the other-wordly, beautifully alien and very unique feel of this story.

This isn’t just a narrative that re-hashes a moment in history, this is also a story about the relationships between families and between husband and wife and how they are altered when one or both of the parties goes through a life changing event, experiencing new things outside their humdrum, ordinary existence and developing into a different person as a result. The author uses one character in the novel to bring a folk/fairy-tale element to the proceedings when Ásta is warned about her future by one of the more superstitious islanders. I loved how this was incorporated into the tale and it gave the reader something to look back on and analyse when our female lead’s life takes a more dramatic turn.

This is a debut novel that drops you right into Iceland’s past authentically and evocatively and having been to Iceland myself, I could picture everything in full, glorious detail. I’ll certainly be watching out for what Sally Magnusson does next, her writing is too gorgeous to miss out on.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

Published May 18, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A funny, often poignant tale of boy meets girl with a twist: what if one of them couldn’t stop slipping in and out of time? Highly original and imaginative, this debut novel raises questions about life, love, and the effects of time on relationships.

Audrey Niffenegger’s innovative debut, The Time Traveler’s Wife, is the story of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: periodically his genetic clock resets and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity in his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.

The Time Traveler’s Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare’s marriage and their passionate love for each other as the story unfolds from both points of view. Clare and Henry attempt to live normal lives, pursuing familiar goals—steady jobs, good friends, children of their own. All of this is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control, making their story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

What did I think?:

I’ve mentioned in a recent post that I’ve started doing a new “thing.” I am currently trying to make my way through a humungous TBR by reading one fiction book, one non fiction book and an old favourite (because the books on my favourites shelves are becoming sadly neglected for all the new, shiny ones!). The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my all-time favourite reads that I gave five stars on when I first read it and was curious to find out if it still remained a favourite or whether I would have to send it on its merry way to the charity shop. Luckily, I adored it and it still remains a firm favourite with that five star rating fully intact, however it came with a host of problems that I had forgotten about and not anticipated. I’m about to get a bit personal now so if that isn’t your bag, you don’t have to keep reading, I won’t be offended, I promise!

Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife with a quote from the novel that really resonates with me.

Urrrgh, okay. Here we go. So I’ve alluded in past posts that it’s been one hell of a year. Well, actually one hell of an eighteen months and that’s because in the past nine months alone, I’ve had two miscarriages, three surgeries, a scare when they thought I had a brain tumour (I’m fine!) and now, there will be further investigations in the hospital as this brings my total miscarriage count to three. That’s a very brief summary but things have been absolutely mental and obviously quite traumatic, I haven’t had the easiest time physically or emotionally and my second one was particularly horrific. Is there a point Beth? Does this relate to the book in any way, shape or form? Oh dear, I do love a bit of rambling in my reviews don’t I?! We’ll get to the point in the next paragraph.

Sad but true. And we NEED to start talking about it. 

If you haven’t managed to get round to this gorgeous book yet, let me give you a quick summary. It’s essentially a love story between Henry and Clare. I know, I know, I don’t normally “do” romance but this one captured my heart completely. Henry is a time traveller which he discovered from a very young age. He jumps backwards and forwards in his lifespan and always arrives naked, which as you can imagine, can be quite tricky depending on the location he arrives in! Henry meets Clare as a child during one of his journeys and immediately recognises her as the woman he is married to in the future. Audrey Niffenegger then tells their story which jumps about as Henry travels, from their very first meeting, to when they fall in love and begin a physical relationship, to their marriage and life together as husband and wife. Obviously during this time, Henry is still time travelling but each journey becomes more and more dangerous as they fight to find a doctor that will firstly believe them and secondly attempt to find a cure. Added to this is their desperate fight to have a child which is hampered by Clare suffering multiple, very traumatic miscarriages that makes them think the “time travel” gene is preventing them from having a family of their own and a happy, “normal” ending.

Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana as Clare and Henry in the 2009 film.

So for some reason, when I first decided to re-read my old favourites, I had completely forgotten about what the character Clare goes through regarding the miscarriages and the struggle to have a child. As soon as I realised and remembered whilst reading, I automatically had a feeling of dread. Could I handle this? Everything was so raw at the time with my own situation, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be strong enough. Happily, I coped just fine and although it was an emotional reading experience and I did shed a few tears, it actually made my re-read even more memorable and special as I could really sympathise with the female lead. Aside from this, The Time Traveler’s Wife is just such a fantastic, exciting and moving read where you become instantly invested in the characters, their story and just hope against all hope for a happy ending for them. I’m not going to give away the ending for those who haven’t read it yet but I think it was pretty damn perfect in my opinion. There was love, there was hope and there was sadness. Everything wasn’t wrapped up with a neat little bow but I definitely felt optimistic for our characters future. Please read this if you haven’t so far, it’s a stunning story that took my breath away both the first and second time I read it and it’s one I’ll certainly be reading again in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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If You Find Me – Emily Murdoch

Published May 2, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

What happens in the woods, stays in the woods. . .

Carey is keeping a terrible secret. If she tells, it could destroy her future. If she doesn’t, will she ever be free?

For almost as long as she can remember, Carey has lived in a camper van in the heart of the woods with her drug-addicted mother and six-year-old sister, Jenessa. Her mother routinely disappears for weeks at a time, leaving the girls to cope alone. Survival is Carey’s only priority – until strangers arrive and everything changes . . .

What did I think?:

If You Find Me was another book pushed onto me by my sister, Chrissi Reads and I included it in one of my bi-yearly Chrissi Cupboard Months. I’ve mentioned before when she recommends that I read a book, I really should listen because she is preparing me for something amazing but I really wasn’t prepared for how outstanding this novel was. Warning – it deals with some VERY tough and emotive subjects, including child neglect/abuse so if you’re particularly sensitive to those subjects, this might not be the book for you. However, I was surprised by how much hope and joy filled these pages, despite the horrific past that our main character and her sister have had to suffer. Additionally, although some people have criticised the “tied up in a bow,” ending, I thought it was the perfect way to wrap up a heart-breaking yet optimistic story.

Our female lead is a fifteen year old girl called Carey who lives with her younger sister, Jenessa (Nessa) in a camper van in the middle of the woods with their drug addict mother. Carey is responsible for all of her younger sister’s care and her mother disappears for long periods of time, sometimes days, occasionally weeks meaning that Carey must look after, feed and entertain a little girl who hasn’t known anything different from the life that they lead.

One day, their mother has been gone for a particularly long time and strangers arrive to take the two girls away, back to a family of their biological father, stepmother and a stepsister who have been living their lives completely ignorant of the trials that Carey and Nessa have had to suffer. Both girls must now learn to live in a world where school is mandatory, large groups of people and noises can be terrifying and they must get to know a complete stranger who calls himself their father. Meanwhile, Carey is hiding a terrible secret about their time in the woods, something that no-one must find out. Yet people are starting to ask questions, especially as to why Nessa remains mute and refuses to speak. What secret could be so dangerous that they are petrified to tell another living soul?

As I’ve alluded to in the beginning of my review, this book goes to very dark places and I don’t think you’ll be able to read this story without being moved in some way. For me, it was a very peculiar experience. The reader only sees a snippet of their time in the woods, they are rescued quite early on in the novel but what I saw was seriously enough for me. I felt dread in the pit of my stomach, that horrible lump in your throat when you try not to cry and at times, I thought I would have to take a break. It’s not explicit in the slightest, let me assure you. Although I was horribly upset at the situation Carey and Nessa found themselves in, I think I was really affected by the relationship between the siblings. I’m the oldest of three children myself and as you’re probably aware, I’m very close to my little sister. Carey’s relationship with Nessa very much reminded me of the way I feel towards Chrissi – hugely protective, almost as if I was a bear and she was my cub! (Chrissi’s so going to laugh at this….).

In all seriousness, Carey is like the mother that Nessa has never had and I really felt awful for her, having to grow up well before her time and take on all that responsibility of the care-giver that SHOULD have been down to their mother. This is also reflected when she is taken away from the situation, the adult way of speaking she uses, the way she tries to fit in at school and how she reacts to her father and new family. Carey has always had to be the strong one and protect Nessa, despite the feelings she has herself which are often hidden as a way of shielding her sister. It broke my heart at times how much she tried to hold it together and be resilient. I just wanted to give her a hug!

Most of this novel is based after Carey and Nessa escape the woods and although I wasn’t sure I was going to connect with this part I was incredibly wrong. I loved seeing their journey, how they adapt to “normal life,” the moments when they realise that they might be safe and no-one will hurt them again and, of course, the revelations of the huge secret and burden that the girls are carrying with them. This is a stunning, emotional and powerful piece of writing that was difficult to read at points but so very rewarding. Wait a minute…it’s a debut novel?! I will certainly be looking out for other books by Emily Murdoch and indeed reading anything else she happens to write.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Blog Tour – The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Published April 27, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.

What did I think?:

The debut novel from author Lisa Ko has already got a lot of attention and immediately pricked up my interest. As mentioned above it has already had the honour of becoming the winner for the 2016 PEN/Bellweather Prize for fiction and it was also a finalist in the prestigious National Book Award. Then when Oprah’s Book Club called it “imperative reading,” I knew I had to seek this book out as soon as it was published over here in the UK. You can imagine how delighted I was when this book ended up finding me! The lovely Grace Vincent from Little, Brown publishers invited me to take part in this blog tour celebrating the book’s release and kindly coordinated sending over a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Being completely honest, this book took me a little while to get into. However, I’m not sure if that was a personal thing (as I was on holiday at the time and had multiple distractions to tear me away). Nevertheless, as soon as I forced myself to read fifty pages without stopping or looking up, by the end of this time, I was irrevocably caught up in the fascinating story of both Peilan Guo, a Chinese-born young woman who is compelled to escape overseas to America as a young woman whilst pregnant with her first child, fearing both the strict Chinese regulations about pregnancy, desperate not to get married to the father of the baby and her constant feelings that things are missing from her life.

This story is also about Peilan’s son, Deming Guo, the relationship between the mother and son and how this changes mainly due to two major events. This includes Peilan having to send Deming back to her father so that she can make enough money to pay off a huge amount borrowed from a loan shark just to get over to America. He comes back to her when he is old enough to go and school and little by little he slowly manages to trust and respect her as his mother. Then something horrendous happens when Deming is a little older. Peilan goes to work one day and never returns. There are rumours that she has left Deming and all her friends, including her partner, Leon and has no plans to return. Deming ends up fostered to a white American couple, Peter and Kay who try to be loving parents towards him but cannot fit the huge hole Deming has in his heart where he, like his mother, also feels like he cannot fit in or succeed in life anywhere he might go.

I’m going to stop there as I don’t want to give too much away but I have to stress how much I enjoyed this novel once I really got into the meat of the narrative. Of course, Deming and Peilan were the real stars of the show but I also enjoyed the background appearances of Leon, his sister Vivian and her son Michael whom Deming lives with when his mother is still there and for a short while before she disappears. I don’t think I’ve read too many books about the immigration experience (although I am aware of some I should definitely get to), but this novel really opened my eyes about the struggles these poor people have, the choices they are forced to make, the conditions they might live under and the little prospects they face for the future if they make a bad decision.

I was furious at Peilan at the start for abandoning her son, especially when you see how much pain Deming goes through as a teenager and then a young adult. He thinks if he does certain things in his present, his mother might return to him. Then, on the other hand, he thinks he has obviously done bad things in his past to push her away to never return. However, things are not always as they seem and it was fantastic to read a novel with not only a dual narrative but that skips around time periods, just to give a sweet little taster of what might be happening until the final difficult details all come out. This was an illuminating with at some points, heart-breaking passages that has made me appreciate the suffering of immigrants a whole lot more. It made me wish we could have a whole re-think of the system, here and abroad – this is especially topical as to what is going on in the news at the moment and I have a new found respect for anyone just trying to make a better life for themselves and their family.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5)

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

I’m the author of THE LEAVERS, a novel that won the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award in Fiction. Set in New York and China, THE LEAVERS follows one young man’s search for his mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant who disappears when he’s 11 years old, after which he is adopted by a white family. It’s the story of one mother and her son: what brings them together and takes them apart.

I’m a believer in the long game: I started writing stories when I was 5 years old and published my first book at 41.

Find Lisa on her Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15053129.Lisa_Ko

on her website at: http://lisa-ko.com

and on Twitter @iamlisako

Thank you once again to Grace Vincent and Little, Brown publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Leavers was published on the 26h April 2018 by Dialogue Books and will be available as both a paperback and an e-book. If you fancy some more information don’t forget to check out my fellow bloggers stops for some more fantastic reviews!

Link to The Leavers on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30753987-the-leavers?ac=1&from_search=true

Link to The Leavers on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Leavers-Winner-Bellweather-Prize-Fiction/dp/0349700524/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524767801&sr=8-1&keywords=the+leavers

Hideous Creatures – S.E. Lister

Published April 4, 2018 by bibliobeth

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.

What did I think?:

Along with The Immortals by the same author, the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights recommended this book to my sister and I when we attended a reading spa (highly recommended by the way, if you’re ever in Bath, please do it!). Hideous Creatures is actually the author’s debut novel but I read the two books out of order as the story-line of The Immortals just appealed to me a bit more. Now that I’ve gone backwards and read the author’s first book second, I can really appreciate both the beauty of her prose and how far she has come as a writer since penning Hideous Creatures. In complete contrast to how I felt about The Immortals sadly, I was not a big fan of this novel. It boasts the author’s characteristic, quirky style and obviously beautiful way with language but unfortunately, I felt that was all it had going for it. I couldn’t connect with any of their characters and got slightly confused over their back stories. In truth, it was a bit of a slog to get through although I have to mention there are various things to appreciate along the way.

This is a novel about a young male protagonist, wealthy Englishman Arthur Hallingham who flees from his home after learning a terrible secret hidden within his family. He has always chased adventure and longed to see far off lands abroad so manages to secure passage upon a ship and ventures to the American wilderness. It isn’t long before he meets up with two other individuals, outsiders like himself and also people who are nursing a secret in their past. They are Shelo, native medicine man who performs a strange service for those who seek him out and Flora, daughter of an outlaw who comes into their group quite suddenly but ends up becoming an integral and very important part of their circle. Hideous Creatures follows their journey as Shelo continues to carry out his peculiar and terrifying rituals and Arthur ruminates on his colourful past in England.

I have to admit, when I started this book I was quite excited. Obviously I’ve mentioned the exquisite nature of the writing which anybody with a love for the clever way our language can be used will fall head over heels in love with. There is the beginning of Arthur’s journey on the ship and when he meets Shelo for the first time which was a fascinating aspect of the story (although a bit difficult to read as it did involve him being placed in an awful house which was used for illegal, brutal abortions). All of this (aside from the horrifying abortion aspect) was enjoyable and intriguing to read and I found myself wanting to know what would happen to Arthur, even if I didn’t particularly like him much as a character. Then we meet Shelo and again, I was curious, especially about this ritual he carries out on a nightly basis that leaves his clients screaming but strangely very satisfied! Finally, Flora appears and I did like her immediately as a fiery and independent female protagonist BUT I don’t feel the potential with her character was really reached and she just seemed to fade into the background which was a shame.

Generally, as the novel continued, I felt my enthusiasm for it wane even further and it wasn’t long before I found all the strange goings-on a little too hard to stomach. Not in the fact it was gruesome at all, but that I just didn’t feel I cared enough about any of the characters, their past secrets or what would become of them. I am bitterly disappointed, as I mentioned I loved the author’s second book, The Immortals so much but because of the strength of that novel, I would still be so excited to read anything else this author were to write in the future. Funnily enough, I’m still very glad I read this story, even though I didn’t end up loving it, it was worth it for the gorgeousness of the words alone.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Hideous Creatures by S.E. Lister was the twenty-fourth book on my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2018 – MARCH READ – The Girl Of Ink And Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Published April 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2017, and the British Book Awards’ Children’s Book of Year 2017 

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

What did I think?:

I’ve been wanting to read this book for the longest time! Debut author Kiran Millwood Hargrave won both the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the British Book Awards Children’s Book Of The Year in 2017 and with that stunning cover, I couldn’t resist much longer and made sure to suggest it to Chrissi when we were compiling our Kid Lit list for this year. In the end I have to admit, I wasn’t completely blown away by this book although there were many parts of it that I adored BUT I think if I had been the right age bracket for this novel, I would have rated it a lot higher. As a middle grade fiction read, it’s easy to fly through these pages in one sitting and both the fantastical and adventure elements are hugely appealing for children of both genders.

This is the story of Isabella Riosse who lives on a small island with her cartographer father under the tyrannical rule of the Governor whose daughter Lupe, Isabella happens to be best friends with. The Governor has cut off large portions of the land as forbidden and there are a lot of local legends about how the land used to be before the Governor’s time. Residents of the island are reminded that they are not permitted to venture beyond the forest into what is known as The Forbidden Territories so when the Governor’s daughter disappears there and is presumed lost, Isabella disguises herself as a boy and offers her map-reading skills to the Governor in the hunt to retrieve Lupe. Isabella is ecstatic at the prospect of seeing part of the land previously forbidden to everyone but is not entirely prepared for the journey she ends up going on, one that involves a desperate fight to save the land she loves dearly.

As I’ve mentioned, this story has a lot of things going for it and when I first started, I was in awe of how the author set the scene and introduced her characters, particularly Isabella. The world she lives in is fascinating and I was intrigued by the setup and history however this is also where the story fell down slightly for me. I just wanted more. I would have loved the author to have gone into more detail about the world including The Forbidden Territories and how the Governor came to power and I felt this was touched on too briefly and left me feeling slightly confused about how exactly everything happened. This was also the case with the characters, sadly. Isabella was a wonderful female protagonist and I loved her bravery and tenacity in helping her friend, especially considering the horrors she comes across along her incredible journey. She had such great potential and yet somehow, I still didn’t feel like I really knew her at the end of it all which was a shame. Saying all this, The Girl Of Ink And Stars is still a masterful, exciting story that I’m sure will capture the hearts of many children around the world. It’s fast-paced, very easy so read and packed full with the most brilliant magical elements that kept me constantly eager to turn the pages.

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT UP IN APRIL ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Ratburger by David Walliams.