Jennifer Tar Heel Reader

All posts tagged Jennifer Tar Heel Reader

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi (buddy read with Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader)

Published March 23, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel – the intimate, gripping story of a brilliantly vivid cast of characters and through their lives the very story of America itself.

Epic in its canvas and intimate in its portraits, Homegoing is a searing and profound debut from a masterly new writer.

What did I think?:

An enormous thank you to one of my brilliant blogger besties, Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader whom I got to experience this incredible novel with for the very first time and holy moley – what a powerful and riveting experience it was! I think when you read a book like this, with so many complexities and difficult subject matter, it gives you an almost endless ream of discussion opportunities and I think I can speak for both of us when I confirm that this was such a rewarding experience as we got to talk about so many different things at the time we were both encountering the same events in the narrative. As there is a bit of a time difference between our countries of residence, Jenni and I deliberately try and schedule our chats at the weekend so that we can talk “in the moment,” and believe me, with a novel like this, you’re going to want to talk to somebody immediately after reading certain passages.

Yaa Gyasi, author of the debut novel, Homegoing.

I have to admit, I’ve been putting this novel off for a while. It’s been taunting me from my bookshelves and I’ve heard so many brilliant things about the author’s writing and the way in which this book is set out but I was a teeny bit nervous. I was aware that the novel begins in 18th century Ghana and follows the descendants of two half-sisters, Esi and Effia from that time until the present day. Now, I love a novel with multiple points of view but when I heard that each chapter follows a completely different character and even initially, when I picked the book up and glanced at the family tree at the beginning, I was ever so slightly intimidated. Would I be able to keep all the characters in my head? Would a chapter be sufficient to tell a portion of that character’s particular life or would I be left wanting more? Well, the answers to those questions were both “no,” but funnily enough, not in any negative connotation at all.

Esi and Effia, who both have no idea of the others existence, are two young women whose lives fan out in very different directions. However, both sisters and their descendants end up having very individual struggles ranging from slavery, single parenthood, loss, heart-break, addiction and poverty that makes the reading experience an incredibly humbling one. There isn’t an “easy,” life for either branch of the family and watching each character go through their own hardships as Ghana and America changed through the years was a fascinating and at times, very uncomfortable journey.

Modern day Ghana, 2017.

Image from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/02/health/ghana-kfc-obesity.html

Personally speaking, I was really affected by some of the passages in this book. Yaa Gyasi does not shy away from gritty, realistic and detailed descriptions of how slaves were treated and at some points, I felt as if I had to put the book down, the horrific abuse of the women in particular was gut-wrenching and hard to stomach. Throughout it all, I had to applaud the author’s honesty and her bravery in the way she wasn’t scared to expose the nastier details of what these poor people went through and indeed, how race relations are still a major, hugely important issue in modern times.

Yes, there ARE a lot of characters to get to grips with and I did find myself getting slightly confused about which part of the family tree that particular individual came from. However, this is exactly why we have a family tree at the beginning that can be easily referred to for a quick reminder! Thinking about the novel a little while after finishing, it’s true that I haven’t kept a lot of the characters in my head due to the sheer volume we meet but the ones that have stayed with me appear to be permanently etched on my memory because of the power and strength of Gyasi’s writing and that particular character’s struggle, some of whom imprinted on me more than others.

Did I want some more time with certain individuals? Of course! Yet this is the beauty of the novel too – it constantly keeps you wanting more and led me to wondering about certain characters and where they might have ended up. Their story certainly continues on in my own imagination. I only have very small things that I wished would have been different but it hasn’t affected my enjoyment, memories of the book or rating in the slightest. First of all, I did prefer the more historical aspects of the narrative where for me, the writing felt impactful and more affecting. Secondly, it was slightly unfortunate that the might behind the author’s words faded as we entered modern times and I would have loved if the ending had been as much of a sucker punch to the gut as the majority of the rest of the novel had been. Taking everything into consideration, my minor niggles and the knowledge that this is the author’s debut offering, I can’t give this any less than the full five stars. I am incredibly excited to see what the author produces next and I’ll be one of the first in line to read it.

Thank you to Jennifer for another wonderful buddy read!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

 

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Golden Child – Claire Adam (buddy read with Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader)

Published March 7, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It’s dark now; the bats are out. Insects knock against the light on the patio and the dog sits at the gate. A boy has not returned home and a family anxiously awaits. A father steps out into the night to search for his son.

As the hours turn into days, this man will learn many things. He will learn about being a father to twin boys who are in no way alike. He will learn how dangerous hopes and dreams can be. He will learn truths about Trinidad, about his family, and himself. He will question received wisdom and question his judgement. He will learn about sacrifice and the nature of love – and he will be forced to act.

Claire Adam’s electrifying first novel reckons with the secrets of the human heart. It tells a story about wanting more for our children; it casts its spell with uncommon wisdom and grace.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Crown Publishing via Penguin Random House for sending me two copies of this astonishing novel (one of which I immediately passed on to blogger bestie, Janel @ Keeper Of Pages) and to another blogger bestie, Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader for not only recommending that I be sent this book, but for being fabulous enough to buddy read it with me and enrich my reading experience. Golden Child is a debut novel filled with so much glorious detail that it’s hard to believe the author isn’t already highly established in the literary world. I have to admit, it took me a little while to become invested in the story but once I was, it was impossible to tear my eyes away until I had completed the entire novel.

Claire Adam, author of Golden Child.

Set on the vibrant island of Trinidad, Claire Adam takes the story of one family – mother and father Joy and Clyde and their two twin sons Peter and Paul. I really can’t give too much away as this is the kind of story you definitely need to discover for yourself but it’s a beautiful literary exploration of family, poverty, tension and life-altering decisions. Each character is written so splendidly that I could feel their individual personalities bursting off the pages but what impressed me further was the way in which the author describes the country and culture. I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that I’m always hungry to experience a new way of life through the fiction/non fiction that I read and she provides such an illuminating look at a place and its people that I felt as if I could have been walking the streets for myself.

Trinidad, the setting for Claire Adam’s Golden Child.

Golden Child may be a bit of a slow burner, particularly in the first half of the novel but I feel the events that occur afterwards make all the build up completely worth it. You may be slightly unsure about the steady, languid pace initially but prepare yourself – it’s about to get all kinds of crazy. From this moment onwards, it almost becomes a different kind of novel and I didn’t have a “Scooby Doo” what was going to occur or how much it was going to affect me emotionally. I love when stories take me by surprise like that and additionally, lead me to the realisation that I cared a lot more about the characters within the narrative than I had believed previously. This is a gut-wrenching, thought-provoking tale that really needs to be talked about to be fully appreciated, in my opinion. I’m so grateful to Jennifer for being that person and sharing my moments of worry, disbelief and heart-break as we made our way through this gorgeous debut novel.

For Jennifer’s beautiful review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Blog Tour – The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Published February 9, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

Dark, suspenseful, and deeply atmospheric, The Lost Man is the highly anticipated next book from the bestselling and award-winning Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature.

What did I think?:

I’ve been so amazingly lucky to be involved with the blog tours for Jane Harper’s first two books in the Aaron Falk series, The Dry and Force Of Nature so I was delighted when Caolinn Douglas contacted me via email and asked me to be part of the tour for Jane’s new book. The Lost Man is a thriller set once again in the author’s home country of Australia but this time, it’s a stand-alone novel that introduces us to brand new characters and once again, an impossibly mysterious situation. In this story, we follow Nathan Bright and his family as they struggle to deal with the discovery of his brother Cameron’s body. As I’ve come to expect with all of Jane’s novels, nothing is quite what it seems and Cameron’s death is much more complex than originally expected.

I was excited to read The Lost Man as a buddy read alongside blogging bestie, Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader and boy, did we have a lot to talk about? This book really got under my skin in the most unexpected manner and the second half of the novel in particular had me on tenterhooks throughout, to the point where I actually had to message Jennifer and just squeak acronyms at her i.e. OMG, OMG!

Jane Harper, author of The Lost Man.

Jane Harper is an absolute wizard at creating atmospheric settings and using the harsh climate of the Australian outback to her advantage in developing a tense, nail-biting narrative that I found it difficult to tear my eyes away from. The seclusion of the area, the isolation of family members and the way that they are forced to interact, communicate and work together as the nearest neighbours are three hours drive away was nothing short of brilliant and I could almost smell the unease in the air. The thought of being in such a remote area where it would be difficult to get prompt help in an emergency is absolutely terrifying to me and the idea of having to be prepared with survival materials every time you take a drive was quite difficult to wrap my head around but completely fascinating and only served to heighten the drama of the situation.

The Australian Outback – road trip anyone?!

Personally, I felt this book was very much a novel of two very different halves. Let me stress that this isn’t a bad thing at all. I found the first half of The Lost Man to be slightly slower in pace. We were introduced to the Bright family, we experienced their confusion at losing their brother/son/husband etc and we began to see bits and pieces of Nathan’s private investigation into uncovering the reasons behind Cameron’s death. At this time, I appreciated the intricate detail that Jane Harper presented us with, allowing the reader to become familiar with the setting and the situation. In fact, I felt as if I was eased into a situation delicately and methodically so by the time I was halfway through, I was entirely comfortable (although obviously intrigued) with what was happening.

Holy Moley, by the second half of the novel does she pull the rug out from under your feet or what?! I was genuinely thrilled by the direction the narrative took, the secrets that were uncovered and the meaningful way in which the reader gets to know each individual personality a bit deeper. Jennifer and I had a lovely chat about halfway through and as with all of our little talks, we tried to analyse the plot and figure out what might be going on, voicing our predictions for the rest of the book. I’m over the moon to announce that we were wrong and I couldn’t be happier telling you that.

I honestly feel that Jane’s literary writing style is almost one of a kind. There’s not many other authors out there that I can think of that manage to create such literary, intelligent work that combines beautiful characterisation with a plot that you can’t help but become heavily invested in. As a result, I simply HAVE to give it nothing less than the full five stars!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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AUTHOR INFORMATION

Jane Harper is the international bestselling author of The Dry and Force of Nature. Her third book, The Lost Man, will be realised in February 2019.
Jane has won numerous top awards including the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year, the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year, the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, and the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year.
Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea.
Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne.

Find Jane on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/556546.Jane_Harper

on her website at: http://janeharper.com.au/

on Twitter at: @janeharperautho

Thank you so much once again to Caolinn Douglas, Grace Vincent and Little Brown UK for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Lost Man is published on 7th February 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 Lost Man on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863488-the-lost-man

Link to The Lost Man on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Man-Jane-Harper/dp/1408708213/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1549469849&sr=8-1&keywords=the+lost+man+jane+harper

Book Tag – Books Beginning With W.I.N.T.E.R.

Published February 8, 2019 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and hope you’re all well! Today I’m celebrating Winter as part of my seasonal book tag. I was actually meant to do this tag in December but had a major blogging slump and had to postpone it for a little while but as we’ve had a little snow recently here in the UK, it finally seemed like the perfect time.

I came up with this idea after seeing one of my favourite book tubers, Lauren from Lauren And The Books do a video at Christmas. She took each letter of the word CHRISTMAS and presented a title from her bookshelves that began with that letter. I’m going to nab that great idea and today I will be taking each letter of the word SUMMER and showing you a book from my TBR that begins with that letter which I hope to get round to very soon.

Check out my books beginning with S.P.R.I.N.G. HERE my books beginning with S.U.M.M.E.R. HERE and my books beginning with A.U.T.U.M.N. HERE

So without further ado, let’s get on with it!

W

What’s it all about?:

Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born.

When his master’s eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or “Titch,” is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist.

He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash’s head, Titch abandons everything to save him.

What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life, one which will propel him further across the globe.

From the sultry cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, Washington Black tells a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again–and asks the question, what is true freedom?

I was sent a copy of this book by my lovely blogging bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages when she was sent two copies. That beautiful synopsis really draws me in and I’m also intrigued as it was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize last year (2018).

I

What’s it all about?:

A supernatural superthriller from the author of Let the Right One In

Molly wakes her mother to go to the toilet. The campsite is strangely blank. The toilet block has gone. Everything else has gone too. This is a place with no sun. No god.

Just four families remain. Each has done something to bring them here – each denies they deserve it. Until they see what’s coming over the horizon, moving irrevocably towards them. Their worst mistake. Their darkest fear.

And for just one of them, their homecoming.

This gripping conceptual horror takes you deep into one of the most macabre and unique imaginations writing in the genre. On family, on children, Lindqvist writes in a way that tears the heart and twists the soul. I Am Behind You turns the world upside down and, disturbing, terrifying and shattering by turns, it will suck you in.

This book was also a lovely gift from one of my blogger friends, Stuart from Always Trust In Books who I buddy read with on a regular basis. I’m sorry Stu, I still haven’t got to it yet but hopefully at some point this year! 😦

N

What’s it all about?:

DID YOU SEE ANYTHING ON THE NIGHT THE ESMOND FAMILY WERE MURDERED? 

From the author of CLOSE TO HOME and IN THE DARK comes the third pulse-pounding DI Fawley crime thriller.

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DI Fawley has ever worked. 

The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life.

Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?

Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true.

Because this fire wasn’t an accident.

I’ve been an avid fan of Cara Hunter since her first two books in this series, Close To Home and In The Dark. No Way Out is the third book in the series and it comes out later this month. I’m so excited to get to it and a big thank you to Penguin Random House for sending it my way!

T

What’s it all about?:

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

This is the second book in the Winternight trilogy and even though the third one is now out, the second one is STILL sitting on my shelves waiting to be read. Sigh! I must try and get to it this year.

E

What’s it all about?:

An extraordinary story of love and hope from the bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist 

In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, Saeed and Nadia share a cup of coffee, and their story begins. It will be a love story but also a story about war and a world in crisis, about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow. Before too long, the time will come for Nadia and Saeed to leave their homeland. When the streets are no longer useable and all options are exhausted, this young couple will join the great outpouring of those fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world . . .

This is another one of those books that was nominated for the Man Booker prize back in 2017 and has been sitting on my shelves for quite some time! I’ve now heard mixed reviews since it was released and it has made me slightly wary of bumping it up my TBR. 

R

What’s it all about?:

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.

Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.

Red Clocks will definitely be getting read this year – hooray! Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader and I have chosen it as one of our (many) buddy reads and so this WILL be happening at some point. I can’t wait. 

Here ends my Books Beginning With W.I.N.T.E.R! What I’d love to know from you guys is if you’ve read any of these books before and what you thought? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you’d like to do your own books of W.I.N.T.E.R. from your TBR, I’d love to see them so please feel free.

Hope you all have a cosy Winter (what’s left of it anyway)!

Love Beth xx

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi (buddy read with Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader)

Published February 3, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

THE NEW YORK TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER
THE SUNDAY TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WELLCOME BOOK PRIZE 2017

‘Finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option…Unmissable’ New York Times

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.

What did I think?:

When Breath Becomes Air is one of those books that I kept hearing great things about and it had been on my nonfiction shelf for much longer than was sensible before I got cross with myself and put it on my Nonfiction November TBR in an effort to ensure it was finally read! Well, thank goodness for buddy reads and Jennifer, a blogger bestie of mine who blogs over at Tar Heel Reader. She too had been desperate to read this book and sent me a message suggesting we should read it together. Of course I jumped at the chance. I count myself so very lucky to be able to buddy read with a quartet of wonderful bloggers and we always have such deep, meaningful and rewarding conversations about our reads that sometimes I wonder whether I should read every single book in my collection with a partner?!

Let’s be completely honest here. When Breath Becomes Air was never going to be an easy read. If you weren’t already aware, the book is a memoir following a respected neurosurgeon’s battle when he is diagnosed with cancer and, devastatingly, he passes away before he has a chance to finish the book. As a reader, you go into it knowing this cold, hard information but strangely enough (even though it’s ludicrous to say as you’re well aware of the ending), you feel a burst of hope throughout that the story might end up having a happy outcome. One of the worst things is reminding yourself that it doesn’t and that whole anticipation of the emotional trauma to come is nothing short of horrific.

Paul Kalanithi, author of When Breath Becomes Air, published posthumously in January 2016.

This wasn’t an absolutely perfect read for me – there were points where Paul is describing his college years that I’m sad to say, dragged slightly but one thing I will take away from this astonishing memoir is how poignant and gut-wrenching his journey was whilst battling stage IV metastatic lung cancer. He had this incredible lust for life and his passion for literature and writing really made me feel warm towards him as an individual. I also appreciated how he talked about his relationship with his wife and about himself as a person. There were flaws, there were issues but his brutal honesty about this made me respect him even more and believe in the authenticity of what he was saying.

When Breath Becomes Air is truly an evocative and heart-breaking read. I admired the determination with which Paul continued with his career despite having such a life-altering diagnosis and how he continued to achieve great things despite being racked with pain as the cancer slowly ravaged his body. I even found myself getting frustrated at times, particularly in the beginning when he suspected something was wrong with him but was too fearful to get it confirmed by another medical professional. Would he have been in a different situation if he had been diagnosed sooner? Probably not, his cancer was particularly invasive and aggressive but the thought of it made my stomach churn.

The most distressing parts of the book personally speaking came right at the end. Paul and his wife Lucy decide to have a child and Paul writes about holding her beside his hospital bed right near the end of his life. It filled me with sadness and despair, realising that that poor little girl would never really know her father although I think it’s wonderful that Lucy is keeping his memory alive in so many ways and that she will always have this book as a testament to her father’s life. Then there was *that* epilogue written by Lucy as Paul was unable to finish the book. Well, I was in bits by this time. I can’t imagine the bravery that it must have taken for her to write what she did and remain so hopeful for herself and her daughter’s future.

This is such an incredibly moving and thought-provoking read that I really believe will stay etched on my memory for years to come. If you’ve been putting it off like I had been, I very much recommend giving it a shot, it’s such an affecting reading experience. Thank you so much to Jennifer for reading it with me and the deep, fascinating conversation that we had – I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

For Jennifer’s fabulous review, please see her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Previous buddy reads with Jennifer @ Tar Heel Reader

Elmet by Fiona Mozley – check out my review HERE and her review HERE.