LGBT fiction

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Book Tag – Books Beginning With A.U.T.U.M.N.

Published September 23, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and hope you’re all well! Today I’m celebrating Autumn as today marks the beginning of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. 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 and my books beginning with S.U.M.M.E.R. HERE!

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

A

What’s it all about?:

Science historian Laurel Braitman draws on evidence from across the world to show, for the first time, how astonishingly similar humans and other animals are when it comes to their emotional wellbeing.

Charles Darwin developed his evolutionary theories by studying Galapagos finches and fancy pigeons; Alfred Russel Wallace investigated creatures in the Malay Archipelago. Laurel Braitman got her lessons closer to home — by watching her dog. Oliver snapped at flies that only he could see, suffered from debilitating separation anxiety, was prone to aggression, and may even have attempted suicide. Braitman’s experiences with Oliver made her acknowledge a startling connection: non-human animals can lose their minds. And when they do, it often looks a lot like human mental illness.

Thankfully, all of us can heal. Braitman spent three years travelling the world in search of emotionally disturbed animals and the people who care for them, finding numerous stories of recovery: parrots that learn how to stop plucking their feathers, dogs that cease licking their tails raw, polar bears that stop swimming in compulsive circles, and great apes that benefit from the help of human psychiatrists. How do these animals recover? The same way we do: with love, medicine, and above all, the knowledge that someone understands why we suffer and what can make us feel better.

I adore non-fiction about animals and this book, which I won in a giveaway on Twitter has been sitting on my shelves for far too long. I’m hoping to put it on my TBR for Non Fiction November so will hopefully be reading it very soon, as I read the synopsis, I’m too excited to leave it any longer!

U

What’s it all about?:

A dark enchantment blights the land

Agnieszka loves her village, set in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest’s dark magic. However, his help comes at a terrible price. A young woman must serve him for ten years, leaving all she values behind.

Agnieszka fears her dearest friend Kasia will be picked at the next choosing, for she is everything Agnieszka is not – beautiful, graceful and brave. Yet when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he takes.

There was SO much hype around this book when it first came out and I can’t believe I still haven’t read it yet. I know my sister, Chrissi Reads didn’t get on too well with it and I’ve heard mixed reviews but I’m determined to find out what I think myself – what a gorgeous synopsis!

T

What’s it all about?:

During the long, hot summer of 1976, a young Cambridge mathematician arrives in a remote village in the Lake District and takes on a job as a farm labourer. Painfully awkward and shy, Spencer Little is viewed with suspicion by the community and his only real friendship is with scruffy, clever ten-year-old Alice.

This book wins the award for the shortest synopsis ever! Anyway, I’ve heard great things, particularly from my favourite book tuber, Savidge Reads so this definitely has to be read. At some point. #toomanybooks

U

What’s it all about?:

‘According to his mother, Jack Burns was an actor before he was an actor, but Jack’s most vivid memories of childhood were those moments when he felt compelled to hold his mother’s hand. He wasn’t acting then.’

Jack Burns’ mother, Alice, is a tattoo artist in search of the boy’s father, a virtuoso organist named William who has fled America to Europe. To fund her journey, she plies her trade in the seaports of the Baltic coast. But her four-year-old son’s errant father can’t be found, and soon even Jack’s memories of that perplexing time are called into question. It is only when he becomes a Hollywood actor in later life that what he has experienced in the past comes into telling play in his present……

Confession time. I haven’t read any John Irving before despite owning a few books by him on my shelves. This looks like a perfect place to start though. Intriguing synopsis and potentially fascinating characters I think!

M

What’s it all about?:

A twenty-four hour whirlwind of death and life.

In the depths of a winter’s night, the heart of Simon Limbeau is resting, readying itself for the day to come. In a few hours’ time, just before six, his alarm will go off and he will venture into the freezing dawn, drive down to the beach, and go surfing with his friends. A trip he has made a hundred times and yet, today, the heart of Simon Limbeau will encounter a very different course.

But for now, the black-box of his body is free to leap, swell, melt and sink, just as it has throughout the twenty years of Simon’s life.

5.50 a.m.

This is his heart.
And here is its story.

Also published as The Heart, this book won the Wellcome Trust Book Prize in 2017 and as a scientist who loves science non fiction, this seems like the perfect book for me. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book!

N

What’s it all about?:

Nutshell is a classic story of murder and deceit, told by a narrator with a perspective and voice unlike any in recent literature. A bravura performance, it is the finest recent work from a true master.

To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour, is just a speck in the universe of possible things.

Ian McEwan. Contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Told from the point of view of a foetus. Enough said, right?

Here ends my Books Beginning With A.U.T.U.M.N! 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 A.U.T.U.M.N. from your TBR, I’d love to see them so please feel free.

Hope you all have a cosy Autumn/Fall!

Love Beth xx

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Blog Tour – The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech

Published September 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Long ago Andrew made a childhood wish. One he has always kept in a silver box with a too-big lid that falls off. When it finally comes true, he wishes it hadn’t…

Long ago Ben dreamed of going to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally goes there, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…

Ben and Andrew keep meeting where they least expect. Some collisions are by design, but are they for a reason? Ben’s father would disown him for his relationship with Andrew, so they must hide their love. Andrew is determined to make it work, but secrets from his past threaten to ruin everything.

Ben escapes to Zimbabwe to finally fulfil his lifelong ambition. But will he ever return to England? To Andrew? To the truth?

A dark and poignant drama, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a mesmerisingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart.

What did I think?:

I’m ashamed to say The Lion Tamer Who Lost is my first experience with Louise Beech’s writing but after this beauty of a novel, it certainly won’t be my last and I will one hundred percent be perusing her back catalogue of works whilst thoroughly chastising myself for not picking a book up by her sooner! As an author, Louise has always been at the periphery of my awareness, I’ve read the rave reviews from my fellow bloggers, I’ve heard the hype and become intrigued and when Anne Cater emailed me to invite me to take part in the blog tour for her latest novel, I simply had to jump on board and finally experience what it seems like everyone else has had the joy of experiencing so far. Thank you so much to Anne and to Karen Sullivan and all at Orenda Books for allowing me to download a copy of this superb, memorable and inspiring novel in return for an honest review and I’m delighted to report back that I loved every minute of it.

Louise Beech, author of The Lion Tamer Who Lost.

I might sound like a bit of a broken record here but as with a lot of other books I’ve read this year, I really cannot tell you too much about this book for fear of ruining it’s magic and majesty for the thousands of lucky readers who are still to get their paws on it. In a nutshell, it’s about two men, Ben and Andrew – the former goes off to Africa to fulfil his dream of working at a lion sanctuary but when he arrives there, he can’t help but have regrets and concerns about the situation he has left back home. Andrew is a writer, a dreamer, hungry for love and a family of his own and in the habit of making wishes (kept in a special wish box) that have a strange way of coming true, even if they are not in the way he would have hoped or expected. It’s a love story but it’s also a story of identity, learning to love yourself, accepting yourself for who you are, the importance of family and friends and communication between all parties and the desperate situations that we find ourselves in when communication falls apart.

Ethical volunteering at a lion sanctuary near Cape Town, South Africa.

https://www.viavolunteers.com/volunteer-south-africa-cape-town-lion-tiger-sanctuary.php

Now, I had heard rumours about the stunning nature of Louise Beech’s writing but I still wasn’t prepared for the sheer gorgeousness and emotion that encompassed the entire narrative. Louise really understands how to write characters that get deep under your skin in that you immediately feel an emotional attachment with them, are invested in their past, present and future stories and only want the best outcome for them as the story continues. This was definitely the case for me. Ben and Andrew were so vivid, real, raw and available throughout the novel that I felt I could have walked into the story and immediately sparked up a deep and meaningful conversation with them.

I also appreciated that this story wasn’t just about romance, it was also about family and friendship and, even more specifically, about all the troubles that come with that. As the old saying goes: “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family,” and Ben and Andrew both find this out in different ways as Ben struggles to connect with his bigoted father and military brother and Andrew finds it hard to find any family at all after the loss of his mother, no siblings and never knowing whom his father was. There are flawed characters, there are difficult circumstances and both men learn a lot about themselves and each other in the process but it all felt so incredibly authentic, just like issues any one of us may experience with our families and have to deal with.

I can’t express in enough words to try and convince you how wonderful and heart-breaking this novel is but I’m hoping my star rating speaks volumes. I became completely enamoured with the writing, the plot and the characters and was left bereft by the ending. Louise Beech deserves all the praise in the world for creating such a magnificent story that will remain etched on my memory for a long time to come.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be
Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in
My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Her third book, Maria in
the Moon, was widely reviewed and critically acclaimed. Her short fiction has
won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the
Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport
Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of
Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre,
where her first play was performed in 2012.

Find Louise on her Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4122943.Louise_Beech

on her website at: https://louisebeech.co.uk/

or on Twitter at: @LouiseWriter

Thank you so much once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Lion Tamer Who Lost will be published on 20th September 2018 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 Lion Tamer Who Lost on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40191563-the-lion-tamer-who-lost

Link to The Lion Tamer Who Lost on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lion-Tamer-Who-Lost-ebook/dp/B07DFQ9SW7/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1537036095&sr=8-1&keywords=the+lion+tamer+who+lost

The Gender Games: The Problem With Men And Women, From Someone Who Has Been Both – Juno Dawson

Published August 29, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Why we are all being messed up by gender, and what we can do about it.

‘It’s a boy!’ or ‘It’s a girl!’ are the first words almost all of us hear when we enter the world. Before our names, before we have likes and dislikes – before we, or anyone else, has any idea who we are. And two years ago, as Juno Dawson went to tell her mother she was (and actually, always had been) a woman, she started to realise just how wrong we’ve been getting it.

Gender isn’t just screwing over trans people, it’s messing with everyone. From little girls who think they can’t be doctors to teenagers who come to expect street harassment. From exclusionist feminists to ‘alt-right’ young men. From men who can’t cry to the women who think they shouldn’t. As her body gets in line with her mind, Juno tells not only her own story, but the story of everyone who is shaped by society’s expectations of gender – and what we can do about it.

Featuring insights from well-known gender, feminist and trans activists including Rebecca Root, Laura Bates, Gemma Cairney, Anthony Anaxagorou, Hannah Witton, Alaska Thunderfuck and many more, The Gender Games is a frank, witty and powerful manifesto for a world where what’s in your head is more important than what’s between your legs.

What did I think?:

Disclaimer: As a white, straight woman I realise I have no clue about what a transgender person has gone through in their lives but guess what? Juno Dawson has written this informative, sassy and incredibly thoughtful piece of non-fiction for EVERYONE, no matter what your sexuality or gender. It’s so very accessible and educational but one of my favourite parts about it was the parts of British pop culture that she examined in this frank, raw and hilarious memoir. I was taken back to my own adolescence with tales of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Spice Girls, Strictly Come Dancing, Carrie….I could go on. It was reminiscent for me of more innocent times, before social media became such a “thing” and a troll was just something under a bridge in a fairy story.

Juno Dawson, author of The Gender Games.

The Gender Games is a no holds barred account of Juno’s life, from being raised a male called James and believing she was a homosexual man to realising that all the confusion she held from a very young age stemmed from the fact that she was actually born in the wrong body and should have been a woman. Everything started to slot into place and a lot was explained for Juno but of course, this didn’t make her journey any easier now the puzzle was complete. In fact, her journey was just beginning because now she made the decision to transition into becoming a woman, tell her friends and family and being a public figure and a well known YA author, face the public. Juno had already come across prejudice and bigotry in her life through being a homosexual man, which although more acceptable in modern society is unfortunately still tantamount to a wave of bad attitudes, misunderstandings, taunts and bullying. The Gender Games is not only her story but a story for all of us about identity, gender stereotyping, sexism, rape culture, feminism, race and how it feels when you finally find out who you are as a person and start to learn to love yourself, as Colin Firth might say in Juno’s beloved Bridget Jones’ Diary “just as you are.”

I think I’ve already made clear my own personal views on people who are transgender in other reviews in that I’m aware it’s a very real, very traumatic and confusing experience especially for young children who don’t feel as if they belong in their own body. As I’ve mentioned, I’m never going to be able to fully realise what this is like but I’m willing and happy to be educated about it. Juno spins an absolutely fascinating account of her life that explores gender and all its foibles and it certainly made me think hard about my own subconscious gender stereotypes and make a concerted effort to be more aware of bias in the future. I was completely delighted to discover that this book also delves into other areas, like feminism across the different races which again, was absorbing to read about and initiated a few moments where I had to simply put the book down and think about things a bit deeper for a little while.

Throughout it all, Juno maintains a dry wit and sarcastic edge to her stories but is completely aware of the moments when she’s talking about more controversial or horrific subjects and is fully sensitive and serious about these issues. I feel like out of all the books she’s brought out, this must have been the book she was most nervous about because as a reader, it felt like she laid her soul completely bare for everyone else to read about. I found her story courageous and her personality so humble and down to earth that it was an absolute joy to find out more about her and from the bottom of my heart, I wish her the very best in her ongoing journey to discover herself. This is an empowering and important non-fiction read that I wouldn’t hesitate to push into the hands of everyone I meet so they might be able to learn a little something just like I did whilst reading this fantastic book.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Tin Man – Sarah Winman

Published August 28, 2018 by bibliobeth

h

What’s it all about?:

This is almost a love story.

Ellis and Michael are twelve when they first become friends, and for a long time it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of overbearing fathers. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more.

But then we fast forward a decade or so, to find that Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is nowhere in sight. Which leads to the question, what happened in the years between?

This is almost a love story. But it’s not as simple as that.

What did I think?:

I’ve had this book on my TBR shelves since a little while after it was released and I picked myself up a gorgeous signed copy coincidentally in the same place the majority of the book is set, Oxford on a wonderful bookshop crawl. I was however, VERY nervous to start reading it for a number of reasons. The first is that whilst I enjoyed Sarah Winman’s debut novel, When God Was A Rabbit (which I read in my pre-blogging days), I unfortunately didn’t get on so well with her second, A Year Of Marvellous Ways. When I initially heard that this was coming out, I wasn’t even sure I was going to read it but then the buzz started with a lot of reviewers whose opinion I trust praising it to the hills. Well, then I just knew that I had to be part of the phenomenon and discover what everyone was talking about. Can I see what all the fuss was about? The short answer to that is yes I can – Winman is a fabulous wordsmith with the English language and I was immediately enraptured by the characters of both Ellis and Michael. Whilst it wasn’t necessarily a five star read for me personally, for the lyrical beauty of the narrative alone I simply have to recommend it to others.

Sarah Winman, author of Tin Man.

The synopsis of this novel is suitably vague, other reviews I have read have been mostly quite mysterious and now having read this novel, I can see why and will continue to do the same in my own review. It is a love story (of sorts) but it’s also about friendship, loss, grief, despair, not being able to be the person that you want to be and how chasms in your life can be bridged if you have the right person there with you, holding your hand and offering support during tough times. Initially, we focus on Ellis and Michael who have both struggled with issues at home and develop a fast, meaningful friendship which helps both boys deal with their personal demons in similar (and very different) ways. However, when we first meet Ellis, he is on his own, suffering in stoic silence once more and Michael is nowhere to be seen. During the second part of the narrative, we find out where Michael is, more about him as a character and what happened during the years of their friendship that led both men to the point they now find themselves.

The city of Oxford, England where Tin Man is set.

Tin Man is a book that can easily be read in one sitting being a mere 208 pages long in paperback format. I read it in two sittings as I was in the middle of a few different books at the time but I still managed to finish it within a day as I found the writing style to be absolutely delicious, delving deep into my mind and senses like melted butter and it was easy to become immersed in the story. There were some truly beautiful moments that stand out and some incredibly poignant, heart-breaking ones too but I have to admit, the style might not be for everyone. Winman plays around with words, phrases and the emotions of our characters so gorgeously that the effect of it all wasn’t really evident for me until I had reached the final page and it was only then I realised the impact of what I had just read.

However, it is written in a sort of stream of consciousness way and often the reader is left to connect the dots themselves regarding certain things the author is alluding to that are left pretty much unsaid but gently suggested. Personally, I enjoy a novel where parts are more vague, left up in the air and the reader is left to draw their own conclusions about aspects of the story but I do understand it’s not everyone’s cup of tea so just throwing that out there! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this novel but I completely understand what the author was trying to do and applaud her for it. The writing as I’ve mentioned (probably too much now!) was magical, there was tenderness, devastation and nothing was ever really resolved by the end which made it all the more gut-wrenching as a result.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Tin Man by Sarah Winman was the forty-third book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Talking About The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne with Chrissi Reads

Published March 12, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?

Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead.

At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his three score years and ten, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more.

In this, Boyne’s most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: This book has been very hyped by others in the blogosphere. Did the hype worry you? We all know about that dreaded hype monster…

BETH: I think we all worry about that horrible hype monster. There’s been so often where I’ve heard nothing but good things about a book and for some reason, I just haven’t connected with it as much as other readers. But for some strange reason, I didn’t have that worry with this book. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve read a few of John Boyne’s books now so I’m already familiar with his style of writing (and I was pretty certain I was going to love it!) or if I’ve read enough reviews of it now that I knew I’d be into it purely on the plot alone. This was definitely the case with me, I knew I was going to love it, what WAS unexpected was just how much I would adore it.

BETH: What did you make of the relationship between Cyril and his adoptive parents, Charles and Maude?

CHRISSI: SO VERY STRANGE. I really felt for Cyril. I felt like Cyril’s adoptive parents merely adopted him just because it was ‘right’ thing to do, to have a child. I don’t feel like there was much love there which was a great shame. Charles and his constant need to remind Cyril that he wasn’t a real Avery. Ooh his Dad really made me cross. Ha! I find it funny that I’m still so annoyed about Cyril’s parents!

CHRISSI: Following Cyril through the course of his life takes us through much of the twentieth century. How was each decade most vividly brought to life for you?

BETH: Great question. We see Cyril from a very young boy, right through school and teenage years to a young adult, middle aged man and then an old man. Different things happen to him in each decade that affect his life irrevocably and it seems each decade also comes with a different challenge for poor Cyril. I think his life was brought into vivid detail by these experiences that he goes through and also the host of colourful characters that he meets along the way that all touch his life in some way, either for better or for worst.

BETH: How well do you think this novel explored what it’s like to be gay in Ireland from the fifties onwards?

CHRISSI: I found this novel to be incredibly intriguing as to what it was like to be gay in Ireland from the 50s. I guess I always knew in the back of my mind about what Ireland experienced, but I don’t think I’ve ever read something so memorable about Ireland’s history with homosexuality. I think the novel explored it well and in a way that was heart-breaking but incredibly memorable at the same time.

CHRISSI: Discuss the ending, how else might you have concluded Cyril’s story?

BETH: The ending was quite bitter-sweet for me but I’ll try not to give away any spoilers. I’m really happy we got to see Cyril as a seventy year old man coming near the end of his life. However, this was also really sad (and sounds a bit silly) but even though I’m aware he’s fictional, I just wish he hadn’t aged so quickly! By the end of the novel, he seems to have achieved some sort of closure about the events that have happened to him over the years and has made peace with those he needed to which was lovely to read. Some of the parts really broke my heart though, especially when you find out his future and when he’s talking to his nearest and dearest that he hasn’t seen for years.

BETH: There is a large cast of very different characters in this novel. Which character did you most warm to and why?

CHRISSI: There really is a large cast of characters. However, only one stole my heart and that was Cyril. I absolutely loved following his story across his life. I loved seeing him grow over time from teen, to young adult, adult to the elderly Cyril. I loved being along for the ride. I grew so close to Cyril and was desperate for everything to turn out right for him.

CHRISSI: How do you think this book compares to John Boyne’s other books that you’ve read?

BETH: I’ve read probably his most famous – The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, Mutiny On The Bounty and Stay Where You Are And Then Leave. Although I rated the latter of these five stars on Goodreads, I would have to say without a doubt, The Heart’s Invisible Furies is my favourite book by John Boyne so far. It has the most beautiful writing, the most fantastic characters and was a novel that had me laughing and crying in equal measure. It’s easily made it’s way to my favourites shelf and is probably one of my all-time favourite books that I’ll be talking about and pushing into other people’s hands for a long time yet.

BETH: The Heart’s Invisible Furies is both funny and sad. Why do you think the author chose to use humour in the telling of this story?

CHRISSI: I think it’s really important that stories have a balance of funny and sad. Despite bad things happening, life does have its funny moments. I think if stories always dwell on the sad then it can be very tough to read. I like it when there are lighter moments in this story. I think the author included some lighter moments because some particular moments were difficult to read.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne was the nineteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

Published March 9, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The New York Times Top Ten Bestseller

The Immortalists is about as good as it gets’ Karen Joy Fowler

‘Like literary nectar’ Hannah Beckerman

‘I couldn’t put it down’ Carys Bray

It’s 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York’s Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. The four Gold children, too young for what they’re about to hear, sneak out to learn their fortunes.

Over the years that follow, the siblings must choose how to live with the prophecies the fortune-teller gave them that day. Will they accept, ignore, cheat or defy them? Golden-boy Simon escapes to San Francisco, searching for love; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician; eldest son Daniel tries to control fate as an army doctor after 9/11; and bookish Varya looks to science for the answers she craves.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists is a story about how we live, how we die, and what we do with the time we have.

What did I think?:

It is a truth universally acknowledged (well, by me for certain!) that Tinder Press have been publishing some fantastic novels recently and I can always guarantee when I read a book by this publisher that I’m going to thoroughly enjoy it. Thank you so much to Caitlin Raynor and Tinder Press for sending this wonderful surprise my way late last year in exchange for an honest review and as expected, I completely adored it. The proof copy I was sent was brilliantly simple with just two sentences on the front and back of the book respectively. The front cover said: “How would you live your life if you knew the day you were going to die?” and the back cover said: “New York, 1969. Four siblings, too young for what they are about to hear, seek out their fortunes.” Well, the marketing was pure perfection as this was all that was needed to hook me in and made me unbelievably excited to learn the stories of our four protagonists.

Oh my goodness and what stories they are! The Immortalists is a delightfully slow-paced and beautifully detailed look at each sibling and how learning the date of their death changes the way they might live their lives as a result. We have Varya, the eldest and most sensible, her brother Daniel who becomes a doctor for the military, Klara who becomes a magician in San Francisco and lives with the youngest sibling, Simon who trains as a dancer in the same city. As I mentioned, the date that each sibling is given affects them all in different ways and perhaps encourages them to make different or riskier life decisions that they might have normally. Klara and Simon are the risk-takers of the family and run off together to make a new life where they can both be happy away from the sometimes constraining nature of their Jewish family but unfortunately, their own personal demons do return to haunt them. Meanwhile, Daniel and Varya remain at home to look after their sensitive mother and are more wary about making choices that could affect the quality/length of their lives. It is Varya however who has arguably the most interesting job and reaction to the prophecy, as a research scientist investigating what levels you can go to to extend the human life span.

This novel took me on the most amazing journey that I never wanted to end. We follow each sibling in turn from the late sixties until the present day as each of them reaches the day that they are expected to die, according to the fortune teller. We learn about all their hopes and dreams, all their worries and especially, the struggles and trials that they face as they each reach adulthood and are confronted with the inevitable spectre of Death. It covers so many different themes, like the bonds between families, religion, homosexuality, mental illness and of course, life and death. It’s rare to read a novel where you connect with every single one of the characters but for me, this is exactly how I felt, I loved them all for very different reasons and cried and laughed with them at each struggle and triumph.

Every era of time that is captured, from the easy, open environment of San Francisco to New York in the age of modern technology is drawn fantastically, with so much atmosphere and intricate detail that you can almost imagine yourself by the side of each sibling, experiencing exactly what they do in each moment. Chloe Benjamin has created something truly magical with The Immortalists with characters that have touched my heart, many of whom made me so emotional regarding the direction that their lives ended up and the choices that they made. It really made me think (and I’d love to discuss with you in the comments below), if you had the opportunity to know the date you were going to die, would you want to know? If yes/no, why? Let me know!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 

 

 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin was the eighteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

The Last Beginning (The Next Together #2) – Lauren James

Published January 20, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The epic conclusion to Lauren James’ debut The Next Together about love, destiny and time travel.

Sixteen years ago, after a scandal that rocked the world, teenagers Katherine and Matthew vanished without a trace. Now Clove Sutcliffe is determined to find her long lost relatives. But where do you start looking for a couple who seem to have been reincarnated at every key moment in history? Who were Kate and Matt? Why were they born again and again? And who is the mysterious Ella, who keeps appearing at every turn in Clove’s investigation?

For Clove, there is a mystery to solve in the past and a love to find in the future.

What did I think?:

The Last Beginning is the second book in Lauren James’ wonderful science fiction/time travel duology and after the absolute gorgeousness of the first novel, The Next Together, this book was a must-read that I knew I had to get to very soon. I think I mentioned in my first review that this series really benefits from being such a beautiful mixture of different genres. First of all, it’s young adult fiction with a hint of romance. Then there’s the historical detail gifted to us from the moments when our characters travel through time. Finally, a spattering of mystery, some nods to science and technology and a mere pinch of dystopia with an LGBT element makes this series so appealing to a variety of fiction lovers. Was I worried that it might suffer from second book syndrome? Well, a little bit but to be honest, I’m not sure if that perceived effect of a second book not living up to expectations is as common as I once thought as I’ve read quite a few second novels now that are on a perfectly equal footing with the first. This is definitely one of them.

If you’ve not read the first book in the series yet, I won’t spoil things too much for you but all you need to know about this book is it is told from the perspective of the daughter Clove, of the main characters in The Next Together, Katherine and Matt. Her parents promised to come back for her when she was a baby after they dealt with a very sticky situation of their own but they have never returned. At the beginning of this novel, Clove has just found out the truth behind her parentage and has been given a lot of old papers and letters belonging to her parents. She is determined to solve the mystery behind why Katherine and Matt keep being reincarnated, appearing in different periods of history and falling in love with each other in each separate period of time. This involves Clove also travelling back and forward in time, learning about her parents, finding love for herself and discovering valuable lessons about why certain things in history should never be messed with.

The Last Beginning wins top marks from me for originality, an inventive and thrilling plot and like the first book, a fascinating reading experience visually speaking, with the author using emails, messenger conversations, letters and diary entries which only enhanced my enjoyment of the narrative overall. I’ve mentioned in countless reviews now that I don’t like romance to be “sickly sweet.” Well, I’m happy to announce that once again, I found the relationship between Katherine and Matt to be honest, funny and heart-warming, a pure joy to read about. I also enjoyed that we got to see new relationships developing between Jen and Tom who raised Clove as their daughter and Clove and Ella. which were just as adorable. If this book was a race at the Olympics it would be the relay. I sprinted through it lightning quick but time and time again I kept getting passed those magical batons that changed the story in ways I would have never expected. I love being surprised and I never anticipated the directions Lauren James took me as a reader. I can’t say anything else except if you love young adult fiction and are in the mood for something delightfully different, read this series!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Last Beginning by Lauren James is the fourth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!