literary fiction

All posts tagged literary fiction

My Name Is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout

Published September 25, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016 AND THE BAILEYS WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016 

THE NEW YORK TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER 

An exquisite story of mothers and daughters from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Her unexpected visit forces Lucy to confront the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of her life: her impoverished childhood in Amgash, Illinois, her escape to New York and her desire to become a writer, her faltering marriage, her love for her two daughters.

Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable. In My Name Is Lucy Barton, one of America’s finest writers shows how a simple hospital visit illuminates the most tender relationship of all-the one between mother and daughter.

What did I think?:

This novel was EVERYWHERE a little while ago due to being long-listed for both the Women’s Prize For Fiction and The Man Booker Prize. With books like these, I always seem to be among one of the last to read them (or it feels that way anyway!). I’m not sure why, the hype monster always worries me slightly, especially if everyone is singing a novel’s praises to the sky…..what if I don’t feel the same? Luckily, the lovely people at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights finally convinced me to pick this book up sooner than I might have done otherwise and whilst it may not have been a five star read for me, I can completely understand why other people treasure it and why it has received all the critical acclaim and fantastic reviews.

Elizabeth Strout, author of My Name Is Lucy Barton.

As the title may suggest, this is the story of a woman called Lucy Barton whom when we meet her is recovering in hospital after complications from a routine surgery. Her husband isn’t a big fan of hospitals so she has been unable to see either him or her two daughters and is feeling generally miserable and fed up until one day she gets an unexpected visitor – her mother, whom she hasn’t seen for many years. Lucy has quite a strained, uneasy relationship with her entire family we soon come to learn which all harks back to her childhood, a poverty-stricken, isolating and lonely time. We also find out that the arrival of Lucy’s mother is quite a big deal, considering she rarely makes trips outside in big cities and although she is unwilling to discuss anything too emotional or triggering with her daughter, she entertains her with gossip and memories regarding people from their local town. This is the story of fraught family relationships, desolate feelings, art and writing and how a passion for the latter can fuel the desire to be happy again. We also discover how marriage, motherhood and the kindness of strangers can have a huge impact on an individual without them even being aware of the effects.

Illinois, USA where our female lead spends her difficult childhood.

As a piece of literary fiction, I was always prepared for this book to have beautiful, lyrical writing but I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that it would precipitate in such a short amount of pages. This book is probably best read in as few sittings as possible, even one if you can manage it as once you begin, I feel you get the true measure of the journey our narrator has been through in her life if you can swallow it all in one gulp. Generally, we see Lucy mostly in the present time, in the hospital room with her mother but throughout the narrative, we get various flashbacks from her childhood, moments in her marriage, moments with friends and her children that give us a fuller idea of who Lucy is as a person, giving the reader a fascinating insight into her character, thoughts and feelings.

Some parts of this story feel very much like streams of consciousness and other, perhaps more darker parts of the novel are merely hinted at implicitly but I quite enjoyed trying to figure out Lucy as a person from the very early pages when she is quite the closed book to the end of the novel where I really started to look on her as a dear friend. Lucy starts to realise she has much more in common with her mother than she would have ever thought and ruminates on her own experience as a mother and how this has been different or similar to what she personally experienced growing up. Not everything is resolved between the two as you might expect but I didn’t mind this at all. It felt much more authentic and reflective of real life and real relationships that there were awkward moments of communication between mother and daughter and obvious tensions bubbling below the surface. However, by the end you are filled with genuine hope for a deeper connection in the future and potential closure on many issues for our female lead.

As an author of literary fiction, Elizabeth Strout is a wonder with words and a genius at recounting a heart-felt story in such a relatively short space of time. I will definitely be picking up more books by her in the future!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout was the forty-seventh book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

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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

September 2018 – My Boyfriend Chooses My TBR!

Published September 9, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to something a bit different on bibliobeth today. I’ve been with my boyfriend coming up to sixteen years now and he’s well aware of my “little problem” with books. To bookworms like us though, it’s not a problem right? It’s a necessity! Anyway, for something a bit fun, I asked him if he would mind picking out five books for me to read this month from my shelves and I gave him free rein to run amok. At first, he rubbed his hands in glee (I think he was preparing to be a bit devilish and pick some HUGE tomes) but in the end, he picked a fabulous list with some great reasons for doing so which I’ll share with you in this post. This is what he picked and why:

1.) The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat And Other Clinical Tales – Oliver Sacks

What’s it all about?:

In his most extraordinary book, “one of the great clinical writers of the twentieth century” (The New York Times) recounts the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently inescapable world of neurological disorders. Oliver Sacks’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat tells the stories of individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations: patients who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people and common objects; who are stricken with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs have become alien; who have been dismissed as retarded yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents.

If inconceivably strange, these brilliant tales remain, in Dr. Sacks’s splendid and sympathetic telling, deeply human. They are studies of life struggling against incredible adversity, and they enable us to enter the world of the neurologically impaired, to imagine with our hearts what it must be to live and feel as they do. A great healer, Sacks never loses sight of medicine’s ultimate responsibility: “the suffering, afflicted, fighting human subject.”

Why did he pick this?:

This is one of the books that my partner has already read and thoroughly enjoyed and he wanted to know what I thought about it too so we could compare notes. I’m delighted he chose it as I was considering it for Non Fiction November but if I’m honest, other books would probably have beaten it to the eight coveted spots that I’m considering. Hey, I have a lot of non fiction on my shelves. Now however, I can get to it sooner than expected, hooray!

2.) Cop Town – Karin Slaughter

What’s it all about?:

Karin Slaughter, author of the bestselling Will Trent novels, is widely acclaimed as “one of the best crime novelists in America” (The Washington Post). Now she delivers her first stand-alone novel: an epic story of a city in the midst of seismic upheaval, a serial killer targeting cops, and a divided police force tasked with bringing a madman to justice.

Atlanta, 1974: As a brutal murder and a furious manhunt rock the city’s police department, Kate Murphy wonders if her first day on the job will also be her last. She’s determined to defy her privileged background by making her own way—wearing a badge and carrying a gun. But for a beautiful young woman, life will be anything but easy in the macho world of the Atlanta PD, where even the female cops have little mercy for rookies. It’s also the worst day possible to start given that a beloved cop has been gunned down, his brothers in blue are out for blood, and the city is on the edge of war.

Kate isn’t the only woman on the force who’s feeling the heat. Maggie Lawson followed her uncle and brother into the ranks to prove her worth in their cynical eyes. When she and Kate, her new partner, are pushed out of the citywide search for a cop killer, their fury, pain, and pride finally reach the boiling point. With a killer poised to strike again, they will pursue their own line of investigation, risking everything as they venture into the city’s darkest heart.

Relentlessly paced, acutely observed, wickedly funny, and often heartbreaking, Cop Town is Karin Slaughter’s most powerful novel yet—a tour de force of storytelling from our foremost master of character, atmosphere, and suspense.

Why did he pick this?:

Now I didn’t know this but ever since I suggested to my partner that he could do this for September he’s been making little notes on his phone every time I moan about a book that I’ve been meaning to read for ages. This is especially true of Karin Slaughter who I am woefully behind with her books and because I’m such a stickler for wanting to read things in publication date order, Cop Town is the next one I need to read. I won’t go on and on about how much I love him for listening to me and putting this on the September TBR (I don’t want to make you all nauseous) but I’m SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW.

3.) A Brief History Of Seven Killings – Marlon James

What’s it all about?:

Jamaica, 1976. Seven gunmen storm Bob Marley’s house, machine guns blazing. The reggae superstar survives, but the gunmen are never caught.

From the acclaimed author of The Book of Night Women comes a dazzling display of masterful storytelling exploring this near-mythic event. Spanning three decades and crossing continents, A Brief History of Seven Killings chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable characters – slum kids, one-night stands, drug lords, girlfriends, gunmen, journalists, and even the CIA. Gripping and inventive, ambitious and mesmerising, A Brief History of Seven Killings is one of the most remarkable and extraordinary novels of the twenty-first century.

Why did he pick this?:

We did this little thing after he chose the September TBR where he hid the books from me then brought them out, one by one and told me his reason for choosing them. When he brought this one out, my reaction was so mixed it was funny. I’ve been wanting to read this book for AGES, ever since it won the Man Booker Prize in 2015 and I heard all the hype about it. My other half actually listened to it on audiobook and hasn’t stopped going on about how good it was so I know I need to get round to it. I don’t know why I’m feeling a bit anxious about it – perhaps it’s the size at 688 pages? Or maybe it’s the fact that it won a huge prize and I’m worried I won’t agree with the hype? We’ll soon see.

4.) Buried In Books: A Reader’s Anthology – Julie Rugg

What’s it all about?:

For bibliophiles, life is full of tricky problems: wondering whether a small trunk full of reading material can be taken on board as hand luggage; how to smuggle yet another guilty stash of tomes past the nearest and dearest. But as Julie Rugg shows in this anthology, bibliophiles are by no means new. For centuries bookish types have been delving in bibliophilia. Buried in Books is a compilation of more than 350 literary extracts, quotations, and bon mots arranged in 14 chapters that cover every aspect of bookish behavior: reading, buying, borrowing, recommending, hunting, even defacing. The selections range from short, pithy quotations to more extensive extracts, and they are taken from diaries, memoirs, novels, plays, and letters by authors from Samuel Pepys to Iain Sinclair, Laurence Sterne to Lucy Mangan. If you are an obsessive reader, stroke this book lovingly, listen as you riffle through the pages, and be proud: you are in good company.

Why did he pick this?:

In his words, he wanted to pick something that “you wouldn’t necessarily pick for yourself,” and he’s absolutely right! Not that I’m not looking forward to this book but there’s so many books on my shelves that this one does tend to take a bit of a back seat to others that excite me a bit more. Books about books are really wonderful but are almost books you want to dip in and out of rather than read in a couple of sittings. I’ve decided that’s exactly what I’m going to do with this one and perhaps read a little from it each week.

4.) My Name Is Leon – Kit de Waal

What’s it all about?:

It’s 1981, a year of riots and royal weddings. The Dukes of Hazzard is on TV and Curly Wurlys are in the shops. And trying to find a place in it all is young Leon.

Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, a belly like Father Christmas, and mutters swearwords under her breath when she thinks can’t hear. Maureen feeds and looks after them, and claims everything will be okay.

But will they ever see their mother again? Who are the couple who secretly visit Joke? The adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing pretend faces. They are threatening to take Jake away and give him to strangers. Because Jake is white and Leon is not.

As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.

Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how – just when we least expect it – we somehow manage to find our way home.

Why did he pick this?:

Once again, I was really delighted when my partner pulled this out from behind his back. He picked this as it’s a book he’s actually interested in himself and he didn’t realise I had put it on my latest Five Star TBR Predictions TBR. (Which by the way, I’m getting on dismally with – I’ve only read two of the five books so far – Dadland and NOS4R2). I’m relieved he chose it as it will push me to get to it that bit sooner. Although I was planning to read this in the next month or so anyway – promise! 😛

I really enjoyed having my boyfriend pick out my TBR for the month and to tell you the truth, I think he really enjoyed the process too! It’s something we’ll definitely be doing in the future but probably not until early next year as I now have “ARC/Netgalley” month in October, Non Fiction November in November and Chrissi Cupboard Month in December to look forward to. 

What I’d love to know is have you read any of these books? Which were your favourites? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Love Beth xxx

Mini Pin-It Reviews #24 – Four Books From Netgalley

Published September 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four books from Netgalley for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) Me, Myself And Why: Searching For The Science Of Self – Jennifer Ouellette

What’s it all about?:

As diverse as people appear to be, all of our genes and brains are nearly identical. In Me, Myself, and Why, Jennifer Ouellette dives into the miniscule ranges of variation to understand just what sets us apart. She draws on cutting-edge research in genetics, neuroscience, and psychology-enlivened as always with her signature sense of humor-to explore the mysteries of human identity and behavior. Readers follow her own surprising journey of self-discovery as she has her genome sequenced, her brain mapped, her personality typed, and even samples a popular hallucinogen. Bringing together everything from Mendel’s famous pea plant experiments and mutations in The X-Men to our taste for cilantro and our relationships with virtual avatars, Ouellette takes us on an endlessly thrilling and illuminating trip into the science of ourselves.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) Land Where I Flee – Prajwal Parajuly

What’s it all about?:

To commemorate Chitralekha Nepauney’s Chaurasi – her landmark 84th birthday – Chitralekha’s grandchildren are travelling to Gangtok to pay their respects.

Agastaya is flying in from New York. Although a successful oncologist at only thirty-three he is dreading his family’s inquisition into why he is not married, and terrified that the reason for his bachelordom will be discovered.

Joining him are Manasa and Bhagwati, coming from London and Colorado respectively. One the Oxford-educated achiever; the other the disgraced eloper – one moneyed but miserable; the other ostracized but optimistic.

All three harbour the same dual objective: to emerge from the celebrations with their grandmother’s blessing and their nerves intact: a goal that will become increasingly impossible thanks to a mischievous maid and a fourth, uninvited guest.

Prajwal Parajuly – the son of an Indian father and a Nepalese mother – divides his time between New York and Oxford, but disappears to Gangtok, his hometown in the Indian Himalayas, at every opportunity. Land Where I Flee is his first novel.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

3.) Joy, Guilt, Anger Love: What Neuroscience Can And Can’t Tell Us About How We Feel – Giovanni Frazzetto

What’s it all about?:

Is science ever enough to explain why we feel the way we feel?

In this engaging account, renowned neuroscientist Giovanni Frazzetto blends cutting-edge scientific research with personal stories to reveal how our brains generate our emotions. He demonstrates that while modern science has expanded our knowledge, investigating art, literature, and philosophy is equally crucial to unraveling the brain’s secrets. What can a brain scan, or our reaction to a Caravaggio painting, reveal about the deep seat of guilt? Can ancient remedies fight sadness more effectively than antidepressants? What can writing poetry tell us about how joy works? Structured in seven chapters encompassing common human emotions—anger, guilt, anxiety, grief, empathy, joy, and love—Joy, Guilt, Anger, Love offers a way of thinking about science and art that will help us to more fully understand ourselves and how we feel.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

4.) The Transcriptionist – Amy Rowland

What’s it all about?:

This powerful debut follows a woman who sets out to challenge the absurdity of the world around her. Lena, the transcriptionist, sits alone in a room far away from the hum of the newsroom that is the heart of the Record, the New York City newspaper for which she works. For years, she has been the ever-present link for reporters calling in stories from around the world. Turning spoken words to print, Lena is the vein that connects the organs of the paper. She is loyal, she is unquestioning, yet technology is dictating that her days there are numbered. When she reads a shocking piece in the paper about a Jane Doe mauled to death by a lion, she recognizes the woman in the picture. They had met on a bus just a few days before. Obsessed with understanding what caused the woman to deliberately climb into the lion’s den, Lena begins a campaign for truth that will destroy the Record’s complacency and shake the venerable institution to its very foundation. An exquisite novel that asks probing questions about journalism and ethics, about the decline of the newspaper and the failure of language, it is also the story of a woman’s effort to establish her place in an increasingly alien and alienating world.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI-PIN IT REVIEWS: Four YA Novels.

 

Blog Tour – The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

Published September 3, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A powerful, darkly glittering novel of violence, love, faith, and loss, as a young woman at an elite American university is drawn into acts of domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea.

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Elle, Time, Parade, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, PBS, Vulture, Buzzfeed, BookRiot, PopSugar, Refinery29, Bustle, The Rumpus, Paste, and BBC.

Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn’t tell anyone she blames herself for her mother’s recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe.

Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is increasingly drawn into a religious group—a secretive extremist cult—founded by a charismatic former student, John Leal. He has an enigmatic past that involves North Korea and Phoebe’s Korean American family. Meanwhile, Will struggles to confront the fundamentalism he’s tried to escape, and the obsession consuming the one he loves. When the group bombs several buildings in the name of faith, killing five people, Phoebe disappears. Will devotes himself to finding her, tilting into obsession himself, seeking answers to what happened to Phoebe and if she could have been responsible for this violent act.

The Incendiaries is a fractured love story and a brilliant examination of the minds of extremist terrorists, and of what can happen to people who lose what they love most.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Grace Vincent for getting in touch via email and asking me if I’d like to take part in the blog tour for this stunning and powerful debut novel and to Virago for sending a copy my way in exchange for an honest review. To be frank, I’m a sucker for an eye-catching cover and this one certainly does the trick but when I read the synopsis above and realised the themes of religion, the loss of faith and extremism that it would explore, I couldn’t reply fast enough to Grace’s email, enthusiastically registering my interest in reading it. On receiving the book, I have to say, I was surprised at the length – it was a mere 210 pages long and yes, I was kind of nervous. I think if you have a novel that brief, the writing has to be so immaculate that it should pull you in quickly whilst leaving you fairly satisfied at the end. In other words, the author has so much to do in such a short space of time but I was hopeful that a novel named one of the most anticipated books of 2018 by publications like The New York Times could do exactly that.

R.O. Kwon, author of debut novel The Incendiaries.

I don’t want to re-hash the blurb for you right here, Goodreads does a tremendous job of that in the synopsis above so I’d just like to go straight into my thoughts and feelings about The Incendiaries, which in fact the more time I have away from it, the more I find I’m ruminating on the story and admiring the writing. This is *almost* a “read in one sitting,” kind of narrative and in hindsight, I wish I had had the opportunity to do just that but unfortunately work commitments got in the way and I read it in two separate sittings. I fell in love straight away with the writing which is assured, grandiose, thought-provoking and at times, filled with the most vivid imagery that I can’t bear to give it away, it’s definitely something to discover for yourself. All I’ll say on that score is that I connected very personally to a certain point in the text where our narrator, Will is hallucinating and various images related to the situation he finds himself in pop into his visual field. These images are so striking and graphically written I felt as if I was there with Will seeing exactly what he sees and feeling exactly what he feels at that moment in time.

The Incendiaries is incredibly literary in its tone and style and as a result, you have to be prepared for not necessarily getting all the answers you might crave. Phoebe and the leader of the cult she becomes enmeshed in, John Leal are much more enigmatic, mysterious characters that you don’t really find out a whole lot about and whilst that might frustrate certain readers, I enjoyed the vague, almost secretive air of what has happened to these characters in their past and what may have led to them to having the views they now possess or indeed, why they carry out the extreme actions that they choose to do. Our main focus for the narrative is on Will, whom I really felt sympathetic to as he struggled to understand Phoebe and attempted to connect with her on a deeper level but who seemed to always remain rather aloof, almost like mist slipping through your fingers.

I think one of the most fascinating things about this novel was its exploration of faith. Will has previously had faith and lost it and now doesn’t know where he stands on the whole “God” question. Phoebe has been through intense personal struggles of her own and has now found something new to put her faith in but as you can tell from the synopsis, she is incredibly vulnerable and as a result, her faith may be extremely misguided. The author gave an interesting and beautifully frank interview HERE about how she was raised in a very religious household and how she too, has become somewhat disconnected and disillusioned with Christianity which reminded me very much of my own upbringing in Catholicism compared to the confusion I now find myself feeling with religion which started during my teenage years.

The Incendiaries has a quiet, wonderfully confident quality to the writing and although it has moments which are almost like streams of consciousness and an ending which doesn’t necessarily wrap everything up in a neat bow, I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience and will be watching out for whatever this supremely talented author does next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

R.O. Kwon’s first novel, The Incendiaries, is published by Riverhead (U.S.) and forthcoming from Virago (U.K.) in September 2018. She is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Vice, BuzzFeed, Time, Noon, Electric Literature, Playboy, San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. She has received awards and fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Omi International, and the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. Born in South Korea, she’s mostly lived in the United States.

Find R.O. Kwon on her Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16556776.R_O_Kwon

on her website at: http://ro-kwon.com/

on Twitter at: @rokwon

Thank you so much once again to Grace Vincent and Virago for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Incendiaries is published on the 6th September 2018 and is available as a hardback 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 Incendiaries on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36679056-the-incendiaries?ac=1&from_search=true

Link to The Incendiaries on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Incendiaries-R-Kwon/dp/0349011877/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535818983&sr=8-1&keywords=the+incendiaries

Born Weird – Andrew Kaufman

Published August 30, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The Weirds have always been a little peculiar, but not one of them suspected that they’d been cursed by their grandmother.

At the moment of their birth Annie Weird gave each of her five grandchildren a special power that she thought was a blessing.

Now Annie is dying and she has one last task for Angie, her favourite grandchild. Angie has to gather her far-flung brothers and sisters and assemble them in her Grandmother’s hospital room so that at the moment of her death, she can lift these blessings turned curses.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the wonderful staff at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath for recommending this to my sister, Chrissi Reads and I when we had a reading spa in their fantastic bookshop. I can’t believe I’m only getting round to reviewing it now but I have a massive backlog of reviews that I’m only now just starting to see the end of and should hopefully be fully up to date by this time next year (SHE HOPES!). I was definitely intrigued by the way the marvellous bookseller sold this book to us and when the time came round to read it, I was really in the mood for a good bit of magical realism so was overjoyed to discover that what was inside this novel was just as good as the synopsis suggested it was. This is a story where the characters are paramount and I loved exploring their relationships with each other and the journey they go through as individuals since a curse was placed on each one of them.

Andrew Kaufman, author of Born Weird.

This is the story of five siblings – Richard, Abba, Lucy, Kent and Angie who all had a curse/blessing (blurse?!) placed on them at the moment of their birth from their grandmother. The blurses range from always being safe, to always having hope, never getting lost to having great physical strength and finally, to always have the capacity to forgive anyone instantly, no matter what they do. Initially, this sounds like thoughtful gifts for a grandmother to bestow upon her grandchildren but unfortunately these “gifts” plague our Weird siblings all their lives leading to emotional detachment, gullibility, intense anger and flightiness. The grandmother calls Angie to her hospital bedside as she lies dying and tells Angie she’d like to remove the blurses on the children so it’s up to Angie to re-unite her brothers and sisters in the space of two weeks so that they can finally see what living ordinary lives might feel like.

Toronto, Canada where part of Born Weird is set.

I loved the fantastical edge to this story, that’s for sure but what I loved even more is that this novel is about so much more than just magical realism. It’s the story of a family, their relationships with each other and how they re-connect with each other after an extended period of silence. It’s also their journey as individuals and how each separate blurse has affected them at various points in their lives particularly regarding their character and temperament. There’s a surprising amount of heart-break in this story that I don’t really want to ruin but involves the Weird parents and how they are no longer in their children’s lives – either because of a medical issue or a strange disappearance that forms an additional exciting little mystery to solve throughout the narrative.

Like all good literary fiction, I really became immersed in the characters behind this story and every one of them felt fully fleshed out and completely authentic. I felt the pain, sorrow and frustration that their blurses cost them and also realised how much it affected not only their relationships with each other but their relationships with other people outside the family unit. It’s a quirky, one of a kind and definitely “weird” reading experience but it’s one that’s absolutely worth your time if you get the chance to read it!

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

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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!