Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights

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The Last Banquet – Jonathan Grimwood

Published July 5, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Jean-Marie Charles d’Aumout is many things. Orphan, soldier, diplomat, spy, lover. And chef.

This is his story.

We meet Jean-Marie d’Aumout as a penniless orphan eating beetles by the side of a road. His fate is changed after an unlikely encounter finds him patronage and he is sent to military academy. Despite his frugal roots, and thanks to it and courage in great measure, he grows up to become a diplomat and spy.

Rising through the ranks of eighteenth-century French society, he feasts with lords, ladies and eventually kings, at the Palace of Versailles itself.

Passionate love, political intrigue and international adventure abound in Jean-Marie’s life, but his drive stems from a single obsession: the pursuit of the perfect taste. Three-Snake Bouillabaisse, Pickled Wolf’s Heart and Flamingo Tongue are just some of the delicacies he devours on his journey toward the ultimate feast.

But beyond the palace walls, revolution is in the air and the country is clamouring with hunger of a different kind.

What did I think?:

The Last Banquet, translated by Maria Maestro was recommended to me on a reading spa I went to at the wonderful Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights with Chrissi Reads. To be honest, considering that eye-catching cover, it’s the sort of book that would have intrigued me enough to pick it up but I’m not sure on the synopsis alone whether I would have been compelled to follow through and read it. Luckily, the book-seller who encouraged me to give it a try was incredibly persuasive and I became excited to find out what it was all about. To be fair, the intricate details of the narrative within this novel haven’t completely stayed with me but generally, this book is a literary marvel. The way it’s written is so sumptuously detailed that for any lovers of language, it’s truly a joy to read. It’s not for the faint-hearted, (which I’ll go into a bit later) but it’s a surprisingly compulsive read and I found myself hanging on every word the author had written, the sure sign of a hooked reader!

Jonathan Grimwood, author of The Last Banquet.

In a nutshell, The Last Banquet focuses on one male lead, Jean Marie Charles d’Aumout who is found by the Regent of France in the late 1700’s on a roadside feasting on some beetles whilst his parents lie dead in a looted house nearby. The Regent takes pity on the young boy and takes him under his wing, sending him to a school and then to a prestigious military academy where he mixes with the aristocracy. This is the story of how Jean Marie rises from a penniless existence to the ranks of the wealthy as he takes his fascination that began with tasting beetles to whole new levels, continually on the quest for a more interesting and exclusive taste. Meanwhile, the French Revolution looms terrifyingly in the background, threatening the rich and entitled, and Jean Marie begins to understand the true nature of love and trust.

Our story covers the period of the French Revolution from 1789-1799.

This was such an interesting novel that I really didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I eventually did. From the very first moments, when we are introduced to Jean Marie eating stag beetles at the side of the road, I was instantly curious to see how the story was going to play out and of course, completely disgusted! My mum actually tells a story of when I was a young girl and she pulled half of a stag beetle from my mouth: (“It’s back legs still wriggling!” she delights in telling me!) and I don’t even want to think about where the rest of that beetle went! UGH. The fact that I find all kind of insect life absolutely grotesque in my adult years means that I wonder now whether the taste of that beetle put me off for life? Haha! Anyway, our lead character certainly doesn’t have any problems in that department regarding tasting the weird and wonderful. He will try anything and everything, despite the species and this is where my warning in the first paragraph comes into effect. If you think you might be slightly queasy regarding this subject, be warned indeed. Included in the text are multiple recipes for Jean Marie’s concoctions, including graphic details on how exactly they should be cooked.

Some parts are horrible, I have to admit but at the same time, the dark side of my brain was fascinated by his life, his strange obsession for new tastes (which does stray into the sexual as an adult as well), and how his happiness seems to hinge on this very unique quest of his. It is an odd book in this regard and I think you have to be pretty open-minded to see past this slight freakishness and appreciate the novel for what it is – something a bit different which is beautifully written and definitely has an edge over other books in the genre. The author did go to some unconventional places, that’s for sure but you know what? I actually respect and admire him all the more for being brave enough to do that and writing a book that I’m more likely to think about and want to re-visit years down the line. Despite our male lead’s quirks, he is an endearing and engaging character and because you follow him from such a young age and see his rise in society, you really want to know how it’s all going to turn out for him.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Mini Pin-It Reviews #21 – Four Random Books

Published June 28, 2018 by bibliobeth

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

1.) Tamar – Mal Peet

What’s it all about?:

When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages. Out of the past, another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland half a century before. His story is one of passionate love, jealousy, and tragedy set against the daily fear and casual horror of the Second World War — and unraveling it is about to transform Tamar’s life forever.

From acclaimed British sensation Mal Peet comes a masterful story of adventure, love, secrets, and betrayal in time of war, both past and present.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) 1222 (Hanne Wilhelmsen #8) – Anne Holt

What’s it all about?:

1222 is the story of how a small group of people find themselves stuck in a hotel during an apocalyptic snow storm. Following a dramatic train derailment at Finse, the conflict between the survivors escalates while a furious hurricane threatens the unprotected village. Nobody is there to help, and there is no way out of the inferno for the survivors hiding out. On the first night at the hotel, a man is found shot and murdered. The victim is Cato Hammer, a priest known nation-wide for his ability – and desire – to get in the papers. Hanne Wilhelmsen, retired Inspector at the Oslo Police, is drawn into a race against time, a murderer, and the worst storm in the Norwegian alps on record. She loses the first round. Soon, another one of God’s servants is murdered, when an icicle cuts through his body…

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

3.) The Panda Theory – Pascal Garnier

What’s it all about?:

Gabriel is a stranger in a small Breton town. Nobody knows where he came from or why he’s here. Yet his small acts of kindness, and exceptional cooking, quickly earn him acceptance from the locals.

His new friends grow fond of Gabriel, who seems as reserved and benign as the toy panda he wins at the funfair.

But unlike Gabriel, the fluffy toy is not haunted by his past . . .

Pascal Garnier is a leading figure in contemporary French literature, in the tradition of Georges Simenon. He lived in the Ardèche. Pascal Garnier died in March 2010.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

4.) Scribbles In The Margins – Daniel Gray

What’s it all about?:

We lead increasingly time-poor lifestyles, bombarded 24/7 by petrifying news bulletins, internet trolls and endless noises. Where has the joy and relaxation gone from our daily lives? Scribbles in the Margins offers a glorious antidote to that relentless modern-day information churn. It is here to remind you that books and bookshops can still sing to your heart.

Warm, heartfelt and witty, here are fifty short essays of prose poetry dedicated to the simple joy to be found in reading and the rituals around it. These are not wallowing nostalgia; they are things that remain pleasurable and right, that warm our hearts and connect us to books, to reading and to other readers: smells of books, old or new; losing an afternoon organising bookshelves; libraries; watching a child learn to read; reading in bed; impromptu bookmarks; visiting someone’s home and inspecting the bookshelves; stains and other reminders of where and when you read a book.

An attempt to fondly weigh up what makes a book so much more than paper and ink – and reading so much more than a hobby, a way of passing time or a learning process – these declarations of love demonstrate what books and reading mean to us as individuals, and the cherished part they play in our lives, from the vivid greens and purples of childhood books to the dusty comfort novels we turn to in times of adult flux.

Scribbles in the Margins is a love-letter to books and bookshops, rejoicing in the many universal and sometimes odd little ways that reading and the rituals around reading make us happy.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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

Into The Trees – Robert Williams

Published April 5, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Harriet Norton won’t stop crying. Her parents, Ann and Thomas, are being driven close to insanity and only one thing will help. Mysteriously, their infant daughter will only calm when she’s under the ancient trees of Bleasdale forest.
The Nortons sell their town-house and set up home in an isolated barn. Secluded deep in the forest, they are finally approaching peace – until one night a group of men comes through the trees, ready to upend their lives and threaten everything they’ve built.

Into the Trees is the story of four dispossessed people, drawn to the forest in search of something they lack and finding their lives intertwining in ways they could never have imagined. In hugely evocative and lyrical writing, Robert Williams lays bare their emotional lives, set against the intense and mysterious backdrop of the forest. Compelling and haunting, Into the Trees is a magisterial novel.

What did I think?:

Into The Trees came my way via the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath who recommended this novel (and sold it remarkably well!) in a reading spa that I attended with my sister, Chrissi Reads. It’s been a little while now since we first heard about it so my memory had faded somewhat about why I was so excited to read it but then everything came flooding back as soon as I had read the first intriguing chapters. After a previously disappointing reading experience with a previous Mr B’s recommendation, Hideous Creatures, I was so relieved to be pleasantly surprised by this novel. It’s relatively slow paced so if you’re a fan of non stop action in your plots, this may not be the book for you. There is one major, dramatic event which is pivotal to the characters in our story but apart from this, it’s very much a methodical character study of how this event affects both the family in the book and those closest to them.

This is the tale of Ann and Thomas Norton whom when our story begins, are struggling with their new baby, Harriet. She refuses to sleep at night and our poor, severely sleep-deprived parents are really suffering with the exhaustion and physical, mental and emotional stress of it all. On a whim one night, Thomas drives Harriet into the forest and strangely enough, she stops crying. After repeating the experiment numerous times, the couple discover that it is only when Harriet is within the trees that she will sleep through the night. Of course, this is an answer to their prayers and they immediately sell their house and move to one within the forest so that they can all finally be happy. Unfortunately, their peace and happiness does not last for long when a terrible crime is committed against the family. The reverberations of this incident will haunt parents and children alike, especially Thomas who sinks into severe depression with the guilt of not being able to better protect his family and terrified that it could happen to them again.

I absolutely adored the opening chapters of this novel, which I also believe was its strongest part (and if it had carried on in this vein, there is no doubt I would be giving it a higher rating). The mystery behind why baby Harriet will not stop crying unless she is in the forest was almost fairy-tale in its execution and although we never find out exactly why the trees had such a calming effect on her I was fascinated to see how it would all turn out. I’m finding it quite hard to categorise this novel or pop it into a genre, I don’t think it slots easily into a neat little box. There’s parts of it that are almost fantastical but not quite, then there’s the literary style of the author’s writing and finally, the thriller portion where the family are attacked. The pace ebbs and flows, reaching a peak when the crime is committed and then slowly meandering down to a much more sedate narrative. I very much enjoyed the characterisation, particularly of Thomas and Thomas’ new friend, quiet but soft-hearted Raymond.

Furthermore, the villain of the piece is wonderfully drawn, very easy to hate yet incredibly authentic to read. Think of the worst neighbour you’ve ever had (or heard about) and then imagine him written down as a character. He was very believable and I also appreciated his journey as a character, through self-loathing, greed and despair. As a reading experience, I definitely had an enjoyable time with this novel. There were parts that were stronger than others and the ending left me feeling slightly crestfallen, just wanting a bit more but it’s certainly made me curious to check out some of the author’s other works.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Into The Trees by Robert Williams was the twenty-fifth book on my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Hideous Creatures – S.E. Lister

Published April 4, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

An extraordinary, magical odyssey into the dark heart of the New World . . .

Arthur Hallingham is the youngest son of an English earl. He’s on the run from his former life – from a family where painful, half-understood secrets lurk.

Arthur travels on a slave ship to the coast of America. Amidst the teeming squalor and vaulting ambitions of the New World, he encounters Flora, the tough daughter of an outlaw, and Shelo, a native medicine man with mysterious powers who seems to have a plan for him.

The three set off on a journey through the thick forests and along the wide rivers of the lush southern wilderness. As they near their destination, Shelo’s terrible and destructive purpose is gradually revealed.

Hideous Creatures is a rich, beautiful and compelling novel that will appeal to fans of Audrey Niffenegger, Erin Morgenstern and Neil Gaiman, by a young debut author destined for literary stardom.

What did I think?:

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

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

 

If I Fall, If I Die – Michael Christie

Published February 23, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A heartfelt and wondrous debut about family, fear, and skateboarding, that Karen Russell calls “A bruiser of a tale . . . a death-defying coming-of-age story.” 

Will has never been outside, at least not since he can remember. And he has certainly never gotten to know anyone other than his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who panics at the thought of opening the front door. Their world is rich and fun- loving—full of art, science experiments, and music—and all confined to their small house.

But Will’s thirst for adventure can’t be contained. Clad in a protective helmet and unsure of how to talk to other kids, he finally ventures outside.  At his new school he meets Jonah, an artsy loner who introduces Will to the high-flying freedoms of skateboarding.  Together, they search for a missing local boy, help a bedraggled vagabond, and evade a dangerous bootlegger.  The adventure is more than Will ever expected, pulling him far from the confines of his closed-off world and into the throes of early adulthood, and all the risks that everyday life offers.

In buoyant, kinetic prose, Michael Christie has written an emotionally resonant and keenly observed novel about mothers and sons, fears and uncertainties, and the lengths we’ll go for those we love.

What did I think?:

Once again, a huge thank you to the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath for recommending me this book in a reading spa I attended with my sister, Chrissi Reads. Of course, they sold every book to us perfectly but I was particularly intrigued by the comparisons to Room by Emma Donoghue, one of my all time favourite books. Unfortunately, I think I was expecting something that reached the dizzying heights of the above mentioned novel and it ended up being a bit disappointing. This is purely in comparison to Room as I could definitely see some great qualities in the writing and characters. I have to be honest with myself however and if I judged it on its own merit alone without the pervading influence of Room, I still wasn’t completely blown away by this story which was a shame.

So as you may imagine, this is the story of a mother and her eleven year old son, Will who has never known life outside of his house. His mother is severely agoraphobic, to the extent that she suffers extreme panic attacks (which Will dubs “The Black Lagoons”) if she senses that her son or her own life is threatened in any way. This could be something as simple as changing a light bulb or running down the stairs – Will’s mother has become incredibly paranoid of the everyday challenges of life and relies heavily on her son and her relaxation tapes to keep the bad thoughts at bay. As a result, Will is home schooled and is very wary himself of the outside dangers which he finds out himself one day when tentatively venturing Outside for the first time.

It isn’t long before Will becomes desperate to be a normal boy like his new friend, Jonah and begs his mother to let him attend a normal school. Then Will’s adventures really start. Not only does he have to learn the social intricacies and interaction with other people that he has missed while being indoors but he starts to learn the true meaning of the word “adventure” and with Jonah, embarks on one of his own whilst trying to search for a missing boy and coming across some particularly shady characters. Will finally learns just how dangerous but also how exhilarating the outside world can be and discovers a lot about himself in the process.

As a coming of age story, this book is a fantastic portrayal of a young boy growing up in a very different world from which he had been originally raised in. I really did enjoy the parts of this novel that were set Inside with Will and his mother but I have to admit, she really did frustrate me at points (and I feel a complete cow by saying this), but there were passages where I just wanted to shake her as she didn’t seem to be making much effort to “get better” at LEAST for the sake of her child. She was content just to panic, put her relaxation tapes on and bury her head in the sand at her condition. Luckily, she does redeem herself near the end of the novel so I didn’t remain cross with her for too long but I have to admit, it bugged me.

I loved Will as a character and was gripped initially when he first came out of the house and had to adjust quite quickly to real-life outside of his little bubble. However, I felt the story descended quite quickly into a strange little place with odd villains where I didn’t quite understand their motive and parts of the narrative where I just wasn’t fully invested in where the story was going. As a story of Will and his mother, this was a great book but somehow, I felt it lost its way and tried to become something that I didn’t feel made a whole lot of sense. It was very much a novel of two halves for me and as a result, I found it quite a struggle to finish.

A huge thank you also to Random House UK who provided me with a digital copy via Netgalley.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

If I Fall, If I Die is the fifteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2018!

 

The Gracekeepers – Kirsty Logan

Published February 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

For readers of The Night Circus and Station Eleven, a lyrical and absorbing debut set in a world covered by water.

As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives – offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age.

What did I think?:

Every fibre of my being has been wanting to pick this book up ever since I saw the gorgeous cover art on the hardback copy and read the synopsis that mentions Scottish myths/fairytales – er, yes please! This book couldn’t be more “me,” and I was delighted when the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium recommended it to me when Chrissi Reads and I had one of their fantastic reading spas. Yet still I put off reading this book and waited AND waited. Sometimes I worry too much that I’m not going to enjoy a novel as much as I think I should and as a result, delay reading it just in case it doesn’t live up to my very lofty expectations. Well, that’s just silly because once I eventually forced myself to pick it up, I adored it. This whimsical, fantastical tale is perfect for any fans of magical realism but above all, the language is so beautifully perfect that it just flows smoothly over you as you read it, making it a very special reading experience.

Primarily, we are following two main characters – North who works as part of a travelling circus on the seas as the mysterious “bear-girl” and Callenish, an ethereal young woman who carries out burials at sea, helping the dead find rest. The story is set in an almost dystopian universe where the seas have taken over the majority of the planet with only small spots of land remaining. The people who live in this world either live on the sea and are referred to as “damplings” or live on the land as “landlockers,” with the two types rarely mixing together except for business purposes.

We follow North and her bear as she nurses a tremendous secret and carries out her duties as a performer (although taking care of her beloved bear is key). The ring-master Jarrow, has plans for North and she must struggle to convince him that she shouldn’t marry his son whilst trying to avoid enraging Jarrow’s pregnant wife, Avalon who has her own axe to grind. Then we see the supreme loneliness of Callenish, banished to an island by herself for a terrible mistake in her past to carry out the role of Gracekeeper with only her own thoughts and the Graces, birds that she uses in the burying ritual, for company. Both young women have more in common than they think and after a freak storm one night, their destinies are brought together with surprising consequences for all.

I don’t want to give anything else away, I just want to assure you of the beauty of this book. If like me, you love your fairy-tale elements and a quirky, one of a kind narrative, you should really seek out this book. I loved the mixture of dystopia with fantasy and thought each character, even the minor players in the tale were developed so particularly that each one could have had a whole story to themselves. Of course, it was the two main ladies who took the biggest piece of my heart but characters like Avalon, the pregnant wife on a mission to get whatever she wants (never mind anyone else!) and the clowns also made for fascinating reading. Furthermore, the author goes into so much detail about certain events, especially in Callenish’s past that I didn’t expect and made me incredibly emotional. Basically, The Gracekeepers isn’t just a re-run of The Night Circus/Station Eleven, it is a wonderful tale that stands on its own, rightly on its own merits and there are delightful surprises around every corner.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan is the fourteenth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Mini Pin-It Reviews #18 – Four Random Books

Published February 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

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

1.) The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales Of Madness, Love and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements – Sam Kean

What’s it all about?:

The Periodic Table is one of man’s crowning scientific achievements. But it’s also a treasure trove of stories of passion, adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The infectious tales and astounding details in THE DISAPPEARING SPOON follow carbon, neon, silicon, and gold as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, war, the arts, poison, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them.
We learn that Marie Curie used to provoke jealousy in colleagues’ wives when she’d invite them into closets to see her glow-in-the-dark experiments. And that Lewis and Clark swallowed mercury capsules across the country and their campsites are still detectable by the poison in the ground. Why did Gandhi hate iodine? Why did the Japanese kill Godzilla with missiles made of cadmium? And why did tellurium lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history?

From the Big Bang to the end of time, it’s all in THE DISAPPEARING SPOON.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

2.) I Am The Messenger – Markus Zusak

What’s it all about?:

protect the diamonds
survive the clubs
dig deep through the spades
feel the hearts

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That’s when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

3.) The Moth – Catherine Burns (editor)

What’s it all about?:

With an introduction by Neil Gaiman.

Before television and radio, before penny paperbacks and mass literacy, people would gather on porches, on the steps outside their homes, and tell stories. The storytellers knew their craft and bewitched listeners would sit and listen long into the night as moths flitted around overhead. The Moth is a non-profit group that is trying to recapture this lost art, helping storytellers – old hands and novices alike – hone their stories before playing to packed crowds at sold-out live events.

The very best of these stories are collected here: whether it’s Bill Clinton’s hell-raising press secretary or a leading geneticist with a family secret; a doctor whisked away by nuns to Mother Teresa’s bedside or a film director saving her father’s Chinatown store from money-grabbing developers; the Sultan of Brunei’s concubine or a friend of Hemingway’s who accidentally talks himself into a role as a substitute bullfighter, these eccentric, pitch-perfect stories – all, amazingly, true – range from the poignant to the downright hilarious.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) The Chimes – Anna Smaill

What’s it all about?:

The Chimes is set in a reimagined London, in a world where people cannot form new memories, and the written word has been forbidden and destroyed.

In the absence of both memory and writing is music.

In a world where the past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphemy, all appears lost. But Simon Wythern, a young man who arrives in London seeking the truth about what really happened to his parents, discovers he has a gift that could change all of this forever.

A stunning literary debut by poet and violinist Anna Smaill, The Chimes is a startlingly original work that combines beautiful, inventive prose with incredible imagination.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

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