Sarah Moss

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Book Tag – Books Beginning With S.P.R.I.N.G.

Published March 21, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone and hope you’re all well! Today I’m celebrating Spring as yesterday was the Spring Equinox 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 SPRING and showing you a book from my TBR that begins with that letter which I hope to get round to very soon. So without further ado, let’s get on with it!

S

What’s it all about?:

Martinique, 1765, and brothers Emile and Lucien are charged by their French master, Father Cleophas, with a mission. They must return to Grenada, the island they once called home, and smuggle back the 42 slaves claimed by English invaders at the hospital plantation in Fort Royal. While Lucien, barely in his teens, sees the trip as a great adventure, the older and worldlier Emile has no illusions about the dangers they will face. But with no choice other than to obey Cleophas – and sensing the possibility, however remote, of finding his first love Celeste – he sets out with his brother on this ‘reckless venture’.

With great characters, a superb narrative set up, and language that is witty, bawdy and thrillingly alive, Sugar Money is a novel to treasure.

I’m so excited to read this book after loving Jane Harris’ previous novels, The Observations and Gillespie And I. If you haven’t read her before, I highly HIGHLY recommend her. She writes such beautiful historical fiction you could almost believe you were right there with her characters.

P

What’s it all about?:

A fiercely imagined fiction debut in which two young women face what happened the summer they were twelve, when a handsome stranger abducted them 

Everyone thought we were dead. We were missing for nearly two months; we were twelve. What else could they think? –Lois

It’s always been hard to talk about what happened without sounding all melodramatic. . . . Actually, I haven’t mentioned it for years, not to a goddamned person. -Carly May

The summer precocious Lois and pretty Carly May were twelve years old, they were kidnapped, driven across the country, and held in a cabin in the woods for two months by a charismatic stranger. Nearly twenty years later, Lois has become a professor, teaching British literature at a small college in upstate New York, and Carly May is an actress in Los Angeles, drinking too much and struggling to revive her career. When a movie with a shockingly familiar plot draws the two women together once more, they must face the public exposure of their secret history and confront the dark longings and unspeakable truths that haunt them still. Maggie Mitchell’s Pretty Is beautifully defies ripped-from-the-headlines crime story expectations and announces the debut of a masterful new storytelling talent.

I love to support debut authors whenever I can and this synopsis looks too good to be true! I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of this novel from the publishers and I still cannot believe I haven’t got round to it yet.

R

What’s it all about?:

The twenty-one stories in Reader, I Married Him – one of the most celebrated lines in fiction – are inspired by Jane Eyre and shaped by its perennially fascinating themes of love, compromise and self-determination.

A bohemian wedding party takes an unexpected turn for the bride and her daughter; a family trip to a Texan waterpark prompts a life-changing decision; Grace Poole defends Bertha Mason and calls the general opinion of Jane Eyre into question. Mr Rochester reveals a long-kept secret in “Reader, She Married Me”, and “The Mirror” boldly imagines Jane’s married life after the novel ends. A new mother encounters an old lover after her daily swim and inexplicably lies to him, and a fitness instructor teaches teenage boys how to handle a pit bull terrier by telling them Jane Eyre’s story.

Edited by Tracy Chevalier, and commissioned specially for Charlotte Brontë’s bicentenary year in 2016, this collection brings together some of the finest and most creative voices in fiction today, to celebrate and salute the strength and lasting relevance of a game-changing novel and its beloved narrator.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for so long! Stories inspired by one of my all time favourite books (and definitely my favourite classic)? YES PLEASE.

I

What’s it all about?:

‘Even if medical tests cannot explain your pain or tiredness or disability, it does not lessen your suffering. The pain of medically unexplained illness is every bit as real as any other and, if anything, is multiplied by the lack of understanding.

Most of us accept the way our heart flutters when we set eyes on the one we secretly admire, or the sweat on our brow as we start the presentation we do not want to give. But few of us are fully aware of how dramatic our body’s reactions to emotions can sometimes be.

Take Pauline, who first became ill when she was fifteen. What seemed at first to be a urinary infection became joint pain, then food intolerances, then life-threatening appendicitis. And then one day, after a routine operation, Pauline lost all the strength in her legs. Shortly after that her convulsions started. But Pauline’s tests are normal; her symptoms seem to have no physical cause whatsoever.

Pauline may be an extreme case, but she is by no means alone. As many as a third of men and women visiting their GP have symptoms that are medically unexplained. In most, an emotional root is suspected and yet, when it comes to a diagnosis, this is the very last thing we want to hear, and the last thing doctors want to say.

In It’s All in Your Head consultant neurologist Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan takes us on a journey through the very real world of psychosomatic illness. She takes us from the extreme — from paralysis, seizures and blindness — to more everyday problems such as tiredness and pain. Meeting her patients, she encourages us to look deep inside the human condition. There we find the secrets we are all capable of keeping from ourselves, and our age-old failure to credit the intimate and extraordinary connection between mind and body.

Science/health books are amongst my favourite non fiction topics to read about (anything about animals coming a close second). This book speaks to me on a personal level as I struggle with a chronic invisible illness and have done for the past seven years. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into this one.

N

What’s it all about?:

Historian Anna Bennett has a book to write. She also has an insomniac toddler, a precocious, death-obsessed seven-year-old, and a frequently absent ecologist husband who has brought them all to Colsay, a desolate island in the Hebrides, so he can count the puffins. Ferociously sleep-deprived, torn between mothering and her desire for the pleasures of work and solitude, Anna becomes haunted by the discovery of a baby’s skeleton in the garden of their house. Her narrative is punctuated by letters home, written 200 years before, by May, a young, middle-class midwife desperately trying to introduce modern medicine to the suspicious, insular islanders. The lives of these two characters intersect unexpectedly in this deeply moving but also at times blackly funny story about maternal ambivalence, the way we try to control children, and about women’s vexed and passionate relationship with work. Moss’s second novel displays an exciting expansion of her range – showing her to be both an excellent comic writer and a novelist of great emotional depth.

I have to admit, I bought this book a while ago for the cover initially, isn’t it gorgeous? Then I read my very first Sarah Moss, The Tidal Zone recently and absolutely loved it. I’m excited to get stuck in to more of her work.

G

What’s it all about?:

The first new collection in almost a decade from a bewitchingly original writer hailed by Michael Chabon as “the most darkly playful voice in American fiction.”

One of today’s most celebrated short story writers, Kelly Link creates brilliantly detailed, layered fictional worlds pulsing with their own energy and life. The situations are at first glance fantastical, but the emotional insights are piercing and the characters vividly real. In “The Summer People,” a young girl in rural Florida serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In “I Can See Right Through You,” a one-time teen idol movie vampire takes a disturbing trip to the set where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a bizarre new reality show; in “The New Boyfriend,” a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present, a new animated doll. Funny, uncanny, always deeply moving, these stories demonstrate a writer of wondrous gifts operating at the height of her powers.

Another collection of short stories, this book was recommended to me in a book spa by the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath. I’ve never read any Kelly Link before and have heard such great things about her writing that this just needs to be done!

Well everyone, that’s the end of my Books Beginning With S.P.R.I.N.G. post! Hope you enjoyed reading it, I’d love to see books from your TBR that make up the word S.P.R.I.N.G. If you decide to do a post, please leave a link in the comments so I can check it out or leave your answers in the comments below, it would be fun to see. I’m hoping to get to all of these books in the next few months and then I’ll be showcasing my books beginning with S.U.M.M.E.R so watch out for that post, coming later this year!

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The Tidal Zone – Sarah Moss

Published February 4, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is also working on a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. He is a good man and he is happy. But one day, he receives a call from his daughter’s school to inform him that, for no apparent reason, fifteen-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing. In that moment, he is plunged into a world of waiting, agonising, not knowing.

The story of his life and the lives of his family are rewritten and re-told around this shocking central event, around a body that has inexplicably failed. In this exceptionally courageous and unflinching novel of contemporary life Sarah Moss goes where most of us wouldn’t dare to look, and the result is riveting – unbearably sad, but also miraculously funny and ultimately hopeful.

The Tidal Zone explores parental love, overwhelming fear, illness and recovery. It is about clever teenagers and the challenges of marriage. It is about the NHS, academia, sex and gender in the twenty-first century, the work-life juggle, and the politics of packing lunches and loading dishwashers. It confirms Sarah Moss as a unique voice in modern fiction and a writer of luminous intelligence.

What did I think?:

The Tidal Zone was one of the most anticipated reads on my TBR last year and I had heard so many great reviews of it from dear friends whose opinion I trust implicitly and from all you wonderful bloggers out there. It seemed every review I read was a universal outpouring of joy about how wonderful this book was and how I had to read it immediately, I wouldn’t regret it. Now, I get excited about leaving books for a little bit until the hype dies down where I’m not too anxious that I’m not going to feel the same as everyone else but I couldn’t leave this book any longer gathering dust on my shelves, I simply had to read it. Did the dreaded hype monster get me? Well, not really however I felt like I couldn’t give it it five stars in the end BUT it was very, very close.

This story follows a family consisting of Adam, the primary care-giver, mostly stay at home dad and part-time lecturer at the local university, Emma the mother and harassed GP, bread-winner for the family and two daughters, Miriam and Rose. One day, their world is rocked forever when Adam receives a phone call from the school saying that Miriam has been involved in an “incident,” and is being rushed to hospital via ambulance. This incident is a lot more serious than initially expected, Miriam was diagnosed at the hospital with “idiopathic anaphylaxis,” a life-threatening allergic reaction which caused her heart to stop and her to stop breathing, leading to the P.E. teacher having to perform CPR on her. The rest of the narrative follows this family as they attempt to re-build their lives after this horrific incident. They never really find out what caused Miriam’s episode and although she is given an epipen to counteract future problems, Adam and Emma are constantly worried that any slightest, unanticipated event could mean that they lose their daughter forever.

This story is wonderfully dramatic but so gorgeously written, it’s like slipping into new bed sheets with a cup of hot chocolate, complete silence and a long, interrupted night of sleep ahead of you. Well, that’s what it made me feel when I was reading it! I was on tenterhooks especially at the beginning when everything that is happening with poor Miriam is so unsure and I really felt for the parents, Adam and Emma who I think coped admirably considering the precarious situation that they found themselves in. Although I wasn’t expecting the direction the story then went in, it doesn’t mean to say that I enjoyed it less.

In fact, I loved getting to know the family as individuals and it became so much more than a story about a young girl who almost dies, it became a real character study with so many inter-connecting themes like gender roles in the family, the importance of love and support from your nearest and dearest and most importantly, how to rebuild after a disaster takes hold. Interspersed between this family’s story is snippets from Adam’s father’s life, his Jewish grandparents life as they fled the Nazi’s and Adam’s current project, the history of Coventry Cathedral.  We learn many historical details about it, particularly when it was re-built and completely re-designed after being almost totally destroyed during the war.

I have to admit, this latter portion of the narrative is why I’m not giving The Tidal Zone five stars, some parts were very interesting (particularly details of the bombing) but sadly, I felt myself switching off a little bit during these sections and I didn’t feel as gripped as I perhaps should have done. Nevertheless, I’m sure other people will find this a lot more fascinating then I did, so please don’t let this tiny, insignificant niggle of mine put you off if you’re intrigued by this book. It’s a novel that has continued to play on my mind a long time after finishing it and I’m so excited that I still have another three books by Sarah Moss to read on my shelves, after this stunning piece of work, she will definitely become one of my must read authors in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Bibliobeth Takes On A World Of Books – First Stop – ICELAND

Published November 28, 2014 by bibliobeth

BethMunchkin

Welcome to a new feature on my blog! Every so often I will be selecting a country of the world (with a little help from you, my lovely readers) and trying to immerse myself in their literature. Hopefully I will learn a lot along the way and my findings will make for interesting reading. I hope to read at least 4 or 5 books from each country with some quick thoughts on each book whilst also posting a history of that country’s literature. Many thanks and hugs also to Luna’s Little Library for the beautiful Bibliobeth munchkin above. So without further ado, I’d like to introduce my first country –

ICELAND.

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A Brief Introduction To Icelandic Literature

  • The earliest recorded texts in Iceland were the sagas, thought to have been written around the 13th Century.
  • These often stated historic facts about the country i.e. the migration of settlers to Iceland, the division of land between families, the establishment of law and the structure of society and the voyages of Vikings to unexplored lands.
  • Sagas are a source of national pride for many Icelanders and many represent Iceland’s early days of independence.
  • There were also mythological stories and poetry known as eddas, and some legendary sagas informed readers about the notable saints.
  • Conflicts based on personal interests and honour led to a civil war in the 13th century where Iceland was placed under the control of Norway and later Denmark for six centuries.
  • At the beginning of the 19th century, there was a literature revival, dominated by romanticism and the poets Thorarensen and Hallgrimsson (who was also the first writer of the Icelandic short story).
  • In 1850 the first Icelandic novel was published by Jon Thoroddson. Piltur og stúlka (Lad and Lass) is a love story that illustrates his talents for concise satirical sketches of people and places.
  • In 1955, one of Iceland’s most celebrated novelists, Halldór Laxness won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is famous for novels such as Independent People and Iceland’s Bell.
  • In recent years, the growth of crime novels being published has been exponential. Writers such as Arnaldur Indriðason, famous for his crime series based in Reykjavik lead the pack but it appears to be one of the most popular genres in the country, the sales figures double that of any of their Nordic neighbours.
  • Iceland has more writers, more books published and more books read in the entire world. One in ten Icelanders will publish a book in their lifetime.

iceland

What did I read?:

  • Jar City – Arnaldur Indriðason
  • Names For The Sea: Strangers In Iceland – Sarah Moss
  • Independent People – Halldór Laxness
  • Iceland, Defrosted – Edward Hancox
  • Icelandic Folk And Fairytales – May Hallmundsson, Hallberg Hallmundsson and Kjartan Gudjonsson (Illustrator)

 


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What’s it all about?:

A man is found murdered in his Reykjavik flat. There are no obvious clues apart from a cryptic note left on the body and a photograph of a young girl’s grave.

Delving into the dead man’s life Detective Erlendur discovers that forty years ago he was accused of an appalling crime, but never convicted. Had his past come back to haunt him?

As Erlendur struggles to build a relationship with his unhappy daughter, his investigation takes him to Iceland’s Genetic Research Centre, where he uncovers disturbing secrets that are even darker than the murder of an old man.

Jar City is the first book in the series starring Detective Erlendur available in English.

Quick thoughts:

  • I liked how the author gave us murder from an Icelandic viewpoint i.e. “Icelandic murders aren’t complicated. Icelandic judges are notoriously lenient. Icelandic murderers generally don’t leave anything behind but a mess.”
  • Erlendurs issues with his daughter who is a drug addict made compelling reading.
  • The pace of the novel is fairly slow compared to what I am used to from other crime thrillers.
  • Personally, I was slightly disappointed by this book. I’m not sure what I was expecting but it seemed to fall a little flat and I had difficulties warming to the main character.

Star rating (out of 5):

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What’s it all about?:

Novelist Sarah Moss had a childhood dream of moving to Iceland, sustained by a wild summer there when she was nineteen. In 2009, she saw an advertisement for a job at the University of Iceland and applied on a whim, despite having two young children and a comfortable life in an English cathedral city. The resulting adventure was shaped by Iceland’s economic collapse, which halved the value of her salary, by the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull and by a collection of new friends, including a poet who saw the only bombs fall on Iceland in 1943, a woman who speaks to elves and a chef who guided Sarah’s family around the intricacies of Icelandic cuisine.

Sarah was drawn to the strangeness of Icelandic landscape, and explored hillsides of boiling mud, volcanic craters and fissures, and the unsurfaced roads that link remote farms and fishing villages in the far north. She walked the coast path every night after her children were in bed, watching the northern lights and the comings and goings of migratory birds. As the weeks and months went by, the children settled in local schools and Sarah got to know her students and colleagues, she and her family learned new ways to live.

Quick thoughts:

  • As a non-fiction book for anyone interested in Iceland, this is a must read. I connected with the author immediately as after visiting Iceland earlier this year, I could easily live there!
  • I loved reading the authors views and comments on Icelandic driving. It’s scary, it’s dangerous, the public transport isn’t terrific and if you are anywhere outside of Reykjavik, you can feel completely isolated.
  • I found the Icelandic shame over second-hand goods really interesting. Allegedly, you would be hard pressed to find a second-hand clothes shop or market and some Icelanders are truly horrified that you would have to resort to such a thing.
  • Icelandic cuisine has to be seen to be believed. We’re talking roasted sheep’s heads, not much fresh fruit or vegetables and the wonderful sounding skyr, a form of strained yoghurt which by the author’s descriptions sounds utterly blissful.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

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What’s it all about?:

In an epic set in Iceland in the early twentieth century, Gudbjartur Jonsson buys his own croft after eighteen years of service to the local bailiff, and brings his wife and his small flock of sheep there to build a new, independent life for himself.

Quick thoughts:

  • It’s easy to see why Halldór Laxness won a Nobel Prize for Literature, the writing is exquisite and gives a very authentic picture of what Iceland was like for farmers in the early twentieth century.
  • The pace is VERY slow and some readers may feel that not much is really happening. However, I found the beauty of the smaller details shone through.
  • Bjartur is an extremely unlikeable character at points through the book but I found him fascinating and very readable. He was a man with dreams who was determined to see them through.
  • We find Icelandic folklore and poetry interspersed throughout the text, remnant of the old sagas and eddas passed down from generation to generation.

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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What’s it all about?:

This is the story of one Englishman’s obsession with a half-frozen, roughly duck-shaped island in the cold North Atlantic. ‘Iceland, Defrosted’ is less about wars over cod, flight-halting volcanoes and globe-shattering financiers, and more about relaxing in natural hot pots, sharing barbeques in howling winter storms and eating waffles and rhubarb jam while watching playful Arctic foxes. Oh, and desperately, desperately searching for the elusive Northern Lights (which might not exist anyway). Loosely based on a circuitous route around Iceland, it concentrates on places, people and experiences, soundtracked by the coolest Icelandic musicians, all wrapped up in the warmest lopapeysa and jump-started with the strongest coffee. It is a story that’s almost a love letter, born from a constant yearning for this special place and fuelled by a growing understanding and a desire to uncover the real Iceland.

Quick thoughts:

  • Combined with some very witty British humour and sarcasm, this book revolves around one of Edward Hancox’s main passions, Iceland that will leave you feeling just as passionate about the country, even if you’ve never visited!
  • I found the author’s search for those damned Northern Lights hilarious. I was lucky enough to catch a smaller show (blink and you’ll miss it), but what I saw was beautiful.
  • The sense that in some parts of the country you can feel quite isolated was conveyed nicely as the author attempts to see a bit more of the “real” Iceland.
  • It would have been lovely (as with Sarah Moss’ book) to see some photographs of the places, things etc they were talking about although the descriptions were excellent.

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

15829300What’s it all about?:

Nowhere does a nation bare its soul to the same extent as in its popular lore, its folktales,” say translators May and Hallberg Hallmundsson in their introduction to this selection of Icelandic folk and fairy tales. Spanning the rich folk tradition from ghosts and eleves to sorcerers, saints and outlaws, the stories reflect everyday life in Iceland through the centuries, throwing a unique light on the Icelandic character in humorous as well as serious circumstances. The Hallmundssons have selected and translated all the tales in this volume from the classic collection of 19th-century folklorist Jon Arnason, who devoted years of his life to recording stories preserved by oral tradition since the early days of Iceland’s history.

Quick thoughts:

  • I’m a lover of any form of folklore or fairytale and I really enjoyed learning all about Iceland’s own myths and legends, some of them proving to be very surprising!
  • The cultural and historical information that came through from some of the stories was fascinating and it’s mind-blowing to realise that these tales have been passed down from generation to generation.
  • The first story, Genesis Of The Elves brought the Bible, specifically Adam and Eve into play. When Eve did not present her unwashed children before God as she was ashamed of them, they became invisible to human eyes as God decided what was hidden from him should also be hidden from others.
  • One of my favourite stories in the collection was The Parish Pauper who cannot go anywhere without her chamber pot. A stranger offers to help her, carrying her pot but disappears into a chasm in the earth causing her to shriek: “Damn him, he took my potty!”

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

I’ve really enjoyed my first foray into Icelandic fiction, and am definitely inspired to read more, even to give Arnaldur Indriðason another chance, perhaps? I feel like I’ve learned a lot about both the country’s literature and about its cultures and history. But now it’s over to you, dear readers. I’d like you to help me decide where I should travel next? Hope you’ve enjoyed this post and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the poll, open for one week.

 

WWW Wednesday #48

Published July 9, 2014 by bibliobeth

WWW Wednesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Click on the image to get to her blog!

Welcome to another WWW Wednesday, and thanks as ever to MizB for hosting.

To join in you need to answer 3 questions..

•What are you currently reading?

•What did you recently finish reading?

•What do you think you’ll read next?

Click on the book covers to take you to a link to find out more!

What are you currently reading?:

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This is the third and final book in the Unearthly trilogy by Cynthia Hand and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out! My sister Chrissi Reads thought very highly of this book so I’m probably going to agree with her.

What did you recently finish reading?:

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This is author Sarah Moss’s account of what it was like to live in Iceland for a year and it’s pretty fascinating stuff. I read it for a new feature that will be coming up in a couple of months (or thereabouts!) on my blog.

What do you think you’ll read next?:

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Next up is a book I’ve had on my radar for a while as I got it free from NetGalley and Penguin UK Publishers (thanks to them!) but it has also been picked as a Richard and Judy Summer Bookclub 2014 read here in the UK, and I always enjoy reading what they recommend. I’ll be “talking about” it with Chrissi Reads so look out for our review!

What are you reading this Wednesday? Please leave your link and I’ll come pay you a visit! Happy Reading Everyone!