Sceptre Books

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Madness Is Better Than Defeat – Ned Beauman

Published August 30, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In 1938, two rival expeditions set off for a lost Mayan temple in the jungles of Honduras, one intending to shoot a screwball comedy on location there, the other to disassemble the temple and ship it back to New York. A seemingly endless stalemate ensues, and twenty years later a rogue CIA agent sets out to exploit it for his own ends, unaware that the temple is the locus of grander conspiracies than anyone could have imagined.

Showcasing the anarchic humour, boundless imagination and unparalleled prose of one of the finest writers of his generation, this is a masterful novel that teases, absorbs, entertains and dazzles in equal measure.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Sceptre publishers, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a copy of this intriguing novel in exchange for an honest review. I finished this book a couple of days ago and to be perfectly honest, I’m still trying to collect my thoughts to write a coherent review about it! I’ve only previously read Glow by Ned Beauman which I did a mini pin-it review about HERE and I have to admit I wasn’t blown away, so I was interested to read something else by him as it’s perfectly obvious that his writing is stunning. Even now, I’m struggling to rate Madness Is Better Than Defeat – some parts confused the hell out of me and I felt like I had to concentrate and be completely immersed in the story without distractions, other parts were utter brilliance.

It’s also such a tough book to describe! The synopsis above pretty much says it all, two rival expeditions are sent into the jungle to an ancient Mayan temple for two completely different reasons. One expedition wants to tear the temple down and take it to New York, the other expedition wants to film a movie there so requires the temple to be fully intact. As soon as the rival teams meet each other, of course there are fireworks aplenty. It ends up with the two groups at stalemate, each refusing to submit and each person in the team refusing to leave the jungle. They end up spending their lives out there (we’re talking DECADES) – foraging for food, fighting between themselves and even making babies. However, the temple and what it holds within its walls is stranger and more bizarre than anybody could have imagined and as the jungle dwellers begin to succumb to a strange madness, there are people on the outside in New York with their own agenda for the temple who will stop at nothing to get what they desire.

A lot of this book doesn’t make any sense at all but in a way, that’s part of its charm and quirkiness. In the very first pages we are treated to a scene where a man is betting on who will win in a fight between an octopus and a diver (yes, you read that right!) and throughout the novel, we get some wonderful, snarky humour from Ned Beauman that really lifted the slower parts of the narrative for me. Some might call this book a bit of a slog and at times, I did feel that I must admit. It jumps around perspective wise and sometimes it can take a minute to get your head around which character you’re hearing from – and there are a lot, believe me. There was a huge variety in characters and they all seemed very well rounded, even those we hear from just briefly but at times, I did feel like I didn’t have a clue what was going on and it was a bit too much. However, I have to say that even at a particularly slow part, I never felt like I wanted to give up on the novel. I did want to see it through to the end, even if I finished it wondering just what on earth happened?! This novel might not be for everyone but if you fancy a unique read that’s refreshingly different from everything else out there at the moment, I would recommend Ned Beauman.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Blog Tour – My Grandmother Sends Her Regards And Apologises – Fredrik Backman

Published April 19, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The hilarious, heart-breaking new novel by the author of the international bestseller A MAN CALLED OVE.

‘Granny has been telling fairy tales for as long as Elsa can remember. In the beginning they were only to make Elsa go to sleep, and to get her to practise granny’s secret language, and a little because granny is just about as nutty as a granny should be. But lately the stories have another dimension as well. Something Elsa can’t quite put her finger on…’

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy. Standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa runs to her grandmother’s stories, to the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas. There, everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

So when Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has hurt, it marks the beginning of Elsa’s greatest adventure. Her grandmother’s letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones-but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman’s bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.

What did I think?:

After reading and thoroughly enjoying Fredrik Backman’s debut novel, A Man Called Ove, I was delighted when Sceptre Books offered me the opportunity to be part of a blog tour for his second novel, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises (also known as My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry). Many thanks to them for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Before starting, I had no idea how much this book was going to affect me and I’m thrilled to say it didn’t disappoint on any level and I now have every intention of reading everything this author will ever write!

There are a number of weird and wonderful characters in this novel whom we learn more and more about as the story progresses but there are a few real stars that shine so brightly from within the pages that it becomes impossible not to fall in love with them. Our main characters are a seven year old girl called Elsa and her seventy-seven year old grandmother, both true forces to be reckoned with. Poor Elsa is not having the best of times, her parents are divorced and she feels increasingly excluded from their lives – her father with his “new” family that often seem to take precedent over her, and her mother and partner George who are just about to have a new baby themselves.

Both her mother and father although separated both go through life requiring order and perfection and Elsa’s personality is often in direct contrast to this, taking more after her grandmother who zips through life defying authority (and pretty much everyone) in an eccentric little whirl of chaos. For her grandmother, this includes smoking like a chimney in all the forbidden places, urinating with the toilet door open and throwing turds at police officers so she often gets in a world of trouble but her grand-daughter is always by her side, loving and worshipping her. Elsa is quite a precocious child who has an unshakeable habit of correcting people’s grammar and saying exactly what she thinks and unfortunately this leads to her having no friends and being constantly bullied at school. Her grandmother is her superhero and invents a fairy-tale world, The Land Of Almost Awake for Elsa to help her escape when things get a bit too much.

Tragically, Elsa’s grandmother passes away but before she dies she concocts a treasure hunt for Elsa which involves Elsa finding letters that she has placed in strategic places and delivering them to their recipient. Each letter takes the form of an apology and through each one, Elsa finds herself learning more about the important people in her grandmother’s life and indeed, much more about her grandmother herself who has amassed a multitude of secrets in her exciting and bizarre life. Making many more friends along the way, Elsa discovers that the characters in their exclusive fairy-tale kingdom may actually exist and may need her just as much as she comes to need them.

This was such a beautiful read taking me through a roller-coaster of emotions, alternately sniggering then coming close to tears. I loved the closeness of the relationship between Elsa and her grandmother and fell head over heels in love with their eccentric personalities but will also have a special soft spot for a very important dog…I’m sorry – “wurse,” who definitely had a personality all of his own and gave Elsa such comfort and support as she came to terms with the loss of her grandmother. My own rather vivid imagination was given such a treat with the creation of a fairy-tale kingdom and it was lovely to see the blurred lines between fantasy and reality as the author laid bare the people behind the fairy-tales. The humour throughout the novel was impeccable and the characters so wonderfully realised that I instantly felt that I knew them all personally. I’ll be picking up Backman’s next novel for sure and highly recommend his work for anyone that enjoys flawed, intensely loveable characters and skilful story-telling.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The lovely people at Sceptre Books have allowed me to host a giveaway for My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises and two lucky people will win a copy of the novel. Interested/intrigued? Enter below! Good luck everyone.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A huge thank you to everyone involved in this blog tour, I’ve had a great time doing it. Why not check out the rest of the stops on the tour where you’ll find some fantastic reviews from my fellow bloggers? My Grandmother Sends Her Regards And Apologises was released by Sceptre Books and is available from all good bookshops now.

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