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Meet Morrigan Crow, a ‘wundrous’ girl

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend (ISBN 9781510104112 hardback)

Nevermoor

This is simply the most fun, exciting and magical read since we first met a boy called Potter.
It is a story which is both dark and hopeful, magical and relatable. It’s one of my favourite books of the whole year.
It’s a story of rejection and acceptance, of loss and belonging, of losing and finding, of wunder and wonders.
Like the abandoned boy who slept under the stairs, this new heroine is a ‘cursed child’ who lives under a shadow of blame, rejection and limitation. Morrigan Crow is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday (a downer for anyone). But during her final dinner with her lukewarm family, the exciting, ebullient and rather mysterious figure of Captain Jupiter North bursts into her life.
Then bursts her out into the ‘wundrous’ world of Nevermoor. Here she begins to find her place in Jupiter’s hotel, the Deucalion (think Hogwarts but with better facilities), while entering the titular trials to see whether she is worthy to enter the Wundrous Society, a prestigious order of society’s finest.

This is a story of dragon-riders and self-growing chandeliers; of giant arachnids and blood-thirsty hounds; a giant ‘Magnifi-cat’ and a truly menacing villain.
Jessica Townsend has created a glorious new world; scenes are filmic in their scope and description, there is so much potential for development of the world and people of Nevermoor.

So, grab your umbrella, step boldly, and join ‘the mad ginger and the strange little girl with black eyes’ as they venture into Nevermoor.
It’s truly ‘wundrous’!

 

(thanks to Hatchette for the proof. Review also on Waterstones.com. I will enthusiastically thrust it into your hands at Waterstones, Finchley Road O2, NW3)

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Posted by on 18/10/2017 in review

 

Review: Together by Julie Cohen

Review: Together by Julie Cohen

With a tag line of ‘is this a great love story or a story of great love?’, the reader’s prepared for twists and revelations even before the story starts. Indeed, there are plenty of moments of questionable motivation, major revelations, and various acts of love. I wasn’t disappointed.
In essence, this is the story of Robbie and Emily. Having spent the best part of fifty years together, with two sons, grandchildren, their own beautiful seaside home, and successful careers behind them, they seem to have reached the perfect retirement.

However, Robbie is beginning to lose his memory; he worries it’s the start of Dementia or Alzheimer’s. Rather than making Emily endure the years of of his slow demise, he swims away into the sunrise, leaving Emily with a fresh pink rose, a note and a kiss on her cheek.

That’s the first, short, chapter. I was hooked. 

The story then goes into reverse. Sections tell us more about Robbie and Emily’s lives, hinting at, then revealing secrets in their lives. It’s not confusing or disorientating as each section is long enough to settle into and signpost have been given in the preceding story (which is the chronological future but the book’s past, if you see what I mean!). This perfectly happy, perfectly matched couple have worked hard over the years to reach this point. Only at the end did I realise how hard.

Some readers may think some revelations are too farfetched, particularly as Robbie and Emily’s story comes to its final moment, but by then, I had invested in their lives. I cared for them, understanding something of the choices they made. 

At moments unlikeable, unfathomable, unloveable, Emily and Robbie both have valid reasons for their actions, reactions and even inaction at various times.

This would make a good reading group book as there are plenty of topics to discuss (listing them would count as spoilers; everyone in the group needs to have read the book to the end!). I for one would love to spend more time with the Brandons.

True to the nature of a circular novel, told backwards, I started to read it again as soon as I’d finished. It was not time wasted. A well written story, with characters I cared about, making heart-breakingly difficult decisions throughout their lives together. 

Regardless of whether you might regard the secrets and twists as farfetched or gimmicky, this is a very good ‘relationship read’, an ideal easy read for the commute or bedtime. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself reading past your bedtime…
Thanks to Orion Books for the prepublication proof.

Published in hardback in the UK in July 2017 ISBN 9781409171744

 
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Posted by on 04/09/2017 in Uncategorized

 

Review: How To Stop Time

A: Read Matt Haig’s latest novel! Its beauty, depth and humanity will make you forget the end of your lunch break, miss your Tube stop, take you beyond sleep. It’s as though the reading of this time-bending novel can stop time itself with the power of Tom Hazard’s story. 

It kept me cool during the recent heatwave.

Tom may look like an ordinary forty-odd year old but he has actually loved centuries. Through the terror of witch-hunts, to the stench of London with Shakespeare; the ephemeral jazz age with Fitzgerald to the excitement on the South Seas with Captain Cook, Tom lives through it all, until we meet him attempting to teach history to reluctant pupils in Hackney. 

Forever, Emily Dickinson said, is composed of nows. But how do you inhabit the now you are in ? How do you stop the ghosts of all the other ones from getting in? How, in short, do you live?

Tom has a rare condition which delays his aging; he is ‘an albatross’. Although not immortal, his aging process is so slow, he has to watch everyone he loves age around him. The skill of this novel is how Haig gets us to feel the emotional connection with Tom; his hope as he searches for his lost loves, how he tries to lose himself in the pleasures of the age, how he always feels disconnected from his surroundings.

…love food and music and champagne and rare sunny afternoons in October. You can love the sight of waterfalls and the smell of old books, but the love of people is off limits…’

Ultimately, this is a novel of hope, of joy in the present, of the power of love to sustain and give meaning to life. It is an easier read than these weighty themes might suggest; a unique love story with historical colour and humour .

That’s the thing with time, isn’t it? It’s not all the same. Some days -some years – some decades – are empty. There is nothing to them. It’s just flat water. And then you come across a year, or even a day, or an afternoon. And it is everything. It’s the whole thing.

As in his other novels, Matt Haig has successfully explored a complex idea with a light touch, injected both humour and pathos, to produce a joyful, moving and entertaining novel.     A delight to read! I shall be recommending it enthusiastically.
Thanks to Canongate for the prepublication proof.

 
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Posted by on 24/06/2017 in Life, review

 

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Reading Week Day Seven

Ok, it was ambitious to expect to blog every day of my self-imposed ‘reading week’. As is so often at the moment, life with kids gets in the way with governors’ meetings, hospital appointments, and so on in addition to the school runs and general need for the company of their mummy. 

However, I finished reading The Power today. I was expecting it to be as amazing as a Bailey’s prize winning novel could be; it certainly did not disappoint.

With its multiple narrators, movement through the ten years before ‘The Cataclysm’, line drawings of historical artifacts, and amusingly intriguing prologue and epilogue, this is a magnificent book.

With an even tone and quickening pace, and well-realised, wonderfully complex ideas, this novel shows just how accomplished a writer Alderman is.

What would happen if, overnight, women discovered that they had electrical power at their fingertips? Starting with a small number of teens scattered throughout the world, the balance of power is irrevocably altered and civilisation struggles to deal with this. Like the girls’ electrical pulses, the story builds, arcs and explodes spectacularly. 

Alderman details the origins of this power, its effect on certain women, and the world-wide repercussions. It’s scarily believable. 

Despite the serious sounding review so far, this is an immensely readable, fast paced, rollercoaster of a read. It’s excellent. I am not surprised there is talk of a screen adaptation; it’ll be great!

If you’re looking for a thrilling read, more than a flimsy summer fling, a novel with guts and great writing, try The Power

It’ll ‘jolt’ you out of the everyday. It’s a blast!

 
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Posted by on 15/06/2017 in review

 

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Reading Week: Day Two

Mainly Twitter. And scrolling news bars.

I’m afraid that with the dramatic events in the UK’s general election last night, any hope of serious reading has gone out of the window now.

I have, however, discovered the point of Twitter. Using it for rolling news, instant reaction to an event, scrolling while watching live tv, this is a perfect medium to keep yourself informed, up to date and entertained. I now love it!

However, the uncertain outcome of the election is driving me back to the novel. Off to take my chosen prizewinning, dystopian, feminist sci-fi novel out for coffee before the school run. At least I’ll find a coherent narrative here, regardless of the news outlets.

 
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Posted by on 09/06/2017 in Life, Uncategorized

 

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Review: Hot Milk by Andrea Levy

If you’ve been into any branch of Waterstones this past week, you’ll have not failed to spot this little novel; it’s our fiction book of the month for June. I treat BOTM as a book club and read as many of the choices as I can.

Having caught snippets on Radio 4 while it was still published in hardback, I knew some of the plot: Sofia and her mother visit southern Spain in search of healing. Sofia is a slightly hapless twenty-something, wasting her first class masters in anthropology while she works as a Barista, sleeping in the store’s stockroom. Her mother, Rose, is in her mid-sixties, suffering from mysterious paralysis. Along the way, Sofia meets the alluring Ingrid, the temporary (and tempting) lifeguard Juan, the unerving, patrician Dr Gomez and ‘Nurse Sunshine’, her newly-religious, estranged Greek father, alongside chained-up Alsatians, pregnant cats, stuffed monkeys and a multitude of jellyfish.

The characters hide as much as they reveal. The clashes between Spanish, Greek and Yorkshire cultures is amusingly evident, and the heat of the Spanish sun is almost palpable.

The novel is claustrophobic, mysterious and lyrical. It explores issues of identity, wellness, duty, sexuality, and fractured families.

The Guardian describes it as ‘hypnotic’; I was certainly entranced while reading.

Although short (little over two hundred pages long), the characters remain in my thoughts; the heat of the sun and sting of the jellyfish stay on my skin.

A great, lyrical summer read.

Picture from penguin.co.uk

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy (ISBN 9780241968031)

 
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Posted by on 08/06/2017 in review

 

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Reading Week: Day One

I have inadvertently found myself with a week off work; not through illness, just badly timed annual leave. I am still needed for the delights of the school run and the nightly unplugging of the children followed by pyjama-wrestling, so have to make do with a ‘limited hours only staycation’.

I shall read.

Stuff the housework. Stuff cultural destinations (unless they have comfy chairs and nice tea). Stuff the weather. I shall being to tackle the pile of proofs and my TBR bookcase.

Here goes…

I returned from a HarperCollins event with a box of books, to add to the already amassed pile from work.

(Apologies for the poor quality photos; impressionistic only!)

 
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Posted by on 08/06/2017 in Life, Reading space

 

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