Wednesday, 8 November 2017

PEACH by Emma Glass

PEACH by Emma Glass
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (23 January 2018)
Source: Publisher (d-ARC)
Pages 112


"I start. Slip the pin through the skin. Start stitching. It doesn’t sting. It does bleed.White thread turns red. Red string. Going in. Going out. I pull.Tug.Tug the pin. In. Out. Out. Out. Blackout."

Something has happened to Peach. Blood runs down her legs and the scent of charred meat lingers on her flesh. It hurts to walk but she staggers home to parents that don’t seem to notice. They can’t keep their hands off each other and besides, they have a new infant, sweet and wobbly as a jelly baby.

Peach must patch herself up alone so she can go to college and see her boyfriend, Green. But sleeping is hard when she is haunted by the gaping memory of a mouth, and working is hard when burning sausage fat fills her nostrils, and eating is impossible when her stomach is swollen tight as a drum.

In this dazzling debut, Emma Glass articulates the unspeakable with breath-taking clarity and verve. Intensely physical, with rhythmic, visceral prose, Peach marks the arrival of a visionary new voice.

My Thoughts:
Dark, intense and captivating...With the opening scene of a college student staggering home after having just been violently assaulted this was a viscerally emotive storyline in its depiction of this young woman's horrific ordeal and from her initial denial to finally making some sense of it.

Written in a gorgeous stylistic prose, narrated in a consciousness of streamed thoughts it is reminiscent of Eimear McBride’s, ‘A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing’, and certainly felt as deeply affecting. An extremely powerful and at times distressing read but, if I’m honest not sure I fully understood everything that was going on in Peach's confused traumatised mind. I couldn't quite figure out what was real or imagined which left me feeling a little lost. That said I was unable to leave 'peach' until the final page. Peach's story has left an indelible impression on me and I haven't stopped thinking about this book since.

With the recent success of similar prose style works, i.e., Max Porter's, 'Grief Is A Thing With Feathers', 'Brooklyn' by Jaqueline Woodson, and the aforementioned, Eimear McBride's 'A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing’, 'peach' in my opinion, is certainly one to watch out for next year.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced readers copy (digital) from the publisher for my unbiased review.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Unbelievable “My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History” by Katy Tur

Unbelievable by Katy Tur
Publisher: HarperCollins Publisher (October, 2017)
Pages: 291 (Hardback)
Source: Publisher


My Thoughts:
Absolutely...unbelievably fascinating…utterly unmissable.

Jeez this was a humdinger of a read about the coverage of the presidential campaign and its lead-up to Trump becoming one of the most controversial, most divisive US Presidents of our time.

In this excellent 'campaign memoir' NBC News correspondent Katy Tur tells us what it was like reporting on an exhaustive daily basis, at rallies and interviewing Trump or dealing with his chief aids during the campaign election, and of how she felt on a professional basis and personal level.  For me, Tur's record of events confirmed my original feelings about Trump which unfortunately intensified my concern and fear for a better and united America under his presidency.

I believe Trump despises women he doesn't find attractive.  He does call them 'disgusting'. People who disagree with him or get in his way may find themselves victims to his vengefulness.  Trump 'hates' journalists with an obsessive passion. Tur as a female journalist became a target for his bullying and outright 'weird' behaviour at times.  She shares with us how she felt being singled out at rallies for ridicule and hateful remarks by the then presidential candidate, and of how vulnerable she and her colleagues felt at one particular venue when the behaviour of a baying mob of loyal supporters had been supported and even encouraged by Trump.
I am truly fearful of a future without an independent investigative journalistic presence to keep track and hold those in power accountable and genuinely dumbfounded that a presidential candidate could be so badly behaved, divisive and instigative of manipulating his frenzied supporters into such emotive states of hatred and violence towards anyone opposed to his views.  Tur gives an extremely compelling, personally candid account of her coverage as one of the women political journalists during one of the craziest and emotionally volatile campaigns ever seen.

Packed amidst the vengeful, rhetoric of Trump's speeches or condemnation of pretty much anyone distasteful to his sensibilities Tur manages to inject a fair amount of humour in the form of her inner dialogue which lightens what could have been an overbearing political tirade and I spent time googling campaign video footage to accompany my reading experience.

Tur doesn't shed any new light on Trump's character but what it may do is confirm what the majority of us suspected all along and that is that Trump, a bullying, vengeful, narcissistic beast is now terrifyingly the most powerful man on the planet.

Intelligently written, fast paced, and intensely compelling, I was engrossed, fascinated and repulsed in equal measure by the book.  I highly recommend the aptly entitled book to anyone interested in the making of political history's most 'unbelievable' President.

Memorable quotes:
"Trump is crude, and in his halo of crudeness other people get to be crude as well.”

"Trump managed to tap into a deep well of resentment and anger among disaffected voters who were content to trade in old notions of truth and decency for Trump’s wild ride."

Disclaimer: I received a reading copy for an unbiased review from HarperCollins Publishers Inc.,

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

What's On Your Nightstand? - October 31, 2017

This month I divulge from my nightstand which books I’ve loved, liked, didn’t or couldn’t give a hoot about and of which books I plan to read for next time.

As this is the spookiest night of the year I’ll start with one from my intended reading list: ‘The King in Yellow’ by Robert W. Chambers.  I received a reading copy from one of my favourite publishers, Pushkin Press, but alas I haven’t had time to read it before this posting. This beautiful hard back edition, a cult classic in supernatural fiction, is just perfect for an Halloween evening read and an ideal Christmas gift.

What I read

If The Creek Don’t Rise, Leah Weiss
(Available now)
Pages 305
Oh how I loved this book. Fabulous world building with an authentic atmospheric southern gothic storyline set in a North Carolina Mountain town.
Intense in its narrative and vividness ‘If The Creek Don’t Rise’ is a dark, gorgeously written tale about gritty, rural community life, and in particular the struggles women face in such misogynistic and male orientated relationships. (Review in progress)

(Fiction) PEACH by Emma Glass
Published: 23 January 2018
Pages 112
Not sure how I feel about this one yet. I feel rather ambiguously about ‘Peach’ and not quite sure what to say about it.
It was definitely viscerally emotive in its depiction of a young girl having just been violently raped, and of her decline into a mental breakdown. Written in a beautiful stylistic prose and narrated in a consciousness of streamed thoughts it is reminiscent of Eimear McBride’s ‘A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing’, and certainly felt as deeply affecting. An extremely powerful and at times distressing read and if I’m honest not sure I fully understood it and what was real or imagined. I just felt a little lost.
That said this is definitely one to watch for next year.  I read Peach in two sittings, but it could have easily been completed in one if time constraints had allowed. (Review in progress…I might read it again before reviewing.)

(Fiction) The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao by Martha Batalha
Stunning bright, zesty and energetic…I loved the cover image.
A beautifully heartbreaking but equally warm uplifting story, with its origins based on the author’s family lives, about two sisters living in Brazil during the 1940’s.
A pure delight to read and one to watch out for next year…you simply must read it! (Review in progress.)

(Non Fiction) Unbelievable by Katy Tur
Jeez this was a humdinger of a read about the coverage of the presidential campaign and lead-up to Trump’s victory in becoming one of the most controversial, most divisive president of our time.

Tur’s campaign memoir doesn’t divulge anything new, or shatter any pre conceived allusions about Trump’s ideology or personality. She simply tells us what is was like reporting on a regular basis, at rallies and interviewing Trump or dealing his chief aids during the campaign election, and of how she felt on a professional basis and personal level.  For me, it strengthened my suspicions of what kind of man Trump is, which unfortunately intensified my concern and fear for a better and united America under Trump’s presidency.

Absolutely...unbelievably…unmissable. Highly recommended! (Review in progress.)

What I didn’t finish
Nothing this month…I wanted to finish them all.

What I’m reading now
(Fiction) Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Another superb Halloween evening read.  I’m quite sure this is going to be one of my favourite reads of the year. So far it’s full of haunting gothic presence and complex characters,  I’m thoroughly engrossed and lost within their world.

What I intend to read for next time
All The Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J Church
The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers
In Search of Lost Books by Giorgio van Straten
& From last months intended list:
Will Send Rain, Rae Meadows
The Book Of Joan, Lidia Yuknavitch

As I’ve said before (In November) I’m stopping there as I always change my mind…too many sweets in the jar so to speak…especially at this time of year.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

EVENTS: Waterstones Halloween Book Group

Stephen King Halloween Book Group
Hosted by Waterstones Portsmouth
Monday 30th October at 18:00

Join us over tea and cakes for a Book Group with a twist! To celebrate the release of the master of horror's latest book Sleeping Beauties, we will be discussing the work of Stephen King.

There is no set book to read, just bring along your favourite Stephen King novel and be prepared to talk about why, for you, it's the best of his extensive collection...
There are no right or wrong answers just an evening of discussion – find some recommendations for your next read, meet other fans and get suitably spooked!

Please book in advance to ensure your place by clicking attending on the Facebook page or by speaking to a Bookseller in store or by telephone on 02392 821255

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Spoils by Brian Van Reet

Spoils by Brian Van Reet
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK/Vintage Publishing
Source: Publisher (digital review copy/hardcopy proof)
Pages: 255 (Read: May 2017)

It is the spring of 2003 and coalition forces are advancing on Iraq. Images of a giant statue of Saddam Hussein crashing to the ground in Baghdad are being beamed to news channels around the world. Nineteen-year-old Specialist Cassandra Wigheard, on her first deployment since joining the US army two years earlier, is primed for war.
For Abu al-Hool, a jihadist since the days of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, war is wearing thin. Two decades of fighting – and the new wave of super-radicalised fighters joining the ranks in the wake of the September 11 attacks – have left him questioning his commitment to the struggle.
When Cassandra is taken prisoner by al-Hool’s mujahideen brotherhood, both fighters will find their loyalties tested to the very limits.
This fast-paced, hard-hitting account of eight weeks in the lives of a soldier and her captor forces us to reconsider the simplistic narratives of war spun by those in power. With its privileged insight into the reality of armed combat, Spoils shines a light on the uncertainty, fear and idealism that characterised the early days of one of the most important conflicts of our time.

My Thoughts:
With a narrative full of highly emotive scenes and issues, Brian Van Reet's debut novel focuses predominantly on three US soldiers; Gunner Cassandra Wigheard, Sargent McGinnis, and Private Crump, who have been taken captive after an ambush near Baghdad at the start of the Iraq war.

Utilising the personal perspectives and distinctly recognisable, memorable voices of Wigheard, Sleed and the mujahideen Abu al-Hool, it is the thought processes, psychological behaviour and relationships between the captives and the jihadi terrorists that are the main focus of Spoils rather than explosive action scenes.

The captives are subjected to horrifying ordeals, held in dark, solitary confinement, they undergo unrelenting psychological torment and physical torture. Fully aware that there can only be one outcome at the hands of the terrorists, that of their impending execution, it is heart rending to bear witness to the suffering and their resignation of their fate.  During the course of her captivity Wigheard at the mercy of one of her captors is repeatedly humiliated, dehumanised and brutalised. I found Cassandra's narrative, the only voice in the third person, particularly disturbing, and at times so unbearable that I found her account suffocating and intensely distressing to read.

Abu al-Hool is a highly complex individual whose narrative is philosophical, retrospective and perhaps a little melancholic as he begins to question his religious and personal moral beliefs. He becomes increasingly concerned about the new direction in which the mujahideen brotherhood are being steered towards at the direction of the merciless Dr Walid. A direction he does not believe is the right path.

Tank driver Sleed should have been with his unit at the time of the ambush, instead he was acquiring some valuable 'spoils of war' from Saddam's Palace.  We accompany him as he, during the course of the book, tracks down his missing combatants.

Brian Van Reet has first hand combat experiences to draw upon for this powerful piece of fiction rendering it an intensely humane story, giving credible authenticity to the plot, and scenes presented to the reader.  It also demonstrates the complex and conflicting issues presented to everyone involved in the theatre of war, from the US combatants to the Iraqi people they are there to help.  What he also does all to well, and possibly not agreeable to every reader, is make a case for the terrorist's humanity as he imagines the moral and personal internal dialogue going on and how difficult it is to distinguish between a good person from a bad one due to their religious beliefs.

Spoils does have its moments of humor and bravado as displayed during dialogue between Crump and his colleagues which felt reminiscent of 'Generation Kill' written by Rolling Stone journalist Evan Wright about his experience with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As the story progressed and the mood darkened, 'Green on Blue', another excellent debut novel, told entirely through the eyes of a young Afghan boy by Elliot Ackerman, who himself spent five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan came to mind.

Enlightening, thought provoking and hauntingly mesmerising, I cannot recommend Spoils highly enough to anyone interested in novels about war and conflict.

Friday, 29 September 2017

TLC Book Tours: Hannah Who Fell From The Sky by Christopher Meades

By Christopher Meades

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Park Row Books (September 26, 2017)
TLC Book Tour September/October 2017

From highly acclaimed, award-winning author Christopher Meades comes a magical, provocative tale of forbidden love and one girl’s struggle for liberation

About Hanna Who Fell from the Sky
Hanna has never been outside her secluded community of Clearhaven. She has never questioned why her father has four wives or why she has fourteen brothers and sisters. And in only one week, on her eighteenth birthday, Hanna will follow tradition and become the fifth wife of a man more than twice her age.
But just days before the wedding, Hanna meets Daniel, an enigmatic stranger who challenges her to question her fate and to follow her own will. Then her mother tells her a secret—one that could grant Hanna the freedom she’s known only in her dreams. As her world unravels around her, Hanna must decide whether she was really meant for something greater than the claustrophobic world of Clearhaven. But can she abandon her beloved younger sister and the only home she’s ever known? Or is there another option—one too fantastical to believe?

With lush, evocative prose, Christopher Meades takes readers on an emotional journey into a fascinating, unknown world—and, along the way, brilliantly illuminates complexities of faith, identity and how our origins shape who we are.

“Beautiful and delicate, Meades has written a powerful meditation on how we define ourselves, the gift and cruelty of faith, and the redemptive act of storytelling. A gorgeous blend of dreamy folklore and gritty reality.” -Erika Swyler, bestselling author of The Book of Speculation
“A strange and beautiful fable with shades of Deliverance, Room, and Winter’s Bone.” -Laline Paull, award-winning author of The Bees
“As she slashes through the mythology that restrains her, Hanna rises like a phoenix. Christopher Meades weaves a feast of paradox and surprise.” -Benjamin Ludwig, author of Ginny Moon
“Compelling and provocative, Meades weaves elements of magical realism into his poignant coming-of-age tale. In Hanna, readers will find a new heroine, one who uncovers the secrets of her repressive society as she journeys toward self-discovery.” -Paula Treick DeBoard, author of The Drowning Girls
“With original characters and graceful prose, Christopher Meades has created an indelible novel about faith, family and love. Your heart will soar and ache for Hanna on her thoroughly original coming-of-age journey.” -Kelly Simmons, author of The Fifth of July

My Thoughts:
Unfortunately, I was unable to finish reading this one due to work and personal commitments. Therefore, feel unable to comment apart from to say that the short amount I read was well written and definitely had promise.
For more qualified and informative reviews please check out what other readers on the TLC Book Tour had to say about Hannah Who Fell From The Sky below.

I would like to thank the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with an advanced digital copy to enable me to take part in this tour and to apologise for not being able to fully participate on this occasion.

Christopher Meades is the author of three previous novels, including THE LAST HICCUP, which won the 2013 Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction. In addition, Meades’s work has appeared in several literary journals including The Potomac Review and The Fiddlehead. He lives in British Columbia, Canada, with his family.

Christopher Meades TLC BOOK TOUR STOPS:

Monday, September 18th: Girls in Books – Instagram
Tuesday, September 26th: Bookworm Everlasting blog and Instagram
Wednesday, September 27th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Wednesday, September 27th: Mama Reads
Thursday, September 28th: Kahakai Kitchen
Friday, September 29th: SJ2B House of Books
Monday, October 2nd: Katy’s Library blog and Instagram
Tuesday, October 3rd: A Thousand Books to Read – Instagram
Wednesday, October 4th: Cheryl’s Book Nook
Friday, October 6th: From the TBR Pile
Monday, October 9th: Caryn, The Book Whisperer
Tuesday, October 10th: The Mind of a Book Nerd blog and Instagram
Wednesday, October 11th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Thursday, October 12th: Blogging with A
Friday, October 13th: A Holland Reads
Monday, October 16th: Books & Bindings
Tuesday, October 17th: Girls in Books blog and Instagram
Wednesday, October 18th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, October 19th: Suzy Approved
Monday, October 23rd: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, October 24th: Palmer’s Page Turners
Thursday, October 26th: Girl Who Reads
Thursday, October 26th: The Sketchy Reader
Friday, October 27th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

What's On Your Nightstand ? - September 2017

Hosted by Jennifer over at 5 Minutes For Books  the What's On Your Nightstand? posting is a monthly (last Tuesday @ month) blog event in which readers share their thoughts on books they’ve read, didn’t finish, are reading during that timeframe..
I thought it a great idea and decided that I wanted to participate and divulge which books I’ve loved, liked, didn’t or couldn’t give a hoot about.

Over the next few weeks leading up to the Christmas period there will be a lot of exciting books coming into the bookstore and I thought it would be a great way to share with readers these treasures being lifted out of the boxes. The store will become increasingly busy with deliveries and with customer volume increasing exponentially, we booksellers will be able to give Mo Farrah a run for his money.  It’s an incredibly exciting and manic phase,  totally exhausting and one in which I find writing fuller reviews much more difficult. It will be a fun way for me to stay engaged and blogging during such a busy time in the book-selling industry.

I can’t wait to share with you some of the fantastic new books during these postings, even if I haven’t managed to read them all!

What I read

My Absolute Darling, Gabriel Tallent
The most talked about... hyped…book this year. Rather a divisive book and one which in my opinion was overly hyped and could have benefited from a little streamlining (by about 20%).
The style of writing is stunningly beautiful,  juxtaposed with such startling brutality both physically and verbally.  Turtle, a young girl living in the harshest of environments, environmentally and domestically wants desperately to escape.

My proof copy at 417 pages, felt over long and repetitive. With respect to the repetitiveness of physical and verbal violence meted out to her, I personally became desensitised to Turtle’s plight.  With a condensed version I may well have given a 4.5 star rating instead of, what is still a respectable 3.5.
Not a book I’d recommend to everyone as it does contain an enormous amount of bad language, descriptions of brutal physical and mental abuse and disturbing scenes of incest.
Chosen because: I loved the cover image, and because I’d heard so much hype around it. I love gritty, raw, southern fiction and with Stephen King’s endorsement blurb on the cover…I just couldn’t resist.

What I didn’t finish

Autumn, Ali Smith
Meh…really meh…I mean wtf...I don’t even know where to go on this one. I’m confused about the whole storyline, or rather the amount I managed to force myself to read. Bad timing possibly...probably, but then again it’s been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize this year and it’s certainly odd enough for it. I think I’ll just gracefully accept that it wasn’t my thing on this occasion.
Chosen because: I wanted to read Autumn as part of my Man Booker reading list this year.
Read and loved Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, and others that didn’t make the short-list.

Widow Basquiat. A Love Story, Jennifer Clement
Very ‘en vogue’ right now with Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work on exhibition at The Barbican Art Gallery in London from now until January 2018.

Published originally back in 2000 and again this year Widow Basquiat is written in an abstract, prosy style. Narrated by Basquiat’s long-term girlfriend Suzanne Mallouk it reads like a strange fictionalised memoir as she recounts her side of the abusive relationship with the doomed, tormented, undeniably talented Jean-Michel Basquiat.  Suzanne tells us about Basquiat’s rise from ‘street graffiti artist’ to famous ‘celebrity artist’ hobnobbing with iconic stars and celebs such as the influential Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Debbie Harry, etc., etc., etc., to his fatal obsession with drugs that sadly put a premature end to his life as a result of a heroine overdose in 1988.

By 30% I was finding it all rather tedious hearing about privileged, long suffering, self indulgent destructive souls being tormented, or being the tormentor that I decided to take a break. It was at this point I realised that back in 2014 I’d read another book by the same author, ‘Prayers for the Stolen’, about the terrifying dangers for girls living in an Mexican village at the mercy of marauding drug-dealers. I decided to give it a re-read. I didn’t recall it being so heartbreaking nor compelling the first time round.

So then back to Widow Basquiat, Maybe because I wasn’t enthusiastic about the prospect of reading anymore about the same self obsessed, hugely unlikable personalities of Basquiat’s circle of friends and acquaintances I decided that at 40% I really wasn’t invested or cared enough to finish it.
Chosen because: I love reading anything set in New York and particularly about the pop, punk, hip-hop, art, and drug scene during the 1980’s period.

What I’m reading now

I Am I Am I Am, Maggie O’Farrell
I am sooo in awe of this author and this memoir in particular…it’s beautifully written giving seventeen accounts of Maggie O’Farrell’s brushes with death.  I absolutely felt an affinity with this courageous, smart, strong woman, and wholeheartedly felt for her especially in some personally similar circumstances. On the back of this one, and I’m trying to make it last and savour it by reading one chapter a night, I’ll definitely read more from Maggie O’Farrell.

Simply stunning…Just read it!

Chosen because: I couldn’t resist picking it up from the delivery tote. Such a stunningly captivating cover that I impulsively turned to the first page to read it and was hooked. Bought a copy right there and then ready to start it during my lunch break.

If The Creek Don’t Rise, Leah Weiss
Only at about 15% right now but it’s a great start to an authentic atmospheric southern gothic tale set in a North Carolina Mountain town.
Chosen because: I love anything gritty, rural, and atmospherically southern gothic looking…cover did it first, then the title.

What I intend to read for next time
I Will Send Rain, Rae Meadows
The Book Of Joan, Lidia Yuknavitch

I’m stopping there as I always change my mind…too many sweets in the jar so to speak…especially at this time of year.

What's On Your Nightstand, September 26th

Post underway ... it's my birthday today, I've been up since 6am and having floorboards laid in the bedroom, so please bare with me on this one.

However, please tell me what you've been reading, and visit the
'5 Minutes For Books' website link for 'What's On Your Nightstand?', where participating bloggers share their current reading lists.

Visit 'Jennifer' at '5 Minutes For Books

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Rabbit : A Memoir by Patricia Williams

Rabbit: A Memoir by Patricia Williams
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK (Ebury Press)
Pages: 240

Source: Digital Review Copy


That’s how things go in the ‘hood: It’s a never ending cycle of trouble, and once it grabs you, it won’t let go.
Patricia started life on the lowest rung of society: poor, black, and female. With an alcoholic for a mother and four siblings, she was raised on a steady diet of welfare, food stamps and cigarette smoke. By the age of 15 she had two children, and by the age of 16 she was dealing drugs to support her young family. Growing up in a family that had been stuck in the ghetto for generations, it seemed impossible Patricia would ever escape.
But when she was shot be a rival drug dealer in front her own children, Patricia made the life-changing decision to turn it all around. With a combination of grit, stubbornness, anger and love – and the kindness of others – she fought to break the cycle of poverty for the next generation. Now a stand-up comedian performing as Ms. Pat, she lives the maxim that the best healing comes through humour.

My Thoughts:
This brutally honest memoir begins with the five-year-old Rabbit living at her grandfather's home from which he runs an illegal liquor house.  Rabbit regularly has to navigate her way through a living room floor full of drunken bodies, but life with her grandfather, as Ms Pat reminisces, 'were the best times'. Then 'Miss Betty' demands a drink during grandfather's favourite television show and he shoots her for the interruption. Life changes 'for the worse' after he is jailed for the shooting.

Mildred, an alcoholic with a frightening, explosive temper, is incapable of looking after Rabbit and her four siblings. Rabbit's childhood is filled with hunger, alcohol, drugs, abuse on every level, and instead of protecting her, or showing any affection her mother would, as Rabbit tells us “...get drunk off her gin, whoop me with an extension cord, call me ugly, and tell me to take my ass to bed.”

By the time Rabbit is 15 years old, she's already a mother of two.  At 17 she's is a damned good hustler (drug dealer) providing extremely well for her family and her children's father Derrick, and been shot twice. Life is good again, but since the latest shooting Rabbit realises that she wants a safer life for her kids.

As much as I don't condone Ms Pat's early career choices her memoir demonstrates the struggles of everyday life in 'the hood', and of the attraction to make a choice which results in either being able to eat and keep a roof over your head, or not. With what seems no alternative Rabbit takes the only solution, to her problems, handed to her at the time.

Ms Pat's ability to turn the most awful moments in her life into a comedy sketch show is mind blowing and I can't remember the times I laughed out loud.
One particular scene I found uncomfortably funny was when a naive Rabbit (yep, Rabbit the 17 year old mother of two, crack dealing entrepreneur, still is unbelievably naive in so many ways) purchases an outfit for her mother to be buried in.  It's only when Dre whispers to her and says "why Mama wearing these ho clothes? She look like she on her way to sell pussy in hell.”, does she realise her faux pas.

As difficult as it was reading about a young child living in poverty, suffering cruelty, hunger, neglect and abuse, Ms Pat's retrospective humour pulled me through resulting in a captivating read that I couldn't leave for any length of time. So candidly written with dignity, and spades of humour, that not one moment did I feel sorry for Ms Pat, however I was horrified and appalled at the awful treatment and cruelty Rabbit and her siblings endured.

Rabbit isn't a 'pity party' memoir, with a handful of caring adults, from Ms.Troup an 'Angel In Leather Boots' who made Rabbit promise to dream, to numerous others who appear like Guardian Angels just at the right moment to help show her the way, it's a surprisingly uplifting read that sparkles with wit and optimism and is an inspiration for others wanting to turn their lives around and to those Guardian Angels feeling their help is completely unheeded.

A few memorable quotes:
I snorted with laughter on the bus at this one;
"Mama didn’t trust a doctor, so whenever something was wrong..., she liked to do the diagnosing herself ... Over the years she’d told me I had infantigo, trench mouth, chicken pox, sour stomach, a case of the nerves, and fleas. No matter what the ailment, the remedy was always “rub some Vicks on it.”

A 'bitter sweet' or rather 'sweet bitter' quote about being able to depend on someone when all else is failing is this one, "At least we have Bill Cosby.”

And, this poignant statement;
"I don’t know what made Mama act so crazy, or how love and anger got so mixed up in her head. All I know is by the time I met Derrick, when I was twelve years old, everything I knew about relationships was what I’d learned from her."

Highly recommended.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Vernon Subutex 1. by Virginie Despentes

Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Depentes
Pages: 400
Publisher: Quercus/MacLehose Press
Translated from the French by Frank Wynne


Disclaimer: I received a proof copy from the publisher for an honest unbiased review.

An urban legend.
A fall from grace.
The mirror who reflects us all.

Vernon Subutex was once the proprietor of Revolver, an infamous music shop in Bastille. His legend spread throughout Paris. But by the 2000s his shop is struggling. With his savings gone, his unemployment benefit cut, and the friend who had been covering his rent suddenly dead, Vernon Subutex finds himself down and out on the Paris streets.

He has one final card up his sleeve. Even as he holds out his hand to beg for the first time, a throwaway comment he once made on Facebook is taking the internet by storm. Vernon does not realise this, but the word is out: Vernon Subutex has in his possession the last filmed recordings of Alex Bleach, the famous musician and Vernon's benefactor, who has only just died of a drug overdose. A crowd of people from record producers to online trolls and porn stars are now on Vernon's trail.

My Thoughts:
Set in present day Paris, Vernon Subutex 1, flips back and forth to the 1980's using as its vehicle a multitude, and diverse cast, of characters with equally polemic personalities and viewpoints.  A real sense of place and time is given with the music and artists of the day being dropped into conversations or scene setting, with present day being referenced by social media useage, texting, and tv series such as, 'The Walking Dead'.

Vernon an ageing 51 year old ex-record store proprietor is evicted from his apartment and thrown out onto the streets of Paris with just a couple of videocassettes and 1000 euros.  We follow him as he sofa surfs through a list of long-lost friends.  For one reason or another these arrangements are short lived, and finally running out of options Vernon ends up living on the streets.  Less plot and more character driven VS1 is about the race for possession of the videocassettes of Vernon's friend which were recorded shortly before he died.

A vast amount of information is spewed out at the reader as 'food for thought' via scenarios and viewpoints of its characters on various subject matters including; the music and publishing industry; journalism, sex, drugs and alcohol addiction; politics of the porn and prostitution industry; body image and eating disorders; transgender vs transvestism; domestic violence and abuse; religion, racism, misogyny; social media; urban poverty, cultural unrest and street violence.
Not a word is wasted in her sharp and often caustic dialogue which is tirelessly force-fed to the reader resulting in a perceptiveness and clarity of understanding of her characters, their behaviours and driving force that propels them to think and act in the way they do.  It certainly made me look at certain sections of society in a new light and at how my attitudes towards the homeless in particular had become hardened. A view I have since redressed.

Despentes writes from personal experience and perspective on probably all of the above giving a poignant, authentic and disturbing feel to the story. She writes with passion about her characters and knows instinctively what makes them tick, and how to draw the reader into their world with a semblance of understanding and compassion for them too.  Bursting with relentless manic restlessness, spot-on characterisation and astute observations of the social economic climate, VS1 is written with credibility, authenticity, and is all the more powerful and compelling for it.

With sexually explicit dialogue, imagery, and no-holds barred depictions of the seedy underbelly of Paris' society VS1 is not comfortable reading.  It's brash, funny, bold, compelling, and bang-on in its evocation of time and place, and packs a powerful punch on every page. I'm definitely up for more of the same and eager to find out what happens to Vernon in books 2 and 3.

Absolutely loved it...I was utterly blown away.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

TLC BOOK TOUR REVIEW: The Quiet Child by John Burley

The Quiet Child by John Burley
Paperback: 304 pages 
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 8, 2017)


Disclosure: I received an advanced digital copy of the book from TLC Book Tours and the publisher in order to take part in this tour.

From the award-winning author of The Absence of Mercy, comes a gripping and darkly psychological novel about family, suspicion, and the price we are willing to pay to protect those we love the most.

It’s the summer of 1954, and the residents of Cottonwood, California, are dying. At the center of it all is six-year-old Danny McCray, a strange and silent child the townspeople regard with fear and superstition, and who appears to bring illness and ruin to those around him. Even his own mother is plagued by a disease that is slowly consuming her.
Sheriff Jim Kent, increasingly aware of the whispers and rumors surrounding the boy, has watched the people of his town suffer—and he worries someone might take drastic action to protect their loved ones. Then a stranger arrives, and Danny and his ten-year-old brother, Sean, go missing. In the search that follows, everyone is a suspect, and the consequences of finding the two brothers may be worse than not finding them at all.

My Thoughts
Right at the beginning of this story Michael McCray, a quiet, measured man, appears to be mulling something over and that maybe he should pack his family up into the Chevy Bel Air right there and then to move for a fresh start to some place new where things may be better for them. Instead he puts the boys in the truck and drives into town to buy ice creams to celebrate their mother, Kate feeling unusually well that day. A decision he will come to regret.

I really enjoyed this southern gothic atmospheric psychological thriller set in the small town of Cottonwood, California in 1950's.  The Quiet Child, for me, was a captivatingly compelling read about the disappearance of two young boys; ten-year-old Sean and his six-year-old brother Danny, and of the race to find them alive.

The pace at the start is like Michael quiet, and measured, but then the pace and action ramps up and doesn't abate until the finality of the book.

Kate desperately wants her boys back at any cost and demands that her husband find them. This Michael vows to do and makes the decision to 'go it alone', without the help of the authorities. How far will he go to save those he loves the most, and will he be able to live with the consequences of his actions?
In the race to find the boys are Cottonwood's Sheriff Jim Kent, and two Shasta County detectives who are also hellbent on bringing them back alive to their mother.

Danny suffers from selective mutism. He hasn't uttered a word in all of his six years of life. A strange boy that things tend to happen around. From the time of his birth, sickness and death has befallen those around him including his mother, now in the final stages of Lou Gehrig's disease.
Misfortune has plagued anyone coming into contact with young Danny and with a long list of sickness, accidents and deaths, the community believe he has special, poisonous powers enabling him to cause them harm. Are they right to be afraid of him and to believe that it may be better for everyone if Danny is never found.

This is 1954 and without the modern day technology and forensic advancements we've become so reliant upon in our modern world this will be a slow methodical and timely investigative operation. The process feels painstakingly long and drawn out giving a sense of time running out for the boys. One such process which brings home this disadvantage is when a telephone call needs tracing.  Paper records are logged by each busy telephone switchboard operative.  These details then need to be cross checked and referenced with at least two other telephone exchanges across the county. This, just one example of how our lives have changed with our immediate access to internet information and tracking technology and mobile phones, gives an authentic sense of time and place to the narrative.

There are some beautiful touching moments with Michael's bitter-sweet memories of his wife over the years interspersed throughout. It is obvious that he is still as much in love with her as he ever was and will do whatever he can to save her from her inevitable premature death.

Do not expect explanations for the source or cause of the illnesses, Burley only hints at the possibility of supernatural forces at play or even, more plausibly for modern times, chemical pollutants seeping in and poisoning the environment and its residents.  As aforementioned this is the 1950's and a time where environmental issues are less likely to be considered, especially from a small town community heavily steeped in superstitious beliefs.  Read, The Quiet Child' with the mind of someone of the era and you'll not be dissatisfied.

Incorporating a credible cast of characters, scenarios and stunning imagery of the area (well chiefly memories being invoked of vacationing in and around the stunning locations), with several twists and turns, The Quiet Child along with its disturbing conclusion, and final shocking twist was a tense, exciting read.

Perfect for fans of American small town historical drama and equally, due to the slight ambiguity of its genre, I think fans of Stephen King and Paul Tremblay would enjoy this one too.

Highly recommended.

About John Burley 

John Burley attended medical school in Chicago and completed his residency in emergency medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He currently serves as an emergency medicine physician in Northern California, where he lives with his wife and daughter, and their Great Dane and English bulldog.

Find out more about John at his website, and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter

Tour Stops

Tuesday, August 8th: The Ludic Reader
Wednesday, August 9th: The Book Bag
Thursday, August 10th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, August 11th: Bewitched Bookworms
Monday, August 14th: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, August 15th: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, August 15th: SJ2B House Of Books
Wednesday, August 16th: Readaholic Zone
Thursday, August 17th: Tina Says…
Monday, August 21st: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Tuesday, August 22nd: StephTheBookworm
Wednesday, August 23rd: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Wednesday, August 23rd: Art Books Coffee
Thursday, August 24th: A Bookworm’s World

Friday, 28 July 2017

TLC BOOK TOURS REVIEW: The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (July 11, 2017)


Disclosure: I received an advanced digital copy of the book from TLC Book Tours and the publisher in order to take part in this tour.
With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality---the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

My Thoughts:
Set in a small southern town in Alabama, 'The Almost Sisters' is a timely contemporary piece about friendships, family secrets and bi-racial relationships.

The narrator Leia Birch Briggs is a successful writer/artist in the graphic novel industry who, after discovering some life changing news, decides that a visit to her grandmother in Birchville is long overdue. Things do not go quite as planned as her grandmother, suffering from a degenerative disease, has been displaying some unusually outrageous behaviour. Instead of announcing that she will be continuing the Birch's family lineage Leia finds herself taking care of her grandmother.

I loved the fun, quirkiness of Joshilyn Jackson's writing style, and depictions of her characters, all of whom have real presence, warm endearing qualities, and were totally believable. I especially loved the multi-sisterly connections, in particular the endearing relationship between the towns oldest residents, Leia's grandmother Miss Birchie and her lifelong friend and companion, Wattie.

Leia's relationships with her half-sister Rachel and thirteen year old niece Lavender are equally as compelling, as is the relationship between Violence and Violet, characters from Leia's comic novel whom she uses to mirror and work through, to an extent, her own disappointments and frustrations that life heaps on her.

'The Almost Sisters' is an intriguing, story with a touch of a southern gothic feel, about the prejudices and complexities of bi-racial families, and relationships in the modern day 'Second South'; of multi-sisterhood bonds; and witnessing the heartbreaking slow deterioration and loss of a loved one to a degenerative disease. Even though it raises some serious issues it is gently done without becoming sentimental or preachy, and It is ultimately an uplifting story of family loyalty, love and forgiveness.

This is my first encounter with Joshilyn Jackson and one which felt destined to receive a 4 star rating until the ending which didn't quite work for me. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and am now looking forward to reading her earlier novels, in particular 'God's In Alabama'.

Highly recommended and would make a perfect book group choice and summer read.

Memorable scenes: Leia's drunken one night stand with 'African American Batman' from the Comic Convention...fabulously hilarious!

Purchase Links HarperCollins

About Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including gods in Alabama and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. A former actor, Jackson is also an award-winning audiobook narrator. She lives in Decatur, Georgia, with her husband and their two children.

Connect with her through her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Tour Stops
Tuesday, July 11th: Book by Book
Wednesday, July 12th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, July 13th: bookchickdi
Friday, July 14th: Time 2 Read
Monday, July 17th: Tina Says…
Tuesday, July 18th: StephTheBookworm
Wednesday, July 19th: BookNAround
Thursday, July 20th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Friday, July 21st: Bibliotica
Monday, July 24th: A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, July 25th: Leigh Kramer
Wednesday, July 26th: Always With a Book
Thursday, July 27th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Thursday, July 27th: Wining Wife
Friday, July 28th: SJ2B House Of Books
Monday, July 31st: she treads softly

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

TLC Book Tours Review: My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood (17th July-7th August)

My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood
Publisher HarperCollins (7th November 2017)
Pages 416

My Rating:

Disclosure: I received an advanced digital copy of this book from TLC Book Tours and the publisher in order to take part in this tour.
“Rivals The Girl on the Train as a compulsive read (and beats it for style). — Observer (UK)"
In the vein of Fiona Barton’s The Widow and Renée Knight’s Disclaimer, a psychological thriller about a war reporter who returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death but becomes convinced that all is not well in the house next door—but is what she’s seeing real or a symptom of the trauma she suffered in Syria?

The One Person You Should Trust Is Lying to You…
Kate has spent fifteen years bringing global injustice home: as a decorated war reporter, she’s always in a place of conflict, writing about ordinary people in unimaginable situations. When her mother dies, Kate returns home from Syria for the funeral. But an incident with a young Syrian boy haunts her dreams, and when Kate sees a boy in the garden of the house next door—a house inhabited by an Iraqi refugee who claims her husband is away and she has no children—Kate becomes convinced that something is very wrong.

As she struggles to separate her memories of Syria from the quiet town in which she grew up—and also to reconcile her memories of a traumatic childhood with her sister’s insistence that all was not as Kate remembers—she begins to wonder what is actually true…and what is just in her mind.

In this gripping, timely debut, Nuala Ellwood brings us an unforgettable damaged character, a haunting , humanizing look at the Syrian conflict, and a deeply harrowing psychological thriller that readers won’t be able to put down.

My Thoughts:
My Sister's Bones is a dark and disturbing novel set in the present day chaotic, violent Hell-hole of war torn Aleppo, and the scenic predictable, mundane coastline of Britain's Herne Bay in Kent.

Kate Rafter has returned home prematurely from her latest assignment as a female foreign war correspondent after the recent death of her mother, and thrust back into the fractured relationship with her resentful alcoholic sister Sally.

In the opening scene we meet Kate as she is being detained and questioned by, who appears to be, a police psychologist after displaying some very erratic behaviour and making accusations about a neighbour. She is being tormented by voices, visions and flashbacks and it is apparent that Kate is suffering from PTSD after several assignments reporting and witnessing violence, and the unrelenting devastation of war.

It is during these flashbacks, and heartbreaking revelations of a childhood tragedy, parental violence, and abuse that we find out eventually how much is real or imagined as she struggles to, keep hidden but at the same time, face the demons coming at her from all angles.  It is also a fascinating examination of how memories are formed, of how reliable they may be after years have passed, and of how individuals remember events very differently, and how using different coping mechanisms for survival have affected them.  I loved the author's in-depth perceptiveness and understanding of the human condition and of how life's experiences can mould a persons character and personality.

However, as much as I loved 'My Sisters Bones' I didn't feel the domestic crime element of the mysterious neighbour added value or substance to the storyline, even so Nuala Ellwood has written a superior, powerful thought provoking mystery thriller that, for me, only just fell short of a 5 star rating.

Highly recommended for fans of twisty-turny, creepy psychological thrillers with unreliable female protagonists, and untrustworthy supporting characters such as in, 'The Girl On The Train', 'Gone Girl', and 'The Widow'.

I am very excited about this author's debut and looking forward to reading her next novel.

About Nuala Ellwood
Nuala Ellwood is the daughter of an award-winning journalist. Inspired by her father’s and other journalists’ experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder, she gained Arts Council Funding for her research into the topic and ultimately made it the main theme of My Sister’s Bones, her debut psychological thriller.
Find out more about Nuala at her website, and connect with her on Twitter.