Short Stories For Autumn

November 8, 2017 in Book Reviews, Short Stories

There’s something about this time of year that lends itself beautifully to curling up in a favourite chair with a cuppa, a blanket and a compilation of short stories. Don’t you think? So today I thought I’d share with you two of my recent reads that I think are perfect for reading right now!

Short Stories For AutumnThe Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
on 26th September 2017
Genres: Short Stories, Fantasy
Format: Hardback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid's voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy's bidding but only for a terrible price.

I’ve long been a Leigh Bardugo fan and her Grishaverse is one of my favourite worlds to visit. So when she announced she’d be publishing a collection of Grishaverse short stories inspired by myth, fairy tale and folklore I was beyond excited! Like many folk, I’d read a few of the tales years ago but this collection brings together three of these stories and three brand-new tales! What’s more they are packaged within the most gorgeously finished book I think I’ve ever seen!

This beautifully illustrated edition contains imagery which changes with every turn of the page – the more you read, the more of the image you see until the final page when we are introduced to the final full-spread illustration.

As you’d expect from Bardugo, her stunning, rich writing pairs perfectly with these illustrations. Each tale is beautifully crafted – each page one to savour. I can’t recommend this enough, it’s just a thoroughly breath-taking book.

 

Short Stories For AutumnThe Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell
on 2nd November 2017
Genres: Short Stories, Fantasy, Magical Realism
Format: Hardback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars

'These days, you can find anything you need at the click of a button.
That's why I bought her heart online.'

Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.
A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island.
A boy is worried his sister has two souls.
A couple are rewriting the history of the world.
And mermaids are on display at the local aquarium.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of twelve haunting stories; modern fairy tales brimming with magic, outsiders and lost souls.

I’ve been excited for this book for a long time – Jen Campbell’s first collection of adult fiction. Up until now, she’s written non-fiction, poetry and this year she released her first children’s picture book (it’s fab) so I couldn’t wait to dive into this collection of short stories. I wasn’t disappointed!

Jen shares with us 12 tales which draw upon her love of myths, fairytales and their histories. Her writing is captivating as she weaves stories that are all individual and highly memorable. It’s dark at times, strange and whimsical too – and you’ll find it impossible to put it down after each story. I intended to savour this book but I devoured it, I didn’t want to leave Jen’s writing. The perfect mixture of fantasy and magical realism, this book is not to be missed.

I hate to mention the word Christmas so soon but this would make the perfect Christmas gift, and Jen will even sign, dedicate and wrap copies for you if you order through her website – the ultimate special gift!

Review: All The Birds In The Sky

January 25, 2016 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Fiction, Sci-Fi

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: All The Birds In The SkyAll The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Published by Titan on 26th January 2016
Genres: Sci-Fi
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn't expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one's peers and families.

But now they're both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who's working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world's magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world's ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together--to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

As they each take sides in a cataclysmic war between science and magic, Laurence and Patricia find themselves trying to make sense of life, sex and adulthood on the brink of the apocalypse.

I genuinely have no idea how to summarise what I’ve read in this book. A sci-fi, coming-of-age, magical realism, apocalyptic mash up perhaps? Honestly, no idea! What’s important though is that I express how much I enjoyed it. It’s quite unlike most novels I’ve read but that just makes me love it all the more.

By the end of this book I couldn’t believe it was the same book I started reading. Which I guess explains why it’s split into four ‘books’, but it also is a huge credit to the author – I’ll try to explain why a bit later.

Our central characters, Patricia and Laurence, are social outcasts. They are both kids at high school with no friends to speak of, and both have difficult lives.

Patricia’s parents are high flyers with no time for her or her oddities. Her elder sister torments both her and the living things around her. When Patricia discovers one day that she can talk to birds, her weirdness begins to soar to new levels.

Laurence is a science geek. He’s built his own portable two second time machine, works on building his own computer and wants nothing more than to see a rocket launch, and to achieve something with his life – unlike his parents. His Mum and Dad are worried that he spends too much time indoors alone, so they force him to do outdoor activities.

When Patricia and Laurence’s paths cross, Patricia is enlisted to convince Laurence’s family that he’s spending time with her outdoors. A friendship sprouts from this arrangement and soon they are sharing their darkest secrets.

I enjoyed this part of the book, the story of two teenagers trying to find their places in the world and laying the foundations of friendship. I also enjoyed watching these two characters form, influenced by the cliques and bullies that surrounded them in school. But their secrets take a toll on their friendship and soon they lose touch with one another.

That is until years later when Laurence is an engineering genius and Patricia now a fully-fledged witch. It seems that both the magical community and the science community have their own plans for saving the world from its impending doom, and the reformed friendship could be tested once more.

There’s so much to this book, it’s incredible. Central to the story though are Patricia and Laurence and the relationship between them.

It’s not often that I’ve read a book about characters in childhood and followed them through into adulthood. It’s interesting to see where the characters come from. I think it definitely gave me a stronger connection with them. This is what I mean about feeling like I was reading a different book by the end of the novel. Charlie Jane Anders absolutely captures the voice of the two as kids, their struggles, their issues and their dreams. I became so invested in their childhood characters. Yet by the end of the book we are following them as adults, with the responsibilities, emotions and stress that an upcoming apocalypse brings. For me, that is an incredible achievement, particularly in just over 400 pages.

As I said, I just can’t explain this book or even attempt to do justice to it. It’s hard to believe it’s a debut novel, both in terms of the incredible content and the writing style.

My only complaint was that I felt the ending somewhat rushed. I would have liked more…but maybe that was just because I didn’t want Patricia and Laurence to leave my life?

If you’re looking for something a bit different, a story that will keep you hooked from the outset, then look no further. It’s well worth the read.

four-stars

Review: The Bone Clocks

June 11, 2015 in Book Reviews, General fiction

I received this book for free from bookbridgr, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Bone ClocksThe Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Published by Sceptre Genres: Literary, Magical Realism
Format: Paperback
Source: bookbridgr, Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Run away, one drowsy summer's afternoon, with Holly Sykes: wayward teenager, broken-hearted revel and unwitting pawn in a titanic, hidden conflict.

Over six decades, the consequences of a moment's impulse unfold, drawing an ordinary woman into a world far beyond her imagining. And as life in the near future turns perilous, the pledge she made to a stranger may become the key to her family's survival...

 

The Bone Clocks is a book that spans over 60 years. Each chapter deals with a different character, at a different time. These characters are seemingly unrelated at first, until it becomes apparent that Holly Sykes is a common thread throughout.

Now let me say that this was my first experience of David Mitchell’s work and to be honest, at the start I was scared. I really wasn’t sure what I was reading. Beginning with a chapter about Holly Sykes that seemed like a story of a typical adolescent, I thought I had the measure of this novel. Erm, no, not even close. By the end of this chapter, strange, unexplained things were happening and I honestly was starting to question whether I had the brain capacity for this book.

When the second chapter launched into the details of Hugo Lamb’s life I was totally confused. I really didn’t “get” this book. At this point I watched an author spotlight on David Mitchell by one of my favourite BookTubers, MercysBookishMusings and things started to make a bit more sense. She explained Mitchell’s style that he enjoys writing novellas and incorporating these novellas into a whole novel; that these novellas all connect together in some way and that slowly the connections become apparent.

I’m so glad I watched this video as I started to relax more and just enjoy The Bone Clocks journey. These individual chapters, or novellas, are so full of information, so well formed that at times I quite forgot that I was reading about a different character than in the last chapter.

There was one character that I struggled with and that was Crispin Hershley. I’m quite sure that at the start of his story we aren’t meant to like him, but I found it a hard slog to read through to the point where he became tolerable. Aside from Crispin, the other characters had me completely absorbed. They were all so different, with incredible, fully formed stories, and somehow Holly Sykes was woven into their lives – I loved that!

Now, that might sound enough, but there is FAR more to this book. Beginning with these unexplained things that I really didn’t understand, there is a whole fantasy (or perhaps magical realism is the more appropriate phrase?) side to this book. Mitchell weaves threads and sows seeds throughout this novel that eventually begin to make sense. By the end of this book, I couldn’t believe I was still reading the same story that contained Holly the adolescent.

This book is extremely clever. Mitchell’s writing is quite incredible and I can’t believe he packed so much detail into 600-odd pages.

I’m being deliberately vague about the actual contents and themes of the book as I feel that is a journey that should evolve through the novel itself. What I will say is that if you feel “lost” at the start of this book just go with it, enjoy the characters for their individual, incredibly detailed stories and all will eventually become clear.

I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of David Mitchell’s work. I think Cloud Atlas will be next for me.

Have you read The Bone Clocks or any of David Mitchell’s work? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

four-half-stars