Review: Shatila Stories

August 8, 2018 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, Translated Literature

Review: Shatila Stories Shatila Stories by Various
Published by Peirene Press on 18th June 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Most novels are written by professional writers using second hand material. Not this one. Peirene commissioned nine refugees to tell their ‘Shatila Stories’. The result is a piece of collaborative fiction unlike any other. If you want to understand the chaos of the Middle East – or you just want to follow the course of a beautiful love story – start here.

Adam and his family flee Syria and arrive at the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut. Conditions in this overcrowded Palestinian camp are tough, and violence defines many of the relationships: a father fights to save his daughter, a gang leader plots to expand his influence, and drugs break up a family. Adam struggles to make sense of his refugee experience, but then he meets Shatha and starts to view the camp through her eyes.

How The Book Came About

I was a bit late in finding Shatila Stories, discovering it on its publication day rather than during the Kickstarter campaign to support the publication of this book.

Commissioned by Peirene Press, Shatila Stories is a work of collaborative fiction created by nine Syrian and Palestinian refugees who reside in the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon.

The Shatila camp was founded in 1949 for 3000 Palestinians but now houses up to 40000 refugees following the Syrian crisis. It’s a camp that was made infamous by the 1982 massacre there.

Meike Ziervogel, Publisher of Peirene Press, together with London-based Syrian editor Suhir Helal, travelled to Shatila in 2017 to run a creative writing workshop. With participants ranging from 18 to 42 years old, some of whom hadn’t completed their formal schooling, and others still had never read a novel before. The Introduction shares how this process worked, how nine refugees came together with Peirene to create this work of collaborative fiction.

My Thoughts

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading Shatila Stories, but what I found was a power, insightful story that opened my eyes to life in the camp.

We follow various characters, many of whom are interlinked in some way. Within the overcrowded, harrowing conditions of the camp we see families trying to make ends meet, drug problems driving families apart, violence, people trying to find their place in the camp, and music bringing people together. There are so many interweaving tales that address many issues of life in the camp.

I found this book so easy to read, devouring it in a day. The quote on the cover from one of my favourite authors, Khaled Hosseini, sums up the importance of this book.

this remarkable novel isn’t about refugee voice; it is born from it and told through it

The writing may, at times, be less refined than some may be used to, but surely this can be forgiven for what is a truly inspirational project and a remarkable read.

Charitable Donation

It would be remiss of me not to tell you that Peirene will donate 50p from the sale of this book to charity, specifically Basmeh & Zeitooneh (The Smile and The Olive).

Basmeh & Zeitooneh ‘aims to create opportunities for refugees to move beyond being victims of conflict and help them to become empowered individuals who one day will return to their own country to rebuild their society.’

B&Z are currently managing nine community centres, seven in Lebanon and two in Turkey. By purchasing this book you will be supporting their projects.

The Authors

Omar Khaled Ahmad, Nibal Alalo, Safa Khaled Algharbawi, Omar Abdellatif Alndaf, Rayan Mohamad Sukkar, Safiya Badran, Fatima Omar Ghazawi, Samih Mahmoud and Hiba Mareb. Translated from Arabic by Nashua Gowanlock.

four-half-stars

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 Autumn The 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 Autumn The 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!

Mini Review: Ruined

April 29, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, YA Fantasy

Mini Review: Ruined Ruined by Amy Tintera
Series: Ruined #1
Published by HarperTeen on 3rd May 2016
Genres: YA Fantasy, Fantasy
Format: Hardback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars

A revenge that will consume her. A love that will ruin her.

Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

 

Sometimes I go through phases where I’m enjoying what I’m reading but I’m not consumed by it. It seems I’ve had a run of those recently – until now. I picked up Ruined and from the outset, I was swept up in the story. It was just what I needed – action, intrigue and a pace that kept me reading.

 

Tintera has created some fantastic characters in this world, a world where the Runed are feared and slaughtered for their magical abilities. It’s a world where Em has seen her parents murdered, her sister kidnapped and she has set out for vengeance. Except it turns out that not all of her enemies are easy to hate.

 

If you enjoy YA fantasy, banterful characters, strong heroines, action, friendship, loveable Princes, well, this is one for you. Thankfully book two, Avenged, is out next week so you won’t have too long to wait after THAT ending!

four-half-stars

Mini Review: Our Endless Numbered Days

October 21, 2016 in Book Reviews, General fiction

Mini Review: Our Endless Numbered Days Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
three-stars

1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.

Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.

Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

I picked up this book having heard various people rave about it, so I guess I probably had fairly high hopes when I started it. I enjoyed it, just didn’t love it. So, Peggy is 8 when her father takes her away to live in a cabin in the woods. He tells her that they are the only two people still living in the world, and together they live in the small wooden cabin, die Hutte, living off the resources in the forest. She lives there for 9 years. We flit back and forth between Peggy’s time in the forest from 1976 and her return to civilisation in 1985. We slowly uncover her story and fill in the gaps.

Honestly, I didn’t enjoy the first half of this book much. It dragged somewhat and I just couldn’t get into the story. I definitely preferred the second half of the book, or perhaps even the final third. I felt that’s when things started to happen and I finally became absorbed in the story.

The writing in this book is undoubtedly beautiful, but for me beautiful writing doesn’t capture and hold my attention, it’s the storyline that does and I just wasn’t that invested in this. All-in-all, this book didn’t live up to my expectations. I’m glad I finished it and I enjoyed it in the end, but it isn’t a book I would thrust into a fellow bookworm’s hands.

 

three-stars

Mini Review: Crooked Kingdom

October 17, 2016 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, YA Fantasy

Mini Review: Crooked Kingdom Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Series: Six of Crows #2
Published by Orion on 27th September 2016
Genres: Fantasy, YA Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off the most daring heist imaginable.
But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're fighting for their lives.
Double-crossed and badly weakened, they're low on resources, allies and hope.
While a war rages on the city's streets, the team's fragile loyalties are stretched to breaking point.
Kaz and his crew will have to make sure they're on the winning side... no matter what the cost.

Crooked Kingdom was one of my most-anticipated releases of the year. I adored Six of Crows and couldn’t wait for the second book in this duology. I’ve long been a fan of Bardugo; her Grisha trilogy was outstanding and I find myself frequently recommending it to readers young and old alike. So would Crooked Kingdom live up to my high expectations?

The simple answer is YES. A slightly longer answer is that it’s absolute perfection! No, seriously, it’s bloody brilliant.

If you haven’t read Six of Crows then you should really stop reading here and go pick up a copy (or check out my review from last year). Although I won’t be posting any Crooked Kingdom spoilers, there will be Six of Crows spoilers, so, fair warning!

At the end of Six of Crows, we left our favourite gang missing one key, kidnapped member of the troop. Having been played by Van Eck, they were a team member down and 30 million kruge light. In Crooked Kingdom, we see the crew fighting for their lives, seeking revenge and scheming like there’s no tomorrow!

So what can I say about this book?

The writing? Beautiful.

The characters? Better than ever.

The plot? Fast paced, twisty and action packed.

The conclusion to this duology? EPIC!

Need I say more?

I’ve genuinely no idea what I’m going to read next. How on earth am I going to find a book to follow this? If you have Crooked Kingdom sitting in your TBR pile, drop whatever you’re reading and pick it up. You won’t be disappointed!

What’s next Leigh Bardugo? I can’t wait to find out!

five-stars