Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Some New Books

I would describe my reading this year as sporadic. There are more than a few books sitting in my book cupboard unread, so I've made sure to slow down on the book buying and I've been surprisingly successful at that. I mean, apart from the fact that I may have bought a copy of the new illustrated Chamber of Secrets. But that doesn't count. That's purely me reliving childhood nostalgia, with the promise of a new book being released every year.

But here are a few newish-to-me books that I really wanted to mention.

Fell by Jenn Ashworth

'When Annette Clifford returns to her childhood home on the edge of Morecambe Bay, she despairs: the long-empty house is crumbling, undermined by two voracious sycamores. What she doesn't realise is that she's not alone: her arrival has woken the spirits of her parents, who anxiously watch over her, longing to make amends. Because as the past comes back to Jack and Netty, they begin to see the summer of 1963 clearly, when Netty was desperately ill and a stranger moved in. Charismatic, mercurial Timothy Richardson, with his seemingly miraculous powers of healing, who drew all their attention away from Annette. Now, they must try to draw another stranger towards her, one who can rescue her.'

The blurb manages to make this sound a little bit naff, but it's actually quite haunting.

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

'Written in startlingly beautiful prose, Harmless Like You is set across New York, Berlin and Connecticut, following the stories of Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting to make it as an artist, and Yuki's son Jay who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront his mother who abandoned him when he was only two years old.
Harmless Like You is an unforgettable novel about the complexities of identity, art, adolescent friendships and familial bonds, offering a unique exploration of love, loneliness and reconciliation.'

Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin

'Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.'

Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

'In the Hackensack Police Department, Vic Benucci and his friend Mad are explaining how they found themselves wrapped up in a grisly murder. But in order to tell that story, they have to go way back. It all started when Vic's dad died. Vic's dad was his best friend, and even now, two years later, he can't bring himself to touch the Untouchable Urn of Oblivion that sits in his front hall. But one cold December day, Vic falls in with an alluring band of kids that wander his New Jersey neighbourhood, including Mad, the girl who changes everything. Along with his newfound friendships comes the courage to open his father's urn, the discovery of the message inside, and the epic journey it sparks.'

What are you reading right now?

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Postgraduate Life: A Reading List for my MA in English Literature

When I got the email telling me that Postgraduate loans were being introduced, it was as though a new door had unexpectedly opened for me just as I had found the courage to walk past it. Since graduating last year I had been actively trying to figure out how I could afford to do a Masters and still, well, get by financially. I explored almost every avenue and ended up concluding that it was something that I just couldn't do at this point in my life. And so, I took some freelance writing opportunities and told myself to move on.

But as soon as the email dropped into my inbox I was clicking through and beginning the application process. The Open University gave me a second chance when I thought that all the doors that led to passages into education had been firmly closed in my face, so it never even occurred to me to apply anywhere else. And so, as of yesterday, I am officially a part time postgraduate student studying for my Masters in English Literature. Getting here feels like such an achievement and although I have many, many months of hard work ahead, I'm so very proud and feel very lucky to have this opportunity.

The Reading List

A Companion to the History of the Book by Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose
The Handbook to Literary Research by Delia Da Sousa Correa and W.R. Owens
Foe by J.M. Coetzee
Dusklands by J.M. Coetzee
Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Antigone by Sophocles
Antigone by Jean Anouilh
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
The Major Works of Lord Byron
The Complete Poems of William Blake

I may need reminding of how wonderful an opportunity this is when I'm crying into my laptop trying to write my first essay. I'm currently feeling fairly out of my depth, so I'm hoping that passes soon and also I don't say anything completely ridiculous at my first tutorial. My track record for that is actually pretty strong, and I suppose it'll, at least, break the ice!

- Jennie  

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Released This Month: May 2016

Another month, another cracking array of newly and soon-to-be published books. With the usual mixture of fiction and non-fiction, if you find yourself in need of a new read this month, here are nine that I think could be worth looking into.

Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrad Conley • May 10th 2016, Riverhead Books
The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality. When he was nineteen, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness. By confronting his buried past and the burden of a life lived in shadow, Garrard traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community. At times heart-breaking, at times triumphant, this memoir is a testament to love that survives despite all odds.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett  May 3rd 2016, Little Brown
When Margaret's fiancé, John, is hospitalized for depression in 1960s London, she faces a choice: carry on with their plans despite what she now knows of his condition, or back away from the suffering it may bring her. She decides to marry him. Imagine Me Gone is the unforgettable story of what unfolds from this act of love and faith. At the heart of it is their eldest son, Michael, a brilliant, anxious music fanatic who makes sense of the world through parody. Over the span of decades, his younger siblings, the savvy and responsible Celia and the ambitious and tightly controlled Alec, struggle along with their mother to care for Michael's increasingly troubled and precarious existence.

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman  May 5th 2016, Little Brown 
The story of Hannah and Lacey and their obsessive teenage female friendship so passionately violent it bloodies the very sunset its protagonists insist on riding into, together, at any cost. Opening with a suicide whose aftermath brings good girl Hannah together with the town's bad girl, Lacey, the two bring their combined wills to bear on the community in which they live. Unconcerned by the mounting discomfort that their lust for chaos and rebellion causes the inhabitants of their parochial small town, they think they are invulnerable. But Lacey has a secret, about life before her better half, and it's a secret that will change everything...

LaRose by Louise Erdrich  May 10th 2016, Corsair
North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich. The youngest child of his friend and neighbor, Peter Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux’s five-year-old son, LaRose. Horrified at what he’s done, the recovered alcoholic turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition, the sweat lodge, for guidance, and finds a way forward.

Following an ancient means of retribution, he will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. LaRose is quickly absorbed into his new family. Plagued by thoughts of suicide, Nola dotes on him, keeping her darkness at bay. As the years pass, LaRose becomes the linchpin linking the Irons and the Raviches, and eventually their mutual pain begins to heal. But when a vengeful man with a long-standing grudge against Landreaux begins raising trouble, hurling accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died, he threatens the tenuous peace that has kept these two fragile families whole. Inspiring and affecting, LaRose is a powerful exploration of loss, justice, and the reparation of the human heart, and an unforgettable, dazzling tour de force from one of America’s most distinguished literary masters.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler • May 24th 2016, Knopf
"Let's say I was born when I came over the George Washington Bridge..." This is how we meet unforgettable, twenty-two year old Tess. Shot from a mundane, provincial past, she's come to New York to look for a life she can't define, except as a burning drive to become someone and to belong somewhere. After she stumbles into a coveted job at a renowned Union Square restaurant, we spend the year with her as she learns the chaotic, punishing, privileged life of a "backwaiter," on duty and off. Her appetites—for food, wine, knowledge, and every kind of experience—are awakened. And she's pulled into the magnetic thrall of two other servers, a handsome bartender she falls hard for, and an older woman she latches onto with an orphan's ardor. These two and their enigmatic connection to each other will prove to be Tess's hardest lesson of all. Sweetbitter is a story of discovery, enchantment, and the power of what remains after disillusionment

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Non-Fiction by Neil Gaiman  May 31st, Headline
The View from the Cheap Seats draws together, for the first time ever, myriad non-fiction writing by international phenomenon and Sunday Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman. From Make Good Art, the speech he gave at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia that went viral, to pieces on artists and legends including Terry Pratchett, Lou Reed and Ray Bradbury, the collection offers a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed writers of our time. 'Literature does not occur in a vacuum. It cannot be a monologue. It has to be a conversation' Welcome to the conversation.

Neil Gaiman fled the land of journalism to find truths through storytelling and sanctuary in not needing to get all the facts right. Of course, the real world continued to make up its own stories around him, and he has responded over the years with a wealth of ideas and introductions, dreams and speeches. The View From the Cheap Seats will draw you in to these exchanges on making good art and Syrian refugees, the power of a single word and playing the kazoo with Stephen King, writing about books, comics and the imagination of friends, being sad at the Oscars and telling lies for a living.

Morgue: A Life in Death by Dr. Vincent DiMaio and Ron Franscell  May 17th, St Martin's Press
In this clear-eyed, gritty, and enthralling narrative, Dr. Vincent Di Maio and veteran crime writer Ron Franscell guide us behind the morgue doors to tell a fascinating life story through the cases that have made Di Maio famous. Beginning with his street-smart Italian origins in Brooklyn, the book spans 40 years of work and more than 9,000 autopsies, and Di Maio's eventual rise into the pantheon of forensic scientists. One of the country's most methodical and intuitive criminal pathologists will dissect himself, maintaining a nearly continuous flow of suspenseful stories, revealing anecdotes, and enough macabre insider details to rivet the most fervent crime fans.

Some Possible Solutions by Helen Phillips  May 31st 2016, Henry Holt and Co.
What if your perfect hermaphrodite match existed on another planet? What if you could suddenly see through everybody's skin to their organs? What if you knew the exact date of your death? What if your city was filled with doppelgangers of you? Forced to navigate these bizarre scenarios, Phillips' characters search for solutions to the problem of how to survive in an irrational, infinitely strange world. In dystopias that are exaggerated versions of the world in which we live, these characters strive for intimacy and struggle to resolve their fraught relationships with each other, with themselves, and with their place in the natural world. We meet a wealthy woman who purchases a high-tech sex toy in the shape of a man, a rowdy, moody crew of college students who resolve the energy crisis, and orphaned twin sisters who work as futuristic strippers. With Phillips' characteristic smarts and imagination, we see that no one is quite who they appear. By turns surreal, witty, and perplexing, these marvelous stories are ultimately a reflection of our own reality and of the big questions that we all face. Who are we? Where do we fit?

Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe • May 24th 2016, Knopf
Lucas and Katya were boarding school seniors when, blindingly in love, they decided to have a baby. Seventeen years later and after years of absence, Lucas is newly involved in his daughter Vera's life. But after Vera suffers a terrifying psychotic break at a high school party, Lucas takes her to Lithuania, his grandmother's homeland, for the summer. Here, in the city of Vilnius, Lucas hopes to save Vera from the sorrow of her diagnosis. As he uncovers a secret about his grandmother, a Home Army rebel who escaped Stutthof, Vera searches for answers of her own. Why did Lucas abandon her as a baby? What really happened the night of her breakdown? And who can she trust with the truth? Skillfully weaving family mythology and Lithuanian history with a story of mental illness, inheritance, young love and adventure, Rufi Thorpe has written a wildly accomplished, stunningly emotional book.


Saturday, 30 April 2016

#BookBuddyAthon 2016 TBR

It's time for another round of the #BookBuddyAthon and once again Bee and I have joined forces to get some books read. Created by Elena and Sam the #BookBuddyAthon is a week long readathon, with this round running from May 7th to May 13th, that encourages you to buddy up with someone and talk books, glorious books for a whole week. 

T H E   C H A L L E N G E S

1. Choose three books and have your buddy pick one for you to read. 
After giving Bee the choice between Veronika Decides to Die by Paolo Coelho, The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena and Hotel World by Ali Smith, she chose the latter which I'm very pleased about - it was the one I was secretly hoping for. It was a recent charity shop find and I've been meaning to read some more Smith ever since finishing There But For The a little while ago.

Set in The Global Hotel in an unnamed northern English city five disparate yet interconnected characters inhabit Smith's mesmerising and dreamlike world. Sara is a chambermaid who has recently died at the hotel; Clare is her bereaved sister visiting the scene of Sara's death; Penny is an advertising copywriter staying in the room opposite; Lise is The Global's depressed receptionist; and homeless Else begs on the street outside. 

2. Buddy read a book with your buddy. 
Whether this is a bit ambitious for a readathon remains to be seen (because my reading pace this year so far has been slooooow!), but we're going with Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie and I shall try my very best to make my way through during the week. Americanah is a book that deserves to be read.

As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship and people are leaving the country if they are able to. Ifemelu is self assured and goes to study in the United States. There she suffers defeats, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze is the quiet and thoughtful son of a professor and had hoped to join Ifemlu but post 9/11 America will not let him in. Instead he plunges into a dangerous and undocumented life in London. When Obinze and Ifemelu reconnect back in Nigeria years later they find themselves facing the toughest decisions of their lives. 

3. Read a book with your buddy's favourite colour on it. 
One of Bee's favourite colours is purple and I don't read enough YA so V for Violet by Alison Rattle seems to be a fitting choice for this challenge. The blurb doesn't sound particularly impressive (being totally honest it makes it sound a bit naff and typical), but I'm hoping for good things.  

Battersea, 1961 and London is just beginning to enter the swinging sixties. The world is changing, but not for sixteen year old Violet. She was born at the exact moment Winston Churchill announced victory in Europe, but now she's just stuck in her family's fish and chip shop dreaming of greatness. When Joseph, her long lost brother, returns just as young girls go missing and turning up murdered, Violet has a feeling that he's keeping a terrible secret.


4. Read a book where the title starts with the first letter of your buddy's name (or at least appears in the title!) 
We've accidentally maybe subconsciously on purpose used the question from last year which is read a book that your buddy gave five stars, because who doesn't want to read a book that someone whose taste you trust says it's bloody brilliant?! There's a copy of Perfume by Patrick Suskind currently (hopefully) on its way to me as I type. This is a book that has been on my radar for a long time but haven't ever got around to buying myself a copy, so this was the perfect opportunity.

In the slums of eighteenth century France Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift, an absolute sense of smell. As a boy he lives to decipher the the odours of Paris and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille's genius is such that he doesn't stop there and becomes obsessed with capturing the scents of objects such as brass door knobs and freshly cut wood.  Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the ultimate perfume, the scent of a beautiful young virgin.

5. Read a book that you want to, just because. 
I was going to choose a short story collection to dip in and out of, but I'm really feeling a bit of mystery/thriller/shocking twisty kind of book so I'm going to pick up The Couple Next Door, which I'm hoping will be one of those 'I can't possibly put this down because I need to know what happens immediately' kind of stories.

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all, a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story. Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they've kept for years. What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist


- Here's Bee's TBR, she's chosen some cracking sounding titles!  

The #BookBuddyAthon starts on May 7th. Will you be joining in?

Friday, 15 April 2016

Weekend Reading.

It's Friday and so far today I've eaten two biscuits and a twirl chocolate bar. It's been one of those weeks. Dinner tonight is going to be an assortment of vegetables because otherwise I know my body will punish me for my poor choices by getting a cold or something, and I don't want that to get in the way of my quiet reading weekend. 

Alongside finishing A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell, which so far has made me laugh out loud on a packed and oddly quiet bus journey, I quite fancy the idea of delving into a collection of short stories. I've pulled both Cries for Help by Padgett Powell and Refund by Karen E. Bender from my unread books pile and I have a feeling I'll probably end up making a start on both of them.

What are your weekend reading plans?

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Every Seven-Year-Old Deserves A Superhero. That's Just How It is.

'To most people, seven-year-old Elsa's granny is eccentric, if not crazy. To Elsa, she's a superhero. One with a superpower like no other: storytelling. When Granny leaves Elsa a mysterious series of letters apologising to those she has wronged, her stories come to life in ways Elsa could never have imagined, sending her on a breathtaking adventure of her own...'

I could very easily sit here and recount the story, the parts that stood out to me the most, which characters felt so real it was almost as though I had met them before. But that would never do this sweet, quirky book justice. Celebrating the imperfections, vulnerabilities and uncertainties that come with life, we follow Elsa as she makes sure each mysterious letter left by her Granny makes it to the intended recipient, and also as she nagivates through life without the presence of the one person who had always been right by her side, no matter what.  

“People in the real world always say, when something terrible happens, that the sadness and loss and aching pain of the heart will “lessen as time passes,” but it isn’t true. Sorrow and loss are constant, but if we all had to go through our whole lives carrying them the whole time, we wouldn’t be able to stand it. The sadness would paralyze us. So in the end we just pack it into bags and find somewhere to leave it.”

“Death’s greatest power is not that it can make people die, but that it can make people want to stop living.”

This is for anyone that had a Grandparent who seemed to be able to take on anything, and for anyone who always longed for one. For anyone who values the pure magic of storytelling. For anyone that, as a child, felt different, or misunderstood. For anyone who still does. And for anyone who believes that things don't ever have to be done conventionally, in the way they're supposed to be done, because "there is nothing wrong with being different. Granny said that only different people change the world."

"Having a grandmother is like having an army. This is a grandchild's ultimate privilege: knowing that someone is on your side, always, whatever the details. Even when you are wrong. Especially then, in fact. A grandmother is both a sword and a shield."

“Elsa decides that even if people she likes have been shits on earlier occasions, she has to learn to carry on liking them. You’d quickly run out of people if you had to disqualify all those who at some point have been shits.”


Monday, 11 April 2016

The Desmond Elliott Prize Longlist

Shortlist May 6th. Winner announced June 22nd. £10,000 prize.  

The Desmond Elliott Prize is an annual award for a first novel written in English and published in the UK. The award is named after literary agent and publisher Desmond Elliott, a charismatic and witty man who drank only champagne and always crossed the Atlantic on Concorde. When choosing the winner the three judges will look for a compelling narrative, arresting character and vivid writing.

Disclaimer by Renée Knight Doubleday
'Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day Catherine became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew--and that person is dead. Now that the past is catching up with her, Catherine’s world is falling apart. Her only hope is to confront what really happened on that awful day even if the shocking truth might destroy her.'

Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh Canongate
'Yasmin would give anything to have a friend… And do anything to keep them. The first time I saw you, you were standing at the far end of the playing field. You were looking down at your brown straggly dog, your mouth going slack as your eyes clocked her. Alice Taylor. I was no different. I’d catch myself gazing at the back of her head in class, at her thick fair hair swaying between her shoulder blades. If you’d glanced just once across the field, you’d have seen me standing in the middle on my own looking straight at you, and you’d have gone back through the trees to the path quick, tugging your dog after you. You’d have known you’d given yourself away, even if only to me. But you didn’t. You only had eyes for Alice.'

The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis Two Roads
'Georgian London. Summer 1763. Anne Jaccob is coming of age, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. When she is taken advantage of by her tutor — a great friend of her father’s — and is set up to marry a squeamish snob named Simeon Onions, she begins to realize just how powerless she is in Georgian society. Anne is watchful, cunning, and bored. Her saviour appears in the form of Fub, the butcher’s boy. Their romance is both a great spur and an excitement. Anne knows she is doomed to a loveless marriage to Onions and she is determined to escape with Fub and be his mistress. But will Fub ultimately be her salvation or damnation? And how far will she go to get what she wants?'

The Honours by Tim Clare Canongate
'1935. Norfolk. War is looming in Great Britain and the sprawling country estate of Alderberen Hall is shadowed by suspicion and paranoia. Thirteen-year-old Delphine Venner is determined to uncover the secrets of the Hall's elite society, which has taken in her gullible mother and unstable father. As she explores the house and discovers the secret network of hidden passages that thread through the estate, Delphine uncovers a world more dark and threatening than she ever imagined. With the help of head gamekeeper Mr Garforth, Delphine must learn the bloody lessons of war and find the soldier within herself in time to battle the deadly forces amassing in the woods.'

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon Borough Press
'England, 1976. Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands. And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…'

The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester Viking
'Shortly after their eighteenth birthday, twins Morwenna and Corwin’s father dies accidentally. With him go the last vestiges of their childhood, and soon after both move away to start their separate adult lives. Corwin sets off on a fifteen-year itinerant tour of rainless, war-torn countries while Morwenna leads a quiet life as a bookbinder in east London. When their beloved grandfather, Matthew, grows ill, the pull of home is too strong to resist and they find themselves back in the family house in Devon. Over the past fifty years, Matthew has meticulously painted every important event in the family’s life on top of an ordnance survey chart. Part record and part legend, the map has been a subject of fascination to Morwenna and Corwin for as long as they can remember. But is there a deeper meaning hidden among the tiny pictures of shipwrecks, asps and farting devils, and could it lead them closer to what really happened to their father all those years ago? '

The Weightless World by Anthony Trevelyan Galley Beggar Press
'Steven Strauss is just where he doesn’t want to be: on a ‘business trip’ to India with his boss Raymond Ess, the charismatic and chaotic founder of Resolute Aviation. Lately the company has fallen on hard times. Steven and his fellow employees have accepted that they’re all going to lose their jobs. But Ess is determined to save his beloved company, and to this end he’s devised an audacious rescue plan. He claims that during his recent travels he has come across a man who is willing to sell his remarkable invention: an antigravity machine. Now, with Steven in tow, Ess has returned to India planning to buy the machine, to bring it to market and thereby right all wrongs, recover all losses, restore all reputations. Steven knows it is madness. He knows antigravity machines don’t exist. He knows also that last year Raymond Ess had a spectacular mental breakdown. However in India, Steven will find there is much that he doesn’t know and there is no one he can trust, not even himself. In a lost place on a distant plain he will come to understand that there is far more at stake on this trip than he ever imagined.'

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney John Murray
'One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland's post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of other perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight . . .'

Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea Scribe
'Very little is known about Lizzie Burns, the illiterate Irishwoman who was the longtime lover of Frederick Engels, co-author of The Communist Manifesto. In Gavin McCrea’s first novel, she is finally given a voice, one that won’t easily be forgotten.'

Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume Windmill
'A misfit man finds a misfit dog. Ray, aged fifty-seven, ‘too old for starting over, too young for giving up’, and One Eye, a vicious little bugger, smaller than expected, a good ratter. Both are accustomed to being alone, unloved, outcast – but they quickly find in each other a strange companionship of sorts. As spring turns to summer, their relationship grows and intensifies, until a savage act forces them to abandon the precarious life they’d established, and take to the road.'

Have you read any titles from this longlist?


Sunday, 3 April 2016

Released This Month: April 2016

These are one million percent my new favourite posts to put together. I mean, what could be better than spending a few hours each month looking at new book releases? New books, old books, paperback books, hardback books. They're all the best! If I had the £££ to buy all of these, and a time turner so that I could read them all immediately, I would. But here are some of the books I think are worth considering if you find yourself bookless this month!

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley April 7th 2016, John Murray
The locals called it the Loney - that strange nowhere where Hanny and I went every Easter time with Mummer, Farther, Mr and Mrs Belderboss and Father Wilfred, the parish priest. It was impossible to truly know the place. No one ever went near the water. No one apart from us, that is. I suppose I always knew that what happened there wouldn't stay hidden for ever, no matter how much I wanted it to.

And the weak suffer what they must? by Yanis Varoufakis April 7th 2016, Vintage
In January 2015, Yanis Varoufakis was elected to the Greek parliament with more votes than any other member of parliament. He was appointed finance minister and, in the whirlwind five months that followed, everything he had warned about was confirmed as the European Central Bank, IMF, and European Commission stonewalled his efforts to resolve Greece’s economic crisis. Here, Varoufakis delivers a fresh look at the history of Europe’s crisis and America’s central role in it, presenting the ultimate case against austerity, proposing concrete policies for Europe that are necessary to address its crisis and avert contagion to America, China, and the rest of the world.

Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich April 21st 2016, Penguin
On 26 April 1986, at 1.23am, a series of explosions shook the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. Flames lit up the sky and radiation escaped to contaminate the land and poison the people for years to come. While officials tried to hush up the accident, Svetlana Alexievich spent years collecting testimonies from survivors, crafting their voices into a haunting oral history of fear, anger and uncertainty, but also dark humour and love.

All at Sea by Decca Aitkenhead April 7th 2016, Fourth Estate
On a hot still morning on a beautiful beach in Jamaica, Decca Aitkenhead’s life changed for ever. Her four-year-old boy was paddling peacefully at the water’s edge when a wave pulled him out to sea. Her partner, Tony, swam out and saved their son’s life – then drowned before her eyes. When Decca and Tony first met a decade earlier, they became the most improbable couple in London. No one thought the romance would last, but it did. Exploring race and redemption, privilege and prejudice, this is a remarkable story of love and loss, of how one couple changed each other’s lives and of what a sudden death can do to the people who survive.

Montauk by Max Frisch April 16th 2016, Tin House
Max Frisch’s candid story of a brief love affair illuminates a lifetime of relationships. Casting himself as both subject and observer, Frisch reflects on his marriages, children, friendships, and careers; a holiday weekend in Long Island is a trigger to recount and question events and aspects of his own life, along with creeping fears of mortality. He paints a bittersweet portrait that is sometimes painful and sometimes humorous, but always affecting. Emotionally raw and formally innovative, Frisch’s novel collapses the distinction between art and life, but leaves the reader with a richer understanding of both.

Prodigals by Greg Jackson April 7th 2016, Granta
“People are bullets, fired,” the narrator declares in one of the wild, searching stories that make up Greg Jackson's Prodigals. Strivers, misfits, and children of privilege, the restless, sympathetic characters hew to passion and perversity through life's tempests. Theirs is a quest for meaning and authenticity in lives spoiled by self­-knowledge and haunted by spiritual longing. Lyrical and unflinching, cerebral and surreal, Prodigals maps the degradation of contemporary life with insight and grace, from the comedy of our foibles, to the granular dignity of experience, to the pathos of our yearning for home.
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link April 7th 2016, Canongate
Kelly Link creates brilliantly detailed, layered fictional worlds pulsing with their own energy and life. The situations are at first glance fantastical, but the emotional insights are piercing and the characters vividly real. In “I Can See Right Through You,” a one-time teen idol movie vampire takes a disturbing trip to the set where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a bizarre new reality show. In “The New Boyfriend,” a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present, a new animated doll. Funny, uncanny, always deeply moving, these stories demonstrate a writer of wondrous gifts operating at the height of her powers.

Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika April 1st 2016, Cassava Republic Press
Morayo Da Silva, a cosmopolitan Nigerian woman, lives in hip San Francisco. On the cusp of seventy-five, she is in good health and makes the most of it, enjoying road trips in her vintage Porsche, chatting to strangers, and recollecting characters from her favourite novels. Then she has a fall and her independence crumbles. Without the support of family, she relies on friends and chance encounters. A subtle story about ageing, friendship and loss, this is also a nuanced study of the erotic yearnings of an older woman.

Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John April 1st 2016, Cassava Republic Press
Dantala lives in Nigeria and studies in a Sufi Quranic school. By chance he meets gang leader Banda and Dantala is thrust into a world with fluid rules and casual violence. In the aftermath of presidential elections he runs away and ends up living in a Salafi mosque. Slowly and through the hurdles of adolescence, he embraces Salafism as preached by his new benefactor, Sheikh Jamal. Dantala falls in love with Sheikh's daughter, Aisha, and tries to court her within the acceptable limits of a conservative setting. All the while, Sheikh struggles to deal with growing jihadist extremism within his own ranks. This novel explores life, love, friendship, loss and the effects of extremist politics and religion on everyday life in Northern Nigeria.

Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle April 1st 2016, Cassava Republic Press
Easy Motion Tourist is a compelling crime novel set in contemporary Lagos. Guy Collins is a British hack who stumbles by chance into the murky underworld of the city and discovers more of the darker aspects of what makes Lagos tick. He also falls slowly for Amaka, a woman who saves him from a Nigerian police cell. Little do they realise how the body parts business is wrapped up in the power and politics of the city. A modern thriller featuring a strong female protagonist, prepared to take on the Nigerian criminal world on her own.

The Bricks that Built the Houses by Kate Tempest April 7th 2016, Bloomsbury
It gets into your bones. You don't even realise it, until you're driving through it, watching all the things you've always known and leaving them behind. Young Londoners Becky, Harry and Leon are escaping the city in a fourth-hand Ford Cortina with a suitcase full of stolen money. Taking us back in time - and into the heart of London - The Bricks that Built the Houses explores a cross-section of contemporary urban life with a powerful moral microscope, giving us intimate stories of hidden lives, and showing us that good intentions don't always lead to the right decisions. Wise but never cynical, driven by empathy and ethics, The Bricks the Built the Houses questions how we live with and love one another.

Join by Steve Toutonghi April 21st 2016, Soho Press
What if you could live multiple lives simultaneously, have constant, perfect companionship, and never die? That’s the promise of Join, a revolutionary technology that allows small groups of minds to unite, forming a single consciousness that experiences the world through multiple bodies. But as two best friends discover, the light of that miracle may be blinding the world to its horrors.

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss April 5th 2016, Gallery/Scout Press
Welcome to SoHo at the onset of the eighties: a gritty, not-yet-gentrified playground for artists and writers looking to make it in the big city. Among them: James Bennett, a synesthetic art critic for The New York Times whose unlikely condition enables him to describe art in profound, magical ways, and Raul Engales, an exiled Argentinian painter running from his past and the Dirty War that has enveloped his country. As the two men ascend in the downtown arts scene, dual tragedies strike, and each is faced with a loss that acutely affects his relationship to life and to art. It is not until they are inadvertently brought together by Lucy Olliason and a young orphan boy sent mysteriously from Buenos Aires, that James and Raul are able to rediscover some semblance of what they’ve lost.

The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial by Maggie Nelson April 5th 2016, Graywolf Press
Late in 2004, Maggie Nelson was looking forward to the publication of her book Jane: A Murder, a narrative in verse about the life and death of her aunt, who had been murdered thirty-five years before. The case remained unsolved, but Jane was assumed to have been the victim of an infamous serial killer in Michigan in 1969. Then, one November afternoon, Nelson received a call from her mother, who announced that the case had been reopened; a new suspect would be arrested and tried on the basis of a DNA match. The Red Parts is a memoir, an account of a trial, and a provocative essay that interrogates the American obsession with violence and missing white women, and that scrupulously explores the nature of grief, justice, and empathy.

All Tomorrow's Parties by Rob Spillman April 21st 2016, Grove Press
Rob Spillman the award-winning, cofounding editor of the legendary Tin House magazine, has devoted his life to the rebellious pursuit of artistic authenticity. Born in Germany to two driven musicians, his childhood was spent in a city two hundred miles behind the Iron Curtain. The Berlin Wall stood as a stark reminder of the split between East and West, between suppressed dreams and freedom of expression. After an unsettled youth Spillman would eventually find his way into the literary world of New York City, only to abandon it to return to Berlin just months after the Wall came down. Twenty-five and newly married, Spillman and his wife moved to the anarchic streets of East Berlin in search of the bohemian lifestyle of their idols. But Spillman soon discovered he was chasing the one thing that had always eluded him: a place, or person, to call home. In his intimate, entertaining, and heartfelt memoir, Spillman narrates a colourful, music-filled coming-of-age portrait of an artist’s life that is also a cultural exploration of a shifting Berlin.

Agnostic by Lesley Hazleton April 25th 2016, Hudson Street Press
A widely admired writer on religion celebrates agnosticism as the most vibrant, engaging—and ultimately the most honest—stance toward the mysteries of existence. In this provocative, brilliant book, Hazleton gives voice to the case for agnosticism, breaks it free of its stereotypes as watered-down atheism or amorphous “seeking,” and celebrates it as a reasoned, revealing, and sustaining stance toward life.

True Crimes: A Family Album by Kathryn Harrison April 5th 2016, Random House
In essays written over the course of more than a decade, Kathryn Harrison has created a beautifully detailed and rigorously honest family album. With tenderness and wisdom, compassion and humor, Harrison writes about the things we don’t always discuss, casting light on what lurks beneath the surface of everyday life, sifting through the artifacts of memory to find what haunts and endures.

Dodgers by Bill Beverly April 5th 2016, No Exit Press
The story of a young LA gang member named East, who is sent by his uncle along with some other teenage boys—including East's hothead younger brother—to kill a key witness hiding out in Wisconsin. The journey takes East out of a city he's never left and into an America that is entirely alien to him, ultimately forcing him to grapple with his place in the world and decide what kind of man he wants to become.

When We Collided by Emery Lord April 7th 2016, Bloomsbury
Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi's zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there's something important Vivi hasn't told him.

The Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen April 1st 2016, AmazonCrossing
For his whole life, the boy has lived underground, in a basement with his parents, grandmother, sister, and brother. Before he was born, his family was disfigured by a fire. His sister wears a white mask to cover her burns. Ever since his sister had a baby, everyone’s been acting very strangely. The boy begins to wonder why they never say who the father is, about what happened before his own birth, about why they’re shut away. A few days ago, some fireflies arrived in the basement. There’s no creature more amazing than one that can make its own light. That light makes the boy want to escape, to know the outside world. Problem is, all the doors are locked. And he doesn’t know how to get out.…

Fellside by M.R Carey April 7th 2016, Orbit
Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. It's not the kind of place you'd want to end up. But it's where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life. It's a place where even the walls whisper. And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess.

The Midnight Watch by David Dyer April 7th 2016, Atlantic Books
On a black night in April 1912, fifteen hundred passengers and crew perish as the Titanic slowly sinks beneath the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. Charting the same perilous course through the icebergs is the SS Californian, close enough for her crew to see the eight white distress rockets fired by the Titanic. Yet the Californian fails to act, and later her crew insist that they saw nothing. As news of the disaster spreads throughout America, journalists begin a feeding frenzy, desperate for stories. John Steadman is one such reporter, a man broken by alcoholism, grief and a failed marriage. Steadman senses blood as he fixates on the Californian and his investigation reveals a tense and perplexing relationship between the ship's captain and second officer, who hold the secrets of what occurred that night. Slowly he peels back the layers of deception, and his final, stunning revelation of what happened while the Titanic sank will either redeem the men of the Californian, or destroy them.

The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts by Laura Tillman April 5th 2016, Scribner
A harrowing, profoundly personal investigation of the causes, effects, and communal toll of a deeply troubling crime—the brutal murder of three young children by their parents in the border city of Brownsville, Texas.

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton April 28th 2016, Hamish Hamilton
We all know the headiness and excitement of the early days of love. But what comes after? In Edinburgh, a couple, Rabih and Kirsten, fall in love. They get married, they have children—but no long-term relationship is as simple as “happily ever after.” The Course of Love explores what happens after the birth of love, what it takes to maintain love, and what happens to our original ideals under the pressures of an average existence. You experience, along with Rabih and Kirsten, the first flush of infatuation, the effortlessness of falling into romantic love, and the course of life thereafter.

What Belongs To You by Garth Greenwell April 7th 2016, Picador
On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher walks down a staircase beneath Sofia's National Palace of Culture, looking for sex. Among the stalls of a public bathroom he encounters Mitko, a charismatic young hustler. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, and their trysts grow increasingly intimate and unnerving as the enigma of this young man becomes inseparable from that of his homeland, Bulgaria, a country with a difficult past and an uncertain future. A stunning debut about an American expat struggling with his own complicated inheritance while navigating a foreign culture. Lyrical and intense, it tells the story of a man caught between longing and resentment, unable to separate desire from danger, and faced with the impossibility of understanding those he most longs to know.



Friday, 1 April 2016

By The Book.

Is there a book on your nightstand right now? 
The book I'm currently reading goes everywhere with me and at the moment it's A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell

What was the last truly great book you read? 
There are a few but narrowing it down to just one, Ariel by Sylvia Plath.

If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you want to know?
Patti Smith. And as much as I would like to think we would have an intelligent and meaningful conversation I'd probably completely lose the ability to formulate audible words.

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves? 
I suppose that really depends on what you think my shelves are like and the kind of person you think I am. The odd one out has to be this little book we found wedged underneath the bed in the hotel we were staying at in New York last year.

How do you organise your personal library? 
In any way that keeps books away from tiny rabbit teeth that can cause destruction in approximately 0.2 seconds. Although pre-bunny they weren't organised in any particular way either, just by whichever way as many as possible would fit on a shelf. Sorry to any book lovers with a passion for book organisation!

Is there a book you have always meant to read but haven't gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read? 
I don't think there's any that I'm embarrassed never to have read, there's always going to be a book that I'll feel like I'm late to the party on. Too many books and not enough time. There are a few Donna Tartt books that have been sitting on my shelf unread for far too long though.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good; name a book you feel you were supposed to have liked but didn't? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing? 
I don't think it's disappointing or overrated, but as much as I tried to I didn't like Orlando by Virginia Woolf. I think it must be a case of, it's not you it's me. I will pick it up again one day for another try.

It's so rare for me not to finish a book I have no idea what the last one was, although I did put down The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson many many times until I eventually got through it about a year after I started. And it wasn't worth it, so I wouldn't struggle through a book I felt that way about again.

What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you steer clear of? 
If I think a book will make me cry I have to read it. There was a long period of time in my life where I didn't really feel anything and I turned to books in the hope they might help to fix me a little bit. And they did. So I love to read books that might make me intensely feel something, and that doesn't have to be sadness, it could be anything; joy, anger, an appreciation for small things. Anything.   

If you could choose a book that the President (or Prime Minister in my case) had to read, which would it be? 
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein. Although I'm sure nothing in it would be unfamiliar to him.  

What do you plan to read next? 
Ooh, good question. I never really know until I've finished whichever book I'm currently reading. It really could be anything. Who knows, it may even be one of the Donna Tartt novels that have been staring at me for months.

This is a tag I've seen floating around on Booktube, created by Marie Berg
I tag you!