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