Friday, 29 September 2017

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

By Christopher Meades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christopher Meades TLC BOOK TOUR STOPS:

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

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

What's On Your Nightstand ? - September 2017

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

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

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

What I read

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

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

What I didn’t finish

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

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

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

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

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

What I’m reading now

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

Simply stunning…Just read it!

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

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

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

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

What's On Your Nightstand, September 26th

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

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

Visit 'Jennifer' at '5 Minutes For Books

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Rabbit : A Memoir by Patricia Williams

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

Source: Digital Review Copy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highly recommended.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Vernon Subutex 1. by Virginie Despentes

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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