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Review: To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss

This is the first book by Nicole Krauss I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last. This collection of short stories have mostly been printed elsewhere, so fans of her writing may have read them before. The stories, Jewish influenced, explore relationships – the coming together and drifting apart. They’re quirky but intelligent, the writing poetic and lyrical. A lovely read.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: The Art of Doing Nothing and Something: Pottering as a Cure for Modern Life by Anna McGovern

One of the most silliest, most oddest, most charming books you’ll read. When, in the opening pages, I was given detailed instructions on how to make a cup of tea, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. By the end, I got it. Not one to read cover to cover in one sitting, just pick up and put down when you’re pottering, read a few pages, drift onto something else. I’m off to organise my herb rack now…

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Review: Idle Hands by Cassondra Windwalker

An interesting, but flawed book. Perdie is a victim of domestic violence, and with Ella (the Devil) looking over her shoulder, waiting to influence outcomes, she has an opportunity to try a different route through her life.

Interesting, because it was a good idea, kind of like a Sliding Doors concept.

Flawed, because I felt the execution wasn’t quite right. Ella’s voice, while initially interesting, broke the plot too often for too long, with monologues that contributed less than intended. Also, it was a pity the alternative timelimes were limited to just one – after the setup, I felt there was scope to play with this, with more divergence, or parallel threads perhaps.

Still, a good holiday read! 4/5

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: How Should One Read a Book? by Virginia Woolf

An interesting speech given by Virginia Woolf to some students, edited into an essay. A quick half hour read, lovely for free, not sure I’d feel the same after paying the £7 price tag…

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Review: Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

This is a fantastic read.

Bregman’s premise is that humans are a pretty decent species, and not the monsters that the media portrays through dodgy reporting and dubious science. The sections where he tears into widely reported examples of human selfishness and aggression – such as the Stanford Prison Experiment, the Milgram experiment, the self-destruction of Easter Island, Kitty Genovese’s murder (all of which I’d heard of and believed the established narratives) – was eye-opening and shocking, shocking in the sense that they’re still being used today, decades later, in school text books.

Right now, where societal divisions are being utilised for politcal gain, and it’s too easy accept that society would implode without the controlling hand of the state, it’s refreshing to read that humands are better than that. Leaders have to try hard to instill the hatred that’s the cancer of our current time, so when that leadership changes, there’s hope for us all.

An excellent book, read it.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, Geoffrey Trousselot

Before the Coffee Gets Cold is definitely a marmite book – you’ll hate it or love it. The story is undeniably charming, well structured and original. The issue is with the writing. Forget what you’ve been told about good writing – “don’t jump point of view”, “show, don’t tell”, “trust the intelligence of the reader” – all those rules are broken multiple times on every page. If you can tolerate that, and it was a struggle, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful story.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington

This beautifully written debut novel follows an unamed tight-rope walker (called Mouse by her friend) – her ups, her downs, and her bad but well intended decisions. The magical realism is nicely played, and the story structure is excellently created.

The reason why I gave it 4 stars and not 5, was the narrators voice was mature, confident, educated. Mouse, hence her name, is timid, hides under lorries to watch the world, and states as a teenager that she’s only conversed with four or so people in her life. This gave me the impresion that this was the writings of an older lady, at the end of her life, writing her memoirs, which wasn’t the case.

Still, a very enjoyable book, and highly recommended.

See review on Goodreads.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky

This is the second book by Adrian that I’ve read, the first being Walking to Aldebaran. Both are well written, with strong plotting, but this one would be my least favourite. The Doors of Eden took a long time to not go very far. The cat & mouse chasing, well, rats & trolls, could’ve been slimmed down, extra chapters didn’t add to the story.

The biggest issue for me was the characterisations. With such a large PoV cast, half a dozen or so, it’s hard to get attached to any of the characters. The story begins with Mal, who could’ve led the story, but by the time weaker characters diluted her presence, that emotional involvement in their plights dissipated.

A solid 4*, an interesting story, but the execution could’ve been better.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill

A Cosmology of Monsters is described as a literary horror novel, which isn’t a bad description. The plotting is strong, especially for a first novel, but I found the writing style barren and unemotional. I got used to it by the end, but it did feel like I was reading a newspaper account rather than a literary novel.

The book keeps a sense of dread throughout, people keep disappearing, the tension is ratcheted up well. I was hoping for a big ending, which didn’t work for me. I was expecting explanations, conclusions, but I found the lack of clarity in the ending unsatisfactory.

Still, a solid 4 stars, and an author to look out for. I’m sure the quote from Stephen King on the cover will ensure this book finds its way into many homes.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

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Review: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vanishing Half delves into identity – does colour, or sex, define you? Or is that just the given, and you can identify and become whoever you choose?

The book spans 30-40 years – following the lives of two young twins living in Jim Crow southern states, where being black means you can be killed without retribution. And as the title says, one of those twins decides it’s time to move on.

Well written, with believable characters and good voices, this is an excellent novel.

Book supplied by Netgalley for an honest review.

See review on Goodreads.