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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Men have XY chromosomes, women have two Xs. That extra X gives women a level of redundancy – if something bad happens, whether that be dodgy DNA or an infectious disease, the female body can chose between those two Xs and select the stronger. As a result, women live longer healthier lives.
That’s the jist of the Better Half – but Sharon goes into various anecdotes and case studies, that though often go a bit too deep into medicine for a lay person, are always interesting. Some of the conclusions seem a little stretched, such as the XY benefited the women in the Donner Party (the American pioneers who resorted to cannibalism when trapped over the winter) – I suspect it’s more to do with the men out hunting in the cold – but there’s lot of useful information packed into those pages.
Well worth a read. I would’ve given it a 4.5 (as too much medical info) but rounding up to a 5!
I enjoyed The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep – just not as much as I hoped I would. There’s a lot to like – a large dose of fantasy, interesting characters, some good debate on Dickens’s fiction – but there was a lot I struggled with to.
The dialogue was too dense and too verbose, a sure sign that it’s forced and lacking reality. The same conversations were had multiple times, and each one could have been drastically reduced, so combined they became laborious.
Likewise the relationship between the brothers, without giving anything away, the same incident was continuously repeated to make sure we understood. As Browne and King said in their excellent “Self-editing for Fiction Writers”, pay the reader the complement of assuming they’re intelligent – if it’s said right, it doesn’t need that level of repetition.
With some editing, this book could’ve been excellent (instead of just good), I felt it was a missed opportunity.
I’ve been meditating now for a couple of years, and have been significantly over-drinking for three decades, so when Kevin Rose (a guy I have a lot of time for) mentioned this book on his podcast I thought I’d give it a try. One key aspect of this book is it’s not about stopping drinking, it’s about reducing your intake. I drink too much, but I like it, and though alcohol is a large part of my life which I have no desire to lose, I am happy to shed a few dozen units a week.
If you’re not into meditation or mindfulness, which is basically consciousness of your thoughts and self-querying, this book probably won’t work for you. For me, however, it was a fun read with some good tips. Why are you reaching for the gin? If it’s to mask a problem, that problem will still be there tomorrow, so will the gin help more than say a clean tonic or mint tea!?
Simple advice in a chatty self-deprecating style, this is very readable, fun and helpful.
I must admit this book was a disappointment. I normally love Man Booker shortlisted novels, but this became a slog. Independent (though loosely linked) chapters detail a specific woman – mostly black, mostly non-binary/LGBQT. Each chapter in isolation is well written and interesting. The problem is that with a dozen or so of them, without a running narrative or theme, it’s hard to feel emotion for the women and you end up not particularly caring about them. The book feels like poetry, chapters can be read in any order, but the sum didn’t feel as great as its parts.
Still, I did enjoy the writing, I felt the plot was missing – 4 stars.
This book is praised everywhere – from Tim Ferriss, Derek Sivers, Seth Godin, the list goes on, so it’s frustrating that I found it a huge struggle. The first half is full of trite, one-paragraph case studies that go along the lines of, “Timmy struggles to adapt, he’s got a fixed mindset”, “Evie likes to learn, she’s got a growth mindset,”, rinse and repeat for a hundred or so pages. The cases shoehorn in the mindset terminology, and were for too repetitive without adding any value. Halfway through the book turns to business and mentoring, particularly children, and these sections were more interesting, provided you skim those case studies.
Each section (there’s eight of them) has a bullet point summary at the end – I did feel the preceding chapter just padded that summary.
Not bad, just too repetitive.