Utter delight from the title to the end- The Bear and the Nightingale by Katharine Arden

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, Uncategorized


Vasya knows the spirits and traditional folklore creatures are real – she speaks to them, feeds them, harbours them in exchange for their protection. But there are other creatures too – and one in particular who threatens their village, their lives and much much more. Vasya must fight alone against an enemy no one else believes in, under increasing pressure from her family and the fanatic priest who is determined to abolish old superstition, especially when he hears a voice speaking to him from the darkness…

I A D O R E D this book!! Hooray! It feels so good to start of the year with two glowing reviews! It’s out very recently, and is a retelling of a Russian fairytale which I didn’t know beforehand. Thankfully it’s spoken at the beginning of the story, and you can see the parallels as they occur. But gosh! This book has pretty much EVERYTHING that I love – and in no way did it disappoint. I got a kindle review copy free but I’m going to have to buy it too because it’s so lovely – and gosh, that cover!

I want to buy this for everyone – Morgan Mccarthy’s The House of Birds

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, literary london, London, Recommended, Uncategorized


Oliver and Kate met officially one afternoon in Oxford when they were young, she fell off her bike and they snuck a look at Kate’s creepy aunt’s house. Oliver’s family moved to Milton Keynes before they get to say goodbye, but they meet and get together years later at a party when Kate has just inherited the house amidst some controversy. After quitting his city job that he hates Oliver goes to Oxford to do up the house and finds himself enchanted by it and the diaries he finds in the books there. These engrossing letters tell of a woman in an unhappy marriage seeking comfort at the Bodlein, and an unlikely guide. The story Oliver chases has direct impact on the present for both his life plans and the ownership of the house.

I don’t know why but I kind of put off reading this book. I can’t believe it – it’s definitely in the top books I’ve read this year! So much so that I’m skipping all the other reviews I need to write to give it a shoutout. A beautiful sense of place, compelling dual timelines, lovely sympathetic characters, opposition of old and new and overall a sense of trust. I knew very quickly that this narrator was not going to mess me around. I wasn’t going to be disappointed. I enjoyed this thoroughly!

Women are awesome in The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Thoughts


An illness hits earth, and 99% of men die. And 99.8% of women die. The remainder of humanity wander and scrounge from the earth, women enslaved and objectified. And endangered – if any of them become pregnant they and their babies die. An ex-midwife is one of the few to survive, and soon finds her mission; to travel in disguise helping the women she meets as much as she can; distributing advice, medicine and contraceptives as she falls in and out with various peoples trying to make a life.

So, here we are again. Most humans have died from a disease. I’m sure I’ve read at least two of these recently in the last couple of years. This one appealed to me because of the midwife: a profession that after having my baby I greatly admire. And it was interesting

Five books to buy your reading friends this Christmas

Book Reviews, book shops, Book Thoughts, Recommended, Uncategorized

 

Until I started a blog and started getting books for free all the time, there was NOTHING like getting a new book for Christmas. The possibility contained within the pages, the whole world waiting for me to discover, the few hours of enjoyment promised to me. Oh the possibility in a wrapped parcel that looks book shaped!

Oh the disappointment if it was something else!

Anyway. Here’s some recommendations for all of you trying to decide what to buy your book loving friends this Christmas:

Lewycka charm in a council estate – The Lubetkin Legacy

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, literary london, London, Recommended


On a council estate in London Bertie’s mother dies; and in a desperate attempt to reclaim the flat he believes to be his he adopts an old Ukranian woman from a hospital to pretend to be his mother. Meanwhile beautiful and idealistic Violet moves in next door while to work at a International Wealth Preservation company, and there’s a plan to take down the estate cherry trees. 

This is my first experience of Marina Lewycka, but from my assumptions of her writing it rings true. Realism that highlights, gently mocks and celebrates the bizarre and ridiculous but nevertheless true idiosyncrasies of human life. She manages to tell what are some terribly sad stories, and usually pitiable people, with warmth and kindness that emphasises humanity above all else. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

I was literally scared to go downstairs whilst reading The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola

Book Reviews, literary london, London, Recommended, Uncategorized, Writing


1837. Sarah Gale is sentenced to hang for the death of her ex-partner’s new wife, but not everyone is convinced that she is guilty. Lawyer Edmund Fleetwood is set the challenge of revisiting the evidence and making an appeal. But an untrusting Sarah isn’t cooperative, and very few people are – and even the stories Fleetwood hears are twisted and confusing, and no one seems to be telling the truth, even within his own family…

Oh. My. Goodness. This was amazing! For some reason I wasn’t expecting much when I picked this up, but I enjoyed it immensely. And also got so scared that I asked my husband to come downstairs with me when I had been reading in the middle of the night. We were in desolate, pitch black Scotland, in a pitch black and creaky house. He said no. I just about coped. But the twisting and turning and tales told and lies and mysteries here were just fantastic!

I’m so glad I gave Jessie Burton another chance with her new book The Muse

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Thoughts


In 1967, Odelle Bastion gets a new job in an art gallery, where the eccentric and enigmatic Marjorie Quick takes her under her wing. But when Odelle’s boyfriend brings a painting to be valued, Quick becomes even more mysterious, and Odelle becomes determined to discover the secrets. In 1936, Olive Schloss moves to rural Spain with her family, and they become involved with a local painter and his sister; and it is the events here that bring about the painting and it’s secrets.

This was an exceptionally pleasing book. There is a feeling I get a few pages into a book when I know it’s going to be a good one; supreme smugness and anticipation of enjoyment, a relaxing and trust that the author is going to be trustworthy to take me on a worthwhile, enjoyable and satisfying journey. Like sinking into a hot bath, or the first taste of a truly terrific meal. It really wasn’t long into this book that I felt this feeling wash over me, and settled back to enjoy myself.

Finally a fictional experience of motherhood I can relate to in Bishop’s The Other Side of the World

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended, Writing, Writing Thoughts


Charlotte and Henry married, and had a child, then another. Charlotte is run down by the monotony of motherhood and Henry by the English weather as opposed to childhood memories of India. Henry decides to move them to Australia, where Charlotte continues to struggle, and their marriage becomes less and less close as they refuse to recognise what each other needs.

After my recent revelations of the lack of realistic mothers in fiction, this book was refreshing. Here was a young mother facing what I do every day; the relentless needs of (admirably adorable) children, the sacrifice of self that you aren’t quite sure you signed up for, the challenges of being at home on your own. Though for me this was the most compelling as it is the closest to my current experience, the rest of the book was excellent too, with the themes coming through the sparse prose almost between the words rather than through them.

And it’s rather lucky that I enjoyed it, as I’m going to an event with author Stephanie Bishop tomorrow, as well as Eowyn Ivey, author of one of my all time favourite books The Snow Child and new release To the Bright Edge of the World. Exciting!

Back to the book.

A fantastic story from the King of Allegory C.S. Lewis – The Great Divorce

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended


Our narrator is on a very special sort of visit, through the dark and murky streets of the afterlife and then onwards to the hyper-real heaven, where he and fellow travellers in their current state seem faint and fragile. Soon each of them is met by a person they admire, and faced with a challenge to their thinking, behaviour or history that they must face or change if they want to move forward to the wonders beyond.

Only C.S. Lewis could write this sort of story and not be preachy or annoying, and make it compelling and exciting. This was a slim book but I finished it so quickly because it was just fascinating!! Deep thoughtfulness mixed with simple language, masterful storytelling and real humanity. Lewis, you genius.

A wild, weird but well-told world in Eowyn Ivey’s To the Bright Edge of the World

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Recommended


Young, quiet and curious Sophie has just married the older, serious and thoughtful Lieutenant Colonel Allen Forrester who is charged with exploring the wild, dangerous and uncharted Wolverine River in Alaska. He starts a journey through wild landscapes and peoples that blurs his perception of what is possible and what is real, leaving a pregnant Sophie alone at the military barracks, for an unexpected 

This book was fantastic. I’m not sure what could have been a more appealing idea for me: Alaska, magic, adventure, letters, a great heroine and all by the author of one of my very favourites, The Snow Child.  And it was wonderful. Ivey explores a new type of storytelling to great effect, and proves her mastery of magic realism again.