When the Floods Came – a different treatment of a common trend by Clare Morrall

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Rosemary and her family have lived in the block of flats for as long as she can remember, safe from the scavengers and dangers of post-flood Britain. Despite the draw of Brighton, the last society around, they stick it out as a family – until a new arrival shatters their worldview. Rosemary’s world, her relationship with long-term finance Hector from Brighton who she’s only ever met online, her view of her family and her certainty in her future are all thrown into relief as they try to decipher the strange world around them.

The only other book I have read by Clare Morrall was just SO different to this!! It felt like an already established author taking a dip into the post-apocalyptic trend, but once I’ve got used to the idea, it definitely worked. It was more thoughtful and less action packed than other books I’ve read of the same premise, but all the more interesting for it. It was great!

I’m a bit annoyed that I’m hooked by Brian Guthrie’s RISE

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The mysterious queen summons a scribe to her, and entrusts her with a task. To find out the story of what happened to four of her friends, many years ago, to solve a current problem. The scribe travels between the friends: Micaela, whose Father’s interference into their planet’s water system got him killed, Sujith, the visitor from another disk who found himself embroiled in the action, and Quentin, well-meaning, but the most intractable of all. With dragons, coding, controlling governments, time-travel and more this is a vast world that we start to discover.

I’ve actually read this one and a half times. The first time was online, as Brian Guthrie, who stayed with us once, told me about it. I was suspicious, as I usually am with self-published books, but I had a look. And I got hooked. It was an extremely annoying way to read: tiny thin paragraphs on busy pages that I had to click through often – and yet I was hooked. I finally tore myself away before the end because it was too annoying to read like that – and the way it was, I had no way to see how much longer it was going to be – but when the book came out, I thought I’d give it another try.

What is it really like to be a Chinese person in America? I’m a little closer to knowing thanks to Peter Ho Davies’ The Fortunes

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Young Ah Ling, son of a prostitute and white man, lands in 1860s California and navigates his way through the laundries of his Chinese heritage and the railroads of the white men; never quite at home with either people. Years later Anna May Wong; Hollywood’s first Chinese film star, must take seductress roles and cannot kiss a white man onscreen – visits China, and her father, and feels alien. Years later again, Vincent Chin is murdered in a bar because he looks Japanese. And years later again, half-Chinese writer John Ling Smith visits China to adopt a baby girl.

Though in style this book was like a fictionalised documentary, it got me completely. I was hooked on every story, and so enjoyed the experience of entering into each of the four worlds it portrayed. And I think the fictionalisation probably made the points the more poignant: we were taken intoworlds and saw different themes and ideas that run through the whole thing. Like being offered the proof rather than the conclusions. I really enjoyed it!

Last year’s resolutions – a review :S

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Last year I took a risk and made my New Year’s Resolutions very public! It’s beyond time to check back in and see how I’ve done. I’m about to paste the list in and comment. I’m expecting a mixed bag. There are some I definitely didn’t do, but I’m pleased with the effect the ones I did manage have had on my life. Here goes..

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

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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

After Alice by ‘Wicked’ author Gregory Maguire – amusing and clever but a bit exclusive

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Alice’s friend Ada is tasked with finding the fallen child, and finds herself tumbling down the rabbit hole to find familiar faces and new adventures. Meanwhile the search for Alice continues, as her big sister and governess search fruitlessly, and their father receives a visitor with a foreign ward. The worlds above and below turn to chaos as everyone tries to find or leave home…

Hmmmmm. I was super excited to read this, though my excitement was tempered by the fact that LOTS of people had told me that Maguire’s Wicked was boring. Now, this book wasn’t boring at all. The plot was interesting, the characters intriguing, the concept brilliant. And there was a lot of Carrollian absurdity, invention and wit. But I think that the problem people have with Maguire’s writing is his elitist prose.

Realia – more teen magic, adventure and friendship in Noni’s second instalment

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Alexandra Jennings is back for her second year at Akarnae Academy in the magical world of Medora that she stumbled into by mistake last year. The enemies are still out to get her, the professors to teach her lessons she never thought she’d need to learn, and her friends to support and surprise her along the way. We explore the world more, and understand a bit better what’s going on.

Here we jump straight back into the world and into adventure, with Alexandra once again in danger, in deep with her friends and fighting for what she believes is right. So much so that it hardly seemed like a separate book to the first one (and I’m having a little trouble separating them in my mind) and so, like the first, is basically just tremendous fun.

The Three Novels you should buy this year

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As usual I’ve read a lot of books this year, but there are three that clearly stand out from the crowd. These are the ones to buy your friends for Christmas, that are worth getting in physical form and that I would love to talk about with you. If you’re looking for a book to buy, look no further!

A meandering vintage murder – Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody

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Kate Shackleton just wants a break away from her busy life, and to see her goddaughter Felicity. But when she arrives in Whitby for her seaside getaway she finds a dead body, and Felicity has run away. Are the two events connected? Is everyone in the town who they seem to be? Is Alma, Felicity’s mother, really as naive as she seems, hiding behind her fortune telling? And where is Felicity’s father?

Interestingly, the cover of this book make me not keen, but some of my close reading friends loved it. In the end, it was a pretty accurate portrayal of the contents. A fun, fairly slow mystery enjoying a coastal setting, with a fun female sleuth. I definitely enjoyed this book, though I think it is probably better if you’ve read the others in the series, and I prefer a bit more of a driven plot.

Beautifully produced and very poetic but really not for me – The Moonstone by Sjon

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Màni Stein lives in Iceland and lives for film. Any time he doesn’t spend with his male clients he spends at the movies, until the Spanish flu hits, and the world around him begins to disintegrate. He drives for a doctor, and tries to make contact with the girl he can’t stop thinking about. 

This was a quick read, but for me that was probably the best thing about it. It was written as a tribute to a dead friend (or grandfather? Or something? Can’t remember) who I think was an historic gay man in Iceland, and as such contained lots and lots of graphic sex scenes, which I definitely prefer not to read.