Tarnished time travel – All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

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Tom lives in a golden world of amazing technology and father is a genius who just invented time travel. Tom is lazy and does not apply himself, but finds himself on the time travel team – then after the love of his life abandons him, he takes her place and goes back in time. He finds himself in an alternate future – in the world we know. Now it’s up to him to return humanity to the future that we always dreamed of…

Gosh! Time Travel books, eh? So confusing!! This book wasn’t too bad though, and any internal mysteries were cleared up at the end. It was clever – but lacking enough warmth or character connection for me to be emotionally invested in what was happening. It became more like a puzzle than a story; I wanted the intellectual satisfaction of knowing the solution, but was not emotionally involved. Which is perhaps why I’m not very good at puzzles.

Harmony – cults, autism and family life in one intriguing novel by Carolyn Parkhurst

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When Tilly is kicked out of school and deemed to be on the autistic spectrum, her mother Alexandra is at the end of herself; and hearing of Camp Harmony and it’s engaging pioneer seems to be the answer that she has been looking for. Younger daughter Iris isn’t so sure; and has a distrust of everything that is happening as they move in with other families to start the camp and follow the edicts of the enigmatic leader.

I was really intrigued to read this book. In many ways one knows exactly where it’s going; we’re going to witness the start of some sort of cult, it’s going to be bad, people have been hoodwinked. But it doesn’t matter – I’m still fascinated.

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!

A collection of treasures in The Keeper Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

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Anthony lost the medallion his fiancee gave him before she died in an accident, and ever since he has collected any lost things he can find in hope of atonement. Laura, his cleaner, finds solace in his house, and inherits his quest when he leaves it to her, along with Freddie the gardener she can’t help fancying and Sunshine, a young girl with her own special way of thinking and Downs Syndrome. Meanwhile many years ago, Eunice saw a man drop a gold coin on her way to the job interview that would shape her life, and the long, fulfilling friendship with the man she loves but could never marry. The lost items and stories they tell bring together these and more characters with just the right amount of hope.

This book was lovely. Full of real characters, interesting stories, satisfying relationships and the stuff of live woven together to make something very beautiful. Like Anthony’s collection of lost things, here we find lost stories; people whose lives are the ones that people ignore rather than write about, collected together and woven beautifully into one tale. I loved this.

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

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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

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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!

Famous philosophical writer’s foray into history – The Spy by Paulo Coelho

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Mata Hari is due to be executed for espionage, and recalls her life in a diary. She tells of her escape from a small town and a stifling marriage, and her sensational dance performances that gained her fame, the men she favoured and loved, the dangerous trip to Germany at the outbreak of war. Her subsequent attempts to gain status through different spy rings don’t result in much, but still she ends up on trial.

Normally I’m a bit meh about Paul Coelho. I feel like the meaning imposed on his writing is a little simplistic, and I want to dig into what is happening a bit more. I have only read two other of his books – but this was my favourite by far! I think the fact that it was grounded in history and was a real person helped give it a lot more depth for me. I really enjoyed it!

Lewycka charm in a council estate – The Lubetkin Legacy

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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!