This book was so much more fun than I thought it would be – Welcome to Lagos by Chibundo Onuzo

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Chike Ameobi is running away from the army. As he heads towards Lagos he finds himself picking up other runaways, and by the time they reach the city there are five of them, including a nervous woman escaping a bad marriage and a boy desperate to be on the radio. Their arrival coincides with a political scandal: the minister of education has disappeared with a large amount of money. Their attempts to create new lives for themselves and find opportunities leads them to consequences they would never have imagined…

I didn’t know what to expect here. I’d been to an event with the author and really liked her so was excited to delve in, but, with complete prejudice which I repent of totally, I expected this to be very worthy, very intense and probably a little boring. It was anything but. The plot was compelling and fascinating, the characters relatable, their interaction convincing and the setting varied. I felt thoroughly pleased to have read this book, and am this very moment thinking through who I should buy it for.

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I learned less but felt more than I expected in Gaiman’s Norse Mythology

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The Gods of Asgard live a strange existence; seeking knowledge, battling enemies, trying to contain the nefarious Loki and restrain the hot-headed Thor. Gods, giants, trolls and more plot, scheme, fight and invent in this series of myths spanning from creation through to Ragnarok; the end…

I was really excited to read Gaiman’s retelling of Norse myth. For several reasons: I love Gaiman, I love Norse mythology, and I wanted to know more about it. The book wasn’t quite what I expected. I was looking for more depth, more information and a more cohesive plot. But that’s not what myths are, and soon I found myself bewitched by the simple storytelling and strange world that I was encountering.

The White Queen totally overruled my anti-Philippa Gregory bias

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Widowed Elizabeth Woodville stands ready to greet her King, her sons in tow and dressed at her most beguiling. The bond they forge leads to a passion that leads her family to the highest position in England – but not a stable one. Elizabeth must plot, scheme and do all in her power to subdue her enemies, please her husband and protect her family, but the odds against her are great…

Historical fiction based on real people is always troubling for me. On the one hand, I appreciate the opportunity to learn about a person and period in a fun and interesting way – but on the other, I resent that thoughts, actions and motives are placed upon them in a way that just cannot be accurate. Imagine someone in four hundred years trying to piece your life together into a story… I don’t think I’d like it much. BUT despite my reservations and long term avoidance of Gregory also due to an aversion to Tudors caused by their over-study in the British history curriculum, I was hooked.

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!