The Good People by Hannah Kent

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I was lucky enough to be sent a very early copy of this book by Picador books. It will be published in the UK on 9th February 2017.

 

County Kerry, Ireland, 1825. NÓRA, bereft after the sudden death of her beloved husband, finds herself alone and caring for her young grandson Micheál. Micheál cannot speak and cannot walk and Nóra is desperate to know what is wrong with him. What happened to the healthy, happy grandson she met when her daughter was still alive? MARY arrives in the valley to help Nóra just as the whispers are spreading: the stories of unexplained misfortunes, of illnesses, and the rumours that Micheál is a changeling child who is bringing bad luck to the valley.

 

NANCE’s knowledge keeps her apart. To the new priest, she is a threat, but to the valley people she is a wanderer, a healer. Nance knows how to use the plants and berries of the woodland; she understands the magic in the old ways. And she might be able to help Micheál. As these three women are drawn together in the hope of restoring Micheál, their world of folklore and belief, of ritual and stories, tightens around them. It will lead them down a dangerous path, and force them to question everything they have ever known.

 

Based on true events and set in a lost world bound by its own laws, The Good People is Hannah Kent’s startling new novel about absolute belief and devoted love. Terrifying, thrilling and moving in equal measure, this long-awaited follow-up to Burial Rites shows an author at the height of her powers

 

This is a powerful novel about the power of belief, superstition, religion and grief. I’d not read Hannah Kent’s work before so was not prepared for her skill at storytelling and keeping you hooked. Its not a comfortable read nor a very cheery one but its told with a passion for words and the lyrical way she has with them. Her sentences are beautiful and full of atmosphere.

The characters live in a time so vastly different from now that its hard for us to understand the things they believed in. It was a time when superstition was rife, when things that couldn’t be explained any other way were given over to folklore and fairies. How easy it is for one small rumour to spread among a close knit and blood related community and the lengths some people would go to to protect their loved ones or themselves.

Sure to be shortlisted for and win many prizes i’m certain. The Good People is one hell of a gripping read.

 

Shakespeare re-tellings disappoint

I have been fascinated by the latest books in the Hogarth Shakespeare series where modern day writers tackle a select few of his works in their own way as part of the Shakespeare 400 anniversary.

I recently bought two of them having waited a while for them to come into paperback.

I really wish i’d not wasted my money!

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I didnt know anything about Howard Jacobsons writing so didnt know what to expect. All I can say really is… can someone translate it for me please?

There are moments of clarity in his writing but then off it goes again into nonsense!

I guess im just not intellectual enough for some of the books i buy.

The Jeanette Winterson one though starts so well and is easier to read by far but then it kind of loses momentum and well, basically its just porn! truly its an excuse to write porn!

I wonder what Shakespeare historians think of these so called re-tellings.

Suffice to say i wont be buying anymore.

 

the tidal zone by sarah moss

i’m not sure why but i often find that books which have had rave reviews can leave me quite cold, it happened recently with this

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First let me say a huge thanks to Granta for sending me a copy of this

I blooming love this cover, love the synopsis and the whole quality of publication. Its the first book from Granta i’ve read and the first Sarah Moss too.  Given all that i thought i would adore this but, NO!

I can’t really say much without giving the game away which i never do so its hard for me to review it but suffice to say that it was a huge disappointment for me. Her style of writing is okay but nothing special, it didnt stand out above other books i’d read. It has a great opening but then becomes one huge anticlimax.

I felt it was padded out with nonsense that wasn’t relevant to the main story and that it seemed to not conclude satisfactorily enough for me.

I did buy another Sarah Moss book whilst i was waiting for this to arrive from the publishers, so confident was i that i would love her work but i didnt like that one either, so I’m guessing that we just dont get on. I cant possibly like every book i buy and nobody can like every author so thats fine.

I didnt finish either book sadly but instead kind of skimmed the text to get the gist of the outcome, thats how little I enjoyed them.

BOOK REVIEW – Bodies of Water by V.H. Leslie

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This was kindly sent to me by a lovely publishing house called Salt Publishing after I requested a copy to review.

From the back of the book:

After ministering to fallen women in Victorian London, Evelyn has suffered a nervous breakdown and finds herself treated by the Water Doctors in the imposing Wakewater House, a hydropathy sanatorium. Years later, Wakewater House is renovated into modern apartments and Kirsten moves in, fresh from a break up and eager for the restorative calm of the Thames. But her archivist neighbour, Manon, fills her head with the river’s murky past and with those men of science and art who were obsessed with the drowned women who were washed up on its banks. As Kirsten learns more about Wakewater’s secrets, she becomes haunted by a solitary figure in the river and increasingly desperate to understand what the water wants from her.

This is a simply brilliant little book.

Considering that this book is about water, specifically the Thames and its pull on the inhabitants of Wakewater House both in the present day and Victorian times, its weird how it called to me so strongly too.  There is something about the cover, dark and brooding that made me want to read this so badly. It took me just over a day from its arrival.

Its an easy read at 130 pages but i dont mean that in a bad way, just that I felt myself drawn into the story and like the water it carried me floating along in its wake.

Both Evelyn in 1871 and Kirsten in the present day were fascinating characters to discover. Both had ended up at the same place because of their pasts, both were drawn to the water in different ways and both surprised me more than I had imagined they would which was a delight. The whole book is mostly female dominated which was a real change and a good one.

The writing is simply gorgeous, at times lyrical and beautiful in its simplicity, with hints of magical realism/folklore and fantasy and the tension was always present throughout. It is quite a creepy, eerie and very atmospheric read and, for someone who has never liked the water much, a damn scary one at times.

I can’t pretend to fully understand the ending but thats okay, it will keep me pondering on it for ages to come. I had an idea in my head about how the book would go but I was way off and suffice to say I never saw it coming for a moment which is the way it should be.

Now i can’t wait to read more of V.H. Leslie’s work and have downloaded a sample of her supernatural/ghost stories collection, Skein and Bone.

Have you read this, what did you think?

What books like it would you recommend i read?

3 Books that have let me down

Now I don’t expect to like every book i buy or receive for review, its a rare person that does in my opinion but there have been 3 books recently which I felt certain I would love, not like, love.

Sadly that didnt happen.

What books were they?

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After buying and adoring her first book, In a dark dark wood last year I was so excited to hear she had a second book coming out soon. I was even more excited to receive an early copy of it the other week.

Imagine then my disappointment when i discovered that its such a let down. *sighs and puts head into hands*

It begins fine, really good in fact. Gripping, fast pacing and with heart stopping moments of genius but then it just all went downhill. The main character, ‘call me Lo’ (Lauren) seemed to lack any kind of common sense or good judgement and was never a fully rounded person. The story descended into a third rate Agatha Christie novel but with less polish and plot. I could almost guess what was coming next which was a shame. Im hoping her next book will get things back on track.


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I hadn’t read any Anne Tyler before so combine this with it being one of the Hogarth Shakespeare re-tellings to celebrate Shakespeare 400 and I badly wanted to read it. I was kindly sent a copy by them and it made my day.

Now this is the book i’m least disappointed with really out of the 3 but it just feels so empty and flat. Its like the mad craze for fluffy egg white omelettes, no substance. I keep waiting for something to happen but it just idles along. Its very funny in places i’ll grant you that and a nice gentle read but its just not what i was expecting thats all.


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This book promised so much and when i was asked if i’d like to review it i jumped at the chance. I mean just look at that cover, front and back is gorgeous (seen here being modelled by my cat, Meg).

I just didnt gel with this, it was just another YA, love story, triangle, boy/girl heartbreak story. Nothing special happens that i can see and the ending was waving at me from about page 10.

Have you read any of these?

Am I being too hard on them?

Let me know what you think.

Book Blog Tour – The Museum of Heartbreak

Today on Book Magpie I am lucky enough to be the second stop on Meg Leder’s ‘The Museum of Heartbreak’ tour.

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and I have not one but two exciting things for you in this post!

Yes! am i spoiling you or what?

“the Museum of Heartbreak explores the giddy confusion, inevitable sadness and sheer joy of growing up and falling in love”

First up is an exclusive article written by Meg where she shares her memories of being young and in love. I’m sure we all have our own memories of those, good and bad.

and…..

secondly I have a giveaway! Yes indeedy, you could win a copy of The Museum of Heartbreak itself. Dont worry, i’ll just wait quietly while you scream, do a happy dance and run around the room…….

Right, all calm again? lets get this thing done.

Over to you Meg


Five Best Memories of Being Young and in Love (Or at Least Like)

I don’t know that I’ll ever have crushes like the ones I had when I was a growing up.

When I was younger, falling in love (or like!) was a desperate, full-time affair. I felt it fully, keenly, in every part of me, all the time. It was either the most wonderful thing in the world or the most painful, but it was always the most.

Now, I’m more cautious in letting myself fall. I don’t give my heart out so freely—I’ve found that mending the bruises and scars of falling in love gets harder and harder the older you get. But part of me misses that glorious feeling of letting go, of falling without worrying about being hurt, of feeling things so deeply.

Writing The Museum of Heartbreak was a way to revisit that feeling of letting go. In it, my main character Penelope opens her heart to a new crush, new friends, and eventually falling in love with someone she doesn’t quite expect. It’s terrifying and exciting—she’s at peak “the most” throughout the book.

In writing the novel, I had to tap into some of my earliest memories of crushing and falling in love… I think readers will find bits of these (or the feelings of “the most” they evoke) throughout the book.

  • Listening to “Somebody” by Depeche Mode. When I was in high school, this song was the ultimate yearning song for me. I remember spending hours laying on my bedroom floor, listening to it (on cassette tape) and dreaming of the day I’d meet somebody like the person the singer was describing.
  • The first time I asked a boy out. Sophomore year in high school, I had a huge crush on Joe*, a junior from the nearby all-boys high school. I decided I wanted to ask him to my sophomore dance, and I was so terrified to call him, I wrote out the entire conversation before I even picked up the phone. When I came downstairs sobbing an hour later, my mom was shocked to learn that it wasn’t because he’d said no to the dance, only that he wasn’t home.
  • The first time a boy sang to me and it was wonderful. For my senior year Christmas Ball, my date Michael* whisper-sang Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” to me when we were slow dancing. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I was in a movie, and that I felt actually beautiful.
  • The first time an unexpected guy said something super romantic to me. In college, I went on a Habitat for Humanity trip for spring break. On the trip, I met a gruff but tender-hearted boy with a deep Southern accent. On our last night there, in front of everyone, he declared, “Even though I just met you, I’d do anything for you, short of smokin’ someone.” I still need to find a way to work that line into a novel!
  • The first time I kissed a guy I was in love with. I didn’t fall in real, head-over-heels love for the first time until I was in my early 20s. The guy was Henry*–a brown-haired boy I would have moved the moon for. On an early date, he leaned over to kiss me, and I didn’t know he was making a move, and he got the side of my face instead! But then I found his lips, and it was magical and amazing, and I actually cried when I got home that night because I felt it all so deeply (full circle from sophomore year!).

* Names changed for the sake of time and not to further mortify my teenage self.


Wasn’t that great? and now for the giveaway. You could soon be reading Meg’s great new novel too.

Simply enter via the Rafflecopter below. The comp is open for 1 week ending at midnight on Tuesday 7th June.

Its open to everyone! worldwide! so get entering immediately!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Meg for writing the fab article above and I hope your book goes supersonic when its published!

Dont forget to visit the other stops on the tour. Tomorrow, its the wonderful Michelle at Tales of Yesterday

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

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Addie Moore and Louis Waters have been neighbours for years. Now they both live alone, their houses empty of family, their quiet nights solitary. Then one evening Addie pays Louis a visit.

Their brave adventures form the beating heart of Our Souls at Night, Kent Haruf’s exquisite final novel.


I did not know of Kent Haruf until I read about his passing recently. This made me check out some of his books and i ended up buying this, partly on so many recommendations and partly on it sounding such a lovely story.

What an incredibly moving story, and i’m sure a fitting tribute to Kent Haruf as this was his final novel written during his last months of life.

“This is a love story. About growing old with grace”

Addie and Louis are two elderly neighbours and acquaintances who begin seeing each other and discover that life can still be special in your later years.

Being the first of Kent’s books i have read I didnt know what to expect but I just adored his easy flowing style. There is not a word used that doesnt need to be and just enough to tell the story in a deceptively simple manner. I love the lack of speech marks and separate lines for dialogue. There simply isn’t any need for them, he writes it so clearly that you can easily follow who is speaking.

I felt very laid back and relaxed reading this lovely book and whilst i’m sorry that he will write no more his books are a fine legacy.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

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Thank go to Becky at Penguin Random House for this early copy, and as you can see from the top photo it came wrapped up in a sort of spoof newspaper featuring parts of the novel. Such a clever idea!  I tell you those publicity folk know their onions. They make getting a proof such an exciting thing for us.

You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall

This is the kind of book that i thrive on reading. A heart stopping, fast pacing, thrill of a ride.

It has to be adapted into a TV series if there is any justice in this world. Not a film, it would be wasted on that medium. It has so many cliff hangers and red herrings that it would suit a multi part TV series leaving viewers on the edge of their seats each week.

Its got more twists and turns than Chubby Checker and i adored it.

Anne & Marco go next door to their friends house for a dinner party leaving their 6 month old baby at home because their babysitter cancelled last minute. They take a baby monitor with them and check on her every half an hour but somehow when they get home the baby has gone!  How damn thrilling is that opening?

What would you be capable of when pushed past your limit?

It was hard finding anything to like about most of the characters, my feelings towards them changed with almost every chapter and although i don’t normally like third person narrative it was used to great effect in this book. I read it in two days flat, the last 100 pages or so disappearing in one sitting, which is some record for me.

Just when I thought I knew where things were heading it would put another spin on the plot and confuse me once again. I’m still not sure how i felt about the actual ending and can’t wait to chat to others about it once its published, spoiler free of course. This book has a guaranteed Top 5 place in my books of 2016 and I cant wait to read more from Shari Lapena in the future.

Its out in July and all I can say is pre-order your copy now!

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