Archives for book review

The Baking Bookworm reviews ‘Ignoring Gravity’

“This book deals with a lot of issues: adoption, family bonds, infertility but I wouldn’t say it was an overly heavy or complex read either.  I could see it being an enjoyable, easy weekend read,” says book reviewer Laurie at The Baking Bookworm [below]. Read Laurie’s review in full by clicking here.   To read what other readers are saying about Ignoring Gravity, click here. Want to know more about Ignoring Gravity? Watch the book trailer. ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: IGNORING GRAVITY #bookreview by @bakingbookworm http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1C7 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

If you can, read this book by Karen Joy Fowler without reading any reviews or comments beforehand. There is a mammoth twist, which is best avoided. I am one of the lucky few who didn’t read a spoiler before I started reading, I knew only that it was about sibling love. But even so, I did spot the surprise way before it happened, and consequently then read on waiting for the ‘twist’ promised on the cover. Which left me a little deflated. I don’t know why, I expected the twist to be near the end. This is a very clever story, packed with philosophy, contemporary references such as Star Wars to Korean vocabulary. Rose is a student, looking back at her childhood and the disappearances, at different times, of her sister Fern and her brother Lowell. The story darts around the timeline and Rose tells different versions of her life story as she comes to terms with her life so far. Mostly this method of storytelling worked for me, but on a few occasions I admit to losing patience with Rose who I found an irritating unreliable narrator. I kept reading because the story is unusual, but my incredulity was
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Light Years

If you haven’t read this book [it is the first in a series of five], you are in for a treat. Elizabeth Jane Howard died last year at the age of 90 and this prompted me to buy ‘The Cazalet Chronicles’. I recently read them on holiday, back-to-back and know I will re-read them many more times. This is a great family saga, a glimpse of upstairs and downstairs as World War Two threatens the Cazalet family. Over the course of these five books we see the changing social geography of England through the prism of this family, the changing lives of the women and servants, wartime privations, the threat to the family timber business as they face up to the reality of fear. Oh how I gobbled up these novels. This, the first, introduces us to the family: the patriarch William and his wife The Duchy, their three sons – Hugh, Edward and Rupert, and their wives – and daughter Rachel. As a new war threatens, the hidden wounds of the Great War have not healed and there is no appetite for another. The family gathers at the Sussex house, Home Place, which is the hub of the action.
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Categories: Book Love.

How Paula Hawkins writes

Paula Hawkins “The set-up is often the fun part. You can set up all these scenarios and all these red herrings, but drawing all those strands into a believable conclusion is actually incredibly difficult to do in a way that isn’t hackneyed… It’s a really hard thing to make that final fifth a convincing ending.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, October 31, 2014] The Girl on the Train is a fantastic thriller, but I think there is a misconception that only the writers of thrillers worry about laying clues and red herrings. All novels need storylines which tease the reader to keep reading, to turn the page, to read one chapter more before turning the light out. Laying clues about characters, their past, their secrets, their betrayals, hopes and dreams, can be as complicated as plotting a thriller. Perhaps the clues are not as dramatic as in a thriller, but still there needs to be a trail of breadcrumbs for the reader to follow. Read my review of The Girl on the Train. For more about the film of the book, and Paula Hawkins’ second thriller, click here. See how these other novelists write:- Hanya Yanagihara Anne Tyler
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: An Uncertain Place

If you ever hear anyone say ‘plog’, then you know they have read this crime novel. Totally different to any other crime novel I have read, this is my first Fred Vargas and will not be my last. It is the tale of fear, passed on from one generation to the next. Inevitably the tale is embroidered a little along the way, misinterpreted, but still half-believed. Believed enough to act on it, to prevent the fabled terror from continuing. The trail starts in London: shoes are found outside Highgate Cemetery, with the feel still inside them. Next, two gruesome murders. Many unrelated strands come together and finally the pieces fall into place in a tiny wooded village in Serbia. This is my first Commissaire Adamsberg book. I love discovering a new author, knowing there are many books just waiting to be read. Fred Vargas has created a quirky policeman – I particularly liked Adamsberg’s relationship with his one-armed Spanish neighbour Lucio. Plog. To read an interview in The Daily Telegraph with the intriguing Fred Vargas, click here. If you like ‘An Uncertain Place’ try reading these other authors in translation:- ‘Snow White Must Die’ by Nele Neuhaus ‘Doppler’ by Erlend
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Amnesia

I am sorry to say I was hugely disappointed by this book, and I’ve never felt let down by a Peter Carey book before. At first I thought it was my fault – I started reading it when I had the flu so perhaps I wasn’t concentrating, not following the plot – as I read on my flu disappeared but the Amnesia problems continued. Now, a couple of days after finishing it, I can re-arrange the story in my mind. Washed-out journalist Felix Moore is commissioned to write the biography of Gaby Baillieux, accused of cybercrime: releasing a virus into Australia’s prison system which also affected the US prison system.  Felix is kidnapped – this is where I started to get confused – and abandoned in a swamp with a typewriter, catering size packs of red wine, and boxes of cassettes and diaries from Gaby and from her mother Celine. Celine and Felix knew each other as youths. The guy funding the biography is Woody Townes, who has bailed Felix out of trouble in the past. Woody’s motivation was unclear. You can tell I’m still confused, can’t you? I was drawn to this book by the promise of Gaby’s cybercrime
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Mobile Library

Stuffed with book and movie references – from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to The Terminator – if Mobile Library by David Whitehouse was a film it would be described as a ‘road movie’. Really, it’s a book about running away to find yourself. Chapter One, titled ‘The End’ is reminiscent of Thelma and Louise and The Italian Job. A mobile library van stands at the edge of cliffs, surrounded by police. Inside are Bobby, Rosa and Val. We don’t know who they are or why they are there: such an incentive to keep reading. Twelve year-old Bobby lives with his father and his father’s girlfriend Cindy, a mobile hairdresser who paints a look of suspicion onto her face every morning with her foundation. Bobby misses his mother and saves anything of hers he can find: hairs from her hairbrush, scraps of paper. When his schoolfriend, Sunny, offers to protect Bobby from the bullies by turning into a cyborg like The Terminator, neither of them realize what that really entails. Bones are broken, blood is spilled, until Phase Three when Sunny ends up in hospital and disappears. Bobby, alone, passes the time by peeling wallpaper off his bedroom walls.
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Categories: Book Love.

Captivating ‘Ignoring Gravity’ makes another ‘best of’ list

Ignoring Gravity has been chosen as one of the 10 ‘Favourite Books of 2014’ by book blog Dreaming with Open Eyes. Described as “well written, emotional and very captivating,” DWOE’s reviewer Isabell Homfeld read 84 books in 2014 so I am so thrilled that IG made her list. Click here to read DWOE’s top 10 books of 2014. Read what other readers are saying about Ignoring Gravity.   ‘Ignoring Gravity’ by Sandra Danby [UK: Beulah Press] Buy now And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: IGNORING GRAVITY nominated by @DWOE_REVIEWS http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1sI via @SandraDanby #books
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Categories: Book Love and My Novel: 'Ignoring Gravity'.

Book review: Holes

This book by Louis Sachar has been sitting on my shelf forever but I picked it up this week when I exhausted my Kindle’s battery. How lovely to hold an actual book again. I know this is a book for tweens, but I’d heard such good things about it that I wanted to see for myself. I loved the premise: that Stanley is wrongly found guilty of stealing a pair of trainers and is sent to a juvenile correction camp where the punishment is to dig a hole a day. Five feet deep and five feet wide. Every day. It is supposed to be character-building, but Stanley thinks there is another agenda. “There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. There once was a very large lake here, the largest lake in Texas. That was over a hundred years ago. Now it is just a dry, flat wasteland.” It is a story about finding out who you are, standing up to bullies and finding your bravery. “Out on the lake, rattlesnakes and scorpions find shade under rocks and in the holes dug by the campers.” Woven in with the day-to-day tale of hole-digging is the background to Stanley’s unlucky family;
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Categories: Book Love.

Book Review: The Lost Girl

I admit to never having heard of this book by Sangu Mandanna until seeing it mentioned in ‘favourite read’ lists on a few blogs. I ordered it purely on that basis and had no idea it was a YA novel. It is a romantic story of love and loss, grief and identity, set in the UK and India, with sinister echoes of Frankenstein. Eva is an ‘echo’, a non-human ‘woven’ by a mysterious organization called The Loom which makes copies of real people for their family in case the loved one should die. The idea is that the ‘echo’ slips into the dead person’s shoes so minimising the family’s loss. Of course it is not that simple. Mandanna handles a difficult subject well, not avoiding the awkward moral issues which litter the dystopian story premise. The world is disturbingly almost normal, littered with everyday familiar references. Eva, who lives in the Lake District, is the echo for Amarra from Bangalore. I found it quite an emotional read, not just Eva’s situation but her guardians, her familiars, and Amarra’s friends in India. What seems a simple premise at the beginning, done with the best intentions, becomes increasingly dark as the story develops
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Categories: Book Love.

Book Review: The Quarry

I started reading this book with my emotions running high, knowing Iain Banks had completed it so near to death. But I determined to be fair, not to like it just because he died. But I did like it. A lot. The story is full of imagery: the quarry, the actual hole in the ground is the unknown faced by the two key characters: Guy, who is facing death; and his son Kit, who faces life without his father. Both stand on the edge of emptiness. Kit is the key narrator. Described as ‘a bit odd’ and ‘socially disabled’, I liked him straight away. As often with a young narrator, the author puts words of wisdom into the words of an innocent. Perhaps Kit has more self-awareness than his elders. He is certainly an innocent who is learning quickly. The action takes place over one weekend, the limited timespan and setting in the house and edge of quarry give it the feeling of a stage play at times. A group of friends gathers at Guy’s house, to spend time with him as he dies. But there is always a feeling that the adults want something from Kit, that no-one is being
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Categories: Book Love.

More new books coming soon…

Deaf but hearing Granta has signed debut novelist Louise Stern. Kinil, to be published in 2015, tells the story of three siblings Ismael, Rosie and Ceistina who live in a Mayan village in Mexico where the deaf and hearing communicate by sign language.This is Stern’s debut novel, after her acclaimed short story collection Chattering. Stern, who is deaf and grew up a in a non-hearing community in California, writes about arresting characters who just happen to be deaf. Fifth writer signed from Curtis Brown course Antonia Honeywell’s debut novel The Ship has been bought by Weidenfeld & Nicolson from Curtis Brown, Honeywell [below] is the fifth student from Curtis Brown Creative’s novel-writing course to sign a publishing deal. The Ship is the story of a dystopian world where a wealthy man buys a huge ship to transport a handpicked group of 500, including his daughter Lalla, to a safe destination. But as the journey progresses, Lalla challenges her tyrannical father. To be published in February 2015.  Other successful CB students to sign deals are SD Sykes’s Plague Land, Jake Woodhouse’s After the Silence, Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist, and Tim Glencross’s social satire Barbarians. Sculptor publishes first novel Our Endless Numbered
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Categories: Book Love.

Book Review: The Little House

Ruth’s story starts with Sunday lunch at the in-laws and builds slowly, pulling you in relentlessly until you can’t put the book down. It is deceptive in its simplicity, at various points in the story I found myself thinking ‘but they couldn’t do that’ or ‘that would never happen.’ But it does and you believe it. The denouement is startling. This is very different from the historical novels by Philippa Gregory but shares the same aspects of a pageturner: you simply want to know what happens next. Read my review of The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory. ‘The Little House’ by Philippa Gregory [UK: Harper]   If you like ‘The Little House’, try:- ‘The Past’ by Tessa Hadley ‘Lord John and the Private Matter’ by Diana Gabaldon ‘The Knife with the Ivory Handle’ by Cynthia Bruchman And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE LITTLE HOUSE by @PhilippaGBooks #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-oN
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Categories: Book Love.

New books coming soon….

Three new novels from fantasy writer Joe Abercrombie. The first, Half a King, will be published by Harper Collins next year and is a coming-of-age tale aimed at young readers. It is the story of Yarvi, youngest son of a warlike king, and is set in an alternative historical world akin to the Dark Ages. Yarvi, born with a crippled hand, cannot live up to his father’s expectations. The three new novels are standalone stories, but are inter-connected and aimed at 12-16 year olds.   The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings will be published in June 2014 by Cutting Edge Press. Her debut novel, Sworn Secret, published by Canvas, has high ratings on Goodreads as a difficult and emotional read leaving some readers in tears. Faber will publish Hanif Kureishi’s new novel in February 2014. The Last Word tells the story of Mamoon, an Indian writer in his seventies, based in England, who faces falling book sales and a wife with expensive tastes. Harry, a young biographer, commissioned to write a book which will revitalise Mamoon’s sales, prompting a struggle to tell the truth. Later this year a film will be released, written by Kureishi, called Le Weekend and starring
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Categories: Book Love.

New books coming out this autumn

William Boyd’s ‘Solo’. James Bond is 45 and in Africa. Stephen King’s ‘Doctor Sleep’. Danny Torrance from ‘The Shining’ is now middle-aged. ‘The Story’ is a compilation of 100 short stories, written by women, and edited by Victoria Hislop. A ‘whydunnit’ from Mark Lawson, ‘The Deaths’ combines social commentary and crime. Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Lowland’ is about two brothers growing up in Calcutta.
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Life after Life

It’s a while since I read a book I didn’t want to put down, a book that made me continue reading in bed gone midnight. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is that book. Kate Atkinson manages the macro settings and the micro details with ease, from the petty sibling squabbles at Fox Corner to the camaraderie of the ARP wardens in the Blitz. Before I started reading ‘Life after Life’ I read the phrase ‘Groundhog Day’ a few times in reviews, which belittles the intricate weaving of Ursula Todd’s lives. In the way that Logan Mountstuart’s life runs parallel to the great historical moments of the last century, Ursula’s life stories are book-ended by the approach and aftermath of the First and Second World Wars. Ursula, little bear, is an engaging character we see born and die, again and again through her own personal déjà vu.  I wasn’t sure how this was going to work but once I stopped worrying about it and surrendered myself to Ursula, I was transfixed. This is another work of art, as mesmerising as her first Behind the Scenes at the Museum. It is such an ambitious novel, that I can only guess at
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Categories: Book Love.

If books were real, Jackson Brodie…

Jackson Brodie …would drink Taylor’s Yorkshire Gold tea with full-fat milk and two sugars.   ‘Case Histories’ by Kate Atkinson [UK: Black Swan] How would other fictional characters behave, if they were real? Mattie Ross in ‘True Grit’ Sarah Burton in ‘South Riding’ Mikael Blomkvist in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo’ And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: If #books were real, Jackson Brodie would drink tea with sugar: CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-aJ
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Categories: Book Love and If books were real....

A book I love… Any Human Heart

I go back a long way with William Boyd to A Good Man in Africa and An Ice-Cream War. He is a consummate storyteller. But it was Brazzaville Beach that shocked me and made me a fan. I came late to Any Human Heart, I don’t know why. Logan Mountstuart is a fragile everyman who lives through a momentous century who gets involved in history but in off-key ways. I was locked into the story from the beginning with the three boys at school and their challenges to each other: a nifty device of differentiating the three characters. See my review of Sweet Caress. ‘Any Human Heart’ by William Boyd [UK: Penguin] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: ANY HUMAN HEART by William Boyd #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-gf via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.