“Monsters” by Sharon Dogar

 

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Thanks to Penguin Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review. 

This novel follows the early life of Mary Godwin (Mary Shelley to be) and Percy Bysshe Shelley as well as some of their more well-known family members and friends such as Claire Clairmont and Lord Byron. This book is based on the lives of real historical figures who have been dead for nearly 200 years and many of the events of their fascinating lives are relatively well known, particularly as there has recently been a Mary Shelley movie starring Elle Fanning. With that in mind there may be some light spoilers in this review.  

Continue reading ““Monsters” by Sharon Dogar”

“The Enchanted Sonata” by Heather Dixon Wallwork

Thanks to Amazon and Netgalley for the review copy. I received this in exchange for an honest review.

This novel is an adaptation of the Nutcracker story. I’ve never even seen the Nutcracker ballet so prior to reading this book my knowledge of Nutcrackers extended to the little wooden guys you hang on the Christmas tree and something about a Sugar Plum Fairy.

Continue reading ““The Enchanted Sonata” by Heather Dixon Wallwork”

“Winter Loon” by Susan Bernhard

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Thanks to Little A and NetGalley for the review copy.

I admit it…I requested this book because it has a bird on the cover. Not just any bird, but a Great Northern Diver as they are known in Scotland or, a Common Loon as they are called in North America. This bird is anything but common in my neck of the woods however. In Northern Scotland where I grew up, they are a relatively rare visitor. I am, and always have been, a massive bird nerd and seeing one of these was always a dream of mine. One day when I was still in Primary School, (aged about ten or eleven) I was walking home from school in the small village we lived in at the time. There was a shortcut down behind a row of small council houses and there, in front of me was an injured Great Northern Diver. It really was a magical moment and one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. The bird was so beautiful with its glossy black feathers, dagger like beak and striking red eye. Although it was decidedly unhappy to be corralled by a young girl, I managed to keep it safe until the SSPCA officer arrived.

But I digress!  Continue reading ““Winter Loon” by Susan Bernhard”

“My Name is Monster” by Katie Hale

Thanks to Canongate and Netgalley for the Advance Review Copy.

“I think it takes a monster to survive when nobody else can”

This novel is about Monster who becomes Mother when she finds another Monster. Got that? Well buckle in for a wild ride.

The novel is largely set in a post apocalyptic Britain. War and Sickness have killed everyone on earth (as far as we know) and a woman called Monster is the last person left alive. She ekes out an existence at an old farmhouse through scavenging and growing vegetables. On one of her scavenging trips to the ‘City’ she comes across a young girl who she names ‘Monster’ and she then becomes ‘Mother’. Continue reading ““My Name is Monster” by Katie Hale”

“Minutes of Glory” by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

Thanks to The New Press and NetGalley for the advance review copy.

This is a series of well-written short stories, all by the same author. The stories are written from the perspectives of a wide range of different Kenyans ranging from beer hall waitresses to white colonialists. Some of the themes covered include the tensions between traditional beliefs and Christianity, Colonialism, the lives of women and the Mau Mau uprising.

There’s a lot to unpack in this collection. The stories have an otherworldly, folklore-esque atmosphere and I particularly enjoyed The Black Bird and Minutes of Glory as I felt they were the most evocative. The stories provide a glimpse into the culture of Kenya and the lives of the people who live there. I always find it quite tricky to review short story compilations because the quality can vary so much but the stories in this collection are of a consistently high quality throughout.

This book is a very solid, well-written and cohesive collection and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys short stories or reading African literature.

“Ayesha at Last” by Uzma Jalaluddin

Thanks to Atlantic Books and Netgalley for the Advance Review Copy.

This novel is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in a Muslim Community in Toronto. Although Pride and Prejudice is clearly the main influence, I also saw elements of Emma and Sense and Sensibility too which was fun. The story follows Ayesha and Khalid as stand ins for Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy. Both Ayesha and Khalid’s viewpoints are followed which made things a bit more interesting than just reading from one character’s perspective.

It’s a really sweet story and there are enough differences from Pride and Prejudice to keep it feeling fresh. The cultural elements like food, religion and clothing woven into the story really help to help the reader envisage their world. Both the main characters are likeable and the supporting characters are varied and three dimensional and don’t fit into the older generation vs younger generation character dynamics that are often a feature of similar stories.

The antagonists are a little over the top and hammy, particularly Khalid’s boss. It was a stretch to imagine a supposedly intelligent career woman behaving in this way. It was a bit too pantomime villain for me. The ending was also a tad cheesy but overall a very enjoyable read that met my expectations and achieved what it set out to do.

“Things in Jars” by Jess Kidd

Thanks to Canongate and Netgalley for the Advance Review Copy.

What to say about this book? How does one describe perfection?

“The child looks up. For the first time she can see the stars!

She smiles at them, and the stars look back at her and shiver.

Then they begin to burn brighter, with renewed fever, in the deep dark ocean of the sky.”

This appears in the first few pages. You know when you read writing like this that you are in for a real treat. Continue reading ““Things in Jars” by Jess Kidd”

“Lost Children Archive” by Valeria Luiselli

Thanks to Harper Collins UK and Netgalley for the Advance Review Copy.

I tried with this book, I really did. The premise was interesting and there is some good buzz around it.

This novel follows a family on a road trip from New York City to Arizona. The mother and father document sounds…? The sounds of life and the city? Or something. To be honest I was pretty much lost and confused from this point onwards. The narrative is intersected with migrant children’s experiences and attitudes towards indigenous people. Continue reading ““Lost Children Archive” by Valeria Luiselli”

“Descendant of the Crane” by Joan He

Thanks to Albert Whitman & Company and Netgalley for the Advance Review Copy.

There are some very light spoilers in my review.

A bit of a mixed bag this one. Some really good aspects and some things I didn’t enjoy so much.

The book is set in a Chinese inspired fantasy kingdom. I usually really enjoy novels set in China or inspired by China and the author did a great job of incorporating cultural features into the narrative and this really helped bring the world to life.

Continue reading ““Descendant of the Crane” by Joan He”

“Mastering Adulthood” by Lara E. Fielding

Thanks to New Harbinger and Netgalley for the Advance Review Copy.

The title of this intrigued me enough to request it. I work a lot with young people on the cusp of adulthood so thought this might be a useful resource for them. I think this book is more aimed at older people however, perhaps those in their mid twenties.

The book is written in simple, identifiable language and contains easily accessible exercises and explanations of the topics written about in each chapter. There are reflective exercises throughout the book and an element of interactivity with QR code links to videos.

The author is clearly very experienced and the topics discussed are relevant to young people today including subjects such as self awareness, relationship dynamics, anxiety and social media, I particularly liked the Castle vs Village metaphor. There are also some cute illustrations used to enhance the content.

All that said, I couldn’t really take to this book. It’s written in a perky style and I could almost imagine a California yoga loving, life guru type shouting in my ear as I read it. There is also a criminal overuse of exclamation marks and some of the language was grating e.g. using the word ‘peeps’ instead of people. I personally prefer a more dispassionate writing style in these kinds of books.

The book is also supposed to be about mastering adulthood but I found some of the advice quite patronising and childish at times. Some of the reflective exercises were quite good but there were just too many of them to really be able to develop something meaningful from them.

The peppy style will appeal to some readers I’m sure but it was just not my bag.