Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Perfect Book

There is something so deliciously satisfying about reading your way through a big, thick book, and enjoying every second of it. It's sort of like pigging out on chocolate, but with no stomachache afterwards. Iain Pears' Arcadia is one such book. I got so engrossed in the story that on a few occasions I lost a sense of time while reading. Because it is so big and heavy I generally only read it at home, but I made sure I carved out as much time as possible to read it. There are several story lines that one gradually begins to realise may or may not be connected to one another. Trying to work out how is part of the fun. The bottom line is: it is a fantastic yarn.

Despite the length and the multi-threaded narrative, it wasn't an especially dense or difficult book. It was huge amounts of fun, and I could see myself in my former bookseller life trying to sell it to pretty much every single person who walked into the shop looking for advice on what to read. Like sci fi and speculative fiction? Read Arcadia! After a beach read? Try Arcadia! Don't want anything too schmultzy? Arcadia, Arcadia, Arcadia!!!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Lying Empty

Since Baby Girlbooker arrived on the scene, I have been reading much more slowly than I used to.  For those of you out there who do not have children and cannot imagine why the hell everything takes your child-ed friends so much longer to do, just imagine yourself being forced to look after a tiny drunk person. A tiny drunk person who is so blotto that you need to support them to walk, ask them to repeat everything six times because their slurring is so bad, and help clean up the inevitable vomit and other unmentionable acts.

I'm sure you've all been in this situation before at one time or another, but you probably weren't trying to get dressed or cook dinner at the same time... anyway, I seem to have inadvertently turned this into a waffling, directionless parenting blog. The point is this: I read The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty (due for publication in September 2015) very quickly. And I enjoyed it.

I don't think I have read a book written in second person narrative since my last Choose Your Own Adventure some time in the early nineties. It really ratcheted up the tension and sense of immediacy, and worked surprisingly well. I would have finished the book even sooner but I needed a break from it one night because everything was all feeling too dramatic and intense. Parts of it made me too sad to cry, but mostly I was just dead curious the whole way through to find out what was on the next page. And the next, and the next. It was great, but I think I need to read something where people drink herbal tea and honey next.

Friday, July 10, 2015


Since I was about a quarter of the way through A Fortunate Age (Joanne Rakoff), I started thinking about how much I wanted to blog about it. Not that I have anything terribly clever to say about it, just that it was a brilliant, fun, engrossing read. I am not a person who prioritises chores over fun, but this week the apartment is a few shades messier than usual. I just had to take every spare moment possible to read. I had to! It was compelling in the way your new iPhone was when you first got the Angry Birds ap. (Come on, admit it; we’ve all been there).

Ok, so why all the gushing? Well the book is set in New York, and the author clearly loves New York. She totally makes you want to go there because you think your whole life would be strolling through brownstone-lined streets in the sun, talking about poetry and philosophy, before ducking into a small bar for snacks and a cocktail and talking earnestly about music, love and fashion.

As well as the fabulous background, so beautifully painted, are the compelling characters. Somehow, I want to be them (or at the very least be friends with them), even when their lives are somewhere between muddle and disaster on the togetherness scale. Their apartments are smaller, jobs crappier and relationships more halting than anyone would ideally like, but somehow this just makes them seem... I dunno... tragically romantic? Or something. Anyway, Hooray and huzzah for A Fortunate Age. I love, love, loved it.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Secret Lives of 101 Thieves

There are a few phrases that get a little overused in the book title area; I've used 3 of them in the title to this post, but the book I've just finished reading, The Porcelain Thief, only uses one. Not that I'm complaining; it was a really enjoyable read. I love a book that's part memoir, part travel adventure, part learning-about-something-new, and part delving-into-history.

The book is about an American born Chinese man's search for the china that his great-great-grandfather reputedly buried to keep safe from the invading Japanese army in the 1930s. It was packed with information but it never felt too dense or difficult, and it was easy to pick up mid-thread after putting down for a bit. I loved learning about China and also about china. And it made me want to go adventuring.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fave Rave

I have about 3 or 4 favourite, living authors. Authors whose books I find so astoundingly wonderful that every 6 months or so, I do a search online to see if one of them has a new book coming out. One of those authors is Patricia Duncker. I think she's ace. And it turns out that she's just written another book!

Like all her work, this book has a great storyline, very believable characters, flowing sentences and big ideas stuffed into little crevices of the narrative. And when I come to think of it, that's really the hallmark of nearly every writer that I greatly admire. I loved it, of course, although I think I did slightly prefer her previous book (The Strange Case of the Composer and the Judge). Nevertheless, I am willing to give Sophie and the Sibyl a rating of 'Many Stars' out of 'A Few More Stars'.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


I finished Animals (Emma Jane Unsworth) a good three months ago, and have been struggling, on and off, to write about it. I spent a long time tortuously trying to tell what is a hilarious story when recounted by a friend of mine, and trying to make the story mean something in relation to the book. It doesn’t. Well, except for the punchline, which is someone yelling “YOU PEOPLE ARE ANIMAAAAALLLLS!!!”. 

The book is gloriously frenetic and absorbing in that “I feel faintly unclean while reading this but I simply cannot stop” kind of way. I would recommend his book to anyone who has ever had a glass (or ten) of alcohol, and anyone who has ever had any kind of: disappointing job, awkward relationship, unhealthy friendship, hangover, or pet cat. You will LOVE it!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Literary Witchcraft

I have blogged before about how I like to read books that are well written yet easy to read, and how sparsely they seems to come along. Generally, when they do arrive, it is in the form of something that has beautifully crafted sentences you almost don’t notice, because they have been conveniently packaged into an easily digestible, conventional genre format of sort or other. 

Nobody is Ever Missing (Catherine Lacey) was astoundingly well written, and super easy to read but it was unique. It is made up of a number of things that should not work at all, so I am left a little puzzled trying to figure out how Lacey has managed to pull it off. In form and style it is highbrow, literary fiction, some of the sentences last for three quarters of a page, it’s written in first person (which can be the death knell for readability, especially for a debut novel), and it’s about madness, sadness, suicide and grief.  Despite all of this I found it fresh, breezy, engaging and easy to read, even on the train and during lunch breaks, when heavy fiction is usually a no-go zone.

It’s impossible to explain this conjurer’s trick, but how fantastic that I was lucky enough to read it.  I became obsessed with finding the little gem-like turns of phrase that peppered the book like Easter eggs scattered about in a garden. I felt compelled to keep reading and follow the journey of the protagonist. I never decided whether or not I liked her but I felt enormous sympathy for her, and I was fascinated by her. I was captivated. I have found myself a new favourite author.