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25th March 2018 GemBookEater
Miles Away from You by A.B. Rutledge

IMG_2673Three years ago Miles fell for Vivian, a talented and dazzling transgender girl. Eighteen months ago she tried to commit suicide, the attempt left Vivian on life support. Now Miles isn't sure who he is without her, but his mother's think it’s time for him to figure out how to say goodbye. They book him a solo trip to Iceland. At first he has a hard time leaving the refuge of his hotel room, but after a push from Oskar, the hotel concierge who is strangely alluring, Miles decides to honor Vivian's life by photographing her treasured Doc Martens standing empty against the surreal landscapes. He travels Iceland, meeting people and trying to learn to love again and accept that Vivian, still in a coma and in the charge of her unaccepting parents, will never recover. Miles' story is told through a series of instant messages to Vivian, some hopeful, some heartbroken, some grateful, some angry, some drunk. In another writers hands this premise could of been gimmicky, and the that would have been awful. There's been a upsurge in LGBT literature over the last few years but less that looks at the specific issues that trans people face, and even less that treat trans people as people first and trans second. This book does that, Miles loves Vivian. He loves her mind, her spirit and her body through all her dysmorphia. The book also looks at Miles' own confusion about his sexuality. Again it deals with it sensitively but also with no holds barred. Writing letters that will never be seen allows a person to be utterly honest and the author takes full advantage of that. Thoroughly recommended. 5 Bites NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.

18th March 2018 GemBookEater
Folk by Zoe Gilbert

IMG_2671On a remote and unforgiving island lies a village unlike any other: Neverness, Folk is a collection of tales  circling the lives of one generation, those coming of age.  Every year they gather, while the girls shoot their arrows and the boys hunt them out. In other tales a girl is snatched by a water bull and dragged to his lair, a babe is born with a wing for an arm and children ask their fortunes of an oracle ox. While the villagers live out their own tales, enchantment always lurks, blighting and blessing in equal measure. Judging from the blurb this was so far up my street it's practically my house!I was champing at the bit to read it! But then I put it down halfway through and just couldn't talk myself into picking it up again. Gilbert builds a sinister atmosphere better than most, every tale I read was dark and dank with a primitive sinuousness. However, the characters were too primitive, each seemed to be out only for themselves - believable, as they were teens, but tedious to read. Characters that care only for themselves are difficult to care for. Gilbert's skills as a writer means I will look at whatever she produces next, but I'm not so sure I would jump up and snatch it so quickly. 3 Bites NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.

17th March 2018 GemBookEater
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

IMG_2690"One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid." The blurb of this book really doesn't give much away... so let me correct that for you (without spoilers of course!) When widowed merchant Jonah Hancock takes possession of a mermaid he suddenly finds himself thrust into the world of high society pleasure seekers. He becomes obsessed with an innocent looking girl at the famous Mrs Chappell's house, but Angelica is in love with another and won't even look at him unless he finds her a mermaid too. We follow Angelica and Jonah through their highs and lows as they get closer and drift apart again as they discover the true meaning of love, forget it and try to remember it again, whilst trying to find a permanent place within the privilege and pomp of London society. I waited an age to read this book and then I almost gave up halfway through. For me, believable characters are key and there was something not hanging together for me in Angelica's character - I couldn't quite believe her. But I decided to give it another 30 pages and suddenly there was a piece of information that made Angelica click with me. Then her character began to grow and the twist began which made for absorbing reading. I'm glad I persevered, the second half of the book was masterful, but if Angelica's character had been revealed a little earlier I would have loved the whole thing. 3.5 Bites   NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

11th March 2018 GemBookEater
Holy Rascals Advice for Spiritual Revolutionaries by Rami Shapiro

IMG_2633 This is a book for those that believe in a higher power but are somewhat disillusioned by religion. As the blurb says 'God is real. Everything we say about God is made up. Holy Rascals is a rousing call to anyone ready to go beyond “isms” and ideologies, and live in the world as a liberating force of justice, compassion, and joy.' Inside it reminds us that twenty-five hundred years ago Diogenes exclaimed, “I am not an Athenian or a Greek but a citizen of the world.” Today many of us are struggling to make those words our own. "We have come to the point in history when anyone who is only Japanese or American, only Oriental or Occidental, is only half human. The other half that beats with the pulse of all humanity has yet to be born." HUSTON SMITH, The World’s Religions. But for you to really get the feel of this book and whether you are or want to be a 'Holy Rascal', the best way is to quote from it directly. “Holy rascals are spiritual culture jammers who use humor, play, creativity, and critical thinking to reveal the human origins of religions— and how religions mask their true origins behind the conceit of divine origins,” The book is in three parts, part one is about the making of a holy rascal and the great task of “freeing religion from the parochial and for the perennial.” Part two explores the art of “hacking the holy,” or pulling back the curtain on religion’s fear-based mechanisms of control. Part three presents some of the provocative tools and one-of-a-kind practices of the holy rascal, with guidance for creating your very own “rascally” ways." To be honest I found it a bit repetitive, but I loved the way it presented erudite and profound ideas with childlike joy and enthusiasm - it made it very accessible. If you are religious - read this. if you're not religious - read this! Throughout there is no pressure or suggestion that anyone should change their religion (or lack of) only that we should live it in love, compassion and joy. 4 Bites   NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.

10th March 2018 GemBookEater
The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch

IMG_2677In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. The charismatic Jean De Men has led the survivors to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. But the survivors are not unchanged, evolution has been turned on its head: the survivors have become sexless, hairless, pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin. Jean de Men is not just charismatic though, he is crazy. He turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule - galvanised by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her. This is a hypnotic book whose characters live on the edge of desperation and are all the stronger for it. It encompasses great themes, what it means to be human, whether humanity can recreate the planet it is so busy destroying, the fluidity of sex and gender and how love is tied by neither, and the role of art. This has been a hotly anticipated book, and now I've read it I think it will be I a hotly anticipated film. It is wonderful, not just for the fantastic images and epic struggles within, but for the love between Christine and Trincula (who instantly became one of my favourite characters ever written) and the love between Joan and Leone. Five Bites NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.

25th January 2018 GemBookEater
Chocky by John Wyndham

161849I had a deep love for the TV series of this book when it screened in the 80's. I've always remembered it, though with that feeling that it might not live up to being revisited the way many things from our childhoods don't. But reading the book would be alright wouldn't it? Books are always better after all! This is all about Matthew, a normal 11-year-old boy living with his parents and little sister in Surrey in that golden age when the space race was powering up. Matthew is too old for an imaginary friend. Yet when his parents keep finding him talking and arguing with a strange presence whom Matthew calls Chocky, that's what they believe it must be…at first. But Chocky is oddly sinister, and keeps asking Matthew all sorts of complicated questions about the world and making him behave in unusual and erratic ways. Then Matthew suddenly does something heroic, well beyond his capabilities; the media become interested and the interest in Matthew widens. His parents refer him to a psychologist. Who is Chocky? And what could he or she want with their son? Well I don't know if the book is better than the series, a little part of me will always love my memories  of it. But Wyndham is a great writer. I loved the book. Chocky is a fascinating character and this story had many surreptitious feminist principles which, when this was published 50 years ago this year, were far from widely held. The thought of so many young boys reading this and absorbing the belief that women could be equal to men and that gender is a social construct is a joyous thing. Apparently Spielberg bought the rights to this ten years ago - I hope he goes ahead with directing it. It's more relevant than ever and I trust him with my memories. 5 Bites


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