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20th January 2018 GemBookEater
The Girl in The Tower by Katherine Arden

cover119981-mediumLast year BookEater Tam raved over Katherine Arden's debut (and this books' prequel) The Bear and the Nightingale. I added it to my 'to be read' pile straight away but I saved reading it until I knew that this book was within my grasp! As soon as I had my preview copy on my kindle I dug in. BookEater Tam's review was right on the money and I loved the first book. This second novel moves to Moscow, where Vasya’s older sister lives the life of a princess, gilded and luxurious but constrained by the walls of a tower which no maiden or woman of high birth must leave. Vasya’s brother, the monk known as Aleksandre Lightbringer is also there - a favourite at the court of the Grand Prince. Moscow is plagued by power struggles and  bandits roam the countryside, burning the villages and kidnapping its daughters. The Prince, Aleksandre and a retinue of trusted companions set out to destroy the bandits but on route they meet a young man riding a magnificent horse who has rescued three of the stolen girls. But this is no boy, it is Vasya. Her brother must protect her identity until he can get her to safety. But when Vasya proves herself in battle, riding with remarkable skill and inexplicable power, he realises he must keep her secret as she may be the only way to save the city from threats both human and fantastical... This book was just as good as the last, Arden has created a magical world and the medieval Russian themes running through it add a wintery fairytale element. Lit by ice and spiced with smoke. The characters are wonderful- the villains are evil but their motivations make sense. The heroes are flawed and Vasya makes some mistakes fuelled by pride and ignorance, but ultimately they are all trying to do the best they can in a society that holds them back. I reall hope there’s a third book in this series but if the author veers off in a different direction I’ll be happy to read whatever she writes. 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.

14th January 2018 GemBookEater
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

IMG_2681A woman named Amanda lies in a fever in a rural hospital clinic,  A young boy, David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. David is prompting Amanda to recount the events that led to her illness, constantly pushing her to fix on the 'important moment', the moment when the 'worms' got in. Yet for Amanda what is important is where her young daughter Nina is. She talks a lot about the 'rescue distance', something most parents are constantly measuring and recalibrating as their children grow. How far away from you are they? Are they close enough to rescue should danger befall them? As David continues to push her, the horror of the thing that has befallen them is exposed, is there any way back through it? Can Amanda get back to being within rescue distance of Nina? Samanta Schweblin is a fairly new voice on the Spanish literary scene, her short stories have won critical acclaim but this is her first novel. It was rightfully shortlisted for the Man Booker international prize as it is incredibly evocative. Reading it you feel like you are in a fever dream, nothing is quite where it should be and memories are more vivid than the world around you. This lends itself perfectly to the strange, creeping, psychological menace. I can't tell you more of the plot without ruining it for you, but I would definitely recommend you read it if you like books that are a bit weird and that don't necessarily tie up every loose end for you. This is like that, it's a melody in a minor key that will keep surfacing in your mind like a memory of illness and loss. It is a tale of maternal love and the power and desperation of family. Some praise must also go to the translator Megan McDowell. 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.

13th January 2018 GemBookEater
Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjón

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

11th January 2018 GemBookEater
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

161eyyYaAlWL__SL500_Sometimes reviewing classic books like this that everybody knows seems like a bit silly. But then often the myth of a book veers away from the story inside and I think this is the case with this story. After meeting and losing Daisy during the war, Gatsby has made himself fabulously wealthy. Now, he believes that his only way to true happiness is to find his way back into Daisy’s life, he has bought a glamorous house just across the water from Daisy's and has been throwing fabulous parties in the hope that one day she will wonder in and their affair can resume. But this has yet to happen and when her cousin Nick Carraway rents the small house next door he determines to use Nick to try to reach her. I listened to the audiobook version of this, voiced by Oscar-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal. I was curious to see how well he'd do as I completely fell in love with his sister's voice when I listened to The Bell Jar. Once again, I fell in love. Gyllenhaal's performance is stunning. I know I'm going to listen to this version over and over again. But of course it isn't just Gyllenhaal's performance that makes this so special. F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing is as smooth as silk and twice as sensuous. That's not news though is it? F. Scott has always been hailed as the master of style. But style without substance does not a classic make. Gatsby is an immense character. Complex but utterly relatable, if Gatsby can be great, we can all be great - if only we have a love strong enough to motivate us and a chance to grab. The plot is full of the twists and conflicts that only human hearts can create. Unnecessary spite and jealousies are spat out and swallowed with humiliation that burns for redemption. This story is Shakespearean in scope. If you haven't read it in a while or it's one that passed you by previously, pick up a copy - or better still download this version from Audible. Five Bites

7th January 2018 GemBookEater
The Lunar Cats by Lynne Truss

1cover123229-mediumThe blurb of this book promised a light-hearted, entertaining read, here it is in it's entirety: "When you are an inoffensive retired librarian with bitter personal experience of Evil Talking Cats, do you rescue a kitten from the cold on a December night? Do you follow up news items about cats digging in graveyards? Do you inquire into long-ago cats who voyaged around the world with Captain Cook? Well, yes. If you are Alec Charlesworth that is precisely what you do - with unexpected and terrifying consequences ..." Maybe if I was only 8 this book would have lived up to that expectation. But I do have some doubts about that, as regular readers of this blog will know we quite like reading children's books and although this might have been passable entertainment for a few evenings I doubt it could ever become a much-loved classic. In fact I did double check and it really is aimed at adults. But it's so badly written that I gave up on it before I was a quarter of the way through it. Ironic as it's written by the woman who recently wrote a best-selling book on grammar! To be fair it isn't grammatically incorrect, nor is it an over preponderance on correctness that mars it. I just found the characters too bizarre and shallow. Considering that I love a quirky character this is a damnation of about the highest order possible. I only nibbled it enough to give it one Bite before I gave up on it. NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.

6th January 2018 GemBookEater
Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott

IMG_2676The town of Rotherweird was cast adrift from the rest of England by Elizabeth I. Now it stands alone - there are no guidebooks, and only a few from the outside are ever allowed in. Despite this it is not a town that has stood still, there are fascinating and diverse architectural styles cramming the narrow streets, avant garde science and offbeat customs. One such custom is that nobody is allowed to study the town or its history. But suddenly two outsiders arrive, they are quite unconnected - Jonah Oblong has been hired to replace the modern history teacher (who seemingly broke the rules about studying local history), and the sinister billionaire Sir Veronal Slickstone, who has somehow got permission to renovate the town's long-derelict Manor House. Both are keen to connect past and present, but this draws them into a race against time and each other with possibly apocalyptic consequences. I wanted to love this, I put off reading it for a while as an act of delayed gratification. And to begin with I did love it. The main character is likeable enough and Rotherweird is a wonderful world. But soon after we arrive there the cast of characters take over and sadly it becomes a confusing mess. As interesting as all the characters are, we are jumped into one head after another and far too  quickly. I felt dizzy and confused and had no idea what was going on. Eventually I gave up on it before I was even half way through. Three Bites. NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.

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