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23rd July 2017 GemBookEater
The Stargazer’s Embassy by Eleanor Lerman

cover108526-mediumAliens are trying to make contact with Julia Glazer; they have been since her mother died. In an effort to escape them she has left her childhood home, a bar called The Stargazer's Embassy, and moved to New York. It's easiest to be safe surrounded by lots of people and plugged into a Walkman so you can't hear them calling.

There she meets and falls in love with a man who turns out to be completely wrong for her - not in personality, just in occupation. He is a psychiatrist studying people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. Julia at once knows that if she tells him her secret she could move from lover to patient in the blink of an eye. But keeping her secret proves impossible as she begins to meet his patients, and finds amongst them people who describe exactly the aliens she sees. And who recognise the tattoo on her wrist that her mother had scribed there.

I am not the resident Sci-Fi guru here but I found the premise of the book intriguing... and the fact that it was written by someone who'd won an award for a previous Sci-Fi novel reassured me immensely too. But I have to admit that the cover made me think I was making a mistake.

Thankfully you can't see the cover when you're reading it! Also thankfully, my copy was on Kindle so no one on the train could see the cover either as I read it on my commute! And thrice thankfully you really shouldn't judge a book by it's cover... I really will learn that one day!

Because I really enjoyed this book. It's a totally different take on the alien abduction genre with a unique, memorable and relatable set of characters. It's set sometime in the late 90's but with flashbacks to Julia's childhood in the 70's which just adds that cult Sci-Fi feel to it that we all love so well. I don't want to give too much away so I'll shut up now but get yourself a copy of this even if you have to slip it inside a different cover to be seen with it!

4 Bites

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

22nd July 2017 GemBookEater
Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

cover102888-mediumThe tale of Prospero's quest for revenge from William Shakespeare's The Tempest is of course well known. But this book asks what of his daughter Miranda? The pawn in his twisted game. Or Caliban, apparently just a savage that Prospero chained to his will? Here we meet Miranda, a loving child who wants to spread happiness and doesn't understand her father's paranoid control. She understands kindness and compassion though and longs to rebel but knows her father's magic is too powerful for her. Here too is Caliban, a lost and frightened child who finds in Miranda solace and joyful companionship. He resents Prospero's enslaving of him and manipulation of Miranda. Of course the spirit Ariel flits through the story too as cataclysmic a force as could be imagined with every small sentence that drops from his lips leaving confusion and calamity all around. If you know the play then you'll have a fair idea where the story is going from the start but don't let that dissuade you from taking the journey. The writing is a real pleasure, at once sumptuous and spare, Carey portrays the characters with a few deft strokes but then washes colour and light through them so the depths of their souls are displayed. And in many ways this is an untold story as it deals with the twelve years that Prospero and Miranda were exiled and according to Carey there is much more to be said about Prospero as a father and Miranda as a girl growing up with little human companionship than the play explores. What does she remember if anything of her pampered life before exile? How can she trust a man who uses cruelty to have what's best for her at heart? There is plenty of tension and conflict in the book, honestly I wasn't sure all if Carey would return to Shakespeare's Tale or upend it completely, the ending is not so fixed as you might imagine ... 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

21st July 2017 Kelly Turner
Jane Austen 200

IMG_1669Rachel: Pride and Prejudice Honestly? I don't understand people who say they don't like Pride and Prejudice. I think they're a bit weird... You know, like people who don't like roast potatoes. Who can resist the classic tale of overcoming ingrained prejudice and improper pride in order to find everlasting love? As thoroughly explained in my review, I adore Pride and Prejudice. I now own 5 different copies and still read at least a chapter of it every week. I love the richly drawn characters, even those who are meant to be unlikeable (*cough*LadyCatherine*cough*), the witty social commentary, the pace, the setting. Everything in fact. I never get bored of reading this book and I always find something new in reading it. Before I met my husband, I used to think it'd be jolly nice to meet a 'Mr Darcy' IMG_1667and now that I am happily married I despair every day that my husband refuses to reenact the 'You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.' bit! Ah well, probably for the best, my husband is way grumpier than Darcy! IMG_1671Gem: Persuasion My favourite Jane Austen novel (though I confess I haven't read them all) is Persuasion. It's one I only picked up a few years ago and I bought it because I was holidaying in Lyme Regis and much of it is set there. It definitely enhanced my holiday, allowing me to access the history of the area in a way I wouldn't otherwise, but the reason I fell in love with it wasn't it's accurate and enlivening descriptions of Dorset but its heroine Anne Edwards. Unlike some of Austen's more popular protagonists, Anne isn't a creature of wit and self assurance. She may have been when she first rejected the marriage proposal from the man she loved but the intervening years have stripped such vanities from her. Though thankfully they have left her grace and intelligence. Read it to meet Austen at her best (in my incomplete experience) from the allegorical settings to the wisdom that not every happy ever after happens the way it should. IMG_1664Kelly: Sense and Sensibility I had a hard time choosing my favourite Jane Austen novel, and had narrowed it down to three! (P&P, Emma were the two runners up, in case you were wondering). But in the end, it could only be Sense and Sensibility. It's Pride and Prejudice if Mr Bennet had died, and as such has a darker element at the start of the book. I love the relationship between Elinor and Marianne, their devotion towards each other and the way they each approach life in such different ways. Elinor steals the show for me: smart, logical, loving. A steady port next to the turbulent storm that is Marianne. I could never stand Marianne’s selfishness, her inability to see that whilst her heart ached for Willoughby, Elinor was going through her own suffering. I love the 1995 film too. For me, one of the best adaptations of any Austen novel ever. The actors have become synonymous with their characters, none more so than Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon. And the part where Willoughby and Marianne recite Shakespeare's Sonnet 116? Perfect. Please excuse me. I'm off to watch it again!

19th July 2017 GemBookEater
Hyena by Jude Angelini

hyenaThe blurb did warn me that these biographical short stories were ude "uncompromising, brutally honest and shocking." But it also promised that "underneath this series of deplorable autobiographical stories is an echo of heartbreak, loneliness, and the eternal poetry of a man struggling to be heard." The stories trace the descent of popular American Hip Hop DJ Jude Angeline into ever more debauched sexual and drug-fuelled exploits. I am no prude, in years gone by I myself have indulged in a few debauched and occasionally even drug-fuelled exploits. But I couldn't read this. I think I got maybe four stories in before chucking it away, what I couldn't stand was the total lack of liking or respect for pretty much anyone else in the stories. If the character was female it went beyond that and deep into misogyny. It sickened me. Maybe the author is a lonely, heartbroken poet, maybe he's just another selfish, repellent prat. Either way I wasn't going to give him a minute more of my time. I just hope he is a kinder person now than he was. 1 Bite NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

16th July 2017 GemBookEater
A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall

cover107531-mediumJonah's wife Audrey has just died in a car crash, it may have been suicide, she had been depressed after a series of miscarriages. But she'd seemed happier lately, since she'd started visiting Kew Gardens regularly, so Jonah isn't sure. He just knows the woman he loved is gone and he can't sleep for mourning her. He is drawn to Kew, looking for the solace it gave her and hoping to feel her there. But Kew Gardens isn't his alone of course, there he meets Milly, a charming child who says her father works there, but where is her mother, and why is she always wearing the same clothes? Then there's the gardner, Harry. His purpose is to save plants from extinction, but has his desire to save life been twisted into something destructive? Chloe is also a frequent visitor, an artist designing a huge origami installation to be exhibited at Kew, finds her singular minded isolation challenged. And the guilt she feels exposed. They don't know it yet but these five strangers are all connected. Can they find the way through the maze of regret and guilt through to acceptance and forgiveness? I grant you that this sounds sentimental to possibly bordering on maudlin but I promise you it isn't. It's a life-affirming novel of exceptional beauty in fact. In places it's gritty, even ugly, and in others it enjoys some quiet mundanity, then it trips into dizzying revels of the foibles of the human heart. I like to read my books depending on the season to an extent, I generally save gothic horror for the autumn/winter, or books based in cold climates for the winter and those with prettier climates for the Spring or Summer (am I weird or do you do that too?) But as this book traces a full calendar year in Kew Gardens it can be enjoyed at anytime of year. So whether you've holidays booked in the South of France this summer or in Scotland this autumn take this book with you. Tor Udell described the scenery beautifully. I haven't been to Kew for years but I now feel like I have spent months there recently - even though I read this book in about two days! So if you've no holiday booked maybe just have a weekend at home with this book! Apart from the human content this can also be considered a bit of a love letter to Kew and it definitely made me want to revisit it in real life. Definitely 5 Bites from me and one I will be re-reading (even though I'm unlikely to forget the ending!) NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

15th July 2017 GemBookEater
The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson


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