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26th November 2017 GemBookEater
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

IMG_2667A longed for child is born, but his mother's waters aren't the only ones breaking as London is submerged below floodwaters. Days later, she, her husband and their baby have to leave London in search of safety. They head north, often sleeping in their car or finding solitary spots away from other humans in a newly dangerous country. As their baby grows they find and leave new families, trying to work their way to either an old home or new seeking. Their baby thrives against all odds, not knowing anything of the world before he doesn't know its loss. His parents find things much harder. This is a beautiful poetic read. It shares the sense of dislocation and a narrowing of the world that most new mothers experience. It is written in the first person from the perspective of the mother, and it shows the world beyond her baby in snatched, out-of-focus glimpses whilst her child takes up most of her vision. The only thing problem with that is that because the world beyond her baby seems to be just a dream to her there is rarely any sense of urgency or fear, she's living in a world where food is scarce and civilisation is scared but she seems at most wearingly accepting. It's a believable emotion for a lot of the story but there should be a few spikes of fear. The writing is a joy though, haunting and lyrical. I look forward to her next book. Four Bites

25th November 2017 GemBookEater
The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

cover117360-medium Does the vanishing of the Bees really indicate a coming ecological collapse? This book follows the lives of three people whose lives are interwoven with the domestication of bees and their disappearance. In England in 1851 we meet William, a biologist and seed merchant, trying to gain fame by building a new type of beehive. Jumping forward to 2007 and in the USA is George, a beekeeper fighting an uphill battle against modern farming, and hoping his son will follow in the family footsteps. China is the home of Tao who hand paints pollen onto the fruit trees in 2098 when the bees have long since disappeared. When Tao’s young son is taken away by the authorities after a tragic accident—and is kept in the dark about his whereabouts and condition—she sets out on a grueling journey to find out what happened to him. Well. There was a lot in this book for me to love but before we dip into that can we just have a moments appreciation for that cover! What a thing of beauty! So what's your preference? Historical fiction? Dystopian? Contemporary? Why choose? With this you've got it all! And unusually all three sections are written in first person with authentic sounding voices and a real sense of time and place. But all that is worth little without a good story to tie it together. Luckily this has four good stories, each arc could've been extended to a standalone book but I think they are better interwoven. They support a story that twists up through each of them and arches over them to create something better. It got me thinking, the Bees angle is good but that's not all there is too it, there's also a lot about family. Four and a half bites NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.

22nd November 2017 GemBookEater
The Night Brother by Rosie Garland

cover102770-mediumSiblings Edie and Gnome delight in the streets of late nineteenth-century Manchester. They fight and argue as all siblings, but Edie can never resist Gnome's outrageous schemes and always ends up climbing out of the bedroom window with him at night for adventures. But as they get older and Gnome continues to revel in the night-time,  Edie's life is lived during the day. Gradually she forgets the brother she never sees as the demands of scraping a living become bigger. She wakes exhausted each morning with a sickening sense of unease and confusion. But then she falls in love and Gnome reappears, jealous and wanting to destroy his sisters happiness. Can they learn to live together in harmony? This is an interesting novel and works on several different levels. The basics of it- writing, setting and character development Rosie Garland absolutely nails. To be honest I've never yet set foot in Manchester but I could feel the Edwardian version of the city around me all the way through.  The characters are believable and face some very interesting challenges which they respond to in a way that feels natural. But where things get really interesting is the actual story - there is more to Edie and Gnome than at first meets the eye and the novel explores gender and sexuality in an unusual way. There are a couple of places where it could have taken wrong turns and ended up exploiting those topics rather than exploring them. But each time it pushes towards the limits  it pulls itself back, exposing naive opinions and then redressing them. In the end it's about more than girl versus boy and becomes a story about being honest with yourself. Every part of yourself. And of accepting the whole of others. 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.

19th November 2017 GemBookEater
Sea – The Huntress Triology by Sarah Driver

1cover104570-mediumThis is the first book in a new fantasy adventure trilogy for young readers (aged 9+) and the publishing company clearly had a lot of faith in it as it was pushed hard when it was released. The blurb recommends it fans of Philip Pullman and Frances Hardinge amongst others. As usual I'll be completely honest - it is a good book, but not quite in the league of Phillip Pullman or Frances Hardinge. But don't let that put you off buying it for the young person in your life - it's still a good read! It follows the story of Mouse. Since her mother died she has looked after her little brother Sparrow and dreamt of taking over as captain of the Huntress - the ship her mother steered that is currently captained by her Grandmother. Her Dad has also gone missing and now Sparrow is in danger. Sarah Driver has written a powerful character and a strong adventure. But what really makes this book special is Mouse's voice. It's written in first person and the language just captures you and takes you hostage from the first moment.  Although Mouse is female this is a book that will appeal to boys too - it has pirates and pterodactyls after all! It's also  packed with high stake risks and the feeling of kids against the adults with the kids managing to outsmart the adults. This feels authentic as mostly the kids win because they don't believe that they are limited in the same way that adults believe they are. When kids enjoy a book they always want more so that fact that this is the start of a trilogy is brilliant, and as of writing this the second book is already out. I'm not sure when exactly by so far there's between about 9 months between each so hopefully it'll be out Summer 2018. 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.

18th November 2017 GemBookEater
The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood

1cover120428-mediumMad-doctor Nathaniel is obsessed with the beautiful Mrs Harleston - but is she truly delusional? Or is she hiding secrets that should never be uncovered . . . ? Overshadowed by his father's suicide, Nathaniel Kerner finds it hard to find work in his chosen field of ailments of the mind. Reluctantly he takes up a position at Crakethorne Asylum, only to find the proprietor is more interested in his growing collection of skulls than helping his patients - fame seems unlikely to find Nathaniel here. His only interesting case is Mrs Victoria Adelina - Vita - Harleston: she is interesting because she doesn’t really seem mad at all - her husband accuses her of hysteria and delusions - but she accuses him of hiding secrets far more terrible. Nathaniel becomes increasingly obsessed with Vita, and when an opportunity presents itself to have her mesmerised he leaps at it, imagining seeing papers in journals with his name attached. But the session doesn’t go well and the next morning Vita has vanished and it seems Nathaniel may have been tricked into aiding her escape. Increasingly besotted, Nathaniel finds himself caught up in a world of séances and stage mesmerism in his bid to find Vita and save her. But constantly hanging over him is this warning: that doctors are apt to catch the diseases with which they are surrounded - whether of the body or the mind . . . I really enjoyed Alison Littlewood's The Hidden People last year so was thrilled to see another new release from her. Although set in the same era this is quite a different book, this is freezing fog in winter at 4pm as opposed to a hot lazy 4pm in August. Although both are mysterious, this is one where you can't really see what's going on four paces in front of you. And although both are a little creepy - this is skin shivering creepy whereas the other is beguilingly creepy. I'm starting to think that Alison Littlewood is the modern day successor to Wilkie Collins, The Hidden People feels similar to The Moonstone and this feels like the Woman in White - the stories are different, there's no plagiarism, they are not re-writings in any way. But if you like Wilkie Collins my guess is you'll like Alison Littlewood. 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.

15th November 2017 GemBookEater
The Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker

witch of NapoliIn 1899 Spiritualist séance's are sweeping through Europe. But men of science are ready to denounce every act as trickery and fraud. When skeptical, Jewish psychiatrist Camillo Lombardi sees a photo of Alessandra Poverelli levitating  a table in Naples he immediately goes to investigate. But then she materializes the ghost of his dead mother. He can't explain it, and as a man of science he refuses to dismiss it out of hand instead asking if she will be willingly investigated by him and on a tour of the Continent,where the scientific and academic elite of Europe will be invited to test Alessandra’s mysterious powers. As disdainful as she is of his scepticism she agrees. After all his fee is very generous and will help her escape her sadistic husband. I won't tell you what happens, we BookEaters try not to do spoilers too often after all! But it was certainly captivating. Here is a writer who know how and when to add conflict but without stretching the bounds of believability. All the characters rang true - in fact the character and basic storyline is based on a real life Spiritualist sensation of the era - Eusapia Palladino and the author has drawn on writings about her from that time. The tricks that many spiritualists used are detailed throughout and if you're anything like me you might keep changing your mind about whether Alessandra is genuine or a con artist throughout the book. As the author is an investigative journalist examining the paranormal, it's not surprising that this book shows excellent research, what is surprising is how well-written it is. It's a self-published book, but don't let that put you off, this is a lot better than a lot of the books I've read lately. 4.5 Bites  

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