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11th October 2017 Kelly Turner
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

32622470Nadia and Saeed first meet at an evening class. They live in an unnamed city in an unnamed country “still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war.” Their relationship is at once modern and yet conservative, and each is still learning about the other when the fighting intensifies. Militants wage war on the government and people are killed, or disappear. Whole neighbourhoods are razed to the ground. Saeed's mother is amongst the dead, and this horrific event leads Nadia and Saeed to discuss the risks of staying in their home city and the possibility of finding safety elsewhere. All over the world, doors have opened. Doors of darkness which lead to other cities, other countries. Swathes of people have begun moving west, and Nadia and Saeed decide to join them. Risking their lives to travel through the doors, they arrive first in Mykonos, then London, and join fellow refugees settling in abandoned houses in the capital. But building a life and a home proves to be much more difficult. There is a dystopian, magical realism element to this book. The world it is set in is not completely our own: doors allow people to move from country to country in the blink of an eye; London is a city divided, where migrants shelter in houses abandoned by their owners whilst the refugees themselves are abandoned by humanity. Like all good fiction, it holds up a large mirror to our own world and the story it tells is one which is being played out across the globe right now. This is a book about what drives people to make the journey and what happens once the journey is done. It’s about trying to settle into a new country when the country itself is trying to reject you. It’s about the impact this has on a relationship. It’s about being forced to leave your home and giving up all you were just to stay alive. It would be easy to read this review and imagine a heavy book, full of despair. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The writing is beautiful. Elegant, yet simple. Vignettes of the lives of fellow travellers who have passed through the doors are dotted within the main story of Nadia and Saeed. They are never more than a few pages long and we never learn the names of these characters, but their stories are full of hope which is the lingering emotion left after the last page. 4 Bites

8th October 2017 GemBookEater
How to Be Human by Paula Cocozza

IMG_2575Mary gets home from work one day, not long after her husband has moved out, to find a magnificent fox on her lawn. His ears spiked in attention and every hair bristling with his power to surprise - she is entranced. Somehow his wild presence has bought magic back into her very controlled life and she longs to see him again. She begins to leave food out for him and he begins to leave her gifts too. Gradually he makes himself at home. Much to the consternation of her neighbours who start to plot getting rid of him. Then one day it seems he has left a very unusual gift. A gift that changes everyone's lives. This is an unusual book - I wasn't exactly sure by the end of it what had happened and what hadn't. But in that lies it's brilliance. it explores the nuances between sanity and madness, civilisation and savagery, right and wrong, love and abuse. I was sucked into this from the first page and as soon as i'd finished it I put it straight into my re-readables pile -who knows? Maybe next time I'll even figure out what actually happened! 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

7th October 2017 GemBookEater
Beloved Poison by E. S. Thomson

IMG_2625 The blurb for this book is brilliant so instead of trying to create a new and more accurate one for you as I usually do I'm just going to let you read the original... "Ramshackle and crumbling, trapped in the past and resisting the future, St Saviour's Infirmary awaits demolition. Within its stinking wards and cramped corridors the doctors bicker and fight. Ambition, jealousy and hatred seethe beneath the veneer of professional courtesy. Always an outsider, and with a secret of her own to hide, apothecary Jem Flockhart observes everything, but says nothing. And then six tiny coffins are uncovered, inside each a handful of dried flowers and a bundle of mouldering rags. When Jem comes across these strange relics hidden inside the infirmary's old chapel, her quest to understand their meaning prises open a long-forgotten past - with fatal consequences. In a trail that leads from the bloody world of the operating theatre and the dissecting table to the notorious squalor of Newgate and the gallows, Jem's adversary proves to be both powerful and ruthless. As St Saviour's destruction draws near, the dead are unearthed from their graves whilst the living are forced to make impossible choices. And murder is the price to be paid for the secrets to be kept."  I had this on my kindle for an age before I finally got round to reading it. I'm not sure why exactly but I had a strong feeling Id enjoy it and I just wanted to wait until the 'right' time to read it! When I finally did start it I was both annoyed at myself for waiting so long and also a little bit smug that I still had it there to read. As gothic mysteries go this is close to perfect. The writing is erudite and laced with regret, the villain so evil that reproach slides off him like slime down a sewer and the settings are darkened with soot and scented by sewers. The main characters are complex and all seem to have shameful secrets clipping their wings. Yet even with it being as gothic mystery as a gothic mystery could be, it is not cliched. There is sympathy and understanding for the other characters and a sense of realism that makes the reader believe this could really have happened. It's a very visual book too and would make a great film to watch in the autumn or winter with a crackling fire and a hot chocolate with a nip or two of something stronger in it! Treat yourself! Four Bites NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.

5th October 2017 Kelly Turner
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

386282Because of my joint love of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, (I know right. Been keeping it pre-tty quiet over the last three years.) my Twitter feed is happily full of Tweets from Neil Gaiman and Rob Wilkins about the filming of the new TV adaptation of Good Omens *. This is exciting for many reasons: A) It’s a TV adaptation of Good Omens B) It features the most amazing casting ever known in any TV or film ever. Ever.** C) See points A and B. It is no surprise therefore, that I have picked up my battered copy to read again, read it in two days and am now wishing even more that no crazy world leader starts WW3 before 2018 which is when the show will hit our screens. So, to recap…the end of the world is nigh (in the book that is). In fact the world will end “on a Saturday. Next Saturday in fact. Just after tea.” Crowley and Aziraphale know this, because they are a demon and angel respectively and are therefore aware of the ineffable plan. They have also been keeping an eye on the Antichrist for the last eleven years, after he was swapped with a child at a hospital run by satanic nuns. Unfortunately, baby switching is a complicated affair, and the child Crowley and Aziraphale have been keeping tabs on is not the Antichrist at all, just a normal human child. The real Antichrist is being brought up in the quintessentially english village of Lower Tadfield, where the weather is always correct for the time of year, and a gang of four children are having a pretty perfect childhood. Anathema Device knows about the upcoming apocalypse. She is a witch and the descendent of Agnes Nutter (also a witch) who produced the only truly accurate book of prophecies. Anathema also knows that on the day of the apocalypse, Witchfinder Private Newton Pulsifer will crash his car outside her cottage. And of course, the Four Horsemen know. And they are getting ready to ride. This book contains the best of both authors. As you would expect, it’s laugh out loud funny with Pratchett’s characteristic foot notes, and a disagreement between Heaven and Hell about who created Milton Keynes with neither wanting to take responsibility. But, like their other works, there is a serious side too. The book explores free will and our relationship with religion; the Four Horsemen are Horsemen for the modern age, with Famine a businessman who has created a range of diet products and fast food with absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever, which eventually cause the consumer to starve. I have been unable to eat at a fast food chain without remembering this for the last twenty years. I love this book. I will love it always. It has stuck in my conscious since I first read it, to the point where overtime I’m on the M25 I think about it (If you haven't read it, this will make sense when you do.) I can’t wait to see it on the small screen! 5 Bites (But you knew that, didn’t you?!) Did you know that Radio 4 adapted it too? It was awesome! ** David Tennant AND Michael Sheen! Miranda Richardson! Jack Whitehall! Jon freakin’ Hamm! Good-Omens-Fi

24th September 2017 GemBookEater
The Great Passage by Shion Miura

cover108209-mediumThe Great Passage will be Gembu Books hero product - a new dictionary produced in the traditional way. It is the passion of Kohei Araki, he was inspired as a boy by the multiple meanings to be found for a single word in the dictionary, and became obsessed by the notion that a dictionary is a boat to carry us across the sea of words. But after thirty-seven years working at Gembu Books, it’s time for him to retire and find his replacement. Not an easy feat as creating a dictionary is as much an art as it is a very precise science. Luckily he discovers a kindred spirit in Mitsuya Majime—a young, disheveled square peg with a penchant for collecting antiquarian books and a background in linguistics—whom he swipes from his company’s sales department. Led by his new mentor and joined by an energetic, if reluctant, new recruit and an elder linguistics scholar, Majime is tasked with a career-defining accomplishment: completing The Great Passage, a comprehensive 2,900-page tome of the Japanese language. But this Great Passage takes many years to complete, on the way Majime discovers friendship, romance, and an incredible dedication to his work. I loved this book. It was a heartwarming look at ordinary lives as well as a love letter to words and how they shape our society. It examines how easy friendship becomes when we appreciate each others foibles and follies rather than expecting everyone to be the same as us and being irritated when they fail. But throughout that there are little comments on society and the impact of our words. It was particularly heartening to see them discuss the definition for love as being between a man and a woman and decide it didn't need to be gendered that way anymore. I've recently read a lot of darker books and a read this straight after reading about the Black Lives Matter movement, it was just the antidote I needed to rejuvenate my spirits and remind me there is good in the world. 4 Bites NB I received a copy of this free of charge from NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.

23rd September 2017 GemBookEater
The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

md22498117310Natasha Pulley's steampunk mystery extravaganza The Watchmaker of Filigree Street became last years literary crossover. It seemed nobody could resist it and I admit I was more than a little swept away by it myself. The blurb of The Bedlam Stacks seemed like a departure from her debut except for the time period it is set in (not exactly the same but only a few years earlier). Here it is "Deep in uncharted Peru, the holy town of Bedlam stands at the edge of a forest. Here, statues move and anyone who crosses the border dies. But somewhere inside are cinchona trees, whose bark yields quinine: the only known treatment for malaria. By 1859, the hunt for a reliable source of quinine is critical and the India Office coerces injured expeditionary Merrick Tremayne into one final mission. Merrick is dispatched to Bedlam and tasked with bringing back cinchona cuttings. But as he travels into hostile territory, he discovers a legacy which will prove more dangerous than he could ever have imagined." I have to tell you that that blurb does not do this book justice! What I can't tell you is how much I loved this book - there just aren't the words! I wanted to live in the Bedlam Stacks forever, Natasha Pulley has created an incredible world and characters with breadth and depth. It isn't steampunk this time so much as magic realism, but it still has a dusting of mechanical madness and another connection to her debut that I can't tell you but does mean I'm chomping at the bit for her next book ... according to Twitter she's busy researching now...! 5Bites - so far this is my favourite book of the year!

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