Birds Art Life Death A Field Guide to the Small and Significant by Kyo Maclear

cover95742-mediumI am a book lover and I’m growing to love art through my reading adventures – my beloved partner however is a bird-lover. So when I saw this, I thought maybe it was a book that could help me understand his passion a bit better.

This is the memoir of a writer struggling to find inspiration, her father is terminally ill and this sparks a desire in her for somethiing new in her life. A way to find space to process her turmoil. She sees some photographs from a local birder and something in them catches her imagination. She gets in touch with him and asks him to teach her where to find birds and how to identify them. He starts by taking her to rather urban, unnattractive areas that nevertheless are home for quite a variety of species. Then, as he sees her interest is growing he starts to take her to more rural places and introduce her to less common birds.

This is an interesting meditation on why we humans need passions and creativity. What we gain from them on a personal level and how they help us to contribute to the world in a positive manner. There is little in the way of conundrums or thrills in this book – seeing a rare bird isn’t ever going to save her father’s life or make her next book a best seller or even win her the lottery! It’s what I call a quiet read. But sometimes these quiet reads can have a significant impact. Her search for inspiration, beauty, and solace leads us to a deeper understanding of the nuance of life.

I haven’t been birdwatching with my partner since reading this, I’m not sure that it will ever become my hobby if I’m honest. But I do feel I understand it and respect it more.

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

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Thirst by Benjamin Warner

imageEddie Chapman has been stuck for hours in a traffic jam, in the heat. There are no signs of the emergency services turning up so eventually he decides to abandon his car and run home. He passes accidents along the highway, trees along the edge of a stream that have been burnt, and the water in the stream bed is gone. Something is very wrong.

When he arrives home, the power is out throughout his whole neighbourhood and there is no running water. As his wife Laura finally gets home through similar problems, the pair and their neighbours start to suffer the effects of the violent heat and limited liquid, and the terrifying realisation that no one may be coming to help.

Civilisation starts to breakdown as confusion, fear and hallucinations set in. Eddie realises that nothing else matters than that he and Laura should live – not even the secret shame she’s carried for years.

This is about as harsh and dystopian as it gets. If you liked Cormac McCarthy’s The Road then this will be right up your street (forgive the pun – I can’t help myself!)

It differs in a lot of ways, for me the most striking is the visual setting. The Road is grey and oppressive whereas in this book there is plenty of sun … but plenty of contrast too as their sleeping patterns are so disrupted that a lot of time is spent in the night. The prose is more colourful too.

The key to this working so well though is the characters, Eddie is completely believable. Although his view of what’s happening becomes less and less reliable and he does things that I’m betting he never would have dreamed he’d do before the disaster.

Get yourself a copy of this – and while you’re buying stuff don’t forget to stock up on water just in case!

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

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

In Praise of Audio Book Narrators

I’ve been listening to audiobooks for a long time but I have to say this is mainly down to the influence of BookEater Jeff (aka Dad!) And it was while listening to books with him on car journey’s that I started to realise just how big an impact the narrator had on the story. I’d already heard a fair amount of good narrators and enough bad ones when we came across a narrator so good that neither of us could believe it. Let me introduce you to …

Hugh Lee

My dad was listening to Broken Harbour by Tana French, a murder mystery set on a ghost estate on the outskirts of Dublin when we realised just how good Hugh Lee’s narration is. Although the detective Scorcher Kennedy is male, this book is chock full of strong female characters. A lot of me have trouble doing women’s voices, often making them sound too haughty and querulous. Hugh Lee had no such issue. In fact it was his voicing of the women’s part that really impressed us both, each charachter was identifiable and each sounded completely natural. Needless to say I had inspiration for the next gift to give my father, searching through other books narrated by Hugh Lee I found Three Bags Full by Leonie Swan, a very unusual murder mystery where the detectives are all sheep! Both books are worth a listen!

Find all Hugh Lee’s narration here

Benedict Cumber batch

Being the successful actor that Benedict Cumberbatch is it’s no surprise that his narration is sublime. He added so much character to The Spire by William Golding.

Sadly it’s also no surprise that he hasn’t lent his voice to this art very much! Find all Benedict Cumberbatch’s narration here

Maggie Gyllenhaal

Like Benedict Cumberbatch Maggie Gyllenhaal has an incredibly successful acting career so to find anything narrated by her is a special treat. But to find Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar was pretty much all my Christmasses come at once! There’s only one other narration on her list – Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy … I’m not a fan of Tolstoy but I’m tempted just for the 35 hours I’d get to listen to her voice!

Find all Maggie Gyllenhaal’s narrations here

Hillary Huber

Hillary Huber I discovered by chance, but as she’s narrated 148 books on audible I guess I was bound to bump into her work at some time! With a catalogue like that it doesn’t really matter what genre you prefer there’s a strong chance she’s narrated it! I discovered her narrating the brilliant but very literary Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels and she breathed such life into it that I was hooked in a way I don’t think I would have been had I just read the books. Her voice actually reminded me a lot of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s so now I’m not so upset that she has narrated so little … Tolstoy might have to wait after all!

Find all Hillary Hubert’s narrations here

Prentice Onayemi

Prentice has one of those voices. You know the ones I mean, the sort that somehow manage to sound like your grandmother is telling you where the secret stash of chocolate she’s hidden just for you is. It’s warm, knowing, a little teasing. I would happily listen to him read the phone book! Luckily I listened to him read Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, a brilliant book so I got double the pleasure!

Find all Prentice Onayemi’s narrations here 

David Thorpe

I’ve sung David Thorpe’s praises in my recent review of Karen Maitland’s A Company of Liars. I want to say he has a soft, lilting north country accent but the fact is he can do so many accents so well that he might not! Maybe his real accent is an italian one! Anyway being good at accents may be an asset for narrators but it is not enough, Thorpe also has a warmth and a good ear for gentle comedy, inserting inflections in to create levity, love and

Find all David Thorpe’s narrations here

Sean Barret

Perfume by Patrick Suskind is one of my all time favourite books! As such, and because it is a book full of sensations I was worried about listening to it, if the narraton had been bad it would have broken my heart. Thankfully Sean Barrett’s understated narration suited the sneaky Grenouille down to the ground. It would have been easy to go over the top with a character like this but Barrett had the wisdom to know that too slimy or whiny a voice would have repulsed readers so instead he voiced it subtly.

Find all Sean Barrett’s narrations here

Stephen Briggs

If you’ve ever listened to an audio version of a Terry Pratchett brook there is a very strong chance you know Stephen Brigg’s voice very well already! Almost every book Pratchett has ever written has been voiced by him. Briggs, an actor as well as a writer, first met Sir Terry when he wrote to ask if he could stage his Wyrd Sisters, Sir Terry said yes and in so doing catapulted Brigg’s life down a different leg of the trousers of time! Brigg’s voice is perfect for Pratchett’s works, and he totally understands the humour in the work. If life is getting you down delve into these audio treasures and you’ll soon be smiling again!

Find all Stephen Briggs narrations here

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Goblin by Ever Dundas

IMG_2576Goblin is just a young child when an World War 2 begins. Her mother doesn’t like her so she leads a semi-feral life with a gang of young children amidst the craters of London’s Blitz. She only goes home to eat and sleep, to help her father fix things for their neighbours, and to dream dreams of becoming a pirate with her older brother. He’s almost old enough to sign up but he’s got no plans to, explaining to her what a conscientious objector is. Then he doesn’t come home and she is evacuated and her letters to him go unanswered. Freed from London and living near the coast unfetters her imagination and she takes refuge in a self-constructed but magical imaginary world.

In 2011, Goblin is an eccentric and secretive old lady. She volunteers at the local library and helps outcasts and animals when she can. But then some old photos are found showing the pet cemetary reminding the country of one of the great shames of the war – when we slaughtered our pets to protect them from a German invasion and torture. But one photo shows Goblin and an even greater atrocity. She is forced to return to a London that is once again burning and face her past. Will she have the strength to reveal the truth or will it drive her over the edge to insanity?

This is the kind of book that will appeal to fans of a variety of different fiction. At its heart is a mystery wrapped in the gruesome darkness of war. But it also has elements of gothic fantasy, fascinating oddball characters, a coming of age story and love and redemption. Trying to cram this much into one book could be confusing but in this case it adds to the mystery. Goblin herself is weird and wonderful both as a child and as an old woman. She has heart and sass in equal measures and though she can be sharp and grumpy her honesty is appealing, even whilst she keeps so much hidden.

This is a book I’ll be re-reading!

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

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

511UiSk3+1LIn February 1862 President Lincoln’s adored eleven-year-old son, Willie, died in the White House. He’d fallen sick a few days before after getting soaked to the skin whilst riding. But despite his illness, the Lincoln’s continue to hold a glittering reception – the Civil War was less than a year old and the nation had begun to realize it was in for a long, bloody struggle.

When Willie is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery in when this story really starts. Although Lincoln is mired in politics his broken heart is with his son and he returned to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

But before he can Willie starts to meet the other inhabitants of the graveyard. He doesn’t realise he is dead, and neither do the other ghosts who continue to have friendships, complain, commiserate, quarrel, and wait to wake up with their loved ones around them. Here, in the bardo (named for the Tibetan transitional stage between life and death) an enormous struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

This is the most original book I have ever read. It is told by a series of quotes, some real some imagined, laid together to create a mosaic path through the story. Some quotes laud Lincoln and praise the reception held in spite of his son’s illness, others dismiss it as gaudy and heartless.

Then come the quotes from the ghosts. The only way I can give you a feel of this is to ask you to imagine Scrooge’s ghosts as Morecombe and Wise. They’re not really anything like that (they’re mainly american and died pre 1862 for a start!) but something in the humour and tragedy that they create is similar.

My only potential criticism with this could be the layout. As it’s all quotes there are rarely more than a few sentences before the source of the quote and then a gap. It didn’t bother me after the first few pages but it could be disjointing. A plus side of this is that you get to read a really big book really quickly which I liked because it made me feel really intelligent and a super-speedy reader!

5 Bites!

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick

cover96034-mediumIn one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Mexico, just twenty metres beyond the border with America, lives Faustino. A desperate orphan who’s just made a big mistake. He’s dipped into a pile of dollars he was supposed to be hiding for a gang he wanted to escape from. Now he and his friend, Arturo, have only 36 hours to replace the missing money, or they’re as good as dead.

He’s praying to Saint Death – the beautiful and terrifying goddess who demands absolute loyalty and promises little but a chance in return.

This is children’s literature unlike any I’ve ever read (embarrassingly I’ve no real excuse for reading as many kids / young adult books as I do!) It is aimed at older children, a mature eleven or twelve year old could read it but generally over 13’s. However this is 100% suitable for adults.

It is brash and brutal. And brilliant. There’s nothing I can fault about it at all, the storyline is terrific, the characters utterly believable and their dilemmas beautifully poignant, and the writing is clear and expressive.

What I love about reading books for young adults and children is their honesty. Children have a thirst for the truth, they don’t seem to want to deny the horrors and mistakes in the world the same way that adults do, maybe because they don’t bear the burden of blame for any of it. This is one of those books, a truth-telling book. It peels back the stereotypes of fiesta Mexico – Mariachi bands, Cinque de Mayo,Burritos, Pinantas and the Mexican Wave, and shows the pitiable lives of those living in poverty. But more than that, it shows their humanity.

It isn’t a long book, perfect packing wise for a holiday read. Forget the scandi noir this summer holiday and take this.

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

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Chaplin and Company by Mave Fellowes

IMG_2536Odeline Milk has never really fitted in. She was bought up in a very middle-England village and was an only child to a single mother with different colouring to her. She also has a passion for mime. Now her mother (and biggest fan) has died, leaving her a small inheritance. She’s on her way to London, to make her name.

But the inheritance really isn’t big, certainly not enough for a flat. So she’s bought herself an old canal boat and is counting every penny whilst trying to find work and maybe find the man she thinks might be her father.

But the city’s canals have are a sort of halfworld, a good place to hide for those that make their living by spurious means and for curious outsiders. But Odeline doesn’t know an outsider from an outlaw so has no idea who she can trust.

This was one of those books that I came upon purely by chance. Somehow I saw it somewhere on Audible not so very long after I first joined and thought I may as well add it to my (at the time) incredibly short wishlist there. It must have languished there for about two years before I eventually got round to buying it, but then that’s the joy of books isn’t it? So many of them are evergreen, it doesn’t matter too much if you read them when they first come out, two years later or two hundred years later.

When I finally did start it though I was utterly charmed. Odeline is not your normal manic pixie dream girl at all, she may be socially awkward and quite single minded for a medical reason. She’s likeable despite herself, and ultimately because she is an artist through and through.

Apart from Odeline’s journey to find her new place in the world there is another storyline running through the book to. The story of her barge. We learn about the man that built it, how he gave it and himself over to the war effort, how it was stolen and used by a runaway evacuee seeking his mother. How it was destroyed then rediscovered and lovingly restored and other vignettes along the way. This storyline only marginally intersects with Odeline’s, a brutal editor would have insisted on cutting it out, but I’m glad it stayed put, it might not have been necessary but it was worth it.

Over six months have passed since I read this book, and in that time I’ve devoured over 50 books at least. Yet the characters, story and the feelings this evoked are fresh in my memory – I definitely recommend it!

4.5 Bites

 

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

cover106249-mediumThe Young Adult thriller is becoming a respected genre, and there shouldn’t be anything surprising about that. After all passions run high in teen years and sometimes those passions run over sense.

This book is great for fans of The Breakfast Club, Pretty Little Liars and 13 Reasons Why.

One afternoon, five students walk into detention, but only four walk out. Those that walk out are Bronwyn a Yale-bound good girl, Addy, the picture-perfect homecoming princess, Nate, the bad boy and Cooper, the jock. So far so stereotypical.

Simon, the one that dies, is an outcast and the creator of their school’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom.

It seems like his death wasn’t an accident, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about the four he was sharing detention with. Should they be suspects in his murder. Or are they just the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

I must admit most of the reason I read this book was because the publicity department was so full on about it. I got a free review copy and I left reading it until just a couple of weeks ago. I love The Breakfast club and quite enjoyed Pretty Little Liars but this seemed a little to generic for my taste.

Was I right? Yes and no. At first glance the characters are all a little stereotypical; but as their secrets are uncovered there are surprising depths to them. And the plot also has some surprising twists and turns.

Once I started it I found it hard to put down, it has that thing that good thrillers have where you think you know what’s going on but it keeps throwing curveballs so you want to get to the end quickly to prove yourself right. Or is that just me? Anyway I was right!

It isn’t the most highbrow read but it is pacy and has a good moral centre.

3.5 Bites

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Have some Pride in your BookShelf!

It’s Pride season and here at The BookEaters we love our literature with all kinds of love!

But there’s more than one way to show your Pride, and if you’re not a writer and therefore not able to write great LGBT+ characters, you can still show your LGBT+ love through your books!

Here’s a gorgeous collection of rainbow bookshelves to inspire you!

First off here’s something you can do straight away, no paintbrush or anything else required! Just spend a few minutes and rearrange your books in a rainbow! Go on! Full disclosure I organise several of my bookshelves in colour order!

Or if you want to get really fancy about it scroll down to see some more painted and permanent displays!

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GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

IMG_2428This is the story of a black man standing in the Supreme Court for the most shocking charges. He is a black man accused of segregating the local high school and reinstating slavery!

But did he really do such things? After all he was born and bought up in the “agrarian ghetto” of Dickens on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, he’s a typical lower-middle-class Californian. And his father was a controversial but liberal minded sociologist performing psychological studies on the impact of racism.

After his father dies and he discovers that he’s been left no money at all the narrator loses heart, all he can see around him is the downtroddeness of his neighbours, the general disrepair of his hometown and then Dickens is literally to be removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town’s most famous resident – the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins – he decides on a daring plan to save the neighbourhood. Will it work – or has being the subject of all his father’s experiments had an unexpected impact?

This is a funny book. Beatty’s turn of phrase and sharp mind have created a scenario that at first seems absurd but then seems to make perfect sense within the context of the historical and current treatment of pretty much anybody that isn’t white but lives in the U.S. The characters are varied, believable and a lot of them have sharp minds and witty comebacks too.

But underneath this levity the impact of racism is utterly dissected. Every aspect of it is pulled out and placed under the microscope. We see how one part of the system needs another and are left knowing that just ripping out organs hasn’t been enough to kill racism – the system hobbles on and the maiming of it makes it just as dangerous. I was left thinking that if there had been more positive actions, if instead of ripping out the organs of racism they had been removed carefully and replaced with a healthy ones, maybe we wouldn’t need the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Maybe it would be obvious and accepted by all that black lives are as important as white. As it is America continues to fail it’s citizens, but at least it provided the climate for a mind like Paul Beatty’s to create something extraordinary.

5 Bites

 

 

 

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

When Pictures Say More Than A Thousand Words

It’s often been said that a picture says a thousand words but the art world – and certain pictures within it – have often inspired authors to write many more than a thousand words!

Here’s selection of novels about artists, paintings and a whole palette of emotions!

Let Me Tell You About A Man I knew by Susan Fletcher

5199g2QmCJL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Based on the time that Van Gogh spent in an mental asylum in Provence after cutting off his ear, this tells the story of Mme Traubec and her friendship with the troubled painter. Usually in stories like this it is the friend that save the artist but in this story it is the artist that saves the friend, not by doing anything special, but by the power of art itself.

… read our full review here

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

imageHannah Rothschild took the unusual step in this book of letting the painting have a voice of its own.

It’s a painting that’s hung on some of the most aristocratic walls imaginable before ending up in a junk shop then in a small flat in London before finally being rediscovered.

Read our full review here

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith

imageSara De Vos was a 17th Century Dutch painter and the first woman to be admitted to the Guild of St. Luke. Her last painting – “At the Edge of a Wood” is a haunting landscape showing a girl overlooking a frozen river. It is a memorial to her dead daughter. In 1950s New York Marty de Groot, a wealthy Manhattan lawyer in an unhappy marriage, has inherited the painting and has it hanging above his bed. But the real star of this book is Ellie Shipley, an artist who has turned to forgery to survive. She forges a copy of At The Edge of a Wood and through her eyes we see the painter’s skill.

Read our full review here

Midnight Blue by Simone van der Vlugt

cover99665-mediumA journey through the Golden Age of Amsterdam to the renaissance of pottery making in Delft. This story told from the perspective of young widow and talented artist Catrijn, allows us to mingle with Rembrandt and Vermeer without losing touch of what life was like for the everyday people.

Chronicling the innovations that led to the creation of Delft Blue pottery, the horrific explosion that left so many in Delft dead (including Fabritious, echoed in Donna Tarts excellent The Goldfinch, another artsy book worth reading) and the plague striking Europe, this book shows art as an essential refuge from the troubles of life and a basic human right.

Read our full review here

Charlotte by David Foenkinos

img_2356This is one of the most unusual novels I have ever read. It slips between biography, fictionalised biography and memoir of it’s own construction from page to page.

Yet by doing so it seems to both illuminate Charlotte Saloman and obscure her at the same time. Which, quite frankly, made me desperate to find out more about her. It wasn’t long before I was googling her art to see at least some of it with my own eyes.

It looked pretty similar to how I had imagined it – blunt, honest and vibrant. So the author had done a pretty good job! But this isn’t solely a story about art, it’s also the story of fascism stamping art out. It deserves to be read.

Read our full review here.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Dorian Gray“How sad it is!” murmured Dorian Gray, with his eyes still fixed upon his own portrait. “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrid, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June … If it was only the other way! If it was I who were to be always young, and the picture that were to grow old! For this – for this – I would give everything!”

Read our full review here.

The Muse by Jessie Burton

imageArtists and revolutionaries have often lived hand in glove, each inspiring the other. This book delves into these relationships in a number of ways. Set simultaneously during the Spanish civil war and during the very different cultural revolution of 1960’s London, we meet a young artist infatuated with a local revolutionary whose sister is in turn infatuated with the artist. Masterpieces are produced, then lost to the winds of war. When one turns up in London decades later secrets are uncovered and social mores are destroyed.

Read our full review here

The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham

IMG_2406 This book doesn’t paint artist’s as a particularly nice breed – actually no – it’s more accurate to say that it paints artistic geniuses as rude, selfish and uncompromising! Humility here is only for those that are technically adequate but without vision, the tortured soul of the artist is not so much tortured more superciliously annoyed by interruptions! This might make it sound like an unpleasant read but it has some redeeming features, not least among them the descriptions of Tahiti and it’s people- descriptions that ironically automatically call to mind Gaugin’s paintings!

Read our full review here

There are lots of other great books to help you bring the art galleries to your sofa, a couple that are so famous it seemed pointless including them are Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch (which did get a mention earlier) and Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with the Pearl Earring.

if you’ve read any others you think should make the list let us know in the comments!

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

So You Want To Own A Book Shop?

Admit it, every reader has a secret hankering to own their own book shop, I know I do! So when I friend of mine told me she was planning on opening one I practically begged to help her set it up … ok, not practically, embarrassingly!

Luckily I had some time off which coincided with her getting the keys to her new shop and she took pity on my BookEating self and said I could help out a bit. So here’s the secrets behind the glamour!

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What a lovely logo! Designed by Craig Grew of Kea Kreative

The book shop is Woodbridge Emporium … a lovely and unique venture. My friend, Jules Button, has owned successful retail businesses before so I have absolute faith in her abilities. She knew straight away that this wasn’t a venture that would be successful without a good team and she got that into place immediately. Her daughter Jessie is the shop manager, she also has two other staff members that she’s worked with before and knows she can trust. Together the team span the generations and have a wealth of knowledge and variety of expertise so they should be able to serve every customer well.

But of course the staff is only one part of the experience and what customers really want is to find things they want to buy! Jules realised that she would need to offer more than books if she was going to have a profitable shop. This was already a bookshop before she took it on but it sadly wasn’t very successful and taking on a failing business is an obvious risk. She needed to offer something completely different than was there before, but without putting off the customers that had stayed faithful! In a previous shop she had sold a selection of Mind Body & Spirit books so she already knew that the profit margin on books is much smaller than on most retail items. She began by adding in a gift section, this ties in nicely both with the books – as people often by books as gifts – and with the range of cards and wrapping papers already offered.

But her knowledge of the local area also led her to adding in an extra range – high quality loose teas! There are quite a few coffee shops and suppliers in the area but nowhere to get loose teas locally. And as we all know there’s nothing better than a book in one hand and a cup of tea in the other!

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Image shamelessly stolen from The Woodbridge Emporium’s Facebook Page, pop over there to see more of the behind the scenes work to opening a book shop!

There was a lot of hard work to be done before re-opening. Some of the problems the shop was suffering from before were cosmetic, I had been an occasional customer but the building always had a slightly damp and dingy feeling to it which made it hard to feel comfortable in for long. It doesn’t have big windows like most shops so there is little natural light. So the first thing the team did was to refresh the decor – outside the door and window frames were painted in the bright red and black of the new brand colours, the counter was moved to a new location, the old carpets were ripped out and replaced them with a light laminate wood floor, they repainted the walls in a bright white, added more shelves, added a red trim to each bookshelf, used blackboard paint and chalk to make directional signs and got a lot of extra lighting put in. Now it’s easy to read the blurbs on the backs of the books!

The other major task was to go through the stock that came with the business and this was the part she let me help with. The first day she set me to going through the books in the stock room to see which were worth keeping, which might sell well online and which should be given away. I quickly discovered that there were some books that were unlikely to sell particularly in the quantities there were. Jules wisely decided that these could go into lucky dips for customers on the opening weekend.

After the back up stock was sorted I was allowed out to play with stock already on the shelves. You know when you go into a book shop that you’ll find different genres on different shelves, but have you ever stopped to think how long it takes to get those shelves so neatly ordered? The Woodbridge Emporium has around 10 thousand books, which is about average for an independent book shop, I organised and reorganised those books four times in the run up to the opening! I promise it’s not because I’m an idiot but until the first organisation was done it was impossible to see where we had too many books or where we didn’t have enough. And as we were adding new genres and wanted the shop to have a natural flow so that lovers of one genre might notice books nearby that might also appeal to them, we had to play around quite a bit to get it looking good! For the record though, as an avid bookshelf organiser I loved every second of organising those shelves!

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I am in this picture but hiding behind people! Quite a turnout for a grey day in a small town, proof that people want independent book shops!

By now the shop was almost unrecognisable but Jules knew that more was needed to make sure the business would be a success. Publicity is vital for any new venture and Jules made sure there was plenty of it. She started a Facebook page and Twitter account before opening to keep potential customers up to date with developments, spoke to the local press and organised a big launch!

 

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Local author and actor Hugh Fraser with owner of Woodbridge Emporium Jules Button

The shop was opened in the presence of the towns Mayor and Mayor-in-waiting by local author and actor Hugh Fraser.
There were balloons, free gifts a chance to sample the teas and the wonderful Hugh (best known as Captain Hastings in Poirot) stayed all day signing his books. (Read our review of his first book here.) Jules has since also been featured in the Bookseller Magazine.

The Woodbridge Emporium has been open for two weeks now and I’ve had the pleasure of popping in to help out a couple more times, yesterday I asked her what the perils and pleasures of the experience had been to date. It was no surprise to me that she admitted one of the biggest perils for any bookshop owner is the cost of the stock and the small profit margins available. The cost of stock is quite substantial and like any other business she has staff costs and rates etc to spend on top of that.

But what heartens me most is what she told me the biggest pleasure has been. She’s run lovely local retail businesses before but even though that’s true she said she’s never experienced the amount of support that she has with this venture. Customers have had wonderful things to say but she’s also received a lot of industry support. Publishers and authors have been in touch to offer help with events, suppliers have gone the extra mile and so have the Booksellers Association. All in all she’s very happy to have her own book shop and we’re very happy too!

Me helping in the shop!
Me helping in the shop!
GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

He, She and It by Marge Piercy

he-she-itI was thrilled to discover Marge Pierce when Woman on the Edge of Time was recently re-issued. I loved it (read more here) so when I saw that Ebury was re-publishing Body of Glass as He, She and It I jumped at the chance of getting a review copy!
This is another dystopian novel, originally published in 1993 it is once again a little scary how many of the things predicted in this already exist. Marge Pierce was clearly keeping on top of the latest tech when she wrote this!

She writes about the middle of the twenty-first century. Life has changed dramatically after climate change and a two week war that utilised nuclear weapons. The population is much smaller and concentrated mainly in a few domed hubs. But some things don’t change and Shira Shipman is a young woman whose marriage has broken up, on top of that her young son has been awarded to her ex-husband by the corporation that runs her zone. Despairing she has returned to her grandmother’s house in Tikva, the Jewish town where she grew up. There she is employed to work on socialising a cyborg implanted with intelligence, emotions – and the ability to kill.

This is quite a different book from Woman on the Edge of Time, in some ways it’s a mirror image of it. Here the whole book is set in the future but there is reference to the distant past through a story told to the cyborg, whereas the other book has a woman travelling from now to the future. The futures are also mirrored – this is truly a dystopian vision whereas the other was utopian. But what doesn’t change is the quality of writing which creates an envelope around you so you feel completely immersed in the world.

Although this is a deeply moral tale, asking us to question what makes us human and how we treat others, it is also a cracking good story! Full of tension, corporate intrigue, blackmail, badass modified humans, bombs, and of course a mother desperate to be reunited with her toddler son.
Back when it was first released it won the Arthur C Clark Award. Definitely worth reading!

5 Bites!

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

cover97841-mediumTom Barron will never measure up to his genius dad. If he’s honest with himself he’ll probably never measure up to his self-sacrificing mother either. It’s always annoyed him that she does so much for his dad and had so little appreciation but now she’s just died it annoys him even more.

Still, at least his dad seems to be trying to do something for him now by giving him a job. He’s to be an understudy chrononaut.

His father has developed a time machine and plans to test it by sending someone back to the moment the world got unlimited power in 1965. The 2016 Tom lives in is very different from ours.

But even though Tom is only the understudy and not supposed to be traveling, events somehow unravel and he accidentally changes the past and ends up in our 2016. Can he put things right? And when he realises his own life is so much better in our 2016 will he be selfless enough to do so? After all in his 2016 there is no poverty and no climate change, but in our 2016 Tom has love.

This book is incredible! I LOVED IT! The cleverness doesn’t stop for a second but Tom Barron is such an ordinary (slightly disappointing) bloke that it never feels too complicated or cloying. The characters and their dilemmas are in turn fascinating and mundane and they react both rationally and irrationally just like we all do.

But beyond the great characters, fabulous plot and terrific writing is something more. This is a book that makes you ponder! And there is nothing I love more than a book that makes me do that!

5 Bites … and if I was handing out awards this book would be getting them!

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

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

New Boy – Othello Retold by Tracy Chevalier

cover109137-mediumAnother in the Hogarth Series of Shakespeare Retold, this time Tracy Chevalier, known for her Historical Fiction, takes on Othello and sets it in a 1970’s surburban schoolyard. A group of 11 year olds and starting to experiment with romance and born into a casually racist society are about to have the foundations of their lives shaken.

Osei is the son of a diplomat and so this is his fourth school in six years. He knows that if he is to survive this all white school he’s going to need an ally. Luckily for him Dee is instantly drawn to him, she’s a naturally kind girl and the most popular in the school so his safety seems assured. But there are people that don’t like seeing the budding interracial relationship. Ian is a spiteful boy who has earned his place in the pecking order through intimidation and fear, he’s not about to see a new boy take it from him. He sets out to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.

It isn’t easy to write from a child’s point of view. Often it comes across too childish or too mature, and 11 year olds are tricky as can be. This group are top of the tree at school so think they are very grown up, yet as they’re about to go to a new school where’ll they’ll be at the bottom of the pecking order they are constantly vacillating between feeling grown up and feeling insecure. Chevalier captures this perfectly.

The characters are all eminently observable and the interactions between them are fascinating. The friendship between the three female protagonists is still a three way see-saw but the weight of adolescence is already starting to destroy their precarious balance. Ian (Iago) is an immensely interesting character, I love that his motivation is not in any way related to romantic desire.

It’s quite a quick read, I devoured it in one sitting. But it was no less satisfying for that.

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

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

IMG_2419Della Dobbs is the dull and plain one in the family, her oldest sister has successfully married and the middle sister is an actress, her younger brother is the apple of her father’s eye. She isn’t pretty or talented and the only thing she really enjoys is racing and fixing her bicycle. Then her Great Auntie Betty comes home to Cleethorpe’s from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina full of tales of the Wright Brothers and their incredible flying machines. Della is fascinated and develops a burning ambition to fly. Betty is determined to help her.

Can she overcome the Edwardian attitudes to women and learn to fly? And if she does will she be any good at it?

I really wanted to love this book. Full disclosure I’m working on a similar book and so I have a genuine passion for the amazing women that just did not take no for an answer. And let’s be clear, aeroplanes were little more than balsa wood, canvas and wire so anybody flying them was incredible.

But I couldn’t love it, I wanted to connect with the characters but the writing, though not terrible, was not good enough. The characterisations were ok but not absorbing, the plot and storyline were ok, the research was well done and the descriptions of flight were good.  But in the end there were too many information dumps and I almost gave up on it because of that.

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

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Nothing by Hanif Kureishi

cover107323-mediumHanif Kureishi was once reknowned for his coming of age tales. He wrote the film My Beautiful Laundrette and then one the Whitbread Prize for The Buddha of Surburbia. Now he has turned his pen towards dying.

The Nothing starts like this “One night, when I am old, sick, right out of semen, and don’t need things to get any worse, I hear the noises growing lonuder. I am sure they are making love in Zenab’s bedroom which is next to mine.”

It follows Waldo, a fêted filmmaker confined by old age and ill health to his London apartment. Luckily he met the love of his life before this and she has cared for him faithfully for the last ten years. But when Eddie starts hanging around too much – allegedly  collecting material for a retrospective on Waldo’s work – he suspects them of starting an affair. He is determined to prove his suspicions correct — and then to enact his revenge.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Kureishi’s refusal to sublimate. Every kink and nuance of Waldo’s is uncompromisingly displayed … actually some of those kinks could be considered compromising, but not by a writer like Kureishi or a character like Waldo. It’s told in first person and Waldo is one of those characters who is both charismatic and a little bit creepy. He’s fairly cynical so all of the characters bad sides are shown. I have to admit I took a moment to check Kureishi’s age, after all he’s been known to be a bit biographical in the past! (He’s only 62 so Waldo definitely isn’t based on him… your guesses as to who he is based on are more than welcome 😂)

But this isn’t just a character study, it’s a twisted tale of jealousy and revenge. And it rips along at a cracking pace.

Definitely recommended – 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

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

IMG_2404I read this book the year it was released and loved it! To be fair it seemed like everyone read it and everyone loved it! It was on the best-seller lists for at least a year! I was a little nervous to re-read it. I always am when it’s a book I loved many years ago, I’m always a little worried that my enthusiasm will come back and bite me as wanton unsophistication!

It tells the story of Tita, the youngest daughter of the all-female De La Garza family. She has been forbidden to marry, like a slave she must look after her mother until she dies. But Tita is in love with Pedro, and he with her. He agrees to marry her Tita’s sister Rosaura and stay on their farm so he can be close to her. But this doesn’t work out quite the way he had hoped.

My memories of this book were of the simple naivete of it. Yeah. Guess I might have got that confused my relative naivete at the time! I needn’t have worried about the books lack of spohistication – just my own! Because although the writing makes this a very easy read that flows like a fairytale, like many fairytales it has darkness and deeper messages within. Also, like many fairytales, it has a few sparks of magic!

I’d forgotten the sub plot about her other sister running off and becoming the leader of the revolutionaries, I’d also fogotten the superb characterisation of Rosaura, complete with jealosy, insecurity and a desperate desire to please her mother and not to be publically humiliated.

The one aspect that could have been twee was the recipes at the start of every chapter. Yet again this escapes being gimmicky. For one thing the recipes are relevent to the story, for another thing they are authentic recipes – not just the burritos or refried beans that many people think of when thinking of Mexican food.

I’m definitely glad I revisited it!

5 Bites

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church

cover72960-mediumAfter reading a book, I usually re-write the blurb to try and give a truer sense of what the books about. but in this case the blurb it comes with is perfect! Here it is …

“For Meridian Wallace–and many other smart, driven women of the 1940s–being ambitious meant being an outlier. Ever since she was a young girl, Meridian had been obsessed with birds, and she was determined to get her PhD, become an ornithologist, and make her mother’s sacrifices to send her to college pay off. But she didn’t expect to fall in love with her brilliant physics professor, Alden Whetstone. When he’s recruited to Los Alamos, New Mexico, to take part in a mysterious wartime project, she reluctantly defers her own plans and joins him.

What began as an exciting intellectual partnership devolves into a “traditional” marriage. And while the life of a housewife quickly proves stifling, it’s not until years later, when Meridian meets a Vietnam veteran who opens her eyes to how the world is changing, that she realizes just how much she has given up. The repercussions of choosing a different path, though, may be too heavy a burden to bear.”

There is so much truth in this book. It is a vivid portrait of not just Meridian Wallace but of a whole generation of women born just a little too early to live the lives they should have lived. As you might guess from the title and blurb it also covers the birth of the nuclear age and touches upon the feelings of the scientist that created ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Boy’ and who wreaked so much destruction on Japan. In fact this book seems so completely true that I had to Google to see if she and Alden were in fact real historical figures!

Meridian is the kind of woman we all want to be friends with, intelligent, curious and kind. She’s a bit of a loner but also able to keep her mind stimulated, a useful trait as her marriage stagnates. Her life is not unexpected for women of her generation. It was a time when women had begun to break through the educational barriers in greater numbers than ever before but many families supported them in going not so much for them to stretch their intellectual wings but in order for them to find the right kind of husband. One of the many small tragedies in this book is that by falling for an intelligent man who excites her intellect she is unwittingly signing it’s death warrant! It’s only her stubbornness that helps keep it alive.

This is a quiet book, but often things that are important are said quietly. There’s no bluster, very little violence or action, yet there is still plenty going on. In the book Meridian is the scientist, studying the behaviour and life habits of a local flock of crows, but in reading it you become the scientist, learning the same about Meridian and the flock she belongs to. It is at once an intimate character study and an evaluation of post war American society.

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

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Midnight Blue by Simone van der Vlugt

cover99665-mediumIt’s 1654 and twenty-five year old Catrijn has just lost her husband. His death was sudden and they’d not been married very long. She decides this is her chance to see something of the world and leaves her small village. She takes a job as housekeeper to the successful Van Nulandt merchant family.

Her new life is vibrant and exciting. This is the golden age of Amsterdam: commerce, science and art are flourishing and the ships leaving Amsterdam bring back exotic riches from the Far East. Catrijn supports her mistresses desire to paint and in so doing improves her own natural artistic talents. But then an unwelcome figure from her past threatens her new life and she flees to Delft.

There, her painting talent earns her a chance to try out as a pottery painter. An unheard of position for a woman…

This is a wonderful book. It is full of conflict and drama but balanced perfectly with the normalcy of real life. We see Catrijn’s hopes and fears and although her ambitions and talents are extraordinary, she herself is still very down to earth. In fact all of the characters are well drawn and believable.

Catrijn meets Rembrandt in Amsterdam and lives in Delft at the same time as Vermeer and Fabritious. Simone van de Vlugt brings these artists to life brilliantly without letting them take over the story. The artistic heart of the story is with the birth of Delft Blue, the Dutch pottery that rivalled that of the orient.

I definitely recommend this one, great story, interesting characters and I felt I’d learnt quite a bit by the end of 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 reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Brilliant Book Nooks!

You all know that all of us here at the BookEaters are obsessed with books … and that obsession spills over into book storage! I mean you have to house your darlings appropriately don’t you? I’ve long been collecting pictures of gorgeous home libraries, cool book shelves and everything in between on Pinterest and I thought I’d start a series of features to share the inspiration with you!

Today let’s dive into the beautiful world of Book Nooks! Here’s a variety of cosy corners for curling up in – some are colourful, some are classical, some contemporary and some just plain cosy!

Cosy Book Nooks!

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Colourful Book Nooks!

IMG_2451     IMG_2463      IMG_2469     IMG_2456

Contemporary BookNooks!

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IMG_2461   IMG_2476    IMG_2462

Classical BookNooks!


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For more P-inspiration click the link in my bio to my Pinterest account and check out my Home Libraries board!

 

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble

TheDarkFloodRisesFran Stubbs is getting closer to death and so is everyone around her. She’s not giving in to old age though, rushing around the country as she investigates housing options for the elderly, supplies suppers for fading ex-husband Claude, visits her daughter, Poppet, holed up as the waters rise in a sodden West Country, as well as texting her son Christopher in Tenerife who is dealing with the estate of his shockingly deceased girlfriend.

The novel examines what constitutes a good death and whether, if we’re lucky enough to age, we should age gracefully or disgracefully. It looks at what it means to live well enough to die satisfied.

This is a beautiful novel, the characters are deep and flawed and loveable. Margaret Drabble writes with wit and honesty. But it is not a firecracker of a novel. It is one to sit with and enjoy slowly when you have plenty of time. Great for a long weekend in winter. I imagine it would also make a good audio book and I would be happy to have it keep me company on a long journey. In fact I’ve just nipped over to Audible and listened to a quick sample and the reader is good so definitely a contender. The only problem with this book is that nothing obvious really happens.

Because of that it is unlikely you’ll be ‘hooked’ and staying up late to finish it to see what happens. Nonetheless it is worth reading.

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

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Raqqa Diaries Escape From Islamic State by Samer

cover105964-mediumMichael Palin called this book ‘A clarion call to all of us that we should not give up. Somewhere there is a voice in the wreckage.’ 

For anybody interested in the reality of life in Syria over the last few years The Raqqa Diaries is a must read. The fact that the information is even available is miraculous as since Raqqa has bean under the control of the so called Islamic State it has become one of the most isolated and fear ridden cities on earth. Internet use is monitored and blocked and no-one is allowed to speak to western journalists or leave Raqqa, without permission. If the diarist had been caught he would have been executed. Probably in front of his mother.

The diarist Samer (not his real name) risked his life to tell the world what is happening in his city. He was part of a small anti-IS activist group, the diaries were written, encrypted and sent to a third country before being translated.

He sees so much. His father is killed and mother badly injured during an air strike, he sees beheadings, his fiancé is sold off to be married to an IS commander, he sees a woman stoned to death, he himself is arrested at one time and. is sentenced to 40 lashes for speaking out against a beheading. Suddenly wearing your trousers too long if you’re a man or not covering every inch of skin if you’re a woman is dangerous.

They show how every aspect of life is impacted – from the spiralling costs of food to dictating the acceptable length of trousers.

This book is quick to read, getting the information out was difficult so there isn’t too much of it. But though it can be read quickly it won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

It’s numbing. There is so much horror in such a short book. And knowing it’s true makes it so much worse.

Syria is a complicated place at the moment, and this doesn’t give an in depth analysis of the situation. But it does show you what life is like there for people like you and me.

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

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Need Help Finding Ms Write?

IMG_2486One of the things that bugs me most as a reader and a feminist is how much harder it is for female writers to get published, win awards and sell books than it is for male authors.

Strong claims I know, but this article isn’t about proving them but doing something about it! (I’ll pop a few links at the end for those of you that want to know more about that) So today I’m creating a little guide to introduce you all to which women to read based on the kind of male writers you already like reading – in short, I’m going to help you find your Ms Write!

Stephen King

He is one of the most widely read writers on the planet and you know who he reads? Female writers. Ok he reads a tonne of both male and female writers and he recommends the good ones all the time on his twitter feed. One of his most recent recommends is Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes. She’s also the author of last year’s 13 minutes reviewed here by yours truly.  Definitely worth checking out if you like creepy suspense stories

Neil Gaiman 

You know we love Neil Gaiman so of course we’re not suggesting you stop reading him but in between his books why not treat yourself to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern or Tatterdemalion by Sylvia V Linsteadt? Both will satisfy your need for the magical and mysterious!

George Orwell

Rightfully reknowned as the master of dystopian fiction but that’s not to say there’s no room for a mistress of it and Margaret Atwood is undisputedly she. The Handmaid’s tale is a book everyone should read (particularly in the current political claimate when it seem rather prescient) but it’s also worth checking out her other works. Kelly reviewed The Heart Goes Last recently and thought it was her best work yet – read more here. Another interesting author you may also like to check out is Johanna Sinisalo, I loved her book The Core of The Sun.

Colson Whitehead

Winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize, Colson Whitehead wrote an interesting re-imagining of an escaping slave narrative. He is an excellent writer but personally I’d recommend Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing over The Underground Railroad any day of the week. I was lucky enough to review both of them so click the highlighted words to see more. Other contenders include Alice Walker and Toni Morrison of course.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This much loved author created some of the most sumptuous historical fiction suffused with magical realism. The obvious choice for a female counterpart is Isabel Allende though Laura Esquival’s Like Water For Chocolate also deserves a mention. But if you’re not fussed about the South American connection you might also want to try Natasha Pulley’s The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

JRR Tolkien

J K Rowling – enough said!

Bernard Cornwall / Robert Harris / Ken Follet

If richly detailed, political and sometimes brutal historical fiction is your thing then fear not – Hilary Mantel has one an army of fans for just such writing! And she’s not alone, other terrific female authors to check out are Tracy Chevalier, Barbara Kingsolver Geraldine Brooks and Sarah Waters.

Alexander McCall Smith

We all need a Cosy from time to time and McCall Smith has made a fortune by writing great Cosy books that men are happy to read because they are written by a man! But Gent’s there are plenty of other authors you will love. There’s no shame being seen reading an Agatha Christie but if you fancy something newer and maybe something also set in Africa check out Welcome to Lagos by Chibundo Onuzu.

Lee Childs / Ian Rankin / James Patterson etc etc etc!

Gritty thrillers may seem to be the traditional domain of the male writer but oh my – there are so many females with them in their sites that they may have to take a bunch of contracts on them all! Whether you like forensic crime, police drama’s or serial killers there’s a woman out there writing it and writing it well! Ruth Rendell, Patricia Cornwall and Karin Slaughter may be the best known but we also recommend Ruth Dugdall, Anya Lipska and Hannah Tinti.

Phew! Ok so I haven’t covered quite every Genre yet but I’m hoping that will keep you going a while! If you have any suggestions to add I’d love to hear them so please pop a comment below!

Oh – and here are those further reading links!

Writing under a male name makes you eight times more likely to get published one female author finds

Make vs female writers – an infographic 

Books about women don’t win big awards: some data

 

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Twelve Lives Of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

img_2364Samuel Hawley did not have the best start in life and by the time he’s a teenager he is involved in petty crime to keep body and soul together. Then he moves onto bigger jobs with higher stakes but much bigger pay-offs. But when he meets Lily he knows everything has to change.

Years later he moves back to Lily’s hometown with their teenage daughter Loo. It’s time to stop running, he becomes a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school. Meeting her grandmother makes her curious about her mother’s mysterious death and the twelve bullet scars Hawley carries on his body.

Soon Hawley’s past and Loo’s investigations collide. Can they survive?

Okay, first things first, on the official blurb for this book it says that it’s perfect for fans of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. It’s really not. Not that fans of that book can’t like this one (I enjoyed both) but they are nothing whatsoever alike so liking one will not predispose you to like the other.

This is an interesting work, it’s a combination of a literary thriller and a coming of age novel. There’s plenty of action and more than 12 bullets but it also explores what makes a family, living with grief, the value of a human life, first love, community tensions, ecological issues and the sacrifices and manipulations we commit to protect the people we love most. Most of all it’s a story about a father-daughter relationship and how when we do something for love rather than for money we become heroes.

Quite a lot packed into a regular sized novel! And overall it works, most of the characters are convincing and easy to feel at least a little sympathy for. The settings are easy to visualise and the language paints windows for the reader to see into their lives. The story is well constructed, in fact this is where Tinti’s talent excels. She uses the scars on Hawleys body to draw us back into different parts of his past, to show us what made him the man he is and even though I didn’t feel like I had any idea what the point of it was for the first half of it I was happy to trust the author that it wasn’t just going to be ‘killing time’ book. As you can see from the paragraph above I wasn’t disappointed!

My only criticism of it was that there were a few moments when it dragged a bit. But literally only 2 or 3 and it soon picked up again each time. Reading this is like eating steak, there’s a little gristle but there’s also sweetness and nourishment if you persevere. If you like gritty American dramas or books with complicated characters this book is for you.

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.

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.