Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjón

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

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.

God by Reza Aslan

1cover121762-mediumI’ve seen Reza Aslan on television a couple of times and he had struck me as knowledgeable, passionate and a very good communicator.

In this new book of his he is attempting to explain the birth of spiritual thought, how that developed into religions and then evolved into the few monolithic monotheistic religions that both unite and divide us.

By doing so he is challenging our relationship with the divine as well as our perspective on faith and the birth of religion.

The blurb claims that it: “challenges everything we thought we knew about the origins of religious belief, and with it our relationship with life and death, with the natural and spiritual worlds, and our understanding of the very essence of human existence.”

Does it live up to that blurb? Almost.

If this is the first book or even the second or third you’ve read on the history of religion it may well contain nuggets of interest and insight. But I’ve read a lot on this subject and I found very little in it that was new to me, I also saw a couple of presumptions that had no evidence to support them in the book.

I did find it pretty easy to read and the majority of it is well researched and the conclusions drawn seem reasonable.

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.

The Last Hours by Minette Walters

1cover120816-mediumLord Richard has left his estate of Develish in Dorsetshire to see his daughter’s intended and finalise the wedding contract. But before he can return the Black Death enters England.

Unprepared for the virulence of the disease, and the speed with which it spreads, the people of the county start to die in their thousands.

With Lord Richard away, Lady Anne takes control the estate, ordering all two hundred of their bonded serfs to live within the walls and not allowing anyone from the outside in. She asks a bastard slave, Thaddeus Thurkell, to act as her steward. With this sudden overturning of the accepted social order, where serfs exist only to serve their lords, conflicts soon arise. Ignorant of what is happening in the world outside, they wrestle with themselves, with God and with the terrible uncertainty of their futures.

They fear starvation but they fear the pestilence more, someone must leave eventually to discover what has become of the rest of the world and bring back food. But who will have the courage to leave the security of the walls?

I’ve never read Minette Walters before as she has tended to write crime fiction, a genre a read only a couple of books a year in at most. But she has taken to this new genre brilliantly. Life in England in 1348 was evoked as soon as I started reading and I remained stuck solidly in the past until she was ready to spit me out at the end of the book.

The characters took me a little longer to take to, the daughter of Lady Anne and Lord Richard is a spoilt brat intent on making the serfs suffer when we first meet her, and her chosen victim Thaddeus comes across as so surly that it’s hard to feel any sympathy for, Lord Richard is quite frankly revolting and Lady Anne so dour I did wonder if I would make it through the book. However, almost as soon as I’d thought that I saw a glimmer of warmth underneath Lady Anne’s dourness and a flash of hope in Thaddeus’ countenance and soon I was starting to understand the hidden depths of all the characters.

Then the plot started to gather speed and I was hooked. Walters doesn’t shy away from the more gruesome aspects of the plague and, as you’d expect from a successful crime writer, she is adept at building mystery and tension.

My only complaint about this book is the ending. This is the first in a series of books (I’ve no idea if it’ll be a series of 2 or 20) and it ended on a real cliffhanger. I’m not going to lie, I felt robbed and frustrated. Especially s has only just come out so I’ve ages to wait now to know what happens next!

Buy it now by all means, but wait till book two is on its way before you start it!

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.

Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives

IMG_2564Stella Krakus is a curator at Manhattan’s renowned Central Museum of Art and is having the roughest week. Her soon-to-be ex-husband is stalking her and a workplace romance with “a fascinating, hyper-rational narcissist” is in free fall. But then a beloved colleague, Paul, goes missing and it seems strange things are afoot.

The appearance of a mysterious map, depicting a 19th-century utopian settlement, sends Stella hunting to discover the truth. What  links a haunting poem, several unusual novels, a counterfeiting scheme, and one of the museum’s colorful early benefactors? Can she discover the unbearable secret that Paul’s been keeping?  It won’t be easy with all the distractions around her – she unwittingly stars in a viral video that’s making the rounds and the museums current exhibit is sponsored by a Belgian multinational that wants to take over the world’s water supply.

It is almost unbearably hipster New York. Almost. Luckily there’s enough salty humour in here and enough old money New York to save it and I ended up liking Stella quite a lot and wanted to know what would happen.

Unfortunately the ending left me feeling a little ‘what was the point’ and I do think this book missed a couple of great opportunities. Still a pleasant enough way to spend a few hours and I’ll look out for her next book.

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.

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

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.

Beloved Poison by E. S. Thomson

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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.

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 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.

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.

They Can’t Kill Us All The Story of Black Lives Matter by Wesley Lowery

cover101888-medium-1Washington Post writer Wesley Lowery was in Ferguson reporting on the murder of Michael Brown when he was arrested himself for charging his phone up in a local McDonalds. The McDonalds hadn’t complained by the way, the police just didn’t really like black reporters hanging around and doing their jobs it seems.

This is how Lowery came to be at the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the next year he travelled across the US to uncover life inside the most heavily policed, if otherwise neglected, corners of America today. He conducted hundreds of interviews with the families of victims of police brutality, as well as with local activists working to stop it.

But in this book he also looks back to the things that happened before Michael Brown’s murder and the riots in Ferguson. He’s diligent to give credit where it’s due. He also investigates the cumulative effect of decades of racially biased policing in segregated neighborhoods with constant discrimination, failing schools, crumbling infrastructure and too few jobs. In other words he puts blame where it’s due too.

Reading that back makes it sound a bit dry but it’s really not, it’s more like you’re a rookie reporter getting to ride shotgun on the biggest story of the year. It brings home the very justified fear that most black americans have of the police. Imagine having to teach your child how to not be shot by those that are supposed to protect us.

I found this immensely readable despite the difficult and emotive topics, but more importantly for a book like this I learnt from it.

4 Bites – Highly recommended.

 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 Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

the-watchmaker-of-filigree-street
Click here to order from Waterstones

Thaniel Steepleton is getting by rather than living. His job as a telegraphist at the Home Office earns him just enough to support his widowed sister but not enough for him to afford to pursue his love of music. Then one day he returns to his tiny flat to find a gold pocketwatch on his pillow. It isnt a birthday present from his sister but unfortunately he has no time to investigate further as a credible bomb threat has just come through.

When the watch saves Thaniel’s life in the threatened blast, he starts to investigate where it came from. His search leads him to its maker, Keita Mori – a gentle Japanese man whose seductive world of clockwork and music entrances him. Meanwhile, Grace Carrow will soon be making her entrance into his life but meanwhile she is sneaking into an Oxford library dressed as a man. A theoretical physicist, she is desperate to prove the existence of the luminiferous ether before her mother can force her to marry.

This blend of historical fiction and fantasy creates an enchanting steampunk-esque thriller. A character that can remember the future, one that can see sounds, the aforemantioned theoretical physicist, plus detectives from Scotland Yard, Japanese ambassadors, Irish nationalists and cameo appearances from Gilbert and Sullivan show what a talented writer Natasha Pulley is. Each character is utterly believable even if they barely grace the page.

The plot is intriguing but the author also adds in magical details like a clockwork Octopus with a penchant for stealing socks so there is never a dull moment. But these details are never just gratuitous. I can’t say any more than that or I’ll be guilty of spoilers!

One of the things that really sets this book aside though is the attention to sentence structure. That might sound like a very dry thing to say but when a book contains so many teeny tiny nibbles of pure bliss then the dish as a whole is definitely going to be tasty!

If you want some well-crafted escapism pick this up!

4 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 Power by Naomi Alderman

The PowerOne day, Allie discovers she can inflict an electric shock with just her hand. Her adoptive father, who has been sexually abusing her for years, finds himself on the recieivng end.

In the UK, Roxy Monke, daughter of crime lord Bernie Monke, finds she has the same power – but it’s not enough to save her mother from the men sent to kill her.

Soon after hundreds of teen girls find they have the same ability and that they can wake up the latent ability in their mothers and grandmothers. Suddenly – the world has changed and the power to hurt is in women’s hands.

To say my little feminist heart was excited to read this is an understatement! I couldn’t wait to see how this question would be examined and what conclusions this book would come to. But before we ge to that let’s just look at it as a story.

Naomi Alderman is a good writer. There are a couple of clever stylistic twists but mainly she just gets on with the job of telling the story so it flows very quickly and pulls the reader along … even when there are moments that you might not want to read or only to read through your fingers!

The characters are great, I particularly liked Tunde, the young Nigerian lad who falls into becoming THE expert journalist on the subject by chance but takes the opportunity and runs with it. But all the characters are well written and easy to empathise with.

That’s partly why I ended up not really liking this book. It’s powerful, but it’s message seems to suggest that power corrupts everybody. That if women were more physically powerful as men we’d abuse that power just as much.

It’s a theory that does have a certain amount of validity, but nonetheless it’s one that my heart can’t accept. It’s also one that I think is dangerous in the current climate. There are too many ‘mens rights activists’ that already think we’re in a war and that feminists all need a lesson. This could become ammunition for them. After all, most of them aren’t brilliant at distinguishing fiction from reality.

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.