Your book reviews, please!

Hannah F

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My son read the Maas books and presumably liked them, but then he devoured books at that age, no matter what they were about.

I have to say I never got into her books. Read the first, thought it was fine, but didn't need to read more. LOL! But then I am four decades older than her target market...
I'm the same. Read "Court of Thorns and Roses" and thought it was just ok though surprisingly sexually explicit for YA. I believe in the US, it's now been re-categorised as adult. I've heard University students rave about her books though.
 
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Hannah F

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I just started reading The Midnight Library, and I'm about a third of the way in. Is it very depressing the whole way through? (I don't think I'm able for depressing reads atm!) @RK Capps @Hannah F ??
Keep going. I felt the same until, as @RK Capps recommended, I got to midnight. That's when the story takes off. After that it's a good read. Not a blow balloons and dance jigs read, but much more uplifting than the first 25 pages or so.
 
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Galadriel

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Tim Pears The West Country Trilogy. I picked up The Wanderers in Waterstones thinking it was the first book. No, it's the second in the trilogy. Now, I really wasn't sure about this when I began reading; it seemed to 'break the rules' of what we're supposed to be avoiding - distance/ passive sentences - the sentence construction at first seemed 'ploddy.' Well, to me it did. Then suddenly, I 'got it.' It has an unusual cadence, poetic. I came to love the clean prose. And the story. In fact, it's beautiful.

I've almost finished the first book in the trilogy now, which is The Horseman, and I think I've liked the fact I read the middle one first. The Redeemed is the final one.

So what is the story? Set in the early 1900s, across North Devon, South Devon, Dartmoor and Cornwall, the story follows the lives of Leopold Sercombe, the carter's boy and Lottie, the girl of the manor. Both are twelve, so it's a coming of age tale. But also so much more than that. If you want to read a novel that explores country ways and farming, this is for you. It covers the mini dramas of that life - the power lies in the build up of all the small things - I don't even want to say what they are because, if you read it, it would be something that you would discover the surprises of yourself. Each scene is like a vignette.

Some beautiful description - so much to choose. "There was a faint wind. It seemed to come and go. In, and out. In, and out. As if some unseen presence was breathing. The boy could feel God, breathing."

Goosebumps.
 

Paul Whybrow

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I’ve been blessed to find two historical novelists new to me this year. I discovered one in a roundabout way, as I was thinking about what image to use on the cover of my third Art Palmer novella, which is set in post-American Civil War Georgia. Art has journeyed down from the Appalachians on his warhorse Charger, so I searched for images of horses, noticing this striking book cover:

iu


Michael Crouser took the photograph used on the cover and he has a good eye:

Michael Crouser Photography

Reading the plot of Juliette Jiles’s Enemy Women on Goodreads, I bought a copy on eBay, as it takes place in the final months of the war. I was so impressed by the writing, that I kept stopping to re-read sentences. I loved reading it, but occasionally the glum thought dropped on me that I would never be able to write so well. :(

The author has an interesting technique of grounding a chapter in real events by beginning with a short extract from newspaper reports or from military communiques. It magnifies the dangers the protagonist faces.

I’m currently enjoying Stormy Weather by Juliette Jiles. She is best known for News of the World, which was filmed starring Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel.

The second historical novelist is Alix Nathan. I chanced upon her The Warlow Experiment in the library. It does what any story should do to hook readers, it begins with an intriguing premise, that makes you think “How will he get out of that?” It’s not how you might expect.

For exercising my brain, I’ve been reading popular psychology titles, including John Gray’s Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life.
 

Paul Whybrow

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Tim Pears The West Country Trilogy. I picked up The Wanderers in Waterstones thinking it was the first book. No, it's the second in the trilogy. Now, I really wasn't sure about this when I began reading; it seemed to 'break the rules' of what we're supposed to be avoiding - distance/ passive sentences - the sentence construction at first seemed 'ploddy.' Well, to me it did. Then suddenly, I 'got it.' It has an unusual cadence, poetic. I came to love the clean prose. And the story. In fact, it's beautiful.

I've almost finished the first book in the trilogy now, which is The Horseman, and I think I've liked the fact I read the middle one first. The Redeemed is the final one.

So what is the story? Set in the early 1900s, across North Devon, South Devon, Dartmoor and Cornwall, the story follows the lives of Leopold Sercombe, the carter's boy and Lottie, the girl of the manor. Both are twelve, so it's a coming of age tale. But also so much more than that. If you want to read a novel that explores country ways and farming, this is for you. It covers the mini dramas of that life - the power lies in the build up of all the small things - I don't even want to say what they are because, if you read it, it would be something that you would discover the surprises of yourself. Each scene is like a vignette.

Some beautiful description - so much to choose. "There was a faint wind. It seemed to come and go. In, and out. In, and out. As if some unseen presence was breathing. The boy could feel God, breathing."

Goosebumps.
I read The Horseman a couple of years ago, learning more about horses and their tack than I thought possible.

https://colony.litopia.com/threads/rich-writing.5625/
 
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Galadriel

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I was so impressed by the writing, that I kept stopping to re-read sentences. I loved reading it, but occasionally the glum thought dropped on me that I would never be able to write so well. :(
You're not alone there! That's what I do. I find I'm analysing as I'm reading, which is sometimes a bit distracting. I'll have a look out for the book you recommend. But, we're all different writers, expressing language in our own way, and when we read writing that resonates, it's better to let it sift down into your mind. That way, the essence of it can hopefully, spill out a little bit through your own filter - if that makes sense.
 

Galadriel

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I read The Horseman a couple of years ago, learning more about horses and their tack than I thought possible.

https://colony.litopia.com/threads/rich-writing.5625/
I've just clicked on your link - I couldn't have put it better myself! Thank you, too for a really interesting article you wrote. I wish I could be Thomas Wolfe and chuck all my writing to be sorted out by my publisher! Or be indulgent with writing out long lists - what a way to boost word count! :D
 
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RK Capps

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Feb 15, 2019
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Tim Pears The West Country Trilogy. I picked up The Wanderers in Waterstones thinking it was the first book. No, it's the second in the trilogy. Now, I really wasn't sure about this when I began reading; it seemed to 'break the rules' of what we're supposed to be avoiding - distance/ passive sentences - the sentence construction at first seemed 'ploddy.' Well, to me it did. Then suddenly, I 'got it.' It has an unusual cadence, poetic. I came to love the clean prose. And the story. In fact, it's beautiful.

I've almost finished the first book in the trilogy now, which is The Horseman, and I think I've liked the fact I read the middle one first. The Redeemed is the final one.

So what is the story? Set in the early 1900s, across North Devon, South Devon, Dartmoor and Cornwall, the story follows the lives of Leopold Sercombe, the carter's boy and Lottie, the girl of the manor. Both are twelve, so it's a coming of age tale. But also so much more than that. If you want to read a novel that explores country ways and farming, this is for you. It covers the mini dramas of that life - the power lies in the build up of all the small things - I don't even want to say what they are because, if you read it, it would be something that you would discover the surprises of yourself. Each scene is like a vignette.

Some beautiful description - so much to choose. "There was a faint wind. It seemed to come and go. In, and out. In, and out. As if some unseen presence was breathing. The boy could feel God, breathing."

Goosebumps.

Don't forget to add it to your "read" list on Goodreads :)
 

Tracey (T)

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Mar 2, 2020
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North Yorkshire
Tim Pears The West Country Trilogy. I picked up The Wanderers in Waterstones thinking it was the first book. No, it's the second in the trilogy. Now, I really wasn't sure about this when I began reading; it seemed to 'break the rules' of what we're supposed to be avoiding - distance/ passive sentences - the sentence construction at first seemed 'ploddy.' Well, to me it did. Then suddenly, I 'got it.' It has an unusual cadence, poetic. I came to love the clean prose. And the story. In fact, it's beautiful.

I've almost finished the first book in the trilogy now, which is The Horseman, and I think I've liked the fact I read the middle one first. The Redeemed is the final one.

So what is the story? Set in the early 1900s, across North Devon, South Devon, Dartmoor and Cornwall, the story follows the lives of Leopold Sercombe, the carter's boy and Lottie, the girl of the manor. Both are twelve, so it's a coming of age tale. But also so much more than that. If you want to read a novel that explores country ways and farming, this is for you. It covers the mini dramas of that life - the power lies in the build up of all the small things - I don't even want to say what they are because, if you read it, it would be something that you would discover the surprises of yourself. Each scene is like a vignette.

Some beautiful description - so much to choose. "There was a faint wind. It seemed to come and go. In, and out. In, and out. As if some unseen presence was breathing. The boy could feel God, breathing."

Goosebumps.
I read the first of these and keep on meaning to buy the others. I was loaned it by a friend and I too didn’t get it at first but really got drawn in by the writing and cared a great deal about the characters which for me is the sign of a good book
 

AnnieSummerlee

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I'm reading Before The Coffee Gets Cold, magical realism by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. Not completely into it yet, but I thought the blurb was incredible. (Copying it from Goodreads):

"In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer's, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .

Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?"

I'll let you all know what I think when I finish it!
 

E G Logan

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Nov 11, 2018
534
843
Liguria, Italy

A Very Nice Rejection Letter: Diary of a Novelist – (sorry, I can't get this out of bold. I cut and pasted it.)​

by Chris Paling.

Chris Paling is not an unpublished author, but here he describes how being someone who has published three literary novels that did not much trouble the charts (paraphrasing his words) makes the publishing way forward that much tougher. He is wryly amusing about it.

His strongest rejections come from his work as a jobbing TV scriptwriter, an area I know nothing about, but it doesn't sound like fun. Higher highs and lower lows, I guess. The other rejections are pretty like mine: formulaic and uninformative.

By the end I just wanted to give him a hug, poor man. Such an irony that probably his biggest success now comes from his failure diary. (Good agent though.)
 

Hannah F

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Just finished "We are Blood and Thunder" by Kesia Lupo (frequent Pop-Up Submissions guest). She classifies it as for the younger end of the YA age group. There's not an enormity of difference other than nothing explicit sex-wise.
It took me a few chapter to get into it, I think because the protagonists alternated between chapters so it took me longer to get to know them. Once I did know them, though, I enjoyed it.
 

Paul Whybrow

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I continue to be blessed with high-quality historical novels. In a normal year, I’ll read a few, but in 2021 they’re queuing up to delight me!

Mister Memory has an intriguing premise, with the protagonist being a man who can remember everything—right back to being in the womb. Set in Paris in 1899, he’s been arrested for the murder of his wife, who, the investigating detective discovers is, apparently, still alive. Written by Marcus Sedgwick, I’ll be searching out more of his novels.

How Much Of These Hills Is Gold deserves the plaudits scattered across its cover. C Pam Zhang describes the struggle of two sisters in the 19th century American West to find a place to bury their father. Gruesome in places, the author unsentimentally explores family loyalties.

I’m also enjoying a novel written from the viewpoint of a tortoise! Timothy's book: notes of an English country tortoise, by Verlyn Klinkenborg is peculiar and enchanting.

For those of you who enjoy poetry, I recommend Nikita Gill’s Where hope comes from: poems of resilience, healing and light.

She’s quite the most talented poet I’ve come across in years. Nikita Gill nails what it’s like to be locked down in a pandemic.


 
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KateESal

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May 5, 2018
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Spain
I'm having a splurge through the Women's Commercial Fiction section at the moment...

Thumbs up to:
Jenny Colgan's five hundred miles from you,
(our excellent Pop-Ups guest) Emma Robinson's my husband's daughter
and Taylor Jenkins Reid's Daisy Jones & The Six (as recommended by Pop-Ups guest, Roz Morris). I enjoyed them all.
Also, The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris (4th book in the Chocolat series) which was another pleasurable read.

I'm currently reading Sophie Kinsella's Wedding Night, which is a hoot (and for any fellas put off by the "Women's Fiction" descriptor, my husband is also reading this and judging by the loud chortling from his direction, enjoying it tremendously :) )
 

E G Logan

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Nov 11, 2018
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Liguria, Italy
I'm not actually reading this one, other than the blurb about it. It's more smiling at the idea.

From 'The Bookseller’

"Yellow Kite has signed WILD KILTED YOGA: Flow and Feel Free by social media star Finlay Wilson.

The synopsis explains: “Wild Kilted Yoga takes you on an incredible journey through dramatic Scottish landscapes and will leave you feeling zen and grounded without having to leave your home. In a year where people have connected to the wild landscapes on their doorsteps like never before, Wild Kilted Yoga will guide you through unique yoga sequences suitable for all levels... With stunning photography shot by Finlay’s identical twin brother Alastair, the book will transport the reader straight to the Scottish wilds.”

KiltedYoga.png
 

Robinne Weiss

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I just finished Isabel Allende's A Long Petal of the Sea. This historical fiction is classic Allende storytelling, and illuminates her own history. It's set from 1939 to the 1970s, and follows the lives of two people who flee Franco's Spain and are taken to Chile by Pablo Neruda, then must flee Chile when Pinochet comes to power.

As with all of Allende's work, A Long Petal of the Sea is masterfully told, but tends toward the storytelling end of writing--she's a teller, not a shower. If you're looking for fast-paced action and driving plot, this isn't it.

I enjoyed it for its intimate historical details, but as an Allende fan, I don't think it's her best work.
 

Izzy A

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Aug 13, 2021
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I just finished Isabel Allende's A Long Petal of the Sea. This historical fiction is classic Allende storytelling, and illuminates her own history. It's set from 1939 to the 1970s, and follows the lives of two people who flee Franco's Spain and are taken to Chile by Pablo Neruda, then must flee Chile when Pinochet comes to power.

As with all of Allende's work, A Long Petal of the Sea is masterfully told, but tends toward the storytelling end of writing--she's a teller, not a shower. If you're looking for fast-paced action and driving plot, this isn't it.

I enjoyed it for its intimate historical details, but as an Allende fan, I don't think it's her best work.

Oh I'm with you here - I love her work, but this wasn't my favourite. I actually really enjoyed the pace of it (it was the right book at the right time for me!) but I reckon The House of Spirits is at the top of the list of Allende books for me.

I haven't read through all of this thread, so apologies if it's already been mentioned, but I've just finished Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It had me invested in every page; I wasn't expecting to love it because I usually find it harder to connect with books that have more than one protagonist or that span different generations of a story (as this does), but the way this was written just pulled me right in. Highly recommend.
 

KateESal

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May 5, 2018
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Just got round to reading Anansi Boys by Neil Gaimon and enjoyed it (as I pretty much always enjoy books by Neil Gaimon). I wonder how it would be greeted if it was published now, because almost all the characters are black and written by a white author, while the book also makes a lot of use of African mythology. As a white reader, I didn't feel race was an issue in the book and there are only a few fleeting references to the characters' skin colour etc. However, it occurs to me that charges of cultural appropriation and concerns relating to Own Voices might be levelled if the book were to be published now.

Not so long ago I read Tristan Strong Punches A Hole In The Sky by Kwame Mbalia, which uses the same mythology as its basis, and it's a fascinating pantheon of stories to explore. Good to see publishers picking up on it and I hope there will be more. Greek/Roman mythology and Arthurian mythology (for example) have been plumbed endlessly, it's good to have other areas of mythology explored in modern novels too.
 

RK Capps

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Feb 15, 2019
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I recently finished The Song of Achilles. Listened to it as an audiobook, and now I really want to read it properly, I feel like on paper it might be even better. It's fantastic all the same & I highly recommend whether you like the classics/Greek mythology or not!

My daughter had to read this for school and loved it. I'm yet to try it, but it's on my radar. If you liked Miller's style, then try Circe :)
 
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