Emma Flint – Little Deaths – A Review

Emme Flint –  Little Deaths is the perfect crime novel. Set in Queens in 1965, this story can avoid the CSI forensic jargon often injected into crime thrillers to sex them up and instead focuses on the intense and obsessive relationships between the character themselves. Ruth .Malone is fascinating, mysterious and when it comes to emotions at least she does not give much away. after her two children disappear, Ruth’s tight skirts and made up face do not fit into the template of the distraught grieving mother, forged by those around her and everyone including the police assumes the worst. As a reader, you find you just have to trust her and as you read about her unusual and occasionally waywlittle-deathsard antics you can’t help but nurture a little doubt.

This novel is dark and gripping, the story line pulls you in and before you know it you are voyeuristically staring at Ruth through the eyes of the other characters whose obsessive fixation with Ruth and her world mean she is never really in charge of her own life. Even those who struggle with crime writing will not fail to be pulled into this murky mystery, which will leave you wondering until the very end.

Emma Flints Little Deaths is due for Publication by Picador on the 12th of January 2017.

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline – Review

As the ‘season to be jolly’ approaches, I often dream of curling up by the perfectly decorated tree, in front of a roaring hot fire and sticking my nose into the biggest dickens novel I can find. As ever the Romantic cliches for the Christmas period never come into full fruition. Our tree looks like a wonky bush and has been creatively redecorated by the feral villain we call George the cat, we don’t have a fireplace and I don’t much like Dickens. In fact, very little reading is done this time of year which does little to nothing for my elusive Christmas cheer. So it was with reluctance that I dug out my Kindle and downloaded an audiobook to try to get a little bit of bookish excitement into my life whilst wrapping presents, driving all over the country and trying to reattach all of the ornaments to the tree.Image result for ready player one

I chose Ready Play One for two reasons, Firstly I heard it’s awesome secondly, I love Wil Wheaton who just happened to be the voice reading this novel.

Ready Player One is set in a not too distant dystopian future, the main character of the novel Wade is an 18-year-old orphan who spends almost all of his time hooked up to a utopian video game called the Oasis. The creator of the oasis has just passed away and has hidden an”easter Egg” deep in the game. The first to find it will receive all of his estate and most importantly become the owner of The Oasis.

This novel is brilliant. On top of the endless geek references ( Monty Python, Atari, Pac Man, Max Headroom, Cyndi Lauper Etc) you get flawed underdog characters you can really root for, evil bad guys and a plot that is funny and thrilling. I thought switching between the real world and the video game may become confusing, but the writing is as immersive as The Oasis itself. The world is described in such great and vivid detail it will have your imagination going full speed.

Finally, The story has a great sense of balance offering up both celebratory and critical opinions about our digital culture. Even if you are not a video game geek, Clines accessible writing style and killer story line will still keep you gripped.

Grace

 

 

Top Reads of 2016

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2016 has been a weird year. Bad in the greater global scheme of things. A plethora of great people have died in quick succession of one another. Britain is leaving the EU because the average intellect in the UK in recent years has dropped lower the pound. The US has an orange maelstrom of controversy at the helm and Little Mix is still a thing. However, Tom Waits is still alive, we got engaged, peanut butter is still available and puppies are still adorable. The world hasn’t gone completely to shit. I have also read many books this year. Some amazing, some mediocre and some that baffled with terribleness. This is my round up of my favourite 5 books that I’ve read this year.

Runner up – Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, Dave Eggers

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? It is a hard book to describe. The plot is a slow boil and slowly reveals itself. It’s methodical and is entirely comprised of speech. This is its main short coming and probably why it isn’t in the top 5. It can be a right bother if you forget where you are on the page and require you to re-read a fair old chunk. Not a common problem but can break the immersion. A different and worthwhile read nevertheless.dave-eggers

Number 5 – Railsea, China Mieville

I loved Mieville’s New Crobuzon trilogy and can highly recommend it. Mieville is part of ‘New Weird’ and each of his tales is most certainly weird and they are, for the most part, excellent as well. Railsea is set in a similar fantastical universe and Mieville once again proves that he can build a world and make it seem believable but still relatable. Honestly, if you haven’t checked out any of his work yet then I can’t praise him enough. The Scar is one of my favourite books of all time.

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Number 4 – Heart Shaped Box, Joe Hill

Before reading Heart Shaped Box I had no real idea who Joe Hill was. I’d heard that he was a very talented writer and was quite spooky. I read it and I should say it scared me, good and proper. I love horror. Stephen King and H.P Lovecraft are some of my most often frequented authors. I read Heart Shaped Box and before long my heart was going mental. From start to finish it had me going and the imagery conjured by Hill got in my head. It was only after finishing the book that I did some research and found out that Hill is Stephen King’s son. He kept his identity and origins such a secret that even his agent didn’t know about his heritage. He’s talent, he’s scary and now my amazon book list is clogged up with all of Hill’s work.

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Number 3 – Animals, Emma Jane Unsworth

Animals is about two friends that love to get off their heads on substances, drink far too much wine and generally behave immaturely. It’s brilliant. These two young women don’t behave like ‘proper ladies’ and I love it. It reminded me of people I used to hang out with during my Uni days and it genuinely cracked me up on several occasions. That and the story isn’t a predictable cliché you would come to expect from a novel set half-way between ‘coming-of-age’ and ‘mid-life-crisis’ epoch. Unsworth writes believably and gave me flashbacks to those hazy days getting hammered with your mates in a pub garden before eating a kebab in the doorway of a tattoo parlour at four in the morning. Good times.animals-emma

Number 2 – The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber

Those who are reading this post might already have seen my review of The Book of Strange New Things and will also know that I thought it was a fantastic piece of literature. I don’t know what more I can say about this book other then you must read it. It won’t make you lose weight, it won’t help you pack in smoking neither will it help you pay off your debts. It will, however, make you truly appreciate what and who you have in your life currently.

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Number 1 – The Second Coming, John Niven

John Niven is a very, very, very funny man. I have never, in my entire life, laughed while reading a book like I have The Second Coming. A rough overview of the plot is that Jesus is sent back to Earth because he let it fall into disrepair while God was away on a fishing trip. If you’re not into blasphemous texts, then probably give this one a miss. If you don’t care, then dive right in and cackle your little heart out. I could write a lengthy and elaborate essay on why this is the best book I’ve read in 2016 but that could spoil it for you. Order it now and devour it in a day like I did. You won’t be able to put it down and you will love it.

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Ben

The Handmaids Tale and The Millenial

I am a Millenial, born in the early nineties. I was raised on a wholesome diet of violent video games, overly sexualized song lyrics and unlimited access to the deepest corners of the internet. If you listen to the constant stream of parental hysteria channeled by the great British media, kids like me have been desensitized. Apparently, nothing phases my generation. No amount of violent, sex or profanity is going to bother generation Y instead we absorb it like the passive sponges of constant consumption that we are. We are a generation unable to flinch or look away, instead, we carry on scrolling, liking, and sharing. so if I was born in a time that means I became blessed with a completely sterile unfeeling bundle of psychopathy for a brain then how on earth, did a handmaids tale a book written in 1985, a date way before the causes of  desensitization were mainstream, manage to put it bluntly, completely ‘shit me up’?

okay so I am aware that I am horrendously late to the Margaret Atwood party , many people my age studied A Handmaids Tale whilst at school but I didn’t and I am glad because I can’t actually remember what I read in its place. I read my first Atwood in September and have set myself the joyous task of reading all of her novels. The Handmaid’s Tale is my 4th and I can completely see why this book has been in print continuously for the last 31 years.cy_w08fweaee35q

It’s haunting, creepy and I don’t think I have ever read a book that contains scenes which make me feel so uncomfortable (in a good way).  The writing is incredible and I enjoy how Offred bounces between the past and present. This book still feels like it could be written today, and is set in a world which if were honest could easily become a reality. With themes including identity, relationships, and people being used as commodities and natural resources this story is still as relevant and poignant as the day it was conceived (wink wink).

I am not going to go into the plot too much as I am sure most of you have read it but there must be others like me who haven’t. If that is you. Get this book and read it. It’s brutal and awesome.

 

Gracie

 

 

#NECESSARY READS: The Things They Carried

stylingLike most British I am, not wholly, but quite majorly ignorant about the Vietnam War. I know it was a travesty with countless atrocities committed by both sides. Conflicting ideologies combined with pig-headed stubbornness that led to the deaths of thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children. Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is a collection of stories told by O’Brien about him and his comrades experiences that took place, before, during and after the war. O’Brien states explicably before the book has truly begun that:

“This is a work of fiction. Except for a few details regarding the author’s own life, all the incidents, names and characters are imaginary.”

Now, let’s examine the facts:

Is Tim O’Brien a veteran of the Vietnam War?

Yes.

Do the fictional stories told seem far too personal and real to be completely fictional?

Yes.

Is O’Brien a talented writer?

Yes.

Is it possible that O’Brien is deliberately misleading the reader with the statement, and continues to dance around the truth, mixing sensationalism with a veneer of literary brilliance to make the reader question the truth in the same way O’Brien must’ve and must still think about the War? (And breathe)

Well, bloody hell if I know. But that’s the way I’ve interpreted it.

The Things They Carried is a hard book. Stories of war are always hard to swallow; they can make you feel in different ways to other tales of emotional woe. TTTC makes you second guess those emotions. No matter how touched you may be by a tale, O’Brien will always bring you back down to reality, forcing you to re-evaluate what you feel and, if it is firstly, justified and secondly, true. The story that will undoubtedly stick with most of you is that of the water buffalo. You’ll know it when you come to it. I’ve never felt so… Embarrassed to be almost scolded by an author. I am, however, still waiting for Stephen King to tell me off for abusing the adverbial. We can but dream people!

The entirety of TTTC is an emotional rollercoaster, it is jovial, heartfelt, morbid, depressing, and uplifting. It will leave you pondering about what we, those who have never experience war, think and feel about what happens. Because at the end of it all, us civvies know the approximation of ‘bugger all’ what these men and women and children go through.

If this book gets under your skin, then I will also recommend ‘A Rumour of War’ by Philip Caputo another brilliant Vietnam War memoire. Anyway, The Things They Carried is a must read for anyone. If you’re like me and are ignorant of the Vietnam conflict and war in general, then you must read this book. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

 

Ben

The Book of Strange New Things – Michel Faber – Review

Do you collect stamps? Or coins? Or vintage 1970’s pornography? If you do, then you’ll understand my collection hobby. Even more so if you read. I collect books that I’ve read. I write them down in a little book with the date I finished it, the title and the author. Sad, I know. But it is one of my little fixes of gratification, my little achievements, when I get to write down a new book in my little gold and red log book… Of books. For example, I can look back through and recall when I was reading the book and that tickling sense of nostalgia starts working its way through my patchworked grey blob that the narcissistic little shit christened itself, ‘the brain’. I have been naughty lately and haven’t finished a book for some time. I started a new job and we moved house and after a long day I want to eat, talk to Grace and pass out in a broken slumber. However, today I broke my literary dry-spell and finished the Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber. What a way to break a dry-spell I tell you, it left me tired, breathless and in need of a cigarette.

The Book of Strange New Things or tBoSNT for short, tells the tale of Peter and his wife Bea. Peter has been picked to go on a mission to the planet Oasis as a missionary for the locals as they will only trade for medicine and teachings from the Bible aka the Book of Strange New Things. His only means of communication with his beloved wife, is via an email system and here we learn through Bea’s words, of all the troubles that are befalling Earth. Peter wrestles with the distance between them and all the issues that arise in any relationship. All this culminates in a fitting and pleasing albeit predictable ending. Faber writes with vehement passion as to what love is, and you can feel his adoration for his own wife leaking through into reality.

It inspires that sense of awe and compounds how much someone can truly mean to you. I finished it and it made me question how I would behave in Peter’s circumstances. I know this is cheesy, corny and any other cringe-inducing adjective you can think of but it made me realise how much I love my other half. The ending makes you realise, that, at the end of it all, love wins over most (if not all) other presiding emotions. There, emotion deployed.

To summarise, tBoSNT is a phenomenal book. I have read a substantial amount of books this year and this is one of my favourite, hands down. It’s honest and it will hit you right in the love sack. Read it, love it, go hold your loved one close. If you don’t have a loved one, go find one. Or a bottle of Malibu. Whatever works for you.

 

Ben

The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R.Carey – A Review

“Then like Pandora, opening the great big box of the world and not being afraid, not even caring whether what’s inside is good or bad. Because it’s both. Everything is always both. But you have to open it to find that out.”

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The Girl with all the gifts focuses on the story of Melanie a thoughtful, intelligent and ballsy little girl and the unbalanced adults who influence her world. She lives in an underground, clinical army base set in the well worn and endlessly imagined post-zombie apocalypse world. The world she knows nothing about. each day she is retrained and lives in a cell with nothing but her own wonderful thoughts to keep her entertained for most of the time.

When I started reading it, I was convinced that I would be absorbing yet another clichéd shoot them in the head or they’ll eat your brain future. I was wrong.

The girl with all the gifts is not a survival guide, it’s not about the outbreak or how it happened nor is it about the world as it is now. Of course, all these ideas feature when necessary but this is a story ultimately about friendship, trust, and love. Don’t get me wrong there are copious amounts of gore and hostility, heart-stopping chases and ethical conundrums throughout, but it’s the intense and potentially heartbreaking relationships between the characters which allow the story to keep you firmly in its grip.

The ending as ever will probably divide the readers. I saw it as a hopeful triumph but it’s one of those ambiguous endings which leave you wishing the was just one more chapter, in which the characters wander into a more definitively rosy sunset. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the girl with all the gifts, it made me uncomfortable, it made me laugh and at one point it almost made me cry.

If you want a super gory, zombie gun fest you may be disappointed. If you are looking for an emotionally fuelled thriller then you won’t.