Cove – Cynan Jones – A review

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When I read a book I generally have an idea of what I am letting myself in for. I can gather a vague understanding of the themes, motifs and symbols that will arise. I will also have an idea of the way it will be written. For example, I know that if I read an E.L James novel, it will be shit. I have never read anything by Cynan Jones before and I went into it with no prior knowledge of him. This is how I believe you should read his work. Read it blind. Do your research beforehand and you’ll be confused and ultimately disappointed. Go blind and you will love the sublimely crafted, minimalist text. Jones has no words that are pointless. Every word carries as much poignancy and gravitas as the previous. Done so to strip the story of skin and bone, to lead you to the heart of this great book.

I picked up Cove because after adding numerous novels to my shopping trolley I stumbled across it. I drew parallels to The Old Man and the Sea and since Hemmingway is one of my favourites, I had to give it a go. I was not disappointed. Cove is a story of a man who has gone out to fish in his kayak and he gets struck by lightning. Then follows his soliloquy of dealing with his current situation and his life at home. That is all I can give in regards to a summary and, honestly, that is all that is needed. If you want a tale filled with well fleshed characters, a fitting conclusion and no straggly ends, give Cove a miss. However, if you love beautifully crafted imagery and symbolism to rival Joseph Heller then do give it a read.

I loved Cove, I thought that it was a wonderful book and clocking in at less than 100 pages means you could read it in your lunch hour. I can’t write masses about it because I want you to read it for yourself. You need to experience this wonderfully different style of writing, you may love it, you may hate it. You won’t know though, until you have given it a go. To surmise, love Hemmingway? Excellent! This is extreme Hemmingway minimalism. Go buy it. Now. The Dig is already in my shopping cart, I’m just waiting for my payday.

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Bright Lights, Big City – Jay McInerney – A Review

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So, 2017 is well and truly underway. January has passed and Valentine’s Day is rolling up to poke it’s undulating red head of love in your direction. However, some of us are still recovering from the Christmas/ New Year’s Eve hangover that lasts longer as age increases. What better way to celebrate the pounding head and maelstrom stomach then a book that is one hangover interconnected by days? Bright Lights, Big City is just that book. The tale of a 24-year-old living in New York, consuming cocaine and looking for a lady to bed down with by night and performing terribly at his job by day. All the while obsessing over his wife and the ‘sexual abandonment’ she has forced upon him.

Bright Lights, Big City, is essential the disillusionment felt by many living in the city. How the city is precisely what is stated in the title; bright lights a big city and not a lot else. How all the clubs and drinks and drugs cannot stifle the eventual collapse of one’s soul. The Narrator has dreams of elevating himself to a level he knows he can achieve. Attempting to write a novel and join the ranks of the writer’s elite. Failing to acknowledge that the prose he articulates in his mind could be transcribed to paper to make a more than adequate novel.

The novel itself is incredibly short, clocking in at 174 pages making it possible to read through in one evening. This could instil a sense of apprehension in some as is a classic really a classic if it isn’t 896 pages long and contains enough characters to fill a medium sized village in Somerset? If you have any doubts then please put them aside to read Bright Lights, Big City. The novel is perfectly long to convey the intended message. If it was any lengthier then the sense of passing, the fleeting moment of living at the time, would become dissolved. The Narrators life quickly spirals out of control in the short time that we know him and if the book was longer how we could we truly appreciate that urgency?

I liked Bright Lights, Big City. It is without question a great novel. Full of wonderfully evocative language and executed in a manner that makes you truly appreciate the moment and what it must’ve been like. The best way to describe Bright Lights, Big City is that it’s like Bret Easton Ellis but focuses on a different world, a different class and culture of people. Very good, would recommend with two double vodkas and ice.

Ben

Fellside- M.R Carey – A Review

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A Few months ago, like most of the book reading community, I fell arse over tit in love with M.R Carey’s Debut novel. The Girl with all the gifts, was creepily awesome and when I discovered Fellside on Amazon I ordered it immediately.

Fellside is a maximum security prison in the Yorkshire moors, a creepy and disturbed place with a seedy, ugly micro-culture all its own. Heroin addict Jess Moulson finds herself here after a terrifying night she can not quite remember. Stuffed with brutally tortured characters, whispering walls and stacks of unanswered questions the twisted mystery’s in this book has me hooked from the very beginning.

As with the Girl with all the gifts, there is more than a splash of gore, however, Fellside has a kick ass personality all its own. I managed to consume all 468 pages within three days following the breakneck speed in which the characters lives shift. This is one of those stories when just as you think you have worked out what is going on, a new revelation will leave you feeling like your brain Is made of mash potato…In a good way.

If like me you were obsessed with the early 2000’s British drama Bad Girls, this is a book you should definitely get stuck into.Image result for bad girls tv series

 

M.R Carey is quickly becoming an auto-buy author for me. His writing style is simple but drip feeds you complex themes. I am thoroughly looking forward to his next novel ‘The Boy on The Bridge’ which is to be released this year.

Emma Flint – Little Deaths – A Review

Emma 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 fixations 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