Thursday, 22 March 2018

Book Review: Here We Are Now

Here We Are Now
By Jasmine Warga
Published by Hodder
Available in paperback and ebook

I really enjoyed Jasmine Warga's previous novel, My Heart and Other Black Holes, and her lovely responses to the Imaginary Bookshop Q&A so I was happy to receive her newest book, Here We Are Now.

Taliah's quiet teenage life is full of being in a band, having a best friend, going to school, being moody. But this is about to be shaken up and for her life to change. 

This is a novel full of angst, heartbreak, families, friends and music. This is Taliah's coming of age story which Warga captures brilliantly with an authentic teenage voice, full of frustration of stepping away from being a child and annoyed that she still isn't an adult.

Taliah has been writing letters to a rock star for years, telling him she knows he is her father. Her mother is protective of the past, trying to build a better life for her daughter and wrap her in cotton wool from the real world. While her mother is out of the country, Julian Oliver, rock star, knocks on the door, saying that he his there to see his daughter, and asking Taliah to come and visit her dying grandfather. This is the adventure she has been waiting for.

Warga looks at the things that can bring together families during times of crisis. This is a journey of self-discovery for Taliah as she deals with the uncertainties in her life, builds confidence and deals with the unease that she feels towards her family. This is also for her to learn that her mother is more than just the person so how looks after her. Her mother also makes mistakes and this self-realisation brings about a maturity in Taliah.

Set across a week in Taliah's life, Warga packs a punch with all of the events that happen, and keeps the momentum building and the pace fast. I found that I could put this book down as I learned more about Taliah and her parent's past.

You can buy a copy from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via Bookbridgr.com

Monday, 19 March 2018

Marius Gabriel's Imaginary Bookshop


Today Marius Gabriel, author of The Ocean Liner, has popped by to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series. The Ocean Liner is published this week, and tells the story of Masha and Rachel aboard the SS Manhattan in September 1939, bound for New York. The boar must make it across the Atlantic Ocean and through the danger of German U-boats. Will they achieve their dream of a new life in America?

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What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Wonderful Novels!

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
Oh, I think in London. On the Strand, or perhaps on Piccadilly (though not too close to Hatchards)

Would your bookshop have any special features?
Absolutely no distractions. Silence would be enforced by lady wrestlers, who would put a choke-hold on anyone talking too loud or disturbing the peace. But there would be comfy sofas where customers could sit and browse. Customers who sat too long without buying anything would be swallowed up by special jaws in the sofas, funnelled underground and spat out onto the street. On the way, their credit-cards would be charged £20.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
I would try to keep a stock of good second-hand books, especially fine old novels now out of print. And they would be at affordable prices. Anyone who looked shabby, but picked up interesting novels, would be given an automatic discount.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
It would be all-inclusive fiction. No non-fiction, coffee-table books or celeb bios. Just novels from Don Quixote onward.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
I would display whatever I was reading at the time, as well as all the books on my to-read list. That way, I would have lots to talk about with customers.

If you could run only one author event who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
I would get Kazuo Ishiguro, our wonderful Nobel prize winner, to come and talk about his novels, which are among my very favourites. And we would serve sushi and green tea.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
I would give it to them for free. And then face my indignant wife.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
I envisage a huge wedding-cake sort of thing, with ten tiers, and hundreds of little marzipan figurines of famous authors on each level. The inside would be a rich fruit cake, and there would be rainbow icing. The authors would be exquisitely-modelled, but so delicious that lucky recipients wouldn't be able to stop from devouring them.

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Marius Gabriel’s The Ocean Liner is published by Lake Union Publishing on 20th March. To find out more, click here.

Friday, 16 March 2018

January & February's Reading

I have been hibernating for the past 18 months of winter. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration but winter has been long and when the nights are longer then its harder to pull my bum to the desk and type - it's time for sleeping, reading, having candles burning on the bookshelves while curled up on the sofa.

Right, let's talk about the books I've read for the past two months before March finishes...

January

The Fault in our Stars - John Green
Hazel, in remission from cancer, she keeps herself on the fringes of her life, trying to not make a fuss, tucked away from being a teenager. She knows that the tumour-shrinking medication has been a miracle but she still thinks death is waiting for her. But then Augustus turns up at her cancer support group and her life is about to break out of the confines of her bedroom. This is a sweet, funny and also sad story about being alive and being in love.

Guest - S.J. Bradley
Guest follows Samhain, just as he is breaking into a hotel with his friend, to squat there to escape the horrendous squat they were previously living. This is what Samhain is good at - running away, escaping the truth, turning his back. This is the story of Samhain realising that only he can improve his life and also find out about his past. You can read my review here.

All Grown Up - Jani Attenburg
If you've liked Fleabag or Girls then you're going to like this book. Andrea, a New Yorker, navigates through sex, friendships, work and family. People around her think she's dissatisfied but she enjoys living off-script. This is a modern portrayal of being a woman.

February

Simon - Alex Masters
This was my work's first book for our book club. Alex Masters tells the story of his landlord, the mathematician, Simon Norton. Simon is an eccentric genius obsessed with maths and public transport. This is a marmite book - I enjoyed the learning about Simon's life but I didn't like the way the narrative was broken up with the author interrupting the story.

Before this is over - Amanda Hickie

Amanda Hickie’s novel captures the fears and hysteria of epidemics and the way people slowly unravel in times of crisis. You can read my review here.

Everything I know about love - Dolly Alderton
This collection of essays explore growing up, falling in love, getting dumped, drinking, and ultimately the love of female friendships. This is a great comfort read.

Here we are now - Jasmine Warga
This is a coming of age novel where Taliah discovers her father and a whole new family. This is a story of family, friendship and music. I'll be writing a review soon for this book!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Book Review: Before this is Over


Before This Is Over

By Amanda Hickie
Published by Headline
Available in paperback and ebook

Amanda Hickie’s novel, Before this is Over, captures the fears and hysteria of epidemics and the way people slowly unravel in times of crisis.

Hannah lives a normal life with her husband and two sons, living in the suburbs in Australia. They go to work, they go to school, they own a cat and enjoy watching TV together except that there’s a pantry in their hallway that Hannah is obsessed with.

The news is full of a epidemic in far off places with a death toll increasing with every bulletin. Stockpiling. Stockpiling. Obsessed with germs. But Hannah is a fighter, having survived cancer. There is no way she’s going to lose her family to a simple bug.

The epidemic is getting closer - the city is on lockdown. Hannah lockdowns her family, pulling her children from the school, making her husband work from home, ordering their groceries online, shutting off from the world around them. Counting through their rations, obsessing with news bulletins, keeping the real world at arm's length.

The virus, Manba, begins as a cough, progressing until its terminal. There is no cure, no understanding. Cases rapidly spread through countries. Hickie captures the hysteria and panic in sharp detail as it plays out in the background of this novel. Hickie explores the way people react and behave when put under extreme conditions - losing power, low food supplies. Hannah and her family face a moral dilemma - do they stretch their supplies to feed their elderly neighbour and the little girl from next door.

Hickie builds up the tense with the family, stranded in their own home, estranged from the people who live next door, from the wider community. Their lives and relationships slowly unravel, paranoia spreading quicker than the virus.

The feeling of claustrophobia makes this a tense read - most of the book is located in a small house crammed with Hannah’s family and also the children that come to stay. There is a sense of unease. It doesn’t descend into Lord of the Flies territory but the characters do slowly unravel and lose a sense of self.

Before this is Over isn’t a book with huge plot movement but more about characters and their reactions. This would make a great buy for any of your friends that don’t like travelling on the underground during the winter because of the fear of catching a virus.

Before this is Over is available from your favourite bookshop.


I was kindly sent a copy via the publisher.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

So when I'm not normally here it means I'm over there...

I've just realised that I haven't blogged for nearly a month... not sure what happened there. I bet you've enjoyed the peace!

Don't worry - I've superglued my bum to the chair and I'm going to try and catch up with as much as possible over the next few days.

BUT if you really do miss me then I'm normally hanging at one of these places...

Just click on the links to follow me.

Goodreads - I like to keep a list of what I'm reading

Twitter - I feel like I should talk about writing and books more than I do at the moment so I will try and cut back on the retweets of cute animals gifs (but they are funny after a tough day).

Instagram - this is full of pictures of books and cats. You've been warned.


Confession time I'm obsessed with Words with Friends - I know that I'm late to the party and that I'm also crap at it.

Okay, that's not a good enough excuse.

The real reason is that I'm having a reading slump and a writing slump. But I've got some fantastic books on my to-read pile so I'm hopefully that I'm going to find a gem soon.