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Showing posts from December, 2015

My five best books of the year...and one turkey

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It is Christmas, after all.

I'm not much of a one for reading books hot off the press and, like one of my favourite artists Austin Kleon, I think most people read all sorts of items from all different time periods over the course of a year. So these are just going to be my five best reads from 2015, new, old, and otherwise.

In no particular order:

THE NEW ONE: 'A Little Life' by Hanya Yanigahara. It took me about 75 pages to get into, but I was then utterly engrossed. There is so much here that I recognised, and the tragedy and sadness that runs through the book is lightened by the kindness and love shown by so many of the characters. They are all flawed and painfully human characters, and your heart will break for them at many points over the course of this long book. Bring tissues.

THE NON-FICTION ONE: 'Dream Boogie' by Peter Guralnick. I don't read many biographies generally, but this one sucked me in from the start. It shows Sam Cooke in all his guises, from ta…

'Tis the season...to read weather-related fantasy

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Yeah, I didn't know this was a specific genre either.

My next arbitrary read (to be started once I have finished 'Red Rising' by Pierce Brown) is 'Windfall' by Rachel Caine. It is the fourth book in the Weather Warden series, which does seem to be a fantasy series about people who can control the weather. Maybe they're the reason for this unseasonably mild Christmas.

Going straight in with book four might not be a great strategy, but my experience with serialised fantasy of this type is that each novel tends to stand alone. In fact, the last one I read ('Fireborn' by Keri Arthur) was so keen for readers to keep up that it reiterated the key points with monotonous frequency. It also had a vein of overt sexuality that seemed designed to ensure that it was kept out of the YA section, despite it clearly being the natural home for such writing. I hope 'Windfall' tries less hard, embracing its genre and telling its story without apology.

The Amazon revie…

The literary equivalent of a fondant fancy

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It would be unfair to say that I didn't enjoy 'All The Things You Are', but it's not a work that is going to make any lasting impression on me.

First, the good stuff. It was largely well-written, with plenty of quickfire dialogue to keep the pace up. The setting and characters were convincing, which isn't necessarily to be expected considering Burton-Hill's background or the original plan for the novel (see the author's note at the end of the book to see what I mean).  

However, it didn't hang together. There is a lot of exposition, with each new character or new setting introduced with a paragraph of unnecessary back story. The characters are convincing but are very much tropes: the beautiful lesbian sister, the perfect boyfriend from the 'other side', the inspiring elderly holocaust survivor, etc. It kind of feels like Burton-Hill wanted to make her book as diverse as possible: a noble exercise but one that can lead to worthy rather than inspiri…

All The Things I'm Not

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I've been a bit absent from the site for a bit because of other writing commitments.  I've taken over some editing responsibilities at www.publicpressure.org and have even won a writing competition.  It's all very exciting, but it has not left as much time for reading as I would have liked.  So, back to it.

The next book for me to dig into is Clemency Burton-Hill's 'All The Things You Are'.  It's not appealing to me greatly.  Burton-Hill comes across as one of those women who is brilliant, hard-working and talented, but also from a couple of class layers above me.  In my experience, I have very few points of connection with private school, London types.  I grew up in a little village and went to a less-than-exemplary state school.  Sure, I've had a great education since then and live in reasonable comfort now, but it's a million miles away from the life of a person with the full name Clemency Margaret Greatrex Burton-Hill.  Yeah.

Even taking the empat…