The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy

The Man Who Saw Everything

Small confession before I start this review, I have never read any books by Deborah Levy. I have had every intention of reading the likes of Hot Milk or The Cost of Living but just never got around to it. However, since devouring The Man Who Saw Everything that is all about to change.

We are introduced to a young historian, Saul, who let’s just say, is very much about himself, it is almost like he has forgotten to look around and understand that others involved in his life have stuff going. He seemingly has forgotten about others. We are transported back to 1988 when Saul is hit by a car on the Abbey Road. Yes, that Abbey Road where the Beatles had their famous photograph taken which has been copied so many more times that I have lost count. He suffers no serious injuries, although a lot of changes in his personal life happens thereafter. His photographer girlfriend, Jennifer breaks it to him that she is leaving to move to America, whilst Saul is heading off to East Germany for a research project.  Whilst in East Germany, Saul falls in love with his translator, Walter Muller and his sister Luna, becomes obsessed with leaving East Germany she wants bigger better things with her life and does not see a future in East Germany. As we all know at that time in East Germany and the Cold War era it is filled with propaganda and surveillance which we are fully immersed in.

We are then whisked to 2016, Saul is hit by a car on Abbey Road and taken to hospital where he receives treatment. However, his world in 1986 and 2016 collide together with characters entwined in one another.

During both stories we understand the difficult relationships Saul has had with his father and brother, they are both authoritarian figures and seem to have differing opinions and views about Saul and his behavior, his appearance and his lifestyle. Saul’s mother passed away so, he no longer has that person to go to. What you come to realise, is Saul pretty much either does not get on with people or relationships are very much on his terms. It seems people grow tired of him and worn out by his conduct, however, do turn up when he needs them the most.

You are often left wondering whether the accident has meant Saul is remembering his past and somewhat confusing this with the future or, when you read the novel, may interpret this in another way. That is the beauty of the book, it leaves readers with differing impressions and opinions. What I found fascinating and didn’t really appreciate the complexities of the memory and how parts of your past can remain dormant somewhere in your brain and come to the forefront when you least expect it.

The complexities and multi-dimensional within the characters Levy writes are just fascinating. One minute I was feeling sorry for Saul the next I found him an incredibly selfish and arrogant, self-indulgent man and I kept flip-flopping between what I should be feeling. In the end, I am still not too sure and despite finishing the book a few weeks ago, whenever it crosses my mind, I continue to change my thoughts and perspectives. Clever writing.

After reading The Man Who Saw Everything, I was certainly left with a lot more questions to ask then I had answers for, but not in an annoying way, Deborah leaves you to continue to use your imagination to potentially reach a satisfactory conclusion in your mind. Sometimes, you may continue to ask yourself questions, which I just found provoking but yet beautifully satisfying that Deborah does not insult the intelligence of her readers and leaves a little for a spark of imagination in their mind.

The Man Who Saw Everything is a must read for all, and I believe this book will be in my top ten of the year reads!

About the Book

In 1989 Saul Adler (a narcissistic young historian) is hit by a car on the Abbey Road. He is apparently fine; he gets up and goes to see his art-student girlfriend, Jennifer Moreau. They have sex then break up, but not before she has photographed Saul crossing the same Abbey Road. Saul leaves to study in communist East Berlin, to months before the Wall comes down. There he will encounter – significantly – both his assigned translator and his translator’s sister, who swears she has seen a jaguar prowling the city. He will fall in love and brood upon his difficult, authoritarian father. And he will befriend the shapeshifter Rainer, who may or may not be a Stasi agent, but will certainly return to haunt him in middle age.

About the Author

Deborah Levy is a British playwright, novelist and poet. She is the author of seven novels: Beautiful Mutants (1986), Swallowing Geography (1993); The Unloved (1994); Billy & Girl (1996); Swimming Home (2011); Hot Milk (2016) and The Man Who Saw Everything (2019). Swimming Home was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2012; and Hot Milk was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016 and the Goldsmiths Prize 2016. Deborah is also the author of an acclaimed collection of short stories, Black Vodka (2013), and two ‘living autobiographies’, Things I Don’t Want to Know and The Cost of Living. She has written for the Royal Shakespeare Company and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

The Man Who Saw Everything is published by Hamish Hamilton and is available to purchase here.

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Dead Flowers by Nicola Monaghan

Dead Flowers jacket

I have not read a crime book in some time. I have no idea why I have not picked one up. I suppose at the moment I feel overwhelmed by the choice there is. As there are some pretty amazing books currently available for us to devour.

When I was given the opportunity to read Dead Flowers by Nicola Monaghan I simply could not refuse.

We meet Sian Love who was a DNA Analysis for the murder squad. She quit the police force as she become disillusioned about the corruption, sexism and racism in the police force. And quite frankly, she knew she was up against something she just could not sort out herself and took the option with a heavy heart to leave the force. When she inherits her uncle’s pub, she discovers two dead bodies in the cellar. She clearly does not trust the police, and there is a reluctance to get them involved. However, she takes up her own personal investigation. She certainly has the attitude if you need a job doing properly you do it yourself. She comes under an immense amount of media and social pressure and is forced out of her home whilst the investigations are being conducted.

Sian takes matters into her own hands and completes her own personal investigation; this has certainly become personal. She is convinced her uncle is innocent and is adamant that his good name is not tarnished, especially as he is not alive to defend himself.

Throughout the story there is a lot of past history brought up, stories from within the pub from the landlord to the drinkers and their questionable past and what secrets may remain within the walls of the pub. These secrets are slowly being uncovered throughout the novel.

Nicola’s writing is complex and she somehow manages to cover you in as a reader in layers, which almost suffocates you and keeps you guessing. The story is twisted and cunning and to be frank it is one of the best crime books I have read in a long time.

The characters are beautifully flawed and emotionally damaged. I adored Sian Love she is independent, protective of herself, difficult to crack and certainly has trust issues. She was simply protective of her family name and wished to only seek out the truth without having corruption engulf the investigation.

There are vast complex social issues covered including the treatment of women during the sixties to this current time, corruption within the police.

The setting is beautifully staged and the pub is treated as the heart of the community. Dead Flowers will leave you captivated throughout and leaves you always guessing. Nicola somehow manages to edge you closer to what you believe is the truth you can feel yourself edging closer and closer and then you turn the page and you realise you are miles away from discovering the truth, just simply amazing crime writing.

With each chapter title there is a musical reference which was a touching nod to the amazing music of the sixties and seventies. Towards the conclusion of the book the past and present stories meet on a collision course which join together and lead you continually guessing in the web of lies, deceit and corruption

I am so pleased to have discovered Nicola’s writing she has joined my list of crime writers who I continually look out for. I would recommend Dead Flowers; you will gobble this novel up as it is gripping and a great discovery.

About the Book

She doesn’t trust the police. She used to one of them.

Hardened by ten years on the murder squad, DNA Analyst, Sian Love has seen it all. So, when she finds human remains in the basement of her new home, she knows the drill. Except this time its different. This time, its personal….

Her new home, The Loggerheads, is a pub Sian has inherited from her dead uncle. Did he know about the bodies buried in the basement? How could he not have?

Corruption is rife in the police and Sian’s distrust of the local force is immense. She begins to investigate the mystery herself. But when she profiles DNA samples from the remains, she uncovers some shocking family secrets…Can she preserve her uncle’s memory without putting her own life at risk?

About the Author

Nicola Monaghan

Nicola Monaghan has lived and worked in London, Paris, Chicago and New York but returned to her home town of Nottingham in 2002 to pursue a masters in Creative Writing. She graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 2004 with a distinction, and went on to write her first novel, The Killing Jar, set on the council estate where she lived as a child. This debut novel was highly critically acclaimed, and won a Betty Trask Award, the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Prize and the Waverton Good Read. She has written several other novels, novellas and a collection of short stories. She also teaches Creative Writing at De Montfort University, and online at YouTube, Udemy and Skillshare. Follow Nicola on Twitter @nicolanovelis

Dead Flowers is published by Verve Books and is available for purchase here.

A Superior Spectre by Angela Meyer

A Superior Spectre on my initial thoughts when reading part, one was not my cup of tea, however one I was part of the story it became a very addictive read and I was fully immersed in Angela’s writing and simply could not put this novel down.

We follow Jeff’s dying days he runs away and ends up in Scotland. He has a piece of technology which means he can enter someone else’s mind in the past. However, he has been warned about the technology and has been given strict rules and regulations to abide by. Of course, Jeff believes nothing negative would happen to him and it is almost like because he is dying, he simply does not care.

Jeff ends up in Leonora’s mind. Leonora is a young girl trying to find her feet in the 1860s class system. She falls in love with a man she is aware will not marry her, because is the local laird. Leonora’s mother is no longer alive; however, you sense she has questions about this and through the novel, you get glimpses of what could have happened. Leonora is sent to her Aunts; in one way I believe her father wished that she had a female role model to ask those difficult questions to and be a positive support network. However, you learn later on there is a complexity to the past which potentially will have an impact on Leonora’s future.

I adored Leonora, I wanted the best for her, I wanted her to feel like she is someone and to find love and settle down with someone she could be happy with, forgetting the class system, forgetting where she was born and bred. There were so may dynamics and intricacies involved you just sensed Leonora had no chance. I believed, even she did not believe there was a future she had dreamed of available to her.

Leonora was aware something was happening to her, someone was there, not in person but there. She was aware, if she spoke about this, everyone around her would think she is mad.

‘I gasp. It is dark now. There is someone else here. No, it is the cat. I must have left the window open. He is curled beside my left leg. I don’t want to move and wake him. I cannot move very fast, anyway my muscles are like liquid. But the cold is coming in. The smoky air is invading.

It is all coming in. I cannot stop it.’

Now, Jeff, I found to be incredibly selfish character, running away from almost his end responsibilities. He did not seem to care about the impact his behaviour had on the people he was involved in with his life, this including Leonora. He did not seem to care, how Leonora may be perceived by her peers and her family. I just simply got frustrated with him. Every time, he wanted to know more, I questioned why? He simply wanted to know because he was feeling sorry for himself and not putting any closure on his “real life” relationships. He seems to lack the ability to reflect not just on his life but the impact his behaviour had on others. Not really understanding that people may want to say goodbye and have their own closure with him.

‘Ghosts held the answers to a realm beyond that I sometimes suspected was an actual, physical dimension, and at other times understood as a layering within one’s own mind; that you created the ghosts from your unconscious. It made me no less frightening. Now I am a part of my own ghost story. I am the ghost, even before death. I straddled realms.’

Angela managed to do something that not many authors can do and that is to make me like and really enjoy and connect with a book when initially, I did not think I would like it. Angela manages to wrap you up in the characters lives and be committed to them and somehow towards the end of the book, she manages to make everything align to almost make sense but leaves you asking some more questions. This is not a bad thing, it leaves you in your own mind to make sense from your own perspective and your own opinion, as I can imagine everyone will finish this book with different thoughts and opinions.

Angela’s writing has a breath-taking complexity. She explores life and death, mental health and how she writes from a selfish character’s perspective is haunting.

I would highly recommend.

About the Book

Jeff is dying. Haunted by memories and grappling with shame, he runs away to a remote part of Scotland with a piece of beta tech that allows him to enter the mind of someone in the past. Instructed to only use it three times, Jeff-self-indulgent, isolated and deteriorating – ignores this advice.

In the late 1860s, Leonora lives in the Scottish Highlands surrounded by nature. Contemplating the social conventions that bind her, her contented life and a secret romantic friendship with the local laird are interrupted when her father sends her to stay with her aunt in Edinburgh. But Leonora’s ability to embrace her new life is shadowed by a dark presence that begins to lurk behind her eyes, and strange visions.

About the Author

AngelaMeyer-OldMansGarage-6

Angela is an exciting new talent; a debut novelist whose short stories have been published in Best Australian Stories, Island, The Big Issue, The Australian, The Lifted Brow and Killings. By day she works as a commissioning editor for Echo, an imprint of Bonnier Publishing Australia, where she has identified and published international bestsellers including The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

A Superior Spectre is published by Contraband and is available here for purchase.

A big thank you to Julia from Ruth Killick Publicity for sending me a copy of this book.

Weekly update from 22 August to 29 August 2019

This week I have been struggling with what to read, I have been starting to read a book, then put it down and start another one. My mind is in a bit of a jumble it is almost like looking in a wardrobe and deciding that I have nothing to wear. When in fact, I have a lot of books, I want to read them all, but seem to be overwhelmed by it all.

I thought I would start with the books I have bought or received from publishers.

The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy (sent from publishers)

The Man Who Saw Everything

In 1989 Saul Adler (a narcissistic young historian) is hit by a car on the Abbey Road. He is apparently fine; he gets up and goes to see his art-student girlfriend, Jennifer Moreau. They have sex then break up, but not before she has photographed Saul crossing the same Abbey Road. Saul leaves to study in communist East Berlin, two months before the wall comes down. There he will encounter – significantly- both his assigned translator and his translator’s sister, who swears she has seen a jaguar prowling the city. He will fall in love and brood upon his difficult authoritarian father. And he will befriend the shapeshifting Rainer, who may or may not be a Stasi agent, but will certainly return to haunt him in middle age.

Slipping slyly between time zones and leaving a spiraling trail, Deborah Levy’s electrifying The Man Who Saw Everything examines the grave crime of carelessness, and what we see and what we fail to see, until we encounter the spectres of history – both the world’s and our own.

The Man Who Saw Everything is published by Hamish Hamilton and is out now.

A full review will be on the blog on 13 September 2019.

The Bees by Laline Paull

The Bees
Accept. Obey. Serve.

Flora 717 is a survivor. Born into the lowest class of totalitarian hive society she is prepared to sacrifice everything for the Queen, surviving internal massacres, religious purges and terrifying invasions by vicious wasps. With each act of bravery her status grows, revealing both the enemies within and the sinister secrets that rule the hive. But when her instinct to serve is overwhelmed by a fierce and deeply forbidden maternal love, she breaks the most sacred law of all……

The Bees is published by 4th Estate and is available now.

Storytime by Jane Sullivan

Storytime

In Storytime, author and literary journalist Jane Sullivan takes us from Wonderland to Narnia; is enchanted by Winnie-the-Pooh and the Magic Pudding, amazed by Enid Blyton and frightened by the Tales of Terror. Then there is the one book Jane truly hated – Little Women. Why had she despised Jo March, a seemingly perfect role model for a young, aspiring writer?

This intimate, intense and emotional adventure is a surprising and sometimes disturbing journey of self-discovery. As Jane relieves old joys and faces old fears, she finds that the books were not what she thought they were, and she was not the child she thought she was.

Interwoven with experiences from prominent Australian writers, including Melina Marchette and Trent Dalton about their favourite childhood stories, Storytime is a bibliomemoir that lures us deep into the literary world. Through Jane’s explorations we understand how it is that the enchantment of books we read as children can shape the people we are today. Because we didn’t just want to read them – we needed to read them.

Storytime is published by Ventura and is available now.

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott (sent from publisher)

The Secrets We Kept

1949: the celebrated Russian author Boris Pasternak is writing the novel that will become Doctor Zhivago.

The Soviets, afraid of its subversive power, ban it. But in the rest of the world it is fast becoming a sensation.

In Washington DC, the CIA is planning to use the book to tip the Cold War in its favour.

Their agents are not the usual spies, however. Two typists are charged with the mission of a lifetime; to smuggle Doctor Zhivago back into Russia by any means necessary.

It will not be easy. There are people prepared to die for this book, and agents willing to kill for it.

Passions, power, secrets and a banned masterpiece with the power to change history lie at the heart of this irresistible novel.

The Secrets We Kept is available on 5 September 2019 and is published by Hutchinson.
Books I Am Currently Reading

The Blue Rose

Storytime

Jog On

Chanel

Books Read This Week

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

The Diary of a Bookseller

This is a re-read as Shaun has a new book coming out this week. Shaun has kept a diary of experience of being a bookseller and to be frank I adore this book. This book makes me properly belly laugh. I adore Shaun’s passion for books, his writing and all of the “characters” he writes about. It is brutally honest about the behavior of some of his customers and to be honest, I do not blame him as some of their behavior is questionable. I cannot recommend this book enough and look forward to the next instalment.

The Diary of a Bookseller is published by Profile books and is available now.

Special by Melanie Dimmitt (sent by publisher)

Special

This book I needed when my son was born very premature.

Melanie writes about coming to terms with her child’s disability. Melanie speaks to a number of other parents who are dealing with complexities of their child’s disabilities, diagnosis, medical systems and worst of all other parents and people. I felt myself nodding through all of this book, I know I am fortunate my son survived and is now thriving, however, this book was certainly a comfort blanket that confirmed it was okay to feel how I felt and be angry and sad and every other emotion you could possibly think of.

This book to me has an importance for all health professionals and should be passed on to all parents with children who are seriously ill or are disabled. It will bring a source of comfort and understanding that I could not find in anyone else.

Even if you do not have a child with a disability, I believe this is an important read, to give you an understanding how people may feel and how your behavior and ignorance may not be that helpful.

I just want to say Thank You to Melanie and to all of the families who contributed their own personal story, thank you for your brutal words, but actually comforting words.

Special is published by Ventura.

Lost for Words by Edward St Aubyn

Lost For Words

We follow the judges for the Elysian Prize for literature and their individual roles and contribution to the decision of the eventual winner of the prize. We experience a differing of opinions, the complexities of when you mix book prizes with literature and just an overall ego fest and what seems to be forgetting what the prize is actually about. You will go through frustration at the selfish behavior of some of the judges and snobbery surrounding the literature world. Lost for Words is a great book you can simply devour and get lost in the obsession of the book prize world. Lost for Words is one would recommend.

Lost for Words is published by Picador.

The Carer by Deborah Moggach

The Carer

The carer covers a topic that is not discussed enough, the caring profession and how families deal with parents or family members getting older and what to do. Phoebe and Robert clearly do not want to or feel they have the capability of looking after their father both physically and mentally and decide to hire a carer, Mandy. Mandy is not like them she has had a different upbringing and life experience compared to them. However, she seems to have passion and compassion for looking after their father, James (an eminent professor). Deborah’s writing perfectly reflects the dilemma people have with coming to terms with their relatives getting older, changing and times changing ahead of them. The Carer is one I would recommend it’s a simple read but the topics it covers is complex and relevant to all.

The Carer is published by Tinder Press and is available now.

Snow by Ondine Sherman

Snow Cover Image

At the moment, there are some amazing YA books around. I am pleased to see the YA “movement” only increasing which I believe is positive in keeping young people and adults reading and interested in books. Snow is one of those books that you must read if you are a YA fan. Snow is the follow up on from Sky, which I have not read and do not believe you do not need to read it before. I was introduced to Sky as if I was a new reader.

Sky is a young person who is due to meet her father who lives the other side of the world and more importantly she has never met. As you can imagine for a young person to have to deal with this complex situation, she is trying to manage her feelings and hopes and expectations all at the same time. As you can imagine this is not an easy task.

Ondine in her writing makes you feel Sky’s apprehension and fear and almost being forced into being an adult when she meters her father it is mesmerizing. We are witness and experience the interaction of a father and daughter bond starting from scratch which is at times beautiful but uncomfortable encounter we have.

‘I look at him, the glow of purple galaxy light playing on his face. For a moment, I let go of all my expectations, hopes and disappointments, and see only a person, a human being. And he doesn’t seem so bad after all.’

In addition, the surrounding friends and family may have held information which they kept from Sky, not necessarily out of malicious but because they felt it was the right thing to do. Sky does not necessarily see it in this way; however, this is when her young head dealing with adult situation may collide and she may not necessarily deal with this situation in a mature way.

Snow is a beautiful exploration and love story into the complexities of relationships, whether they are family or friends we experience new and old friendships and relationships collide with one another and some how they have to entwine in one another with the common domination, Sky.

We also explore Sky’s love and protection towards animals, again this is something she does not have in common with her father, as she comes to terms with his job which may collide with her strong belief in animal welfare and protection. We journey on Sky’s attempts to understand why her father does what he does in turn of maintaining her strong beliefs.

So may find Sky’s character spoilt and immature, however, you need to bear in mind the emotions and what she is going through which she may not necessarily deal with in an appropriate way but reflect she has a lot going on, a lot of emotion for one person to deal with.

The main thing about Sky is, I fell in love with Ondine’s scene setting it was simply beautiful.

‘Mozart, strangely enough is the perfect soundtrack as the scenery engulfs me. Concrete, parking lots and shops are quickly replaced by giant trees and snowy fields. Soon we’re in wilderness proper. The sun rises and the air is so saturated with colour, violet and lavender, it looks like it’s been put through an Instagram filter.’

About the Book

Sometimes you have to leave everything behind to find yourself.

Sky travels to Alaska to meet her father for the first time. She has longed to know him, and now finally has that chance.

Far away from her friends back in Australia, she connects with Jaxon, a local boy struggling with his own problems. In a cold, vast and beautiful place, they are isolated except for the wild animals who live there.

But Sky’s dad has a secret that threatens everything she holds dear; Will she have to choose between family and her love of animals?

About the Author

Ondine Sherman

Ondine is the co-founder and managing director of Voiceless, the animal protection institute. She is a life-long animal advocate, passionate about promoting respect and compassion for all creatures. Ondine holds a BA in Communications and MA in Environmental Studies. She is an ambassador for Action for Dolphins and director of conservation NGO This is My Earth (TiME), and writes regularly in the media about animal protection.

Ondine grew up in Sydney and now lives in Tel Aviv with her husband and three children. Her mischievous street cats, loyal dogs and ex-battery chickens all keep her extraordinarily entertained.

Instagram – ondinesherman

Website – Ondinesherman.com

Snow is published by Pantera Press and is available here.

The Runaway Daughter by Joanna Rees

We are initially introduced to Anna Darton who is on the run. She believes she has committed a crime, a crime that she felt she had not choice in doing and is now facing the consequences of this by having to run and watch over her shoulder. You feel there is so much to this story, a lot of background baggage which has led Anna to now having to change her life completely. She moves to London and changes her name to Verity and its time to now stand on her own two feet. It is the first time she is independent from her family. Surprising she learns a lot quickly and learns to adapt and rely upon her own instincts and initiative.

However, things are not always that simple and back home it is not what Anna / Verity thinks happened and she is now going to have to face her past. She cannot just shut the door to her past and she may come face to face with the start reality of what happened and face consequences which may have an impact on her future life.

The diverse characters within the novel makes the story flow beautifully. They are attractive and likable, but are made to work out in your own mind the goodies from the baddies.

The one thing I adored about this novel, was how Joanna managed to set the scene. Her writing was beautiful, potent and rich. You felt Joanna picking you up and placing you at the scene to watch the story unravel before your eyes.

‘She took a deep breath of the smoggy air, breathing in the sulphurous tang, which reminded her of the smell of struck matches, and she wondered whether Martha would be lighting the fire in the drawing room this morning. For a heady moment, as she thought of Martha there and herself here, the lightness of her freedom soared inside her. She was free, wasn’t she? At last.’

‘A light drizzle was starting to fall and people were hurrying along the pavement, putting their umbrellas. From her vantage point, each black disc seemed like a personal rebuff, a reminder of her guilt and hopelessness.’

The Runaway Daughter is the ideal novel for you to get lost in as you are swept away immediately and absorbed within the story. You will witness a defiant young woman, together with extravagance, self-indulgent characters it is a perfect mix up.

About the Book

Verity Casey didn’t have to be scared. She could be fearless. She would be fearless.

It’s 1926 and Anna Darton is on the run from a terrible crime she was forced into committing. Alone and scared in London, salvation comes in the from of Nancy, a sassy American dancer at the notorious nightclub, the Zip. Re-inventing herself as Vita Casey, Anna becomes part of the line-up and is thrown into a hedonistic world of dancing, parties, flapper girls and fashion.

When she meets the dashing Archie Fenwick, Vita buries her guilty conscience and she believes him when he says he will love her no matter what. But unbeknown to Vita, her secret past is fast catching up with her, and when the people closest to her start getting hurt, she is forced to confront her past or risk losing everything she holds dear.

About the Author

Image for Joanna ReesJoanna Rees is a bestselling writer of numerous novels such as The Tides of Change and A Twist of Fate. With over twenty years’ writing experience, Joanna regularly teaches creative writing in schools and libraries and she also contributes regularly to online station Radio Gorgeous. Based in Brighton, Joanna is married to the author Emlyn Rees, with who she has three daughters. They have co-written several novels, including the Sunday Times number one bestseller Come Together, which was translated into over twenty languages and made into a film.

Twitter @joannareesbooks

 

The Runaway Daughter is published by Pan Macmillan and is available here.

I Am Change by Suzy Zail

Trigger Warning

Rape

Domestic Violence

Female Genital Mutilation

Poverty

Its been a long time since a book has moved me so much as I Am Change has. Firstly, this is a book that you all must read and would certainly make my top ten of the year.

We follow Lilian who is a young person who lives in Uganda and wants more out of life. Her father wants her to achieve all the dreams they talk about and that is to finish her education. Her father works incredibly hard to pay for this dream; however, her mother has different ideas and that is for Lilian for find a husband and learn to be a good wife. This means she has to pretty much be a servant to her brother and learn everything her mother had to as this is perceived to make her a good wife.

I wanted to dislike Lilian’s mother, and challenge her about holding her daughter back. When I reflected later on, I realised she knows no different, she herself had a limit education and married young, perhaps that was what her dreams were. Times have changed and Lilian wants more out of her life. Relationships and husbands are just simply not her priority. Learning and reading as much as she possibly could is her dream and passion with potentially a future in teaching or writing being her goal.

We are also introduced to different family members and their lives and issues and complexities of relationships they have. They all have differing views about their own futures and what this should look like.

Lilian’s family go through so much as they live in poverty, they have cultural expectations, death and violence. The family, especially, Lilian’s mother carries a guilt with her around the death of her daughter and blames herself. However, Lilian wants to learn more and finds out a lot more about the circumstances of this death which she shares with her mother. Lilian learnt very quickly the power of books and story telling can have and the empowerment and learning potential you can gain from them.

‘She loved the musty smell of books and stepping into world’s bigger than her own, but there was always an ending. She hated the endings, those last words that sent her home, back to herself and the small life she lived.’

I adored Lilian as a character and I felt I was her champion. I willed her to continue with her education and willed for her mother to realise the power and potential Lilian could have in the future if she finished her education. I wanted to help Lilian’s father with making money for Lilian’s education, I was invested in this story, the future of Lilian. The future she wanted.

I Am Change will fill you with such a variety of different emotions, anger, despair, sadness, you name it I went through it. You have an awareness of the importance of education, but do not fully appreciate that others go without and how this can disempower and have such a dramatic impact on futures. Thank you to Suzy, what an amazing story, beautifully written with such passion and compassion. More importantly thank you to Namukasa Nusula Sarah for sharing your story with Suzy.

About the Book

Lilian has learned to shrink herself to fit other people’s ideas of what a girl is.

In Lilian’s village a girl is not meant to be smarter than her brother. A girl is not meant to go to school or enjoy her body or decide who to marry. Especially if she is poor.

Inspired by the true accounts young Ugandan women, I Am Change is the tragic but empowering story of how a girl finds her voice and the strength to fight for change.

Inspired by the stories told to the author by young Ugandan women. Timely and salient – the rights of girls and women in African countries are only now being exercised. A moving story of one girls struggle.

Millions of girls in developing countries don’t have the opportunity to go to school. Their education is disrupted by poverty, child marriage, gender-based violence and cultures which favour boy’s education. I Am Change highlights the issues that these young women have.

Through Lilian, Suzy gives readers a connection and a meaning to the young women’s stories.

About the Author

Suzy Zail

Suzy has worked as a litigation lawyer, specializing in Family Law, but now writes full time. Among other titles, she has written her father’s story, The Tattooed Flower, his life as a child survivor of the Holocaust. Her first novel for young adults, The Wrong Boy, was short listed for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards, the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, the WAYRBA, USBBY and YABBA awards. Her second novel with Black Dog Books, Alexander Altmann A10567, was a Notable Book at the CBCA Awards. She lives in Melbourne and has three children.

Instagram – authorsuzyzail

I Am Change is published through Black Dog Books and is available here.

Girl. Boy. Sea by Chris Vick

Girl. Boy. Sea.

‘The sea and the sky were our universe, and the boat was our world.

A planet that had broken gravity and left its start.

Drifting in the inky blue….’

This is the first book I had read written by Chris Vick and it certainly did not disappoint. We follow the tale of survival and unlikely friendship during the most difficult time and a situation you would never dream of.

We follow the story of Bill and Aya who find each other shipwrecked after a terrible storm. Initially, there is almost an uncertain friendship, but through the power of storytelling, Bill and Aya come together to form a beautiful and strong bond which in turn you witness friendship blossoming between them. Aya tells the most beautiful stories which has Bill hooked and wanting to learn more. Storytelling is the one thing that seems to get them through such terrible circumstances and be able to cope and make decisions that no young person should have to make. There are many themes covered within this simply story and the themes which are reflected are incredibly complex, what we also see is Aya has limited English but they both learn one another’s language to learn more about one another and be able to understand each other. I didn’t feel they needed it, as despite this seeming to be a barrier, they were able to make their needs known one way or another.

Chris’s writing is simply enchanting and beautiful and reflects that no matter what sex, culture, background or language barrier – storytelling is the one strand that brings us together. The stories I adored, they were my favourite part of the novel and it simply did not disappoint. Another favourite part of the novel was Bill and Aya always looking at the stars, it makes you want to look up a lot more and really look into the night sky, just as we may do during the day.

Both Bill and Aya were relatable characters with such depth and beauty, Chris was certainly invested in the writing of both and wanted the reader to be with Bill and Aya and go with them on the journey of survival.

I am a fan of Lord of the Flies and this is a great updated version of that classic novel. Girl. Boy. Sea is probably a more relatable novel for young people at this time and one I would recommend to all. I also believe it would make a great book for parents to read with their children as the stories are simply magical and for all to enjoy.

Girl. Boy. Sea is a beautiful exploration into unlikely friendships with complex undertones, such as cultural differences and language barriers, and the impact positive friendships and companionship can have on survival.

About the Book

Bill is a British boy at sea with the Youth Sail Challenge when his yacht is caught in a huge storm off the coast of Morocco. Separated from his teammates, he narrowly survives shipwreck in a tiny rowing boat. After many days and nights Bill rescues a girl clinging for her life to a barrel. She is Aya, from a nomadic Berber tribe. Aya was escaping to Europe when her migrant ship was destroyed in the same storm.

Through endless days and star- spangled nights, they drift – mere specks on the vast, empty ocean. Weakened by fear, hunger and the unforgiving sun, Aya tells Bill about The Arabian Nights, and Shahrazad, who told 1001 stories to save her life. As hope of rescue begins to fade, they find strength in these tales of magic, brave heroes, wily thieves, greedy sultans, and courageous girls. When they land on a desert island, they’re surprised to be confronted by a stranger who is not what he seems….. and back out on the waves once more in the dark deep, a shadow follows…..

About the Author

Chris Vick

Chris is a graduate of the Bath Spa MA in Writing for Young People. He lives near Bath and splits his time between writing, teaching and working in marine conservations. He is the author of Kook and Storms, both published by HarperCollins.

Twitter @chrisvickwrites

Instagram: chrisvick321

Girl. Boy. Sea is published by Zephyr an imprint of Head of Zeus

If you would like to purchase a copy of Girl. Boy. Sea, please click here.

Weekly Round up – 8 August 2019 to 15 August 2019

I have been thinking a lot about my blog lately and how I have fallen out of love with it. Don’t get me wrong I love reading books and reviewing, but actually sitting down and writing the reviews down, now that is another matter.

I have been thinking how is it best to move on from being stuck in a rut, and the best way forward would be to do a weekly overview. This is where I can briefly review books, tell you what is coming up, some of the books I have been buying or been sent or simply just things I have been loving.

I will of course, do full blog posts for books that have been sent to me and ones where I am participating on blog tours.

Lets begin…..

This week has been a pretty good reading week. My mission was to try and complete as many half read books I possibly could and have a fresh start in September with books in my very large TBR pile. August is also a busy month for book tours and now I am starting to getting settled into my new life in Australia.

Books Read This Week

Its been a great reading week.

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

The Gown

We follow two stories which run parallel with one another firstly we are transported back to 1947 when Britain is recovering from war and preparing for Princess Elizabeth’s forthcoming wedding. Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin are embroiderers who work for the Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell and have been asked to make Princess Elizabeth’s wedding dress. During this story we witness, the recovery and hardship of the war and how people and doing their best of trying to get back on with their lives despite loss and the memories of the horrific war conditions.

We are fast forwarded to Toronto 2016, Heather takes it upon herself to seek out what legacy her late grandmother may have left behind and the history that has remained in the dark. Heather is desperate to find out more about her grandmother and learns so much more than she had ever anticipated.

The Gown is a beautiful story of female friendships and I adored the female narrator. The intricacy and entwined characters certainly reflects the complexity of embroidery. The amount of research and care Jennifer took to compile this beautiful love note towards friendship is admirable.

The Gown is published by Headline

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from son to a mother who cannot read. We follow the story of “Little Dog” from a child to adulthood. The good, the bad and the ugly. The family history is spoken about before Little Dog was born where they were located in Vietnam and the unforgettable incidents and revelations that happened there.

This book I continue to think about, it has certainly left its mark. It makes you question and aware as a parent, your own behavior and the impact this could have on your children and not just their physical needs but their emotional. We witness worlds colliding with one another and how the aftermath and clear up after this. This was a difficult, emotional and thought provoking journey Ocean leads us on, but well worth the read.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is published by Jonathan Cape

A Superior Spectre by Angela Meyer

A Superior Spectre

A full review of this book will be published on 2 September 2019.

Jeff is dying. Haunted by memories and grappling with shame, he runs away to a remote part of Scotland with a piece of beta tech that allows him to enter the mind of someone in the past. Instructed to only use it three times, Jeff – self indulgent, isolated and deteriorating – ignores this advice.

In the late 1860s, Leonora lives in the Scottish Highlands, surrounded by nature. Contemplating, the social conventions that bind her, her contented life and a secret romantic friendship with the local laird are interrupted when her father sends her to stay with her aunt in Edinburgh. But Leonora’s ability embrace her new life is shadowed by a dark presence that begins to lurk behind her eyes, and strange visions.

A Superior Spectre is published by Contraband

I Am Change by Suzy Zail

I Am Change

A full review of this book will be published on 22 August 2019

Lilian has learned to shrink herself to fit other people’s ideas of what a girl is.

In Lilian’s village a girl is not meant to be smarter than her brother. A girl is not meant to go to school or enjoy her body or decide who to marry. Especially if she is poor.

I Am Change is published by Walker Books .

Girl. Boy. Sea by Chris Vick

Girl. Boy. Sea. by Chris Vick

A full review of this book will be published on 18 August 2019

This isn’t a place. This is nowhere. I’m in a rowboat, in the Atlantic. I’m 15. I’m not sure I’ll make it.

Bill is a British boy at sea with the Youth Sail Challenge when his yacht is caught in a huge storm off the coast of Morocco. Separated from his teammates, he narrowly survives shipwreck in a tiny rowing boat. After many days and nights Bill rescues a girl clinging for her life to a barrel. She is Aya, from the nomadic Berber tribe. Aya was escaping to Europe when her migrant ship was destroyed in the same storm.

Through endless days and star-spangled nights, they drift – mere specks on the vast, empty ocean. Weakened by fear, hunger and the unforgiving sun, Aya tells Bill about The Arabian Nights, and Shahrazed, who told 1001 stories to save her life. As hope of rescue begins to fade, the find strength in these tales of magic, brave heroes, wily thieves, greedy sultans, and courageous girls. When they land on a desert island, they’re surprised to be confronted by a stranger who is not what he seems…and back out on the waves once more in the dark deep, a shadow follows…..

Girl. Boy. Sea is published by Zephyr

Books Received

Special by Melanie Dimmitt

Special

Most of us expect to meander through the motions of love, marriage and (textbooks) baby in the carriage, but once in a while life has something a little more special in store.

Special is an uplifting, candid companion for those in the early stages of navigating a child’s disability, offering honest, reassuring and relatable insight into a largely unknown (and so, initially terrifying) part of our world.

Inspired by professional writer Melanie Dimmitt’s own crash landing into special – needs parenthood, and shaped by her conversations with parents of children with wide-ranging disabilities, Special shares real stories, expert guidance and simple coping strategies to soothe anyone whose life has taken an unexpected turn.

Special is due for release on 1 September 2019 and is published by Ventura Press

Snow by Ondine Sherman

Snow

Sky travels to Alaska to meet her father for the first time. She has longed to know him, and now finally has that chance.

Far away from her friends back in Australia, she connects with Jaxon, a local boy struggling with his own problems. In a cold, vast and beautiful place, they are isolated except for the wild animals who live there.

But Sky’s dad has a secret that threatens everything she holds dear. Will she have to choose between family and her love of animals.

Snow is published by Pantera Press

My Current Reads

Special

Jane Eyre

The Diary of a Bookseller

If you are a publisher or an author and would like me to feature your book in my weekly roundup, please contact me thesecretworldofabookblogger@mail.com

June Wrap Up Part 2

Part two of my wrap up again had a wide variety of reads from YA to historical. I will again try my best to blog my reviews on these books.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman

Keiko doesn’t fit in.

She’s thirty-six years old, she’s never had a boyfriend and she’s been working in the same convenience store for eighteen years.

Her parents wish she’d get a better job. Her friends wonder why she won’t get married.

But Keiko knows makes her happy, and she’s not going to let anyone take her away from her convenience store…..

Convenience Store Woman is published by Granta.

All That Impossible Space by Anna Morgan

Lara Laylor is doing her best to navigate the mysteries of Year 10; boys, enigmatic new students, and a drama queen friend who always takes centre stage.

When new history teacher Mr Grant gives her a special assignment to investigate the Somerton May mystery, Lara finally starts to feel like she’s standing in the spotlight. Found dead on an Adelaide beach in 1948, the labels cut out of his clothes, the Somerton Man has intrigued people for years. Was he a spy? A criminal?

And then Mr Grant goes missing…and Lara is convinced that his disappearance is part of a wider conspiracy. Has her obsession with the Somerton Man developed her powers of deduction? Or is Lara being led into a mystery darker than even she expects?

All That Impossible Space is published by Hachette Children.

Hive by A.J Betts

A. J. Betts: Hive: The Vault Book 1

All I can tell you is what I remember, in the words that I have.

Hayley tends to her bees and follows the rules in the only world she has ever known.

Until she witnesses the impossible: a drip from the ceiling.

A drip? It doesn’t make sense.

Yet she hears it, catches it. Tastes it.

Curiosity is a hook.

What starts as a drip leads to a lie, a death, a boy, a beast and too many awful questions.

Hive is published by Pan.

The Mummy Bloggers by Holly Wainwright

The Mummy Bloggers

Elle Campbell is a glossy, lycra-clad mum with washboard abs, a ten-year plan and a secret past.

Abi Black has quit sugar, moved to the country and is homeschooling her kids.

Leisel Adams slogs away at her office job each day before rushing home, steeped in guilt, to spend previous moments with her kids before bedtime.

All three share a label that they simultaneously relish and loathe; mummy blogger. And when they are nominated for an award with a hefty cash prize, the scene is set for a brutal and often hilarious battle for hearts, minds – and clicks. As the awards night gets closer, their lies get bigger; their stunts get crazier – and some mistakes from the past become harder and harder to hide.

The Mummy Bloggers is published by Legend Press.

The Five The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack The Ripper – Hallie Rubenhold

The Five

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year od their murders: 1888.

Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become more famous than any of these women.

The Five is published by Penguin.

I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

I'd Rather Be Reading

Reading isn’t just a way to pass the time – it’s a lifestyle. Books shape, define, and enchant us. They are part of who we are and we can’t imagine life without them. In this collection of charming and relatable reflections, beloved blogger and author Anne Bogel leads you to remember the book that first hooked you, the place where you first fell in love with reading, and all the books and moments afterward that helped make you the reader you are today.

I’d Rather Be Reading is published by Baker Books.

Annelies A Novel of Anne Frank by David Gillham

Annelies

Anne Frank’s extraordinary diaries have captivated millions of people around the world. But what might have happened if she had survived the war?

It is 1945, and Anne Frank is sixteen years old. Having survived the concentration camps but lost her mother and sister, she reunited with her father, Pim, in newly liberated Amsterdam. But Anne is adrift, haunted by the ghost of her sister, Margot, and the atrocities they experienced. Her beloved diary is gone, and her dreams of becoming a writer seem distant and pointless now.

As Anne struggles to build a new life for herself, she grapples with overwhelming grief, heartbreak, and ultimately forgiveness. In this masterful story of trauma and redemption, David Gillham explores with breathtaking empathy the woman – and the writer – Anne Frank might have become.

Annelies is published by Penguin.