Tag Archives: A.M. Homes

Wish List Update

It’s been a little while since I have added anything to my Wish List so I thought it was about time I added a book I have been eagerly anticipating. I was first introduced to Donna Tartt by my aunt, who gave me a copy of The Secret History for my 18th birthday, as I was about to embark on a month-long stay working and living in France before I headed off to university. I absolutely loved the book and several years later I got around to reading her second novel The Little Friend which I wasn’t as keen on but still found the characters and scenes very impressionable.

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsSo next on my Wish List is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which I’m sure many of you will have seen in bookshops and everywhere across the media. Synopsis is below:

‘Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle. The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph – a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate.’

I think it sounds very intriguing – and it has also been getting great reviews from the blogging community so I can’t wait to get reading it!

I’ve made a few updates on the Wish List as well to add reviews for books I’ve read from it. So far, I have reviews to The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan and May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes. I’ve also read Life After Life and will be reviewing that shortly. What’s on your wish list at the moment?

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Autumn Reading Round-Up, part 1.

Jeezo, is it November already?! I’m quite behind on my reviewing and didn’t seem to notice the time flying by. I’ve read some great books over the past couple of months and even though I don’t plan to write a full review of them, I still wanted to write down some thoughts. Here’s the first batch…

colm-toibin-the-testament-of-maryThe Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
I love Colm Tóibín. I loved his book Brooklyn and listened to a brilliant interview on the Guardian Books podcast which really brought the novel alive. The Testament of Mary was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize this year (which was won, in the end, by The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton). It’s a novella, a short little book that is more a monologue than a story as such. Everyone knows the story of the Crucifixion, but no one has really given Mary a voice before. I thought this book was very evocative, and perhaps it deserved more time than I gave it (I hurried through it all in one go one Saturday morning). The time and the place felt real and you really got a sense of the pain and miscomprehension Mary felt watching her son grow from boy to man to Son of God, into someone she could barely recognise. Part of me thinks this book went over my head a little bit, as so many people I’ve spoken to have thought it was wonderful. One to revisit and spend more time savouring, I think.

the-shining-girls-book-cover-2The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
I bought this book as I thought the idea of a time-travelling serial murderer being hunted down by the one victim who managed to get away sounded great. It was such an interesting idea and there were parts of it that I really enjoyed, the murderer Harper was intensely creepy, the house he lived in shifted and changed and spurred him on to kill more ‘Shining Girls’, and the stories of the murders were quite harrowing. The story was clearly well-researched and the Boston setting from the Depression era to the nineties changed and evolved. There was an intricacy to the plot, with clues and symbols dotted throughout the text, linking the women and the different times and places. Despite that, I was overall pretty disappointed by the novel as I found the main character Kirby (the one who got away) a little irritating and I found the love interest to be utterly pointless – it just didn’t serve the plot at all. This could have been a great book but the narrative featuring Kirby wasn’t as strong as the narrative with Harper and that really let it down as about half of the book was dedicated to each of them.

may we be forgivenMay We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes
This book won the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year (also up were Life After Life by Kate Atkinson which I loved and will talk about in my audio round-up still to come). The action of May We Be Forgiven centres around one man, Harold, who is thrown in at the deep end when his brother is involved in an accident, his marriage breaks down and he has to look after his brother’s family. I don’t want to say too much more and give the story away, as the story was pretty crazy. It keeps you on your toes and the storyline goes down unexpected routes, involving family betrayals, adoption of an orphan and an elderly senile couple, trips to Disneyland, a gay love affair between a teacher and pupil, and a covert criminal rehabilitation scheme. It sounds mad when you write it down like this, but it works. There is something uplifting about the novel, in the way that Harold manages to pull together a family of sorts after his own have come undone, and the characters begin to find peace after some pretty traumatic events. I’ve heard that A.M, Homes earlier novel This Book Will Save Your Life is even better so I will look forward to reading that at some point soon.

crimson petalThe Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
I have been meaning to read this book for soooo long. Ever since I saw the BBC TV adaptation and loved it, and then I started working at Canongate this still gleamed down at me from my bookshelf. I absolutely loved it, and it was just the type of thing I was looking for, a long weighty Victorian novel to get stuck into as winter starts to set in. I knew the story already but very much enjoyed the novel, it is the way the story is told that makes it so special, the way the narrator invites you in, whispering lasciviously in your ear and letting you peek through the keyholes into the underbelly of Victorian life that society tried so hard to keep hidden. The world that Faber creates is wonderful, bringing to life all of the sights and smells of all parts of London. The wordly-wise and smart Sugar (the prostitute at the centre of the novel) is an unforgettable character, and the innocent and dreamy Agnes (the wife of the man who hires Sugar as his live-in concubine) equally so. I’d also highly reccommend the BBC TV adaptation as it was wonderful too, and quite true to the novel.

the appleThe Apple by Michel Faber
I rattled through this the couple of days after I finished The Crimson Petal and the White, as I wanted to know more about what had become of the characters. There aren’t any huge revelations, just a few little teasers and these short stories are a pleasing way to dip back into the Crimson Petal world if you’ve been missing it. I’m looking forward to reading Faber’s first novel Under the Skin very soon – there’s a film coming out of it next year starring Scarlett Johansson which has been getting very good reviews!

I’ll have the next lot up tomorrow. What have you all been reading this autumn?

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On eReaders

nookAfter my work gave me a Nook Simple Touch (created by Barnes & Noble) to play about with, I read The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe. It was my first experience of reading an eBook in its entirety and I thought it high time that I consider ereaders properly and what my experience on using them were. It is a completely different experience – I’ll admit that I have been slightly against them, always favouring physical books.

There were a few things which I didn’t particularly like – the fact that I can’t flick through the pages to see how long the chapter is; the glare that you get when reading it next to a lamp or something like that; the worry that you’ll run out of battery; I find the buttons on the Nook can be a bit stiff when you’re flicking back and forward; and I kept finding that if something landed on the screen it was really sensitive, and pages would flick back and forth if I tried to wipe something off. The Nook also doesn’t lend itself very well to reading PDF or Word documents, something I find a bit frustrating as it would be quite useful for work to read manuscripts before publication.

Saying all that, I did enjoy some aspects of it – it’s light, fairly user-friendly and I do like having a reading light on it. It is so easy to download loads of books – there is a whole library at your fingertips and if you fancy reading something, it only takes a few minutes to download. Recently, Barnes & Noble had a 3-day 99p sale and I went on a bit of a binge, splurging on books that are currently out in hardback and that I was loath to buy because of that. I bought several books:

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
May We Be Forgiven by AM Homes

I had the same rush and excitement I got from buying physical books but I can’t help but think that flash sales like that do devalue the book as an object somewhat – and yet, I succumbed. It is hard to resist a book at the best of times, even more so when it is so cheap. If I had the physical copy of a book in my flat, I doubt very much that I’d read it on an ereader. I find I read slowly on the Nook and I get the sense that I’m reading this never-ending document. There were also character errors and typos in my copy of The Best of Everything and I just find it all a bit impersonal if that makes any sense. Cold, almost, as if the book has been robbed of its casing and all that’s left is its naked soul. I miss that feeling of contentment when you look at a book on your shelf and you start thinking about it all over again, or pick it up and flick through it to read that passage that you really liked. I am definitely a bibliophile! They are definitely different beasts, ebooks and physical books but I understand the benefits of both. I will be reading on my Nook from time to time, especially the books I bought in the sale, but I wouldn’t consider myself a convert yet, even if books do seem to be filling up my shelves rather rapidly…

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World Book Night 2013: April 23rd

2013_WBN_Logo

It’s World Book Night tonight so I’ve written a little post on being a giver for the website of publisher Canongate Books, where I am lucky enough to work. I’ll be giving away the wonderful memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson, an author who I greatly admire and one who has had an incredibly interesting life. I’m feeling nervously excited about being a giver, and my plan at the moment is to hand copies of my book out to people on the streets of Leith as that’s where I picked up my books. I’m hoping that this weather continues into the evening – rain showers have been making me nervous that I’ll be trying to hand out soggy books later on! Fingers crossed, and I’ll let you all know how it goes.

The lovely editions of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? for World Book Night 2013

The lovely editions of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? for World Book Night 2013

I think the project is such a wonderful idea, a way of encouraging those who don’t read regularly to read something different and hopefully inspire them to discover different books. I love the special World Book Night editions that have been created as not only do they include the book in full, but also excerpts from other books by the writer, a poem on the back inside cover, and an excerpt from a book recommendation from the author themselves.

Jeanette Winterson’s choice is May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes. It’s on the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year and is a book I would love to read – duly added to my Wish List!

If you want to find out more, you can read my blog post here.

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