Tuesday, 4 August 2015

July

Hello. Sorry I'm late.
I liked that one on, one off thing that I did last month so I'm going to do it again:


First up was Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, a debut novel by Alice Furse about a girl who has not long graduated from uni and is now working in a monotonous job and living with a lad who is her boyfriend but whom she may or may not actually love. It's the story of being young and the things that you do because you have to, and they way things don't quite always work out as you thought they might, you know, where everything falls in to place and you get a great job and be in love and travel the world and get a dog (fucking hell I want a dog). So you wait for it, cos you're hopeful, aren't you? A very good debut.

Remember how excited I was when it was announced that my man Milan had a freshie coming out this year? SO fucking excited. The Festival of Insignificance is very short and is about four men who all know each other a bit and are all sort of wondering about the problems in their lives and what is going on. It is not his best, it's maybe even a bit rubbish, but I still love him.

One of my very dear pals recommended reading some Chris Cleave and so I did. Gold is about Olympic cycling, but it's not, obviously, in the same way that Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas isn't about swimming. Two women who have always been competitors in the sport are head to head for their last chance to compete in the Olympics. It's about what people do to get the things they want and to be successful. Suitably dramatic and page turn-y, but I think the other one of his - The Other Hand - might be more my cup of tea.

You want to know the title of a fucking good book? Well I'll fucking tell you the fucking title of a fucking FUCKING good book. Saint Mazie. She's a dream. In a nutshell, it is a book of the story of the life of Mazie Philips, a girl, and then a woman, and then a total all-round babe who lived in New York and worked in the ticket booth of a cinema. Mazie has stolen my heart and I will be thinking about her for a long time. I loved this book. Get yourselves a copy. This is the best book I read in July by a long shot.

The A-Z of You and Me is a book about Ivo. He's the kind of sick that you don't get better from cos he's in a hospice. When he's sat there one day this nurse tells him to pass the time he should take every letter from a-z and make up a story using a body part that begins with that letter. And so he does, cos the nurse is dead nice. She's fucking lovely. Thinking about his body and his life Ivo takes us through a story of the people, hopes, dreams, fuck-ups and dreads that shaped it. Beautifully written, emotional and heartfelt.

Next up I read Among the Ten Thousand Things which is a story about a family. The Shanley family. Their lives as they know them are shaken up upon discovering that Big Daddy Shanley (that's not his name, I forget his name. The dad. I mean the dad) has had an affair. Another book that moves back and forth through times and examines what shapes our lives, this was very engaging in parts but slightly too literary for me and just lost me somewhere in the final third. If you're one of those nice patient readers you might do better with it than me.

I haven't finished it yet because it's fucking massive and hardback and I can't take it out of the flat without causing significant damage to my gorgeous arm muscles or becoming incredibly tired from lugging such a fuck off great tome around but it is safe to say that The Dust That Falls From Dreams is another Louis de Bernieres classic. I have to read it in bed sitting up and holding it on a pillow on my lap cos I can barely lift the thing but I bloody love it. It's got the beautiful descriptive writing, slightly odd and lost characters and pure and unyielding LOVE that drew me to Louis all those many moons ago when I first started reading him. An absolute fucking delight.

Another man that I'm in love with next up, Pascal Garnier. How's The Pain? is about a hitman named Simon and a man named Bernard who Simon accosts to drive him about. It is definitely not my favourite of Pascal's - it didn't suck me in and chew me up and spit me out like some of the others but is a good read none the less. Trademark creepy characters, dark scenarios and unlikely friendships.

And that was the last one in July. A short month.

Bye.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

June



Thought I'd do one on, one off with my reading this month - read one that I've been sent to review and then read one of the hundreds that I've bought and remain sadly stacked on the shelves year after year.

The first one of the month was from Legend Press - The Artificial Anatomy of Parks. It's about a girl called Tallulah and how her life has ended up. After she gets a call to tell her that her Dad has been taken to hospital she crosses paths again with family members that she hasn't seen in fucking forever and they start to (albeit quite awkwardly) rebuild their relationships. A story about the intricate complications of family, secrets and lies.

Recommended to me by my dealer, Grand Mother Divided by Monkey Equals Outer Space has a bit of a wanky title but is a bloody cracker. Set in New York in the 80s, a dysfunctional family try to function. They each in turn meet up with a psychic/fortune teller type who lives round the corner from them and reveals a bit about herself to each member of the family, much to her own astonishment and their interest. Pretty fucking mental, pretty fucking weird, pretty fucking good.

I haven't even read all the books that I'll read this month as I'm typing this. I've finished four and I'm reading number five but it does not matter because I have definitely already read my book of the month for June (publishing in July) in The Last Act of Love. This is the story of author Cathy's life, with a big focus on her brother who was hit by a car when he was a teenager. This book tells the before and after of the life of a family after a fucking awful and unfortunate accident involving one of the family's members. This book made my heart fucking ache. It is so beautiful, so sad, and yet so rejuvenating and assured. This is not a misery memoir. It is a story about an unconditional and unadulterated love.

That last one knocked me for six so I knew what I had to take off the shelf next: a bit of Aggie. The Mysterious Affair at Styles is the first Hercule Poirot mystery (it says it on the cover, I would never know a thing like that) and is about some rich old biffer who gets poisoned and dies. 'MURDER!', I hear you cry. Luckily, cool-as-you-like Poirot's only round the corner so he strolls in and does some detecting and faster than you can say 'show me some more diagrams, Agatha' he only bloody solved it all. Lovely.

Next up was The Honours. This follows a girl called Delphine who is moved along with her family in to this big spooky house full of weird fucked up people. Kind of gothic, kind of fantasy I think that the comparisons to Neil Gaiman are justified, but Neil Gaiman without the sparkle. A well crafted and cleverly plotted novel but for me was just lacking something to give me those Gaiman-esque shivers.

The problem with Sue Townsend (well, actually now I type that I think that the real problem with Sue Townsend is that she is dead and we all miss her) is that you forget just how fucking funny she is. Oh. That's not a problem with Sue Townsend, is it. It's a problem with me. Us. Anyway.  The Woman Who Went To Bed For a Year is a fucking delight; Sue was a total babe and this book had me giggling like a right twat through a mixture of wonderfully observed human nature and top notch comic writing (as well as some heart-wrenching sad bits). Will make you want to re-read all of Adrian Mole and then binge on any other Sue you can get your hands on.

I'm feeling a bit like I never learn anything new these days so I thought I'd have a go at The Other Tudor Princess and learn about a member of the royal family who I'd never even heard of. Margaret Douglas was Henry VIII's niece and a fine specimen of a girl with red hair who ran about outside a lot and was admired by Big Fat H-VIII a lot more than his own daughter because of her massive metaphorical bollocks. Now then, as you probably know, the Tudors were all totally fucked and mental so, you know, things change from those early admirations. An interesting read. Bit heavy on the old dates and names but they were all shagging each other and killing each other and plotting against each other so it's bound to be a bit messy innit.

Eleanor and Park is one of those books that you see lots of lovely pictures of cos it looks lovely and lots of teenagers are posting it on places like Tumblr and Instagram and other trendy cool young thing platforms. It's a story about a girl who starts a new school and a lad who she sits next to on the bus and their subsequent relationship. Sorry to all of you who have a weird amount of love for the book but what the actual fuck? These pair are the fucking worst. They're so fucking cheesy and cringy and urgh. I think it's trying to do some kind of 'oh love the first time is so pure and romantic and all these feelings you have oh isn't it lovely, isn't it unlike anything else'. It made me feel quite unwell, and pretty angry at the  characters. I mean fuck me, you've been holding your breath all weekend until you can see her again, and now you've seen her you can finally breathe again? Have you? Have you, you whiney cunt? Fucking die already.

If you want a bit of a fucked up read then try Dogwood, a story set in the American South involving three girls who are friends from the beginning and share everything. Fucking everything. One of them, Harper, aged 19 is released from Prison on probation. She dips back and forth in time to tell her story of her life and her cycle of all things awful. A decent debut.

Oh, Isabel. Not only are you a top notch writer but you are also fit as fuck. Daughter of Fortune is the story of the life of Eliza, a young woman who is fostered in to a family and spends the rest of the book trying to learn and make love work. A beautiful and vivid piece of storytelling.

Remember last month when I read The End of Mr Y and fucking hated it? Well, I am very pleased to say that Scarlett Thomas' new one The Seed Collectors shits all over Mr Y from a great height - it is spectacular. It is the story of a family, and a great aunt dying and the family each being left a seed pod that is deadly, or contains the secret of enlightenment. Either Or. This family are wonderfully fucked up and dysfunctional, and I particularly loved Ollie, who is the biggest arsehole I've encountered in a book in quite a while. I adored this book - it's weird and wonderful, mad and fucking clever. Highly recommended.

The last one for the month which I've just finished is I Let You Go. A child is killed in a hit and run accident. No one knows who did it. BUT WE MUST FIND OUT. Twisty psychological thriller-y crime. I guessed the twisty bits, but I suppose this is bound to happen with the sheer volume of this kind of thing that's about at the moment. It's good though, and worth a go if you're in to that kind of thing.

So. That was June.
Bye.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

May



May. The greatest month of the year with its two glorious bank holidays. Well done, May.

I started with The Last Days of Disco which is a story about the mobile disco scene, small town politics, and big and bold characters in Kilmarnock in the 1980's. Really Scottish, really believeable, and really fucking funny.

I'd seen Spill Simmer Falter Wither chat zooming about all over Twitter (probably cos I follow the publisher, tbh) and was intrigued by the reviews it was getting. So, I ordered myself a copy from my pal Simon who runs The Big Green Bookshop and had a go at it. It is fucking wonderful. It's basically a story about a man and his dog and it is beautiful. I could read it all day. This is hands down my Book of the Month for May. Good old May.

Beauty Tips For Girls is one of those that follows a few characters (three, in this case) who are all separate and then omfg they're all actually linked. I like these kinds of books because when there are more than about 5 characters in a book I start getting a bit confused. This one is good. It's about three women and their fears, desires, and hopes, and overcoming shit in the face of an unrealistic and pressurizing society surrounding them.

Our pal George would have had Book of the Month if it weren't for your man and his dog up there. Down and Out in Paris and London is one that has been sitting on my shelf for a while and I've only just got round to. It's fucking brilliant and I wish I'd picked it up years ago. If you're in a similar situation and old George is waiting on the shelf then get over there and pick it the fuck up and read it.

The next Robert Jordan book in the Wheel of Time series is Path of Daggers. What a fucking great name, eh? This one is book eight and is my favourite so far because it's a right minge fest. It's basically cover to cover Aes Sedai who are cool as fuck. Expecting the lads back in a sausage fest of book nine to make up for all the fanny in book eight, but we'll see won't we.

Dark River Melody is a story set in 18th century London following your man Tom Gobey and the trials and tribulations of his life. Trying to start a revolution, and hanging out with the greatest political writers of the time he manages to get himself chucked in prison. When he gets out seven years later the lass he was poking has found someone else. A story of love and adventure.

The new one from Galley Beggar Press is The Weightless World, where a pair of colleagues go on a trip because one of them (the older, madder one) wants to buy and anti-gravity machine. A story about love and loss, pouring yourself into something cos you fucking have to and things in life not always going the way you'd planned.

Another one that I probably should have ready years ago is The Bell. Basically a story about a weirdly incestuous group of people who are in this village where some cursed bell is sat in the lake. The oldies are always the best for this kind of shit, aren't they? Constant drama and moderate debauchery. Lovely.

The last one of the month was The End of Mr Y. This book lasted fucking forever. I thought maybe cos there is some time travelling type shit in there that maybe it was being clever and somehow literally pulling me back and forth through time. But no, it's just fucking long and tries to be lots of things: funny, shocking, clever etc, without actually ever managing to be any of those things. It's one of those books about books, so if you like books about old and mysterious books, I mean if you really fucking LOVE them and this is the only one you haven't read then probably get yourself a copy but if not I'd just sack it off if I were you, chums.



Goodbye, May, with your two bank holidays and your lovely short sing-song name. We will all miss you.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

April



Hello.

A very good pal of mine gave me the extra copy she had of Elizabeth is Missing when I was good enough to sit in the pub on her birthday, watch said book being handed to her as a gift, and keep quiet and be nice even though I knew she'd already read it. This was partly because I knew she'd give me it and partly because the girl gifting it had one of the nicest faces I've ever seen. Anyway. This book. It's everywhere. It is fine, but it's not great. From a bit of analysis of my Twitter I reckon if you'd had any direct experience with ay kind of memory loss in a loved one then it will do all kinds of poignant and mad things to your heart and head. And if you're lucky enough to not have dealt with that sort of thing then it leaves you a bit cold. I am cold. This book has been massively over-hyped.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes is an autobiographical book about one lady's experience of dealing with and confronting death by working in a Crematorium. Very interesting, and if you've got a morbid side/loved Six Feet Under/have any interest in death and ritual at all it is a very good read.

Because I am a totally normal person, North Korea gives me the fucking creeps. The Limits of the World is set in North Korea where your man Han is a tour guide for foreigners. Giving up the things he loves in favour of not being executed he starts to live a secret double life where he is able to rediscover the things that he loves. A nice, human love story with a menacing backdrop.

I loved The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain and so I was absolutely bloody delighted when The Red Notebook, his new one, arrived. This one's about a lady in hospital in a coma, and a man who finds her abandoned handbag in the street. Gallic Books will never mug you off, and this is a lovely story and very perfectly French.

If you like crime and conspiracy set in 80's America then you could do a lot worse than reading The Killing of Bobbi Lomax. Three bombs go off over town and it's your man Marty-the-Detective's job to piece together what exactly is going on. It's dark, pacey, shocking, and sinister as fuck.

For a story about a couple and their lifetime together then have a go at Alf and Mabel. When Alf wakes up one day and Mabel is dead, our Alf realises he's not quite ready to let her go, so he'll just keep her safe for a while with him. So follows parallel stories of Alf and the decisions he makes following Mabel's death, alongside the story of the life of the couple - how they met, their rows, their family, and so on. Bit of a macabre premise, but it is a very nice story really.

I'm fucking bored to death of psychological thrillers now, but I picked this one up on the recommendation of my good friend friend Geeky. And she was right. The Book of You was pretty terrifying. It's at the stalker end of the thriller market and left me all jumpy and mental. I didn't think that the ending did the rest of the book justice, but a decent read all the same, and one that you can race through in a few hours.

I don't know why I keep fucking buying books about the apocalypse. I literally never, ever like them. And then you cunts come along and you're all like 'Oh Cunty you'll love this one though, it's about Shakespeare.' Well you can fuck off. Station Eleven was pretty exciting to start with but as it went on I just got more and more bored of it and more and more angry at you.

Very Good Lives isn't a book really. It's someone making a bit of cash (and yes I know giving it to charity, whatever, fuck off). JK can do no wrong by me, and reading her lovely words in a nice little book was a very relaxing and happy few minutes.

I fucking hate children but I do like a weird, fat, outsider children desperate to be loved, which is why I liked Things We Have in Common so much. This is the story of Yasmin, who's a misfit with some great dreams and passions inside her. She's a bit intense sometimes, but just go with it. A wonderfully written story with weird and fucked-up motivators. This one gets Book of The Month for April, I reckon, which is just as well I got round to it in time cos otherwise it'd be stalemate.

Last read of the month was seventh book in the Wheel of Time series, Crown of Swords. I love me a bit of high fantasy, and I have some pretty serious crushes on some Black Ajah Aes Sedai, because I am a fucking awful person.

Bye.


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

March


So, for March I decided I'd try reading only books that I've been sent for review by authors/publishers. I don't have as many books queued up as some bloggers but I do have a fair amount, and from where I'm sitting now can see ... sixty-nine (oo-err, etc) books waiting for review on the shelves, which was that plus 17 books (I never could be arsed with maths) at the end of February.

So it started with one from a publisher that I very much like getting post from - The History Press - and the book The Case That Foiled Fabian. So Fabian is this shithot London Met police cunt back in the days before NWA and Sting when the police could be the police without being 'fuck'-ed at or having 'Rooooxxxxanne' bellowed at them. (a little lol for you there, you're welcome. I'm very relevant and modern). Anyway, there was a murder that was so weird and awful that they got this lad Fabian over from London to Warwickshire to see what he made of it. Back in these days of course there was no DNA and people still believed in hocus pocus and witchcraft, but even more surprising is that policemen from around the country were hot enough fuckers to be celebs in their own rights. Incredible, I know. Fabian was one of these hot motherfuckers and this book is the story of - yep, you guessed it - the murder case that foiled him.

Next up was some translated Latvian fiction, cos I'm nothing if not varied in my reading choices. Flesh-Coloured Dominoes is a fucking weird one. It's a story split in two, one part in the modern day as your narrator is seeing it, and the other part in the 18th century. It's a fantasy-ish surreal novel that starts with a Baroness finding out that her husband, who she thought to be dead, is actually alive (ish) after being severed in half at war and having his bottom half sewn on to the local Captain (who lives). Dipping between the two narratives this story is strange and confusing but pulls itself together to reveal itself as a philosophical story about love.

I'd seen this one popping up all over my timeline so thought I'd give it a go next. Glass is  a story about a man who likes the simple things in life trying to find his way in the modern world. Ever since a childhood encounter with a glass blower he's become obsessed with the stuff, believing it to be the most incredible and exciting of all materials. As the story progresses he works towards his aim of being a first class window cleaner and getting to clean the windows of some of the most iconic buildings in London. If you like books about men and their lives and they're just bloody men just trying to find their bloody way, the poor fuckers, then get on this. It's a very sweet and thoughtful story.

Then I had a go at a trilogy that wasn't really a trilogy like I thought it was going to be but more of a series. Our Father Who Art Out There ... Somewhere, Shallow Be Thy Grave, and My Time Has Come are three novels starring Lily Appleyard, who's grown up in a town with just her mum and her weird and a-bit-pervy neighbour for company. Each book has a main drama and Lily and her mate Jo (in the beginning) find themselves trying to solve what the fuck is going on and (later) get sucked in to loads more shit and escapades that they were not anticipating. Quite a nice little trio, perfectly readable but didn't knock my socks off. What I would say about these three is that I hope the series is going to go a bit further, as I felt like the last book clicked in a way that the other two didn't, and the books could start doing what they wanted to do to make exciting reads.

One that's sat on my shelves for well over two years now is Brandy Of The Damned. I felt very bad when I opened it up to see that the author had written me a lovely note on the inside cover and I hadn't even got round to his fucking book yet. Dreadful stuff. Three friends go on a roadtrip in a van. They used to know each other back in the day, circumstance and coincidence has brought them back together, and they decide to drive around the coast of the UK on a strange kind of soul-searching journey. Funny, witty and clever.

Then I had a go at a trilogy that was actually definitely a trilogy: Sixty-One Nails, The Road To Bedlam, and Strangeness and Charm are the three novels in the The Courts of The Feyre trilogy. It's published by Angry Robot and so it's a bit fantasy/sci-fi but is very urban and gritty and set in good old recognisable LONDON so at least I knew where I was. What these chaps do is follow a man who one day passes out or something (dies, apparently) when he's down in the tunnels heading to get the tube, and some woman brings him back to life. Over the course of the series he learns that there are people in London who are not people As He Knows Them, and that he, in fact, and his family, are quite different. These three books were the opposite of the books above. They started off fucking great, belting out adventure and mystery and fantasy like no-one's business, and then and the series went on they seemed to get a bit lost. And then got very boring. Oh well, you can't win them all. This is why they price first books in series lower, innit. To trick you and make you think you're in for a right old jolly when actually they're just going to give up on you after book one. The cunts. (NOTE: I've just seen a fourth book while I was collecting up the covers. Is this not a trilogy? What the fuck is going on? Whatever it is it can fuck right off, no one's got time for that shit.)

I needed a bit of light relief after that let down so had a look at this little gift-y/joke-y book called Like Your Friends, which is about the different kinds of people you find on Facebook. Very funny and very true and made me go to my Facebook (after remembering just how vehemently I can hate) and delete some twats that I'd left sitting there for years that do these fucking criminal ANNOYING things that I'd previously put down as harmless but who the more I thought about it I actually fucking despise. I am much calmer now, thanks for asking.

Back to The History Press to learn a thing or two with The Quack Doctor, a lovely collection of historical remedies for various ailments and illnesses. Some funny, some fucking horrifying, and some just plain mad. The Old Days, eh? You can't write this stuff.

Circus-y, freak-y, weird and wonderful stories are all the rage these days, aren't they? And the more fucked-up the freaks the better the tale, I find. Freaks Like Us is a lovely collection of said freaks and fucked-up-ness. A circus of travelling 'monsters' going about their business. I cannot find a picture of this to pop in the picture thing above, but there are lots of pictures, including one of this, on my Instagram.


The last three books I read in the month also happened to be the best three, which was an absolute fucking delight. They go in this order: 1, 3, 4, 2 ...

The best book was The First Bad Man by Miranda July. I don't know where to start with this. It was a fucking treat from start to finish. Just like Glass up there is the story of a man (trying to do his best for a simple and fulfilled life), The First Bad Man is about a woman (who is totally fucked and thinks she's lived hundred of lives - been there babe - and also apparently is not able to have a single 'normal' relationship with anyone at all. Cos they're all FUCKED.) I loved it. Truly. Get yourself a copy immediately and marvel at how wonderfully written and mad and sad and brilliant this is.

The third best book (I write these down in the order I read them, I'm not fucking stupid or deranged) was Humber Boy B from Legend Press who I'm pleased to see have been making a splash just recently in the indie book world (well done, pals). Humber Boy B is a crime thriller about a lad coming out of prison after being locked away aged ten for eight years, and getting out aged 18 in a world that he can only partially recognise and having to negotiate on his own, cos the crime he committed means he has to stay away from Yorkshire. A very easy story to fall in to and get hooked on, well written and I would wager better than a lot of the thrillers that are getting review space in the papers these days. Give it a go.

Dark Star is a story set in a weird parallel(?)/dystopian world, where it's always night and rich are separated from poor and take light differently - the rich, they live in light provided by 'three Hearts', while the poor shoot up on a weird sounding drug called prometheus. The story follows Virgil, law enforcement extraordinaire, who gets involved in trying to solve the suspicious death of a girl found with her veins full of that fucked up drug. Crime, sci fi, fantasy. I think this one is a possible future cult classic.

The last book I read this month, and the second best of the lot was Café Assassin. Nick is just out of prison for a crime he didn't commit. He seeks out his old pal Andrew, who while Nick's been in prison has done very well for himself on the job and family front, and along with his wife Viv were very good friends of his before the whole murder and prison thing. Nick's got some dirt on Andrew, that much is obvious, and blackmails him for money so that he can start his own exclusive gentlemen's club. What follows is a dark and twisted story of truth, lies, desire, payback and how far you will go to get not just want you want, but what you think you deserve. A proper psychological story that moves oh-so-slowly, cleverly and carefully towards a conclusion that you won't want to put the fucker down. Top stuff.


So there you have it. March.
Ta ra.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

February




It started with Pandaemonium by Christopher Brookmyre, who is a rare author who has made me snort with delight at the funny things that he writes. I picked this up from the library hoping for more of the same, but it let me down. It's written in two strands - one made up of a bunch of students who are on a retreat following the death of a follow pupil, and the other following some top-secret military experiment. I'm not sure what exactly it was that put me off this, maybe that I found it a bit boy-sy and long to get started, but it was missing that excitement of his other novels. Maybe I've grown out of him. Or maybe he's grown out of me.

Second up was another library borrow - Cupcakes at Carringtons. Absolutely fucking terrible. Total dog shit. Avoid.

I had an incident at a bookshop in South London a couple of years ago that ended up with me buying After The Fire, A Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld. The paperback cover of All The Birds, Singing caught my eye and remembering that nice writing I'd read before I thought I'd give it a whirl. The main character is Jack Whyte, who is keeping herself hidden because she wants to. She's living in this remote place with her dog and minimal human contact when some cunt starts killing her sheep. this is cut into with bits and pieces with Jack's past so you can get an understanding of why she's hidden away, and why she's scarred to fuck (and hard as fuck). Nice writing, good book.

I decided to go for one off my shelf next, and picked up a poor fucker that has been sat there waiting for the best part of five years. The Hartlepool Monkey is a fictionalised account of a real event. I haven't looked up the details of the real event but in this book a monkey (which has been brought back from an expedition to Africa by some rich people) is accused of a crime and hung. It's a story told in three parts from three different perspectives and is a fucking good read - good 18th century lols and a strange tale. Reminded me in parts of The Heart of a Dog.

In Fish Change Direction in Cold Weather, a lad prays to the sky for help when his parents tell him they are splitting up. The next day an ice storm takes over the town and its inhabitants are forced to interact with each other. A nice mix of characters make for a charming love story.

Another love story (but more of a modern, quirky, English type number) is No-One Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday, where two ex-lovers meet for the first time in fucking ages at a school reunion. They're both in new relationships but you know what people are like, people are fucking awful, and so they have a bang. Then, because this is a book, there is a pregnancy. An entertaining enough story, one of those where you can tell from the cover and the title what you're getting. Not bad for a hangover.

I haven't done the whole David Nicholls Experience but I do know from what I have read that he is a total babe and an absolute fucking joy. In Us, Nicholls does the lovely stuff that he's so good at in novels, creating a funny and tragic romantic comedy that is not twee or slapstick or any of that shit - it is just beautiful and at times incredibly sad. He knows how to tug on a heartstring, but then a few words later can have you guffawing like a total cunt. I think I'm in love with him. This is the story of a man and his wife (or a woman and her husband - back down) and their teenage child. They're going to break up and so plan one last big holiday together. A fucking lovely story that made me laugh and hurt my heart.

I think Our Dave would have been a best read hands down if I hadn't got my hands on this little chap which I hadn't looked twice at before cos once you've read Pi then you've done all the Yann Martel you need, haven't you? No, you fucking haven't. Beatrice and Virgil is the story of a man who receives a mysterious story through the post. He goes to visit the man who has sent him it and this man is a taxidermist with a shop in town. Lots of chat leads to repeated visits and as the story revealed by the taxidermist takes shapes the story of the book gets weirder and darker, more sinister and twisted. I fucking loved this book.

How To Be Both is one we've all heard of, isn't it? It's my first go at Ali Smith and was a very pleasant experience. Smith certainly knows how to do a story, and this one is split in to two parts, one in the present and one way in the past, both parts using art to show us human emotions, desires and dreams. A good book and cleverly done, but perhaps a bit too literary for me.

Fat Guy Runs a Marathon does what it says on the tin. It's the account by 'fat man' Terry Lander as he goes from sofa-to-marathon in less than a year. This was originally a series of blog posts charting thoughts and progress which has been turned in to a book, which makes it a nice and ordered read of one man's struggles and motivations to do this 'once in a lifetime' event.

I've seen this one around for a while and I think a lot of you lot were very keen on it. The Vactioners is the story of - yep, you got it - a vaction. A family vaction that turns in to a bit more than that with added people and added dramas as the story progresses. A really good one for revealing the hidden secrets and struggles of people and relationships who otherwise look pretty perfect.

Oh, Erlend is such a babe. Lazy Days follows on from Doppler and Naive, Super as a most adorable little book. This is another one where a family go on holiday (how are people on fucking holiday all the fucking time?) I love the style of writing and the bleak comedy that Loe writes, and the characters that are both totally fucking ridiculous and exaggerated in their thoughts but yet still remind you of people that you know, quite often yourself.

A YA book that has bright cover and a child narrator who's had brain surgery was up next - Ostrich. Your man Alex is weird and sick but not that sick, really. He's 12 years old and so he gets words wrong all the time. I'm sure that people with children or people who fucking love words will find this all fucking adorable but it annoyed me a bit. I guess it had to be done because without it Alex would be too clever to be twelve years old. But fuck knows. I found it sometimes funny but felt like it was trying very hard to be funny on every page and it was just tiring. I couldn't get on board with any of the characters and after the initial 'oh this is quite an interesting' idea thoughts found it more and more tedious until it ended.

The Memory Book is a story about a woman with Alzheimer's and book that she keeps full of her memories that she will leave to her family once the disease has got her. Perfectly readable but this kind of book always leaves me feeling a bit cold. Cold like my dead, black heart, you might say. And you'd be right.

I've only read one other James Salter and have another on my shelves but picked up All That Is from the library recently. What Salter is good at is giving you a character or two against a backdrop of olden day but not so far away America, who have all these emotions that he never has to describe to you but they are they like they are leaping from the page and punching you in the face. He's a wonderful writer and one that intrigues me. Must read more.

I'm not really in to zombie books, but The Girl With All The Gifts promised that it was 'different'. What is actually meant was that some of the monsters in the book had feelings. Not so much different as it is fucking boring.

I've had these Simon Rich books sat on my shelf for a while and after many months and seeing many tweets of how fucking hilarious they are I thought I should probably dabble in one. The Last Girlfriend on Earth is a collection of short love stories. They are funny, acerbic, weird and wonderful. A great collection.

As you may have seen in blogs from days gone by I do love me a bit of Louis de Bernières. The Partisan's Daughter is about a man who finds a woman he thinks to be a prostitute on the side of the road. She isn't, and he's mortified, but they end up striking up a friendship which mainly revolves around her talking about her life and him listening. Loved this story, classic de Bernières.

Into The Darkest Corner is an oldish one that is bang on trend with your psychological women's fiction that is fucking everywhere at the moment. If you like that genre and haven't read this then give it a go, it's one of the good ones.

I'm sure I've waxed lyrical about Gallic Books and their lovely translated French fiction before. The President's Hat is one of those. Wonderfully French and a lovely little trot after the President's lost hat that has an adventure on a few heads before it makes it home. Nice.

Not last year but the year before (I think) Ben Brooks was in my top reads of the year list with Lolita. His earlier book Grow Up I enjoyed less, but it's a different kind of book. This is full of the kind of teenagers that I wanted to be when I was young, all those many moons ago. Full of youth and not giving a fuck and partying and drugs, this is a sometimes uncomfortable and awkward but excellent read.

I've only ever made two kinds of list: the lists at work of all the fucking work I have to do, and also I have a list of people that I want to kick in the tits. The latter has less people on it than you're probably thinking, but the hate is strong. The List is a book about a list that a woman makes after not getting laid for a year of all the sex things she'd like to do, and then doing them. Pretty funny in places but made me cringe in places too. I wonder if your experiences of these things match up with the book? Mine definitely didn't.

The Suicide Shop is another Gallic Books treat, and is a joint number one read of the month. (I get to have two number one reads in a month because a) I've read fucking loads this month and b) I make the rules here, sunshine). It's a fable of the not-too-distant future where everything has gone to shit and more and more people are deciding to sack life off. The Suicide Shop gives them anything they may need from a plastic bag to pop over their heads to all kinds of elaborate poisons and potions. The Tuvache family who run the shop are the most brilliant mix of characters and this book is fucking dark yet adorable.

Back on to psychological thrillers, I'm sure you've all seen The Accident knocking about for a while now? In bookshops, supermarkets, the charts, in the hands of people sat around you on the tube? It's one of them that was fucking everywhere and I've just got round to it. It is fine. It's not fucking amazing but it is fine. I think if you read this kind of thing chances are you've had a go at this already. I was looking forward to it a lot but unfortunately I think that all the pomp of the marketing was too much for the story and so it fell flat. Also, this is one of these little cunts that I turned over halfway through to read the blurb and it totally gave away what was about to happen (not that it was that hard to guess, but fuck me). If you wrote the copy for this, shame on you. If you are the author or agent for this and there is going to be a reprint: get on to the fucking editor and get it changed.

I did manage to slot in another David Nichols this month even though I didn't think they'd be time when I was writing up the page there. The Understudy is more of the same that you'd expect from Dave: lovely, English, awkward. Probably the least interesting out of all of the Daves I've read but none the less a fucking lovely book.

If you like your mysteries very mysterious and clever then you could do worse than to read Oh Marina Girl by Graham Lironi. It's a very nicely crafted story about threatening letters going to a local newspaper which leads us on a trip around the letters editor's adult life. Twisty and exciting.

The story of a lad with a severe mental illness that manifests itself in all kinds of ways, Alice and the Fly is the journal of said young man, broken up by interviews with his teachers and family as the story builds to terrifying climax. A very bold interpretation of struggles with mental illness that is shocking, heartbreaking and important.

The last book that I managed to cram in to February was Real Monsters by Liam Brown which follows the duel narrative story of a mother at home, and a father who is at war. A gritty tale of modern warfare and what it leaves in its wake.


So that was February. Cheers.




Sunday, 1 February 2015

January

Hello. Welcome to the new way that I'm doing reviews. Here is a round-up of all the stuff I read in January plus a little mini-review of each book. This is a mixture of all the shit I read whether it be sent for review, from the library, off my own heaving bookshelves, a borrow off a pal or any other way that I get my gorgeous paws on books.

Behold:
Now then, for clarity, I've tried to get the covers of the editions that I read, and I read these lot in the order they appear. If you read the picture like a book. From left to right. In that order. That's the order I read them in. Are we clear? Oh, you're ever so clever.


Robert Jordan, books 2-6ish of The Wheel of Time series: The Great Hunt; The Dragon Reborn; The Shadow Rising; The Fires of Heaven and The Lord of Chaos.
I started reading these fucking years ago and got through books one and two and then stopped because old Rob had died without finishing the series and I had a panic attack that I was going to read the whole lot that he'd managed to churn out and then be sat there like a cunt waiting and fucking waiting like I had to do with The Sword of Truth series apart from what if it never got finished? Luckily your man Brandon Sanderson stepped up and it's done now. It's fucking painful, this epic fantasy. It really tried your patience, all this waiting around. So at the end of last year I decided to start again at Christmas and get them all read. Book one happened over the Christmas break, when I wasn't having to drive a car or deal with my bastard family, and the others have been since then. It's up to book 6ish this month because I still have a couple of hundred pages to go.
Highlights of the series so far include some of the most horrific monsters I've ever had the pleasure of being terrified of, with hooves and snouts and half-human half what-the-fuck bodies, plus the map of Tar Valon, which is an Island run by powerful-as-fuck-women which appears to be shaped like a big vagina. Wonderful stuff all round.

A London Year is one that is started but not finished. I got it as a Christmas present and what it is is a series of diary entries, letters, bits and pieces of shit like that written by lots of people you've probably heard of. They're ordered by date and so for every day of the year there are two or three lovely tidbits from all kinds of eras of time. It's a fucking delight and I am enjoying it very much, and trying to read it as closely as I can to the dates it's written in.

The next one was nominated for at least one, maybe more bookish type awards last year. A Tale For The Time Being is a duel narrative between a Japanese girl writing a diary, and a woman in British Columbia who finds said diary washed up on the beach and reads it. This book is kind of like a mystery and kind of a bit of a headfuck but also a fucking lovely tale and a really exciting idea. I liked it a lot.

Maggot Moon is one that I picked up from the library because I liked the cover. Be aware of this, people. I JUDGE BOOKS BY THEIR COVER. And this one just looked lovely. It's a teen/YA book that is about some kind of fucked-up dystopian time where some lad is living with his grandad but his mates and his parents and teachers and various other poor fuckers get carted off by the mad government because of some fucking mental experiment. Fucking dark and brilliant.

The best book I read in January was this next one - The Islanders. It is the most deliciously fucked-up story. A man returns to where he grew up to rediscover a woman who was the great love of his youth. As they spend time together details of a mad thing that happened in their past comes back, and one thing leading to another results in the lovers being pushed back together. I can't tell you how much I loved this book. It is just the kind of dark, bleak, sinister and yet still funny and engaging shit that I love. Pascal Garnier is fast becoming one of my most favourite authors.

I've read a lot by Ben Myers now but hadn't yet got round to this one, The Book of Fuck, his first novel that he wrote while he was still a babe in arms (somewhere in his late 20s). It was written in seven days, and it is about a lad who is trying to make it as a hip young thing (writer journalist type bellend) who is tasked with finding the elusive God of Fuck, a rock n roll legend who appears to have vanished from the face of the earth. Fast, punchy and scrappy, probs leave it be though if you're easily offended.

I take a while to get round to books like Before I Go To Sleep because I am very suspicious of them. Are they worth my hard earned cash or are they a piece of shit with an enormous marketing budget behind them? It is a fucking minefield, cuntlets, let me tell you. This one is worth it, though. A nice piece of easy reading and totally engaging commercial fiction that had me frantically caning the last 15 or so pages on the walk from the tube station in to the office. I hate cunts that read books walking down the street, and so this must have been a fucking good one for me to become one of them. I've heard that the film is absolute dog shit, though. Luckily for me I haven't bothered watching a new film since 2011 (Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part Two) so I've dodged a bullet there.

Raw Material. What to say about this one. Well. It's written in that cool way that those cool cunts write. You know. Your Bukowskis and authors with 'S' as their middle initial. It was totally fine as a quick read but I think that it took itself a bit too seriously. Could have done with inserting 'this is a fucking cool book' in the text about every thousand words just to remind silly fuckers like me that it is cool. Cool cool cool. Too much adventure and not enough heart, that's my problem with these.

And lastly but not least - Things Fall Apart. A classic, so we're all told. My problem with this is schools. Specifically schools around where I grew up. Even more specifically MY school. Black history books - I really struggle to try and give a fuck. Every time I read something that shocks or excites or pokes me in the brain in one of these books and makes me think I am immediately filled with this dread that I'm going to be magically transported into a fucking reading group where we have to talk about culture and love and families and change until our tits drop off and we cry ourselves to death. I could not get in to this. I did not give a fuck. I wanted to get as far away from it as fucking possible, maybe by driving back to my old school, lobbing it through the window of the English Department and screaming 'FUCK YOU ALL'.


So. That was January. Cheers.