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.

The Lighthouse - Keith McCloskey and Alarm Girl - Hannah Vincent

For one reason or another I had a couple of stray book reviews knocking around in my drafts from last year. Here they are:


The Lighthouse by Keith McCloskey
So. Eilean Mor is this place in the remote Outer Hebrides. In 1900 an actual real-life mystery happened when the lighthouse that sat there wasn't seen to be ... being a lighthouse. No light, innit. When they trekked over to have a look what the fuck was going on and to berate the three poor cunts that were running things no one was there. But. No one knows why. Or what happened. Even to this day. OooooOOOOooOhhhh.

As with all good real-life mysteries there are many theories as to what happened: it was something supernatural. There was a murder. One of the men went mad and did weird shit to the other two. Something dropped of the lighthouse and they got swept away by the sea as they tried to fetch it. They got blown away by a bit of wind. The lot. If you can think it then some cunt has speculated over it.

Anyway, this book is a collection of thoughts of what may have happened, including info from people who were about at the time, snippets from diaries of lighthousemen from days gone by and reports on the weather etc. A full bag of shit that you might want to know if this mystery was in your top three mysteries of all time.

It's not in my top three mysteries of all time, but to be honest, I didn't even know it had happened at all until I opened the book. So I learned something new today. Well done me.

Recommended if you like the sea, lighthouses, mystery and fucking loads of historical sources and further reading. If not then maybe just Wikipedia that shit eh. As fascinating as it is, you might find this a bit much for a first go.



Alarm Girl by Hannah Vincent

Following the death of her mother, 11-year-old Indigo and her brother get chucked over to South Africa to live with their dad. The kids' lives change dramatically as they adjust to living with the wealth and status that their dad has., and leaves Indigo asking questions about her family and what exactly the fuck is going on.

This is one of these short but pretty and thoughtful books. Lovely words, lovely descriptions, and if you can bear child narration it'll be right up your street. Indigo's quite grown up for her 11 years but I'm not sure whether that helped me like her or made me find her a bit annoying. Anyway.

Following Indigo growing up, learning about her family and dealing with the suspicions around her mothers death makes for a decent read. You know me, I like a coming of age story when there is a completely fucked-up back story to it. I'm all about that shit. But for me this one an interesting read but one that didn't quite scratch my itch. I don't know why. Maybe I'm just totally unsympathetic to everyone, who knows.

Recommended if you like family stories with deep running and dark secrets, and frightened and confused children being all frightened and confused.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Reviews: an update

As many of you may have gathered, I review books. I haven't done it for a little while now for many different and interesting and boring reasons, but I'm going to have a go at coming back to it, with a change or two:

  • Firstly, the reviews will be in a bit of a different format. Instead of individual reviews they're more likely to be in a roundup type post. This is because writing reviews is fucking long and I'm tired.
  • Secondly, I'm going to take a bit more care about what I'm accepting for review. Although I've discovered some right fucking beauties that I wouldn't have looked twice at unless they'd been sent by nice publishers I just get too much post. And my postman fucking hates me, as you can probably imagine.
  • Thirdly, I'm going to read what I want when I want. I wasn't doing that before and it was sending me a bit batshit. Only reviewing books I'm sent means that you poor fuckers don't get the delight of some of the astounding shit I manage to pluck off the shelves in bookshops on a whim and of my own free will.
  • And lastly, I will get round to this lot that you've sent me but I haven't had time to get to yet.


I will do this because I am not a fucking quitter or an arsehole and because I said I would. Sorry it's taken fucking ages.

So there you have it, I am open for business.

Tweet me @bookcunt or email booksandswearing@gmail.com

bye.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Best Books of 2014

Hiya. It's been a while, hasn't it?

So. Books. Best books. They weren't all published this year but these are the ones I liked a lot in 2014. In the order that I read them:


Season To Taste by Natalie Young
Reviewed here.
It's fucking lovely when you read a fantastic book right at the beginning of January and gives you all kinds of mad ideas for the rest of  the books you're anticipating for the year. This book made me feel physically sick and scared the fuck out of me because it was so eerie and dark. Recorded ever-so-calmly by a lady who has killed her husband and is cutting him up in to bits in order to eat him, it in turn gave me shivers and made me fucking delighted.

Looking Out Of Broken Windows by Dan Powell
Reviewed here.
A fucking beautiful collection of short stories.

When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan
Reviewed here.
A YA book that everyone can get on board with. Even I managed it and you know how I fucking hate children. A lad with Tourettes makes a bucket list. A fucking good book and really cleverly written and I still think about Dylan (our main man) a lot.

Kimberly's Capital Punishment by Richard  Milward
Kimberly Clark tires of her boyfriend and decides to be cruel to him to make him leave her. That goes a bit wrong and so she spends the rest of the book on an adventure trying to redress the balance and be less of a cunt. This is a really fucking exciting read. It does exciting stuff that I haven't seen done this well in ages, but don't want to tell you what it is and ruin it. Have a go at it.

In Bloom by Matthew Crow
Review here.
A cancer book that doesn't make me want to fucking end it all. Very English, very funny, and adorably awkward in parts, this is a book with more heart than Rocky Balboa.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
A man with some kind of autism (probably) sets out to find a life partner. I fucking love Don Tillerman, if he were real I'd marry the fuck out of him. This book and the next one, The Rosie Effect are charming and fucking lovely.

The Undertaking by Audrey Magee
About love and war, this one is bleak as fuck but wonderfully atmospheric and illustrative in its descriptions.

Fan by Danny Rhodes
Reviewed here.
A book about the Hillsborough disaster told from the point of view of a Nottingham Forest Fan. Although that may make it sound like a football book it is not a football book. It's a book that poignantly captures and tells the story of a hideous tragedy.

Sad Men by Dave Roberts
Reviewed here.
A funny-as-fuck story about a man who fucking loves the advertising industry. Following our author through his life and career and passions, this memoir will confirm lots of things you suspected as well as making you laugh like a maniac.

The Circle by Dave Eggers
This one might make you shit your pants with fear if you're anything like me with your social media usage. Really fucking clever and sinister. Made me think of everyone's favourite online retailer. I won't name them, of course, but they start with an 'A', have a silent 'CUNT' in the middle and end with an 'n'.

Randall by Jonathan Gibbs
Reviewed here.
Randall. Absolute cunt and fucking megababe. I loved him and I loved this book. It's the story of one man (Randall) and his life as an artist. Written like it's a piece of history, it's not real but you'll want to believe that Randall existed.

The Hunger by Lincoln Townley
Reviewed here.
Dirty, depraved, sweary and totally fucked up. Wonderful.

Beastings by Ben Myers
Reviewed here.
This chap Ben can't do a bad bit of writing. This is a kind of game of hide and seek through rural Yorkshire where a Girl and a Baby are being pursued by a Poacher and a Priest.

Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant
Reviewed here.
Second YA book on the list, this girl Mara gets taken off by someone who calls himself The Messenger of Fear. What follows is a lesson in choices and morals.

Any Other Mouth by Anneliese Mackintosh
Reviewed here.
If I had to choose I'd probably say that this one is the Top Dog for 2014. A collection of short stories that could be a novel or could  be a memoir or could be anything it likes really. Absolutely fucking brilliant at pulling you through a whole heap of emotions and chucking you out of the other side feeling a bit less mental or a bit more sassy (in my case).

The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley
Reviewed here.
A novella that packs a huge punch. A group of men sit about telling stories but something else in the woods is listening in on them. Really fucking incredible and fucked up.

The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson
Gideon Mack, a priest falls into a gorge and is rescued by Satan. His testament as told in this book is a fucking great romp through his memories, legend and madness.

The Elegance of The Hedgehog by Murial Barbery
The parallel lives of Renée, a concierge in a grand Parisian apartment building, and twelve-year-old Paloma who lives several floors up in the building and is set on committing suicide on her 13th birthday. An absolute fucking beauty, I love this book and I'll be recommending it for years to come.

Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie
Short stories about landscape and the living world. Really stunning and beautiful writing that paints some fantastic pictures of human memories of events. Reading these made me feel excited like I was seeing things for the first time. Truly fucking stunning.



So there you have it. My 19 favourite books of 2014. To see what I'm currently reading you can pop over to Instagram if you like.

See you next year, Cuntlets.

Friday, 26 September 2014

East London Suffragettes - Sarah Jackson and Rosemary Taylor


'To many respectable middle- and upper-class Londoners in the late 1800s and early 1900s , the East End seemed to be at once on their doorstep, and a kind of foreign country.

Well. As you can probably guess, this book does what it says on the tin: gives you a nice bit of history about what a shithole East London was, and shows you how change came along out of the poverty and people started getting fighty and angry and shit. All for the greater good. Lovely stuff. People's Army, mate.

It focuses on our pal Sylvia Pankhurst, but also on some of the lesser names of early feminists, men and women. A nice little collection of total babes.

It was (unintentionally, I think) quite hilarious in places - something that particularly stood out to me was what an enormous fucking joke the British police were back in the day. For example, the police are after Sylvia Pankhurst so go and wait outside wherever she's just popped in. Out comes matey wearing Sylv's hat and coat and the police nick her. Fucking incredible! All women look the same but for hats and coats!

However, the book on the whole is a bit of a mixed bag. Although I loved a lot of the tales in the book I didn't find it to be particularly well written or engaging. In fact, most of the writing could fuck right off in favour of the snippets from the papers and the eyewitness bits and pieces. They were ace.

Recommended if you already love the Suffragettes and their stories and need another to add to your collection. Otherwise, maybe go down the library and have a root round for something a bit less dry.

Friday, 19 September 2014

How To Be A Public Author - Francis Plug


'Bookish folk aren't what they used to be. Introverted, reserved, studious. There was a time when bookish folk would steer clear of trendy bars, dinner occasions and gatherings.'

Right, first off, this book is not by Francis Plug. Francis Plug doesn't exist. If you do read this review and then buy the book and read it you will understand what a horrible tragedy that is, but for now just know it and also know that it was actually written by someone named Paul. Paul Ewen. I don't know how you're supposed to fucking list book like this, do I.

Anyway. Francis Plug has observed that to be an author these days is not what it once was. You're expected to do talks and signings and appear at festivals and all manor of tedious bullshit that traditionally authors probably weren't very good at because they were all recluses and tortured artists and that kind of thing. Oh, and drinkers. Big, big drinkers.

So Francis Plug decides to go out and find and observe a few modern authors. He attends events of Man Booker Prize winners and gets them to sign a book. He needs to do this cos he's going to win the Man Booker Prize next year, obvs. He tries to have a chat with some of the authors. Some chats are much more successful than others.

This book is fucking hilarious. Francis Plug is my absolute dream man, no question about it. He's a fucking disaster. I love him. He's incredibly funny and sharp and a total babe. Combining Plug with the 'personalities' of each writer encountered in the book is genius and makes for a really fun, really page-turning read.

Recommended if you want a My Uncle Oswald-esque set up of the book celebs of today being sought after by a mad drunken wanker gardener/author as he tries to take and learn from them the secrets of how to be a modern, public author.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Beauty - Aliya Whiteley


'... There are signs of change, of regeneration, and I saw the first mushroom in the graveyard on the morning after I ripped up the photograph of my mother's face and threw the piece over the cliff, ...'

A group of men have settled somewhere in the woods. There are no women. Every night these men sit round and listen to your man Nate tell stories, like the good old days when all people had were stories that went from mouth to mouth to brain to settle. A simpler time.

But something in the woods is listening in as well. And as these lads sit about telling there stories, some weird mushroom like creatures are growing under the ground and will soon be a much more involved and hands on part of their lives.

Right, no point in beating around the bush. This book is fucking incredible. It is unlike anything I've read before. What you've got is basically a fairy or folk tale but like the fucking good old folk tales that are so completely fucked up and dark that they hang about in your head forever after you've finished them. Smash in a bit of fantasy and a bit of feminism and a dash of sci fi and you've got yourself a story.

It is a short book that packs a fucking huge punch. It is about love and loss and moving on and forwards and learning to live again. It is about being frightened and wanting to be loved and safe. It is also so fucking deliciously fucked up that I could squeal with delight. If it doesn't make my top ten at the end of the year I will be very surprised indeed.

Recommended if you want a short but beautifully written eerie piece of fiction that will knock your fucking socks off.