Review: Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Despite having heard a lot about this book before I picked it up, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. A young girl goes missing while on holiday in a village in mid-England. The villagers join in the search parties. And then time passes, and life in the village goes on.

McGregor’s prose is lucid and full of sharp observation. This book takes in an impressive number of perspectives and voices, casting its gaze on many characters within the village. The girl who disappeared, her parents’ later comings and goings and the broader effects on the community serve as a centre of gravity, although many other little dramas are explored. She is forgotten and remembered in waves, the narrator occasionally sidestepping another story to remind us of the mystery, reciting the information known and how it might have changed.

The missing girl’s name was Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex. She had been thirteen at the time of her disappearance. She’d been wearing a white hooded top with a navy-blue body-warmer, black jeans and canvas shoes. She would be taller than five feet now. 

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Review: The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks

The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times is a fascinating book. It’s 1923. Lucy Marsh is a fourteen year old orphan. On Sundays, a man called Coach drives her and a bunch of other kids in his old Maudslay truck out to Epping Forest. There they meet the funny men: Toto, the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. They have a picnic. This is my absolute favourite read of the year so far.

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The genius of this book is in how Xan Brooks manages to balance a creeping sense of the unsafe with an attractiveness, a charming quality. Lucy is our anchor, and although the story takes in a much broader scope it all puts her situation in context. She acknowledges this dichotomy of beautiful and dangerous in the first chapter, hinting at what is to come:

Maybe this, were she ever called upon to explain her actions, would be her chief line of defence. Your honour, she would say, I went back because the forest is fantastic, which is another way of saying that anything can happen. And this is why, as long as she lives, she will never completely regret her trips to the forest, in spite of the trouble they cause and the horrors that follow

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Review: The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald

Of all the book recommendations I’ve ever received, this might be my favourite. I went to a book launch a few weeks ago, where I got talking to a man who used to work in opera. He was incredibly interesting and we got chatting about speculative fiction, Margaret Atwood and excellent writing in general. It was a brilliant conversation. He promised me I would love Penelope Fitzgerald, in particular that I should start with The Blue Flower. He was right.

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Review: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

I picked this up on a bookshop browse a few weeks ago in the new fiction section. I hadn’t heard of the book itself, but had heard of Woodson’s memoir Brown Girl Dreaming. After reading the first sentence, I fell a little bit in love and couldn’t leave without it…

For a long time my mother wasn’t dead yet. 

Do you ever pick up a book and get a tingly feeling of fate? A little funny instinct that somehow this story will be important to you.

Another Brooklyn is the story of a friendship between four girls, as August looks back to growing up in the 1970s. It is rich with beautiful and brutal moments which connect into a richly moving novel.

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Review: Free Love and Other Stories by Ali Smith

I first read Ali Smith when I was in University. On a Waterstones wander I picked up the newly published There but for the. I read it in almost one sitting and was completely entranced by writing so different to anything I’d read before. I’ve since made quite a collection of Ali Smith’s books – there are now nine on my shelves, and yet for some reason I haven’t read most of them. Why? I have no idea.

A few weeks ago I saw Ali Smith speak at Bath Festival, which was a amazing. As a reader and as a writer, I was inspired by everything she said – the passion and enthusiasm she spoke with. It was at that event where I bought a copy of Free Love and Other Stories, which was Smith’s first published book. I started reading on the train home and, as I was with There but for the, I was completely swept away by the beauty of the prose. Read More »

Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

I was so excited for the release of A Court of Wings and Ruin that I accidentally pre-ordered it twice. Then when it arrived at the beginning of May, I had to wait to start reading because I had a lot of uni deadlines. But once I finally handed that work in, I immediately picked up ACOWAR.

A Court of Wings and Ruin is the third in a trilogy by Sarah J Maas – you can find my previous review of A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury here.

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Review: Clade by James Bradley

This book is the last of my university reading for this term. It’s been an up and down collection of things I’ve loved and things I didn’t get on with. Fortunately for a last book, Clade was interesting and surprising.

It follows scientist Adam Leith, beginning while he is working in Antarctica and his partner Ellie back in Australia is waiting for their latest IVF treatment results. Each section jumps between perspectives, using both third and first person, in present tense except for sections which fill in backstory. There is a lot of story layering in the first few chapters, of backstory interspersed with the present moment, which creates an interestingly textured narrative. Every aspect of this novel is layered and faceted – everything has a meaning, an impact beyond the surface level.

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Review: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

I’ve had my eye on this one for a while. After a lot of umming and ahhing, I decided that I was interested, just in time to get the first book in hardback. Having finished I’m really glad I did, because it will now match my edition of Waking Gods. I didn’t want to be in the same situation as I was with Becky Chambers’ books, having one in paperback, one in hardback, and no shelf were they can sit side by side.

The series name, Themis Files, should have been a clue to how the narrative is presented. I hadn’t expected it when I picked the book up – possibly because when I’ve flicked through in shops, I was looking at the prologue, which is written in a traditional narrative style. A young girl goes out for a bike ride when the ground gives way beneath her, and she falls into a giant metal hand. She grows up to be Dr Rose Franklin, and seventeen years later is leading the effort to understand what she discovered as a child. The story from there is structured as numbered files – personal journal entries, project logs, and transcripts of conversations between the major players on the project, and an unnamed man from an unnamed secret agency.

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Review: ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman

I love being able to easily explain the idea of a book, especially when I want to pass on the recommendation. ‘Summing up’ is difficult – it’s one of the things I find trickiest about writing reviews, trying to succinctly convey a broad sense of theme, tone and plot. The Power is easy to describe. My problem might actually be to stop talking about it.

This novel explores a scenario in which gender power dynamics are, in one major change, completely shifted. Young girls across the world start developing the an electrostatic power – the power to electrocute at will, to tickle, maim or kill at the flick of their fingers. We follow a tight group of characters who help us chart a slowly changing world.

I first dipped a toe into The Power months ago. When I first signed up to Audible it was the first thing I downloaded before realising I don’t get along with new-to-me fiction as an audiobook experience. Great as audiobooks are, they work better with nonfiction for me. However, I was enthralled by the premise of the book, and have had it in mind ever since. When the paperback cover was revealed I decided, pretty as it is, that I wanted the hardback, which is gorgeous. Also with the hardback, you get two covers to enjoy, the dust jacket and the hardcover underneath.

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