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Nobody Told Me – Hollie McNish

This is a new one for us on the reviews section, poetry and diary all mashed up in a wonderful collection. It’s a conversational, accessible warm collection of the experiences of a first time mother. Our reviewer, Claudia, had the following thoughts:

In this book – part diary, part poetry – Hollie has an amazing way of capturing so many of the thoughts and feelings I had when pregnant and with a young child. Her writing is so honest and down to earth and is easy to dip in and out of. I like to pick this up and read just a chapter at a time according to the time of year or my daughter’s age – like Behind the Scenes about the magic of Christmas and the work that goes on in secret to achieve it. And you can find her reading her poetry on YouTube too.

The Guardian review :

This differs from most motherhood memoirs in that it’s also part diary, part poetry collection, charting McNish’s relationship with her child from the moment she realised she was pregnant (at Glastonbury) across a period of three years. With appealing openness and immediacy, she discusses the shifts in her relationship with her body, her partner, her family, friends and colleagues. She is shocked how the world recategorises her, the way she becomes both more, and less, visible as a person. McNish does not shy away from discussing the pain, emotional and physical, the fraying of self that comes with sleep deprivation, the poo, snot, seepages and leakages, but she also captures the bliss and wonder. Her rhymes have a driving quality, urgent words pinning down fleeting feelings, and her prose is warm and conversational, like speaking to a friend.

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Bloody Brilliant Women – Cathy Newman

This is a smart well written book that really highlights and draws attention to the massive impact women have had in history with regard to inventions, politics and society that has been swept aside.
It’s almost hard to believe what women pioneers in their field had to go through. A favourite section is in the 1918-39 chapter talks of the first female police officers and how they were not only protected from the criminals, but also the public they were protecting as their presence was an ‘outrageous provocation’. In the end Newman notes, ‘the women were made to patrol in pairs with two ‘experienced’ male policemen following them at a distance of six to ten yards. If they wanted to make an arrest, the women had to enlist the help of their male shadows’

This proper historical investigation might get lost in the embarrassment of riches we have today of books profiling amazing women. This would be a shame, because this is good. Very good.

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The Parentations by Kate Mayfield

I just love a crazy book. And this is properly kooky, and all the better for it.

This story follows a number of paths, with some intriguing groups of people.

Two sisters who sleep for huge parts of the year, in shifts, but always walk the same route of one London park every year, wondering if this is the year ‘he’ will come back. Oh and they don’t age.

A ragtag family who seem to hate each other, with a controlling paranoid woman at the head who is hiding mysterious blue vials around their home – who is being plotted against. Oh, and they don’t age either.

A mysterious group in Iceland, who live near a mysteriously blue water source. And guess what, they’re not exactly spring chickens either.

Are they immortal? What links these weird and wonderful characters?The story then moves back to the eighteenth century and we start to get the full weird and wonderful tale, with complex links between the people, and twists of identity, situation and circumstance.

This was simply, a pleasure. It’s a wonderful gothic high drama, with a sneering operatically fabulous villain who is ten steps ahead of everyone – each one is crueller than the last. There is humour, mystery misery and double-crossing. There is such an interesting central mystery, which is crammed with historic detail quirks of each period it touches and a touch of Icelandic culture. It kept me interested from start to finish. Whenever a character dies, it’s heartbreaking, when someone outwits the antagonist – however briefly – you want to cheer. Despite its length I would happily revisit this gothic world should the author want to expand its scope. However, this quality of prose and such an expansive plot makes her second novel, whatever it may be, one to watch.

 

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The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

If you like not just whodunnit, but howdunnit, whydunnit, WTFdunnit’s then this book may just be for you!

The book opens with our narrator in a forest during a rainstorm in the middle of shouting the name ‘Anna’ . But he pauses and realises he doesn’t know who he is, how he got there – or who Anna might be – the only thing he does know is that it isn’t his body.

What our protagonist comes to realise is that he is at a society function at a remote country house, and there will be a murder. When that murder occurs, the day resets and he has another chance to solve it – but in the body of another guest.

He will see events from different perspectives, the bodies he is in will have different physical and social barriers to mar his investigation – and there seem to be rules around what can, and always will, happen. And who is the mysterious figure in the creepy plague doctor mask who appears to be threatening him – but also is the only one who knows what is happening.

This has been described as Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day, but that is doing it a disservice – it’s not a whodunnit, but instead a complex look at the guests interactions. It’s a massively thought out plot, involving one day from so many perspectives. As you’re reading, the twists and turns mean the rules and your understanding of what’s actually going on shift hugely and not only is it straightforward to follow, you start to see the jigsaw is both bigger than you thought and a completely different shape than when you started.

Deserving of its recent win at the Books Are My Bag award show, this is a richly drawn, rewarding, intricate roller coaster of a read.

The authors second book is going to need to be very good to keep up this momentum!

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The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night – Jen Campbell

SHORT STORIES – PAPERBACK – £8.99

GORGEOUS GROWN UP BOOK ALERT!! This collection of weird, wonderful grown up short stories is enchanting.

From a girl running a coffin hotel where people can experience a slice of death for the night on an island…. to a world like ours where you can order replacement animal hearts on the internet for your loved ones. 

From a moment where a mysterious silent soldier appears in a woman’s kitchen to a boy looking for advice as his sister seems to have two souls. Plus the sentient plants stealing a van to avoid gardeners (sort of, still not quite sure what that ones about) .

Dreamlike lyrical writing which is almost poetry, this little collection really stays with you. Amazing stuff from a female author and poet who has such a precise command of her language and mastery of atmosphere within just a few short paragraphs.

If you like eccentric, weird yet emotional reads to intersperse with your longer novels, this is perfect to dip into.