Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Their Brilliant Careers

Their Brilliant Careers: The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers
By Ryan O'Neill
Published by Lightning Books
Available in hardback
Forthcoming in paperback

We need more books like Their Brilliant Careers. This is a playful, addictive book of a biographies, interlinked, telling the stories of sixteen invented Australian writers.

O'Neill pulls the reader into an imaginary literary scene, blurring the lines between what we consider fiction and non-fiction.

Each story is full of eccentric characters with one customs officer seizing the works of Hemingway and Joyce, rewriting sections and then selling them to publishers while Rachel Deverall who discovers the secret source of Australian literature but suffers a dreadful ending before she can share her research.

O'Neill explores racism, political allegiances, family dramas and rival with the authors in their plotted biographies. Their Brilliant Careers is full of literary references that many book fans will love. Rand Washington, a right-wing writer of racist sci-fi and creator of a cult yet hugely successful has hints of L. Ron Hubbard

O'Neill builds up the layers of the authors with many appearing into each other's biographies, helping to build up a believable thriving literary scene. This brings an authentic feel to the book and could almost fool a casual reader that this is a book of real authors.

Social media has made people very curious about celebrities and we take joy in knowing more about their private lives. However, the internet allows people to curate a styled version of their lives. Their Brilliant Careers is refreshing in a world where people only show their polished sides of their lives as we get to see these authors in their raw state - messy, complicated, no escape from their shady sides of their lives.

Their Brilliant Careers is a witty, addictive, smart read, and this book will definitely not let you go once you start reading. People who love books, and knowing more about the people behind the words will enjoy this book. Their Brilliant Careers is available from your favourite bookshop.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

April's Reading

April gave us a preview of the summer for like three days and then reminded us that England's natural habitat is watercolour grey skies, clouds and drizzle. But we're a couple of days into May and it's looking fantastic already - plus we have two bank holidays so is this the best month?

In April, I managed four books (not all pictured here) and I honestly thought it was going to be less because I've been busy with life - seeing friends, having a horrid cold, going to see the latest Avengers movie - I'm not going to give the plot away but this makes up for the middle of the road superhero movies we've had to suffer to get to this point. I really want to see it again! Not to mention going to the Royal Albert Hall with my sister to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets being played alongside an orchestra. We even managed a trip to the bookshop.

Right, on with the books...

Their Brilliant Careers - Ryan O'Neill
This playful book is a set of stories, linked, telling the story of 16 (invented) Australian writers. I found I couldn't put this book down as it really pulls you into the lives of these characters. A review of this is currently being written in my head so should appear here within the next week or so.

Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman
Most of my Norse knowledge has faded over time and replaced by Marvel versions so it was great to read this collection of short stories exploring the Norse Gods.

The Cactus - Sarah Haywood
Fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion will love the protagonist, Susan Green. Just like the characters in Simsion's and Honeyman's novels, she is eccentric, annoying but sweet even before one paragraph has ended. She has a rigid life and it's about to unravel out of her control. This book shows readers how stepping outside our comfort zones can be more interesting and fun rather than living within self-imposed boundaries. You can read my review here.

Dark Places - Gillian Flynn (via kindle)
This was the second book for work's book club. I've never read any of Gillian Flynn's novels before and I've only watched Gone Girl on the telly so it was good to read this. Full of twists and turns, this tells the story of Libby Day as she reluctantly takes on the investigation to work out if it was her brother who murdered their mother and sisters over twenty years ago. I don't normally read thrillers so it was interesting to read this.

Preview on May... I've just given up reading a book for the first time this year. I just couldn't connect with the characters or the plot... so bye bye book. I've got too many unread books to be wasting my time on books that don't tickle me.

Friday, 27 April 2018

The Cactus

The Cactus
By Sarah Haywood
Published by Two Roads
Available in hardback, ebook and audio
Paperback is forthcoming

Sarah Haywood's debut novel, The Cactus, is a novel about letting go of control your life and enjoy the complications and diversions.

Fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion will love the protagonist, Susan Green. Just like the characters in Simsion's and Honeyman's novels, she is eccentric, annoying but sweet even before one paragraph has ended. She has a rigid life and it's about to unravel out of her control.

Prickly on the outside like a cactus, Sarah Green has wrapped herself up in rules and regulations and a seemingly perfect life to protect herself from dealing with emotions. Haywood creates a fascinating and yet frustrating character with Sarah - she is closed off from the real world, living in a tiny bubble, not really wanting to acknowledge the importance of the people in her life.

Sarah's has the perfect life - a flat in London, a job that she loves for its logical angle, a casual arrangement with a man where both of them can avoid emotional ties but have someone to enjoy dinners, theatre and sex. This life is about to be shaken up even though Sarah is fierce and determined not to let her life become tangled up in family politics and lies.

Following the loss of her mother, and the prospect of becoming a mother, Sarah's life starts to unravel. Secrets and lies start to reveal themselves but Sarah starts to see that she has more friends than she thought she needed.

Uncovering family secrets and feuds will unravel Susan's life. This book shows readers how stepping outside our comfort zones can be more interesting and fun rather than living within self-imposed boundaries.

This is an enjoyable, funny and sweet story. You can buy The Cactus from your favourite bookshop.


I was sent a copy via Bookbridgr.

Monday, 9 April 2018

The End of Loneliness

The End of Loneliness
By Benedict Wells
Translated by Charlotte Collins
Published by Sceptre
Available in trade paperback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

"The antidote to loneliness isn't just being around random people indiscriminately, the antidote to loneliness is emotional security."

This quote from Benedict Wells' novel, The End of Loneliness, a German bestseller, perfectly sums up this book. This is an incredible story about loss, loneliness, family and love.

Marty, Liz and Jules' childhood is full of warmth, adventure and happiness but this is shattered by the death of their parents in a car crash. 

The tightly-knit family is pulled apart with the children being sent to a grim state boarding school. Here their paths split off, and each one tries to find a way of fighting against the hole of loneliness and fight against crippling grief. Liz becomes a party girl only interested in boys, Marty locks himself away with his computer while Jules floats through school, with only one true friend. Jules fears living, and seems to retreat into a world where his parents are still alive, and he has a happier life. He is nostalgic, much like the main character from Midnight in Paris, longing to be living in the past as this is the only place he is happy.

Like Olivia Laing's The Lonely City, the exploration of loneliness digs deep into the soul and it is fascinating the way Wells pulls apart the many ways loneliness can creep into our lives. Jules is detached from his life, sometimes unable to take the leap from observing to being emotionally involved with life. This fear of living holds him back from being happy with failed jobs, and relationships - running away from commitment, hiding away from society. Yet, there are tender moments when Jules finds happiness, finally marrying the women he has loved since childhood, being a parent.

Wells shows how grief shapes people's lives and the decisions we make when gripped by grief. The End of Loneliness shows how grief never leaves us but morphs into a different shape.

This is a beautifully written and translated novel, full of emotion. I can see this book being on my book of the year list for 2018. End of Loneliness is available from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via the publisher.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

March's reading

Only three books read in March?!

But last month felt like it stretched for years. Lets blame the horrendous cold I had and the fact it made my concentration levels shrink to less than thirty seconds. Actually, that excuse is the truth.

Lets not forget the adventures to Stonehenge, being the last person on the planet to watch Black Panther (fantastic, go see it), becoming hooked on Booktube, and having a clear out of books and old clothes.

The End of Loneliness - Benedict Wells (translated by Charlotte Collins)
I'm going to be writing a longer review later this week but I should probably give you a heads up and tell you that this book is fantastic. Exploring the themes of loss, loneliness, family and love. This book follows the lives of three siblings after their perfect childhood is shattered by the sudden death of their parents. Grief pulls them apart, sending them in different directions with their lives. This is a fantastic book.

Life Lessons from Remarkable Women - various writers
Finding this book turned into a mission with me walking around four bookshops in London (oh I know, the hardship) before getting my mitts on this. This essential book, in a handy size to carry around in any bag, covers essays on starting over, self love, embracing ambition, grief, motherhood, dealing with mental health. These essays are necessary for the modern world, and are all in bitesize chunks so you can easily read one while on the train. Life Lessons is thought provoking, empowering, a call to arms for women - to raise up and not hide in the shadows. I'm definitely going to be going back to this book, and re-reading these essays.

The Course of Love - Alain de Botton
"That strive to normalize our troubles and show us a melancholy yet hopeful path through the course of love." Part romance, part story on surviving and enjoying a modern relationship, part philosophy. My cat was sick on it twice. I enjoyed the book more than she did.

What books did you read in March?