Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Blog Tour: The Method

Ooooh! Another blog tour!!

Imagine a helpless, pregnant 16-year-old who’s just been yanked from the serenity of her home and shoved into a dirty van. Kidnapped Alone Terrified.
Now forget her
Picture instead a pregnant, 16-year-old, manipulative prodigy. She is shoved into a dirty van and, from the first moment of her kidnapping, feels a calm desire for two things: to save her unborn son and to exact merciless revenge. 
She is methodical calculating scientific in her plotting. A clinical sociopath? Leaving nothing to chance, secure in her timing and practice, she waits for the perfect moment to strike. 

The Method  is what happens when the victim is just as cold as the captors. 
I know, right?! Sounds excellent. And it was really really good, I liked it a whole lot. I couldn’t wait to start it and then I couldn’t wait to finish it….and that sounds bad, like I didn’t like it. I did like it. What I mean I think is that I couldn’t put it down. I was so hooked, because this is such a unique take on your usual thriller. I have never read an abduction story like this and isn’t that a pretty cool thing to be able to say as a writer – that your book is like no other.. It’s so clever and so inspired to have a victim that also kind of isn’t actually willing to be a victim at all. So clever.

 The story is pretty horrible – I mean these kidnappers are absolutely not good guys and what they plan to do with this sixteen year old girl and her unborn baby. Well, let’s just say it’s absolutely not fun times in any way shape or form. It’s horrible because blond haired blue eyed babies? They’re worth something. This mother though, 16 and grabbed on her way to school, she’s not letting her baby go without a fight. & that’s what makes her so excellent I think: the fact that she is absolutely not prepared to just lie down and accept her fate. She’s bad ass and as her story unravels in this book that is nothing if not multi layered I couldn’t help but be kind of proud of her, of her drive, her ability to distance herself from the horror of her situation, her determination not to be beaten. It’s kind of like…have you watched Dexter? It’s like that.
It’s something you don’t get to see all that often also, the sociopath as the victim, and I loved it.

We’ve got a split narrative going on here too, which I am pretty much always a fan of – that of our victim (telling her story 17 years later, which is an interesting exercise in foreshadowing: we know she survives but there’s so much else going on, this book is so full of twists and turns that you want to keep reading because knowing she gets out isn’t enough: you need to know how) and the FBI agent who is trying to save her (I enjoyed him a little less to be honest, I don’t know why really, I just kind of didn’t connect with him the same and I was so hung up on what was going on in that room that time spent with the FBI just felt a little bit like time wasted. Minor niggle though, and I totally get that it was a story that needed to be told alongside and it did totally work. I just liked the other parts better and I’m allowed to pick favourites, right?)

It’s such a clever exploration of fear too – because fear plays games with your mind and I liked how this book took that and turned it on its head a little bit, let the fear make you stronger not weaker and maybe there’s some kind of life lesson in there also you know?

In short, liked it – I like the originality, and the clever unravelling and the red herrings. I liked the characters and I liked that I never knew quite what was happening or where it was going. This is a book that is absolutely worth a read. 

Monday, 27 February 2017

Review: Behind Her Eyes

Don’t Trust This Book

Don’t Trust These People

Don’t Trust Yourself

And whatever you do, DON’T give away that ending…

I like Sarah Pinborough. I like her Twitter account, which makes me feel like we should be pals, and (more importantly) I also like her writing. I read The Death House in 2015  and Thirteen Minutes last year and I loved them both so I was ridiculously excited about Behind Her Eyes as soon as I heard it was going to be a thing, and then there was the whole hashtag thing going on – and whoever does Sarah’s publicity deserves a high five because this book has been all over my twitter for the longest time and the buzz generated by #wtfthatending has been pretty remarkable. It was like a secret gang and I totes wanted in.

I finally got round to reading it last week, and it’s the worst isn’t it when it takes you so long to read a book you really want to read; when it’s always there at the back of your mind and you just. can’t. get. to. it. Anyway, I started it one night about 10pm in a hilariously misguided ‘I’ll just read the first chapter’ which resulted in me not turning the light off til 11.30 and then thinking about it all the next day and stopping up waaaaay too late again the next night and it’s a problem really. It’s a problem because I need my sleep. All the sleep, I need it. I wasn’t working on Friday last week, so stopping up too late reading wasn’t as bad as it had been the night before but still, I had plans. Only with myself but still, there were plans.

I went to Skipton because I was going to be one of those ladies that mooches around pretty market towns being all carefree and stuff, but I had my Kindle in my bag and there was a Starbucks and I accidentally sat down with a coffee and read the last 30% because I could not stop with the page turning and then all of a sudden I’d finished the book and done zero mooching and it was time to head home again to hang with my bestie. Whoops. Not that I’m really complaining because in actuality, is there a better way to spend your day off than in a coffee shop with a good book? I think not.


This book.

It’s about Louise –  a single Mum in a bit of a rut who kisses a guy(David) on a night out, only to find out when she gets to work on Monday that the guy is her new boss. Her new married boss. I know, right. It gets better though, because Adele,  the new friend that Louise has just made? Yep, that’s David’s wife and trust me on this, you might think you can predict where this story is going. BUT YOU CAN’T.

First off the ending, and never has there been such an accurate hashtag because erm, #wtfthatending. AKA #wtfhow. It’s super good. It’s creepy and chilling and dark and so gripping. It’s twisty and turny and you know some serious shit is going to go down but you’re never quite sure what its’s going to be and you get totally drawn into this incredibly well -crafted story of lies and deceit and fucked up levels of control and you can’t relax at all because you don’t trust anybody and you don’t really like anybody all and it’s the most wonderful kind of messed up.
It’s obvious from the beginning that things are so far from right and the secrets are sort of just there, you can practically taste them, but you can’t quite reach them and you do have to suspend reality quite a bit and I don’t want to say too much about that either but basically, I loved it.
Mostly I loved it because just when I thought I’d sussed it, something else happened that had me thinking ‘what the fuck oh ok maybe not then.’ I mean, never has a character gone from being bad guy to good guy and back again as many times as David did in this book. It’s so clever and the characterisation is so freaking good – Adele especially. As character she’s freaking excellent, the kind of character you just don’t get to see enough of. Actually, this book as a whole is the kind of thing you just don’t get to see enough of. The story in itself is something else but what made it for me is what Sarah Pinborough does with words because the characters whilst excellent aren’t likeable and the story is nutso and it jumps back and forwards so much that a lesser writer would only leave you feeling a little seasick but Sarah Pinborough can write and she unravels this tale so beautifully and so cleverly and I was kind of mesmerised actually. And there is so much I want to say but I am afraid to because I don't want to accidentally give anything away but it’s out now and you should get involved.

Friday, 24 February 2017

If We Were Having Coffee

So I saw an excellent blog post recently, and I feel like a terrible person because I can’t remember where and I wanted to link back to it so as not to just be an idea stealer. Although, I’m pretty sure they’d seen the idea someplace else anyhow so perhaps it’s ok, and it’s not like I’m taking credit for it anyway, just sort of saying ‘kudos, that’s awesome, I’m going to have a go at that….’

The feature was called If We Were Having Coffee and it’s pretty much just a chance for me to talk at you about things that are on my mind that may not always be book related because sometimes I like to try and shake things up a bit. Who knows, if I like it I might make it a semi regular thing. I say semi regular because hello look at my blog please, there’s nothing regular about it: I am shamefully sporadic at best.

Anyhow, I'm not in the office today (hurrah for having Friday off) so it seemed like as good a time as any see how it goes. Grab a coffee – tea, hot chocolate, whatever -  and a cake (MMMM cake) and let’s chat.

If we were having coffee I’d probably mention the mahoosive spot on my face that I know you’d have noticed but be too polite to mention because you’re a darling. I’d draw attention to it because I’m feeling self-conscious about it and that’s just the way I roll. I swear though, it’s massive. I asked one of the boys in my office if he could see it from his side of the room. He could. Probably you could see it from the moon. I’d blame my hormones and how shit is it please that I am almost 34 years old and I still have to suffer these breakouts every month. I’d probably also blame the fact that I’m using a Neutrogena cleanser instead of the one I’ve been using for a while because apparently my skin likes change about as much as I do which is not very (I use a Decleor micellar water thingy usually, if you’re interested, because the bottle is pretty and it smells nice.)

If we were having coffee I’d probably be ridiculously happy about the hopefully excellent latte I was drinking because coffee. I’d tell you how the Nescafe Azera I drink at home and the Gold Blend I drink at work just isn’t the same and that I actually take my own travel mug to the Costa machine when I’m walking to work most mornings because that third cup of coffee on the walk to work actually makes all the difference and (and it says Luke’s on it which means I get to pretend I live in Stars Hollow.) I’d ask you if you thought I had a problem. Although tea is not coffee, is it. & my first beverage of the day is usually tea, which is weird actually because I used to hate tea.  I’d ask you what you knew about coffee machines because I want one and I am currently torn between one that makes coffee like this one fromKitchenAid or one that will make me a latte like this Dolce Gusto pod one. I’m torn.

If we were having coffee we probably would end up talking about books because this is me after all. I’d tell you that I just re-read Handmaid’s for about the sixth time and still think Margaret Atwood is the Queen of Fucking Everything and that it’s actually eerie how relevant her work is and if you told me that actually you haven’t read The Handmaid’s Tale I would demand you did so right away because it’s SO GOOD.
I’d tell you started the new Sarah Pinborough last night which I’m majorly excited about, partly because I loved The Death House and really liked Thirteen Minutes and partly because her publicity team have done excellent work on Twitter with #wtfThatEnding. I’d tell you that actually that’s why I’m so sleepy today, because I stopped up too late reading it.
I’d get you to fangirl with me about The Book of Dust – can you even believe we have an actual date - and remind me that actually Northern Lights hurts my soul every time and that maybe I should remember that before I pick the series up to reread. I’d point out that I probably won’t listen to your advice on that.
& of course I’d ask you what you’re reading right now. All the recs all the time please.

If we were having coffee I’d probably compliment your outfit because you look lovely today and I wouldn’t say it out loud but secretly I’d wish I had that kind of style. Pretty much everybody I spend time with ever makes me wish I had a personal stylist. Ha.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you about walking to work and about how my fitbit might be the best gift I’ve ever been given because I was so lazy. Not on purpose so much, but because I had a sedentary 9-5 job and so I’m sat all day and then I’d get home and grab some food and then just be so tired. My fitbit makes me challenge myself: I walk to work and back most days now; I go for a little walk at lunchtime; if I don’t have plans at weekend then I get off my arse and go for a walk and I feel better for it. & I get a bit of a kick actually, out of looking at my 7 day steps and watching that average creep up. I’m at 7k per day right now and it’s bugging me because two weeks ago I was at 11. I’d ask you if you had one. & I’d invite you to a workweek hustle if you did because we’re all in this together.

If we were having coffee I’d probably mention Donald Trump because it’s a thing that’s at the back of my mind all of the time – mine and most other sane people on the planet I guess. The guy is a horror show. I find myself laughing sometimes because seriously how is this shit even real and then I remember it is real and my laughter dies in my throat. I wouldn’t want to get overly political because I know not everybody likes that but as we sat drinking coffee and eating cake I probably wouldn’t be able to help but tell you he makes my skin crawl and that every time he opens his mouth he scares the bejeezus out of me and that with all his fake new BS his big ol’ Sweden blunder this weekend was a joke and that impeachment would not surprise me.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that my BFF has gotten Wimbledon tickets again this year and that the prospect of another minibreak to London with her, a couple of days of tennis and theatre and wine has me positively giddy because when I think about the best five days of my life two of them have been spent in London with her – the first when we went to Wimbledon the first time and drank Pimms even though she hates it and saw Roger Federer do this thing, and the second two years later, when it rained and we sat under an umbrella outside a pub and drank rain til the sun shone. It took a while. We were happily drunk.

If we were having coffee then I'd probably tell you about The Kitten Dilemma. The Kitten Dilemma is, perhaps not unsurprisingly, the dilemma I am having about kittens. Specifically about owning kittens and whether or not I should. I had a cat - my ex got custody when we split up 2 years ago and I am still terribly sad about it; I miss that little furry creature so hard. I also miss the company of a kittycat and I spend a lot of time thinking it might be nice to do something about that and get a couple of kittens - a couple because I'm at work all day and also two is better than one when it comes to these things, right? I only have to worry about myself now, just lil ol' me and the company would be nice and I'd love it, I would. I've even named them in my head. I think. 
But then on the other hand, it feels like a bigger decision to make somehow when I'm making it on my own and my life would be restricted a little more and what if I ended up living with somebody again and that person was not a cat lover and is it ridic to base this decision on a vague possible future scenario that may never come to pass and what is it that's stopping me really other than my inability to make a decision. So indecisive I swear.
It's a constant source of amusement to My Best Guy how I see things I want and don't get them and then regret not getting them for months only to finally decide to get them, usually by which point they've sold out, Unless I'm lucky, sometimes I'm lucky. But even then I get mocked for the fact that it took me a year to decide to buy the shoes/coat/whatever. That's what this is I think. But I'd ask you, if we were having coffee - to kitten, or not to kitten?

If we were having coffee I’d ask you about you because I want to know all the things, please. What’s been going on in your world – where have you been and what have you been doing and what have you read and watched and seen and what plans have you made? I would want to know it all. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A Quick(ish) Catch Up

I’m pretty grumpy today, mostly because it’s freezing cold and I’m not caffeinated enough and also because I got up late and didn’t have time to straighten my hair (think Hermione circa CoE) – or I guess I could have straightened my hair but then I would have had to drive to work and I’m trying not to drive to work because I keep eating Crème Eggs and large(r) lunches and If I’m going to do that I need to do walking and so I’m sat in the office in a hoody with mahoosive hair and that’s fine, normally but today I got an unexpected visit from a supplier I am in a battle with and not only did I not know they were coming, the girl was also all high heels and smart suit and perfect hair and makeup and I’m looking the most unprofessional ever and felt totally wrong footed. I’m grumpy about it. Glamourous people scare me. & holy run on sentence, batman. & I have one of those hurty pieces of skin sticking out of my nail bed, you know the ones? OUCH. Ill probably rip it off later and it will bleed and hurt more and I’ll have regrets. Such is life.

Anyhow, enough of that.

I want to talk to you (at you? to you?) today about the things I’ve been reading and watching and looking at. About what my life has looked like I guess, for the last couple of weeks. Grab a Creme Egg – because who actually cares if it’s ages off Easter, they’re in the shops now. Eat them all – and make yourself comfortable. This might get long.

The Secret Life of Bees is one of those books that I actually cannot believe it has taken me so long to read because I really really liked it. & the crazy thing about that is that if my fabulous pal Natalie hadn’t bought me a copy for Christmas I might never have read it and that is ridiculous. So so ridiculous. It’s such a me book (not about the Holocaust Helen, hush) which Natalie totally knew, mostly because I went on at her for the longest time to read The Help which is one of my faves (and its film adaptation one of my faves also) and this is a book that’s pretty much in the same vein of that.


Anyhow, The Secret Life of Bees is a book about family and equality and hate and love and what it means to be different and with all the shit that is going on in the world right now, with the real life horror show that is Donald Trump, it feels like a book that carries one of very many important messages. But it
’s also an easy read, it feels warm and comfortable. It’s the perfect book for that lazy Sunday, for the sofa and a blanket and snacks. It feels, pretty much right off the bat, like an old friend.

The book is set in South Carolina in the 1960’s, when Lily Owens thinks she killed her Mother, her Dad is a complete ass-hat and her black nanny Rosaleen, on her way to register to vote, insults the biggest racists in town and ends up in a prison cell. Lily springs her free and the two of them make a run for it, ending up in a small South Carolina town that Lily thinks holds some answers with regards to her Mum and taken in by three (black) beekeeping sisters. 

The characters are flawed, which I liked a whole lot: it kind of had that TKaM feel about it sometimes, vaguely, if I squinted. Take Lily for example, who mostly I loved, but who I also sometimes really wanted to shake; sometimes the way she treated Rosaleen made me rage, even though I knew that she loved her probably more than she loved any other person ever. That’s what made her real and that’s a big part of made this book resonate with me; Lily’s a teenager, a white girl growing up in the South where racism was so deeply ingrained that people like Lily didn’t even realise that to a degree they were part of the problem – little things said and done in a heartbeat without even realising the damage they had the potential to cause, probably, and I liked that that was addressed: unconscious prejudice.

This is a novel about race and it’s a novel about feminism and it’s the kind of novel that if I had a daughter, I would want her to read.. It’s not in your face with its messages either, not that I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR kinda books are in any way a problem at all, just that this isn’t one of them. It’s subtle but no less powerful for it. And it makes you want honey because there are bees in this book, so many bees. Which, and this might surprise you because it surprised me and is part of the reason it took me so long to pick it up – did I really want to read a book about bees? Not so much – actually works really well and makes the whole thing gel and is really clever, actually. And also interesting.  & it left me with all the feelings. Seriously, I was a hot mess of emotions when I finished this book, which is not to say it’s sad so much, more that it gets under your skin, and burrows deep into those places where your feels are kept.

If you like TKaM (are there actually people who don’t like TKaM?) or The Help or Fried Green Tomatoes then this might be a book that you should consider picking up. Except you probably have already because I am incredibly late to this particular party. Le sigh.

Also, I’ve just read The Girl on the Train. I know, right? How am I just reading that now? I think I might actually be the last person left in the world to read this book. I get like that about a book sometimes, when it’s had all the hype. I either jump right on that bandwagon to see what all the fuss is about, or I put if off because it can’t possibly be that good.

With The Girl on the Train I put it off. Til now.

I liked it though, when I finally read it. I mean I didn’t devour it in one sitting like I half thought I might and it took me a while to really get going with the story, and Rachel kind of bugged me for a while and Anna bugged me more later on and you know actually I don’t think there is a single likeable character in this whole book which makes it a fairly interesting read actually and a good character study as well as saying rather a lot about Hawkins’ writing because keeping me engaged in a story that centres around a group of people I actually think a pretty awful, that’s kind of impressive. Although you know me – I love an unreliable narrator and this book is bursting with them. And it did grab me, once it got into its stride and once it grabbed me, it grabbed me, grabbed me to the point that I read the last just-less-than-half in a night, tucked up in bed with a Crème Egg. All the Crème Eggs all the time.

Do I need to properly review it, with a synopsis and  everything? I feel like that might be a bit meaningless now, what with everybody ever having read it and all. In a nutshell though: Rachel gets the same train every day, which stops at the same place every day and offers her tiny view at the lives of the people who live in the houses right there by the tracks. One day she sees something at one of the houses and then the lady that lives there disappears and ALL THE DRAMA.

I liked it a lot. Did I say that already? I was gripped, and it wasn’t predictable and even though I had kind of worked out where the story was going before The Big Reveal the writing was sharp enough and had enough pace and enough suspense that I still couldn’t turn pages fast enough and there were plenty of red herrings which I have liked since my Enid Blyton days although the red haired guy? What was the point of him, exactly? Were we supposed to think he did it? I didn’t; I just got irritated by not seeing the point of him and wanting to get back to the story. Also, why did the police not do more about questioning Rachel because should she not have been a suspect? She was there; she was drunk; she had no recollection of what happened and no alibi. Oh, hello PRIME SUSPECT. That was weird.

I should watch the film now I guess although Emily Blunt? Is it me or is that some strange casting?

Talking about watching, what have I been watching?

I had a big empty space once I’d finished watching Gilmore Girls which if you haven’t seen then you’re doing life wrong and perhaps at some point I shall do a post just about that how and fangirl so hard I give myself an injury (yes I did just order a hoody with In Omnia Paratus printed on the front I had a voucher don’t judge me)
You know what. Have some gifs because then you may understand why I think this show is my spirit animal:

So there was a void and I filled that void with Homeland over Christmas (and it’s now back on Channel 4 hurrahs) and now I’m all about Gossip Girl – I know, yet another party I’m late to, whoops.  It’s a funny one really, because what is it about ridiculously privileged and bitchy young adults that I find myself so drawn to? I know not. I am drawn to it though. & I think I have a crush on Blake Lively. I want to be her friend. I want to be her.  I’ve got Lemony Snicket lined up to watch next. And I really want to watch The OA mostly I think because Jason Isaacs. Also it was suggested to me yesterday that I watched that thing on the BBC with Sheridan Smith. Moorside? I didn’t because I thought it would give me a sad but I’ve been told that I should have, so perhaps I’ll do that tonight. Watch that and start a new book – either The Trouble With Goats and Sheep or a re-read. I’m sensing Handmaid’s might be due another read…..

Helen and I have watched LaLaLand recently, which I think we need to watch again mostly because on first watch both of us were what can only be described as underwhelmed, and Joy which I liked. I like Jennifer Lawrence and it was a lovely way to spend a Friday evening – a film and Chinese food and my bestie. Yes thank you that will do. Also The new Trainspotting. Anyone seen that yet?

In other news I am in a wall art related dilemma because I have wall space that needs filling and I keep changing my mind what to fill it with which is ridic because I’ve had my house for a year and a half now. So that’s going on, with the googling and the imagining and the deciding and the mind changing and I am driving myself so very crazy. And Irregular Choice keep releasing more shoes and they’re all so pretty I want to cry and that, pretty much, is my life.

Til next time.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Blog Tour: Burned and Broken

I’ve always liked a good detective novel. I used to power through the Dalziel and Pascoe books like nobody’s business when I was a teenager and OK, maybe I don’t read as much crime fiction these days as I used to, but I still like to get all engrossed in one every now and then. That’s why I jumped at the chance to get involved in this blog tour, actually: Burned and Broken looked like being A Good Read. It was nice to go back to a police procedural, in this world of the psychological thriller.

You’ve got a good detective duo which is always a winner with me. Pearson and Russell are no Dalziel and Pascoe, but I liked them both. There’s two stories running side by side, which I enjoyed – a young and messed up girl just out of care and wanting answers about the death of her best friend, and a detective, currently under investigation himself, found burned to death in his car. You can see where this is going, right? What’s the connection between the two – if indeed there is one.

It’s a pretty good book, all told. It starts off well, with a prologue (who doesn’t love a prologue) full of tension and then jumps back in time four days. I like that. I’ve always liked that – when you (think) you know how it’s going to end up and get the chance to see how it gets there. Backwards storytelling sort of I guess, it’s a thing I’m a fan of. I also liked the ending. The ending had me turning pages and staying up way past my bedtime and it’s always a mark of a good book when it makes me not want to stop reading and go to sleep. I am such a big fan usually of going to sleep.

It’s a little slow in the middle though, which is a shame. It loses its way somewhat and kind of drags and there was a point where I had to have a talk to myself and force myself to persevere and I did struggle a little with Hardie’s writing style. It’s very staccato, lots of full stops everywhere and I found it kind of jarring. It stopped me somehow from fully absorbing myself in the story; there was no flow. & I really wanted to be involved and just kind of wasn’t. Not in the way I expected to be anyway. I think that’s a minor niggle though – on the whole the story started out well, ended well and had enough twists and turns to stop you figuring things out too quickly and as debuts go, it’s a strong one. I’d read more of Hardie’s work for sure: I didn’t love it, but I did like it, and if it’s the first in a series – which rumour has it, it is - I’m pretty sure I’d pick up the ones to follow.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Blog Tour: A Boy Made of Blocks

I also don’t mind telling you that actually I was a tiny bit unsure that I would, at first. I don’t really know why that is, because let’s be real here: look at the blurb. It is entirely up my street. But I was dubious. I think perhaps it was the title? I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter really because I read it and I liked it a whole lot and that’s the best ever isn’t it? When you love something that you kind of really didn’t think you would?

 ‘Daddy, what are you doing?’‘What do you mean?’‘Sometimes I am stuck on a thought and I can’t get off it, not for a long time. It stays and stays. Are you stuck on a thought?’ I stop walking.

It’s OK, don’t mind me, there’s just a branch in my eye. Keep on doing your thing.

It’s just…it’s so damn lovely OK? It’s really kind of special. And it’s a bit of a thing isn’t it, Autism. There’s a lot of people writing a lot of books with a protagonist the places somewhere on the spectrum and it’s important – of course it is – but it’s also important not to get samey, not to write about something just because it’s ‘of the moment’ you know? 
Too much relevance can make a thing irrelevant. Does that make any sense? It makes all the sense in my head. It’s about bandwagons and not jumping on them, about not making something into a trope.

Which this book does not, in case you wondered if that’s where I was going. I’m absolutely not going there. I am going in the other direction entirely. A direction where there is not a bandwagon in sight. A bandwagon free zone, as it were. 

This book is refreshing and honest and all kinds of wonderful, actually. And it left me with ALL THE FEELS. Here I am, feeling all the things and wanting to do it justice and write an intelligent and thought provoking review but unable to come up with much other than THIS BOOK MADE ME MELTY AND I WANNA PLAY MINECRAFT WITH ALEX AND SAM.

OK, let’s back up. Let’s at least try to write a proper review here.

Actually no. Let’s not. I’m just not really that person I'm sorry. I just want to tell you how much I liked it so that’s what I’m going to do, okay?



In a nutshell it’s about this guy called Alex (thirtysomething, like me. High five Alex,) and his relationship with both his wife Jody and his 8 year old son Sam, who is Autistic. 

Alex is estranged from his wife which is super sad times because he loves her and he doesn’t really get Sam, doesn’t know how to relate to him, and actually if we’re going to be blunt here is pretty much shit scared of the kid. Also super sad times because he loves him.

The thing about leaving (or being pushed from) the family home and becoming a ‘weekend Dad’ is that he’s kind of forced to deal with Sam on a deeper level; he has to handle the things that Jody would usually deal with. He has to actually see past the epic meltdowns and work out who Sam actually is and watching him do that, watching him learn about this little boy who lives in a world that is sometimes so overwhelming that he doesn’t know how to do anything other than hide from it,  it’s all kind of tortuous and wonderful.  I swear, watching these two play Minecraft together in separate houses, these two people who love each other so fucking fiercely but have never had the ability to show it, finding a way to actually really communicate is simultaneously the most wonderful and most heart-hurty thing I have read this year. It’s lush writing, absolutely lush.

(& it really makes you want to play Minecraft.)

Heart-hurty. That’s what this book was. It made my chest so tight so many times but in the most wonderful and uplifting of ways. Happysad. Which is totally an actual emotion. This book made me so very happysad. & I loved that it’s based on Keith Stuart’s own experiences with his own children, with Autism (and with Minecraft.) It shone through the pages, that love; that frustration; that whole extreme of feeling, from joy at each milestone to agony when you just can’t reach past the walls. 
It felt honest to me, and whilst I wanted to reach into the pages to hug Sam and Alex SO FREAKING HARD YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW, I also wanted to reach past them to hug Keith. Not out of pity but out of….I dunno. Solidarity? No. That’s not right? Maybe not for any reason other than to say ‘thank-you, for this.’

I have absolutely no expectations that he’ll ever read this review but just in case he does: thank-you Mr Stuart for putting your heart on your proverbial sleeve and sending this book out into the world.

A Boy Made of Blocks is a delight. It’s an absolute delight and I LIKED IT. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Blog Tour: Relativity Review

Things I know, both about myself and about book blogging: I should probably never say no to a book.

Which makes it sound like I said no to this book. 

I didn’t. 

When the email landed in my inbox very nicely asking if I was interested in taking part in the blog tour for Antonia Hayes' novel Relativity, I absolutely said yes. That's kind of my (long and convoluted) point: that I should always says yes to all the books even if I know little about them because there's always a chance that doing just exactly that will make me vair happy. This book made me happy. It made me laugh and it made me a tiny bit teary sometimes and it made me angry and sympathetic and all kinds of conflicted and pretty much just a whole spectrum of unexpected emotions. I thing that’s A Good Thing though. I like books that do that to me: feelings.

So. Relativity. Lemme talk at you about it for a little minute.

S’about a boy called Ethan. I love Ethan. I want to put him in my pocket and protect him from All The Bad Things Ever. He’s excellent and he has this insane knowledge of anything to do with physics. He’s pretty special and I defy anybody ever to read this book and not wind up loving his intelligent, naive 12 year old self. What a little gem of a character he is.


He lives with his Mum, because Dad just isn’t around. He’s never been around, not since Ethan was v small and Ethan doesn’t know much about him, really. It’s all perfectly fine, until of course it isn’t. At first you kind of feel like Ethan’s dad is a bit of an asshat. Or, if you’re me then you think that, but that’s the beauty of this book. It doesn’t let you just make up your mind and stick to your guns like a guns sticking to person. It lets you make up your mind and then throws a spanner in the works and says AH YES BUT YOU DIDN’T KNOW THIS DID YOU and then you feel like maybe you should change your mind. Excellent skills there Hayes.  I approve.

It comes at you from the perspective of Ethan and both of  his parents and as none of them are particularly reliable narrators, there’s a lot to question; a lot of seeds of doubt that are planted and send you in one direction only to have you going in another in the very next chapter. Which, well it’s pretty clever, the way one minute you’re sympathetic towards one set of circumstances only to be pissed off at the same thing a few pages later. All three characters have very different, very strong voices, which I liked and they all come across really well actually considering it’s written in third person. I was totally invested in all three of them (so invested, you don’t even know): Ethan, Claire and Mark and I was torn, between wanting them to fix things and feeling like they never should.

The story is complicated enough to not be predictable, ever, but still manages to not tie you up in what is even happening here, which again: I liked a whole lot. 
It’s a shining example too I guess of there always being more than one side to a story, but it gets that message across without becoming preachy. Nobody likes preachy. Do they? Maybe they do and I am doing unfair generalising. The point is that I don’t like preachy and this book isn’t preachy. At all.  It lets you make up your own mind and haunts you a little bit with the things it makes you feel that take you totally by surprise. Explains but doesn’t excuse I suppose is the best way to describe it and trust me when I tell you there are things here that are going to get the hell under your skin. Right the way under.
It doesn’t shy away from its more difficult and more darker side either – another plus - and it absolutely does not paint a picture of good and evil even though it so very easily could.  It’s all about the shades of grey this book, and I mean that in the best possible way – that is so definitely not an EL James reference. I promise (I would never.)

It’s a book about actions and consequences and split second decisions that impact on the rest of your forever and the sometimes painful power of uncertainty.  It’s beautifully written and it’s raw and honest and heart-breaking but never ever too heavy, you know? You don’t feel dragged down by it ever and you get totally caught up in the lives of this fractured family and their struggles with blame and guilt and forgiveness and even the science stuff didn’t make my brain hurt too much. That’s a miracle I think because my brain and science? They do not go hand in hand. At all.

In a nutshell, it’s very good this book. I am grateful that I got the chance to read it and I wouldn’t hesitate for even a second in recommending it to anybody. Except maybe my BFF (but only because I know it would make her cry!)