Thursday, 14 May 2015

A Court of Thorns and Roses. Dream Cast

Do you ever find yourself, when you’re reading a book, creating a dream cast in your head? I mean, did Katniss look like JLaw when you read the books; was DanRad exactly the way you imagined Harry Potter; did you watch Divergent and think ‘well, that’s not *my* Four’? I do it all the time. ALL THE TIME. It’s part of my problem with adaptations I think, that I always have such a solid idea in my head of what my faves look like and it’s so rare that casting directors take my Very Important Opinions on board. Le sigh.

This time, in a twist on my usual ‘here are my thoughts on this book’ style review I figured I’d share my dream cast with you, because I've just finished A Court of Thorns and Roses and I’m kind of sat here thinking ‘make this film and cast these people oh my gracious.’

I loved it, by the way. L O V E D. It was one of those stopping up way too late to read just one more chapter kinds of books with this incredibly well crafted world and a kickass heroine and deftly drawn characters and sharp as nails dialogue and a love story that made me shiver like a love story should. It’s exactly what I wanted from a retelling of Beauty and the Beast: enough about it to exist as a story in its own right but with the source material still recognisable. I am so mad actually that now I have to do waiting for the next book (holy cliff hanger, batman) because I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS.

In a nutshell then, if you want to know what the book is about, Feyre, our kickass heroine is out hunting to save her family from starving (dead Mum, crippled – and spineless – Dad, two next to useless sisters. That’s Feyre’s family) and kills a wolf. Which turns out to be a faerie. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?
Faeries and humans have had a hate-hate relationship for ALL OF TIME, harking back to times when faeries enslaved humans and there was an epic war for the freedom of the human race. It’s all really freaking awesome, the politics of it all and the detail that’s been put into this whole backstory – all this fae/human bad feeling, and the way that the different courts of faeries react to one another and the unifying fear of an unidentified Big Bad, it’s all really well done and makes this so much more than a Disney-esque love story. Anyway, Feyre kills the faerie/wolf which is Bad Times, obvs, and has to be punished. She’s given a choice by the Beast that comes to deal out her punishment: she can a: be killed then and there, or, b: she can go with him to live out the rest of her days as his prisoner. As the book would have ended a few chapters in had she chosen option A, Feyre chooses option B and heads off with The Beast, who turns out to be called Tamlin and, as per the good old Disney film, is less Beast-ish than he first appears. Etcetera etcetera until the end. Which made me want to throw my book at the wall because I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT DAMMIT.

So, in my head it turns out I’ve cast Feyre as Anna Paquin. I don’t know why, except that for some reason when I was reading, Feyre had Anna’s face. I really like Anna Paquin, and she has that curiously attractive thing going on that I think would totally work for Feyre and we already know she can handle badass attractive vampires and also y'know Wolverine, so a few faeries should be a walk in the park.

Even faeries like Tamlin  who in my head is totally Stephen Amell. Not just because I’m a little Arrow crazy right now but because Tamlin is supposed to be big and strong and handsome and brooding and Stephen Amell is all of those things. Tamlin is the best kind of hero. He’s an awesome interpretation of The Beast, he’s distant and mean and brooding and so strong and tough and brave and I want to climb him like a tree and then he’s all gentle and awkward and then he’s so freaking hot. Urgh. You’re totally supposed to fall in love with Tamlin. You totally do.

Thing is, is that it’s not that kind of story where you fall for the hero and detest the baddie like you’re meant to at all. The thing is, is that in addition to our unlikely hero, you also have Lucien and Rhysand. & in my head they are equally attractive.

Lucien (who I love FYI) looks like Ian Somerhalder. Does that face not say to you sassy fairy? Lucien is an excellent character; he’s so brash and arrogant and snarky and then underneath all of that he’s so beautifully broken. Eurgh. I love him.

& then, there’s Rhysand – when Feyre first meets Rhys she describes him as the most beautiful man she ever saw. Well, hello Matt Bomer, actual real life Disney Prince. As soon as anybody says the most beautiful man…Matt Bomer springs to mind. Seriously, I don’t understand how he is even a real person. Textbook good looking that guy. 
Also, it would be awesome to see Matt play The Bad Guy. *wanders off to watch more White Collar*
The thing about Rhysand – and I found myself drawn to him even though he’s a bastard; I find obnoxious men attractive (Helen, remember when that was our thing?) – is that you can’t quite figure out what side he’s on. Is he a good guy, is he a bad guy, what is his endgame? Currently I’m of the opinion that Rhys is on his own side, and I am hoping hoping we get more of him in the next book. I actually think asshattery aside (or maybe because of it) that he might be my fave...

Amarantha is The Baddest Ever. She’s like, Evil Queen x infinity. What a bitch. In my head she looks like Lana Parilla, but that might be because Lana plays The Evil Queen so deliciously well on OUAT. You know who else would be cool? Cate Blanchett.

Feyre’s Dad looks like Robert Carlyle but I am aware this is only because he’s very reminiscent of OUAT’s Rumplstiltskin pre losing Baelfire and her little sister Elain is totally Evy Lynch-like. 

Which leaves big sister Nesta and the fairy maid Alis and you know what? I’m not entirely sure.

So there you have it and now I feel kind of bad because if you read this before you read the actual book you might be unfairly influenced and that would make me feel awful. Except not really because you know, Stephen Amell, Ian Somerhalder, Matt Bomer. It could be worse. Right? Right.

Read this book, read it because it’s excellent and then come back and tell me if you agree with my choices and if you don’t (and I won’t judge you, much) who would you cast instead?

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

April Book Haul


Oh yes, I hear you say, because that’s not at all what usually happens round these parts. Shush. It’s a book blog. LET’S TALK ABOUT BOOKS.

Specifically, let me talk at you about my April Book Haul which is a beautiful and marvellous thing and is made up of a whole 11 'real life' books, plus a sneaky 4 books downloaded to my Kindle. I think it might be one of my favourite things to post about actually, the new and pretty books that come to live at my house. 
I just, I love all the books. I love them. I love them in a totally unapologetic 'I'ma live off toast so I can buy more of them' kind of a way and I don't even care.

So, without further ado: my super speedy run-down:

Lives Lost ­­–Britta Bolt are a writing team of Britta Boehler and Rodney Bolt and this is the second of their Pieter Posthumus novels. It’s about a murder in Amsterdam’s red light district and it sounds like another excellent thriller for 2015: The Year of the Thriller (which is this year by the way, if that wasn't clear. So many thrillers this year, so many.) It was published on May 7th so you can totes get yourself a copy right now. The cover is lush.
I picked up I’ll Give You the Sun in Waterstones on an ‘I feel sad shopping trip’ for no other reason than it’s yellow. Why would I not need a yellow book in my life? It’s about twins and about loss and about love and it promises to make me laugh and cry which everyone knows is my fave. I’m excited about it.

I also bought Out of the Easy on that same trip because Ruta Sepetys. I adored Between Shades of Gray and have wanted this book for the longest time. It's set in the New Orleans French Quarter in the '50s (I want to go to New Orleans so bad) and is the story of the 17 year old daughter of a prostitute.  Can. Not. Wait. Seriously. I want to read it right now. I'm saving it though, for a rainy day.

Ryan Gattis’s All Involved is a book I think is going to make me feel all the things. It’s about LA and the riots of ’92 and the reviews are immense.  It's really relevant at the moment, given that the '92 riots began on the back of a black man being beaten by several white police officers who were later acquitted. Sound familiar? It should.
This isn't a memoir, it's a work of fiction based around real life events; it's the book I'm most excited about from April and I'm expecting great things.

I have Prisoner of Night and Fog on the Kindle so I was super excited to get a proof copy of its sequel: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke because YA Nazi Germany, people. I love me some of that.  I need to read Prisoner first, obvs, but YAY! I now have book two waiting.

The super wonderful Jen sent me a package of bookish delights for my birthday because she is excellent. It was made up of books 2 and 3 in Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series – Fairyland is going to get it’s own post some day soon because seriously, SO GOOD – Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking which I am desperate to read (does everyone in the world have a slight crush on Neil Gaiman's wife I wonder) and The Story of Alice. Girl knows me well, right?

And then, my pal Sarah took me shopping at the start of the month as part of the Book Challenge she set me up with for Christmas. She treated me to two second-hand books, The Bone Dragon because the cover made me swoon and The Ladies of Grace Adieu because it’s described as ‘if Jane Austen wrote fairytales’ and who in their right mind wouldn’t want to read that?!

Ebook wise, I have A Theory of Expanded Love, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, Uprooted and The Good Luck of Right Now, all of which sound excellent.

Wow. S’a lot of books. I really do think this book thing’s starting to get a little bit out of control again. I don’t know what to do about that....except I totally do: nothing. 

Monday, 11 May 2015

Well, This Sucks.

What I learn as I grow older is that most things don't last forever. It's hard though, to know how to keep going when the things you thought would, don't.

That's where I'm at right now.

Things have changed a little bit (and by ‘a little bit’ I mean 'enormously') because there has been A Break Up. Yup, that’s right: I had been in a relationship for seven and a half years until, well, now.

Now I'm not.

Now, I am single and not at ALL 'ready to mingle.' What even is that phrase anyway? Ready to curl up and die perhaps, if that's the same. I don't think it is.


How dramatic does that sound? Some days I raise my eyebrows at myself.  On the bad days though, it doesn't feel dramatic enough. On the better days, like today I just sort of paint on a smile and pretend like on the inside I'm not falling apart.

It turns out that whilst I was planning the rest of our lives together, he was realising he perhaps wasn't in love with me after all. I have a lot of feelings about that, most of them centred around pain and confusion but you know, I don't want to be one of those people who airs her dirty laundry in public. Besides which, I still love the guy: there are things I could say, in pain and in anger that I would no doubt only come to regret later. If you're expecting this to be a messy post, a gory 'what went wrong' or an angry 'I hate him so much right now' then I can only apologise because you won't find that here.

The whole break-up (ow that still fucking hurts) made me do a lot of thinking though, a lot of pondering over the (un)certainty of love and the fragility of human relationships and how much of a leap of faith it is to believe in the things people say: how words, even the nice ones - especially the nice ones - have the power to wound.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

I'm sorry, I call bullshit. 

Words hurt more than anything. An I love you that turns out not to be true, a forever that isn't quite that long, a brutally simple it's over, those are words that hurt like a knife through the heart and have the power to make you crumble even as you fight to remain upright.

So what do you do (when your good isn't good enough, she sings lustily and a little off key because she'll always be a too-old Glee fangirl); when it all falls apart, how do you get through the day? 

Sadly, I cannot tell you what will work for you should you ever end up where I am (and I hope to god that you don't). I can only tell you what seems to be working for me, if you can call it that. (It doesn't feel like it's working. It feels like I'm driving in fog, and I have no idea really what anything looks like. I'm following the tail lights of the car in front just to get through the day.)

So, in case you were you know, interested, here it is: Josephine's break-up survival kit:

Fruit gums. For real. My relationship with food is the opposite of healthy, especially in times of stress and I'm struggling right now to finish a meal. You know what I am eating though? Rowntree’s Fruit Gums. I can't get enough of those babies. I say to you, then, should someone ever drop your heart from the top of a skyscraper, that if you don't feel like eating a masterchef quality meal then don't. Your heart is broken; you're allowed to feel sick to your stomach. It's fine. It's also fine to eat a full bag of fruit gums (large bar of chocolate, multipack of crisps) if you like. Just you know, be aware they can't sustain you for ever.

Glee. Thank the Lord for Amazon Prime oh my god. If it weren't for Blaine Anderson and his, well his everything, then the whole actual 'breaking up' part of this break up would have been so much more crippling than it was. As it is, I watched Glee again, and was granted a tiny reprieve from the mess that is my life for the length of an episode and was unreasonably grateful for it. 

Also Once Upon A Time. And The Vampire Diaries.

And Arrow, which I totally watch for the plot.

Shut up. I do. Why would you even doubt me?!

The thing about television is that it is absolute escapism, and shows like Glee require zero thought, zero energy, you don't even need to turn the page. Let the singing teenagers do their thing and make it all marginally better for that our before you turn out the light and manage not to sleep. Oh sleep, how I miss you.

Tears. I've cried a sea of them and I'm fine with that. I'm not just mourning the years we had together, I'm mourning the years I thought we still had to come. I'm crying for my love for him which feels misplaced and my trust in him which feels abused. I'm crying because I really don't know what the hell else I am supposed to do, because I feel stupid and lost and alone, because I feel worthless and ugly and so so confused.

I'm crying because quite simply, it hurts. 

There's a strange kind of peace that comes from a good cry, the body-shaking, snot-nosed, wailing that leaves you with a headache. Sometimes a cry gives me what I need to get out of bed the next day and carry on. So my advice to anyone: if You've got a bruised heart, then cry, just cry

A book. A good book. Hours that would have been spent with my sweetie are now left empty. Of course I fill them with a book. Have you met me? It's a good job I think that my TBR is mountainous (perhaps that's what he dropped my heart off of, the top of my TBR. He always did say I had too many books) because I will never be short of reading material. Live to read. Read to Live ,and right now reading kind of is what I'm living for. I'm not all that fond of my world right now, I'm glad to hang out in someone else's. Although it’s funny because my concentration is shot to hell and a book I could probably read in a day normally is taking me upwards of a week. I’m enjoying doing the reading, it’s just taking me so long. I’ve read and loved Last Night in Montreal, Jakob’s Colours, The Time in Between and The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland…recently. Check them out.

My friends. And my parents. They're the best. The ones on my doorstep and the ones far away. I'm lucky to have them and if they're reading this I hope they know that I love the bones of them. I've been pretty shocking lately I know that. I'll get better though, I know I will and when I do then I'll find a way to show them all how grateful I am that they're here right now saving my life, some of them for the second time. There's nothing in life more precious than people you can trust to love you when you're are your worst and I am so lucky that I have the people I do. You're all invaluable to me right now (always) and I will never ever forget this. Thank you. I love you.

Normal service will be resumed from the next post. I just kind of wanted to get something out, perhaps for catharsis and perhaps because this is my blog and I feel like my current train wreck of a life should be acknowledged. I'm not searching for sympathy, but if you want to send fruit gums, I wouldn't say no; the two for £2 offer at Sainsbury's has ended now you see.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Exciting May Releases

Hello May.

I’m planning on being pals with May this year, mostly because March and April were both so shockingly bad that I’m feeling pretty desperate for something that’s just, well, better.

With regards to books to read, then, it’s off to a pretty good start. There’s some super fun books due for release this month that I cannot wait to get my prettily painted nails on. [I say ‘prettily painted’ but actually I painted them on Tuesday night, had to redo two of them because of smudging and already had a chip by the time I woke up on Wednesday. This my friends, is why I will always advocate the wonder that is the gel polish.]

Anyway. Books. New shiny new pretty books. The list is long this month and I’m not going to talk about them all because that would be crazy so I’ve just chosen 5. HERE THEY ARE:

I was going to start with Kirtsy Logan’s The Gracekeepers which I have been immensely excited about  and will be reading in a book and a half (yep, I have a list, that’s the level of organisation I work to these days. I’m quite impressed by my own self) because I thought it was released in May. It would appear I was wrong. I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy, which might just be one of the prettiest books I’ve ever seen – seriously, some of these proofs are just stunning – but also must, at some point, have pre-ordered it in my sleep and as such was super confused when it popped through my letterbox in all its hard-backed glory proclaiming ‘look at me, I am beautiful and not at all released in May. Stupid.’ I’m going to talk about it anyway because let me tell you a thing: The Gracekeepers sounds like all kinds of perfect. It’s about a world divided between people who live on the water and those who live on the land; it’s about floating circuses and a bear girl, and another girl who has exiled herself to live alone on an island and take care of the dead and it sounds magical and mythical and so freaking wonderful. I am stupidly excited about it. Stupidly.

If you don’t know that Kate Atkinson’s new novel A God in Ruins is out this month, well, you must’ve been living under a rock because this book has had all the hype. All of it. Deservedly so no doubt: I love Kate Atkinson. She’s one of my auto-buy authors, which I’m going to talk about another time, and as such I am practically giddy at the prospect of this book. If you read Life After Life which was Atkinson’s last offering and was marvellous, then you’re in for a treat with this one because it’s the story of Teddy. Teddy was a side character in Life After Life, one you couldn’t not love and now here he is, with his own shiny book and his own shiny story. It was released yesterday. Love. 

I loved Steve Toltz’s A Fraction of the Whole (and talk about it here) so I’ve been really looking forward to Quicksand which is out on May 21st. It’s the story (and I steal this straight from the blurb) of Aldo and Liam – lifelong friends, criminal and police officer, muse and writer. So, it’s about a struggling writer – also a policeman, who decides to write a book about his best friend (a criminal entrepreneur with very bad luck and an ex-wife he’s still in love with). I’m expecting great things, I’m expecting it to be gritty and honest and funny and thought-provoking and I want it in my life. I am so excited about it, and God, I hope I’m not disappointed.

A Court of Thorns and Roses was released (I think) on Tuesday. Again, I’ve heard all the good things about it – Sarah J Maas is talked about a lot on American book blogs I follow. I think her Throne of Glass series is kind of A Big Deal; I read that she wrote it when she was just 16 which is really excellent. I’ve not seen her name around much over here until now, but perhaps I’ve just not been looking in the right places.  A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first in a YA trilogy, and is A BEAUTY AND THE BEAST RETELLING OH GOD LET ME AT IT with a magical kingdom and hunters and faeries and love and It’s described as ferocious and delicious and magical and all of those things are things I like in my books. I also love Beauty and the Beast so you know, this ticks all the boxes for me.

Hold Me Like a Breath makes me want to clap my hands in delight; It’s another one of those fairytale retellings I love so much. This time, it’s the Princess and the Pea, with rare blood diseases and organ trafficking and rival crime families all set against a New York backdrop. How awesome does that sound? I feel like it’s going to be either sublime or ridiculous. I can’t wait to find out which. It’s published on the 19th and the cover, according to the internets at least, looks super pretty. Lookit.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Throwback Thursday: Josephine's Book Edition

Happy Thursday! This week is a good week because bank holiday. I love a four day week.

It’s all a bit general election everywhere right now isn’t it. I had to hide in my upstairs yesterday in order to avoid the UKIP canvassers on my road. Like I’d open the door to them, never mind give them my vote. However, a political rant this is not, all you probably need to know really is that I do take my right to vote very seriously. I think it matters. & that is that.

Today in honour of the publication of the new Kate Atkinson (I’m so excited. Dance with me?) I am reminiscing about the first of her books I ever read: Not the End of the World. Which, well, it pretty much solidified Kate as one of my faves and guaranteed that I will always buy any book she ever writes ever because she has an amazing brain. This book, I think, is perhaps only beaten by Life After Life at highlighting that fact. Seriously, so damn clever. It’s also probably quite surprising to somebody who comes to Atkinson having only read her Jackson Brodie books, because, well those books are all kinds of fabulous but they are absolute worlds apart from this one. As in, they could have been written by a different person entirely and excuse me whilst I fangirl a little but that versatility is what makes Kate Atkinson so damn good.

Not the End of the World is a short story collection, where each story stands alone but is also somehow linked to another, wherein myth and reality make for strange partners and the lines are delightfully blurred. It’s so good. So very good. It’s kind of like you get hit with this lightbulb moment part way through, where you’re reading away, and just loving the whole thing and then you think ‘woah, hang on just a minute’ as you realise that there’s this connection between this story and that and it adds this whole new dimension to the whole thing, trying to work out what the connections are and what they mean and how this fact from this story is going to impact your interpretation of another. It’s like reading an awesome crazy collection of stories and simultaneously reading a super cleverly thought out novel. It’s like a puzzle – spotting the links kind of becomes like a game.

The collection starts and ends with a story about two girls – Trudi and Charlene – and even though it’s never explicitly mentioned, the girls are the thread that ties the whole thing together so cleverly. Their world is the one the title refers to I think – Trudi and Charlene’s world is ending, actually, falling apart even as they carry on with a shopping trip and it’s that, the whole ‘lets keep making a shopping list though there’s a boatload of zoo animals roaming the streets’ that kind of makes you realise that something pretty special is going to follow.

It does.

The 11 following stories are equally surreal, and equally random and equally fabulous and all full of clever references to mythology – like the mother who remembers being dragged underwater and raped by Poseidon for example. I know, mental right. It’s like constant nods to the myths you know but holy smokes, not as you know them.  Perhaps you could view it as a study in mythology – like, is there any relevance to all that stuff now, and how does it fit in with the world as we see it

It’s kind of like writing this, Atkinson sort of thought ‘fuck it, I’m not going to stick to writing in the way people expect books to be written, I’m just going to do the thing my own way and people can love it or hate it’; it reads like she had a blast writing it and you know, somehow to step outside of the expected like that feels kind of brave. I like brave. I like the way Kate Atkinson plays with words and themes and concepts. I also really like this book. 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Author Visit: Renee Knight

Guess what people. Today is an exciting Saturday because I’ve got the lovely and super talented Renee Knight – author of the thrilling Disclaimer - here to chat about all things bookish. Hurrah! I have been excited about this post for quite a while, just so you know…

Renee! Hello!  Thank-you so much for stopping by my little corner of the blogosphere; grab a coffee and a piece of cake and make yourself at home – in fact it’s imaginary cake, take two pieces.

Before we get started, let’s warm up with a quick fire round.

Ready, steady, GO:

  1. Coffee, tea or…?   Ummmm....both
  2. Favourite film?       Can't commit but I loved 'The Lives of Others'...
  3. Favourite book?     I have a serious commitment problem but recently read The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante and was stunned by it.
  4. Summer or winter? Summer
  5. Favourite Colour?   Green
  6. Last thing you ate?  Penne with Bolognese
  7. Dream holiday destination?  Iceland (but I said I liked summer...)
  8. If you could jump to any point in history, who would you have dinner with?  Orson Welles before he dressed in kaftans. 
  9. How do you like your steak?  Medium
  10. What are your pet peeves?  People assuming authority when they don't have it...

And now that’s done, on to the serious stuff –a serious interview on a serious blog because clearly that’s what this is. Honest.

Let’s get started.

Firstly, I’ve read Disclaimer and I loved it – I read it seven hours straight one Saturday because I couldn’t put it down - but for anyone who’s yet to get acquainted with the book, can you tell us a little bit about it?

A)  Thank you so much for that.  Well, Disclaimer is a psychological thriller about a woman who picks up a book from her bedside table hoping it will lull her into sleep.  Instead she discovers that she is a central character in the book and that it describes an event from her past which she has kept secret, even from her husband and son.  As her life begins to unravel we slowly discover what it is she has been hiding. 

Where did the idea for Disclaimer come from?

A) I had a written a novel before Disclaimer which described an incident from my adolescence involving a good friend of mine.  As I neared the end of it I began to think about how awful it would be if it was published and she read it and I hadn't told her about it.  Of course that didn't happen.  I sent it to her and got her blessing and then no one wanted to publish it anyway.  It gave me the idea for Disclaimer though so nothing is wasted. 

The book tells a story from the point of view of two characters: Catherine and Stephen. Who did you find easiest to write, and why?

A) I found Stephen easier to write because he was further from me and so I had to dig deeper, which made him more satisfying and so easier. 

And is the answer to that question the same as the answer to ‘who is your favourite character’ and if not, who is your favourite character?

A) No it's not the same answer. I like both Catherine and Stephen equally.  I think they are more alike than they would at first appear. 

If the book was a DVD what would the special features be – are there any scenes that ended up ‘on the cutting room floor’ that you can share?

A) There weren't any particular scenes that were dumped although everything was trimmed and edited many times.

Did the title come first, or last, or at some point in the middle?

A) The title came last.   Before I started writing I had a working title of 'Privacy' which I knew I would never use, then I had 'Any Resemblance to Persons living or Dead...' which I knew was a too long and then just before I finished I decided on 'Disclaimer'. 

Tell us about how you write: do you prefer a loud room or a quiet room; is your manuscript typed or handwritten, do you write during set hours or as the word comes, and at home or some place else? What works best?

A) I can't manage with noise around me, I become too easily distracted, no music, no radio on in the background.  I type straight into the computer but I might work out the structure by hand first to force me to take it slowly and not rush too much.  I always work in the mornings.  If I leave it too late then I've blown it, unless I'm editing - that I can  do in the afternoons.  I write at home and I've now graduated from the kitchen table and have my own room.   

What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

A) I'm working on the screenplay for Disclaimer and also my second novel. 

What’s the oddest thing on your desk? (I have a Clanger on mine that makes a noise when you press its middle. I liberated it from the desk of my boss….)

A) It's a fake gold duck's head with a blue glass eye (rather evil-looking) and beak which opens and keeps papers together.  I gave it to my dad when I was about eight.  It sat on his desk and now it sits on mine.  

What’s the best writing tip you’ve been given?

A) Take your time between drafts.  Put it away and then leave it for as long as you possibly can before reading and working on it again.  It really made a difference to me - you see things with a fresh eye.   

What do you wish you got asked in these interviews but never do?

A)  To be honest with you I haven't done many yet and so the questions feel fresh to me.  I liked your one about the oddest thing on my desk.   

& because I’m always on the look out for new book recs, what are you reading right now?

A)  I'm reading The Girl In The Red Coat by Kate Hamer which I am really enjoying.  Thank you so for taking the time by the way to read my book.  So glad you enjoyed it. 


How much fun was that?! Thanks Renee, you’ve been a gem and I am SUPER excited at the thought of both a Disclaimer film and your second novel. Hurrah for both of those things.

Disclaimer was released on April 9th so you know, go get a copy. It’s a really great read, I promise. You can catch up with my review of it here (spoiler alert: I liked it a lot.)

Friday, 17 April 2015

Review: The Snow Kimono

So, The Snow Kimono

Well, I’ve never read any of Mark Henshaw’s stuff before this one, which appealed to me for the main part I think because it’s set (partly) in Japan, and Japan says to me Murakami, which in turn says to me yes. That was pretty much it, really, initially.  I read the blurb (and did a small grin to myself because the main chap’s called Jovert which obvs put me in mind of Javert of Les Mis fame) and thought yep, this is a book that sounds like me.

Which it was.

The premise is this: Retired police inspector Auguste Jovert gets a letter from a woman who says she’s his daughter and then goes home to find an old Japanese chap waiting in his apartment. He begins to tell Jovert a story of love and loss, of friendship and betrayal and of The Snow Kimono from the title. Professor Omura’s story is eerily similar to the tale of Jovert’s own life – also a story of love and loss, friendship and betrayal and ultimately built around a lie so you know, you have Omura's story and you have Jovert's story and you have all the parallels and it's all going on against these really excellent backdrops of Japan and Paris and Algeria.

I know, sounds fascinating, right?

The thing about The Snow Kimono is it's interesting because it’s a story within a story; Jovert’s story is playing out in the background as he spends time with Omura who tells his story, essentially that of his life with this guy called Katsuo Ikeda (a writer, with the same initials as Kazuo Ishiguro. Also there is a character in the book called Mr. Ishiguro. An intentional tip-of-the-hat? I reckon so!), who I guess you’d call Omura's friend but I’m not entirely sure that’s accurate. 

It’s a book that's all about seeing yourself how other people see you I think, at it’s heart, an exploration of identity and perception and the reliability of a person narrating his own story. 

In Japan, we have a saying: If you want to see your life, you have to see it through the eyes of another.

There’s a lot going on in this book and I mean a lot. So many layers, it’s like one of those giant delicious layer cakes. 

Yum. Cake. 

I am so bad at analogies good heavens, I just, those cakes always look so delicious and good and layered. That’s what this book is: delicious and good and layered and also incredibly fragmented. Like how a cake crumbles when you bite into it? DOES THIS STILL WORK (DID IT EVER?) Whatever, I’m running with it, leave me be. 

The way this book is written felt kind of familiar.  Which, oh God, again with the no sense. I mean, Henshaw’s Australian, but the way he writes gives me the same sort of feeling I got when I was reading – for example – Norwegian Wood
I mean I’m not comparing Henshaw to Murakami, or even this book to Murakami’s work, it’s just that something about it felt familiar.  I think it's perhaps something about the writing style; the imagery in this book, it’s so subtle and yet at the same time it kind of smacks you in the face you know? That, and the whole Japan of it all. Anyway, there was this sense of familiarity that settled over me as I read it, and I liked that.
The descriptions are stunning, and so very vivid, particularly the parts of the book set in Japan. Those are the parts I felt most engaged with, to the point that I almost wished Jovert would go the same way as his almost-name-twin so that I could spend more time in Japan where the characters felt so real and the descriptions were so colourful and there was this awesome correlation between descriptions of like, nature and  in fact the whole world Omura inhabited and the events that were unfolding. I loved it.  

I don't feel like I'm doing a very good job of this. 

This book is a hard book to review. I don’t quite know what to say about it, and that may well be because I am writing this review on almost zero sleep. I think I should stop trying and say that basically, it’s clever and it’s sort of poetic and it’s absolutely worth a read.