Top Ten Tuesday ~ Autumn 2018 TBR

A long, long time ago, I started joining in with Top Ten Tuesday posts; a bookish prompt was provided, and then people wrote all about it, and shared their posts. I only did it a few times, but I’ve recently come across it again, and realised that it might help me to get back into the groove on writing regularly on this blog, something I wish I could do ALL the time. So I’m giving it a go!

Top Ten Tuesday now lives on That Artsy Reader Girl, and you can find the future and past prompts here. This week’s prompt is Books on my Fall TBR. So I’ve picked out ten future releases that I’m particularly excited about, though as I’ve never been too concerned about reading things as soon as they come out (Book of Dust is *still* on my bedside table), who knows how many of these I’ll actually end up picking up before the end of the year!

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This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps – released 18th October
I’ve been a fan of Busy Philipps since she was Audrey on Dawson’s Creek, and now I, like millions of others, watch her Insta stories. A book was always going to be in the offing – you don’t amass an audience that size without a publisher wanted to use it to sell a book – but the early reviews seem to be that it’s a really good read, honest and well-observed. We’ll see, but I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Becoming by Michelle Obama – released 13th November
Another memoir that I just cannot wait to read, as I’m so eager to hear what Michelle Obama has to say. She’s an icon, and a true hero, and I have no doubt that this book will be as erudite, fascinating and warm as I believe she is. This is definitely top of my list for autumn reads.

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith – released today
I actually have issues with the Cormoran Strike series, not least that I think each book so far could have lost probably a third of the pages and still made sense, but J.K. Rowling gets away with murder because of who she is. I know she’s problematic these days, and I can’t say that in all honesty I’m her biggest fan, but I do love the stories she tells here with Strike, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes next.

How Does it Feel by Mark Kermode – released 20th September
It’s been a while since I mentioned Mark Kermode on the blog, but he’s out with a new book at the end of the week, so he’s made it into this list. I’m a huge fan of him as a film critic, but also as an author, so I’m really looking forward to his new offering, How Does It Feel, in which he tells the story of his life in music. I’m heading to the launch of his band’s new album on Friday, and hoping to grab a copy of the book at the same time, so expect a review very soon!

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton – released 20th September
I have only read one other Kate Morton book so far, but my sister is a big fan, and I always mean to pick up the ones I have missed and give them a read (if only that TBR pile wasn’t so tall already…). Not only does The Clockmaker’s Daughter boast a beautiful cover, the story sounds fascinating – I do love a dual narrative that weaves together a story from the past with a story from the present.

A Keeper by Graham Norton – released 4th October
Graham Norton’s debut novel, Holding, was one of my favourite books of 2016, not least because who knew that Graham Norton was such a talented writer? Now, the early reviews for A Keeper are great; it sounds a lot darker than Holding, and everything points to it being another favourite read of the year.

In Pieces by Sally Field – released today
For someone who doesn’t read an awful lot of memoirs, this is the fourth one on this list! But Sally Field is genuinely one of my favourite actresses, and again, it sounds as though she has written an honest and raw account of her life, which I’m sure will be fascinating to read.

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli – released 18th October
I’ve not read any Adam Silvera books yet, though I hear nothing but good things. But I have read two Becky Albertalli books: Love, Simon and Leah on the Offbeat. So I’m sure that I will enjoy this YA novel from the two of them, about two boys who meet in New York. It sounds delightfully romantic and angsty and everything you want from a YA novel.

Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates – released 29th November 
Again, Joyce Carol Oates is not an author I’ve read before, but when I was looking through future releases, this one really caught my eye. It’s a dystopian story of a young woman who defies the conventions of the tightly controlled society in which she lives, only to find that she is sent back in time to the 1950s to be taught a lesson. I love stories about time travel, and this sounds as though it will be fascinating!

Life Honestly: Strong Opinions from Smart Women – released 20th September
This is a collection of essays and articles from writers at The Pool, a website I read regularly and really enjoy. This book is billed as a “collection of advice, comment and opinion that acts as a complete guide to modern life.” Definitely right up my street and one that is going straight on my library reservation list!

Book Review ~ Floored

40064391_2129872897287143_8150925586143806863_nFloored is a YA novel co-authored by seven of the hottest talents in the genre; Eleanor Wood, Holly Bourne, Lisa Williamson, Melinda Salisbury, Non Pratt, Sara Barnard and Tanya Byrne. Six teenagers get into a lift at a television broadcasting company in Manchester, starting as strangers to one another, before tragedy strikes, and their lives are forever linked.

The One Day of it all comes in when the gang meet up on the anniversary of their time in the lift, once a year. This is a group of teenagers, so hormones and sex and relationships and arguments filter through the years and cause make ups and break ups, and because we only really check in with them once a year, the format allows some things to be explored fully, while others are explained away in a paragraph.

Floored really interesting, if not all that innovative, and its winning hand is definitely in the way the six characters have been written. That being said, I did worry for a while that things were going to be too neatly tied up in a bow; at one point it seemed as if the story was going to end with three male-female couples from the six characters, and I was going to end up really irritated. But there’s plenty of twists and turns, and things turn out differently to how I expected, so that was nice.

The most interesting characters, and the ones that I feel were given the most room to grow, are Hugo and Kaitlyn. Hugo starts off as the most stereotypical, obnoxious rich boy, the type of sixteen year old that you know exists but you truly hope doesn’t. He really is odious, and the first half of the book leaves very little room for sympathy. Without giving too much away, the character development here is great; enough to give you somewhere to go with the character, but not too obvious (though it does take a little leap of faith to go with them on it!). Kaitlyn has to deal with her worsening sight, and how it impacts her young life, but her journey is a positive one, and she is definitely the most interesting of the three female characters to me.

The narrative is split into chapters in which each character is given a voice, with the occasional break for a third-person narrative to see all and give a brief overview of our six heroes. It’s a format that works, with the addition of text messages and some funny search histories.

Floored is a great addition to the UKYA catalogue, and quite a feat, if you consider how hard it must be to mesh seven very distinct authorial voices. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re a YA fan!

Floored
Publication Date: 10th July 2018
Pan MacMillan
Library Book

Book Review ~ The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

Synopsis of The Incendiaries

Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn’t tell anyone she blames herself for her mother’s recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe.

Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is increasingly drawn into a religious group—a secretive extremist cult—founded by a charismatic former student, John Leal. He has an enigmatic past that involves North Korea and Phoebe’s Korean American family. Meanwhile, Will struggles to confront the fundamentalism he’s tried to escape, and the obsession consuming the one he loves. When the group bombs several buildings in the name of faith, killing five people, Phoebe disappears. Will devotes himself to finding her, tilting into obsession himself, seeking answers to what happened to Phoebe and if she could have been responsible for this violent act.

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

The Incendiaries is the debut novel of R.O. Kwon, and when I was offered a copy of the book to review, I was immediately drawn in by the synopsis. Handled with the right amount of care, terrorism can be a rich theme for novelists to explore in stories, with the additional lure that this is not your run of the mill story about Islamic extremism, but a story that explores fundamentalism of a different kind. I’m also trying to make it a point to read more diversely, so a story about a young Korean-American woman fits into that perfectly.

This is an extremely compelling story, and at just over 200 pages, makes for a short read too. I managed to get through it in a couple of sittings, something that isn’t always a given, no matter how long the book is. The story is one that I wanted to get to the end of, especially as the acts of terrorism were not kept a secret to the end of the novel, and I wanted to find out more; it’s not about what happened, it’s about why it happened.

I don’t read an awful lot of literary fiction, and so every time I do, I have to re-adjust to the style; The Incendiaries doesn’t use dialogue, preferring reported speech, and this isn’t something that I’m used to. But a couple of chapters is all it took adjust, and it’s clear why this choice is made; the novel is split into the narrative of the three main characters (Phoebe, Will and John Leal), but the sense is that we’re hearing someone give us the details of the events, rather than us getting every single last detail.  Phoebe is presented to us through the lens of Will, while John Leal is not fully revealed to us, and he remains a mysterious character throughout the novel.

Phoebe is the character who is the most polarising, because it is so easy to identify with her, while at the same time wanting to distance ourselves from her actions. It’s terrifying to watch her fall under Leal’s spell, further away from Will’s attempts to save her, and it did make me wonder how quickly a cult leader could work his magic on me. Though I consider myself a fairly strong character, if I was as vulnerable as Phoebe, trying to escape from a tragic past, would I be able to resist?

This is a wonderful debut, and though the story and the short length propel the narrative making it a quick read, it’s anything but an easy book. It’s a thought-provoking story that I’m sure will stay with me.

The Incendiaries
Publication Date: 6th September 2018
Virago
Provided by publisher

Dear Rachel Robinson

In a new series that I will inevitably forget about after two or so posts, I thought I’d write letters to fictional characters. The first is to Rachel Robinson, of Here’s to you Rachel Robinson fame.

Rachel Robinson

Dear Rachel Robinson,

I’m writing to you now, as you turn 38, to check in with you. The last I heard of you, you were finishing seventh grade, and about to head to music camp to relax after a stressful few months.

So what’s happened in the intervening years? First of all, I hope you have managed to find a way to relax, and realise that happiness does not necessarily lay in perfection. As a thirteen year old, you imagined that anything other than an A was a failing grade and that you had to say yes to everything that your teachers asked you to do. Who knows why they thought that you’d be a good candidate for Natural Helpers? You were (and I’m sure are) brilliant at a good many things, but a natural peer counsellor? Possibly not.

In your biography you mapped out three distinct careers for yourself, something that seems perfectly feasible aged 13, but entirely impossible once you have a little perspective. I imagine that you probably graduated top of your college class, and went on to practice law, like your mum or, more likely in my opinion, medicine. Maybe, given the difficulties your brother Charles had, you went into psychology and became a therapist. Or maybe you became a world-famous cardio-thoracic surgeon.

Talking of Charles, I wonder what happened. There did seem to be a chink of light at the end of the tunnel; it felt that by the end of your story, you were starting to discover ways to deal with him, that you might be able to connect with him in a way that wasn’t instantly antagonistic. I hope that he got the help he needed, and you were able to enjoy your teenage years without the constant worry of the havoc he was wreaking on your family. It’s hard to realise when you are so close to something, but hopefully time has given you the perspective you need to realise that he was a kid who was hurting, and lashing out was the only way he knew how to deal with that.

And what about your best friends? Stephanie and Alison both had their own issues at home, and you seemed so different from them, that I have to wonder if your friendship survived into high school. I’ve been there with people that I grew up with that I suddenly had nothing in common with at 14, so if this happened to you, I hope it was an amicable break and that you found other people to share your high school experiences with. Of course, there’s every possibility that you remained best friends with them, and now you are older, and possibly living in different parts of the country, you see each other infrequently, but it’s just like old times when you do catch up. I bet you still reminisce about the time that Jeremy Dragon kissed you, and discuss what happened when you saw him again after music camp (what did happen?!).

Most of all, Rachel, I hope you’re happy. I hope you realised that your parents would still love you if you weren’t at the top of all of your classes, or if you decided to skip a club or a programme to just have fun with your friends. I hope that as you got older, you stayed true to your belief that ‘normal’ and ‘average’ aren’t the same thing, and that it’s OK to want different things from the people around you.