Portable Childhoods

Portable Childhoods

Portable Childhoods by Ellen Klages
Published by Tachyon Publications
Ebook
Published 23 March 2007
210 pages
Review copy

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I was given a review copy by the publisher and voluntarily reviewed it.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Portable Childhoods offers a tantalizing glimpse of what lies hidden just beyond the ordinary. Described by reviewers as timeless, delightful, chilling, and beautiful, this is short fiction at its best, emerging from a distinctive, powerful voice. The collection includes the Nebula Award–winning novelette “Basement Magic.”

OPENING 

From Basement Magic

MARY LOUISE WHITAKER believes in magic. She knows that somewhere else, there must be dragons and princes, wands and wishes. Especially wishes. And happily ever after. Ever after is not now

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I thought Portable Childhoods was a fantastic collection of stories. I enjoyed each and every one. Most collections, I find, contain at least one dud, a story that just doesn’t work. That wasn’t the story this time around. Each story is strong and earns a place in the collection. I thought they were all fantastic. I enjoyed them all so much I struggled to picks some favourites but managed in the end. The best stories are Basement Magic, Triangle, Flying over Water, A Taste of Summer and Portable Childhoods. The stand out best story was Guys Day Out which made me cry like a baby. This story about a father and his Down’s syndrome son is one of the best stories I’ve ever read. I thought this was a great collection of stories and I’d highly recommend it.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Recipe For Water

Recipe For Water

Recipe For Water by Gillian Clarke
Published by Carcanet Press
Ebook
Published 1 January 2009
80 pages
Library book

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WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Using water as a contemplative device, this anthology examines themes of war, womanhood, time, and the environment. Individual poems focus on a range of topics–from the seemingly unremarkable contents of a bottle of spring water to the more global issue of rising ocean levels. Rain, drought, flood, thirst, rivers, and oceans inspire this thought-provoking exploration of the relationship between water and language.

EXTRACT

From First Words

The alphabet of a house – air,
breath, the creak of the stair.
Downstairs the grown up’s hullabaloo
or their hush as you fall asleep…

WHAT I THOUGHT

I thought Recipe for Water was a good collection of poems but maybe not great. I enjoyed some poems and didn’t enjoy others. There are a lot of nature poems in this collection and I didn’t enjoy them as much. This is not a fault of the poet’s; they were all vivid and well-written but didn’t suit my tastes as much. I enjoyed the poems that moved away from nature and focused of people and experiences a lot more such as A T-Mail to Keats, Man in a Shower, In the Taj, Reader’s Digest Atlas of the World and Kites. This collection does contain some good poems and is well worth a read.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

The Asylum of Dr. Caligari

The Asylum of Dr. Caligari

The Asylum of Dr. Caligari by James Morrow
Published by Tachyon Publications
Ebook
Expected publication 13 June 2017
192 pages
Review copy

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I was given an ARC by the publisher and voluntarily reviewed it.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

The infamous Dr. Caligari: psychiatrist or psychopath? In this wry and satiric tour de force, award-winning author James Morrow (Towing JehovahThe Last Witchfinder) offers a surprising and provocative take on a silent film classic.

In the summer of 1914, the world teeters on the brink of the Great War. An American painter, Francis Wyndham, is hired to provide art therapy at a renowned European asylum, working under the auspices of its mysterious director, Alessandro Caligari. Francis is soon beguiled by his most talented student, Ilona Wessels, whose genius with a brush is matched only by the erotic intensity of her madness.

Deep in his secret studio, Dr. Caligari, rumoured to be a sorcerer, struggles to create Ecstatic Wisdom, an immense painting so hypnotic it can incite entire regiments to rush headlong into battle. Once Francis and Ilona grasp Caligari’s scheme in all its supernatural audacity, they conspire to defeat him with a magical work of their own…

OPENING 

From its birth during the Age of Reason until its disappearance following the Treaty of Versailles, the tiny principality of Wizenstaat lay along the swampy seam between the German Empire and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg like an embolism lodged in an artery.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I really enjoyed this novella, inspired by the movie The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. I loved the prose style. Morris knows how to tell a story. As I was reading, I was reminded time and again of some horror greats including Dracula and Frankenstein. The novella has that air of old fashioned, spooky, black and white horror movie about it. The relationship between Wyndham and mad Ilona was disturbing. I enjoyed the intense, madness of it all. Dr Caligari was a great villain. I could imagine him, locked away in a dark room, cackling with glee while the world burned around him. I enjoyed the plan Wyndham and his conspirators come up with to stop Caligari’s madness. Their plan was almost as mad as his. I had a good time with The Asylum of Dr Caligari and would recommend it.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Wonder

Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Published by Corgi Children’s
Paperback
Published 3 January 2013
410 pages
Owned

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I read this for 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. The category is ‘a book by or about a person who has a disability’.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside.

But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.

Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?

Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches forever, Wonder is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page. Hanging by a frayed thread, she is living in the moment, living for each day. But she is still Alice.

EXTRACT 

I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I loved Wonder, I thought it was brilliant; sad, funny, moving, heart-breaking and life affirming. I fell in love with August and his life as he adjusts to going to school for the first time, makes some real friends and discovers some people just never get over themselves. I liked the fact the book is narrated by different people, not just August. I wasn’t expecting this and it works really well, seeing how August’s face affects everyone around him. There are a lot of sad moments in Wonder and I really wanted to give August a hug. I was bullied and can appreciate how much worse it must have been for August. I liked the different perspectives of events and how the real story wasn’t always what August thought it was. August is a great character and I loved being inside his head. The happy ending was a bit twee but I still loved it. I also thought Summer was awesome and a very genuine person. I adored Wonder and would highly recommend it.

RATING

5 STAR

Wicked Wonders

Wicked Wonders

Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages
Published by Tachyon Publications
Ebook
Expected publication 16 May 2017
240 pages
Review copy

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I was given an ARC by the publisher and voluntarily reviewed it. 

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

The Scott O’Dell award-winning author of The Green Glass Sea returns with her second collection: a new decade of lyrical stories with vintage flair.

Inside of these critically-acclaimed tales are memorable characters who are smart, subversive, and singular. A rebellious child identifies with wicked Maleficent instead of Sleeping Beauty. Best friends Anna and Corry share a last melancholy morning before emigration to another planet. A prep-school girl requires more than mere luck to win at dice with a faerie. Ladies who lunch keeping dividing that one last bite of dessert in the paradox of female politeness.

Whether on a habitat on Mars or in a boarding-house in London, discover Ellen Klages’ wicked, wondrous adventures full of brazenness, wit, empathy, and courage.

OPENING

From The Education of a Witch

Lizzy is an untidy, intelligent child. Her dark hair resists combs, framing her face like thistles. Her clothes do not stay clean or tucked in or pressed. Some days, they do not stay on. Her arms and face are nut-brown, her bare legs sturdy and grimy.

WHAT I THOUGHT

This is my first time reading the author.

I thought this collection of strange, unsettling stories was hugely enjoyable. Each story has an air of the weird, strange or mystery about and in some cases you really don’t know what’s going on until you reach the end – and even then you don’t get all the answers. For the most part I enjoyed the stories. My personal favourites were The Education of a Witch, Amicae Aeternum and Singing on a Star (which is amazing by the way). The other stories were good just not quite as great as these three which will stay with me for a long time. I really liked the author’s voice and style. Even though some of the stories dealt with crazy, fantastical events they are written in a matter that suggests everyday events are taking place. No oh my God, there’s a three headed-demon going to eat us all, more, oh, look that demon has a nice skin-tone. I just really liked this. I got lost in these stories for a while which is a good thing.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

The Survivor’s Guide To Family Happiness

The Survivor’s Guide To Family Happiness

The Survivor’s Guide To Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson
Published by Lake Union Publishing
Ebook
Published 25 October 2016
386 pages
Kindle Owner’s Lending Library

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WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Three women, three lives, and one chance to become a family…whether they want to or not.

Newly orphaned, recently divorced, and semi adrift, Nina Popkin is on a search for her birth mother. She’s spent her life looking into strangers’ faces, fantasizing they’re related to her, and now, at thirty-five, she’s ready for answers.

Meanwhile, the last thing Lindy McIntyre wants is someone like Nina bursting into her life, announcing that they’re sisters and campaigning to track down their mother. She’s too busy with her successful salon, three children, beautiful home, and…oh yes, some pesky little anxiety attacks.

But Nina is determined to reassemble her birth family. Her search turns up Phoebe Mullen, a guarded, hard-talking woman convinced she has nothing to offer. Gradually sharing stories and secrets, the three women make for a messy, unpredictable family that looks nothing like Nina pictured…but may be exactly what she needs. Nina’s moving, ridiculous, tragic, and transcendent journey becomes a love story proving that real family has nothing to do with DNA.

OPENING 

So he was really, really leaving, like his parents had told him he had to, and even though she already knew he wouldn’t stand up to them, she had held out the tiniest bit of hope that something would happen and there would be a reprieve.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

This is my first time reading the author.

I had a great time with The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness. This book is hugely enjoyable and offers the perfect blend of happy moment and sad moments. I loved the characters, they were really and very relatable and I found myself rooting for Nina, hoping she would have a relationship with her real sister and birth mother. She’s the kind of person it’s easy to get behind and fall in love with. She’s strong but very emotional and vulnerable, just the kind of heroine I enjoy the most. I found her story incredibly sad and touching. My heart ached for her when her birth mother finally tells her the story of where she came from and how she came to be adopted. Maybe she would have been better off not knowing the truth? Some things are better left unsaid. I had a lot of sympathy for Phoebe, finding herself forced to come face to face with a past she thought she’d escaped forever. While I can understand Nina and her sister wanting to know where they came from I understood Phoebe’s reluctance to become a part of their lives. If I’d been her I’d never have wanted to see the daughter’s I gave up ever again. The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness packs an emotional punch but manages to not be overly sentimental or twee. It’s just a damn good book.

RATING 

5 STAR RATING

He Said/She Said

He Said/She Said

NETHe Said/She Said by Erin Kelly
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Ebook
Expected publication 20 April 2017
416 pages
NetGalley

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I was given an ARC of this book by the publisher via NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed it.

WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT

Who do you believe? 

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack.

She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, it is not only the victim’s life that is changed forever.

Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear.

And while Laura knows she was right to speak out, the events that follow have taught her that you can never see the whole picture: something – and someone – is always in the dark…

OPENING 

We stand side by side in front of the speckled mirror.

WHAT I THOUGHT 

I thought He Said/She Said was brilliant and I loved it. I found it compelling, disturbing and the kind of book you can’t put down and stays in your head for a long time. I thought I knew what this book was going to be. Somebody sees something, completely misinterprets it and bad shit happens. I was so very wrong. I really liked the characters and how, in the end, they are all different than you’ve been lead to be and even the villains aren’t clear cut or black and white. There are plenty shades of grey in He Said/She Said. This book has lost of twists and turns. I was led down one dark, twisting alley after another – I thought I knew what was going on only for the author to pull away the ground beneath my feet and leave me in a confused heap on the ground. I was pulled in about three hundred different directions. This is a good thing. I love those kinds of books. In the end, I’d no idea what was really going on and who the bad guy was. The revelations at the end of He Said/She Said left me reeling. All in all, He Said/She Said is amazing. Loved every word.

RATING

5 STAR RATING