BOOK REVIEW: AMERICAN APPETITES BY JOYCE CAROL OATES

1195545

American Appetites by Joyce Carol Oates
Picador (paperback), 1989
340 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)

Amazon.com

BLURB
Affluent American suburbia – a world in which Ian and Glynnis McCullough are both admired and entirely at home; regarded, after 26 years of marriage, as the embodiment of the American Dream. But, beneath the surface, there are cracks in the marriage. And it takes only one moment of irrevocable violence to shatter their idyllic community and turn the Dream into a nightmare.

OPENING SENTENCE
What is destiny – a mechanical fact, a theoretical possibility, a concept, a superstition, a mere word?

REVIEW
I read this for the ‘a book you started by never finished’ category of my Popsugar Reading Challenge 2015. This is my final book for the challenge.

American Appetites was very enjoyable. This one of JCO’s earlier novels. I enjoyed the way the novel explored relationships and appearances. Everyone who sees the McCullough’s believes they are the perfect all-American couple. I loved how JCO peeled back the layers revealing the mess that lay at the heart of the marriage. I like reading about people’s lives falling apart. The moment of violence is very dramatic and well written without being over the top. JCO knows how to write, how to vividly bring her characters and their world to life. I didn’t feel a lot of sympathy for any of her characters though. I could help thinking Ian got what he deserved. This dampened the enjoyable of an otherwise accomplished novel.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

BOOK REVIEW: LANARK BY ALASDAIR GREY

16565937

Lanark by Alasdair Gray
Picador (paperback), 1981
560 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)

Amazon.com

BLURB
From its first publication in 1981, Lanark was hailed as a masterpiece and it has come to be widely regarded as the most remarkable and influential Scottish novel of the second half of the twentieth century. A work of extraordinary imagination and wide-ranging concerns, its playful narrative conveys at its core a profound message, both personal and political, about humankind’s inability to love, and yet our compulsion to go on trying. With its echoes of Dante, Blake, Joyce, Kafka, and Lewis Carroll, Lanark has been published all over the world and to unanimous acclaim.

OPENING SENTENCE
The Elite Café was entered by a staircase from the foyer of a cinema.

REVIEW
I read this for the ‘a book recommended by a friend’ category of my Popsugar Reading Challenge 2015. This is my second read-through. Lanark is one of the best books I’ve ever read so I’m looking forward to my second reading. I have a friend who’s a book lover as well. We have very different tastes. This is the only thing he’s recommended that I actually liked.

Lanark is one of my favourite books of all time. I’d consider it to be Gray’s magnum opus. I love the way the novel is split into four segments and the story of Thaw and Lanark isn’t told in chronological order. This works really well. I enjoyed the Thaw sections the best. They seem to be based at least in part of Gray’s life and are really enjoyable. I liked Lanark’s sections better in the second time around. These are very different than Thaw’s sections and can be hard to adjust to for a first time reader. Lanark draws inspiration from the work of William Blake and Dante’s The Divine Comedy. I love Blake’s work. A colour illustrated copy of his Songs of Innocence and Experience is a treasured possession. I also love The Divine Comedy. I have a battered copy that I’ve read. Lanark is brilliant, original novel – of a very rare and wonderful kind. I gave Grey’s debut novel 4 stars the first time I read it but enjoyed it better the second time.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

BOOK REVIEW: FIRE COLOUR ONE BY JENNY VALENTINE

25853214

Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine
Harper Collins Children’s Books (ebook), 2015
256 Pages

Publisher Website (Author Page)

Amazon (UK)

Amazon.com

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for a review by the publisher via NetGalley.

BLURB
A bold and brilliant novel about love, lies and redemption, from award-winning author, Jenny Valentine – one of the greatest YA voices of her generation.

Iris’s father, Ernest, is at the end of his life and she hasn’t even met him. Her best friend, Thurston, is somewhere on the other side of the world. Everything she thought she knew is up in flames.

Now her mother has declared war and means to get her hands on Ernest’s priceless art collection. But Ernest has other ideas. There are things he wants Iris to know after he’s gone. And the truth has more than one way of coming to light.

OPENING SENTENCE
At my father’s funeral, after everything, I lit a great big fire in his honour, built from stacked apple crates and broken furniture and pieces of fallen-down tree.

REVIEW
Fire Colour One was brilliant, a joy to read. I loved the fact the book focused on family relationships. A lot of YA fiction focuses on friendship or teenage love or questionable relationships with supernatural creatures. Fire Colour One was a breath of fresh air. I loved then relationships and characters explored in the novel. Iris was a brilliant character; real, made of flesh and blood and a bit screwed up. I loved her. Hannah and Lowell were awful people and all too real. They flocked to dying Ernest like vultures picking the last of his flesh from his bones. I loved it when Ernest tells Iris the truth about his marriage to her awful mother. Thurston was a great character as well. I loved all the art references throughout Fire Colour One. The ending is brilliant, pure genius. Fire Colour One is one of the best YA novel’s I’ve ever read.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

BOOK REVIEW: MONSTERS BY PAUL KANE

25849285

Monsters by Paul Kane
The Alchemy Press (ebook), 2015
318 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)

I was given a free copy by the publisher in exchange for a review.

BLURB
Be afraid. Be incredibly afraid…because the Monsters are here! One man starts to suffer from a strange affliction, as another seeks knowledge of the future – with dire consequences. A young boy gets more than he bargained for when he receives a unique Christmas present, while a lonely man battles creatures that live in the darkness. And as a rescue expedition finds strange animals in the jungle, one man’s wife returns from the grave to be with him once more… Vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches, this collection from the imagination of award-winning and bestselling author Paul Kane has them all! Including the first reprint of ‘Dracula in Love’ in over a decade, the original short story the movie Weeping Woman was based on and all three parts of the ‘Life Cycle’ trilogy (begun in the late ‘90s and concluding with the brand new ‘Lifetime’), plus an introduction by Nicholas Vince (who portrayed Chatterer Cenobite in the Hellraiser movies and Kinski in Nightbreed) and cover art by the legendary Clive Barker, this is one book you really should be afraid to miss!

OPENING SENTENCE
There’s nothing like a good night out (NIGHTLIFE)

REVIEW
Monsters is a well-written and thoroughly enjoyable collection of stories. I loved all the different ways the author interprets the idea of monsters. The collection contains stories about common horror monsters including werewolves, vampires and zombies. The author writes about these well used creatures in fresh and interesting ways. One of the best examples of this is the zombie story, Pay the Piper. I loved how the traditional take about the Pied Piper and the idea of zombie’s blends in this story. The collection contains a triptych of werewolf stories; three stories dealing with the same characters at the start, middle and end of the collection (Nightlife, Half-Life and Lifetime). These stories were among my favourites. Others included The Disease, A Chaos Demon Is For Life, St August’s Flame, Guilty Pleasures, Speaking In Tongues and Rag And Bone. I enjoyed all of the stories but these stood out a little more. Monsters is an excellent collection of horror stories.

Stories included:

  • The Ugly
  • Nightlife
  • The Disease
  • Sabbat
  • Dig (This)
  • A Chaos Demon Is For Life…
  • St August’s Flame
  • Keeper Of The Light
  • Dracula In Love
  • Half-Life
  • Guilty Pleasures
  • Speaking In Tongues
  • Star-Pool
  • Rag And Bone
  • The Weeping Woman
  • Pay The Piper
  • It’s All Over…
  • Lifetime

RATING

5 STAR RATING

BOOK REVIEW: A WINTER BOOK BY TOVE JANSSON

891672

A Winter Book by Tove Jansson
Sort Of Books (ebook), 1998
208 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)

I borrowed this ebook from my library and read it on my Kobo.

BLURB
Following the widely acclaimed and bestselling The Summer Book, here is A Winter Book collection of some of Tove Jansson’s best loved and most famous stories. Drawn from youth and older age, and spanning most of the twentieth century, this newly translated selection provides a thrilling showcase of the great Finnish writer’s prose, scattered with insights and home truths. It has been selected and is introduced by Ali Smith, and there are afterword’s by Philip Pullman, Esther Freud and Frank Cottrell Boyce.

A Winter Book features thirteen stories from Tove Jansson’s first book for adults, The Sculptor’s Daughter (1968) along with seven of her most cherished later stories (from 1971 to 1996), translated into English and published here for the first time.

OPENING SENTENCE
IT WAS LYING BETWEEN THE COAL DUMP AND THE GOODS wagons and under some bits of wood and it was a miracle that no one had found it before me (THE STONE)

REVIEW
I read this for the ‘a book that was originally written in a different language’ category of my Popsugar Reading Challenge 2015.

A Winter Book is a lovely collection of stories. I’d never heard of the author before and was surprised to discover she created the Moomins. I loved them when I was very small and they scared me as well but I can’t remember why. The stories in this collection are gentle, soft, delicate and very beautiful. The stories are different than the sort of stuff I usually read. I tend to favour fiction that is quite dark. A Winter Book is a refreshing change rather like opening heavy curtains that have been long closed into a dark, stifling room and letting daylight sweep in. The collection is split into three sections. I enjoyed the stories in Snow and Flotsam and Jetsam the most. The Dark, Snow, The Iceberg and High Water were my favourites. The third section, Travelling Light was unusual. Most of the stories were made up of letters and snippets of letters to Tove from various fans and correspondents. This section was very touching. I also liked the fact the collection contained some photographs from the author’s life.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

BOOK REVIEW: THE INVISIBLE CIRCUS BY JENNIFER EGAN

16619684

The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan
Corsair (ebook), 1994
300 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)

I borrowed this ebook from my library and read it on my Kobo.

BLURB
In Jennifer Egan’s highly acclaimed first novel, set in 1978, the political drama and familial tensions of the 1960s form a backdrop for the world of Phoebe O’Connor, age eighteen.

Phoebe is obsessed with the memory and death of her sister Faith, a beautiful idealistic hippie who died in Italy in 1970. In order to find out the truth about Faith’s life and death, Phoebe retraces her steps from San Francisco across Europe, a quest which yields both complex and disturbing revelations about family, love, and Faith’s lost generation.

This spellbinding novel introduced Egan’s remarkable ability to tie suspense with deeply insightful characters and the nuances of emotion.

OPENING SENTENCE
She’d missed it, Phoebe knew by the silence.

REVIEW
The Invisible Circus is a brilliant novel. I loved every word. Egan is a beautiful writer. I loved the characters. They felt very real, especially Phoebe. The novel is almost unbearably sad at times filled with flashbacks of Faith’s reckless, tragic life and moments when it seems Phoebe is going repeat her sister’s history. The conclusion of the novel when Phoebe finds out what really happened to her sister in Europe and the events that led to her death was painful to read. I cried like a baby and hugged my Kobo like it was a big teddy that could comfort me. The ending is perfect. Phoebe and her mother live in the same house where Faith lived before she went off to Europe. Egan makes it clear Phoebe and her mother have never really moved on in the ten years since Faith died. Their grief and the unanswered questions about Faith’s life and death froze them in time. Phoebe retracing her sister’s footsteps and finding out the truth allows them to finally move on and unchain themselves from the past. The Invisible Circus is brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

BOOK REVIEW: A DANCE WITH DRAGONS 2 – AFTER THE FEAST BY GEORGE R.R. MARTIN

13337716

A Dance with Dragons 2: After the Feast by George R.R. Martin
Harper Voyager (paperback), 2011
560 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)

BLURB
The future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance.

In King’s Landing the Queen Regent, Cersei Lannister, awaits trial, abandoned by all those she trusted; while in the eastern city of Yunkai her brother Tyrion has been sold as a slave. From the Wall, having left his wife and the Red Priestess Melisandre under the protection of Jon Snow, Stannis Baratheon marches south to confront the Boltons at Winterfell. But beyond the Wall the wildling armies are massing for an assault.

On all sides bitter conflicts are reigniting, played out by a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves. The tides of destiny will inevitably lead to the greatest dance of all.

OPENING SENTENCE
The first flakes came drifting down as the sun was setting in the west.

REVIEW
A Dance with Dragons 2: After the Feast was excellent. I loved catching up with all the characters I haven’t read about since A Storm of Swords. Dany had a big part in this book. Yay! Like the other books in the series, this one was packed with tension, drama and twists and turns. I loved the ending of this one. Some bad shit is going to go down in The Winds in the Winter. Cersei is as unpleasant as ever. Tyrion is shaping up to be okay. I’m really starting to dislike Jon Snow. I liked him a lot in the earlier books but he’s changed in the last couple and not in a good way. Things are going to get really crazy in the next book.

RATING

5 STAR RATING