[REVIEW] Little by Edward Carey @BelgraviaB

Until I find a hi res cover of the book this will be up.

Seeing Little all over Twitter made me very curious about it plus the art inside. I was lucky enough to get a copy of it to review and I absolutely adored it.

Little follows Anne Marie Grosholtz later to be known as Madame Tussaud. We follow Marie from the minute she’s born and then into her old age. Marie’s life is full of adventure, pain, loss, happiness, excitement. At a young age [and after the death of her parents] she becomes apprenticed to a wax sculptor called Doctor Curtius who sees potential in her because she’s not the one to shy away from looking at the ugly side of life. By chance they move their residence to an odd house where she meets a widow and her strange son who become entangled into the wax world and leave a mark upon Marie. Doctor Curtius’ wax figures attract attention and one day Marie meets a princess who hires her to be her ‘art teacher’ and teach her everything she knows. She forms a bond with the princess but things slowly change because something’s beginning in Paris – something that will change Marie’s life forever.

Congratulations, you have survived my terrible summary of Little! Moving on – what can one say about this book except that it’s magical, fantastic and brilliantly written? There’s a quote on the back of Little that stayed with me throughout the book and that’s one author saying that the book is written ‘with surgical precision’ which I have to completely agree with. I loved Carey’s writing style and how he managed to bring Marie, Doctor Curtius, Edmond and other characters to life. The book contains drawings made by the author which compliment the story so well. I am in awe of Carey’s talent in both fields – writing and drawing. The story kept me entertained, made me feel sad towards the end and happy because I loved following Marie and her adventures. I can honestly say that Little is a book I won’t forget and that it will stay with me for a while.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction and stories that stay with you long after you finish them – Little is definitely the book for you.

I would like to thank the publisher Belgravia Books (Aardvark Bureau) for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions written here are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

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Edward Carey is a writer and illustrator who was born in North Walsham, Norfolk, England, during an April snowstorm. Like his father and his grandfather, both officers in the Royal Navy, he attended Pangbourne Nautical College, where the closest he came to following his family calling was playing Captain Andy in the school’s production of Showboat. Afterwards he joined the National Youth Theatre and studied drama at Hull University.

He has written plays for the National Theatre of Romania and the Vilnius Small State Theatre, Lithuania. In England his plays and adaptations have been performed at the Young Vic Studio, the Battersea Arts Centre, and the Royal Opera House Studio. He has collaborated on a shadow puppet production of Macbeth in Malaysia, and with the Faulty Optic Theatre of Puppets.

He is also the author of the novels Observatory Mansions and Alva and Irva: the Twins Who Saved a City, which have been translated into thirteen different languages, and both of which he illustrated…

Find him on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.

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[BLOG TOUR: GUEST POST] The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond #TheGoldenOrphans @GaryRaymond_ @parthianbooks

Today is my stop at the blog tour for The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond and I’m excited to share a guest post with you! Thank you very much to Emma (@damppebbles) for inviting me to join the blog tour as well as a huge thank you to the author for taking the time to write a guest post for Breathing Through Pages.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Within the dark heart of an abandoned city, on an island once torn by betrayal and war, lies a terrible secret…

Francis Benthem is a successful artist; he’s created a new life on an island in the sun. He works all night, painting the dreams of his mysterious Russian benefactor, Illy Prostakov. He writes letters to old friends and students back in cold, far away London. But now Francis Benthem is found dead. The funeral is planned and his old friend from art school arrives to finish what Benthem had started. The painting of dreams on a faraway island. But you can also paint nightmares and Illy has secrets of his own that are not ready for the light. Of promises made and broken, betrayal and murder…

The Golden Orphans offers a new twist on the literary thriller.

Published by Parthian Books on 30th June 2018

GUEST POST

Gary Raymond explores how he turned his own experiences in Cyprus into a fast-paced literary thriller.

My latest novel, The Golden Orphans (Parthian Books), is a fast-paced literary thriller, about a seen-better-days artist who finds himself getting mixed up in the very strange world of a Russian gangster when he goes to attend the funeral of his former mentor on the island of Cyprus. It’s a dark, peculiar story, in which I consciously evoke some of my favourite writers, like Patricia Highsmith, Dorothy Hughes, and particularly Graham Greene. To some extent it’s a genre novel, but then again it shares a lot in common with my earlier work. But whatever it is, The Golden Orphans, is my best piece of fiction, and certainly marks a bit of a watershed moment for me. Let me tell you why I think that is.

For some writers, it’s easier to write about things outside of your own story than it is to draw on autobiography. For some of us, there is such a thing as being too close to home. My new novel, The Golden Orphans, was me finding a way to explore my own experiences. I lived in Cyprus, where the novel is set, for a short while in the mid-00s, and for a decade or so I had never considered using that time as the basis for a book. It sounds counter-intuitive; by I was interested in writing about things beyond my experience. But there came a time, pushed by my publishers, where my Cypriot adventures began to move into a place in my mind where aspects would had a role to play in my fiction. When my publisher said, “Write about those people you met in Cyprus,” I was neck deep in the works and craft of Graham Greene, who was teaching me a thing or two about constructing fiction out of real life. Greene frequently used real people to populate his stories of intrigue, and the more I began to understand how – and why – he did it, the more I felt I had something to work with.

Looking back it sounds extremely naïve of me. Here I was with a stable of characters – gangsters, misfits, miscreants, tragic figures – at my disposal, and I had never really thought of using them. I see the writing of The Golden Orphans now as a major step in me becoming the writer I was destined to become. I found, when looking back at these characters, that I could construct a narrative that explored the themes that interest me in fiction, and yet have a thrilling page-turner at the same time. Writing The Golden Orphans was… shock horror… enormous fun to do, and I’m told that translates to the reading experience.

Almost every character in The Golden Orphans is based on a real person who I met during my time there. I have just given them a fictional story in which to roam about in. I have pushed many of them to the brink, given them different backgrounds, extreme motivations, but at the same time I have tried to retain that sense of oddness and mystery that I felt was integral to my time in Cyprus. Cyprus is, you see, a uniquely curious place; a place that attracts a certain kind of outcast – and I have no doubt I was one myself back then, in my mid-twenties at the time, looking for a role in life – struggling to become a writer without ever really believing I would become one. I was there working for a friend, who was himself a crook avoiding the attentions of some “business associates” back in England. It was through this friend that I was introduced to the underground of Cypriot society. And that Cypriot experience is one not easily described in a form such as this, but one that can be captured in fiction. Graham Greene of course mastered this kind of looking around corners in his novels – he did it with Cold War Europe, with Africa, Asia, Haiti and other places. After finishing the first draft of The Golden Orphans and sending it off to my publisher with mixed feelings about what I had produced, I found an essay on Greene by Christopher Hitchens (sitting the whole time on my bookshelf for 10 years or more, and never previously noticed), in which he begins by reminiscing a time when he was sat in a sweaty taverna in Nicosia, Cyprus’ capital, in 1974, just after the Turkish invasion, and looking around and wondering how on earth Graham Greene had never written a novel set there. So, in a very small way, I felt like I have maybe followed Greene’s hand, and put something out there that he may have approved of.

Again, thank you very much to Gary for taking the time to write a guest post for Breathing Through Pages.

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Gary Raymond

Gary Raymond is a novelist, critic, editor and broadcaster. He is one of the founding editors of Wales Arts Review, and has been editor since 2014. He is the author of two novels, The Golden Orphans (Parthian, 2018) and For Those Who Come After (Parthian, 2015). He is a widely published critic and cultural commentator, and is the presenter of BBC Radio Wales’ The Review Show.

Find him on: Twitter and Goodreads.

[REVIEW] The Hurtle of Hell by Simon Edge @EyeAndLightning

This is the second title from Eye/Lightning Books I’ve read and I can honestly say that both have been such great and enjoyable reads. I especially enjoyed reading The Hurtle of Hell which I found to be very funny as well as very entertaining.

The Hurtle of Hell is about Stefano (Steven) Cartwright who has an NDA (near death experience) while swimming at the beach. What he sees in a few brief moments while being under is an white tube and an eye – which he believes is the eye of God. Stefano is an atheist who doesn’t particularly care about religion but after this event his perception of religion and God changes. We have one more POV in the book and it’s from God who sees Stefano through his tube and starts wondering how and why that happened. From then on the story continues with Stefano and we see how this experience changed him as well as what God does with this new information.

I tried to provide a synopsis that doesn’t reveal too much so I think that the information you read here is enough before starting The Hurtle of Hell. The book itself is written with style that just flows and makes you read on. The book discusses many themes such as religion and how its perceived, homosexuality as well as the debate between heaven and hell SO keep this in mind if you’re a very religious person because the author does play with the role of God. Being an agnostic myself, I found this book to be very interesting and loved that Edge included God’s perspective in it because it provided something fresh. In this universe God is a somewhat distant being who doesn’t have much knowledge as well as contact with the species in it which is very interesting. As I’ve mentioned before The Hurtle of Hell is very funny and the comedy in it shines through because of the characters.

If you’re someone who loves reading funny books from time to time then look no further because The Hurtle of Hell is the one for you.

I would like to thank the publisher Eye/Lightning Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions written here are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

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Simon Edge is the author of The Hopkins Conundrum, a tragic comedy about Gerard Manley Hopkins and five shipwrecked nuns, (Lightning Books, 2017) and The Hurtle of Hell, an atheist comedy featuring God and a confused young man from Hackney, (Lightning Books, 2018).
Find him on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.

[BLOG TOUR: REVIEW] The Syndicate by Guy Bolton @gpbolton #TheSyndicate @PtBlankBks

Today is my stop at the blog tour for The Syndicate by Guy Bolton.

Before ever getting the chance to read The Syndicate I’ve seen it mostly on Twitter and found the cover to be intriguing as well as the 1940’s noir feel to it something I knew I’d enjoy – and I did enjoy reading it.

The Syndicate by Guy Bolton begins with a bang – a mobster called Bugsy Siegel comes home and has drinks with two friends but after a while something shocking happens, he gets shot in his home with two witnesses who know nothing about why he was killed and who would’ve killed him. Enter Jonathan Craine a now retired fixer who dealt with many scandals and deals featuring Hollywood movie stars. Craine now lives on a farm with his son and has distanced himself from his previous life but the murder of Siegel brings trouble his way. Craine and his son get visited by a few people who want Craine to investigate the murder but as Craine politely refuses his son becomes imprisoned by them. In order to save his son he has to cooperate with them and find out who killed Bugsy Siegel. As Craine begins the search for Siegel’s killer he enters a dangerous world where everyone could be a suspect and in order to find out who killed the infamous mobster and save his son he will have to do what he does best with limited time and limited access to news reports, crime documents etc. Will Craine be able to save his son and find Siegel’s murderer?

I found The Syndicate to be such a fantastic, fast-paced and thrilling book because right from the start you get action and it intrigues you and makes you want to read on and find out who killed Siegel and will Craine be able to find it out. Bolton writes superbly and I loved that he featured Old Hollywood stars like Ava Gardner, Judy Garland and more in the background of the book. You won’t find a dull moment in the book because the mystery keeps you pulled in. I loved how flawed Craine was and how we saw his vulnerabilites but more than that I loved that Bolton featured a woman as part of the story, Tilda Conroy as well as another woman of colour. Bolton mentions issues which were big at that time like colourism where only white people were allowed into bars and restaurants and sexism. I appreciated this and it gave points to Bolton in my mind. Whenever I read this book I read huge chunks of it which only happens when a book manages to keep you entertained. I liked the ending of the book and I when I finished the book I was left with a melancholic feeling because I had such a great time reading it.

If you’re someone who enjoys reading about mysterious deaths, who likes noir and getting lost in thrilling books, The Syndicate is the one for you.

I would like to thank the publisher Point Blank Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

The Syndicate was released by Oneworld Publications (Point Blank Books) on 4th October 2018. Hardback £16.99

My rating: 

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Guy Bolton is an author and screenwriter based in London. After graduating with a 1st in Film & Literature from Warwick University, he worked in music video, publishing and film before joining the BBC. After ten years working in television drama, Guy now writes full time.

ITV Studios, Tiger Aspect and Hat Trick are among the production companies who have optioned Guy’s work. He has also written feature film scripts for Bedlam Productions and Signature Pictures. He currently has a feature film in development with the BFI.

Guy’s first novel The Pictures, a detective thriller set in 1930s Hollywood, was shortlisted for a CWA Dagger award. It was listed as one of the top 10 crime books of 2017 by the Telegraph, The Times and the Mail on Sunday.

Guy’s second novel, The Syndicate, will be released in October 2018.

Find him on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[REVIEW+GIVEAWAY] True or Poo?: The Definitive Field Guide to Filthy Animal Facts and Falsehoods by N. Caruso and D. Rabaiotti @QuercusBooks

True or Poo?: The Definitive Field Guide to Filthy Animal Facts and Falsehoods by Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti is a short and fun non-fiction book about animals and certain aspects of their lives (e.g. how they live, what they eat etc.). Although it’s short I can say with absolute certainty that it will entertain the life out of you! It has so many interesting facts about many many animals! True or Poo? can be read in just a few hours and will keep you entertained with the amazing drawings of different animals. Here’s an example of a chapter in the book (I also found this funny and interesting so I wanted to share it):

WHITE SAND IS MADE OF FISH POO: TRUE OR POO? TRUE

‘’…Bumphead parrotfish bite off bits of coral with their hard beaks, which continuously grow throughout their lifetimes, before chewing it into dust with specialized pharyngeal teeth, digesting the algae and leaving behind the coral’s powdered, rocky remains. This ground-up coral is then pooed out as a fine sand, before being washed ashore to form the stunning beaches for which the Maldives are famous. Each parrotfish can produce 90 kg of sand each year, and as a result 85% of sand in the region has passed through a parrotfish at some point. So if you are ever lucky enough to visit the Maldives, you can relax on the beach knowing it all would not have been possible without one special parrotfishes’ sandy stools.’’ *

*this is a part of the chapter in the book.

Before you begin the book you will be greeted with an introduction by the authors and after the introduction you will have a brief summary of what to expect in the first segment of the book. The book has six segments: 1. Courtship, Mating and Parenting, 2. Animal Eating Habits, 3. Digestion and Excretion and more. Before you venture into the world of disgusting facts you will have a brief summary before each segment as well as what to expect in it (I realise I repeated myself in this sentence). I really enjoyed spending a few hours getting lost in this book and learning new facts and being disgusted by them – I still am by the one with mites! I also learned that some animals can change genders (from male to female and vice versa)! How cool is that! That there’s a friendship between a frog and a spider and many more!

If you’re a person who loves discovering and learning new things you will love this book! Also if you get easily disgusted then read a chapter a day!

I would like to thank the publisher Quercus Books UK for providing me with a digital copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions written here are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

GIVEAWAY

If you find this book interesting and are in the UK – listen up: I have a giveaway for a copy you can win by retweeting this tweet. Good luck!

Add ‘True or Poo?: The Definitive Field Guide to Filthy Animal Facts and Falsehoods‘ to your TBR:  

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**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Dani Rabaiotti is a PhD candidate and zoologist who studies African wild dogs and climate change at London Zoo.

Find her on: Website, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Nick Caruso is currently a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech. His research focuses on ecology and conservation of Appalachian salamanders and of herpetofauna in the Florida panhandle.

Find him on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.

[REVIEW] Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are by Robert Plomin @AllenLaneBooks

*I would like to say to the readers of this review [and future readers of the book] that I am neither a professional in the field of genetics nor have superb knowledge in it – I am merely an individual who’s interested in finding out more about this field and in the following sentences I discuss and express my personal thoughts on it as well as my experience with the book.

I’m the kind of person who enjoys learning new things and who’s especially interested in the field of psychology, biology and genetics. I love finding out new things because I feel like I didn’t pay enough attention when it came to these topics and want to educate myself more. Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are by Robert Plomin looked very interesting and appealing to me and I was lucky enough to land an advance reading copy of it.

Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are is a book by a behavioural geneticist Robert Plomin, who in this book does his best to introduce the reader to the field of genetics and the new advances in the field. Blueprint consists of two parts: WHY DNA MATTERS and THE DNA REVOLUTION. In the first part of the book the author talks about many theories on things like nature vs nurture, equal opportunity and meritocracy and more. Plomin also showcases some of his longitudinal studies of twins and adopted children and telling the reader his findings. What I adored when it came to the first part of the book was the information about certain traits e.g. eye colour and what percentage of them are heritable. I also appreciated Plomin’s look at nature vs nurture and his efforts in explaining what they are (which I’m sure readers who are not familiar with it will appreciate). The second part of the book introduces the reader to Genetics 101 where Plomin does his best to explain key things that are important in order to understand the rest of the book. After the introduction to Genetics we have certain techniques that are used in the field for determining certain aspects of an individuals life which are fascinating.

Now, I have to say that what I didn’t like that much was how most of the book was statistical and although Plomin provides explanation to certain things I didn’t find them as helpful. While reading the book I was thankful for my Statistics 101 class I took at the beginning of this year which made me familiar with correlation, multivariate analysis, standard residuals etc. I wouldn’t classify this book necessarily as popular science because it sort of requests certain before-hand knowledge. As I mentioned, the author is an expert in the field of behavioural genetics and presents many of his studies and findings. He proposes certain theories like e.g. looking at mental disorders from a spectrum/dimension rather than looking at someone as a person with a specified disorder.

In Blueprint, the author uses statistical data when showcasing certain findings and explaining theories which might confuse individuals who don’t have some basic knowledge on statistics. Plomin repeats himself at times in the book perhaps because of the fear of the reader forgetting certain things. There are many things discussed in this book that are very fascinating like using genetics to determine a person’s proneness to a certain disease, looking at genes to find out if the person will have some kind of a disorder in the future and more. At the end of the book you will find a section called Notes which provides further information for individuals who want to know more about his studies, certain things he didn’t go further into explaining etc. The chapters in Blueprint aren’t long but they will demand focus because you’ll better understand the material Plomin presents – saying that I’m not saying I’m an expert in this field after reading the book because of course there are things I missed and didn’t quite understand but I appreciated seeing how research in this field works and how both genetics and psychology interact with each other.

In conclusion, Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are reads more like a thesis rather than a non-fiction popular science book but I’m sure this won’t discourage people who either are interested in this subject or work in a similar or the same field to pick up a copy and find out more about the fascinating field called genetics.

I would like to thank the publisher Allen Lane Books for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions written here are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

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**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Robert J. Plomin (born 1948 in Chicago, Illinois) is an American psychologist best known for his work in twin studies and behavior genetics.
Plomin earned a B.A. in psychology from DePaul University in 1970 and a Ph.D. in psychology in 1974 from the University of Texas, Austin under personality psychologist Arnold Buss. He then worked at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. From 1986 until 1994 he worked at Pennsylvania State University, studying elderly twins reared apart and twins reared together to study aging and is currently at the Institute of Psychiatry (King’s College London). He has been president of the Behavior Genetics Association, which in 2002 awarded him the Dobzhansky Memorial Award for a Lifetime of Outstanding Scholarship in Behavior Genetics. He was awarded the William James Fellow Award by the Association for Psychological Science in 2004 and the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award of the International Society for Intelligence Research. Plomin was ranked among the 100 most eminent psychologists in the history of science (in Review of General Psychology, 2002).

Find him on: Goodreads and Twitter.

[REVIEW] The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker @PenguinRHUK

What attracted me to this book was the plot – Trojan War, Achilles! – but most of all the promise of it being told from the point of women and being centered around them. I also have to say that the cover is so beautiful and it just suits the book so well.

‘I was immediately aware of a new desire, to be part of it, to dissolve into it: the sea that feels nothing and can never be hurt.’

The book begins with Briseis, who upon taking shelter as the war rages on in her city decides to check on her mother-in-law because she’s sick. Making sure her mother-in-law got what she needed she returns back to the place where women and children hide and await their doom. When the Greeks enter Lyrnessus, Briseis is standing on the roof of a building of the shelter and what she witnesses is very horrific – Achilles killing her brothers and husband – but if that’s not enough to cause chills down her spine, Achilles looks up and stares at her and then continues his quest in conquering the city. What she feared happens and once fighting’s over the men turn their attention to women and children. Most of the women become imprisoned as slaves to certain kings. Briseis becomes awarded to Achilles who happens to have killed every person she loved. She’s put in this horrifying situation where she has to be brave in order to survive and although she hates Achilles and all the men who destroyed her city – she must not show it. From this point on our story begins and what we as readers witness is the ugliness of war.

The way Pat Barker told this story brought shivers down my spine at times because I felt like I was witnessing the horrors the women in it went through – from being raped to preparing men’s bodies for cremation. Barker is a fantastic writer and her skills to make you feel like you were there are something to admire. Briseis was such a fascinating character and I loved her strength. Barker showed that it’s not just the men who fight in the war that have strength but the women whose roles are so important. The ‘godlike’ Achilles was wonderfully written as well as Patroclus who I loved throughout the novel as well as the portrayal of their ‘friendship’. What I found annoying was the use of certain words that made me cringe e.g. ‘mate’ because they didn’t fit this story. I mean it is a retelling of an important event in Greek mythology so that’s why I found it cringey. I loved how women were portrayed in this novel because of their strength but not so much when it came to the raping and using of the women – the author including the brutality of it made the story richer in a way because that’s how women were treated. I liked that the author didn’t shy away from gory scenes and described certain scenes in detail. The Silence of the Girls came at a perfect time in my life because I spent many hours lost in it.

The Silence of the Girls is a fascinating look into the Trojan War from the perspective of a queen turned Achilles’ slave, Briseis. Inside this book you’ll find the brutality of war and pain women had to endure in order to secure their survival. More often in these tales women are cast aside but their roles are much greater whenever a war rages.

I would like to thank the publisher Penguin Random House UK (Hamish Hamilton) for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

Add ‘The Silence of the Girls‘ to your TBR:  

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**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Pat Barker was born in Yorkshire and began her literary career in her forties, when she took a short writing course taught by Angela Carter. Encouraged by Carter to continue writing and exploring the lives of working class women, she sent her fiction out to publishers. Thirty-five years later, she has published fifteen novels, including her masterful Regeneration Trilogy, been made a CBE for services to literature, and won awards including the Guardian Fiction Prize and the UK’s highest literary honour, the Booker Prize. She lives in Durham and her new novel, The Silence of the Girls, will be published by Hamish Hamilton in August 2018.

Find her on: Goodreads

[REVIEW] The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman @EccoBooks @sarahw

Prior to reading The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman I was familiar with Nabokov’s Lolita but haven’t read it so keep in mind that these thoughts come form someone who hasn’t read Lolita. What initially drew me to The Real Lolita was the true-crime aspect of it and the parallel between the Sally Horner case and Lolita was a big plus as well.

The Real Lolita is a true-crime book focused on the kidnapping of an eleven year old girl named Sally Horner in 1948 by a man who posed as an FBI agent in order to deceive Sally into going with him. The happenings in Lolita as well as the kidnapping are connected and Weinman [the author] within this book explains the connection between the two. From the first few chapters we are introduced to the story of Sally’s kidnapping which is quite chilling and disturbing. It reads like fiction and it’s hard to believe it’s not. When you pass one hundred pages you will notice that a lot of research went into this book and I really appreciated that while reading. The book feels like an essay or a thesis defending the subject matter at hand since we do not have actual proof [in verbal form or written] that the Sally Horner case inspired Lolita. I have seen some reviews complaining that the book mainly focuses on Nabokov and his life but I would disagree and say that fair amount of chapters discuss both subjects presented to the reader. As the book title clearly says ‘The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World’ you should expect Nabokov’s origin story and analysis of early influences prior to the writing of Lolita. Weinman discusses many things and focuses on certain characters whose stories I found unnecessary although some were interesting. I want to go back to the book ‘feeling like a thesis’, Weinman discusses and shows [in a form of a handwritten note] that Nabokov knew about the Sally Horner case before the publication of Lolita but there is mystery around what exactly inspired his master novel Lolita. I would also like to discuss the cover of the book which is absolutely brilliant and showcases the book in the most perfect way. The picture is of Sally Horner on the phone with her family after being rescued – you can see the excitement in her eyes because after twenty-one months of being apart from her family she’s talking to them – and the butterflies which are a connection to Nabokov who had a passion for butterflies. In the book, Weinman points that she’s not the first person to discover the connection between Sally and Lolita because before her we had Peter Welding who wrote an article about it in a paper called Nuggets and we have a Nabokovian scholar called Alexander Dolinin who discussed the parallel between the two as well. Weinman also points out where both went wrong and corrects their mistakes by shining light on Sally Horner who, first, was a victim of a lunatic called Frank La Salle and then an inspiration for the well-known novel by Vladimir Nabokov. What particularly fascinated me was the fact that after several decades people didn’t realise that the character Dolores Haze aka Lolita is a victim of abuse and not someone to be blamed for it. I honestly wish I read Lolita before reading this book because I might’ve seen it as something that it’s not. Now, there are many things I didn’t discuss that are in this book because this review would’ve been very long but I tried my best to share key points.

Although I was familiar with Lolita and what it dealt with [a relationship between an older man and an underage girl] I did get spoiled when it came to certain happenings in the book so if you are someone who doesn’t like to get spoiled I suggest you pick up a copy of Lolita and then get The Real Lolita so you can compare both.

I would like to thank the publisher Ecco Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

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Sarah Weinman is the editor of Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s(Library of America) and Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives (Penguin). She covers book publishing for Publishers Marketplace, and has written for the New York Timesthe Washington Postthe New Republicthe Guardian, and Buzzfeed, among other outlets. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Find her on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.

[REVIEW] The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon @ViragoBooks

What caught my attention to The Incendiaries was the hype around it which was huge and everyone seemed to be talking about it. I wanted to check what all the hype was about, of course.

The Incendiaries is told from three voices although it mainly focuses on Will Kendall, who is a scholarship student who juggles both work and studying and whose life is quite hectic. Our second ‘narrator’ is Phoebe Lin, who we get to meet but no in the same amount as Will. Third person is the cult leader called John Leal whose craziness we get to read in half-page chapters. The story revolves around Will and Phoebe and their relationship which begins like any other but it changes when she becomes acquainted with John Leal. Phoebe has a tragic past which she’s secretive about even to her boyfriend Will, but as she joins the enigmatic John Leal she begins to open up  – not to Will – but to Leal and other cult members. Will begins to see changes in Phoebe and decides to find out what is making Phoebe distracted and distanced from him. When bombings of several abortion clinics happen and Phoebe vanishes he refuses to believe that she’s the one responsible.

I have to say that I enjoyed Kwon’s writing in this novel the most. I just liked the way she crafted sentences because they felt magical at times. Now, since this novel is about two-hundred and ten pages long I have to say that I felt some of the characters weren’t developed fully and I would’ve liked to see their POV deepend – e.g. Leal and Phoebe. The characters weren’t likable to me at all but I did feel for Will towards the end of the novel. The beginning of the book confused me because the author shifted from first person to third person but once I got used to it I didn’t mind it much. Onto what I liked in The Incendiaries – the way Kwon described Leal and his manipulation effects on Phoebe is something I liked because you can see how easily a wounded and broken person can fall under someone else’s power.  The psychology behind that was point on because it often happens that way – lost souls are always in need of guidance and light. There wasn’t an appeal to Phoebe’s character for me nor did I feel sympathy for her because of the way she was crafted although I wish we got to see more from her POV in the book –  that would’ve given her more dimension [if that makes sense] and depth. I liked Will’s willingness to save Phoebe from the dangerous world she was entering because that shows how far a person will go to save someone he/she loves.

I found The Incendiaries to be a well written debut novel with quite an interesting story but it did fail when it comes to other characters in it – whether it was intentional or not I found it to be something missing. I would recommend reading this book because it will make you think as well as get you out of a reading slump if you’re in one because of the great writing.

I would like to thank the publisher Virago Press for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

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R.O. Kwon’s first novel, The Incendiaries, is published by Riverhead (U.S.) and forthcoming from Virago (U.K.) in September 2018. She is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Vice, BuzzFeed, Time, Noon, Electric Literature, Playboy, San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. She has received awards and fellowships from Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Omi International, and the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. Born in South Korea, she’s mostly lived in the United States.

Find her on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.

[BLOG TOUR + GIVEAWAY] #RandomThingsTours Ladders to Heaven by Mike Shanahan @unbounders @annecater

Today is my stop on the Ladders to Heaven blog tour hosted by the amazing Anne Cater. Since today is the paperback publication day for LTD I am hosting a giveaway on Twitter and will also share it on Instagram so more people can enter. How to enter? Click on the link below About the Book.

ABOUT THE BOOK

They are trees of life and trees of knowledge. They are wish-fulfillers … rainforest royalty … more precious than gold. They are the fig trees, and they have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways. Ladders to Heaven tells their amazing story.

Fig trees fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles in the dawn of civilisation. They feature in every major religion, starring alongside Adam and Eve, Krishna and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. This is no coincidence – fig trees are special. They evolved when giant dinosaurs still roamed and have been shaping our world ever since.

These trees intrigued Aristotle and amazed Alexander the Great. They were instrumental in Kenya’s struggle for independence and helped restore life after Krakatoa’s catastrophic eruption. Egypt’s Pharaohs hoped to meet fig trees in the afterlife and Queen Elizabeth II was asleep in one when she ascended the throne.
And all because 80 million years ago these trees cut a curious deal with some tiny wasps. Thanks to this deal, figs sustain more species of birds and mammals than any other trees, making them vital to rainforests. In a time of falling trees and rising temperatures, their story offers hope.

Ultimately, it’s a story about humanity’s relationship with nature. The story of the fig trees stretches back tens of millions of years, but it is as relevant to our future as it is to our past.

GIVEAWAY [CLOSED]:

The publisher has been kind enough to allow me to host a giveaway for a paperback copy of Ladders to Heaven. It will be UK only and you can enter by RT-ing this tweet.

Add ‘Ladders to Heaven‘ to your TBR:  

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**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Mike Shanahan is a freelance writer with a doctorate in rainforest ecology. He has lived in a national park in Borneo, bred endangered penguins, investigated illegal bear farms, produced award-winning journalism and spent several weeks of his life at the annual United Nations climate change negotiations. He is interested in what people think about nature and our place in it. His writing includes work published by The Economist, Nature, The Ecologist and Ensia, and chapters of Dry: Life without Water (Harvard University Press); Climate Change and the Media (Peter Lang Publishing) and Culture and Climate Change: Narratives (Shed). He is the illustrator of Extraordinary Animals (Greenwood Publishing Group) and maintains a blog called Under the Banyan.

Find him on: BlogFacebook, Twitter and Goodreads.