[BOOK EXTRACT] The Pharmacist by Justin David @Justin_Writer @InkandescentUK #ThePharmacist

I’m very excited to share with you today an extract of Justin David’s The Pharmacist! 

EXTRACT

At last, together in the same space, Billy drinks red wine with his new friend. It’s as if they have always known each other. In this short space of time, he’s learned that Albert’s favourite authors are Genet and Proust, that he never eats red meat on a Sunday and that he once had dinner with Dusty Springfield.
Billy stands in the open bay window where Albert had stood earlier. He wonders where Jamie could have got to. Maybe he’d had to work after all. This is happening more frequently since he started that blasted job at the Walter’s Gallery. He’s so good at his job, they just want more and more of him. The thought lingers at the back of his throat like a bit of dry bread until he washes it down with a zealous gulp of red wine.
Cradling the glass, he leans out into the sunshine, intermittently eyeing up a neighbour washing his car. The street is ablaze with gold and green—dappled sunlight pushing through the gaps in the foliage of the sycamores lining the street. Albert stands, holding the bottle of red wine. ‘Vada the bona dish on the omi-palone!’ he says, extending every vowel sound, curling his words like ornate calligraphy. He’s come to stand next to Billy, to stare down at the neighbour. The palm of Albert’s hand gently rests on his back, warmth spreading through the fabric of his vest. Billy turns and presses his arse against the windowsill. ‘Eh?’
Albert pours more wine into Billy’s almost empty glass. ‘I said, look at the rear end on that gorgeous queen.’ Albert puts the bottle down and gulps his wine.
It takes Billy a moment to register. ‘Ah, Polari. I haven’t heard that for ages,’ he says, but still feels a little bewildered. ‘Who?’
‘That guy next door.’ Albert nods his head towards the man in the street. ‘Don’t pretend. I saw you. Couldn’t take your eyes off him.’
Billy looks over his shoulder at the man who has dropped his sponge and now has his mobile phone clamped to the side of his face. He’s sneering and flaring his nostrils, looking busy. He takes lots of very quick, small steps, down the tree-lined street, shoulders pivoting forwards and backwards. After having been misled by an image of butch masculinity, this little display makes them both giggle. Billy turns back to see Albert smiling to himself, walking across the room to throw his hat on a coat stand. ‘Dolly capello, old fruit,’ Billy says, complimenting Albert on his hat. They both suddenly crack into laughter, surprised but united now, across the generation gap, by the ancient gentleman’s slang.
For a moment there’s a silence in which they stand looking at each other. ‘So, what do you do?’ Albert finally says.
The question makes Billy squirm. He ponders a second before announcing, ‘I’m an artist.’ He knows if he’s ever going to live the life he wants he must get used to defining himself so. It seems such an airy-fairy thing to say—not really a proper job.
‘I knew you had to be a painter. First time I met you, in the hall, I smelt the turps. Though, I suppose when I saw you loitering in the flower market, from the way you were dressed, I thought you might have owned one of those trendy art galleries on Columbia Road.’
‘You saw me?’ Billy acts surprised, but of course he knows that Albert had seen him that day. He covers a smile with his hand.
‘Oh come off it. You were watching me!’ Albert teases. ‘You even nodded at me.’ His eyes glint and his cheeks flush pink perhaps with the wine. ‘But didn’t you say you were on holiday, the other day?’
Billy explains that he works part-time for an arts trust.
‘Must be difficult,’ Albert says. ‘Working in an office as well as fitting in your creative activities.’
He’s relaxed, even though the old man continues to fire question after question at him. There seems nothing guarded about Albert. From the outside, who would guess they only just met?
Billy looks around the room. It’s a large space with bare floorboards and a thick rag rug in the middle. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves run along the left-hand side of the bay window. In front of the window there’s a tatty cream chaise longue, and in the corner, to the right, a writing bureau, on top of which sits an emerald green glass vase, containing eight bright pink gerberas. Billy counts each stalk and wonders if Albert has always chosen that colour.
‘I’m easing myself into the painting again,’ Billy says. ‘But no doubt just as I build enough momentum to work towards the next show, I’ll run out of money and be back to the grind.’
‘Got to stay positive, Billy. You’ll make it work.’
Billy continues to gaze around the room. In front of the bookshelves, there is a well-worn ox-blood leather Chesterfield and a standard lamp with a dusty cream shade. On a glass-topped coffee table sit a few books and a scattering of magazines. Some of them are pornographic, which strikes Billy as rather unusual. Is Albert too lazy to clear up, or is he making a statement?
‘But you’ll continue to paint?’
Billy nods. ‘Right! That’s enough,’ he says, flopping down onto the Chesterfield, halting further interrogation. ‘You’ve been quizzing me ever since I arrived. What about you?’
‘Me? I’m an open book. Not all that interesting, mind.’ Albert bites his bottom lip as if to feign shyness. ‘I am all your failed expectations in a man,’ he says sadly. Billy lifts the bottle of wine and Albert pushes his glass towards him. He pours two more glasses and Albert swallows almost half of his in one gulp.
‘Well, you must have a pretty pension to keep this place on. What did you do? I mean work-wise—for a living?’
‘Life doesn’t cost a lot now. There’s no mortgage on this place. But there are no savings and no pension either, only what I get from the state and that’s next to nothing. I’ve done some acting. Used to be a singer. All a blur now. I managed a very nice restaurant in Soho, once. But mainly, I just got by.’
‘Just got by?’ Billy questions. ‘I can hear the jangle of old money in your voice.’ 
‘Darling Boy!’ Albert says, pointing his finger. ‘You must not make assumptions about people based on the way they speak.’
‘I had you down as an aristocrat. Blue blood.’
‘We’re not all high fliers, Billy. I’m just a survivor.’
‘Well at least you have your home. How are you surviving?’     
Albert pauses in contemplation. Billy doesn’t know much about him, but he senses Albert is about to open up. ‘Billy, I hardly know you. But I feel we have a connection.’
‘Me too.’ Billy gives him a sexy little smile, confirming a mutual trust.
‘Okay, well if you can keep a secret…’
‘I thought you were an open book?’ Billy sits forward keenly.
‘Everyone has things that they keep to themselves.’ Albert slumps next to Billy on the Chesterfield and starts to talk, slurring his words a little. ‘I think it’s really important, at whatever cost, to be true to oneself. I hate spending my time in drag for other people’s convenience.’ Albert sloshes back more wine. ‘I mean drag in terms of putting on a performance. You know, like wearing a mask, covering up the self.
‘This is the way I see it. Most folks want to get married and have babies. So they have a baby, and they do everything they can to mould it, shape it, and dress it into what they think it should be. And they set this child on a path towards where they think it should be going.
‘You know, one is lucky if you grow up feeling comfortable being that person, being that shape, being on that path. And you can forget to think for yourself. One can get so far down that path with the job and the wife and the car, that before you know it, the whole process starts again, of making more babies to mould and shape, mould and shape… and oh…’ He pauses and swallows, then continues almost without drawing breath. ‘But for some of us, no matter how hard we try, we just don’t fit a particular shape. And we start thinking for ourselves. And we come to a fork in the road. And you just know you’ve got to make this choice, because when you’re different, if you wear those clothes and stay on that path, when you know you really should be somewhere else, then you’re just doing drag. Do you see what I’m talking about Billy?’
Billy is completely absorbed. ‘I think so. Yeah. But I don’t really understand what this has to do with money?’
‘Well, when you make that choice, when you take that fork in the road, you might have to turn around to your folks and say, ‘Yes, thanks for that. But no.’ With that, you’re on your own. Surviving means you might end up doing things you had never expected.’
Billy waits for a moment, expecting a punch line. ‘So come on then. What’s your secret?’
Albert turns to Billy and looks directly at him. ‘I’m in pharmaceuticals.’
Billy narrows his eyes at Albert.
‘You ever go dancing?’
‘God—all the time,’ Billy says.
‘You knowThe Palais? On Kingsland Road?’
‘Yeah. Been there lots of times. There’s a fantastic Trance night on Fridays.’
Albert’s eyes widen. ‘You’ve never seen me there?’
‘You?’
‘Yes, me, strangely enough! Old man in a Panama. Impossible to miss.’
‘No.’
‘I deal drugs in there.’
Billy feels his chin drop. ‘You’re kidding?’
‘Close your mouth, Billy. You look like you’re trying to catch flies.’ Albert swallows more wine.
‘I don’t understand.’
‘It’s not hard, Billy. Every Friday night I go to The Palais and I sell drugs to the clubbers.’
‘What kind of drugs?’
‘What kind of drugs do you think? Coke, speed, pills. A little bit of acid sometimes, but mainly E’s.’
‘Albert… you’re an old man,’ Billy says.
‘Thank you for pointing that out.’
Billy rolls around, uncoiling in his place on the Chesterfield. ‘Well, of course—a very well-preserved old man,’ he giggles.
Albert smiles, his eyes sparkling, full of danger.
Billy sits quietly staring at him, pondering the old man for several minutes. Albert smiles back without complaint, until Billy asks, ‘What are E’s like?’
‘You mean you’ve never done one?’ Albert runs his fingers through silver hair.
‘Never done anything, except a bit of grass.’ Billy looks at the clock on Albert’s bureau. They have been chatting for hours. An empty bottle of wine stands on the coffee table and a second, half empty, is in Albert’s hand refilling Billy’s glass. The sunlight is changing. It’s lower now and passes through the window, causing Billy’s wine glass to sparkle like a giant ruby.
‘I thought you said you’d been to The Palaison a Friday night?’
‘I have, but I’ve never done an E.’
‘You? A man in his twenties, dancing around half-naked in The Palais, never done an E?’
Billy laughs. ‘Well, I suppose, in the past, my attention was mainly on my work. The students who did drugs at art college didn’t get first class degrees. It would have been no good, me doing drugs. I can’t even open a box of chocolates without finishing the lot.’
‘Ha. I see. But most people who hang out on the club scene, especially those of your age, have tried it at least once. Part of the territory.’
Billy shrugs. ‘Never been offered.’
‘Never lived.’ Albert chuckles and strokes Billy’s head.
Billy is alert like a boy on his first day of school. ‘Tell me what it’s like,’ he says, lightening the tone of his voice, playing innocent. He kicks off his trainers, falls back onto the sofa and breathes in sun-warmed leather.
‘Hard to say. Like nothing you’ve ever felt in your life. Like being in a dream state.’ Albert flutters his hands in the air, pretending to scatter fairy dust. When his hand drops, it falls casually onto Billy’s shoulder. Billy allows it to rest there.
‘Can’t you be more specific? Dream state? Call yourself a drug dealer?’
‘I’m an expert on all drugs,’ Albert says. He undoes the top buttons of his shirt and removes his cravat. For a man of his age, Billy notes, his skin is in very good condition—only a slight sagginess where one might expect to see a more developed dewlap. His strong jawline reminds Billy of Marlon Brando. ‘I’ve never ingested any substance without first knowing about all the highs and the side effects. But with E, the experience is slightly different for everyone. Generally, with ecstasy, it’s all about empathy. If people around you are enjoying themselves, chances are, you’ll pick up on that vibe.’
‘They make you feel horny, don’t they?’ Billy asks, still playing dumb.
‘Yes. There’s that too.’ Albert smiles.
A July breeze of warm air moves through the open window. Sounds float in from the street—birdsong, traffic, the wind through the trees.
‘What else? People die, don’t they?’
‘There are risks, I suppose, but really, the few deaths that have occurred have been the result of carelessness. Overheating, or else over-hydration and all that stuff.’
‘You trying to sell to me?’   
‘Darling Boy, I’m not a drug pusher. I sell to those who use them. If you want to try one, you are more than welcome.’
Billy is surprised by this suggestion. A man of his age, sitting around popping Es, seemed unconventional to say the least. ‘Don’t you worry about stuff?’
‘Like what?’ Albert says, clearing his throat.
‘Short-term memory loss. Alzheimer’s. You read things, don’t you?’
‘When you reach my state of decrepitude, you stop worrying. Look at me, I’m seventy. Nothing wrong with my memory. And, Darling Boy, for every brain cell that has died, a new door has opened to a magical world.’
There’s a wry twinkle in Albert’s eye. ‘People who do drugs always say stuff like that,’ Billy says, deliberately juvenile.
‘I’ve explored corners of my mind which would’ve been otherwise unreachable. It has helped me to recall events from my childhood with incredible clarity.’
‘What about the hard stuff? Done that?’
‘I’ve done everything,’ Albert says.
Billy rubs the insides of his legs in anticipation. ‘Everything?’
‘We live in a chemical world, Billy Monroe. Everyone needs some kind of medicine.’ Billy forgives him the use of his surname. It makes him feel like a pupil being addressed by a teacher but he knows that Albert is playing his game.
‘What for?’ Billy asks.
‘When I’m tired, I snort a little speed. When I’m restless, I have a bit of pot. And if I’m feeling stuck. I mean, if I feel troubled by something, I’ll smoke a bit of opium to help me get through it. If I can’t sleep, I slip a little something in my tea.’
‘Speed? When you’re tired?’
Albert shrugs. ‘From time to time. Gets the vacuuming done.’
‘Albert Power!’ There, switching roles—he’s equal now. ‘You must have a liver like a piece of leather.’ He sits forward, trembling.
Albert stands, moves to the writing bureau, pulls open the front and lifts out a tiny bag of white tablets, shaking out a handful before disappearing through a beaded curtain into the kitchen. A moment later, he returns with two pint glasses of water and sits down next to Billy. Albert places his hand over the table and lets the tablets fall onto the glass surface. For a moment, Billy looks at them. Then he leans and picks one up, rolls it between his thumb and forefinger and examines its tiny logo.
‘Mitsubishi. Bona doobs!’
‘Eh?’ Billy misses the slang again.
‘Don’t you know your Polari, Darling Boy? Doobs. Drugs. These are good ones. Pure MDMA. Lovely trip.’
Billy’s mobile phone buzzes in his pocket. He pulls it out to read the text message. It’s from Jamie.
Really sorry, Billy. Had to work late.
I’m not going to make it.
Billy frowns and stuffs the phone back in his jeans.
‘Problem?’ Albert asks.
‘Not at all.’ He smiles coyly, puts the pill to his mouth, lets it touch his tongue. ‘It tastes bitter,’ he says, pulling a face.
‘Swallow it.’
The glass of water trembles in Billy’s hands. Albert swallows his pill and smiles. ‘See? Not dead yet.’

What do you think of it? Let me know below in the comments!

The Pharmacist is available from Amazon, Gay’s the Word & www.inkandescent.co.uk 

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Justin David is a writer and photographer. A child of Wolverhampton, he has lived and worked in East London for most of his adult life. He graduated from the MA Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, has read at Paul Burston’s literary salon, Polari at Royal Festival Hall, and is a founder member of Leather Lane Writers. His writing has appeared in many print and online anthologies and his debut novella was published by Salt as part of their Modern Dreams series.

Justin is one half of Inkandescent–a new publishing venture with his partner, Nathan Evans. Their first offering, Threads, featuring Nathan’s poetry and Justin’s photography, was long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. It was supported using public funding by Arts Council England and is available in paperback and ebook.

Find him on: Website, Twitter and Goodreads.

[BOOK REVIEW] Women by Mihail Sebastian transl. by Philip Ó Ceallaigh @OtherPress

Women follows Stefan Valeriu who has just finished his medical studies in Paris and who has decided to go to the Alps on a vacation. The reader follows Stefan’s life in which three very different women enter – some as lovers, some merely as, so called, subjects whom Stefan observes. The story is often told from the point of view of Stefan and through him we get a glimpse of divergent relationships.

What initially attracted me when it comes to Women was how the reader who embarks on the journey of reading this novel will experience many stories told by the same man. The stories presented to the reader are about a variety of things – love, passion, regret and most of all life. I especially enjoyed the feel that this novel has because I often read more ‘modern’ fiction and I feel like people [including me] should go back to classics at one point just to cleanse their palette. Women by Mihail Sebastian was such a refreshing read – from the writing to the wonderful translation by Philip Ó Ceallaigh – which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. As I’ve said earlier the novel weaves many themes [empathy, passion etc] and that’s exactly what I found most enjoyable as well as fascinating. The writing is so gorgeous and I found many wonderful quotes about different things that this novel discusses. I especially enjoyed the chapter narrated by/titled Maria as well as the last chapter titled Arabela. The last chapter although short amazed me by how much it actually had in itself – especially the transition from having something in terms of wealth to having nothing and making something out of a bad situation.

‘It terrifies me to think that something can be completely obliterated, that a thing or a person or a feeling or even just something familiar can disappear overnight.’

Women by Mihail Sebastian is truly a rediscovered classic because it offers a gorgeous glimpse of 1930s life and one man’s take on different women who passed through his.

I would like to thank the publisher Other Press 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 the fact that I got this book for free from the publisher.

My rating:

Add ‘Women‘ 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.

Mihail Sebastian was born in Romania in 1907 as Iosif Mendel Hechter. He worked as a lawyer and writer until anti-Semitic legislation forced him to abandon his public career. Having survived the war and the Holocaust, he was killed in a road accident in early 1945 as he was crossing the street to teach his first class. His long-lost diary, Journal 1935-1944: The Fascist Years, was published to great acclaim in the late 1990s. His novel For Two Thousand Years was published in English in 2016.

[REVIEW] A Different Drummer by William Melvin Kelley @QuercusBooks

I first heard of this book from Instagram and Twitter but mostly from Ana [who works at Quercus] who loved this book a lot. What I found amazing is that Quercus gave a copy of A Different Drummer to their employees and gave them a morning off to read it which shows how they feel about it. I am so glad and grateful I had this book sent to me.

‘I mean it seems horrible that the most you can do for people you love is leave them alone.’

In a fictional town called Sutton, one black man, Tucker Caliban, throws salt on his fields, shoots his horse and cow, sets fire to his house and departs Sutton. Along with him other black towns folk follow. From this point the story is told from white towns folk perspective – whether it be male, female, adult or child.

‘It was that gradually, going back as far as I can remember, they kept saying less and less to each other until the time came – this is the time I’m talking about – that they didn’t say anything at all to each other . . . except maybe at night when I guess married people feel most alone, when they realize how little they have in common, and how much they’ve lost.’

I don’t tend to read these stories often but when I do I really appreciate them because I love learning something new from them. When I say ‘these stories’ I mean stories tackling race issues – where I live there are not many black people and it’s predominantly white but I have always been raised to view everyone as equal which I’m grateful for. I found A Different Drummer to be such an interesting read that I teared up a few times while reading it. The ending of the book left me broken because of how people can be cruel and selfish.  I love the idea of telling the story from white people’s POV because it is very fascinating. I have actually raced through at least 200+ pages in a day and finished the book because I found it to be so compelling and the story-telling to be excellent. William Melvin Kelley shows great writing skills and I would absolutely love to read the rest of his works. The story felt and is relevant today and I think more people should get to know this author better by reading A Different Drummer. This is the kind of book that makes you dissect it after you’ve finished it. I honestly don’t know what else to say about this book except that I found it to be so well written considering that the author was 23 at the time.

Read it.

I would like to thank the publisher Quercus Books (Riverrun) and Ana 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: 

Add ‘A Different Drummer‘ to your TBR:  

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William Melvin Kelley was a prominent African-American novelist and short-story writer. He was educated at the Fieldston School in New York and later attended Harvard University (class of 1960), where he won the Dana Reed Prize for creative writing. William Melvin Kelley has been a writer in residence at the State University of New York at Geneseo and has taught at the New School for Social Research. He currently teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. In 2008, he won the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award.

Goodreads

[REVIEW] The Parting Gift by Evan Fallenberg @OtherPress

When it comes to books that feature LGBTQ+ themes I’m all ears so getting a chance to read The Parting Gift was very exciting for me. Oh boy, was this book brilliant! I have to mention the hardcover copy and how brilliantly it was designed. Wow, just wow. Well done Other Press!

The story centers around an unknown narrator who upon coming back from Israel crashes in his friend’s apartment and the book is written in a form of one long letter addressed to that friend, Adam. Since our narrator has found a new location to live in he decides to leave an explanation as to why he came to crash at his place for four months. Our narrator tells Adam the story of Uzi, a spice merchant he met during his trip as well as meeting Uzi’s family, of love, of obsession, of dedication and more.

I think that my summary is enough to read before going in and that’s why I kept it short. I’ve no idea what’s happening lately because I’ve been reading fantastic books – let’s not jinx this because I want to read more fantastic books in the future. I read The Parting Gift in a day because it was so fast-paced and so good that I couldn’t look away. I just made breaks to make more cups of tea. Fallenberg writes so masterfully and keeps your attention at all times and the way he crafted this tale was fantastic. I love how he created the characters in it especially our unknown narrator who is so fascinating and whose psyche I loved examining throughout the book. Unknown narrator is so interesting and his actions made me question many things about him. The story is developed very well and there’s no dull moment in it. If I was to compare this book to other ones I would definitely say that it reminded me of Gone Girl in a way – now I know everything is compared to Gone Girl nowadays but this book really left me with that impression. When I reached the end of The Parting Gift I found myself wanting more and exactly this ability the author has to make the reader want more is what amazes me. I honestly don’t know what else to say because I fear I’ll ruin your experience with this book so just do yourself a favour and pick this book up.

The Parting Gift is a fascinating tale of love, paranoia, jealousy and deviance set in a in a small town north of Tel Aviv.

I would like to thank the publisher Other Press 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: 

Add ‘The Parting Gift‘ 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.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Fallenberg is a graduate of Georgetown University and the MFA program in creative writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts and has lived in Israel since 1985. He is coordinator of fiction for the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University; coordinator of literary translation in the Department of English Literature at Bar-Ilan University; and an instructor in the low-residency MFA program in creative writing at City University of Hong Kong. The recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Vermont Studio Center and the National Endowment for the Arts, Fallenberg serves as an advisor to several literary prizes, including the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. He is the father of two sons.

Find him on: Goodreads

[REVIEW] Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth @PushkinPress

What attracted me to this book was that it’s something different from what I usually read. I wanted to challenge myself and discover a new genre to see how I will perceive it.

The year is 1885, the location Queensland, Australia where racial tensions and land-owning have become big issues. We meet Tommy and his brother Billy who live with their parents and sister Mary on land which their father takes care of, they live a somewhat normal life but all that is about to change when coming from horse-riding they find their parents dead in their own home. Their sister Mary is injured so they decide to take her to John Sullivan, a wealthy land-owner, in seach of help. Both brothers want to find out who murdered their parents and why so they seek help from Sullivan who brings in the mysterious Inspector Noone and they begin their journey.

I have to admit that I have struggled with the first hundred pages of this book because the author went on to describe the lives of both Tommy and Billy into great detail which I didn’t find that necessary – having said that I would’ve cut the book by at least 60-80 pages. I waited for something interesting to happen and by the page one-hundred-and-something I have been revived and sucked into the wild world of both brothers in Queensland. From that point the story became much more interesting but I still felt that it dragged at times with a few details. From page two-hundred the story becomes so compelling that you can’t stop reading because you want to find out more and more. I didn’t feel for most of the characters because they weren’t good people but I did have a soft spot for Tommy, who was kind and intelligent. I love how the author created the ‘drifting apart’ of the two brothers and exactly that enriched the story even more. It’s the 19th century so we see the racial tensions and how awfully people of colour were treated and I have to admit that reading these parts was hard because even though this story is fictional, these things happened in real life. The conclusion to this book was satisfying but a bit melancholic. Even though this is a debut you can see that the author has great skills and great imagination.

Only Killers and Thieves is a story about two brothers who, struck by deaths of their parents, enter a very dangerous world and begin to drift apart from each other set in the 1885’s Queensland, Australia.

I would like to thank the publisher (Pushkin Press) for sending a copy of this book my way in exchange for an honest review. All opinions written here are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

Add ‘Only Killers and Thieves ‘ to your TBR: 

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Paul Howarth was born and grew up in Great Britain before moving to Melbourne in his late twenties. He lived in Australia for more than six years, gained dual citizenship in 2012, and now lives in Norwich, United Kingdom, with his family.

In 2015, he received a master’s degree from the University of East Anglia’s creative writing program, the most prestigious course of its kind in the UK, where he was awarded the Malcolm Bradbury Scholarship.

Find him on: Goodreads, Twitter.

[REVIEW] The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland by Nicolai Houm @PushkinPress

Yes, you are seeing correctly! No need to look twice because Breathing Through Pages is back again with a new review! Praise the lord! I do my best to read and review quickly but sometimes mental health and university get in the way. I will do my best to post reviews more frequently like I used to.

I saw this book a while back on Twitter and what first struck me was its cover which looked so interesting. I came across this book again when I requested Only Killers and Thieves and then I took a closer look at it (read the synopsis) and was SOLD. Trust me, once you read the synopsis you’ll want to find out more about it!

The Gradual Dissappearance of Jane Ashland starts with a woman, who we learn is called Jane, who wakes up in a tent somewhere in the Norwegian mountains. The devices she has which can save her from this situation don’t work so she’s left on her own. Who is Jane? What is she doing there all alone? While reading this novel we get her complete story and slowly get to know what happened to her.

As I’ve mentioned we get Jane’s life story, her university years, her marriage, her visit to her Norwegian cousins and more. Houm slowly paints a picture of Jane and her past which give us a more clear look at who she is and what kind of a person she is. We can see that Jane is a troubled individual and the way she expresses herself shows us exactly that –for example:  in the way she approaches relationships. My personal experience with this novel was positive because I love Houm’s writing style and kudos to the translator for bringing this book to life with her skills. What some people might find confusing and/or annoying will be the switching through stories from her past so you might get lost if you don’t pay attention while reading. I found this part a bit confusing at times because of university so I had to read it in smaller chunks. So listen up kids, better take notes while reading a book because with a lot of new information in your head stuff will get lost.

I would definitely recommend this book to other readers because it’s a read that will be up many people’s alleys with it’s intriguing synopsis and the story inside.

The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland is a novel you’ll be wanting to analyze after you’ve finished it.

I would like to thank the publisher Pushkin Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions written in this review are my own and have not been influenced by anything.

My rating: 

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Born in Norway in 1974, Houm is an exciting new talent and critics have described him as ‘a Norwegian Don De Lillo’ and Norway’s ‘most American author, in the very best sense’. One critic said the novel as ‘combined surgically precise observations with the drive and ingenuity of the best television series’. He has published two novels which were both critically acclaimed in Norway, and this is the first English publication of his work. He works part-time as an editor in publishing house Cappelen Damm, and lives in Lier with his wife and daughter.

Find him on: Author page

[REVIEW] One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel @GrantaBooks

I first came across One of the Boys earlier this year on Instagram so when I requested a different book to read and review I got sent this one too which I was so happy about because of seeing a lot of praise for it.

One of the Boys is a story about two boys and their manipulative father. After their parents divorce they move with their father to Albuquerque to start a new life free from all the mess of divorce. Both of the children go to school and begin having friendships and doing some sports which they’re excited about but what soon happens is that their father begins closing himself into his bedroom, they hear some strange noises during the night and see different people coming and going out of their house. What was an idyllic place soon becomes a nightmare for both of the children and they begin questioning the choices they made.

I hope I have summarised this book well and that you get the idea of the same. I’ll talk about the father figure first because he was a very interesting character. From the beginning of the book I knew that something was off with the father [well yes, because of the synopsis but also because from the start you gt a taste of who he is]. I am amazed at how parents can be so manipulative towards their children and have no remorse [in this case the father had ‘remorse’ if you could call it that but it still didn’t stop what he was doing] for their actions. The way he punished his children was very cruel to me what left a huge impact was the way he punished his child towards the end of the book. I don’t want to spoil anything but when you read this book you’ll get a better understanding of what I’m saying here. It amazes me that even though this is a story, a fictional one, this kind of behaviour is common in some families. I could go on about this book and as you can see even though it has 160 pages it can be analyzed in so many different ways.

One of the Boys is a very short book but a very impactful one. At one-hundred-and-sixty pages this book takes you on a rollercoaster ride of abuse, manipulation and hope.

I would like to thank the publisher Granta Books for sending this book my way in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions written here are my own and have not been influenced by anything.

My rating: 

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Daniel Magariel is an author from Kansas City. His work has appeared in Granta, Lit Hub, Salt Hill, Stop Smiling, and Issue Magazine, among others. One of the Boys, his first novel, was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and Amazon Best Book of 2017, and was published in twelve countries. He has a BA from Columbia University, as well as an MFA from Syracuse University, where he was a Cornelia Carhart Fellow. He currently lives in New York with his wife.

Find him on: Website

[REVIEW + Q&A] The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara @OneworldNews

The House of Impossible Beauties is one of those books you stumble upon once in a while that leave a mark on you. What first attracted me to this book was the topic it deals with plus it being a LGBTQ book it was an immediate add to my to-be-read shelf. What awaits you inside is a story filled with courage, hope and suffering but above all that what this book carries and showcases the most are love and support between each character in it.

Before reading this book I had to watch Paris is Burning because for some reason I wanted to see what exactly inspired this interesting-looking book. The documentary was truly amazing and this book follows the fictionalized lives of some of the real people from the documentary like Dorian Corey, Angel Xtravaganza, Venus Xtravaganza with appearances by some other characters like Pepper Labeija and many more. It mainly focuses on the life of the House of Xtravaganza : Hector, the father of the house, Angel Xtravaganza who is the mother and Venus, Juanito and Daniel. Each new part begins with a chapter narrated by Dorian Corey with her sass and wisdom.

At the beginning of the book we are introduced to each character and chapter by chapter get to know their upbringing stories as well as their lives in the present.  I loved reading their stories because they show the truth behind being a trans person and the judgment they have to face daily because of being trans. What this book offers is a real look at the 1980s, the HIV crisis and the moral people had back then about things that are somewhat accepted in our society [I say somewhat because there are still parts of the world where people look at someone who’s gay or trans with disgust]. These are the sort of stories that need to be told more often because they are so good and they made me feel closer to the T part of the community. I must say that where I come from trans people as well as gay people are treated very harshly because of the religious beliefs people have but nowadays a lot of young people have no judgement towards the LGBTQ community which makes me happy because future generations will be raised without hate towards people who are different.

What makes this book so special to me are the characters in it. I loved reading about them, hearing their stories, passions and their dreams. Throwing shade is the way they communicate at times and I just loved every bit of shade they threw at each other.

The only thing I found as a con is the use of pronouns because at times they were confusing. Some people may find the use of Spanish in the sentences annoying or too much but to me it made the story much more real.

What can I say? This review is a rollercoaster ride and I hope I presented the book and my thoughts in an interesting way that makes you want to pick up and read this marvelous book.

The House of Impossible Beauties is a gorgeous novel about transgender and gay kids set in the 1980s filled with stories that will make you feel every emotion possible. Once you finish reading this book you’ll want to read it again.

I would like to thank the publisher Oneworld Publications for sending this book my way in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own and not influenced in any way.

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.

Joseph Cassara was born and raised in New Jersey. He holds degrees from Columbia University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been a writing fellow at the Fine Arts Centre in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The House of Impossible Beauties is his first novel. He lives in Iowa.

Find him on: Website, Twitter and GoodReads.

 

You can find my Q&A with the author below.
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