Book of the Week, Young Adult

Book of the Week: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

It was a close call for BotW this week (I like it when that happens) – with Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians deserving an honourable mention here for being utterly readable and totally cracktastic. But my favourite thing I read last week was Patrick Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
My copy – which has a few marks from the commute…

Have you ever wondered what the rest of the kids were doing while Buffy and the Scooby Gang were off saving the world?  You know, the ones who voted Buffy class defender at the prom – who admitted that they knew there was something strange about Sunnydale and that she always seemed to turn up to fix it?  Or the rest of the kids at Hogwarts while Harry is busy fighting Voldemort?  The ones who aren’t The Chosen One(s)?  Well this is the book for you.  The Rest of Us Just Live here follows Mikey and his friends in the run up to graduation.

At the start of the book, it’s under 5 weeks away and weird things are starting to happen in the town.   It’s not the first time this has happened – and as always it’s the Indie kids who are fighting whatever the evil is that’s descended on town this time.  Mikey and his gang aren’t Indie Kids (you need a name like Satchel or Finn to belong) so they just see the blue lights, the zombie deer and worry that the high school is going to get blown up (again).  Each chapter starts with a summary of what the Indie Kids are up to and then you get into the nitty gritty of the daily life of Mikey and his friends.  And they have problems of their own.  Sure it’s not zombies or vampires – but alcoholism, eating disorders, Alzheimers, ambitious parents (of various types), OCD and being worshipped by cats and Mountain Lions are pretty tough too.

I’ve seen some criticism of this book for not a lot happening or being boring – but I never felt that at all.  What the kids are going through may not be as dramatic as fighting flesh eating monsters, but it’s important – and it’s relatable.  I was swept up in the dramas of what was happening in the kids lives – and I identified with them.  I wasn’t the popular kid at school and although I loved Buffy I would never have managed to be in her gang, but I did feel like I might have made Mikey’s team.

It is more low key than many other YA high school novels and it’s not as angsty and melodramatic as them either, but it’s touching and bittersweet and in it’s own way wryly funny.  If you’ve read all the stories about the Chosen Ones and want another side to the story, then this might well be the book for you especially if you’re a teenager or a student.  After all the schools are back, the novelty of a new year and new teachers has worn off and it’s nice to be reminded that as bad as your school life is, it could be much worse.

Get your copy from Amazon, Kindle, Kobo, Waterstones or Foyles or wherever fine books are sold.  Happy reading!

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: September 19 – September 25

Back to reality this week – and the book list is back to a more normal (for me) size.  It would be longer, but I’ve been exerting myself to finish the Prince Leopold biography which is proving something of a slog…

Read:

Christmas Present by Jodi Taylor

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

They Both Liked Dogs by Elinor M Brent Dyer

Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood.

Started:

No Time Like the Past by Jodi Taylor

Murder Out of Tune by Lesley Cookman

Still reading:

The Underground Railroad by Coulson Whitehead

Dustbowl Girls by Lydia Reeder

Queen Victoria’s Youngest Son by Charlotte Zeepvat

I was really well behaved and only bought one book this week – and it was a second-hand one from the Book Barge we encountered on a day out.  I got a couple of free kindle books though…

Adventure, Book of the Week, reviews, Thriller

Book of the Week: The Barista’s Guide to Espionage

You may have noticed that a week on the beach means that I’ve read a lot of books and whilst I have been bingeing a little on Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St Mary’s series (and Margery Allingham to a lesser extent) my favourite book last week was Dave Sinclair’s The Barista’s Guide to Espionage.

I’ve said elsewhere that this book is what would happen if Stephanie Plum had James Bond’s baby – and according to the publisher that was what the author was going for, so big success there.

And to be honest, what more could you want.  Eva Destruction’s mistake – and this isn’t a spoiler because it’s in the blurb on Goodreads – is that her ex-boyfriend is a billionaire super villain who is trying to take over the world. So far Harry’s masterplan appears to be working – but there’s a dashing spy trying to thwart his plan – and if he can get Eva into bed at the same time as bringing Harry down so much the better.  This all unfolds slightly out of order, just to keep you in even more suspense as Eva tries to work out which side is the right side to be one – after all Harry did buy her a castle of her very own…

Cover of The Baristas Guide to Espionage
How can you not love a book with a cover like this?!

This is so, so, so much fun.  I mean, Eva blazes through this book, living up to her name with the trail of wreckage in her wake.  And Harry the Billionaire is really well done – he has enough moments of being really human that you can see why Eva struggles to side against him at time – he’s not like a Bond villain were you know the only reason he’s attracted his female hangers-on is because he’s rich*.  This unravels like an action  movie – with set pieces scattered across the world and bluffs and double bluffs galore.  I can’t wait for the sequel – and hopefully the movie.

This was another book which came to me via my Fahrenheit Press subscription – which has already given me previous BotW’s Murder Quadrille, Black Rubber Dress and Death of a Nobody as well as a bunch of other excellent books which have been in the running.  Fahrenheit Press are starting to bring out physical copies of their books, but as yet, the only place you can get this is on Kindle but it’s definitely worth £2.95 of your hard-earned money.

Happy reading!

 

*Except May Day.  I think she likes Zorin because he’s mad and lets her be violent (and he’s rich, and younger than most Bond villains).

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: September 12 – September 18

Can you tell that I’ve been on holiday?  Lazy days on the beach and even lazier evenings on the patio mean lots and lots of reading time.  And then there was the flight home on Saturday.  Lots and lots of lovely books – and a mix of fiction and non-fiction too.  This may be the first time I’ve been on holiday and read all the paperbacks I took with me too!

Read:

Dancers in Mourning by Margery Allingham

The Book Club Murders by Leslie Nagel

Primary Colors by Anonymous

A Proposal to Die For by Vivian Conroy

Discovery of Desire by Susanne Lord

The Sex Lives of English Women by Wendy Jones

The Barista’s Guide to Espionage by Dave Sinclair

A Second Chance by Jodi Taylor

Death of a Ghost by Margery Allingham

A Trail Through Time by Jodi Taylor

When A Child is Born by Jodi Taylor

A Roman Holiday by Jodi Taylor

Started:

Dustbowl Girls by Lydia Reeder

Queen Victoria’s Youngest Son by Charlotte Zeepvat

Still reading:

The Underground Railroad by Coulson Whitehead

The holiday meant reduced opportunities for physical book buying – but I did buy a few on the kindle – a couple of Chronicles of St Mary’s novels and novellas and a little spending spree in Gollancz’s ebook sale.

Book of the Week, non-fiction, reviews

Book of the Week: A Kim Jong-il Productiom

A nonfiction pick for BotW this week – but the story it tells is so incredible that it reminds me of an essay I wrote at university about the statement “Literature has to be plausible, history only has to be true”. And whilst I don’t remember what I wrote in the essay (although I do remember it got a first after much panicking and a session with my tutor where I learnt the “Ron” method of essay writing), this book really does prove that the truth can be stranger than fiction.


So Paul Fischer’s A Kim Jong-il Production tells the story of the kidnapping of South Korea’s biggest female movie star and her ex-husband, the country’s most famous director/producer who were snatched by North Korea as part of a plan to overhaul the county’s film industry.  But as well as the story of the kidnapping, it’s also a bit of a potted history of the two countries, the ties that bind them, that separate then and a truly mind-blowing insight into the workings (or otherwise) of the world’s most secretive state.

Now I work in news and I’m a history graduate (albeit one who did mainly European history, and avoided anything before 1066) and I like to think that I’m fairly well up on world events and current affairs, but my mind was honestly boggled by the goings on in this book – not just the stuff from the country ruled by the crazy dictator and his family, but also by the intermittent chaos and military rule going on in South Korea. I can (just) remember the Seoul Olympic Games, and it seemed incredible to me that just a few years before the country’s president was assassinated – and tanks were on the street.

If I have a criticism of  book, it’s that it sometimes seemed to be taking a long time to get to the actual kidnapping, but given my (as I now know) woeful understanding of the wider picture and the situation leading up to the main event (so to speak) I can let Paul Fischer off the hook.  I feel like I learned a lot over the course of the book as well as being thoroughly engrossed in the story.

The Boy practically snatched this out of my hand as I fished it so that he could read it and he’s already two thirds of the way through. I guess if you already know a lot about the history of the two Koreas, this might be repeating some old ground, but if you’re anything like me, I think you’ll find it fascinating, bonkers and just a little bit scary – and very glad you weren’t born in North Korea.

Happy reading.

books, stats, The pile, week in books

The Week In Books: September 5 – September 11

 Now that is much more like it. Lots of reading done this week and some good stuff in there. I suspect the Coulson Whitehead may take me a while to read – the writing is beautiful but by golly is the story tough. 

Read:

The Pursuit by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

You’re the One that I Want by Angela Britnell

Pumpkins in Paradise by Kathi Daley

The House in Quill Court by Charlotte Betts

Michelangelo’s Ghost by Gigi Pandian

Clockwork Gold by Jenny Schwartz

Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon

Louisiana Longshot by Jana Deleon

A Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer

Started:

 The Underground Railroad by Coulson Whitehead

 Dancers in Mourning by Margery Allingham

Primary Colors by Anonymous 

Still reading:

N/a

The only book I bought this week is Margaret Atwood’s new graphic novel Angel Catbird. Check me being better at impulse control!

Book of the Week, reviews, women's fiction

Book of the Week: The Madwoman Upstairs

This week’s BotW was a tough decision, with two books in serious contention.  But in the end I’ve picked Catherine Lowell’s debut novel The Madwoman Upstairs.  The other contender, Brenda Bowen’s Enchanted August, also gets an honourable mention – and if you’re looking for a rich people problems summer holiday book, set on an island in Maine (and inspired by Elizabeth von Arnim’s Enchanted April) this would make a good read for you – I’ve already lent it to my mum. But I digress.

My copy of The Madwoman Upstairs
This week’s fetching photo was taken on the train, where I read 300 pages in two trips!

The Madwoman Upstairs tells the story of Samantha Whipple, the last remaining descendant of the Bronte family, starting at university and trying to avoid the attention that her family name has always brought her.  She had an unconventional childhood, brought up by her eccentric father, who died in a fire, and who, it’s rumoured, left her a treasure trove of secret Bronte documents.  As far as Samantha knows, the mysterious Bronte literary estate doesn’t exist – or if it does no one’s told her about it.  Then she receives a copy of a Bronte novel, annotated by her dad, and finds herself caught up in a literary treasure hunt, set by her father.  She sets out to solve it, helped – or hindered – by her handsome but cantakerous and combative personal tutor.

I’m not a big Bronte fan.  I’ve read Jane Eyre once, tried to read Wuthering Heights several times and never made it, and gave up on the TV adaptation of Tennant of Wildfell Hall.  However I seem to be reading increasing numbers of Bronte-themed/based books – and really enjoying them.  This isn’t quite up their with The Eyre Affair, which is my all-time favourite, but I liked it even more Jane Steel (a BotW a few months back) – which was promising at the start but faded a little.  This keeps the pace going to the very end – which left me having a spoiler-filled moment on Litsy (I added spoiler tags don’t worry) because I had Thoughts I needed to put out there.  It’s really fun and quite funny – although I wouldn’t precisely call it a “a light-hearted literary comedy” as some of the tag lines would have it* – I was thinking more darkly comic in places.

I’ve already lent this out to a friend – I suspect my mum may want to read it as well, and I think this would generally be a great book to read as the schools go back, starting as it does with Samantha arriving at university.  But equally if you’re off on a late summer break, this would keep you engrossed and smiling on the plane (or on the beach).

I was lucky enough to have an advance copy which was paperback, but sadly it’s only out in hardback at the moment.  You can get a copy from Amazon, Kindle, Kobo, Waterstones, Foyles – or pre-order the paperback for a nice treat you’d forgotten you’d bought when it arrives in April – on Amazon and Waterstones.

Happy Reading

*I see the paperback cover – and the current ebook cover feels much lighter and less gothic than the cover I had, which fits with the light-hearted comedy idea much better than the one which I have.