Title: How it Was

Author: Janet Ellis

Pages: 427 Pages

Publisher: John Murray Press/Two Roads

The Blurb

Marion Deacon sits by the hospital bed of her dying husband, Michael. Outwardly she is, as she says, an unremarkable old woman. She has long concealed her history – and her feelings – from the casual observer. But as she sits by Michael’s bed, she’s haunted by memories from almost forty years ago…

Marion Deacon is a wife and mother, and not particularly good at being either. It’s the 1970s and in her small village the Swinging 60s, the wave of feminism, the prospect of an exciting life, have all swerved past her. Reading her teenage daughter’s diary, it seems that Sarah is on the threshold of getting everything her mother Marion was denied, and Marion cannot bear it – what she does next has terrible and heart-breaking consequences for the whole family.

The Review

After finishing How It Was by Janet Ellis I was left feeling conflicted. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling and then it hit me. I was unsatisfied. Not by the novel, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading How It Was but Janet Ellis has brilliantly managed to make her reader feel the same sense of ennui that her protagonist feels.

Ellis perfectly balances displaying the humdrum but also making you feel the desire that Marion Deacon feels for a different life. The novels languorous pace highlights the stifled feelings of our protagonist who takes any kind of excitement where she can and her lack of appreciation for the things that she has.

How It Was isn’t a frenetic novel.  You keep pace with the mundane existence of the characters everyday lives which allows you to feel things as they happen. It is a novel that shows the consequences of wanting for more or thinking that the grass is always greener. It is almost a warning of be careful what you wish for.

How it Was by Janet Ellis is available now.

For more information regarding Janet Ellis (@missjanetellis) please visit http://janetellis.com.

For more information regarding John Murray Press (@johnmurrays) please visit www.johnmurraypress.co.uk.

For more information regarding Two Roads (@TwoRoadsBooks) please visit www.tworoadsbooks.com.

Title: Cunk on Everything: The Encyclopaedia Philomena

Author: Philomena Cunk

Pages: 304 Pages

Publisher: Two Roads

The Blurb

Philomena Cunk is one of the greatest thinkers of the 21st century, and in Cunk on Everything she turns her attention to our biggest issue: why are there so many books? Wouldn’t it be better if there was just one? This is that book – an encyclopedia of ALL HUMAN KNOWLEDGE, from sausages to Henry of Eight to Brush Strokes to vegetarian sausages.

Read it, and you’ll never have to read another book again.

 (AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

Cunk on Britain was the funniest program on TV last year. Diana Morgan’s character Philomena Cunk explained the history of Britain in an entertaining way…if not a little bit inaccurate.

I received a copy of Cunk on Everything from my fiancé for Christmas (coincidentally I had also bought him a copy – freaky deaky). I read it every couple of days, laughing along with the absurdity of some of the sayings but if I am completely honest it needs the deadpan tone of Philomena Cunk to really get the entertainment value up.

I think I will listen to the Audiobook and see if that makes a difference.

Cunk on Everything: The Encyclopaedia Philomena by Philomena Cunk is available now.

For more information regarding Philomena Cunk (@CunkPhilomena) please visit here Twitter page.

For more information regarding Two Roads (@TwoRoadsBooks) please visit www.tworoadsbooks.com.

The Blurb

New York, 1895. It’s late on a warm city night when Sylvan Threadgill, a young night soiler who cleans out the privies behind the tenement houses, pulls a terrible secret out from the filthy hollows: an abandoned newborn baby. An orphan himself, Sylvan was raised by a kindly Italian family and can’t bring himself to leave the baby in the slop. He tucks her into his chest, resolving to find out where she belongs.

Odile Church is the girl-on-the-wheel, a second-fiddle act in a show that has long since lost its magic. Odile and her sister Belle were raised in the curtained halls of their mother’s spectacular Coney Island sideshow: The Church of Marvels. Belle was always the star-the sword swallower-light, nimble, a true human marvel. But now the sideshow has burnt to the ground, their mother dead in the ashes, and Belle has escaped to the city.

Alphie wakes up groggy and confused in Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum. The last thing she remembers is a dark stain on the floor, her mother-in-law screaming. She had once walked the streets as an escort and a penny-Rembrandt, cleaning up men after their drunken brawls. Now she is married; a lady in a reputable home. She is sure that her imprisonment is a ruse by her husband’s vile mother. But then a young woman is committed alongside her, and when she coughs up a pair of scissors from the depths of her agile throat, Alphie knows she harbors a dangerous secret that will alter the course of both of their lives…

On a single night, these strangers’ lives will become irrevocably entwined, as secrets come to light and outsiders struggle for acceptance. From the Coney Island seashore to the tenement-studded streets of the Lower East Side, a spectacular sideshow to a desolate asylum, Leslie Parry makes turn-of-the-century New York feel alive, vivid, and magical in this luminous debut. In prose as magnetic and lucid as it is detailed, she offers a richly atmospheric vision of the past marked by astonishing feats of narrative that will leave you breathless.

The Review

I’d like to thank the lovely people over at BookBridgr for sending me a review copy of Church of Marvels.

Ok, firstly let me say that I love literature set in the Victorian period. I also love books set in New York. Equally, I love books that have a quirky setting like a circus. Unfortunately, I did not find myself loving Church of Marvels. I liked it but I couldn’t say that it was a book that drew a huge emotional response from me.

At times I felt that the description was so heavy that it bogged you down. Perry tells you how everything is that you didn’t really have space to paint a mental picture yourself. However, she did create a dramatic sense of atmosphere and that isn’t easy to do. I can honestly say that I did feel like I was in the darkened underbelly of New York.

The story is made up of three narrative threads: Alphie, Sylvan and Odile. Odile is on the search for her twin sister who has gone missing; Sylvan has found an abandoned baby and he sets out to figure out who the mother is thus putting himself at great risk an Alphie has been taken to an asylum and cannot figure out how to escape. The three story threads are all interesting and they do all link together, however, it takes a long time for this to happen and makes the story feel like a bit of a slow burner. You find yourself trudging through the text rather than racing through the pages.

One thing that is exceptional about Church of Marvels is Parry’s haunting and atmospheric description of the asylum. It is evocative and I personally found it quite terrifying. Praise has to be given for the sheer terror that she instilled in me.

Whilst Church of Marvels does have a slow start, once the story develops it does get much better. It is mindblowingly so. Parry is a master of the plot twist shock and reveal. If you like a book to completely knock you off your feet then you should definitely give Church of Marvels a read.

Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry is available now.

Church of Marvels