Mason Street has turned up back home after a whirlwind five years touring with his eponymous band. The band have crashed and burned, as often such bands do, so Mason Street has returned to lick his wounds.

Having nabbed himself a place to stay with his old mentor Ray, Mason has to face how much things have changed since he has been gone; starting with Ray’s daughter, Avery. Having never really paid much attention to her whilst they were growing up Mason is shocked and quite frankly a little turned on by the woman she has become.

As Mason sets about trying to win Avery’s affections he is quickly awakened to how difficult her life actually is.

Avery is a hero – she tends bar, she looks after her dad, she goes to college and she looks after her 5 year old autistic son, Max.

Avery and Max come as a package. The question is, is Mason man enough to take them both on?

Oh Ginger Scott, what have you done to me?

I recently finished Ginger Scott’s novel How We Deal With Gravity and oh man, I have a book hangover along with a new fictional crush.

Firstly, let’s talk about Mason Street. It is hard not to fall for him; he has charm, charisma and the picture that has been painted in my head means that he is pretty damn attractive too. You cannot help but root for him and hope that he gets the girl because essentially How We Deal With Gravity is a love story. The love spreads further than just between a man and a woman. The love Avery has for her son, Max, bounces off the page. It is about love that happens quickly and suddenly alongside a deep rooted love that has lasted almost a lifetime. So, yeah, it is pretty difficult not to feel the warm and fuzzies when you read it.

The broader issue in the book is that of Autism. Scott tackles the issue head on revealing the low points and the highlights of living with a child with Autism. She isn’t patronising nor is she excessive in her points but she does make you aware of some of the key features of the condition; the routine, the intelligence, the hardships. She really advocates the people who are living with the condition along with those who are living with a person diagnosed with the condition.

How We Deal With Gravity is a great book. I would implore those who like romantic fiction to read it. However, it is an even greater book if you want to get an insight into Autism and those who struggle on a daily basis with the condition.

How We Deal With Gravity by Ginger Scott is available now.

how-we-deal-with-gravity-by-ginger-scott

Miss Prudencia Prim is new to the village; a isolated village in the outskirts of France. She has taken the position of librarian and quick sets about organising the gentleman’s library which is filled with dusty tomes of years gone by. However, Miss Prim quickly realises that not all that goes on in this village is what it seems.

The story focuses on Prudencia Prim and how she adjusts to the people and their (often strange) customs. Miss Prim is always proper and conscientious about the things she says or does. She is fiercely independent and firm in her beliefs and initially finds it hard to adapt or change for anyone or anything; nonetheless, she does find herself warming to the quirks and foibles of the residents in town – even when they make it their town mission to find her a husband.

For me, The Awakening of Miss Prim has echoes of literatures past embedded in the story. I couldn’t help but find that the people of the village came across a bit Stepford Wives, almost like the rules had been changed and the people who live their conditioned to act a certain way. The banter between Prudencia and the man in the wingchair reminded me of Elizabeth and Darcy – quick, cutting and chock full of wit.

However, it was an extremely curious read. The narrative paralleled Miss Prim’s attitude and countenance but what it also did was keep you at arms length. You are watching the story unfold but never fully immerse yourself in it. I think this is supported by the fact that you never learn the male leads name. Everything seems to be kept at a distance. Whether or not that was to replicate some of Miss Prim’s personality is up for interpretation.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was different from what I was expecting and entertaining in its strangeness.

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera is available now.

The awakening of Miss Prim

A trio of women all living in different periods of the 20th century are all held together by a genetic link. One that will see them pass in and out of each other’s lives over the course of sixty years.

Our first heroine, Jessie is living in France. After being abandoned by her husband she begins to rely on kindness of strangers to get by; transforming herself from Jessie to Perdita – muse, socialite and lover of a famous artist.

Next comes Baba McCleod aka Lisa La Touche, a Hollywood starlet, maker of her own destiny and big dreamer. Her success comes during the pre-World War II period but after she has been left in a delicate way from an affair with a married actor Lisa has some big decisions to make. Can she leave the glitz and glamour of Tinsletown behind?

And finally there is Cat. She is the most strong willed and independent of the three; a photographer who throws herself into the most dangerous situations. Her adventures happen amidst a backdrop of sixties decadence along with the darker side of the decade – focussing on the political unrest of a period of history that saw dramatic social and political upheaval.

Kate Beufoy’s stunning novel was based of letters that her grandmother had written just after the First World War. She was working in France and fell in love with painter. The letters, along with a dress from Liberty’s of London and other artefacts became the premise of this story.

This is a wonderful novel; the three generations of remarkable, strong willed, determined women that had to fight against societal constraints to stay afloat is one that we all should want to read. Beaufoy has managed to capture three very distinct voices and separate them into three different historical backdrops (that in my opinion acted as tertiary characters throughout the novel) and makes you empathise and fight for each one of them. It truly is a love story in both the conventional and non-conventional sense.

I loved this Liberty Silk. From the very first page I was transported into a different world. I was both titillated and impressed with how seamlessly Beaufoy mixed fact and fictionby introducing famous figures of the 20th century – such as Zelda Fitzgerald and The Beatles et al – into the story like they had a purpose in the narrative. However, I was more in awe of how much heart this story had. It was heartbreaking and heart warming in equal measure and I am genuinely sad that I have finished reading it.

Liberty Silk by Kate Beaufoy is available now.

liberty silk

Today, July 3rd 2014, saw the release of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. The story centres on Nella Oortman who has left the comforts of a country life that she knows and loves because she has married a successful merchant from Amsterdam. This union, arranged by her mother, is the complete antithesis of what Nella believes to be a good marriage. Her childhood dreams of marrying for love and doing everything that is expected of a good wife are quickly shattered when she enters the home of her husband, Johannes Brandt. She is quickly reminded of her place by her formidable sister-in-law, Marin and she can’t quite get the measure of Johannes who refuses to share their marital bed and only converses with Nella when he is forced to. The only sign of affection (and indeed acknowledgment of their nuptials) comes in the form of a dollhouse that Johannes has specially made as a wedding gift for Nella; one that replicates the Brandt household.

Things aren’t quite as they seem in the Brandt household and Nella finds herself trapped in a world whereby she doesn’t know anyone, she isn’t being supported by her husband or his sister. She has no control over anything. That is until all the secrets and lies begin to unfold.

Admittedly, it took me a while to get fully immersed into The Miniaturist. I could appreciate straight away how atmospheric the novel was and that there was a story itching to be told, I just found it a little slow to begin with. However, as the story begins to unravel it became very hard to put the book down. The parallels between Johannes and Marin’s story are captivating and complex and are held together through both of their burgeoning relationship with Nella, who swiftly becomes the glue to a family that is crumbling around her.

This multifaceted novel explores themes of betrayal, lust, race, sexuality and loyalty. It is hard to determine which of these themes takes precedent. However, the underlying paradox that it is all taking place in a macrocosmic allegory of a dollhouse. Burton manages to make you care about each of these issues. Much in the same way that she makes you care about these characters, even when you don’t necessarily agree with their actions.

Overall, The Miniaturist is one of those books that will stay with you once you have read it, however, for me personally it was a slow burner.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is available now.

The Miniaturist cover

As you may have seen (if you have read my previous post A Month in the Life of a Book Addict) I am addicted to books. I am not ashamed of this addiction…although I am slightly worried about my inability to stop buying books and also the structural integrity of my home under all the weight of the paper. I love books of all kinds and from most genres. If there are words on something I will give it a read – there is no prejudice here. An often told anecdote in my family is how I used to take forever with my breakfast because I would be reading the cereal packet.

It has been said (although not over my aforementioned breakfast table) that when you see someone reading a book you like it is the book recommending the person…or something to that effect. What I have noticed about myself recently is that a new reading habit has emerged. I like reading books about books. I am drawn to knowing what authors are recommending, why they liked the book, what was going on in their lives during this time. Frequently, the books that they mention make it to my book wish list even though I have far too many to read as it is. My Kindle books are in the thousands, my NetGalley downloads are becoming silly and my actual physical copies already manifest two small shelves, one large double layered shelf and I have had to purchase a further six tier double layer shelf for the overspill.

Quite frankly, this amount of literature is daunting. When you think about it and you do the maths I will probably never read all the books that I own. This will not be through lack of trying. At thirty years old, let us say that I am (optimistically) a third of the way through my life. Let us also imagine that I average one book a week (this is a very conservative estimate) that means I only have approximately 3,120 books left to read. This is terrible. In those optimistic sixty years that I have left there are bound to be more books that are released that I want to read. I am mathematically screwed.

However, that does not stop me reading books about books which kind of negate the whole point of reading books; books which deserve to be read.

That being said, here are three of the best ones that I have read recently.

 

The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

As some of you may or may not know, I almost died this year. If you didn’t know then you can read all about it here – My IBD Story. However, I didn’t die but recuperation has taken (and is still taking) a long time. Since being out of hospital I have spent my days reading; consuming books with a vociferous appetite. A book that I happened to stumble across was this delightful little gem – The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails.

Broken down into its simplest form it is a book that looks at what illness or condition that you have and directs you to the best literature to make you feel better. So say you are fatigued or you suffer from insomnia or you are an alcoholic or you have period pain this book has the answer for you. It is great because you can dip in and out of it or you can do what I did and read it from A to Z. A lot of the joy comes from seeing the writers mention a book that you have read.

This is definitely the quirkiest book that I have read this year and one that I will probably be giving out to my friends at Christmas time.

 

The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life by Andy Miller

Ok. I admit it. I was seduced by the title. Escaping near death made me hungry for adventure; safe adventure mind, nothing more daring than perhaps a paper cut from a new book purchase. Also, having nearly died this year (have I mentioned that I nearly died?) I wanted to see if literature could save my life too. Heck it had already cured my ails; and it had also cured my boredom – seriously sitting in bed getting better for a few months takes its toll on the levels of boredom. So with eagerness I picked up this tome from Andy Miller and you know what, I am awfully glad that I did.

Why you may ask. Well let me tell you. This book was special. The premise being that we all fib a little bit about literature. We have said we love a book when never having really read it just so we can stay in the conversation or even just to make ourselves look smarter.

I myself have never lied about this…well that is technically not true. I have a mini confession. Well two really. The first is that I have never made it all the way through Anna Karenina. I got to the book about the fields and I just kind of gave up. Yet on my Goodreads account I still have this Tolstoy classic listed as a book that I am currently reading. I have technically been currently reading it for near on fourteen years. I will finish this book one day. No. I will start it afresh. I will not be beaten by a man and his love for his fields.

My second confession is that I can’t actually remember if I have read Little Women or not. I know what you are thinking. How could someone not remember reading a classic like Little Women? The thing is that I know the story so well. I just can’t remember if that has come from watching the movie or reading the book. Therefore I have added this to my ‘to-be-read’ list. At least then I will know that I am not a literature fraudster.

What I liked about this book was that Miller allowed you to see how and why books mean so much to him and how they shape aspects of his life. I both respect and relate to that. Again, the titillation came from knowing that I had read certain books. Miller did have a lot on his list that I had never even heard of and so I am now keen to read some of them too.

My book wish list had increased by at least 20 at the end of reading it. This does not bode well for me.

 

Stuff I’ve Been Reading by Nick Hornby

I have recently found myself on a Nick Hornby kick. I read Juliet, Naked and A Long Way Down among others. I even did a crazy eBay order which mean accidentally purchased two copies of High Fidelity. I loathed the film even with my bizarre crush on John Cusack but I wanted to give the book a whirl.

Anyway, when I was in my local library I saw this book and I thought to myself “Hey, I like Nick Hornby’s writing. I wonder if we have any books in common.” Out of the plethora of books featured in this book (which happens to be a collection of his articles from Believer magazine – which is, to my knowledge, not affiliated with Justin Bieber or his fan base) I had read three of them. Three. Now I consider myself well read so this low number is shocking but I guess this is what happens when you read books about books rather than reading book books.