Monday, July 18, 2016

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Multiple award winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction following Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things--which includes a never-before published American Gods story, "Black Dog," written exclusively for this volume.

In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction--stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013--as well "Black Dog," a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In "Adventure Story"--a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane--Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience "A Calendar of Tales" are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year--stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother's Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale "The Case of Death and Honey". And "Click-Clack the Rattlebag" explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we're all alone in the darkness.

A sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements, Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day.
I admit I am very much subjective when it comes to Gaiman, but I cannot help it. He is this amazing magician and hits the spot every single time with me! I swear he must be reading my mind and using it to enthral me, to make me fall in love with all his works.
Trigger Warning is a short story and poem collection by Neil Gaiman intent on finding those little pressure points that cause the most unease and arouse reflection, maybe even disturb you a mite.
Gaiman travels far and wide in this collection, from the last of the Time Lords to Sherlock Holmes and honey bees, from the fancifully dark fairy tale to Shadow from American Gods travelling through my home region of the Peak District encountering ghosts and murder.
There's far too many stories and favourites to mention them all but safe to say I enjoyed this immensely, Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors and an incredibly talented guy. The absolute perfect medium to pull back that thin veil between worlds and explore the darkness beyond. A simply masterful story teller.

Just as captivating is Neil Gaiman himself talking about the stories and those little triggers, things that upset us, leave our heart beating overtime, shock, not gore but mind messing at its best.5FOXGIVEN

Pax by Sara Pennypacker, Jon Klassen

Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their independent struggles to return to one another against all odds. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Peter and Pax.
When I first saw this book advertised, I did an anticipation-dance while drooling over that cover. You know me... At the sight of foxes I collapse and melt into a mush ball of Awww. 
By all means it is no average children's box. It is harsh, dark and real. A heavy story that easily brings you to tears. It has war, and nature, and violence, and death, and love, and duty, and loyalty and sacrifice. It is everything. What I'm saying is: I went into Pax expecting to have my heart ripped out. In fact, I wanted it. As soon as I heard this was a moving story about a boy and his pet fox, my tear ducts got ready for action. But, unfortunately, it just missed the mark for me.
I believe it was the ending that took the breath out of it. It definitely wasn't what I wanted to happen, still it didn't rob the book it anyway. Some scenes are graphic which will make animal lovers cringe but I like that the author was brutally honest in the effects of war. My only complaint is that the ending was rather abrupt, realistic but abrupt.
Other than that... Excellence!

Shadowboxing With Bukowski by Darrell Kastin

Shadowboxing with Bukowski is the tragicomic, cautionary tale of a young bookseller who struggles to keep his bookstore afloat in the harbour town of San Pedro, CA, where the infamous Charles Bukowski resides. Pushed to the edge by events beyond his control: his flailing marriage, the curmudgeonly ghost of the former owner, and the community that sees him as an outsider, the intrepid book lover fights the noble battle against mediocrity and apathy while in a moment of desperation his wife enlists Bukowski’s aid.
Give me a bookstore story, library story, authors struggle's story and I am sold at hello. This book was a rare treat of the very, very good ones. Not for everyone thought, but those who love it, are gonna love it forever! Much like Bukowskian novel, this one you either hate, or fall for at the very beginning.
It is not grand, it is definitely not epic... but it is a classic case of brilliance. Edgy, yet very much humane, the novel tells the story of a guy who is mostly human, with his ups and downs. A quirky read for everyone who'd enjoy a well build character. 
The book is very much the internal monologue of the protagonist and is by turns humorous and tragic. Kastinovich seems always to want something more than his life is able to offer him, whether it's the romance he engineers with one of his customers, or the excitement of love notes exchanged with his wife's alter ego. However, there is no escaping the fact that he is running a business into the ground. 
My inner literature snob was DROLLING ALL OVER IT!!!!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.
The Nightingale, has been by far one of the most touching novels I have read lately. It has been on my TBR pile for, I am ashamed to admit, over 9 months now. It has been sitting there, quietly waiting its turn to impress me.
I don't regret one bit postponing this one, for it delivered big time and made amends for all disappoints through the last 9 months. This book owned my heart. The ending ripped my heart out and left me mourning. Two packs of tissues were needed and a deeply appreciated ice cream box was well exploited. It is a story that you'd never forget.
I would cancel on any prior engagements for reading this deep, loving story about the strength, endurance, sacrifice, and courage of women in the darkest of time. This book is honest in portraying the events that occurred to these characters, but not overly graphic. It doesn't need to be. The things that happen, and they way they are told are so powerful that you feel them. There are some scenes though that are hard to read because they are quite painful and I'll warn that there may be triggers for some people, but then again, this is a story that takes place during a brutal war. There's everything you can expect from such a story - brutal firefights, prison camps, beatings, near starvation, sacrifice... but there is also hope, resilience, survival. As I neared the end of the book, during the last few pages, tears began to pour down my face. It was achingly beautiful.
I cannot say enough good things about this book, it is a true masterpiece of WWII years, and although it is a work of fiction, there is so much realism to it, it took me totally away to that period of time. Ms. Hannah very definitely outdid herself with this book.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Other Einstein: A Novel by Marie Benedict

A vivid and mesmerising novel about the extraordinary woman who married and worked with one of the greatest scientists in history.

What secrets may have lurked in the shadows of Albert Einstein’s fame? His first wife, Mileva “Mitza” Marić, was more than the devoted mother of their three children—she was also a brilliant physicist in her own right, and her contributions to the special theory of relativity have been hotly debated for more than a century.

In 1896, the extraordinarily gifted Mileva is the only woman studying physics at an elite school in Zürich. There, she falls for charismatic fellow student Albert Einstein, who promises to treat her as an equal in both love and science. But as Albert’s fame grows, so too does Mileva’s worry that her light will be lost in her husband’s shadow forever.

A literary historical in the tradition of The Paris Wife and Mrs. Poe, The Other Einstein reveals a complicated partnership that is as fascinating as it is troubling.
You wouldn't believe the state of excitement that overcame me when I finally got my hands on this book. I was jumping around, doing my little happy dance and beaming little balls of glitter all over my kitchen. There are no words that could even vaguely give at least a poor image of the way I looked on the verge of what I sincerely considered the book of the year.
There is no point in telling you that I curled up into my reading nook and started reading. But as soon as I reached page two I knew something was off. I couldn't connect with the lines as I usually do, there was something seriously out of place. As I kept on reading it became more and more visible, this was definitely  not what I expected from The Other Einstein. 
The mechanics of the novels were crippled in a way I cannot really explain. The actual conflict was pushed so far ahead in the novel that by the time I actually reached it, it felt out of the place and pointless. This left me feeling cheated, and definitely didn't satisfy my genuine interest in the book. I haven't signed up for a crippled love story, I wanted my scientific conflict, my gender struggle, my strong female character. 
Instead I found myself frustrated at best: Mileva was like a toy that was pushed around without any power of her own. She was a smart, but a sad doll. I couldn’t understand what Mileva saw in Albert which made Benedict’s emphasis of their union rather awkward. The issue was exacerbated further by Benedict’s interpretation of Albert. The famed scientist is difficult at best, but her portrayal is so far from his cultural legacy that it alienates those with any sort of appreciation for him.

The saddest part of the whole narration was the suffocating feeling that it left you with. 
The injustices Mileva faced are extraordinary, but Benedict’s presentation is nothing short of plain. Instead of being able to embed a feeling of whatever emotion, Benedict managed to kill them all, leaving you numbed and unattached. Not once did I feel the sting of unshed rears, even in scenes made for an emotional response from the reader. Intellectual responses—anger at Einstein’s behaviour for example, or annoyance at Mileva’s strange decisions, yes, but not empathy for the characters. 
All  I can say is, I was deeply disappointed with The Other Einstein.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Tulip by Anna Pavord

The Tulip is not a gardening book. It is the study of a flower that has made men mad. Greed, desire, anguish and devotion have all played their part in the development of the tulip into the world-wide phenomenon it is today. No other flower has ever carried so much cultural baggage; it charts political upheavals, illuminates social behaviour, mirrors economic booms and busts, plots the ebb and flow of religious persecution. Pavord tells how the tulip arrived from Turkey and took the whole of Western Europe by storm. Sumptuously illustrated from a wide range of sources, this volume should become a unique source book, a universal gift book and a joy to all who possess it.
Tulips... they are the most perfect creation in the world... Most women would melt at the sight of a rose... for me it is Tulips. Trying to win me over... show up with white Tulips and we will get along just fine. So when my boyfriend gifted me with this precious book on my name day I melted( We celebrate name days in Eastern Europe: it is like a second birthday.. but hey would you complain if you get more presents?! I wouldn't!).
The book is filled with all those worthy names, impossible dates and genera Tulipa which made it a very heavy reading. But when you see that Anna Pavord is not only a journalist but also a professional gardener and author of serious gardening books, you can understand why parts of "The Tulip" rip along as if a historical novel and others become very heavy and documentary. Personally, I had no problem with the language or the facts, hey, I am a British Major after all, but I understand why some might find it an overwhelming read. For me 'The Tulip' is the perfect coffee-table book to delve in and out of.
Impressively researched, engagingly written, it is a product of love and devotion. It is not for the common reader, that is why it is so daftly misunderstood... This is not a book to read on one go, it is a book you come back to over and over... Forever. Every time you'll find something different. That's a book for the real readers, it is not a paperback that you just read and toss, never to think or remember about. I am sorry, if that offends all the people who didn't like it, but it takes profanity to understand some things. I am in love with the book and the author!

Sweet Resolve (Lucky #2) by Jill Sanders

Amy Walker is steps away from her perfect job. The day she makes partner at her real estate firm will be the happiest of her life, second only to the day in junior high when her tormentor, Logan Miller, finally moved away. But fate has a warped sense of humor, because Logan is back. In her town, in her office, gunning for the same promotion. Worse, the man is sinfully hot. But that won’t keep Amy from exacting the revenge he richly deserves…
Logan had reasons for acting wild in his youth, but he still regrets the way he treated Amy. Especially once he’s sharing an office with the smart, self-controlled beauty. For one thing, she’s got a wicked sense of payback. For another, he’s realized there’s something he wants much more than a promotion. And that’s to melt the ice he helped form around her heart all those years ago and to prove that loving thine enemy can be the ultimate happy ending.
Still checking out romance novels, still feeling weird reviewing them, still lacking confidence in delving with the matter... 
I am in a period of my life where I just need a blanket, drinking tea, and reading a nice sweet book…no angst, no crazy drama, just a sweet love novel. And this one seemed to do  the trick. I got me all fluffy on the inside and smiling by the end of it.
This had a lot of potential to be a really great story. I thought it would be funny and cute as Amy played tricks on Logan to try to get him back but actually she came across as really immature and the humour that should have been there was completely absent.
This was a quick read and pleasant enough. The writing style is a little simplistic, often just stating what is happening in the scene without much more depth. This makes some of the characters feel flat although the main two characters become a bit more fleshed out as the book moves on and are ultimately pretty likeable. 
I don't think I can actually say anything major... It definitely wasn't a masterpiece, but it was an enjoyable read.

The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne

The chilling new psychological thriller by S. K. Tremayne, author of the Sunday Times No. 1 bestseller, THE ICE TWINS.

When Rachel marries dark, handsome David, everything seems to fall into place. Swept from single life in London to the beautiful Carnhallow House in Cornwall, she gains wealth, love, and an affectionate stepson, Jamie.

But then Jamie’s behaviour changes, and Rachel’s perfect life begins to unravel. He makes disturbing predictions, claiming to be haunted by the spectre of his late mother – David’s previous wife. Is this Jamie’s way of punishing Rachel, or is he far more traumatized than she thought?

As Rachel starts digging into the past, she begins to grow suspicious of her husband. Why is he so reluctant to discuss Jamie’s outbursts? And what exactly happened to cause his ex-wife’s untimely death, less than two years ago? As summer slips away and December looms, Rachel begins to fear there might be truth in Jamie’s words:

‘You will be dead by Christmas.’
It is the first book I read from the author. It had a real strong hold on me for the most part of it, but the ending ruined it for me. I have always had a thing for old families and their mansions, their history and their tragic decisions, so the description had me at the first sentence. The novel was everything it promised, the writing was brilliant, the pace unnerving and it could have easily turned into one of my most favourite books out there, if only the ending wasn't so soapy. It was so disappointing it actually made me angry... So angry I had to call my Ldn Boy and debate with him for two hours so that I can come to terms with what to write as a review. I had armed myself with the most exquisite word to flatter everything about this thriller and I just dropped them, the second my jaw dropped with astonishment at the way this jewel-of-a-story was handled.
It has a slow, atmospheric start as the landscape and imagery is built up like poetry. The author builds up the characters the same way and before long the dark twists and shades of grey start to enter the book. This book messed with my head! If you look to the low left of this map of Cornish Mines you can see a few that are mentioned in the novel including Zenner and St Just, very real places.
If I had to use only two words to describe The Fire Child they would easily be CLEVER & SHARP! It just takes you through all those emotions: sadness, horror, love, uncertainty, uneasiness, plain confusion. It turns you into the victim and the detective at the same and you literary breathe with its plot.
If I had to compare it to a classic I would be into minds on whether to put it right on the shelf next to  Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, or a bit higher next to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. It is dark and engaging, paranoid and still a masterpiece... For the most part!
What had me agitated was the overdoing when it comes to the building of characters... there was just too much darkness in both of them, and then they just worked it out... WHAT?!. Easily there was material for creating two different books, and it would have worked out way better. There was too much hinting around and to much pointers to something going seriously wrong... I almost went "Oh, shame, no one died". You get how weird that is, right? Especially for someone like me, who digs a happy-ending.
The Fire Child is a rare occasion of a deep, profound confusion for me. It is compelling and brilliant and at the same time a bit patched... It got me hooked and yearning for the darkest resolve out there and gifted me with an easy way out. I still keep on wording breathlessly WHY?!3FOXGIVEN