Liz Currently Loves……What Lots Wife Saw by Ioanna Bourazopoulou

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OUT NOW!

 

Well. What can I say. Having just finished this sprawling wonderful expanse of a novel, peppered with the most unlikely characters you will ever have the joy to encounter, and set in a future where the world we know has changed in indescribable ways, I am feeling quite honoured to be amongst the first in this country to read it. Winner of the 2007 Athens Prize for Literature, quite deservedly so in this reader’s opinion, this is post apocalyptic fiction at its best. Not only that, Ioanna Bourazopoulou has managed to write a mystery, a thriller and an adventure all tied up into one wonderful package.

Rising oceans have engulfed much of the planet and changed the landscape forever. From amid this new world a strange “salt” peppers the earth, addictive and hallucinogenic, and controlled by the mysterious “Consortium” of the 75. In their strictly controlled Colony, their employee’s live and work to a tight, unyielding rule of law, overseen by the governer and his six star bearers. When the governer is found dead, it is clear that chaos may well ensue, but what exactly are the 75 up to?  Meanwhile, away from the colony, Phileas Book creates and publishes his strange and wonderful “crosswords” made up from letters sent to The Times, until one day, approached by a representative of the 75, he finds himself thrust into the mystery of what exactly happened in the immediate aftermath of the death of Governer Bera. By reading the letters of the six, he is asked to extrapolate a theory by using his “crossword” methods…but Book is suspicious. Of the Consortium, of the Six and of the motives behind the request. Was it murder? Or even something more sinister….

This is an extremely clever story…utterly insane in its concept in the best way possible, it will have you tied up in the most amazing literary knots – and the ultimate resolution may well take your breath away. It certainly did mine, because really, despite all the information being freely available I never actually came to the correct conclusion whilst engrossed in its pages. A lot of that may well be to do with the brilliant writing – the scene setting is superb and a lot of your head will be wrapping itself around this strange new world…and perhaps even imagining what your place in it might have been. And so the author distracts you from the clues you might otherwise have picked up on – with hindsight it was all perfectly clear but I would like to bet that the majority of you will scratch your heads just as much as I did both during and after reading the book. Which you must. Don’t miss it! Phileas Book is perfect – through his eyes you will discover what went before – as one of the original survivors of the change, he leads us through the terror and the emotion – and why he now stagnates, creating his puzzles, but not really living in any real sense. The six all have their own brilliant mindsets – I wonder which you will sympathise with, hate or love….When you have read it come back and tell me. Enquiring minds want to know. This is inspiring writing – originality and the ability to surprise and delight has definitely not been lost as far as this author is concerned. I hope to see many more marvellous creations in the future.

To finish I must thank the publisher for sending me an advance copy of this novel, and I hope that the above review has done it justice. If you follow me on Twitter I will be talking about this one a lot – and pointing you in the right direction to find out more. Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

My Reading Habits….How it works for me..

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately. How do you read so fast? How can you cope with more than one book at a time? Where do you FIND the time? So I thought I would write a little post all about my reading habits and hopefully answer some of those queries. I have always been a big reader of books, from about the age of 13. I always had my head stuck into a novel, quite often several, and that habit has stayed with me throughout my life. I can remember quite clearly my mother moaning at me “Do you HAVE to leave all these books lying around, why do you seem to have one in every single room all half read?” I didnt know the answer – I still don’t. Its just me. Its how I roll. When I examine it a little more closely I realise that what I read depends on my mood. Lets take this moment in time for example. I have four books on the go – every single one of them is taking my attention – but they are all very different. So no matter what mood I am in, I have a book to turn to. Four at a time is probably the most I’ve ever done, usually its two…but at this particular point in my life I have found that I needed an extensive compliment of books to suit various needs throughout my reading day. Coincidentally I have also been sent some books for review that I have been very much looking forward to – I don’t accept books that I don’t think I will like because that does the author nor myself any favours – but the universe has fixed it so I have the right books at the right time. Been happening a lot lately – remember “The Humans”? Lets take a look.

“After Phoenix” by Martine McDonagh is a family drama. Set in the 70’s in the aftermath of the loss of a family member, it is dealing with grief. I am following the remaining members of this family through their terrible time – seeing their reactions, knowing their thoughts…and it is speaking to me in a very real sense because of things I am also going through. Its brilliant. Evocative, emotional and very very real. I am living those moments with them in a very real way and its doing me good AND giving me an enjoyable reading experience at the same time. But because it IS so emotional and heart wrenching, I can’t just read it start to finish – my reading mood changes.

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So. Next book in my currently reading list is “What Lots Wife Saw” by Ioanna Bourazopoulou. Winner of the 2007 Athens Prize for Literature, it is to be published for the first time over here in June. A post apocalyptic sweeping delight of a novel, when I’m in it I’m living in a completely different world – one where life is hard, the world has changed in indescribable ways and yet still, the human spirit is strong. Many intriguing and amazing characters pepper its pages, every single one of them a delight to behold and the story is intriguing, absorbing and intelligent. When my mood says “escape for a while” well, here is the perfect novel just sat on my bed, bookmarked and ready to go. Even now writing this I am deperately looking forward to getting back to it! That and the others…. UPDATE: Full review of “After Phoenix” now available in the fiction section.

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Thirdly we come to “The Unquiet Grave” by Steven Dunne. Crime Fiction. One of my favourite genres – and this is a book that features DI Damen Brook, a character I have met before in Mr Dunne’s other novels – and loved. Each novel has been bigger and better than the one before so I was absolutely DELIGHTED to receive an advanced copy. When it arrived I had to hide it – at that moment I had real life stuff to be dealing with and if it was in my sight then the world would have been lost to me for a good few hours. Once the “Had to be done” stuff was over with, I picked it up and was immediately there – a hidden killer, a determined detective and well. Life. The thing about Steven Dunne is he writes life – human motivation, why violent people act as they do. And Damen Brook really has amazing depth to his character – this book like the others is going to be SO much more than just a thriller or a mystery. Again though, sometimes my reading mood won’t accept the violent side. It needs to go elsewhere – perhaps on an adventure…so we come to the final book in my currently reading list….

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A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming. A book I downloaded onto my Kindle an age ago, and one that the lovely lasses Hannah and Kate at Harper Collins have been bugging me to read. A spy thriller – not my usual fayre, but Hannah and Kate have NEVER sent me down the wrong path and this seemed like the perfect time to add it to my head so to speak. And boy its good! Its pacy, exciting, great characters doing shadowy things, a mystery and well, a book I’m loving to read while eating chips dipped in Salad Cream. Ok, not for everyone that food combination but it works for me. Anyone who knows my current situation will know that eating chips is amazing…brilliant…not to be sneezed at – and A Foreign Country is the perfect novel to occupy my mind while I’m eating – because I’m moving through life with Thomas Kell, being a super spy in my head, and before I know it a whole plateful of food…gone!

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So there we go. Thats why it works for me. Books being a huge part of my life, and my early career as a proof reader having given me the skills to read at a great pace, means that yes. I can enjoy more than one book at a time. No they NEVER get jumbled in my head. My reading mind is always exactly where it is supposed to be. How about you? One at a time? More than one? How DOES it work for you, I’d be interested to know. So keep an eye out for full and frank reviews of all my current reads when they are done and whatever you are reading – Enjoy!

 

Liz Currently Loves…….The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.

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So. Another Young Adult novel, this time dealing with alien invasion. Before I started this I had been told by many people that this was a superior novel within its genre – and boy they were right! I can’t really pinpoint why it was such a page turner – but my best guess is, Rick Yancey’s characters. They pop. Every single one of them brings life to the story – not a cardboard cutout filler to be found. Told from various points of view throughout, the story is action packed all the way but still manages to find time for reflection – especially in the “back” story if you like, when we learn how the invasion started and what waves 1-4 consisted of. Never dull, always emotional, never giving you time to completely relax, I would highly recommend not picking this up until you are fairly sure you won’t have to put it down again until you are done. You will breathe with Cassie, live through Evan, need to be a parent to Sammy and become a whole new person with Ben. Brilliant. Don’t miss this.

Liz Currently Loves…….The Humans by Matt Haig.

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So we come to “The Humans”. Anyone who has read my blogpost “How a book speaks to you” (see directly below if you are reading this at publication and not on the fiction page) will know that this book is now a very big part of my life. One I will read again. One I will use to get me through the tough stuff. And isnt that amazing? And it could work for you…but lets leave that behind us for now and talk about the book as a book. As entertainment, as fiction as an amazing read and one that will absorb you entirely into its pages. Because it will. This story will amaze you. It will touch your soul no matter where you are in life. It will, I promise. Maths Professor Andrew Martin makes a miraculous breakthrough. But someone is watching…someone who thinks that we are not ready for such things. And they decide to put a stop to it. However as in life, these things don’t ALWAY’S turn out how you have planned them. “Andrew”, instead of carrying out the things he is supposed to be doing, ends up entangled into life. With humans. And their foibles. And despite his efforts to continue on his mission these pesky human people with their quirks and their feelings and their stuff just keep getting in the way…and so begins a journey of discovery. An awesome, wonderous journey of discovery. And peanut butter. Well, who DOESNT love peanut butter? Oh and don’t forget Newton the Dog. Very important stuff don’t you know! Witty and insightful and brilliantly written in a way that makes it easy to love, Matt Haig has given the world something. He has certainly given people like me something miraculous – my faith in the human race is somewhat restored. And if you know me in real life you understand what a gift that is. Still, even just as a random book you pick up because you fancy it suddenly, its pretty darn good. So read it. Not everyone will love it – we are all different – but don’t hesitate to give it a go because if you don’t I promise you – you are missing something,well, super cool. And we all need a bit of that in our lives. And I give you this. Or rather Matt Haig does. Your life will have 25,000 days in it. Make sure you remember some of them.

How a book speaks to you….

So I’ve been all about the life drama lately. Huge upheavals in my personal life have changed my outlook on a lot of things…and in a lot of ways all this “stuff” that goes around in my head has made my relationship with books and reading all the more poignant and important. Because books recently have been almost literally speaking to me. Take the moment I’m in – I am reading “The Humans” by Matt Haig. Its wonderful. Witty and insightful and well, all about “stuff” but using a very original and intriguing story to talk about it.  I’m not at the end yet but already I know its going to be one of those books for my life, my interpretation of it anyway – and we all put our own spin on things don’t we? The author’s intention may be unknown but on occasions like this you get what you need out of it. A bit of background. I suffer from clinical depression. And I am only just now beginning to understand what that actually means…how to cope with it and what it does to the people in my life. I’ve lived with it for a long time but I’ve never really LIVED with it. Now in the midst of a marital split and recovering from weight issues and other health issues, I’m getting a chance at a real life. One for me. And its a struggle, a huge uphill battle – and books help. Either because you can lose yourself in another world for a while and let all the other stuff go, or because the book you are reading at the time actually gives you hope. THIS book in particular, for whatever reason, and I’m not going to over analyse it, is giving me hope. That I can come out the other side of this and be medium happy. My baseline. I’m never going to be ecstatic, its not in me. But I can be happy – oh yes I can. And I can live. Turns out even with everything,  I’ve got more to live for than I thought.  I can’t tell you why “The Humans” is helping me on my recovery path. But boy it is. It really is. And at just the right moment for me – serendipity. And, by the way, its a BLINKING good yarn. You all out there can just read it for fun! And if you want to know more then you can follow Matt Haig on Twitter https://twitter.com/matthaig1.  A full review will follow when I am at the end of this particular road. Happy reading until then everyone.

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Liz Currently Loves……Ethan Justice: Origins.

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My latest blogpost talked about Genre Reading and getting out of your comfort zone, and occasionally trying something a bit different. Well thats what I did with “Ethan Justice” a novel that perhaps I would not have picked up in the ordinary course of things but now I have I’m glad I did. It was one of those enjoyable books that kind of flows over you, pulling you along with it and when you are finally done you realise you’ve had a great time! John Smith, pretty much living off his parents and basically drifting from day to day, suddenly finds himself having to reassess his life. Then a night of drunken debauchery with a high class prostitute sends him tumbling into a whole new world – one of shadowy goverment agencies, pyschotic killers and well, just general mayhem.

The writer has a great style – it took me  a few pages but then it kicked into high gear and we were off. The only time you hear a “first person” side is from the most evil of the characters…so evil you will LOVE him and that is a clever tactic that works really well within the context of the rest of the novel. Savannah the stereotypical “hooker with a heart of gold” turns out to be perhaps less stereotypical than you would expect and John Smith – yes you heard me, and yes that humour is worked well into the book – is interesting and engaging. I’m not sure what genre you could put it in safely – a lot goes on in this book and its all highly entertaining – spy thriller might be the closest I could come but really its just terrific fun and if you’ve got a rather boring Sunday ahead, this would be the perfect solution.

My thanks to Mr Jenner for sending me a copy of this book to review. I had a wonderful time reading it.

On Comfort Reading…Your Genre and how to expand your taste…

So we all do it don’t we. You read a couple of Crime Fiction novels then you look back years later and realise that you have pretty much read NOTHING BUT Crime Fiction novels. That was me for a long time…if it wasnt Crime Fiction or Stephen King I didnt read it. Did not even give it a second glance. And you know what? There is actually absolutely nothing wrong with that. Reading should be for pleasure, always, with the exception of the sometime reading you have to do for work or school. If you are happy and fulfilled with your reading then heck, leave it alone! BUT I have discovered that there is a world of literature out there that can sometimes excite, inspire and consume you and its not going to be anywhere near your comfort zone. Getting yourself out of the mindset though, can be difficult. You may start a book in a different genre and struggle with it at first – after all, whilst there is a HUGE variety of crime fiction out there – it kind of all has its own voice. Its why you love it…its why its the first thing you pick up…and even within different styles there is always something there that reminds you why you love the genre. So how DO you re-train your brain to allow other stuff to rattle around in there with the stuff you have already. Firstly, a recommendation from a fellow reader whose tastes match yours in a lot of ways but is already doing this “out of the zone” thing, is a great place to start. Thats how it happened for me. My friend Gary, who is also a great lover of Crime Fiction and Stephen King told me one day about this set of books that he had been loving so much that he had taken two days holiday from work in order to finish them. They were the “Felix Castor” series by the amazing Mike Carey. Not my kind of thing at all. A freelance Excorcist? Come on now, really? I’m going to love a story about that? Well I did. Loved it. ADORED it. Read the lot in a week. And so began my relationship with that wonderful new genre – Urban Fantasy. The Matthew Swift series by Kate Griffin, the Jack Nightingale series by Stephen Leather and the wonderfully funny Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch soon followed and these days if I see the words “Urban Fantasy” anywhere I’m pretty much almost guaranteed to give that book a go. No, I don’t love all of them – do you ever? Even if you stick with your comfort zone you will find there are some you just don’t like. Thats ok. Go with the flow.

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Another thing you can try is – fantastic looking covers. Go to your local bookshop and browse. Don’t look at the back of the book to see what its about…don’t look at the tagline if you can avoid it. Just look at the cover art and see if anything grabs your attention. You’ll know if you are just picking up a new Crime Fiction book – or whatever your comfort zone happens to be – so avoid those as well. Just let your heart lead your head. If you see one…BUY one. Just one. And don’t even look at anything that will tell you specifics on what it is about until you open it and start reading. You may hate it. BUT you may love it…and discover a whole new reading world just waiting to open up to you. One day I went to Waterstones and just did this. And funnily enough..I came home with “One Day” by David Nicholls. It was orange. It stood out. It spoke to me in that moment and I took it home and devoured it IN one day. That day it worked for me – I’ve done it again since and found some  AWFUL books. No I won’t name them…I might name your favourite book in the world by accident and then where would we be? Try it though. Its like Christmas. There are a few other ways to go about this, but I’ve found that the two I have talked about expanded my reading horizon by quite a few miles. I now read the Urban Fantasy, and the Comedy and the love stories and the post apocalyptic fiction, Young Adult fiction….you name it I’ve probably tried it at least once. And its fun people – it really is a whole load of fun. Go have some now.

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Ok, so STOP with the spoilers already….

Honestly, this is a subject that truly gets my goat when it comes to reading reviews to find out if perhaps I will fancy reading a book or not. Is that not the POINT of reviews? Its gives other readers the opportunity to see what you thought, get a reasonable idea of the subject matter and decide whether or not it is for them. Now, thinking about that – ARE you going to read a book after you have read a review with comments such as (made up not a real book!) “The author put a brilliant twist in the middle. You thought that Barry was a man but ACTUALLY he is an ALIEN. So I was very surprised. And of course that explained why Barry couldnt eat eggs and by the end of the book, he had developed a stomach and he could eat the eggs!” I mean really. Would you? No you wouldnt. You know where its going and where it will end up and all the information inbetween so you would forget that book and move on to the next. Probably while throwing shoes at stuff. Sorry thats my thing. When I’m annoyed – I throw shoes. So WHY do people do it? Several authors that I know about have suffered this issue lately. If you look at my review of “The Burning Air” by Erin Kelly – Yes there is a twist. Ok? There IS one..and some people are looking specifically for a twisted tale.. But…a reviewer on another site not only said there IS one but told you what it is! I mean REALLY? REALLY? I’m reaching for those shoes right now. Sophie Hannah, Mark Edwards and S J Bolton among others have also suffered this issue. Reviews telling you “whodunnit” sometimes even WHY they did it. Some reviews I’ve read lately just basically tell you the whole story in little bites. Literally. Start to end. Why do people do it? Does it not compute? Other people want to have the surprise. In murder mysteries they like to try and work it out for themselves. Me, I’m inordinately pleased with myself when I’ve beaten the author at their own game. If I read a review that reveals the truth, I’m not even going to bother reading it. And it MIGHT be a great book. A hell of a read. But no. I’ve missed out. Anyone who has read “Gone Girl” …would you have read it if you knew exactly what happened to Amy and why? Of COURSE not. That was the whole point of the book in the first place. So PLEASE reviewers – whether you be book bloggers, professionals, or just someone who enjoys sticking the odd review up on Amazon and Goodreads – STOP. THINK. Would YOU have enjoyed the book had you had all the information you are about to put into your review?  Personally I re-read all my reviews at least twice before posting – because of course, if a book excites you and you have had fun with it, sometimes you can be over enthusiastic in trying to get your point across. The need is sometimes huge to say WHY its such a great read. Why you were on the floor going “Nooooooooo never!”, But its important. You want other people to have that moment…Don’t you?

Liz Currently Loves……The Magpies

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I think if I read any more good books, my head might explode. No, really, it might explode. Luckily for Mr Edwards, the police will not be arresting him for manslaughter because despite the brilliance of his solo novel, I managed to drink a decent cup of coffee just in time having finished it, so my brain is still intact. Just. Jamie and Kirsty find their perfect home (remember that feeling? I do!) and move in with visions of a happy fulfilling future together. At first everything really is perfect. They settle in, meet their neighbours, plan on a baby and basically do everything you do when you are expecting a fairly standard but absolutely terrific future together. Then, slowly and inexorably, things change. At first its little things – pizza’s arriving unexpectedly, subscriptions to magazines they have no interest in, and hoax calls to the fire brigade…but this is just the start. The beauty of this novel lies in the small details and the descriptive prose used to make us feel what Kirsty and Jamie are feeling..to be right there at their side when at first bemusement, then disbelief, then terror strike. Their state of mind and actions are extremely realistic – and the cause of their problem, a particular set of neighbours, are mundane enough in their appearance to be truly frightening. What can you do when anyone you tell looks at you as if you are the mad one? If the Police can do nothing, and indeed can’t even admit there is a problem? These are the issues that face this couple. I read this in a day and some terrific writing means that, having read it, even knowing that my own neighbours are lovely people, I am going to be viewing them with a certain amount of suspicion for quite some time. Sorry neighbours! Brilliant stuff. More please.AND currently only 99p for the Kindle…visit Amazon NOW!

Its 4.30am…

And here I am wide awake. Real life problems keeping me up at night. And here’s the thing – I am doing two things to get me through it. I’m listening to some music and I’m reading one of my “comfort” books…in this particular case its “Lisey’s Story” by Stephen King. The story of a marriage. Ok, its a Stephen King marriage and lets face it those ones are never going to be simple, but still its the right book at the right time for me. I set aside my current books because my head was not in the right place, but I didnt stop reading…oh no I just picked up the one book that I knew was right for me in this moment.  And it got me thinking a little bit more about how the love of a good book can quite literally, in some cases, save your sanity. Previous life issues have had me picking up other King novels – there is a reason he is my favourite author. And NO! Mr Quantrill…NOT HORROR! There are other “go to” books in the mix but its mostly Mr King and his eye to the weird and the wonderful, but with, hey, real people and real life situations in there as well. I read a book and over the course of that book, my feelings and situations clarify themselves. Become something I can handle, cope with…move on to the next thing and leave that particular problem behind. So in a moment, I may actually sleep. I do wonder if other people get this from certain books. Is there one book, one author, maybe even a mix, that can get you through just about anything if you just pick it up and immerse yourselves in the pages? We all have at least one…don’t we?

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