Homegoing


Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi (Viking, hardback released on January 5th), is a beautiful book, both inside and out (I mean, look at that stunning cover. I know you shouldn't judge a book by its outer beauty, but this vivid cover of pattern and orange certainly caught my eye!). Filled with beautiful prose, following a story of epic proportions, this is wonderful fiction, and I was delighted to receive a copy to enjoy.

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader's wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. Taking us from the Gold Coast of Africa to the cotton-picking plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem, spanning three continents and seven generations, this is a book about life, destiny, family and hope.

Gyasi writes beautifully and the entire book is a masterpiece of pacing and scene setting - the writing is vivid and masterly throughout. In many stories you will encounter the point of view of one, two, or a few characters - in Yaa Gyasi's novel we encounter 14. The book tells the story of Effia and Esi, before following their families through the years that follow. Gyasi is a born storyteller and weaves these many stories with ease, telling a tale of a family divided by time and space, but held together within the pages of this novel.

This book includes big questions on colonialism and imperialism, and I felt glad to be reading it in such a month as this, when certain factions would have us embracing a mentality of us-and-them once again. This is a beautiful, well-crafted, and enjoyable book, and it's an important one too.





Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book to review from the publisher. All opinions, thoughts and ponderings are my own.


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How To Be A Grown Up


You know how some writers just chime with you?

How when you read their poetry, or prose, or journalism, and you feel you could be kindred spirits, so close to the nerve their writing goes? The writers who you feel 'get' you, who tick all those lovely empathy boxes?

For me, one of that select bunch is Daisy Buchanan. And for many others too, as evinced by her thousands of twitter followers, agony-aunt-for-Grazia gig, and her widely enjoyed and discussed writings for many other publications (seriously, I could list but we would be here a while...my faves are her witty, outspoken, wonderful writings for The Pool. I have such a soft spot for that site!).  Imagine my delight then when a couple of months ago I spotted some tweets discussing an upcoming book by the divine Ms B, which I clearly had to get a copy of to review.

A little tweeting and a quick request later, my very own hot pink proof of How To Be A Grown Up (Headline, releases on April 6th) arrived, and I devoured the thing over my winter break. This is a simply marvellous book, full of humour and intelligence, but more than that, full of kindness. Daisy writes about everything, from friendship to career, love to money, the bedroom to the boardroom and fills each chapter with wisdom, as well as funny stories and interesting anecdotes aplenty. Like sitting down with a trusted friend and catching up over a drink or two, this book is not only entertaining, you come away from it feeling enriched, like you've got some extra hints and tips to take away.

The book seems to be pitched for twenty-somethings (it certainly seems to be the case on Amazon etc) but even being in my mid-thirties there was plenty I could reflect on and learn from, as well as plenty of cringey moments I could enjoy with a little distance from my teens and early adulthood! I would have loved to have read this when I was a little younger, but could still relish it in my current season of life.

This book straddles two very different genres with skill - it's both a funny, entertaining read and a book chock-full of actionable, useful advice - combining the two is no mean feat! Throughout Buchanan's talent for a story and her ear for a well-crafted line shine through, and this is a wee gem of a read. When it releases I'll definitely be gifting a few copies to some of my best girls. Well worth your time - I'll be looking out for this bright pink cover on my commutes to work later this year!




Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book to review from the publisher. All opinions, thoughts and ponderings are my own.
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Relativity


I am a sucker for a book about families, love, loss, and the ties that bind. And Relativity (Corsair, paperback releases tomorrow) is a novel packed to the brim with all of those things and more. A story told through the eyes of the charismatic and charming Ethan and his parents Claire & Mark, this book asks us to consider what it is that brings us together, and what it is that keeps us together.

Ethan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy. He spends his life with his single mother, Claire, who is fiercely protective of Ethan and keen to shield him from the darker, harder moments of life. Thousands of miles away is Mark, Ethan's father, living on the other side of the world and estranged from his son. When life conspires to bring them back together, you have a recipe for revelations, growth and change.

This is involving, spirited fiction. I found the sections on physics diverting and interesting, the relationships vivid and real, and the plot unusual enough to hold my attention throughout. It's a book that really took me with it, I was propelled along in its path.

This book is the debut novel by Antonia Hayes, and with this charming, beautifully crafted book which truly pulls on the heartstrings she's bound to make a heck of a splash. If you enjoy hard-to-put-down reads and character driven stories, I'd advise you to give it a try; I found it uniformly charming. 

This review is the part of the Relativity book tour taking place all this week - you can see the other Wednesday blogs in the image below. We're only one day of the tour too; if you check out the #relativity hashtag over on twitter you'll find even more reviews and info!



Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book to review from the publisher. All opinions, thoughts and ponderings are my own.
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The Dry



Set against the drought-ravaged backdrop of the town of Kiewarra, The Dry (Little Brown, released January 12th) is an involving and undulating crime novel, full of hard-to-fathom characters, plot twists, and unexpected revelations. The chorus of praise for Jane Harper's debut novel has been close to deafening, and I too have some plaudits to add to the pile; this is a clever, interesting book which had me gripped throughout.

Initially the plot is very much detective novel 101, with detective Aaron Falk, the prodigal son of the town, returning from banishment to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke Hadler. In a town full of secrets and discord, Luke's suicide and the deaths of his wife and son have shattered the community, and the tensions already present in Kiewarra as the whole town struggles in the bitter heat of the drought bubble up to boiling point as the murder and the investigation uncovers intrigues, secrets, and lies. Aaron Falk finds himself drawn to the investigation, and in trying to uncover what happened to his friend and his family, Falk discovers some secrets which mean Kiewarra, and he, will never be the same again.

This is a book about small towns and the secrets which bind them, the ways that people try to control those around them, and the thousand of tiny cruelties that unfold as the years roll by in a small town where rumours can make or break you. Falk returns after two decades to the town that cast him out, and as the story unfolds we learn both what happened to the Hadler family, and what happened in Aaron's past, too. The pacing of the story is exquisite and so assured - the story is relentless, but also evocative. Harper's painting of the town and its surroundings, arid and full of horrors, both seen and yet-to-be-revealed, is breathtaking.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Dry and feel relieved that the hype was entirely justified - this is a fantastic, beautifully written and plotted cry novel.





Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book to review from the publisher. All opinions, thoughts and ponderings are my own.
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Hold Back The Stars


I first heard about Katie Khan's Hold Back The Stars (Doubleday, releases January 26th) in autumn of last year. I spotted the beautiful cover on twitter (it's so pretty and I am constantly a sucker for a blue-and-yellow combination). I tweeted to the publisher and was lucky enough to receive a copy to review, and it wound up being my final read of 2016.

And man, what a way to finish.

Part sci-fi, part YA, part romance, this is beautiful, well-crafted fiction at its very best, and despite sneaking in at the very close of the year, it's firmly one of my favourite reads of 2016, and I think it's going to be an absolute smash in 2017.

Max and Carys are floating far above the earth too far away from their spacecraft to reach it safely. With just 90 minutes of air left, you are immediately drawn into their predicament, and left wondering whether they will make it back to their ship, and home to Earth. My heart was with them as they attempted to make it back.

An Earth, by the way, which looks little like the planet we now inhabit. After a series of disasters and conflicts, this near-future Earth is a planet scarred by its past, and a new kind of civilisation has sprung up - elements of which fell familiar and others which felt new and alien. The construction of this new way of life read a little like the scene setting of the Hunger Games for me - Khan skillfully weaves a new way of life which still feels like it relates to our current one. The tidbits of information we read about different locations really helped to conjure up where the new places had once been on our map. 

Max and Carys are both well-drawn, interesting, flawed and multi-dimensional characters. Neither is pure hero or pure antihero, and their relationship, told in flashbacks which alternate with the present action as they float in the darkness of space reads as a real relationship, full of love, hope, worry and potential. You can see why they've got to this place. I also loved that Carys was the science whizz!

I enjoyed the whole book, but must give particular praise to the barnstorming final third, which made me cry, left me guessing, and took me to places I wasn't expecting. I tore through the final section and parts of it are flashing up in my memory often since I finished this book. Over on goodreads I gave Hold Back The Stars 5 out of 5 stars - this is charming, moving, entertaining fiction. 

It's also much beloved by tiny tortoiseshell cats....




Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book to review from the publisher. All opinions, thoughts and ponderings are my own.
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I'm Claire, a thirty-something teacher, writer and blogger living in London.

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