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Unnervingly Familiar

maggot-moon

I’m wondering what if.

Set in an alternative 1950s England, where the ‘Motherland’ has taken control of the country, Maggot Moon tells the story of Standish Treadwell. He’s not very bright and people underestimate him, but they shouldn’t. Constantly running from the bullies, Standish is about to uncover the biggest secret in his totalitarian world ­– a secret that will cause everyone to question the “truth”s they have been told.

I’ll admit that Maggot Moon isn’t the easiest novel to jump straight into, as the chapters are short snap shots, pieced together by a narrator whose reality is very different to our own. It took me a while to decipher what is what and who is who, which was slightly unsettling but once the novel gathers pace, you gain your bearings and a connection with the events and characters is built.

Gardner creates an atmospheric alternative-past where humanity is questioned and freedom suppressed. There are obvious influences taken from the history books – most notably from Nazi Germany and Cold War Russia and the main story arc even reflects the infamous Space Race. Standish is an innocent observer to his surroundings, having grown up with the Greenflies and abusive authoritarians, and his matter-of-fact descriptions of the world he lives in makes for very effective and raw reading material.

I found Maggot Moon to be a particularly affecting read but it came into its own upon reflection, when distance gave me time to really think about the content. I was genuinely astonished at how relevant it is to our world today. Comparisons and parallels can be drawn with the US goings on as fact and media manipulation drives the story of Maggot Moon, making it a perfect book for teacher’s to use in their classrooms to raise debate and discussion – especially for children who aren’t quite ready to read 1984.

3 star

15

Top Ten Tuesday – Literary Couples

toptentuesday

Every week The Broke and the Bookish conjure up a new Top Ten list for us book bloggers to write about. This week is, unsurprisingly, a love-related freebie so I have chosen to share with you lovely lot my ten favourite literary couples. Writer and frenchman François de La Rouchefoucauld said that “people would never fall in love if they hadn’t heard love talked about” and as some of the greatest love stories are found in literature perhaps they wouldn’t fall in love if they hadn’t read about it either.

Below is a list of my #relationshipgoals couples from the wonderful world of books. These are the couples I’ve rooted for, laughed alongside and felt all the feelings with – the ones that never change because they’re written on the pages of our favourite titles. Starting with…

elizabeth-and-darcy

Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy

AKA the dream team! Very little needs to be said here as they’re pure perfection!

 

mr-and-mrs-weasley

Mr and Mrs Weasley

I know, I know – Ron and Hermione, Harry and Ginny or even Tonks and Lupin should be the HP couple on this list and they would be if not for the fact that Molly and Arthur blow every other couple’s love, commitment, loyalty and relationship out of the park!

 

jo-march-and-laurie

Jo March and Laurie Lawrence

Because this relationship is what should have been and nothing will change my mind on that! Every time I read Little Women I cross everything that this time Jo will say yes and all will be as it should. Professor Behr has nothing on Laurie Lawrence, Louisa May Alcott!

 

katniss-and-peeta

Katniss and Peeta

Katniss and Peeta may not be a conventional couple but throughout the Hunger Games trilogy they not only want to survive but try to keep the other alive against all odds. Their selflessness towards each other makes them undoubtedly a better fit than Katniss and Gale.

 

anne-and-gilbert

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe

Anne and Gilbert grow up together and their beautiful love story goes from childhood teasing to friendly respect to a deep-rooted love. He’s the anchor to her dreaming and even makes her say the iconic line “I don’t want diamond sunbursts or marble halls…I just want you.”

 

wesley-and-buttercup

Westley and Buttercup

How could I not pick the star-crossed lovers from the greatest story ever told? Westley and Buttercup’s relationship in The Princess Bride make for the ‘typical’ fair-maid and farmhand-turned-pirate love story within a wonderfully satirical and hilarious fairy tale.

 

brandon-and-marianne

Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood

Willoughby was fleeting whereas Brandon is forever! He waits in the wings with quiet determination and patience, saving his love’s life and nursing her back to full-strength – still waters run very deep with his man and Marianne is a very lucky lady!

 

eleanor-and-park

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park are the teen dream couple – on paper they are completely mismatched, come from different worlds and yet they find what they need in each other. In Eleanor and Park Rainbow Rowell creates the perfect teen romance with realistically flawed teens – no Romeo and Juliet simpering here!

 

emma-and-dex

Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew

Like ships in the night, Emma and Dex are never ready (or single!) at the right moment to get their acts together but we root for them anyway! They’re meant to be; pure and simple but David Nicholls I will never forgive you for page 385.

 

benedick-and-beatrice

Benedick and Beatrice

Some people might say Romeo and Juliet for the token Shakespearean couple but I have always preferred the feistier Benedick and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing. They are older, wiser and have a much better story in my opinion – an embittered yet wisecracking rivalry that develops into something more.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day TTWers! Who are your favourite literary couples? Did you meet your other half in a literary way? Let me know in the comments!

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A Myriad of Mysteries

magpie-murders

A bottle of wine.

With a first line like that was it any wonder I was hooked by the latest offering from Anthony Horowitz?! The boy very kindly bought me this book for Christmas as I loved The House of Silk and as I have a penchant for murder mysteries too it seemed like a perfect pressie – and it was! (The fact he now wants to borrow it had, I’m sure, nothing to do with the selection…!)

Editor Susan Ryeland is reading the latest offering from her highly successful crime writer, Alan Conway, when she realises that the final chapters of his last book are missing. The next day in the office, when investigating where the final chapters could be, Susan’s Publisher announces that Conway has committed suicide. Is his death related to the missing pages or could they even be the reason he was killed?

Magpie Murders is an exceptionally clever book – a murder mystery wrapped in another murder mystery. You start by reading Susan’s tale before you delve deep into the story she is reading, the final Alan Conway novel. Feeling as unsatisfied as she does when the story abruptly ends, you then pick up with Susan again as she looks for the missing pages. Sounds complicated but Horowitz’s accessible and fast-paced writing makes the transitions simple and easy to follow (a different font also helps!).

The credentials and strength of Horowitz’s murder-mystery-writing background are clear throughout Magpie Murders with mysterious clues, red herrings and suspicious characters at every turn. The tale within the tale is a perfect golden-age crime story, written in a tone and voice that harks back to the greats of Christie and Chandler, yet it doesn’t overshadow the modern mystery – they compliment each other as much as they intertwine.

There is nothing about this book that I didn’t enjoy. It instantaneously makes you desperate to solve two crimes – racing towards finding the final chapters, desperately hoping for the answer to not only Susan’s mystery but the other fictional one too! Horowitz has created a wonderful modern mystery with Magpie Murders and I look forward to chatting it over with the boy once he’s read it!

4 star

1

Splendid Indeed

a-thousand-splendid-suns

Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.

Hosseini made his mark on the literary world with his debut novel, The Kite Runner (review here). I’d heard a lot about his follow-up, A Thousand Splendid Suns, with many recommendations saying that it was the female equivalent to the best-selling debut and after promising myself that 2017 would be the year to read more, I thought what could be better than finally getting around to my next Hosseini?

Spanning 40 years, A Thousand Splendid Suns follows Mariam and Laila, two Afghan women from very different backgrounds who come together when Laila accepts a marriage proposal from Rasheed, Mariam’s husband. After a rocky start, the two women soon learn that it’s not where you come from that matters but who you are and the people you surround yourself with that will determine your future.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a book concerned with the women of Kabul, focussing on their means of survival and their strength. Through Mariam and Laila, Hosseini creates an intensely moving tale, one that transports the reader deep into the culture and country of these two remarkable women. Mariam is stoic and solitary, coming from a background that has taught her not to trust, and Laila is intelligent and forward thinking but circumstance has forced her back towards the traditional. Together, their tale is highly emotive, deeply moving and, though gripping, at times it is difficult to read.

In the background of Mariam and Laila’s lives, Hosseini tells the modern history of Afghanistan, using the personal to demonstrate the global. The futures of Mariam and Laila are determined by the society around them and this interplay creates tension and difficulties at every turn. The never-ending change of power creates a struggling society where rules and morality are in flux and the domestic space becomes less and less stable. Mariam and Laila have to reinvent their ideas and ideals and their development within A Thousand Splendid Suns creates an addictive narrative.

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a wonderfully tragic and compelling title with well-rounded and complex characters that will have you racing through the pages, wishing for a worthy outcome for both Mariam and Laila. For me, Hosseini absolutely nailed his ‘second album’ and I can see why the recommendations for this book were given so earnestly – it’s beautiful and riveting.

4 star

4

Top Ten Tuesday -Ten Favourite Picture Books

toptentuesday

Every week The Broke and the Bookish conjure up a new Top Ten list for us book bloggers to write about. This week is all about the visual – picture books. Now, I wrote a Top Ten on quirky picture books a while ago but this week is all about the greats: my favourite and absolute best top ten picture books of ALL time!

 

Five from Childhood

Cuckoobush Farm
This is the first book I remember being read to me. My mum would take a very long time to finish reading this tale of a farm through the seasons because we would pause on every spread, looking at every detail. I think this book is why I became a reader.

The Jolly Postman
The Ahlbergs are children’s literature royalty and The Jolly Postman is one of their best. It’s such a simple idea but brilliant – I loved and still love pulling out and reading all the individual letters.

Five Minutes’ Peace
My grandparents always used to keep a big box of books hidden under the bunk beds in our room at their house and it was in that box that I discovered and fell in love with Jill Murphy’s tale of Mrs Large’s quest for some much-needed down time.

The Stinky Cheese Man
Playing not only with the content of fairy tales but also the concept of a book, this book is pure brilliance. Every house should own a copy, whether you have children or not!

Katie’s Picture Show
This book not only ignited my imagination but it gave me an interest and understanding of art from an early age. Now, I am far from an art lover but I do go to galleries and enjoy looking at art and I wholeheartedly credit my parents (but also this book!) with that interest. My favourite spread was always when Katie visited Rosseau’s Tropical Storm with a Tiger – its fabulous!

 

Five since Childhood

Who Done It?
Tallec’s extraordinarily simple but effective book contains a series of humorous line-ups and is sheer brilliance. I love not only identifying the ‘guilty party’ but see what everyone else is doing on every spread.

I Want My Hat Back
I challenge anyone not to laugh when they hit Klassen’s game-changing spread in this book of a bear looking for his hat – it’s genius!

Ella’s Big Chance
This reimagined tale of Cinderella in Hughes’ iconic style is not only magical but also beautiful. There’s a nod to the ridiculousness of fairy tale endings which is fab but the lingering factor by far with this book are the costumes and atmosphere created with Hughes’ art.

The Sleeper and the Spindle
Couple Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell with a feminist fairy tale and you have a winner in my eyes. The story, the illustrations… everything about this book is heart-achingly perfect.

Journey
As a lover of words, some may find it weird that I also have a penchant for wordless picture books and Becker’s Journey series is one of the best. The opening book in the trilogy draws you into its magic and welcomes you back with every reread – for there will be rereads!

 

What were your favourite picture books as a child? Have you come to love any other ones since infancy? I’d love to hear all your recommendations!

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Joyful January?!

It’s nearly the end of January – yay!! (also, already, how did that happen?!) The opening month of the year has always had a bad reputation for being the bleakest 31 days of the year and whilst this isn’t a wholly unfounded reputation, I’ve been attempting to look at the positives to beat those dreaded January Blues.

Potential financial turmoil (six weeks between paydays –who thought that one up?!) and the hideousness of that inauguration aside, January isn’t really too terrible a month and I’ve come up with ten reasons why it needs to be reviewed and re-categorised as a not-so-bad after all…

joyful-jan

Reset button
A new year gives us the opportunity to reset everything – to take stock of the last year and put things behind us, taking only the good things into the new. It’s refreshingly daunting.

Lighter days
We have passed the shortest day of the year (21st December) and now each day is getting longer and lighter – woohoo!

Chilly sunshine
I love days that are chilly but with brilliant with sunshine and this Jan has had plenty! Big scarfs and chunky knitwear – yes please!

Better health
I know the old adage of “new year, new me” and the pitfalls of going all out in the first week of Jan only to completely stop by the second. But hopefully one or two small changes will stick to make this year healthier than the last!

Good ol’ fashioned clear out
It’s cathartic to have a clear out every once in a while and January is the perfect month for digging out boxes and tidying away. You can’t afford to go out so make your nest the best one it can be!

Bargains to be had
Yes, you can’t afford everything you want from the sales and we’ve all fallen into the “up to XX% off” trap (3% off is NOT a sale!) but there are bargains to be had out there if we just have the patience to look (and do the maths!)

Hibernating
January is the month to batten down the hatches, light those candles and settle down to read your Christmas books. Hibernation goals happen in Jan!

Rediscovering Christmas pressies
For the past two years I have journeyed home for Christmas on the train, leaving my opened Christmas presents for my very kind parents to drive back. When they drop off my parcel of goodies early Jan, it’s like opening my presents all over again!

Sherlock
This January delivered the last (potentially) series of Sherlock and had me fixed to my screen of a Sunday eve. I am a big fan of the Gatiss/Moffat, Cumberbatch/Freeman show and this season, for me, it was back on form!

A clean diary
I love a paper diary and every year, as is tradition, Father Christmas hides in my stocking a new clean diary for the year ahead. Not only do I get to go through the old one, reminiscing about the year before, but I get to transfer birthdays, anniversaries, up-coming events in a nice shiny new calendar that’s fresh with no mistakes in.

We’re nearly there though, through the not-so-bad month and waiting with baited breath to see what the rest of 2017 has in store! Hope you’ve had a good start to the year TTWers!