The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
I’ll start at the beginning. My best pal Jade first recommended The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak waaaay before Christmas. When she explained the book’s unique trait – it is written by death – I was intrigued but not enough to rush out and buy it.
When I was browsing in Waterstones a few weeks ago I happened to walk past the book and thought I would give it a chance. I spent the last of my Waterstones voucher on it, so it needed to be good. And it was.
I will admit I was not convinced at first. For the first fifty pages I was not sure if I could continue and I think I know why. I have never come across a book which has been written by such an inanimate thing. It was so far removed from anything I had read that it took a bit of getting used to. I also did not gain any sort of connect with the main character Liesel to begin with.
Somewhere along the line all that changed and I was completely hooked.
The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany and chronicles the life of Liesel Meminger who is sent to live with a foster family. In a world where everyone is expected to be the same Liesel’s distinguishing feature is that she steals books. When she first arrives at her foster family’s home she cannot read or write but her beloved Papa spends every single night by her side whilst she learns to read and discovers new sensations and words. Her ability to read and write provides comfort to her and her neighbours and has dramatic consequences by the end of the novel.
There is so much more to Zusak’s book than this however I do not want to spoil anything if you have not read it yet.
The relationship Zusak creates between the characters is beautiful, it was so real and sincere, especially that between Liesel and her Papa as well as her friendship with Rudy. He creates moments of tenderness and adoration in a world full of hate and death.
I know there is a lot of press surrounding the novel and its subsequent film release but believe the hype! I can honestly say it is one of the best books I have ever read.
The Book Thief is one of those novels that you always keep on your book shelf – a text which has universal appeal and will stand the test of time. It is extraordinary and you need to read it.
The Spice Merchant’s Wife – Charlotte Betts
Looking for a good book to curl up with on a dark and stormy winter’s evening? If so, you are in luck as The Spice Merchant’s Wife by Charlotte Betts is the one.
I have previously read an extract from The Milliner’s Daughter by Betts so I was eager to see whether this was as lively, compelling and satisfying.
Set during The Great Fire of London The Spice Merchant’s Wife tells Kate’s story of despair and destitution after she struggles to deal with the aftermath of the flames which have engulfed her former life. Along with her husband’s family she is homeless and penniless but when Robert takes a job with entrepreneur Mr Hackett they believe all their problems will be solved. However her husband is soon found dead striking repercussions that will affect Kate’s life forever.
She seeks salivation from her friend Gabriel Harte; a blind perfumer who owns the luxury House of Perfumes. Kate’s life soon becomes a game of hide and seek, as she has to conceal her identity to her husband’s malicious and conniving former employer. Her only joy is when she finds something in Gabriel she never thought possible.
I feel Kate would fit perfectly into a Thomas Hardy novel as this girl has never seen a happy day in her life, just when things are looking up something is always lurking around the corner to torment and cause her grief.
I do consider myself a bit of a history geek however when I’m faced with some historical novels I feel forced to wade through all the heavy facts and language of that particular time, which for me does sometimes dampen the story as I am having to Google words and places every five minutes. Betts has successfully made The Spice Merchant’s Wife authentic without burdening us with historical lingo.
Yes, in places it is slightly predictable and a bit of a lighter read. However it’s definitely a page turner – the sign of an excellent book.
In Fidelity – M. J. Rose
If you are looking for a book which has lust, betrayal and sprinklings of glamour then In Fidelity by M J Rose is the one . To be honest when I first saw the book I thought it would be a light, girly book with a splattering of grit and would be an escape from some of the more complex novels I had been reading – I was definitely proved wrong.
In Fidelity tells the story of Jordan; a psychologist in New York who lives in the same building as her estranged cheating husband. Whilst this is pretty unconventional, her life has been nothing short of chaotic and stressful as she witnessed the murder of her father eighteen years ago by her then boyfriend. The book explores Jordan’s complex emotions towards her husband who you can’t help but like and her fear of the impact her father’s murderer could now have upon her family.
It is a really gripping read – I haven’t read a book where emotions are explored from every angle, I felt as though I got to know Jordan’s every waking thought and feeling. Rose is a master in character creation; they feel extremely real and rounded, for example her examination of Jordan’s relationship with her teenage daughter is something we can all relate to and draw parallels upon. Through her charcaters Rose explores love from every angle possible – the forbidden, the infatuated and the ever lasting.
Without spoiling the ending, the plot builds and builds and I longed for the crescendo moment to occur – I felt as tense as the characters. It’s dark and powerful. I really loved the balance Rose has created – the plot was gritty and at times complex yet her writing style was likeable enough to read a hundred pages in one sitting. I am interested to read her other novels, to see if they are as riveting as In Fidelity.
I would definitely recommend In Fidelity – you won’t be able to put it down.
With special thanks to the wonderful people at Piatkus.
Elijah’s Mermaid – Essie Fox
I am always drawn to an innovative and creative book cover. All the way back in March last year whilst I was at Orion I was asked to mail out Essie Fox’s second book; Elijah’s Mermaid and there was a lot of hype in the company surrounding the release.
I took a sneaky peak at the blurb and knew I had to read the book – Orion let me have a copy woohoo!
Elijah’s Mermaid is set in Victorian London (fav setting!) and through a double stranded narrative it tells the tales (pardon the pun) of Pearl and Lily. The former is an orphan and was found floating in the Thames. During her childhood and early teenage years she is brought up in a brothel and is idolised by Mrs Hibbert– the mistress of the house – due to her distinctive characteristics; her webbed toes. She is then bought by the eccentric and criminal artist Osborne Black who uses Pearl as a muse for his paintings. He mentally and physically tortures her for his own artistic expression.
Lily and her brother Elijah are also orphaned but live a life of luxury thanks to their grandfather Augustus. However their world comes crashing around them when Elijah’s role as Osborne’s apprentice has repercussions for everyone.
The plot may sound a little Hans Christian Anderson or fickle but I would suggest it’s more like the work of Angela Carter, with a hint of Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love. It’s dark, captivating and mysterious. The undertones of the novel reference heavily upon how madness in women was treated in Victorian England through voyeurism and patriarchy. Fox explains her influences and research at the end of the novel which really helps to understand the book she has created; there is even a glossary of terms!
I could not put the novel down – it’s a definite must read. The cover stands out against the barrage of conservative and bland titles. The shades of turquoise act as an anthesis to the white intricate decoration of mermaids and sea shells which then complement each other perfectly.
In all honesty I don’t remember there being loads of press surrounding the release but there definitely should have been – one of the unsung novels of 2013.
Seven Deadly Sins – Corey Taylor
My poor old blog has been neglected of late for mince pies, wine and Festive Friends. So here is a post I should have written waaaaay before Christmas.
I bloody love Corey Taylor. I had wanted to read his book Seven Deadly Sins ever since it was first published all the way back in 2011. I even asked my parents to buy me the book as part of a birthday present, my mother refused as she took one look at the blurb and found it ‘vulgar’ (I think she still thinks I am twelve). Anyhow I bought the book myself in the summer of 2012 and have only now just got round to reading it.
Essentially, Taylor gets all philosophical with us and explains why the seven deadly sins are out of date and how they aren’t really sins in a modern world. He believes these issues are dictated by religion to keep individuals in check. Taylor takes each sin and argues his reasons against them, however he does add some autobiographical details throughout the book – there is a reason why he is called ‘The Great Big Mouth’ after all. At the end he offers his version on what the new seven deadly sins should incorporate many of which are illegal offences.
Cast aside preconception you have ever had about the Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman as the book delivers intelligence, wit and a very clear argument. It does get very heavy at times – I would not recommend it as a bed time read and his autobiographical parts do come as a welcome relief. But overall it is one of those books that you can open on any chapter at any point in your life and just read over and over again.
I feel as though there is nothing this man can’t do, comic book maker, lyricist, writer and a musician to name but a few. I’ve seen him perform in Stone Sour which was utterly incredible as well as watching his acoustic session at Download 2012 where he nearly made me break down and cry with his beautiful voice. What an absolutely top guy.