Category Archives: Bloomsbury

A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall

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A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall

Just once in a while a book will land on my door mat for review and I know this is going to be something rather special. The wonderful A Thousand Paper Birds out now by Bloomsbury is the debut novel by Tor Udall. This is a novel that is to be cherished like a very rare plant specimen to hold and to cherish time and time again. Just look at the cover design it is a thing of real beauty. Then you start reading the book itself. Your heart is stolen.

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A Thousand Paper Birds is a novel that is incredibly moving and poignant. It explores love and grief as well as the beauty that nature can only bring. There is a very special place that is close to my heart and never did I believe that one day a novel would be written with Kew Gardens at its very heart. This is not just a book it is the purest of love songs.

Loss is incredibly painful and so very personal and for Jonah he cannot let go and pain is beyond anything imaginable his wife, his love and best friend Audrey died suddenly leaving just memories. For Jonah and Audrey together they shared a love and friendship and also a love of Kew Gardens, now Jonah is alone with the memories of their visits. He is trying to come to terms with the loss of his wife and trying to understand the world around him and of his own life which now feels empty. There is a void in his life or maybe he thinks that his own life now seems pointless without Audrey.

As Jonah retraces their steps they took together through the gardens the reader is introduced to a number of Characters, all play a part in Jonah’s life and the life of Kew Gardens from the intrepid and always busy head gardener, there is Chloe the artist that is just a bit different and there in the back of Chloe’s memories is on an incident within the gardens that will not go away and there is Milly the child who loves to smile and loves life and the gardens who finds beauty around every corner. What happened to Audrey is so tragic and sudden, one minute there, and then she was never to come home never again to be held by Jonah.

Through the pages of Audrey’s diary, we get to know her so much better which just adds to the poignancy of the story. So has Jonah ever read the pages of her diary or would it be just too painful? The raw emotion pouring out of this beautiful book just left my heart aching. At times I had to put the book down just to think about what I was reading and to compose myself.

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There is so much to love within the pages of this story that at times it leaves you breathless in the Udall’s writing. This is poetic writing at its best. Tor Udall has managed to bring the majestic beauty of Kew Gardens and weave the most beautiful of stories through it. Through a window given to you by the writer you enter people’s lives and see how they are linked together. It is at times so very raw yet at the same time compelling. You never want to reach the last page as with the very best books you never want them to end. So the window closes but does it really? The gardens are real and now this very special place for me will now be just that more precious. This is a book for all the seasons a book that will not leave you in a hurry and you will not forget it. A Thousand Paper Birds is without doubt my book of 2017. Delighted to HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

336 Pages.

Thank you to Philippa Cotton for the advanced review copy of A Thousand Paper Birds.

A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall is published by Bloomsbury and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

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Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

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Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

This is probably one of the most unusual books I have read this year, yet it is something unique and a real treasure of a novel one that many have been waiting patiently for. Hard to believe that Lincoln in the Bardo is in fact George Saunders first novel, his previous collection of stories as in Tenth of December have won awards and received praise in many quarters.

 

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Lincoln in the Bardo is a novel set two days after the death of Willie Lincoln the 11-year-old son of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States who died of typhoid and is set on one night 22 February 1862 and Abraham Lincoln visits the grave of his son and the story is set to this one night. Lincoln cannot rest and the spirits of the souls who are laid to rest want to talk and through the course of this one night in February 1862 his son who he mourns is trying to talk to his father but the ghosts of those dead all want to communicate. Now this sounds totally extraordinary basis for a novel but Saunders has created a real tour de force of s story that I could leave.

Is this just a story of a man deeply missing his dead son and fretting over a war that seems to have no end or is this a story that delves deeper into the meaning of grief, loss and so much more. So many deep questions and the answers you can only answer for yourself. What this book is in fact a book of many voices all of them trying to talk to the reader. It is a very clever book and when you read of Abraham cradling his son in the crypt and the spirits of the dead seeing this it has an effect like no other book I can recall. A story that is life-affirming and those who have read George Saunders previous work will know just how good a writer he really is. Some of the deceased wander by night and must return to their ’sick boxes’ before daylight brings a new day. Then there are those that continue their long held bickering that must happen every night like a well- rehearsed play. Then again how good would this be if it was on stage. This is a book that I recommend it really is an experience that you will not forget and a book not even close to anything you will read this year.

Thank you Ros Elis at Bloomsbury to for the advanced review copy.

Lincoln in the Bardo George Saunders by is published by Bloomsbury and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

 

The Burning Ground by Adam O’Riordan

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The Burning Ground by Adam O’Riordan

Adam O’riordan may not be a name you have come across before now but he is an award winning poet having won the prestigious Somerset Maugham Award in 2011 for his collection of poems called In the Flesh. A new collection of poetry is being published on 2nd February but earlier this month Adam released through Bloomsbury a wonderful collection of short stories called The Burning Ground so eloquently written that the you become beguiled by each of the eight stories.

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To say that this is one of the very best collections of short stories I have read in a long time and it will be hard to beat. There is something about the way that O’Riordan manages to capture the reader’s attention all the way through as if you are holding your breath.

The collection starts ofF with A Thunderstorm in Santa Monica and this is the author capturing you the reader in the palm of his hand and keeping you there as the story of Harvey and his relationship with the delicious Teresa, Harvey sets off to Los Angeles to see Teresa and this is his story from leaving England to fly across the Atlantic and how he then sees a fellow passenger during the flight. It is later when Harvey is alone in the bar do we suddenly realise that he is alone and that his lover is now in England. This is when you realise that O’Riordan has had us in his spell from start to finish without realising.

For me the best of this collection is The El Segundo Blue Butterfly A story of a teenager who sets off to interview the businessman Michael Hogan Bernstein. This story is a masterstroke as it is a timeless piece of writing that anyone who loves short stories must read at some point. For the key character here is Christopher and how the story flows from a young Michael who goes to interview the businessman and then the story moves through the years and the two continue to cross paths. Each chapter in this piece is a unique time period and is just the most eloquent piece of writing I have read and the ending is something to just read and then read again. I have read this short story three times over the last week.

Through the remaining six short stories we move from Rambla Pacifico which I found deeply enjoyable is about a foreman that heads off down the Pacific Coast Highway and heads into trouble and then when his employer’s daughter goes missing the story really comes into its own and you are left not only wondering about the outcome but the people involved.

In Wave-Riding Giants we see the lonely McCauley who is reflecting on his life while in a senior housing complex a moment that he starts to recall his memory charting his life from childhood to adult and that and now at this moment in time he faces confrontation with his memory. Yet another superb told story that I will be revisiting over time.

Black Bear in the Snow start off with the words changed from the hit song from Boney M’s Brown Girl in the Ring and you know that this is being sung to a baby and the story is primarily about Randall and his wife Thelma and their new born baby called Joey. There are memories here from Randall as he recalls a hunting trip with Joseph his father. This is the story of the father trying to ‘find’ his son again after a divorce. Then later it is revealed that Randall and Thelma split and that Joey is with his mum and so the cycle begins again as Randall takes his son Joey on a trip so that they can ‘connect’ as father and son. I am sure there are many who like me will identify with this story. Deftly and beautifully written.

And so to the story that makes up the title to the book The Burning Ground We see an artist trying to find so peace after a relationship with a married woman. Is the artist on the run from his desire for Alannah? Or just seeking a fresh start but either way there is success for the artist as his work is suddenly find a new fame but the memory of Alannah is still there with every paintbrush she has previously brought for him. This story I found somewhat different in style and pace but still written in a class of its own and it burns into your heart as your reach the stories ending.

With the next story ’98 Mercury Sable it starts with a conversation about car’s and is a story of a couple Sebastian and Sofia and it is Sebastian is learning how to drive at times the story is quite humorous as you would imagine but there is something else about the story and that hit me as I did not see it coming. I think by this time I was hypnotised by O’Riordan’s writing. To say anymore here would be wrong. A must read story.

In the last of the short stories in Magda’s a Dancer when you look at the first page it looks somewhat different in how O’Riordan has approached it. Basically this is a conversation piece it is unique and a clever piece of writing and a unique way of ending the collection again I will not give too much away but to me it worked well and it is worth reading a few times. It does not read as the previous stories but a worthy addition.

The Burning Ground is just a delicious collection of stories that you become hooked on and like me you will want to re-read some of them a second or more times to purely enjoy Adam’s prose. I can only hope that this collection of short stories is a success as it purely deserves to be on merit. It is nothing short of a tremendous collection of unique and differing stories and the characters involved. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Thank you to Ros Ellis at Bloomsbury for the advanced review copy.

The Burning Ground by Adam O’Riordan is published by Bloomsbury and is now available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

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The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

How many of you recall the film Deliverance that starred Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds which was based on the popular novel by James Dickey. The film won a raft of Academy and Golden Globe Awards. It still ranks among one of my all-time favourite films. So now comes the heart-pounding The River at Night by Erica Ferencik a superbly written novel about a group of female friends out on a white-water rafting trip deep in the Maine wilderness were no-one can hear you if anything went wrong. But what could possibly go wrong?

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The scene is set for a thrilling adventure for four women in their forties, for an adventure in the wilderness that to many would seem extreme especially as this adventure would be taking the four friends well and truly out of their comfort zone. A wild white water rafting experience deep in the wilderness. Seriously?

Our narrator is Win and is out of sorts with life since her divorce, not sure about her role in life and is still grieving for her brother Marcus. Basically Win is in a rut and she needs something to bring her out of it. The out of the blue Pia invites her on a daring trip into the Maine wilderness and what’s more it would involve wild water and a raft. On the trip also are Rachel and Sandra.

The beauty of this novel is how well Ferencik has created the characters each one has something about their personality whether she is a recovering alcoholic or one who is the centre piece an extrovert willing to try new and exciting adventures. From the hustle and bustle of the urban jungle that is the city life the women are so used to seeing in their busy everyday lives to the sheer majestic beauty of the Maine countryside, so beautifully described by Ferencik. It is not hard to see where she drew her inspiration for The River at Night.

The four women set off on an adventure of a lifetime though Win still has real misgivings about the adventure. Along with them is a guide Rory Ekhart still in his 20’s and it becomes apparent very quickly that one of the group has her eyes on the young guide. The trip does not start well for Win and this just adds to her forebodings. But what harm could this trip do, they all need some excitement. One seeks excitement before they hit the water and now the group really needs to focus on what lies ahead.

White water rafting is a bonding experience when everyone has to work to together, here in this thrilling novel the bonds that tie the friends together are tried and tested beyond anything that could have been envisaged from the outset. Sometimes in situations when it becomes a test of survival you see people react and it is not always the people you think who are the strongest. This is why I really enjoyed how Ferencik worked on the characters to create such a strong and powerful storyline. How Win comes through and in my belief ends up the strongest out the group as they try to survive when things go terribly wrong.

This is a gripping novel and the comparisons to the famous novel and film are clearly there and the chill of the river scenes are incredibly detailed and told.

Erica Ferencik has written a masterful novel and so well told you are almost in the raft with the women and feel the chill of the water as you are turned over still aboard and you are trying to escape, this is a book told as if it was in 3D as I have read in a long time the scenery and the water all stand out and come at you at speed. This is a white water experience and a bid to survive when all seems lost. Leadership is required when your lives and the lives of your friends are at risk.

This is exhilarating and packed full of suspense and as you reach the climax you are still not sure who will come out of this alive.

To coincide with the release of The River at Night there is a special price for anyone wanting to download the book for Kindle, at £1.49 via  Amazon Kindle and you the thrilling book for January.

Thank you to Joseph Thomas at Bloomsbury for the advanced review copy.

The River at Night by Erica Ferencik is published by Raven Books (Bloomsbury) and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.

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