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Worlds in Ink

Book reviews – Turning pages to reveal the next hidden world…

Worlds in Ink

I’m an avid reader. I love writing and words and how you can string letters together to produce such wonderful works of art. In between a few hundred pieces of paper, whole worlds can be created as a result of symbols randomly assigned a sound/meaning.

I find it amazing.

Apparently there are over 130 million published books in the world (thank you Google); that’s 130 million worlds that are waiting to be journeyed through and discovered. This is fiction and non-fiction but still, it is a huge number.

There’s no way I’ll manage to work through anywhere near that amount. So many worlds will be left unexplored to me and buried in bookshop shelves and libraries, often in favour of others which just so happened to entice me more at that moment in time. But hopefully those worlds will have been found and loved by other readers. And the books they bypassed will have been picked up and appreciated by someone else…

You get my point?

So this blog will be about my personal experiences of the worlds I uncover as I read a variety of books. Partly reviews/partly appreciation, it’ll pretty much just be me saying what I thought about a randomly selected book from my shelves (see next post…).

The books will be a mix of genres and I hope to vary it a bit! Some of the novels I’ll have read before and want to read again to share my feelings on them, others will be completely new to myself. Some will be relatively well-known stories that I desperately want to throw my opinion on, others will be less familiar and I may want to share them with a wider audience.

All opinions seen on this website are my own (unless stated otherwise), and if anyone has any suggestions on what books you want to see being featured feel free to comment on any of the upcoming posts and I’ll have a browse.

So that’s it for the welcome post. Please continue to read and enjoy this blog and I look forward to sharing some pretty words and books and things with you all!

Tatty bye

Jane x

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Recommendation! – Northern Lights

Hiya everyone!

So every now and then I’ll be deviating from the book jar and asking one of my friends to recommend a book to me that I’ve never read before. It should be one that they really think I’d appreciate, or at least one that I need to read!

So the first recommendation comes from a very good friend of mine, Greg. We have a very similar taste in books (I’m pretty sure that’s how our friendship started) and all he does is give me stuff to read! So I thought I’d be fair and get him to make the first suggestion.

Here’s what he has to say about his recommendation, Northern Lights by Philip Pullman:

“How a generation feels about the Harry Potter books, that’s how I feel about His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, and so I have been strongly recommending these books to Jane for a number of years. Magical worlds, Texan aeronauts, armoured bears, and daemons, souls represented in animal companions, these books overflow with magic and are unafraid to tackle serious questions: what does it mean to grow up? What is the nature of a soul? And what impact does religion have on society?”

See? Told you he was good.

So I’m going to make a start on this and I’ll see you all soon.

Tatty bye!

Jane x

Mr Splitfoot – Samantha Hunt

Mr SplitfootRuth and Nat are teenagers about to ‘age out’ of the foster-home they’re in: an assortment of unwanted misfit children lead by a dangerously peculiar religious fanatic referred to as “the Father”. They’re wondering what will happen to them next when they meet Mr Bell, an enigmatic conman who offers Ruth and Nat the opportunity to join him on his next gambit. They are going to be the best psychic double-act in Upstate New York, communicating with lost loved ones. But Mr Bell has his own personal ghosts beginning to reveal themselves. In the present day, Cora is in a dead-end job, pregnant by a married man, and has no clue where her life is going. Out of the blue her aunt, Ruth, who is now mute, arrives at her door, beckoning to follow her. This becomes a goliath trek across the state of New York, with Cora having no idea where she is heading, or what she will find in the end.

Because of the gap I ended up having between finishing the book and starting to write this review, I made myself have a quick re-read. This isn’t to say I’d forgotten everything that happens – far from it! I wanted to experience the climax of the novel again, and the emotions that came with it. After my first reading I felt mind-fucked, marginally confused, and emotionally drained. Trying to get my head around what I’d just read made me question everything that was written, searching for the psychological implications which I felt had to be there. After the second reading, however, I was a lot more aware of the supernatural, spiritual vibe. I seemed to question a lot less of what was happening and just went with it, from which I feel I benefited. I noticed singular sentences that were just glanced over at first have so much more significance the second time around, sometimes so much so they acted like massive signposts, flashing “THIS IS PRETTY MUCH THE WHOLE STORY”. I’m a sucker for well-planted foreshadowing so this made me go all tingly.

Hunt is an extremely skilled writer. She plays with the smallest details of her sentences and does so to such a great effect; it reads both fluidly and disjointed and this is perfect for the story she is telling. Even the way she constructs the simplest of images is phenomenal, and for a novel that really does not have much in the way of descriptive passages, it’s impressive. The scenes with Cora and Ruth walking should be dull – they are walking, coming across some things on the way – but you read each word with your breath held, needing to know if they’ll reach their destination soon. The fact that both this storyline and the hugely intricate plot of young Ruth and Nat are given equal scope in a book that is just over 300 pages long is impressive, as they could easily be novels in their own right.

I know I haven’t said a great deal about the story itself but this is definitely a “the less you know, the more you’ll benefit” kind of book. I found Mr Splitfoot harrowingly affecting with some subtle philosophical moments, and for me it was one of the most perfect pieces of escapist fiction I’ve ever read.

 

 

 

Book Three – Mr Splitfoot

Mr Splitfoot.jpg

Next book for me to get my teeth stuck into is Mr Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt.

When it was published early last year there was a lot of buzz surrounding this, but I never got around to reading it, so I am actually very excited for this one.

I’ll be reading and I shall see you all soon!

Tatty bye

Jane x

Exchange – Paul Magrs

This is becoming an awful habit but, again, sorry for the ridiculous delay. Everything has been up in the air lately but I can’t wait to feel better and get some routine and normality back into my life, starting with reading and reviewing! So, let’s crack on, shall we?

Simon, a painfully shy and withdrawn teenager, struggles with day to day life after his parents’ death, now living with his elderly grandparents in a new town and attending a new school. The only thing Simon has in his life are his books, something which bonds him to his kind and wistful grandmother Winnie. When they come across the Great Big Book Exchange one day, they can both sense some long yearned-for excitement coming into their lives. With the owner Terrence and his quirky, brash young assistant Kelly, Simon and Winnie find themselves returning more and more frequently to the Exchange, resulting in some personal histories being revealed and new relationships becoming forged.

‘Exchange’ has such an easy, calming feel to it that it’s teetering on the edge of being too nice of a novel, but I personally feel it just about comes out on the right side. The writing style is simplistically charming but it’s the storyline which gives this book its character. The catalyst of the story comes from Simon having to move due to the sudden death of his parents, but I like the fact Magrs doesn’t rest on this to provide the sole focus on the novel. That being said, what is mentioned of Simon’s loss is done incredibly well.  Having been through something similar myself, I can say that Magrs portrays the disassociation felt by someone who has lost a close family member – or members – fairly young so well. It struck a major chord with me.

The main characters we come across aren’t anything to write home about. Simon follows a long line of protagonists in novels who are swallowed by their stories; I find him a little weak and pliable. Although, I feel this might be the point. ‘Exchange’ is definitely one of those books where the storyline pops more than the characters. Arguably the most interesting character in the novel is Kelly, the gothic assistant of the Exchange and Simon’s love interest, and I still couldn’t gel with her. She’s angry, pushy (not in an endearing way) and I just could not find a major redeemable feature. And yet, the scenes with these two are well-written and full of bittersweet interactions, as they provide the perfect contrast to each other.

I’ll try to not divulge too much, but I should quickly mention the powerful subplot found in this book. It provides a subtle yet touching commentary on sexism of the past, uncovering potential, and the stigma of our backgrounds and upbringing. For me, it is this element of the story which fully made me rate it on the side of positive, rather than just being “meh”.

Heartfelt and honest, for me ‘Exchange’ is a perfect example of an easy-reading novel. Don’t get me wrong, I doubt this is a book to rock worlds, but it is pleasant and definitely worth a read.

Book Two – Exchange 

So the next book I’ll be reading and reviewing is Exchange by Paul Magrs.
I’ve read it once before, about 10 years ago I think, but I can’t really remember much about it.
So I’ll get on reading this and I’ll see you soon!

Tatty bye

Jane x

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I’m sorry for the massive delay – this wasn’t how I intended to start this blog – but I’m back for good! And there really isn’t a more apt book to start this site than ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

When his father takes him to a magnificent hidden library called the ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’, ten-year-old Daniel comes across the novel ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by an author called Julian Carax. He is swept away by the story and tries to figure out all he can about the book and its writer, yet is disheartened to discover that no one can tell him anything. Then one night an ominous man comes up to him through the smoke, like a character from Carax’s novel, and asks for the book. This leads Daniel to think there is something much deeper hidden in these pages, which results in the discovery of a dramatic chain of events centred around Carax which began several decades previous. Daniel finds himself head-first into a sinister and threatening mystery which will touch the lives of everyone around him.

This is my seventh (I think…) read of ‘TSOTW’ and I still get goose bumps at the description of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, just as I did the first time I read it. Each individual word feels purposely chosen to entice wonder out of the reader and for an ultimate book worm, it gives me shivers of the best kind. This section, and the whole novel, is full of dramatic flair and uses metaphors and similes that etch onto your very soul. The concept of the Cemetery lends itself ideally to the awe-provoking idea that no matter how much we may read and find ourselves letting lost in amazing literary worlds, there will be countless worlds we will never uncover.

“I couldn’t help thinking that if I, by pure chance, had found a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in that endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever.”

The slow, deliberate unravelling of the Carax storyline is still amazing. Intricate seeds of the plot are planted early on which I believe you can only appreciate fully on a second reading; this is a sign of a remarkably crafted novel. It is a mystery so well devised and well written that you feel you’re waiting with bated breath for the reveals, even with already knowing the outcomes. When the reveals do occur, they’re like a well-positioned blow to the back of the head: unexpected, effective, and deadly. Ruiz Zafón has this way of describing events which knocks you off-guard with its simplicity and bluntness, often amid wonderful, lyric description, that seems to increase the impact.

A comment about this novel (read on a Buzzfeed article) which stuck out to me was that the portrayal of the female characters in the novel was sexist. I will state there was more to the article but this is the main brunt. I do understand this view point, but I feel differently. It is my opinion that Ruiz Zafón does a great job of accurately depicting the relationships between men and women in the 1940s/50s – and sometimes earlier in the flashback scenes – which consequentially means the reality that some women were frequently oppressed is shown. He neither sugar-coats male and female relationships of the time, but nor does he romanticise it; you don’t finish reading the novel believing he is advocating the behaviour. Despite most the main characters being male (which makes no difference to me), the section written from the perspective of Nuria seems to show great, realistic insight into women – from my singular female opinion.

There is so much more I could say about this book but like all the best things in life, it’s best discovered on your own, first hand. There are enough stories in there for at least three novels and yet reads absolutely perfectly. Never has a book so brutally and wonderfully described different forms of love, and never have I read something which celebrated the beauty and danger of words and books so well.

If you want to dig deep into the never-ending world of literature, start in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and take the journey of ‘The Shadow of the Wind’.shadow-of-the-wind

First Book

So to get the ball rolling, this is the first book that has been chosen to review – The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

I wanted to make sure the first book would definitely be an amazing world to start us off so this is the only time I won’t use the jar to choose one of my books! Promise. Only time, I swear!

It’s a book I’ve read before *cough* six times… *cough* but it truly will get us in the mood for worlds to be discovered in literature.

So I’ll be posting my review of The Shadow of the Wind soon and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Tatty bye!

Jane x

The Book Jar

This is my book jar. The jar of books.

A lot of the fiction books I own are written on these little slips of red paper in order for me to pick one out at random and start reading it. Then that will become the feature of the next review post uploaded. And so this will continue.

I decided to do this to try and mix up what I read. If I’m in a particular kind of mood I may be tempted to stick to one genre, and consequently lots of novels of a similar vein could possibly get mingled together into one and forgotten. Also, chances are if I cover a broader range, the more diverse the choices are to stop you all from getting bored!

So that’s my book jar introduction. The next post will be me revealing what my first book is so check back soon!

Tatty bye

Jane x

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