Post image for Nothing leaves you worrying like a Fever Dream!

A Man Booker Shortlister totally deserving of it’s praise.

A few years ago my mother told me that she used to enjoy getting all the books shortlisted for the Man Booker prize as gifts. I liked the idea of reading them all, so had, in the back of my head, that I should do just that the next opportunity I get. Then arrives NetGalley offering the 2017 International shortlist for review – fab!

Samantha Schweblin’s Fever Dream was presented with a snippet attached of the first handful of pages. I was hooked only paragraphs in and had to get my hands on it as soon as possible. Set in, and surrounding, a mirage like town in rural Argentina, the whole book is simply a conversation between Amanda and David as they try to figure out the seemingly innocent events of the days before. What led up to her being in a hospital bed, without her daughter, being asked questions by a young boy she had been told was dangerous?

Confusing and surreal, with a tinge of superstition, almost verging on paranormal, Schweblin increases the tension with each paragraph. With no chapters and no breaks, you won’t leave the pages, left in constant worry that you can’t see what’s wrong either, that you’ve missed the crucial detail too, the ‘most important thing’.

It’s a short novel, so I don’t want to explain too much and give away the plot. I only recommend you read it. It’s worrying, thought provoking, an eye opener into how aware we actually are. How much can we save our loved ones from when we can’t see the problem?

I received a free e-copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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She seems like a good egg.

I was in Waterstones, naturally wanting to buy books. Pristinely white, almost glowing was Sue Perkins Spectacles, beautiful perched on the buy one get one half price table. Upon reading the blurb, which I try not to judge the book on (I do – as I also do the cover, yes, awful), it pleased me greatly that it wasn’t a hyperboled summary of Perkins life. Instead an extract, a mini intro and in no way exaggerated or made to be extra funny. A perfect start to a consistently brilliant book.

Haven’t read many biographies. Actually, thinking about it, I don’t think I’d read any. Not because I don’t like them, I just hadn’t found someone I was interested enough in, or that seemed to have an interesting enough life to read about. Am I shallow and judgemental? Yes, apparently so. Sue me, ‘scuse the pun.

I’d stumbled upon Ms Perkins, pre-my bake off viewing, on the final episode of a show with Liza Tarbuck where they’d road tripped across somewhere hot and smelly. Instantly likeable, I was chuffed to discover both Mel and Sue on bake off, and Tarbuck’s Beeb Radio 2 show. Joyed me even more that they were all actually funny, it wasn’t just a fluke. Spectacles was no exception.

In which only the best comedic writers can, Perkins had me crying multiple times, guffawing out loud then bursting into a fit of laughter, before crying again. It’s incredibly honest, detailed and personal, but not enough that you’re learning irrelevant information or feel as if you’re prying. She doesn’t over-share. Just the right amount of hilarious tangents and asides, as well as the mocking of her own flaws, the go-to for comedians. However these flaws weren’t necessarily funny just painfully true. Something very heart wrenching about it that I felt I connected a lot more with her. She isn’t perfect, as no one is, but I wanted to thank her for showing that.

A very interesting person who has led a interesting life, seems I found my ideal. Written like she’s your intelligent best mate relaying these stories to you in a cosy pub; I now genuinely would like to be her friend. For someone who hasn’t read biographies before, Spectacles has definitely converted me. My only worry is that I may not find another equally fantastic memoir to read. I doubt there’ll be another celebrity one nearly as enjoyable, let alone beautifully written. Highly recommend.

Grab yourself a copy

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I’m not really overly keen on books purely about love so anything classed as a ‘love story’ tends to put me off before I start. But this isn’t just a love story…

I was aware of the success of All The Bright Places, but having not read any Jennifer Niven before this, I had no expectations. Purposely didn’t read many reviews; just decided to start and see where Holding Up The Universe would take me.

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Libby and Jack are both coping with different mental health issues. A few years ago Libby’s mother passed away. In the immense grief Libby turned to food and began over eating to an extremely unhealthy level meaning she had to be craned out of her own house. Much to the delight of the school bullies when she returns, still labelled as America’s Fattest Teen (though lost a lot of weight), it’s no surprise she suffers from anxiety attacks, who wouldn’t? But how she deals with school life, self confidence, and being true to herself is definitely something to admire. Young Adult novels need more main female characters who don’t need to be rescued, which was beautifully and ironically shown in Holding Up The Universe.

Jack, on the other hand, is much more insecure than he lets on. With a condition called Prosopagnosia (the inability to recognise faces) he’s constantly battling to identify his classmates, his girlfriend, even his family, but he hasn’t told anyone. Still managing to have a bucket full of swag, he just about gets away with it, until he doesn’t. He makes some awful decisions to keep up appearances but doesn’t even recognise himself, metaphorically and literally. It was fascinating and heart breaking to be inside Jack’s head. It’s evident that Niven has researched a lot about Prosopagnosia and I feel executed it well. If anything shining a light on the condition that 2% of the population, millions of people, are dealing with every day.

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Something I usually get annoyed with when reading romance is the stereotypical love at first sight. Or one character is already head over heels, with the reader waiting to see if the one they’re swooning over likes them back. Especially young adult books, it’s all so pathetically teenager-y and mostly lust driven- that kind of love really doesn’t interest me. However, in this, Jack and Libby grew with each other, which felt more realistic than other YA books I’ve read. Pairing both of what Jack and Libby are dealing with with the usual stereotypical acceptance issues of school life, it was cringey but also heart warming to watch them develop, as people, as friends.

Love didn’t come until later and that felt realistic. Plus it wasn’t clean cut “I like you” “ditto” done, it was messy, involved other people and was confusing; like far too many school relationships are. Mind you, there was still a ‘together forever’ attitude, as if that’s it; they’ll get married, they fit so perfectly nothing could go wrong, which I wasn’t so keen on. But I did like how they didn’t complete each other, they found their own happiness themselves. They’re road to self discovery, confidence and self acceptance was helped with the support of one another but it wasn’t because they were with each other that it developed. They didn’t rely on it. It meant that they could have just been really good friends and still would’ve grown as much as they did.

Niven was under scrutiny for portraying characters, especially Libby, that seemed a bit far fetched and possibly offensive. Although I neither suffer with Prosopagnosia or have ever been overweight, so may not be deemed the best judge of this, I felt the characters were true to life. There are people that do deal with both of these issues, just because they are a smaller percentage of the population doesn’t mean they can’t be represented in novels. I think it brave of Niven to write about them and personally think she did a wonderful job.

Ultimately Holding Up The Universe is about who you are inside, and staying true to that person, and any story that has that message is good in my book.

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Review // The Wolf Road – Beth Lewis

by Zoë B on April 23, 2016

Wow, I thoroughly enjoyed Beth LewisThe Wolf Road. I feel as if I could take on bear, but in reality I’d struggle to make a trap to catch a rabbit. Ha, this whole book showed me how very out of tune I am with nature, despite me living in the middle of nowhere on a farm. Need more dirt on my face dammit and a nice knife.

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We had rules a’living…
Don’t ask no questions. Don’t wander out a’ sight a’ the hut. Don’t take to no people ’bout him.
Any lie can turn in to the truth if you believe it long enough.

Written in Elka’s accent her words immediately transport you to . Her phrasing, her word choice, her storytelling was perfect in creating clear images of forest huts, poison lakes, thundering storms and the smell of wood fires. It made my heart ache to be out and doing things, I don’t know what, but I really wanted dappled sunlight on my back whilst I carved wood or something, just me and the forest, surrounded by the scent of pine trees. I loved reading phrases to anyone who would listen just of the way Elka described things because they were quirky, or made me laugh. Seen as there was mention of the Yukon, I think it’s set in British Columbia or “BeeCee” as it’s referred to, so she would have a Canadian accent. But not being one to have spoken recently with someone with a BC accent, amusingly, the voice in my head reading Elka’s words was from Yorkshire. But that’s totally my weird brain, not anything to do with the writing (very much not the accent I’m sure Lewis was going for, I’m sure, sorry). In terms of when it is set though, I’m not sure. Could be post apocalyptic wild west as there was mention of possible nuclear bombs, but it could also be set in an alternate late 1800’s. I don’t know, my history of North America is not great but it’s not that important to the plot, more the setting, and that really isn’t hard to picture.

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You follow Elka on her adventures to find her parents, which sounds sappy and light hearted but I said that on purpose because it amused me how nice that sounds when it really isn’t. Her parents left her with her Nana when she was a baby to go find a fortune of Yukon gold. Seven years later, they’ve only sent one letter, and she’s not much enjoying the company of her Nana, who really doesn’t get how much she likes being outside. So when a tornado or ‘thunderhead’ hits, sending her flying, practically landing at the feet of a bloke she names Trapper, who lives in the forest and fends for himself, she doesn’t look back. He’s the father she never had and for ten years he teaches her everything he knows about successfully living in the wilderness. Turns out he’s a nasty piece of work, and is wanted for murder, so she runs away with the idea of going to find her parents in the north. But her face is next to his on the wanted posters and Magistrate Lyon isn’t far behind. Suddenly she’s the one that’s being hunted. Adventures ensue, as you can imagine. It’s sinister and disturbing, but with a humorous edge, and I absolutely loved it.

Trapper was my family even though I didn’t know a sure thing about him…Trapper was the kind a’ family you choose for yourself, the kind that gets closer’n blood.
He was what I chose and I chose wrong.

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Must admit there was a couple times when it felt like the plot had taken an unrealistic turn, “She can’t really be that blind to what’s happening?”, but that was the point. She’d been living in the woods for the best part of 18 years, more in touch with nature, better friends with a wolf. Was what I liked about her though, how in tune she was with the forest, how she sensed things by the way it behaved around her. It’s that instinct that we lack in the 21st century with all our wonderful technology and warm houses, we’ve lost our roots to nature, but reading this felt like I’d gained a little back. I was with Elka building a smoke house, I was with her trekking the forest hoping she wouldn’t be found, heck I’m vegetarian, but I was with her gutting a fish. Eager for her to do the right thing, to get free of her dark past, I was gripped by her story and her view of the world.

Raw, gritty, captivating and laced with a tinge of humour, I felt more human for reading The Wolf Road. But that feeling of being watched always lingered too long after I’d closed the book.

Definitely recommend you pick up a copy of the extraordinary flipping début novel when it comes out in the UK on the 30th of June 2016, and US July 5th 2016!

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Black Eyed Susans were such pretty flowers…

September 28, 2015

Been reading a few crime/thrillers/murder mysteries recently; little bit of Dr Kay Scarpetta, dash of Peter Robinson and yeah, okay, Lee Child. Particularly enjoying anything where you get to see behind the scenes of the case. The forensics, the psychology, the profiling. I enjoy puzzle solving, always have. I relish on figuring out whodunnit, and if […]

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my reading pile

April 2, 2015

I’m experiencing one of those common bookish problems where I can’t seem to settle on reading one book. I could contradict myself in saying there will, and always will, be a book that I’ve started reading, placed a bookmark in, and begun reading something else. But there’s always one book that takes all your time. […]

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i’ve developed a curse…

October 25, 2014

Treated myself to some books over the past couple of weeks…twenty-three of them.

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An almost travelling review of Julia Bell’s “Massive”

July 12, 2014
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Been doing a tad bit of travelling recently (thanks to my other life) and aside from discovering new places one of my favourite perks of visiting new areas is stumbling upon the quaintest of shops. Do love myself a brilliant charity shop but the most thrilling yet calming place to find, of course, is a bookshop. […]

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{Cover Reveal} Daughters of Lilith: Book 3 // Sacrifice

January 30, 2014

Bad-ass sword wielding heroine alert! Lovely Jennifer has sent me the first in the Daughters of Lilith series, Thrall, to review so I’m utterly excited to get my teeth into this series. Loving these covers, apparently Quintenz did them herself, how cool?! Sacrifice (Daughters of Lilith: Book 3) by Jennifer Quintenz So this is it, […]

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Green & Levithan are FAB // Will Grayson, Will Grayson Review

January 16, 2014

In all honesty, do I need to review it? Not really. We already know John Green is a genius and we already know of the brilliance of David Levithan, need I ramble on about how wonderful their book child is? I guess, yes. They probably hear them enough, but another compliment towards these fantastic writers […]

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