A Horse Walks into a Bar – David Grossman

34211922In a club in a small Israeli town, a comedian gives a shocked audience the most unconventional stand-up performance they’ve ever seen. While some choose to get up and leave, others remain enthralled and entranced, watching the comedian, Dovaleh G, fall apart on stage.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t get this book. It recently won the Man Booker International Prize, so I was intrigued and wanted to give it a go. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, it seems to have won the award purely because of its unusual style and relatively hard-hitting subject matter rather than for the quality of the actual story.

The book is written in real-time, from the perspective of an audience member: a childhood friend of Dovaleh who has been summoned to the show at his request (though he doesn’t really understand why, or particularly want to be there). Despite the suggestive title and the setting of a comedy club, A Horse Walks into a Bar is not funny. It isn’t even remotely amusing and is barely entertaining. Reading the book, I felt exactly the same way as the audience members who chose to get up and leave. As it happens, this may well have been the desired effect and, if so, the book is remarkably well written (if not, then oh dear). Although I give the author kudos for his impressive and unconventional writing abilities, getting through this book was a painful and unpleasant experience.

Dovaleh himself was probably the most difficult thing about this novel. He was not likeable and was too annoying to be particularly interesting, yet we follow his entire rambling narrative from start to finish. I skim-read large portions of the book, until right near the very end where things did admittedly pick up and become marginally more engaging. He covers multiple themes during his on-stage breakdown, including friendship, betrayal, revenge and the Holocaust. Sadly, most of this went over my head (probably largely down to the skim-reading, but I’m holding the book responsible for not drawing me in enough).

There is no question that this is a clever book, and probably worth a read, but it is not even remotely enjoyable.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

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The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell

untitledIn this gothic ghost story, newly widowed Elsie goes to live in her late husband’s country estate with his cousin, Sarah. In their exploration of the house, Elsie and Sarah come across an incredibly lifelike, painted, wooden figure – a silent companion. Taken with the figure, the women move it into the main rooms of the house, but when it starts to move from room to room, seemingly by itself, and new figures start to appear they begin to question their safety and their sanity.

The Silent Companions is genuinely unsettling and very well written. As a full-length novel, the plot is well thought-out and fully developed. There are no unnecessary or over-the-top embellishments, while the ghostly occurrences are creepy to say the least.

Elsie’s story is very interesting: We find her committed to an asylum and accused of murder, and follow her story of what happened in the house as she recounts it to the doctor. She has a strong back-story with an abused childhood which makes the questioning of her sanity and strength throughout the story much more believable. I also enjoyed the loyalty and friendship between the women – lovely to see women in fiction backing each other up instead of tearing each other down!

This story contains all the elements of a classic gothic horror, and the slow build of tension is very effective. I did, at times, get a little confused about who I was reading about with the dual narrative, but besides that Laura Purcell has pulled off an almost-flawless piece of spooky-horror.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

T5W: Books I’ve Read because of Blogging

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Thoughts on Tomes. (You can find the Goodreads group for it here) This week’s topic is Books I’ve Read because of Blogging/Booktube/etc. Basically, this is the books that we’ve picked up because we’ve heard about them in the online book community. Since starting my blog I’ve got hold of lots of books after hearing about them online and in other people’s reviews, so only choosing five is going to be hard!

  1. Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed – I kept seeing this book all over Twitter, with groups of women posting photos of themselves with the book and I was really intrigued. I managed to blag a copy from NetGalley and it turned out to be one of the best books I’ve ever read. I love it.35066549
  2. The Silent Companions by Laure Purcell – I read a couple of positive reviews of this book and saw a lot of photos of it on Twitter (you may notice a theme starting here) and it was so pretty and so intriguing I just had to read it. The story is spooky, atmospheric, and totally worthy of the beautiful cover. untitled
  3. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – Reviews, photos and general hype about this book was everywhere in the lead up to publication. I probably would have bought it anyway because I love Laini Taylor’s writing, but the amount that I saw it in the online book community definitely helped. I ended up pre-ordering the fancy hardcover with the blue sprayed edges and I haven’t even read it yet but, judging by the reviews I’ve read, I’m going to love it when I do.29748925
  4. A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi – I saw a lot of praise for The Star Touched Queen online, so when I got the opportunity to read an advance copy of Roshani’s next book I decided to give it a go. I was not disappointed.29939047
  5. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel – This book was all over Twitter for a while and has a slightly different subject matter than I would normally go for (family with a trans-gender child) but the proofs were shiny and I managed to get hold of on. It turned out to be much better than I expected and I actually really enjoyed the story.30809345

What books have you picked up after hearing about them from other bloggers, Twitter, booktube, etc?

Spotlight: Rarity from the Hollow – Robert Eggleton

thumbnail_1RarityFrontCoverWEB(2)

Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage — an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It’s up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. A Children’s Story. For Adults.

BUY HERE: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Dog Horn Publishing


Exerpt

Chapter 13, “Mom I’d Like to Introduce You to My Fiancé”

Scene Prologue: At this point in the story, Lacy Dawn, the protagonist, is twelve years old. An android named DotCom (his name is a recurring pun throughout the novel) installed a port in her upper spine and has directly downloaded data into her brain for the last several years. His ship is hidden in a cave in the Woods behind the family’s house in the hollow. DotCom was sent to Earth to train and recruit Lacy Dawn to save the universe from an imminent threat, but was recalled due to slow performance. In this scene, DotCom has returned to Earth and Jenny, the mother, meets him for the first time.

Jenny (the mother) walked up the hill to Roundabend. She called Lacy Dawn’s name every few yards. Her muddy tennis shoes slipped and slid.
I hear her voice. Why won’t she answer me?
“Sounds like she’s talking to someone,” Jenny said to the Woods.
Nobody responded. The trees weren’t supposed to since Jenny was no longer a child. Her former best friends had made no long-term commitment beyond childhood victimization. They had not agreed to help her deal with domestic violence in adulthood. She hugged the closest tree.
I will always love you guys.
Jenny quickened her pace, stopped, and listened for human voices. A few yards later, she stopped again.
Now it sounds like she’s behind me instead of in front.
Jenny looked to the left of the path.
There ain’t no cave Roundabend, but there it is.
She walked toward the entrance. The voices grew louder and she looked inside. Lacy Dawn sat on a bright orange recliner. Tears streamed down her face.  Jenny ran to her daughter through a cave that didn’t exit and into a blue light that did.
“All right, you mother f**ker!”
“Mom!” Lacy Dawn yelled. “You didn’t say, ‘It’s me’ like you’re supposed to (a traditional announcement mentioned earlier in the story).”
DotCom (the android) sat naked in a lotus position on the floor in front of the recliner.  Jenny covered Lacy Dawn with her body and glared at him.
“Grrrrr,” emanated from Jenny.  It was a sound similar to the one that Brownie (Lacy Dawn’s dog) made the entire time the food stamp woman was at their house.  It was a sound that filled the atmosphere with hate.  No one moved.  The spaceship’s door slid shut.
“Mommmmmy, I can’t breathe. Get up.”
“You make one move you sonofabitch and I’ll tear your heart out,” Jenny repositioned to take her weight off Lacy Dawn.
Stay between them.
“Mommy, he’s my friend. More than my friend, we’re going to get married when I’m old enough — like when I turn fourteen. He’s my boyfriend — what you call it — my fiancé.”
“You been messin’ with my little girl you pervert!” Jenny readied to pounce.
“MOM!  Take a chill pill! He ain’t been messing with me. He’s a good person, or whatever. Anyway, he’s not a pervert. You need to just calm down and get off me.”
Jenny stood up. DotCom stood up. Jenny’s jaw dropped.
He ain’t got no private parts, not even a little bump.
“DotCom, I’d like to introduce you to my mommy, Mrs. Jenny Hickman. Mommy, I’d like to introduce you to my fiancé, DotCom.”
Jenny sat down on the recliner. Her face was less than a foot from DotCom’s crotch and she stared straight at it. It was smooth, hairless, and odour free.
“Mrs. Hickman, I apologize for any inconvenience that this misunderstanding has caused. It is very nice to meet you after having heard so much. You arrived earlier than expected. I did not have time to properly prepare and receive. Again, I apologize.”
I will need much more training if I’m ever assigned to a more formal setting than a cave, such as to the United Nations.
“Come on, Mommy. Give him a hug or something.”
Jenny’s left eye twitched.
DotCom put on clothing that Lacy Dawn had bought him at Goodwill. It hung a little loose until he modified his body. Lacy Dawn hugged her mother…
…(scene of Dwayne, the father, overheard by those in the spaceship while talking to himself)… “Besides, the transmitter was part of Daddy’s treatment. There’re a lot of other things that he did to help fix Daddy. DotCom is like a doctor. You can see that Daddy has gotten better every day. And no, there ain’t no transmitter in you. DotCom figured you out like a good doctor and the only things wrong are a lack of opportunity and rotten teeth that poison your body. You don’t need no transmitter. He just gave you a few shots of ego boost. I don’t know what medicine that is, but I trust him. You ain’t complained since the shots started — not even with an upset stomach.”
“He’s a doctor?” Jenny asked.
“What’s your problem anyway?” Lacy Dawn asked. “I know.  You’re prejudiced. You told me that people have much more in common than they do that’s different — even if someone is a different colour or religion, or from a different state than us. You told me to try to become friends because sometimes that person may need a good friend. Now, here you are acting like a butt hole about my boyfriend. You’re prejudiced because he’s different than us.”
“Honey, he’s not even a person – that’s about as different as a boyfriend can get,” Jenny said.
“So?”
Mommy’s right. Maybe I need a different argument.
A fast clicking sound, a blur of motion, and a familiar smell assaulted them.
“What’s that?” Jenny asked.
She moved to protect her daughter from whatever threat loomed. Brownie, who had been granted 27 / 7 access to the ship, bounded over the orange recliner, knocked DotCom to the floor, licked DotCom’s face, and rubbed his head on Jenny’s leg. He then jumped onto the recliner and lay down. His tail wagged throughout. Jenny sat down on the recliner beside Brownie and looked at Lacy Dawn.
“But, you were crying when I first came in. That thing was hurting you.” Jenny shook her finger at DotCom to emphasize a different argument against him.
“Mommy, I’m so happy that I couldn’t help but cry. My man just came home from an out-of-state job. I didn’t talk to him for a whole year. Before he left, he told me that he wasn’t even sure if he’d be able to come home. I still don’t know what happened while he was gone. We ain’t had no chance to talk. All I know is that he’s home and I’m sooooo happy.”
“Your man came home from an out-of-state job?” Jenny patted Brownie on his head, some more and some more….
It’s unusual for a man to promise to come back home and ever be seen again. Brownie likes him and that’s a good sign. Maybe she’s right about him helping Dwayne. Something sure did and it wasn’t me. It is a nice living room. They’ve been together for a while and I ain’t seen a mark on her. That’s unusual too. He ain’t got no private parts and that’s another good thing. Hell, if I get in the middle, she’d just run off with him anyway. I’d better play it smart. I don’t want to lose my baby.
“What about his stupid name?” Jenny asked.
“I’ve got a stupid name, too. All the kids at school call me hick because my last name is Hickman.”
“My name was given to me by my manager a very long time ago. It represents a respected tradition — the persistent marketing of that which is not necessarily the most needed. I spam…,” DotCom said.
They both glared at him.
“Dwayne is sure to be home. I don’t want him to worry. Let’s go,” Jenny said.
“Okay, Mommy.”
“I love you, DotCom,” Lacy Dawn stepped out the ship’s door, which had slid open. Brownie and Jenny were right behind her.
“I love you too,” DotCom said.
Lacy Dawn and Jenny held hands and walked down the path toward home. The trees didn’t smile — at least not so Jenny would notice. On the other hand, no living thing obstructed, intruded, or interfered with the rite.
Jenny sang to the Woods, “My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up.  My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows up….”


About the author

thumbnail_roberteggletonRobert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. Locally, he is best known for his nonfiction about children’s programs and issues, much of which was published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from1982 through 1997. Today, he is a retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome maltreatment and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel. Its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines. Author proceeds support the prevention of child maltreatment. http://www.childhswv.org/

Author links

Website: http://pages.suddenlink.net/roberteggleton/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lacy-Dawn-Adventures-573354432693864/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/roberteggleton1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32993259-rarity-from-the-hollow

Inevitable Ascension – V. K. McAllister

29563845.jpgOn receiving enough wealth to live comfortably for the rest of their lives, hunters Violina and Lux accidentally discover the means to time-travel. Thrown into an apocalyptic future with mankind on the brink of extinction, the feisty girls strive to build a new world – at any cost.

If you knew your world would soon be torched to carbon, would you fight to save it?
…Or light a match of your own?

Violina and Lux are both incredibly fun and spunky characters. The majority of the story is actually told through speech between these two, which isn’t my favourite way to read but worked quite well in this case because the girls have such fantastic voices (especially Violina). The relationship between the two heroines is brilliant. They have each other’s backs in any situation, and really care for each other. Strong female characters with a positive relationship is always good.

The plot itself is action packed and a little bit complex. There is a lot going on, with some pretty heavy sci-fi. The time travel aspects, leaping into different time-zones, was quite difficult to work out but the story is still fun and enjoyable even if you don’t fully understand the science.

Inevitable Ascension is well-written (surprisingly so, considering that it is written by a husband/wife duo, writing in secret before putting together what they’ve come up with). Despite the complicated plot and large amount of speech, the story flows well and is easy to read.

The one and only downfall is the questionable morality of the whole thing. Are the girls really doing good, if they’re committing mass-murder to save the world? Plus, Lux is described on multiple occasions as being innocent and sweet, with an incredibly sensitive conscience, but seems to be totally fine with stealing and killing. It doesn’t quite compute.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Inevitable Ascension. An exciting sci-fi adventure with positive female leads, suitable for those who might not usually think they enjoy sci-fi.

I received a copy of this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

On the Other Side – Carrie Hope Fletcher

25820674In this unconventional love story, 82-year-old Evie passes away peacefully, surrounded by her beloved family. But when she reaches the door to her Heaven, her heart is too heavy to pass through. To gain access, Evie must return to the other side and unburden herself of three secrets she’s kept her whole life. A magical and romantic exploration of the power of the heart.

On the Other Side is an incredibly… umm, creative love story. It was quite an enjoyable read, and is pretty well-written, but I did have some problems with it. Two big problems.

Number one: it is vain. The author is a well-known youtube star (who I do quite like), so her appearance and personality is no secret. For this reason, the similarities between Evie and the author are much too obvious. The character’s curly ‘caramel’ hair and ‘chocolate brown eyes’ are mentioned too often, and her generous and ‘hopeful’ (yes, she does mention the name of her online fanbase in the book) traits are features that the author clearly sees in herself. This, on it’s own, I don’t have a problem with, but a character so clearly based on the author in every positive aspect does come across as somewhat narcissistic. It got on my nerves.

Number two: the magic. The majority of this book comes across as a realistic, real-world romance. (The afterlife aspects are obviously not based on reality but still read as quite believable.) However, the magical aspects in the “real-world” (paper turning to glass, drawings coming to life, literally taking out a heart, writing on a bird?) didn’t really fit into the story and I really struggled to get my head around it.

Other, more overlookable issues include the clichéd characters, silly character names (Snow, Winter, Autumn, Frost, etc.) and the complete lack of any grey area between good and bad. If you can get past the clichés, vanity, and poorly integrated magical-realism, then On the Other Side is quite a sweet and light hearted romance novel and the actual writing quality is quite good.

Give it a go, but don’t expect too much.

Goodreads | Amazon

The Last Days of Magic – Mark Tompkins

30849999Bringing together aspects from history, myth, fairy tales and biblical mysteries, The Last Days of Magic tells the story of a time when magical beings and humans co-existed. Set mainly in Ireland and England, we meet men, witches, goddesses, kings, exorcists and an array of other magical creatures, fighting together and against each other for control.

Honestly, the synopsis of this book makes it sound better than it is. Although it’s based on some good ideas, the story is over-complicated and difficult to read. And, most importantly, boring. So let’s get into it…

Firstly, the book is too long, with confusing time-jumps (flashbacks and time-skips) and far too many characters. A nice idea, very poorly executed. I did like the inclusion of historical detail – it gave the book a bit more depth – but, again, there was too much of it. A lot of the detail felt completely irrelevant and just added length to the book, making it drag.

I did enjoy a couple of the story threads (namely, Aisling and Jordan’s) but there was so much going on and so many different parts, making the majority really hard to get into. Large portions of the book really just seemed to be characters standing around discussing battle plans and strategies which was, frankly, dull.

The amount of research that the author must have done in order to write this book is impressive, and I do applaud that, but it didn’t translate well into the story and, basically, it was a chore to read. Sorry to be so negative but I was really disappointed by this book. The premise sounded fantastic and the actual content of the book was a real let down. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

Gather The Daughters – Jennie Melamed

35066549.jpgFirst things first, this book is absolutely brilliant.

Perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, this is the story of an isolated island cult where girls live as wives-in-training, knowledge of the world outside is kept to a minimum, and men rule everything. Girls must obey and serve their fathers, until their summer of fruition when they must marry and have children. But what happens when inquisitive minds start to question this way of life? Some secrets simply cannot be kept forever.

When I first started this book, I really wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy it. The subject matter was rather intense and creepy, and I didn’t particularly like the writing style (different points-of-view, all present tense). However, after the first few chapters I was completely and utterly drawn in, and the style really fit the book. Jennie Melamed’s narrative voice is very strong, while the concept is both fascinating and dreadful. It was similar to The Handmaid’s Tale in the sense that it is a story of female oppression and uprising, but on a very different and original thread. It actually wasn’t really what I was expecting at all, and all the better for it.

It should be noted that the book might need some trigger warnings: the entire concept is based on child abuse, domestic abuse, sexual abuse and incest, but this is all implied rather than explicitly referred to. There are no graphic descriptions and the reader is required to fill in the blanks themselves (which can be considered to be better or worse depending on your imagination).

As you may have guessed, some of the implied content is fairly horrific (at least to those of us living comfortable lives in the western world). But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Some parts of the story are fun and uplifting, and the characters are fantastic. I LOVED that this story is told from the point-of-view of the young girls, rather than their mothers, and getting to read the story from the point of multiple girls allowed a full and rounded view of the situation.

My single criticism is that the ending is very unsatisfactory, but it is actually a perfectly apt end to this novel. 5 stars. A must-read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

T5W – Classes Based on Books/Characters

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Thoughts on Tomes. (You can find the Goodreads group for it here) This week’s topic is Classes Based on Books or Characters. The idea here is that we make up classes based on characters’ skills or books (not to go for easy and obvious options like Harry Potter). So here are my Top 5 classes I’d like to take…

  1. Apocalypse Survival (Defender by G X Todd) – Lacey and Pilgrim get by surprisingly well in a post-apocalyptic world full of murderers and thieves, so I think they’d be pretty good teachers for a class based on how to survive an apocalypse. Which is obviously something we should all be prepared for… Image result for apocalypse
  2. Gods of the World (American Gods by Neil Gaiman) – Neil Gaiman introduced us to a lot of gods from different cultures in American Gods and I would love to know more about all of them, as well as the ones who feature in his Norse Mythology and any others from around the world. Image result for american gods
  3. Immortal Activities (Twilight by Stephanie Meyer) – Vampires are immortal (obviously) which means they have a lot of time to kill. Besides falling in love with an excessively annoying human, Edward had a lot of skills. This class would be focussed on the best ways to use your time if you live forever. Image result for edward cullen
  4. Mythical Jewellery 101 (The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein) – Pretty sure Frodo, Bilbo and Gandalf could give us a detailed lesson on magical, mythical and cursed jewellery. Their main piece of advice would probably be STAY AWAY. Image result for the one ring
  5. How to Handle Alternative Universes (Dark Matter by Blake Crouch) – On the off-chance that one might wake up in an alternate universe and not know how to get back home, this would be a very handy class to take. Image result for alternate universes

The Leftover – Brooke Williams

34448511.jpgMolly is due to compete in a local reality TV show called The Leftover, but when she discovers she’s pregnant, she has to pull out and persuades her shy sister, Megan, to participate in her place. Megan is a reluctant competitor, but will do anything for her sister, so she pushes her fears to the side and takes the plunge. She expects not to make it past the first round of eliminations, but Megan has more skill and determination than even she believes. Can she make it to the end, to become the Leftover? And what will she find along the way?

The Leftover is a slightly unconventional romance novel, in that the reality TV setting and Megan’s personal journey take precedence over the romantic aspects. The story is, simply, delightful. The TV challenge aspect is well thought-out and not overdone, while the romance is sweet and enjoyable. The characters are a mixed bag of likeable heroes and hateable villains, and all of them are quite realistic. They each have the unique personality traits you’d expect to see on a survival TV show, and it is easy to form quick bonds with (most of) them.

Megan herself is a great lead character. She is shy and insecure but not wimpy or annoying, and entirely believable. She has a determination to do well and make herself proud, that shows real character growth and makes her completely likeable. Cane, Megan’s romantic interest, is also a likeable and somewhat realistic character. Although he’s gorgeous and she’s, well, average, their attraction to each other is explained in understandable terms which stop it becoming farfetched and entirely unlikely. Despite not being the most beautiful girl in the world, Megan is spunky, witty and intelligent, making her undeniably attractive, and a true heroine.

Chick-lit romances can be frothy and superficial at the best of times, but The Leftover has some real depth and a genuinely enjoyable story. The on-off nature of Megan and Cane’s relationship did start to get tedious towards the end, but with the overarching focus being on Megan’s position in the competition, this was easy to overlook.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon