5 Summer Reads

Now that we’re into July, I thought it would be a good idea to compile a summer reading list. The following books are novels that I read during the summer and enjoyed tremendously so I associate them with that season, now in reality if they aren’t, oh well.

5.Thomas Harris – Red Dragon

Red Dragon

Why does Silence of the Lambs get so much hype when Red Dragon is the better novel? Not only is it more consistent but has some genuinely frightening bits and a superb bad guy. Oh and it’s the first time we see Hannibal Lector. This thriller is perfect if you are looking for a quick well structured novel with a brain ( you can interpret that last sentence any way you want )

4.Deborah Levy – Hot Milk

Hot Milk

A mother goes to a Greek island to a renowned doctor in order for him to heal her (largely imginary) aches and pains. She also brings her daughter along. Over this brief novel the reader gets a powerful look at mother/daughter relationships, often told through some bizarre symbols. Despite the thematic heaviness, Hot Milk is an easy read and quite funny at times.

3.Kurt Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle

Cats cradle

Technically Galapagos would have been a more suitable novel as it involves cruise ships but I think Cat’s Cradle is Vonnegut’s masterpiece (and I read it during the summer back in 1999) It’s basically about a scientist to invents a chip that turns water nto ice. As this is Vonnegut this is a treatise on existential fear but it can also be read an epic chase novel as well.

2.Madeline Miller – The Song of Achilles


The second greatest love story you’ll ever read. Ancient Greece, mythology, love, war. What more could you want.

1.Alessandro Baricco – Silk


The greatest love story ever written. If you haven’t read this, then there is a gaping hole in your bookshelves or your life, to be more precise.

Book Round Up : June 2018

This month I read 18 books, however 7 of those were graphic novels and 1 was a magazine. Overall it was a solid reading month. My favourite books were:

Kirsty Logan – The Gloaming

Rachel Kushner – The Mars Room

Andrew Sean Greer – Less

Yaa Gyasi – Homegoing

As for reading goals, I managed to read all the books I had to review and a couple off the TBR pile so I’m on schedule.

What’s in store for July?  Well I’ve got 11 books to review (and all are drool worthy), so those will take top priority and then the Man Booker Longlist will be announced on the 24th July so hopefully I’ll finish reading my review copies by then, usually during the summer months I have a little more time than usual so I can concentrate on reading.

As for Jonathan Coe month ( I plan to read all 11 of his novels), it will be shifted to October/November/

Oh and there’s Circe!

5 New Books you MUST Read This Summer

I know summer can be a grueling time for a bookworm; The constant heat and the lack of a cozy atmosphere that winter provides but due to half days and the fact everything slows down, the majority of us actually do have some more time time to read so here are five books that you must reading during the summer months. As a disclaimer, I have not read them yet but they are the top priority on my TBR pile.

Tommy Orange – There There

There There

Tommy Orange’s debut novel is getting a ton of buzz, mainly due to the realistic portrayals on North American Indian society. As I understand, the book comprises of inter connected short stories that focus on twelve members of a tribe all travelling to a powwow.

Olivia Laing – Crudo


This novel has been appearing on YouTube and getting tons of accolades. Basically it is a fictional re imagining of experimental author Kathy Acker’s relationships in Italy with an older partner. I’ve also heard that it’s a heartbreaking piece of work.

Fatima Farheen Mirza – A Place for Us


A multi generational family saga! Indian Emmigrants! Culture clashes! – It seems Sarah Jessica Parker’s new printing imprint/team up with the legendary Hogarth publishers is getting a lot of critics salivating over this novel.

Melissa Broder – The Pisces


A woman has a raunchy love affair with a merman (apparently it’s all metaphorical). Yes please!!

Benjamin Myers – The Gallows Pole

Gallows Pole

This novel was published last year but after a slow word of mouth buzz and a couple of literary prizes, this novel is now getting the recognition it deserves. Based around a group of counterfeiters in Yorkshire during the late 1700’s this book is being touted as a successor to   The Wake .

Have you read any of these books? Any feedback? on my part do expect so see reviews of the above books in the upcoming months.


Mid Year Round Up: 5 Fave Books from the Last Six Months.

So we’ve reached the mid point of the year. This can only mean another book list (hurrah). Here’s five books that I REALLY enjoyed from January to mid June.

5.Charlotte Wood – The Natural Way of Things


A group of women find themselves imprisoned and of brutal ways to survive. Gritty. Dark.Unrelenting. Review here: Charlotte Wood – The Natural Way of Things

4.Xan Brooks – The Clocks in this House all Tell Different Times


If you are bored of War stories, then read this one. Xan Brooks’debut novel focuses on the psychological effects of the first World War on society. Sometimes horrific, sometimes fantastical, controversial at times. Trust me, every moment is a surprise. Review here: Xan Brooks – The Clocks in this House all tell Different Times

3.Leni Zumas – Red Clocks

Red Clocks

U.S. : the future. Abortion is made illegal and the rules of adoption will change. Red Clocks then zooms in on the lives of five women and how they deal with these laws. This multi-generational dystopian tale is complex, clever yet readable. Review here: Leni Zumas – Red Clocks

2.David Whitehouse – The Long Forgotten

Long Forgotten

When a black box recorder is discovered in a whale, which sets of a chain of events spanning decades, all are linked with a flower. Readers of this blog know that I’ma sucker for books with a Tarantinoesque structure and The Long Forgotten does it really well. Review here: David Whitehouse – The Long Forgotten

1.Patty Yumi Cottrell – Sorry to Disrupt the Peace


Helen, an adopted Korean girl who is living a bohemian lifestyle receives a call saying that her brother has committed suicide. Thus prompting her to return to her adopted parents house and investigate the causes of her brother’s actions. Along the way she discovers attitudes towards ethnic minorities. Other than the plot, the charm of the book lies within the quirky narration of Helen and her perverse habits (all I’ll say is, towels) Despite the seriousness of the novel, there are quite a few chuckle worthy moments. A must read. Review here: Patty Yumi Cottrell – Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

5 Amazing Short Story Collections

Followers of my blog know that I am not a fan of short story collections. The main reason being that I find them inconsistent. There’s usually two I really like and then the remaining ones range from ok to mediocre. That does not stop me from reading them though and in the list below there are collections where I have liked every single short story. Obviously there are glaring omissions like Raymond Carver, Guy de Maupassant, Edgar Allan Poe, Chekov etc etc but these lists are subjective and the following 5 have a special spot on my shelves.

Anthony Marra – The Tsar of Love and Techno


Due to the plot structure, this may not be considered a short story collection, but then again lines have to be blurred. This book consists of a series of stories taking place in different decades all linked by one painting. Characters reoccur as well, the thing is the situations are so different that I do think of these tales as short stories. It’s up to you to decide.

Jen Campbell – The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night


I’m just a huge fan of short stories that are surreal and quirky. All the stories in this collection have this weird and wonderful enchanting air about them: women who buy swans hearts, a con artist who runs a coffin hotel, the title story is a warped exploration of creation myths. Brilliant from start to finish.

Lauren Holmes – Barbara the Slut and other People


Lauren Holmes’ stories in this collection all have a pattern. A female (it may not necessarily be a person) finds herself trapped by society’s norms and stupidities. However the genius lies in Holmes witty observations of manners and behaviour. All ten of these tales are laugh out loud funny and, yet their satirical edge hit hard. One of the best collections I’ve read that makes us aware of the way people act towards each other.

Roald Dahl – Kiss Kiss


Roald Dahl was a master at writing short stories. They are perfect, well constructed and have a nasty twist but Kiss Kiss has his most bizarre tales: A man feeds his baby royal jelly, a sex crazed pastor,  a vegetarian eats meat for the first time and goes to explore a slaughterhouse, the lady who keeps her husband’s brain in an aquarium. These stories are memorable and will stick with you for decades. Now I know that Dahl’s stories have been repackaged in different collections but he never wrote a bad short story, it’s just that Kiss Kiss collected the more weirder ones.

George Saunders – Psatoralia


Before the Man Booker and Lincoln in the Bardo George Saunders wrote short stories. Pastoralia is his second collection and is superb. Combining the downright strange with the downright warped, Saunders has created a world that exposes the sham that is the great American Dream. Stripper Ghosts, a romance between two caveman in a modern day theme park, a person who is missing his baby toe. What Saunders main message is that society is dictated by consumerism, thankfully he makes us open our eyes to this and manages to make us laugh in the process.  These stories were written round the turn of the millennium and they are still relevant today as they were 18 years ago.

5 Books to Creep you out

I admit, now and then I do like to read a book that’s a bit controversial, mainly because I want to see how the author can illicit a sense of unease out of me. Unfortunately most the time there’s just shock value but these 5 books will make you squirm in your chair. As always, I try go for the cultish ones rather than the books every list mentions (American Psycho, A Clockowrk Orange etc)

Ian McGuire – The North Water

North water 

All I can say is Henry Drax. There’s no character in literature like him and there never will be. Oh and there’s whales in this book too!

John Fowles – The Collector


The only classic I included in this collection but I had to. The basic premise is that a man kidnaps a girl and keeps her in his basement and the book shifts from the kidnapper’s perspective to the hostage’s point of view . However the creepiest thing about this book is that the main character is so ordinary that you can’t imagine him committing such an act.

Ottessa Moshfegh – Eileen


Meet Eileen. She has a boring job in a juvenile detention centre, lives with her reprobate father and doesn’t like washing. That is until she develops a crush on the new worker at her workplace. This twisty tale is filled with descriptions of bodily functions but it is not gross out in anyway. This is a fantastic twisty thriller.

Keri Hulme – The Bone People

Bone People

The Bone People is not an easy book to read, for starters it’s in dialect and New Zealander slang but that’s not the only thing that’s makes this book uncomfortable reading as the main plot concerns a lady who adopts a semi feral child and then when she investigates his background, well I’ll stop there. May I remind you that this is the 1983 Booker Winner so do expect it to be a book that offers more rewards on second and third readings.

Ian McEwan – The Cement Garden

the cement garden

Personally early Ian McEwan could do no wrong. His writing back then was superbly creepy and unsettling and I think The Cement Garden is his masterpiece. I won’t give away the plot bcause it will be more fun if you discover that yourselves but I don’t recommend it as a night read.

5 Books that have a Tarantino-esque plot structure

So before I get  sea of confused looks, I better explain myself:

Tarantino’s early films would focus on different characters who, initially, are unrelated to each other , yet through some type of detail these characters have shared destinies. As the film proceeds us viewers discover that these seemingly disparate characters have a ton in common.

I am a HUGE fan of this type of plot structure in novels and below here are 5 of my favourite titles:

5.Anthony Doerr – All the Light We Cannot See



All the Light we Cannot see focuses on two main characters, A blind girl called Marie-Laure and a German Soldier, Werner, who is obsessed with short wave radio. Through many details, most importantly, a jewel, these characters’ destinies cross and overlap until their final meeting. Beautifully written and containing a million evocative moments. This novel will make you cheer, cry and smile and maybe go visit Saint-Malo in the process.

4.David Mitchell – The Bone Clocks


David Mitchell oeuvre is based on shared destinies and although the mighty Cloud Atlas is Mitchell at his best, The Bone Clocks is his most playful novel. Basically it’s a time travelling chase, as a group of terrorists manage to transcend time in order to take over the world. All I can say is remember that apple!

3.Jonathan Safran Foer – Everything is Illuminated


When this debut was published in 2002, a lot of critics were amazed and I don’t blame them. …Illuminated managed to encapsulate the holocaust, a zany dialect, memorable characters and a book within a book subplot and pull it off perfectly. Although all plot lines seem unrelated, they are all tied together intelligently. One of the few books where the adaptation does justice to a novel in this format.

2.Anthony Marra – A Constellation of Vital Phenomena


Oh my goodness. This book just shook me in every way. Anthony Marra takes the seemingly unrelated destinies plot to new dimensions here. The plot focuses on the war in Chechnya and how it affects different types of people but Marra uses millions of details to unite these characters. Sometimes they are so insignificant that you will be amazed at how Marra utilises them. Absolutely brilliant.

1.Jenifer Egan – A Visit from the Goon Squad


With Goon Squad Egan does things with fiction which I never though could be done. First of there’s the famous power point chapter, which is integral to the novel’s plot and not some literary gimmick. Then there’s the main theme, which is a meditation on ageing via rockstars, hence the title and then there’s the time hopping, interconnected characters and snappy dialogue. The whole book exudes cool. Egan has written a unique novel that challenges the notion of novel and that’s why it’s my number one choice on this list.


5 Bite Sized Books

A handful of books you can read in an hour

Last week I focused on doorstop novels and this week I am going to talk about those slim novels you breeze through but give you a ton to think about. All the books in this list are under 80 pages but I will guarantee that you will lose yourself while reading them.

Saegh Hedayat – The Blind Owl

Blind owl

This simple tale of madness is a stunner. Never have I read about craziness in such a manic way. The story itself is about a painter who suffers from nightmares that any mortal would dread dreaming. The book itself truly terrifying at times but it is an addictive read in fact Hedayat will make you feel that you are part of the painter’s nightmares and that is pure genius. What also makes it special is that despite the fact that it was published in 1936 the book has a contemporary edge to it.

Mikhail Bulgakov – The Heart of a Dog



A scientist places a corpse’s testicles and pituitary gland inside a dog and the end result is the most bizarre allegory of mankind you will ever read. If you find Bulgakov’s classic Master and Margarita too daunting, then start here for a quick overview of Bulgakov’s philosophy.

Jim Dodge – Fup


Jim Dodge is known for is weirdly surreal novels but Fup is slightly down to earth. It’s about a man who rears a monstrous duck from birth. That’s it. However the story is so much fun that you will read it many times for Dodge’s straightforward narration for a slightly bizarre situation.

Chay Collins – Tumours


You can read my review here , Just to tell that you have NEVER read anything like this. EVER!!!

William Maxwell – So Long, See You Tomorrow

so long

One of those novellas that will blow your mind. A child witnesses a murder and documents the reasons why the event happened. It’s told in non chronological order and in the most economical writing styles ever committed to paper. This tale is mesmerizing in both it’s beauty and cleverness. Your reading life will have a gaping hole in one does not read So long see you Tomorrow. True!

5 great chunky books

There’s something exciting about a nice thick chunky book. For starters, the author is allowed to let the plot breathe and develop the characters in a more well rounded manner. Personally I find a door stopper novel a fully immersive experience and those are the ones that have stuck in my brain.

All the five books listed here are over the 500 page mark and have just captivated me from beginning to end and have caused serious book hangovers when I finished them.


5. John Irving – A Prayer for Owen Meany


Originally when I first read …Owen Meany I kept getting images of the film Simon Birch and that put me off it completely and I did not pick it up after a good five or six years. When I finally convinced myself to stop being silly, I just picked it up and savored it slowly. In fact I made it last a month, just reading a few pages in the morning before work. Due to the episodic nature of the book, reading it in bits and pieces helps.

The story is in the form of a memoir, John Wheelwright recalls his childhood adventures with the dwarfish, helium voiced, hyper intelligent, resourceful Owen Meany. A hefty part of the novel is funny, a lot of the escapades are told through a child’s perspective but things  change as the duo grow older and the book takes a serious tone, bordering on the horrifying.

Irving is known for repeating his plot traits : religion, sport, perverse habits but for Owen Meany all of Irving’s quirks come together magnificently.

4. Hanya Yanagihara – A Little Life

A Little Life

Torture porn? Emotionally Manipulative? A Little Life usually is heavily criticised for these things but there’s no denying that this book will affect you in an emotional way. This book is about four friends and how their lives interact. The main focus is on Jude though, the most enigmatic of the four friends.

Just to note that this book has a lot of graphic descriptions of abuse and displays the worst aspects of human nature but if you can stand that then be prepared to read a book that will bring out your sensitive side to its fullest.

3.  Rohinton Mistry – A Fine Balance

A Fine Balance

This is another novel which will activate the tear ducts but it is a masterpiece. Never have I read such beautiful writing and considering that the majority of the book takes place in a house just goes to show that Rohinton Mistry is a genius at his craft.

This simple tale of a student, two tailors and a wealthy widow trapped in a house during India’s Emergency is a fantastic portrayal of the caste system and Indian politics of the time. Although it is a tearjerker of a book, there are some funny moments, even with some gross out humour occurring now and then. A stunner in every single way.

2. Haruki Murakami – Kafka on the Shore


Kafka on the Shore is Murakami at his best.  The plot revolves around Kafka, who is searching for his parents and Nakata, a person who looks for lost cats.The even number chapters focus on Kafka, while the odd, Nakata. Only once do their destinies cross but their actions affect the book’s development to its high fantasy conclusion. As a librarian who likes cats and Radiohead reading about librarians, cats and Radiohead, I had a lot of fun reading Kafka on the Shore and despite the thickness, it will take no time to finish.


1.Donna Tartt – The Goldfinch


For many years I held that Donna Tartt’s debut, The Secret History was a literary highpoint. That was until The Goldfinch was published, which blew that novel out of the proverbial water. The Goldfinch is a magnificent book. Well written, brilliant characters and an unpredictable plot. It is perfect and addictive. If I explain the book it will sound banal. After all a novel about a boy who steals a painting of a Goldfinch and keeps it with him throughout his many life changes sounds too simplistic but in Donna Tartt’s hands this novel is an exploration of  modern society that bears similarities to Dickens at times. The Goldfinch is an amazing novel and has to be read, dare I say even a contemporary classic.


5 Experimental Novels that you Don’t Need to be Afraid of

First of all I would like to state that there is absolutely nothing wrong with an experimental novel. I like a book that requires intense concentration and has a great reward but let’s admit it, an experimental novel generally is time consuming as it has to be read in small chunks. Obviously not all experimental novels require one to schedule a daily slot in one’s routine. In fact some are quite breezy and deceptively are giving your brain a workout. Here are 5 accessible experimental novels, just to note that the books below  are more experimental with the form of a novel rather than writing style :

5. B.S Johnson – The Unfortunates.


B.S Johnson was known for his playful novels but The Unfortunates is his true masterpiece as it also tugs the heartstrings.

The plot is simple; a sports journalist is sent to cover a football match in his hometown. As he arrives an incident from the past haunts him.

The catch is that the book itself is in the form of a box and contains the twelve different pamphlets and they can be physically arranged in any order so that the chronology of the story changes. Each pamphlet contains details which can either work as spoilers or surprises but it all depends on how the booklets are placed, either way an amazing story emerges. To date The Unfortunates stands as one of the only unbound novels where the reader has control over it’s form.

4. David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas


A David Mitchell book is always a surprise. Will it be science fiction? will it be historical fiction? will it be a horror novella? or maybe a coming of age story? or maybe all of the above? Cloud Atlas is such a book.

The novel is divided into six parts, however these aren’t conventional chapters. The first half of the book only presents half of the first five chapters then a novella in the middle and then the second half of the book has the conclusions of those five chapters. To complicate matters, each chapter is written in a different style, and take place in different periods of history One chapter is an epistolary one written in old English, the other in a futuristic dialect and so on.

It seems daunting at first but Mitchell is not a cruel author and he reoccurring themes are present in all the chapters, the novella being the big reveal so ti is not a difficult read. In fact it becomes fun after the second chapter and by the end of the book you’ll realise that Mitchell has written a clever novel that will stick in your memory forever.

3. Anakana Schofield – Martin John


Martin John, is not an easy read but that’s not because of the cyclical, quasi poetic writing style. It is because the title character is a sexual molester and the novel goes into his mind and how society treats him. The book is told though his point of view, which includes cryptic sentences, bizarre nicknames and the use of repetition, some pages contain one sentence, others just a paragraph so despite the style, it is a quick read. However there’s some details which some may find unsettling or darkly funny. This is a masterpiece in both style and substance.

Ali Smith – The Accidental


Somehow Ali Smith would end up on this list. I consider The Accidental her most experimental and playful novel but also a signpost of what Ali Smith would do in the future.

Like all Ali Smith books, The Accidental crams a ton of ideas. Essentially though it is about a film student who invades the life of a dysfunctional family. Digging underneath it is a tale about values, feminism, male psychology, film and illusion versus reality.  I admit at first it is a slow read but it picks up after a few pages and you will be drawn into the novel pretty quickly.

1.Max Porter – Grief is the Thing with Feathers


Is this a novella? a poem? semi-autobiographical a homage to a Ted Hughes’ poem? is it a play? is it about fatherhood Max Porter’s debut will bust your brain cells. Yes it is a meditation on death but it is a beautiful haunting novel. It will consume you, it will cause you to reflect, think and then form new theories. It may even make you look at death differently. It is intensely sad but oddly gratifying as well.

The story is about a Ted Hughes scholar (everything is explained) who loses his wife to cancer and has to raise his two sons. As this is a novel that has shifting styles, us readers see how death affects this family. As one can guess from the crow on the cover that this book deals with certain metaphors but Max Porter does this in a touching and inventive way. This is one of those books that change the notion of what a book should be like but carries so much emotional resonance that you forget that you’re reading an experimental novel. Truly Grief is the Thing with Feathers just had to take the number one place in this list.