Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

I just can't understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn't rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty.
Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke's death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend's crime.

As a 'relatively new' crime fiction reader (2 years maximum), I'm always trying to keep up with current trends and 'what's hot' in terms of upcoming books. The Dry definitely fits into this category.
The book drew me in from the word 'go' - instantly holding my attention at every page turn, leaving me with an inability to stop reading when I probably should have done! The setting is so appropriate for the narrative - not giving anything away until absolutely necessary, and providing a strong representation of the people who reside there. I felt like I was living in the community of Kiewarra myself, with the characters appearing as people I might see on a daily basis. The relationships between the characters themselves were utterly believable and have been so well-observed and created by Harper.  

This is a crime novel that possesses all the components of the most astonishing fiction; one that has been delivered in an innovative format and voice, and is a well-rounded and immensely satisfying read. 100% would recommend, regardless of whether you're a big crime reader or not.

The Dry is published in hardback on 12th January 2017, priced at £12.99.

(I received this book as an advance reading copy from the publisher Little, Brown - thank you!)

Sunday, 24 July 2016

*REVIEW* The Girls by Emma Cline

California. The summer of 1969. In the dying days of a floundering counter-culture a young girl is unwittingly caught up in unthinkable violence, and a decision made at this moment, on the cusp of adulthood, will shape her life....

Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat.

Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.

And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.

Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?

I've read so many positive pre-publication reviews for this book - and I'm already seeing some brilliant post-publication reviews despite the fact it has only been published for just over a month! I decided that I just could not delay reading it for myself any longer - probably classed as 'major reading FOMO' - and settled down with the novel this weekend. Little did I realise how much I would not be able to put it down: on Friday night I romped through almost the first 100 hundred pages, Saturday morning took me to just about halfway, my reading session at Double Locks (idyllic pub on the canal just outside of Exeter) enabled me to progress more, as did pre-sleep reading last night, before finishing the novel before 10am this morning.

It's not particularly often that you find a book that you just can't leave alone, because the moment you put it down, you're thinking about what's going to happen/what could happen as soon as you open it again, but The Girls is definitely one of those books! This is no doubt a credit to Cline and her tremendous ability to write, write in a way that means her novel has some serious pace and momentum whilst still managing to explore the characters on a level that is difficult for a writer to achieve successfully - hugely impressive for a debut!

As you see the plot develop, so to does your relationship with each character. Cline provides the reader with just enough information to then enable them to make up their own minds about the involvement and part they play in the climax of the novel. She leaves trails and hints throughout the book, which makes for a skilful unravelling of events towards the end of the novel, leaving the reader feeling like they too were part of the cult.

The fact that the narrative is being told to us by the adult Evie blends seamlessly into 1969 and  14-year-old Evie. It's like her perception of life has been carved by her experiences of the cult and her experiences during that heady summer. The descriptions towards the end of the novel leave no pleasantries, and paint images in your mind that are less-than-pretty. Cline expertly conveys how a cult pulls (vulnerable/lonely) individuals in to a certain way of life, making it seem more attractive than real life.

I feel this is going to be a book that stays with me for a while after closing the book.

Until next time,
Bookish love xxx

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Talking about bookshelves

I have a thing. A thing about bookshelves. It's only natural for someone who has an... obsession with books and everything that comes with those pretty objects. 

Of course it's not just the act of putting the books on the bookshelves, it's all about how you choose to arrange the books themselves. For the first 6 months of living in Exeter, my bookshelf was non-existent and the piles grew steadily taller and taller as I acquired more and more books. This made the process of choosing my next read either more challenging to obtain as I had to take the books above my Chosen One off the pile, OR my reading queue extremely regimented as I move logically down the pile. Either way, despite the comments I had from people about my unusual books arrangement, have stacks of books is not a practical long-term solution. Fortuntately, for my safety (and sanity), I moved flats and saw this as the opportunity to finally get myself a bookshelf (which was received gratefully from a colleague - for free)!

The arrival of the bookshelf - and consequently the placement of all my (and my housemate's) books on the shelves - meant that a previously empty corner of our living room had been filled. 

I knew how I wanted to arrange the books on the shelf in the first instance. Alphabetically. By author. Just like you find in a bookshop. Of course, if a few of your books are of a 'coffee table nature', I feel like there is definitely a need to factor in a 'Display Shelf' - mine is looking particularly on point thanks to piece of pink and blue spotty tissue paper. And you'll notice it's not just books on my display shelves - cards add colour and variation to the book shelf, whilst also giving it that all-important personal touch. As you can see in the photo at the end of this post, the display shelf is becoming a little more crowded, but I am confident in trying to maintain it, even with an increase in the amount of books... My solution to this to have a smaller shelf in my bedroom to host my reading pile. Then, once I've read a book it can that take it's place on the big shelf. PLAN.

Now, to that fateful question: what do I do when running out of space is a problem that is becoming very real and imminent? Aside from the obvious in purchasing another large bookshelf, it would be time for rearranging! Why not mix and match with vertical and horizontal spines? Or colour-match spines, so you achieve a rainbow effect? Maybe you could arrange your shelves by categorising genres? Or alphabetising by title?

How do you arrange your shelves?
Comment below or tweet me @Sarah_and_Books

Until next time, bookish love xxx

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Another year, another London Book Fair

My first 'book fair experience' came last year (2015) when I was 'just' an intern - I say just like I was completely my first publishing internship or like being an intern doesn't compare to actually having a job in publishing, but what I mean is that I didn't have any official meetings, I was already in the industry and knew I really couldn't miss be part of one of the biggest book events of the year. I went into my 2015 experience of LBF (shorthand for London Book Fair, and how it will be referred to throughout the rest of this post) all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to go to as many talks and seminars as humanly possible - those Society of Young Publishers seminars are the bees knees when it comes to advice on not only getting into the industry but making moves for your next step in your career. I don't think I prepared myself for the sheer size of LBF, and all the types of publishing that lie within Olympia for those 3 days. There's a space for academic publishing, a bigger one for trade and entirely separate areas for Children's and Rights. There are also an abundance of caffeine and cake vendors scattered around the venue - to fuel the hungry publishing professionals, writers and students pounding the floors. And not forgetting an abundance of tote bags and book-related freebies - because if you work publishing, a tote bag is your uniform.


I knew going to LBF this year (2016) was going to be a very different story. I told myself that last year, when I returned to my pokey little room opposite the British Museum that I was calling home for several months whilst I increased my publishing experience and defined how much I wanted to work in the industry. 
This year, I had 3 meetings. One even took placed in The Ivy Club, which had to be paused while Julian Fellowes declares the Ivy Club open and launches his new book and app, Belgravia (all the feels, especially when he was meant to be receiving an honorary doctorate in my graduation ceremony and was late - the fact that I was a metre away from him at LBF goes some way in making up for it, I suppose).  I walked around the fair with a very different agenda to the one I maintained last time - last year, I craved the knowledge of what would make me stand out on applications and the direction in which the industry was heading, and not least just living in the moment, in the awe and wonder, in the shadows of eminent figures in the publishing world. This year, I was scouting out marketing ideas that I want to try for the books I'm working on over the next few months...

Towards the end of the day, I attended a fabulous seminar led by Sam Missingham, with a panel that included the writer of the TV series Death in Paradise, Robert Thorogood (I now need to watch this series and have to answer very serious questions as to why I haven't watched it yet. This seminar talked about how you can use the contents of books across other platforms (television was the main focus here). This seminar alone sums up what happens at LBF, emerging ideas and concepts are shown, that highlight how innovative the publishing industry has become over recent years, and will remain to be over future years.

As each of days have drawn to a close at LBF, I have felt an immense sense of inspiration. That's one of the best things about LBF - I can't speak for other fairs such as Frankfurt, but I'm almost certain that they produce just as much hope and positivity as LBF. It's amazing what a difference a year can make, not just on an individual basis, but to everyone who attends the fair over the three days - for unpublished writers it could even be the start of them making a career out of, well, writing... The 3-day event speaks volumes about the shape that publishing and book-selling is in - and following the hashtag #LBF16 for the Wednesday and Thursday of the fair, just made me wish I was there, witnessing the likes of Judith Kerr sitting alongside a big Tiger and Mog, and fulfilling one of my many childhood dreams. 
I only wish that I owned a time turner to enable me to attend all the seminars.

Here's to future weeks in April spent at London Book Fair - capturing the publishing dream.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Books I'm most looking forward to in 2016

Every year I'm faced with yet more books that I want to get my little bookish hands on - and the likelihood of my capacity to actually read them within the year is a very slim possibility. It's already February and I'm already stroking the newest books in my local bookshops. So, in an attempt to make some kind of promise to myself, this post is going to define which books, being released this year, I'm going to endeavour to read within the year - and because it's 'in writing', I'm hoping that I hold myself to this promise...

The list begins...

And yet: Essays by Christopher Hitchens (Philosophical debate at its finest)

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes (Being musical myself, this is very apt)

Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson (Hogarth Shakespeare, not even an option)

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel (So many good things.)

Girl Up by Laura Bates (Again, still yet to dip myself into Everyday Sexism, I see this as motivation)

Not Working by Lisa Owens (Reading about this in the Bookseller this week)

Selection Day by Aravind Adiga (I'VE WAITED SO LONG FOR MORE BY ADIGA)

The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon (Just yes.)

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (Part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, no question about reading it)

The Muse by Jessie Burton (Eagerly anticipating what Jessie has to offer next after her successful debut)

Autumn by Ali Smith (Nuff' said.)

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (Just love everything she's written, especially Room)

Bookworm by Lucy Mangan (Need I say more)

The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs (does this count when the publisher I work for is behind this wonderful debut novel? Yes? Okay then!)

Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran (YES, A THOUSAND TIMES OVER)

I am 100% sure this is not a definitive and complete list, and I'm sure there will be more to be added to this list, but it's probably enough to get me started... right?

What are the books that you're most looking forward to this year? Have I missed anything pretty major? What are your thoughts on my choices?
Tell me via Twitter @Sarah_and_Books

Sunday, 7 February 2016

*WARNING* This is not about books...

(This post has been sitting in my drafts for too long now)

I know what appears in this blog post has nothing to do with books (or tea, or cake) but I'm sure you'll agree with me that this provides an insight into expectations of society in the modern age.

Whilst having lunch at work a while ago, I stumbled across an article by Matilda Kahl who had worn the same outfit for work for the last three years. Inspiring. How many of us would actually be brave enough to put aside that positively torturous time of the morning (or even the night before if you're that really organised person) and wear the same clothes to work every day. I will just point out that 'same clothes' should not be taken literally - the idea was merely to suggest the same style, more of a white blouse and black trousers combination.

There seems to be such a phenomenon that women cannot wear the same outfit to work for more than one day, yet men can wear the same suit, or suit/shirt combination all the time if they so wish. Luckily I work in an industry which does not have a strict dress code, but sometimes I do feel like I can't wear the same item of clothing two days in a row, even in that same week - which is how Matilda felt.  THIS ISN'T A NECESSARY FEELING OF ANXIETY. It is a result of today's attitude to having to be like everyone around you. Take this example: I see a lot of college students on my way to and from work on a daily basis and the vast majority of them all look EXACTLY the same - probably because they've all been to Urban Outfitters at the weekend. (No offence to Urban Outfitters, this just seems to be the style of clothing that most teenagers seem to be taking to currently.) This surely fires bullies into action when someone wears something non-conformist, just because they have their OWN style.

NO ONE should dread those mornings that are filled with worry about what they're going to pick from their wardrobe, and this is why I'm saying amen to Matilda who just simplified that morning struggle in one fell swoop. What you choose to wear to work should be effortless and make you feel comfortable, enabling you to work to your maximum capacity.

It's not a issue surrounding feminism or gender either, it's about being different and not creating unnecessary stress.

The original article can be found here:

Feel free to leave a comment
or send me a tweet @Sarah_and_Books
expressing your own view

Monday, 1 February 2016

The first BIG book haul of 2016

Saturday became a typical bookish day - and I ended up returning home with no less than 7 books...

(I also went food shopping avec books so you can imagine the fun I had cycling home)

Earlier in the merry month of January, I went for an exploratory trip to nearby Totnes in Devon one Sunday, and surprise surprise, fell into The Totnes Bookshop and left with a book - not my fault entirely, as I would like to place some of the 'blame' onto the shop for having the book in question at half it's retail price as a hardback copy! It's not really their 'fault' as such, I was just wanted to justify my actions... Anyway, the book I purchased in Totnes was The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan, and it is an absolutely beautiful cover, let alone what lies between the covers, so I cannot wait to get stuck into that later on in the year.

Apart from Saturday I THINK I was pretty restrained as far as book-buying goes...

Then Saturday happened!

On my way into town, specifically if I'm cycling, I have to go past Book Cycle (mentioned in a previous post) and because of the nature of Book Cycle as a concept, I try and pop in at least once a week on the off chance that there'll be something good hiding amongst the shelves. Lo and behold, it was a good day - and I left Book Cycle with an almost-new copy of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and a collection of plays by Tennesse Williams. The former I remember borrowing from the library at university and reading about a third of it, but alas, maybe I chose to read it around deadline time and I just didn't finish it for one reason or another. I definitely want to read it because I've heard very good reviews on the whole so I'm eager to be able to make my own judgement. The collection of plays include A Streetcar Named Desire and amazingly I haven't ever actually read this play (many people read it in English at school) and just the fact that it's a collection of plays makes a difference and gives you a break from reading prose - something easier to dip in and out off as time allows.

After a few errands in town, I wound up at one of the Waterstones in Exeter (the one nearest my office incidentally) - I managed to time this well when a sudden rainstorm let itself loose on Exeter - and began the seemingly impossible task of choosing just four books. This was my allowance to be covered by my book token with the current 'buy one, get one half price' in Waterstones stores at the moment. Two books, The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George and The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, were actually in the Book of the Month category, and I knew The Buried Giant by Kazuo Isighuro was being released in paperback and destined to be just as pretty as the hardback. my fourth choice was A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, the companion novel to Life After Life, which I absolutely loved. I really like the whole 'companion novel' thing that seems to be becoming more popular nowadays - I like the fact that you don't necessarily have to read either novel before the other and that both are just as strong on their own, but it's like a little literary bonus if you have. I think authors that pull it off prove they really have pure writing talent.

So, there we have it, my first big haul of this year - and I know there'll be plenty more. I'm not even joking about going into hibernation to read all the books, because with my addiction it's becoming a feasible option...

Have you read any of the books featured on today's post?
Let me know what you think via Twitter...