Help the Witch

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Read 31/10/2018-14/11/2018

Rating: 5 stars

Last year, Tom Cox published his wonderful book of nature writing, 21st Century Yokel, through Unbound. Having loved that book, the writing, the design, the entire spirit of the thing, as soon as he announced his first collection of fiction, I pledged.

The book arrived a couple of weeks ago. I saved it to take on holiday, to read on my birthday. Hallowe’en seemed an appropriate moment to read a collection of spooky short stories. I didn’t read it all on my birthday. I ended up drawing it out for as long as possible because I wanted to relish the stories. Continue reading

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Her Body & Other Parties

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Read 24/03/2018-30/03/2018

Rating: 4 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room March Madness Reading Challenge.

Carmen Maria Machado’s writing style reminds me of Ben Marcus. It’s tangential to reality, unsettling in the way it seems familiar but is slightly off, and it mixes the everyday with the fairytale to create a new kind of horror. Continue reading

The House of the Seven Gables

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Read 07/03/2018-14/03/2018

Rating: 3 stars

I bought The House of the Seven Gables for £1 from the book shop in the café at Mrs Gaskell’s House. Once upon a time, it had cost five shillings, and its purchaser had given it to a friend. There’s an inscription inside the front cover. The recipient is nameless, the donor signs themself M.L. and it’s clear that the book meant a lot to them. Continue reading

21st-Century Yokel

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Read 28/12/2017-02/01/2018

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve been reading Tom Cox’s nature writing for a while now, first through his columns in The Guardian and more recently via his website. He’s an interesting writer. He writes about nature in a way that makes sense to me. It’s difficult to describe, but it has to do with nature being entwined into life rather than held at bay and experienced for leisure. His writing style reminds me of W G Sebald. He’s whimsical without it being a pose.

I pledged for his latest book on Unbound. I haven’t read any of his other books, despite four of them being about his life with a clowder of cats and me being the sort of person who has to stop to say hello to any cat I encounter. 21st-Century Yokel, though, seemed the kind of book about nature, folklore, understanding the place where you live, walking, landscape, myth, and sheep cuddling that I’d been waiting for. Continue reading

Lincoln in the Bardo

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Read 12/12/2017-22/12/2017

Rating: 3 stars

I went into this novel blind. I’ve heard of George Saunders. He features in Nick Offerman’s book Gumption. He’s someone I’ve been meaning to read but never got round to. Lincoln in the Bardo won the 2017 Booker Prize. It was on the shelf in the library last time I went in to change my books, and someone had recently told me I should read it.

The same someone told me that Lincoln in the Bardo is a strange book, boring for long stretches then, just as you’re about to give up on it, something interesting happens that hooks you back in. They also told me that it was kind of like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but not.

It’s certainly a strange book. Continue reading

Slade House

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Read 31/10/2017-01/11/2017

Rating: 3 stars

David Mitchell’s Slade House is an adjunct to his previous six novels, an Easter egg laid on Twitter turned into a book. I enjoyed it as a quick read on Hallowe’en, surrendering myself to its suspense and tension, allowing myself to be played with, as the visitors to Slade House are played with. I indulged myself in Spot-the-Link, appreciating the way plot lines from Mitchell’s previous works made tangents with this story. Continue reading

The Elementals

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Read 09/07/2017-14/07/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge.

When I read in the introduction that Michael McDowell had worked on the scripts for Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, I knew I was in for a good read with The Elementals. I wasn’t disappointed.

Set in the early 1980s, the novel begins with the funeral of an Alabama matriarch, Marian Savage. The Savages are descended from one of the original French families to settle in Alabama, the Sauvages, and have a long connection to a secluded town on the Gulf coast, called Beldame. It’s a place so remote that only the family can bear to visit.

It’s also a place where strange things happen, strange things linked to a Savage family secret. Continue reading