Other Uncategorized

Mini Reviews: Back to Back, Sex and the Citadel and The Hunger Angel

Back to Back Translated from the German by Anthea Bell

Back to Back by Julia Franck

Five words from the blurb: Jewish, Berlin, political, loneliness, dreams

Back to Back is a quiet, reflective novel set in East Berlin during the 1960s. It is beautifully written with some evocative scenes showing the trauma inflicted on children who are ignored by their parents. These issues are mirrored in the problems faced by the population as a whole; people who are trapped behind the Berlin wall.

Unfortunately it was too slow for me and the book was so bleak that I failed to bond with any of the characters. There were a few wonderful scenes, but the narrative was disjointed and failed to engage me. If you enjoy books for poetic writing alone then you’ll love this one.


Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World

Sex and the Citadel by Shereen El Feki

Five words from the blurb: intimate, life, Arab, social, relations

Two weeks ago the Guardian First Book Award shortlist was announced and Sex and the Citadel was the only one I hadn’t tried. Intrigued by the title (and the quality of the other books on the list) I decided to order a copy from the library.

Shereen El Feki was born in England to a Muslim father and Christian mother. She moved to Canada in childhood, but spent her holidays in Egypt. Her understanding of both Eastern and Western culture gives her a special insight into the differences between the two. In this book she speaks to Egyptian people about their sexual lives. She uncovers changing attitudes and examines the way these reflect the politics and economic policies of the modern day.

I loved the introduction to this book! It was funny and warm and gave me a fantastic insight into the differences between Egyptian culture and my own. Unfortunately the rest of the book wasn’t as entertaining. It was a fantastic piece of research, but the facts and figures bored me after a few while. I was already familiar with most of the history/politics and sadly the information on rape, marriage & homosexuality didn’t surprise me. If you are interested in social history then you’ll probably love it, but I’m afraid the broad overview was enough for me.


The Hunger Angel Translated from the German by Philip Boehm

The Hunger Angel by Herta Müller

Five words from the blurb: Russia, hunger, bleak, camp, life

The Hunger Angel is set in 1945 and focuses on Leo, a man forced to work in a Russian labour camp shovelling coal. He is starving and suffering immense pain, but he keeps himself alive by thinking about his grandmother’s positive words.

This book was beautifully written, but unrelentingly bleak. There was a distance to the writing that meant I failed to bond to Leo and this meant the descriptions of his suffering had no impact on me. I’m sad to say that I became bored. I longed for a narrative drive or some lighter sections to break up the unrelenting darkness of it all. It is important to know about what went on, but I’m afraid I found it too depressing. 



2014 Other Uncategorized

The Best Books of 2014?: Authors We Know and Love

I’ve been flicking through publisher catalogues and asking booksellers and publicists about the most exciting books to be published in the UK in 2014. Next week I’ll let you know which debut authors I’m excited about, but this week it is the turn of the authors we are already familiar with.

Here are the 2014 new releases that caught my eye:

Note: UK release month shown, date may be different in other countries

The Lie

The Lie by Helen Dunmore

January, Hutchinson

The Siege is one of my favourite books so it is great to see Dunmore returning to the theme of war. This book is about a soldier returning from the First World War and the way he is haunted by a lie. One to watch for the Baileys Fiction Prize this year?


Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

January, Atlantic

The Slap was a controversial, but riveting read. Barracuda seems to be getting even more praise in Australia so I’m looking forward to finding out how he’s managed to make a novel about competitive swimming so engaging!

The Gospel of Loki

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris

February, Gollanz, 

“a brilliant first-person narrative of the rise and fall of the Norse gods “

Joanne Harris has already proved she can write well in multiple genres. I’m looking forward to learning all about the “Underworld of Chaos!”

The Last Word

The Last Word by Hanif Kureishi

February, Faber & Faber

Kureishi writes with a rare combination of humor and power. I’m looking forward to this one which compares “the frailties of age versus the recklessness of youth.”

The Blazing World

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

March, Sceptre

 “Emotionally intense, intellectually rigorous, ironic and playful, The Blazing World is as gripping as it is thought-provoking.” Is it possible to write a blurb that is more appealing to me than that? I doubt it!


In by Natsuo Kirino

August, Harvill Secker
Out by Natsuo Kirino is my favourite thriller so I’m very excited that her new book is going to be published here later this year. In contains an investigation into a best-selling author and promises to question the differences between life and literature. I hope it lives up to my exceedingly high expectations.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

September, Sceptre

Climate change, a cult of predatory soul-decanters and a band of vigilantes? Only David Mitchell could pull off such a bizarre mix of themes. I can’t wait! 

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Autumn, Virago

Set in London in 1922 this book revolves around a large house where impoverished widow Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers. It is “beautifully described with excruciating tension, real tenderness, believable characters, and surprises” I hope it is as good as it sounds!


Visitants by Eggers

November, Hamish Hamilton

I don’t know anything about this one, but I’ve loved many books written by Dave Eggers so this is on my “must-read” list.  


Other books to look forward to:

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Il Divino Bambino by James Frey

The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins by Irvine Welsh

Falling Out of Time by David Grossman

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin

Untitled Novel by Leo Benedictus

Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

Irène by Pierre Lemaitre

Everland by Rebecca Hunt

Eyrie by Tim Winton

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss

The Temporary Gentleman by Sebastian Barry

Which 2014 books are you excited about?


November Summary and Plans for December

November was a fairly typical reading month for me. There were a few more average reads than I’d like, but the themes were varied enough to keep me happy. I read slightly less than normal because I’m immersed in a few chunksters: A Man In Full by Tom Wolfe is a fantastic story and I’m really enjoying all the twists and turns. Unfortunately Underworld by Don DeLillo isn’t as enjoyable. It contains some amazing writing, but I have to admit it is a bit of a slog at the moment. Hopefully it will grab my attention soon.

Book of the Month:

Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola


Thérèse Raquin was a real surprise. It was so atmospheric and packed with emotion. The audio version was particularly well done and I highly recommend it.

Books Reviewed in November:

Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola (Audio Book) 

Night Film by Marisha Pessl (Audio Book) 

Not Without Flowers by Amma Darko 

The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach 

All Quiet on the Orient Express by Magnus Mills 

Into the Abyss by Carol Shaben 

Plans for December

I don’t have any firm plans for the next month, but these books are at top of the TBR pile at the moment:

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

The Juggler by Sebastian Beaumont

The Darkroom Of Damocles by WF Hermans

Lightning Rods by Helen Dewitt

I’m also going to busy on the blog. In the next few weeks I’ll be sharing my favourite books of 2013 and several posts about what I’m looking forward to next year.

Are there any outstanding 2013 books I should try to squeeze in before the end of the year? 

Have a wonderful December!