Books in Brief: The Little White Horse, Neurotribes and The Getting of Wisdom

The Little White Horse Source: Library

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge 

Five words from the blurb: orphan, happiness, scary, valley, magical

I picked up a copy of this book after seeing an interview in which JK Rowling named it as one of her childhood favourites. The story follows Maria, a young girl forced to move onto her uncle’s country estate after being orphaned. The suggestions of enchanted creatures in the woods were intriguing and I initially loved the vivid descriptions, but unfortunately I lost interest as the book progressed. The plot meandered around and I became bored by Maria’s actions. The length of the descriptive passages became overwhelming and I failed to become emotionally invested in the story.

It was interesting to see how some aspects of this book may have inspired the Harry Potter series, but it wasn’t worth reading for this alone.  I think this is a book you need to read as a child as it doesn’t stand up to adult scrutiny.


Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently Source: Library

Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

Five words from the blurb: autism, history, surprising, people, understanding

Neurotribes came to my attention when it won the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize. I am intrigued by all books about autism so immediately requested a copy from my local library.

Neurotribes is a comprehensive investigation into the history of autism. It explains everything from the evidence that several historical figures had the condition, through early research and the first diagnosis, to the present day in which the autism community is able to thrive in the on-line environment.

The book was very easy to read, with sound research backing up each section. My excessive reading on the subject of autism meant that little was new to me, but I admired the way everything was brought together in one volume. This book doesn’t provide any practical advice on helping those with autism, but it is a fascinating insight into how our knowledge has grown in recent times. I especially appreciated the positive themes of neurodiversity that run through this book and recommend Neurotribes to anyone interested in how thoughts on autism have changed over the years.


Getting of Wisdom, The (Text Classics) Source: Library

The Getting of Wisdom by Henry (Ethel) Handel Richardson 

Five words from the blurb: Australian, school, girl, precocious, accepted

The Getting of Wisdom is an Australian classic, first published in 1910. It follows 12-year-old Laura as she heads to boarding school for the first time. The book deals with issues of acceptance and shows the complexities of emotion involved in growing up.

Laura was a fantastic character and I loved her bold enthusiasm. Her laughter was infectious and I admired the realism of the adult-child relationships. Unfortunately the plot was a bit slow/meandering and much of it was predictable. It was fascinating to read this so soon after The Little White Horse, as they had a lot in common.

Recommended to anyone who enjoys reading older books, especially ones involving boarding schools.


Other Uncategorized

September/October Summary and Plans for November

The summer was so busy that I didn’t read much, but things have been a lot quieter since my boys returned to school. This means I’m back to my usual level of reading and am getting through the stacks again. I’ve read a nice selection of books, but my favourite read, by a long margin, was A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I think it will be difficult to find a better book this year. In fact I don’t think I’ve read another book with such an intensity of emotion. I highly recommend you give it a try!

Book of the Month:

A Little Life

Books Reviewed in September/October:

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara 

The Mountain and the Valley by Ernest Buckler 

The Utopia Experiment by Dylan Evans 

Educating Ruby by Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas 

Every Boy Should Have a Man by Preston L Allen 

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg 

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh 

Soil by Jamie Kornegay 

Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks 

The First Bad Man by Miranda July 

Kauthar by Meike Ziervogel 

The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas 

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand 

Plans for November

I’ve recently finished the following books and hope to review them soon:

News from Nowhere by William Morris

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck

Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld

Meatspace by Nikesh Shukla

The Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts

I then plan to read most of these:

Death and Mr Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

Black Milk by Elif Shafak

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

The Postman by David Brin

I hope you have a wonderful November!

2015 Other Uncategorized

Books in Brief: The Seed Collectors, Fates and Furies and Soil

The Seed Collectors Source: Free review copy received from publisher

The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas

Five words from the blurb: woman, love, struggles, seeds, parents

I’ve enjoyed many of Scarlett Thomas’ previous books (especially The End Of Mr. Y) so was looking forward to reading this one. Unfortunately it was a departure from her usual style and I didn’t enjoy it as much.

The blurb and the first page give the impression that this book is a horticultural fantasy novel involving walking trees and poisonous seeds. Unfortunately the truth is much more ordinary. This book is a family saga, charting the changing relationships between generations of one family. There were good sections, but overall I wasn’t impressed. There were too many characters, so I struggled to keep track of who was who, and didn’t care what happened to any of them. There was also a lot of sex, which didn’t seem to add anything to the story.

Overall, this book lacked the passion of her previous ones. I think she enjoys writing about psychology much more than horticulture.


Fates and Furies Source: Free review copy received from publisher

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Five words from the blurb: relationships, sides, marriage, envy, friends

I could almost copy and paste my review of The Seed Collectors here too – they share so many of the same problems! I’ve read all of Groff’s previous novels (my favourite is The Monsters of Templeton). She seems to be another of those authors whose skill as a writer is improving all the time, but at the expense of raw emotional passion.

This book is about long-term relationships, but I was so distanced from the characters that I failed to form any attachment to them. The descriptive passages were lovely, but there was no forward momentum and I became bored. I might have enjoyed it more if there had been less meandering, but I prefer Groff when she is writing emotional scenes.


Soil  Source: Library

Soil by Jamie Kornegay

Five words from the blurb: Mississippi, flood, farm, body, ruined

Soil begins with wonderfully atmospheric descriptions of a man finding a corpse on his flooded Mississippi farm. Worried he might be blamed for the death, he attempts to hide the body. This turns out to be harder than expected! Here’s a list of DIY nutrients that can be sourced from dynamic accumulator plants.

The characters were all well-formed and I loved the initial tension. Unfortunately the plot began to flounder at the half-way stage – probably because the book was a bit too long. The emotions were all realistic and I could understand exactly why the characters reacted in their own bizarre ways. It developed into a gentler story of rural life/relationships than I expected, but it was an enjoyable read.

I was impressed by many sections in Soil and will seek out this author again in future.



Books in Brief: Under the Skin, In the Unlikely Event, The Bridge Over the Drina and The Loney

Under The Skin Source: Personal Copy

Under the Skin by Michel Faber

Five words from the blurb: hitchhiker, male, specimens, why, strange

There were some wonderfully creepy scenes in this book, but it failed to hold my attention throughout. It was repetitive in the middle section and unconvincing in the end – it seemed to rely on shock-value rather than skillful writing. I’m glad I’ve read Faber’s debut, but pleased his skill as a writer has improved with each further book he’s written.


In the Unlikely Event Source: Free review copy received from publisher

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Five words from the blurb: town, disaster, friendship, generations, changed

I have fond memories of reading Judy Blume as a teenager so was looking forward to trying her new book for adults. Unfortunately, due to my habit of not reading blurbs, I had no idea this book was about plane crashes. I read about 50 pages of good character development before discovering this problem and abandoning it – in an attempt to prevent my phobia of flying from worsening. I look forward to finding out what others think of this book as I’d love to know if the plot develops well. Unfortunately the subject matter just wasn’t for me.



Bridge Over The Drina Source: Personal Copy

The Bridge Over the Drina by Ivo Andric

Ivo Andric received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961

Five words from the blurb: Balkan, history, war, generations, survive

The Bridge Over the Drina is a Bosnian classic, but it deserves to be a global one. The plot describes the history of a small Bosnian town by focusing on the events that happen on the stone bridge at it’s centre.  Some sections were a bit slow and there were points when I became bored by sheer number of battles that had taken place over the last 700 years, but that isn’t the author’s fault – Mankind should learn from the lessons of the past! If you’d like to know more about the history of the Balkans this is the book for you.


The Loney Source: Free review copy received from publisher

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

Five words from the blurb: retreat, coast, hidden, priest, forget

The Loney is a slightly creepy mystery. It began brilliantly, with some fantastically atmospheric descriptions of the English countryside. The characterisation in the book was also excellent, but I’m afraid the plot flagged in several sections. The ending was almost enough to make up for this, but it was too little, too late. This is Gothic horror at its mildest!





I’m Back from Holiday!

Sorry it’s been a bit quiet around here – I’ve been away on holiday. We had a fantastic time – white water rafting in Slovenia, sailing round the Kornati Islands in Croatia, and then visiting a few cities in Italy.








We’ve had a very busy three weeks – I’ll be back with a few book reviews as soon as I’ve recovered from all the excitement!

Booker Prize Other Uncategorized

Who Will Be Longlisted for the 2015 Booker Prize?

The Booker longlist will be announced on Wednesday 29 July. For the last few months I’ve been studying the contenders. It’s a pretty average year for fiction and there are no obvious front-runners for the prize, so it will be interesting to see which titles are selected.

My personal favourite is I Am Radar by Reif Larsen as I thought it pushed the boundaries of both literature and science in new directions – something the majority of other books fail to do, no matter how insightful or well-written they are. I’d also be happy to see The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber do well, especially as it is a fantasy novel – a genre often ignored by the prize committee.

After much deliberation I’ve chosen 13 books that deserve a place on the Booker longlist. I hope that you like my selection!

I predict that these books will be selected for the Booker longlist:


The Book of Strange New ThingsOne Third of ParadiseLila

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

One Third of Paradise by Julietta Harvey

Lila by Marilynne Robinson

I Am RadarThe Mark and the VoidA Little Life

I Am Radar by Reif Larsen

The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Spool of Blue ThreadQuicksandAll Involved

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Quicksand by Steve Toltz

All Involved by Ryan Gattis

The Green RoadA God in RuinsPuritymiller

The Green Road by Anne Enright

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

The Crossing by Andrew Miller

Purity by Jonathan Franzen

What do you think of my choices?

Who would you like to see on the Booker longlist?