Tag Archives: Waterstone’s 11

The Tiger’s Wife- Téa Obreht


Synopsis (from amazon)

Natalia is on a quest: to discover the truth about her beloved grandfather. He has died far from home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery.

Recalling stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia suspects he may have died trying to unravel two mysteries. One was the fate of a tiger which escaped during German bombing raids in 1941; the other a man who claimed to be immortal. But, as Natalia learns, there are no simple truths or easy answers in this landscape echoing with myths but still scarred by war.

Review

I read the first chapter of this book back in 2011 when it was in the first Waterstone’s Eleven. It went on my wishlist then, but it’s was only towards the end of last year that I actually read it.

There are four stories in this novel. That of Natalia as a child and her relationship with her Grandfather. The story of Natalia now. And the two stranger stories, those of the tiger’s wife, and the deathless man. All the stories are meant to be true, the stranger stories being stories which Natalia’s grandfather told her about his life.

The stranger stories are what make the book really. They have an almost fairytale like quality. I especially liked the tale of the deathless man because it had elements which seemed more real than that of the tiger’s wife, but they were contrasted in the idea of this man who couldn’t die. The idea of a woman falling in love with a tiger was less supernatural I suppose, it’s more how much it was believed I think that was unusual.

I did enjoy the writing in this book, however I’d find I got interested in one story only for it to stop and give way to one of the others, and then I’d stop reading because I didn’t want to read that other story. Even though I liked each story on it’s own I wasn’t ready to leave one for another, and that meant it took me a surprisingly long time to read for such a short book.

(Isn’t the new cover awesome?)

3/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£7.99)

Kindle (£4.99)

Other reviews:

Word by Word

Lit and Life

Nose in a Book

Page Turners

Literary Lindsey

Did I miss your review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here

 

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The Snow Child- Eowyn Ivey



Synopsis (from amazon)

Alaska, the 1920s. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on a fresh start in a remote homestead, but the wilderness is a stark place, and Mabel is haunted by the baby she lost many years before. When a little girl appears mysteriously on their land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding: is she what she seems, and can they find room in their hearts for her?

Review

There was a lot of buzz about this book when it first came out. It was one of the Waterstone’s 11, and everybody seemed to be reading it. It was on my wishlist for a long time but I didn’t buy it until it was on offer as part of the 12 Days of Kindle.

I had a bit of an up and down relationship with this book. It started very slowly and early on I did consider giving up (I need to work out a rule for when I can give up on a kindle book).  I was interested in Mabel particularly which is part of what made me continue. Having no children was so hard on her that she was prepared to move to a rather inhospitable part of the world just to escape the pain.

In a way I sympathised with Mabel but sometimes I just wanted to tell her to stop being so stupid. Her thoughts and decisions were so emotion based that she didn’t seem to even realise where they might lead her, and when they were just absurd.

Once the child entered the story I started to enjoy it however. I think part of it as knowing how much Mabel wanted it, and despite my annoyance with Mabel I did want her to be happy.

The imagery of Alaska was rather good too. I liked the contrasts between the harshness and the beauty of the environment.

The end for me was rather abrupt. I think it could have ended better earlier or needed to be extended a little more for a more satisfying conclusion.

As for the parallels with the fairy story. It was nice in a way but it was also part of what made me annoyed at Mabel.

3/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£4.99)

Paperback (£3.84)

Hardback- Large Print (£20.78)

Other Reviews:

The Little Reader Library

Book Journey

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Between the Pages

Heavenali

Roxploration

Have I missed your review? Link me up in comments and I will add it here.

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Filed under Contempory, Fantasy, Fiction review

The Waterstone’s 11 2012


Last year was the first year of the Waterstone’s 11, 11 new authors with 11 new books to be released that year. This year they are doing it again, which is rather exciting.

Last year I said I would read the previews of each book which were given on the Waterstone’s website, and I pretty much failed, although I did get round to reading the whole of two of the books, and one was one of my top reads of 2011. I am hoping to do a bit better with that plan this year.

This year’s list is:

The Art of Fielding- Chad Harback

Shelter- Frances Greenslade

Care of Wooden Floors- Will Wiles

The Snow Child- Eowyn Ivey

Absolution- Patrick Flanery

The Land of Decoration- Grace McCleen

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry- Rachel Joyce

The Lifeboat- Charlotte Rogan

Signs of Life- Anna Raverat

The Age of Miracles- Karen Thompson Walker

The Panopticon- Jenni Fagan

 

Related Posts:

Waterstone’s 11 2012 (on the Waterstone’s website)

When God was a Rabbbit (here)

Pigeon English (here)

You can also find my reviews of extracts from last year’s Waterstone’s 11 picks by searching Waterstone’s 11 or clicking the tag for Waterstone’s 11

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Pigeon English- Stephen Kelman


Pigeon English is one of the Waterstone’s 11, you can read my initial thoughts here and find an extract on The Waterstone’s Website

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Newly arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister, eleven-year-old Harrison Opoku lives on the ninth floor of a block of flats on an inner-city housing estate. The second best runner in the whole of Year 7, Harri races through his new life in his personalised trainers – the Adidas stripes drawn on with marker pen – blissfully unaware of the very real threat all around him. With equal fascination for the local gang – the Dell Farm Crew – and the pigeon who visits his balcony, Harri absorbs the many strange elements of his new life in England: watching, listening, and learning the tricks of urban survival. But when a boy is knifed to death on the high street and a police appeal for witnesses draws only silence, Harri decides to start a murder investigation of his own. In doing so, he unwittingly endangers the fragile web his mother has spun around her family to try and keep them safe. A story of innocence and experience, hope and harsh reality, Pigeon English is a spellbinding portrayal of a boy balancing on the edge of manhood and of the forces around him that try to shape the way he falls.

Review

When I read the Waterstone’s 11 extract for this I was really excited, the first section with the dead boy was moving but believable, Harri didn’t really know the boy, and was equally sorrowful about the death and intrigued. I must admit though that in some sense the extract and the blurb for Pigeon Englishwere misleading. I expected it to be more about the dead boy, but really it was more about life on an inner-city housing estate and learning about a new culture. That’s not really a bad thing, and actually I think I prefer it that way. In some ways there was a disturbing element to this story, that a boy of such innocence could be influenced in some of the ways Harri was, and could just walk into trouble when really he sees what he is doing as a game. I work in a nursery in an area similar to the one in which Harri lives, and it kind of hit close to home and it makes me hope that things will have changed by the time the kids I work with grow up, I don’t want them to end up in some of the troubles that happen in the area.

I found the voice of Harri was really authentic but after a while I did find him a little irritating, especially him constantly saying ‘Asweh’, after a while though I was able to ignore my annoyance as I got more into the actual story. In some ways the way he talked was important to the story, it showed how innocent and naive he really was, and I think that was important, I think I would have just thought he was an idiot if his voice hadn’t been naive, but instead I was wishing for him to talk to someone older about things. The end was absolutely heartbreaking, and brought me close to tears, that’s when I knew I had really come to like Harri.

Was it worth my excitement? Not really but it’s still and thought provoking read and well worth the time.

4/5

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The Waterstones 11: Pigeon English


So it’s been a while since I’ve done this but I did promise to review extracts from all of the Waterstone’s 11.

The Waterstone’s 11 are a group of 11 books by new authors that will (or have) be(en) released in 2011.

You can read my reviews for:

The Coincidence Engine, The Sentamentalists, When God was a Rabbit (whole book review), The Tiger’s Wife, and, City of Bohane

Pigeon English- Stephen Kelman

Newly arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister, eleven-year-old Harrison Opoku lives on the ninth floor of a block of flats on an inner-city housing estate. The second best runner in the whole of Year 7, Harri races through his new life in his personalised trainers – the Adidas stripes drawn on with marker pen – blissfully unaware of the very real threat all around him. With equal fascination for the local gang – the Dell Farm Crew – and the pigeon who visits his balcony, Harri absorbs the many strange elements of his new life in England: watching, listening, and learning the tricks of urban survival. But when a boy is knifed to death on the high street and a police appeal for witnesses draws only silence, Harri decides to start a murder investigation of his own. In doing so, he unwittingly endangers the fragile web his mother has spun around her family to try and keep them safe. A story of innocence and experience, hope and harsh reality, Pigeon English is a spellbinding portrayal of a boy balancing on the edge of manhood and of the forces around him that try to shape the way he falls. (from Waterstones)

Thoughts from Synopsis

Pigeon English has already been released and I’m quite eager to get a hold of a copy based on the synopsis. I think it would be interesting to see about the contrasting cultures and it sounds like it may be written in a pretty engaging way. Plus on a personal note it sounds like it could be set in the area where I work (although there are areas like it up and down the country). The added crime element I think will add some excitement, which may make it more readable and stop it being to slow or pondering.

Thoughts from extract

I liked the tone of Pigeon English a lot, it reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and looking at the synopsis again it may have other similarities. The tone was really innocent and child-like but talking about serious things, somehow it made some things seem sadder because it was almost brutally honest. I could really imagine that English was not the boys original language, or at least not the slang that he heard having moved to England. It was really simple and easy to read but I don’t think it lost anything from that, it just seemed more authentic.

It makes me more sure that it will be how I imagined from the synopsis, and I certainly would like to keep reading.

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The Waterstone’s 11: City of Bohane- Kevin Barry


The Waterstone’s 11 are a group of new books by new authors championed by Waterstone’s in 2011. You can read my reviews of The Tiger’s Wife, The Coincidence Engine, When God was a Rabbit (review of whole book) and The Sentimentalists. You can read extracts of all the books on the Waterston’s website

City of Bohane- Kevin Barry

Forty years in the future. The once-great city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland is on its knees, infested by vice and split along tribal lines. There are the posh parts of town, but it is in the slums and backstreets of Smoketown, the tower blocks of the Northside Rises and on the eerie bogs of Big Nothin’ that Bohane really lives.

For years, the city has been in the cool grip of Logan Hartnett, the dapper godfather of the Hartnett Fancy gang. But there’s trouble in the air. They say his old nemesis is back in town; his trusted henchman is getting ambitious; and his missus wants him to give it all up and go straight…and then there’s his mother.

City of Bohane is a unique and visionary novel that blends influence from film and the graphic novel, from Trojan beats and calypso rhythms, from Celtic myth and legend, from fado and the sagas, and from all the great inheritance of Irish literature. A work of mesmerising imagination and vaulting linguistic invention, it is a taste of the startlingly new. (from Waterstones)

Thoughts on synopsis

I must admit just from looking at the cover of this book I wouldn’t pick it up. I very rarely read crime and this looks pretty stereotypical of crime novels. The synopsis sounds less stereotypical but it still doesn’t make me want to read the book, it just doesn’t seem like my type of thing.

Thoughts on extract.

Sorry, couldn’t read past the second page, the language grated on me so much. I was crude (which might be the right tone for this type of novel, but I didn’t like it). Lots of seemingly irrelevant swearing (and not even just mild everyday swearing. Some of the language which wasn’t swearing grated on me too, is badness even a word?

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The Waterstone’s 11: The Sentimentalists


The Waterstone’s 11 are 11 books written by author who will make their debuts in 2011. The first chapter’s of all the books are posted on the Waterstones Website and I am reviewing all of them. Click the links to see my reviews of The Coincidence Engine, The Tiger’s Wife and When God was a Rabbit.

The Sentimentalists- Johanna Skibsrub

Haunted by the horrific events he witnessed during the Vietnam War, Napoleon Haskell is exhausted from years spent battling his memories. As his health ultimately declines, his two daughters move him from his trailer in North Dakota to Casablanca, Ontario, to live with the father of Napoleon’s friend who was killed in action. It is to Casablanca, on the shores of a man-made lake beneath which lie the remains of the former town, that Napoleon’s youngest daughter also retreats when her own life comes unhinged. Living with the two old men, she finds her father in the twilight of his life and rapidly slipping into senility. With love and insatiable curiosity, she devotes herself to learning the truth about him; and through the fog, Napoleon’s past begins to emerge. Beautiful, taut and riveting, “The Sentimentalists” is a story of what lies beneath the surface of the everyday, and of the commanding power of the past. Drawing on her own experience as a war veteran’s daughter, Skibsrud’s novel captures the rich complexities encountered by a woman seeking to comprehend and frankly express the truth – in all its fragility – about her life and her family. (from Waterstones)

Thoughts from Synopsis

This sounds like it would drag out a little, but could be interesting, the general topic at least interests me but I probably wouldn’t buy it based on the synopsis.

Thoughts from First Chapter

Well first off I started reading The Sentimentalists in the middle of February. Straight off I found it a little confusing, and not at all engaging. I had to stop reading and haven’t until now wanted to return to it, in fact the only reason I have returned to it today is because I said I would read all the extracts of the Waterstones Eleven and I want to see that through. It didn’t become any more compelling either when I did get back to it. The tone is quite nice and authentic, when you read it it feels a little disjointed and I didn’t like that, but I suppose it makes it more like a stream of consciousness and in a way that’s good.

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When God was a Rabbit- Sarah Winman


This book was sent to me in return for my review. It is one of the Waterstone’s 11, you can read my review of the first chapter here

Synopsis (from Amazon)

WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT is an incredibly exciting debut from an extraordinary new voice in fiction.

Spanning four decades, from 1968 onwards, this is the story of a fabulous but flawed family and the slew of ordinary and extraordinary incidents that shape their everyday lives. It is a story about childhood and growing up, loss of innocence, eccentricity, familial ties and friendships, love and life. Stripped down to its bare bones, it’s about the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

Review

I was glad to find that When God was a Rabbit didn’t carry on exactly as the first chapter had. Although I enjoyed the first chapter I felt like too much happened at one and if that had carried on the book would have been too plot driven for my taste. I can enjoy plot driven books but I never find that they really get into my mind and stay with me, I can say I thought about When God was a Rabbit when not reading it. It was still very readable, which is an element sometimes lost for more ponderous writing. Although at times there wasn’t a great deal happening a sense of atmosphere was really well built and the characters were easily loveable. I especially liked Elly- although that may be simply because I got to know her the best. I didn’t like Joe so much, there was something a little self serving about him, but I can see why he might be like that considering certain events (highlight for spoiler)I think maybe he was trying to protect himself from further heartbreak, especially considering the way he was towards Charlie the second time. I also think that he maybe was trying to protect himself from hearing another secret from Elly, a secret that effected both their lives, or even trying to stop himself from revealing it.

I did find the synopsis on the back of the book a little misleading, it suggested that it was a story of a brother and sister, it was that but it was also much more, it was a story about family, and friends, and life. I must admit on reading the synopsis thinking that it was a story about a brother and sister put me off a little, and I may never have really wanted to read it without more information.

I’m glad I did read it though. It was very touching, and sad, and funny. Really quite beautiful. If I had to say anything bad about it I would say that it was maybe a bit too issue-y and that made it a little far-fetched and unbelievable. I also did have a feeling at the end that some things had not been revealed, although if you tried to get me to tell you what I don’t think I could, at least not without a re-read.

4.5/5

When God was a Rabbit is released on 3rd March

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The Waterstone’s 11: The Coincidence Engine


The Waterstone’s 11 are 11 books which will be released by debut authors during 2011. You can read extracts of all the books on the Waterstones website. I’m posting my thoughts on the extracts here on my blog. So far I have posted on When God was a Rabbit and The Tiger’s Wife.

The Coincidence Engine- Sam Leith

A hurricane sweeps off the Gulf of Mexico and in, the back-country of Alabama, assembles a passenger jet out of old bean-cans and junkyard waste. An eccentric mathematician – last heard of investigating the physics of free will and ranting about the devil – vanishes in the French Pyrenees. And the thuggish operatives of a multinational arms conglomerate are closing in on Alex Smart – a harmless Cambridge postgraduate who has set off with hope in his heart and a ring in his pocket to ask his American girlfriend to marry him. At the Directorate of the Extremely Improbable – an organisation so secret that many of its operatives aren’t 100 per cent sure it exists – Red Queen takes an interest. What ensues is a chaotic chase across an imaginary America, haunted by madness, murder, mistaken identity, and a very large number of unhealthy but delicious snacks. The Coincidence Engine exists. And it has started to work. “The Coincidence Engine” is consistently engaging – one of the most enjoyable, entertaining debut novels you’ll come across for ages. (from Waterstones)

Thoughts on Synopsis

This sounds really confusing and over complicated. If I read this synopsis on a book in a shop I probably wouldn’t buy it. The cover looks like the types of books I pick up but never buy.

Thoughts on first chapter

I was confused pretty much from the onset, partly because it dived straight into the plot with no explanation and then kept switching between different plot lines. Partly because of the way it was written, I felt like I had to re-read most sections at least twice to understand them. It did get easier as I went through so maybe the style just takes some gettings used to, and I had a slight sense of intrigue, but not enough for me to want to go out and buy the book. At one point it made me laugh but I wasn’t entirely sure I was meant to.

 

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The Waterstone’s 11: The Tiger’s Wife


The Waterstone’s 11 are a list of books by new authors to watch which will be released in the next year. You can read the first chapter of each book on the Waterstone’s website.

This is the second of my mini-reviews. You can find my review of When God was a Rabbit here.

The Tiger’s Wife- Tea Obreht

Synopsis

‘Having sifted through everything I have heard about the tiger and his wife, I can tell you that this much is fact: in April of 1941, without declaration or warning, the German bombs started falling over the city and did not stop for three days. The tiger did not know that they were bombs…’ A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic – Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book. Natalia is the granddaughter of that boy. Now a doctor, she is visiting orphanages after another war has devastated the Balkans. On this journey, she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death, far from their home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery. From fragments of stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia realises he may have died searching for ‘the deathless man’, a vagabond who was said to be immortal. Struggling to understand why a man of science would undertake such a quest, she stumbles upon a clue that will lead her to a tattered copy of The Jungle Book, and then to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.

Thoughts from Synopsis

I’m immediately put in mind of The Life of Pi, but it does sound ever so slightly more realistic! I loved The Life of Pi so if it is similar that would certainly not be a bad thing!

Thoughts from first chapter

Definitely not The Life of Pi but that is not a bad thing! Some wonderful descriptions, some quite horrible too. I love the way you see the view of the humans and of the tiger. It seems that The Tiger’s Wife may be a bit of a war story in a way- but certainly of the type that I have never encountered before. It does not read as easily as what I read of When God was a Rabbit but is much more descriptive and you get much more feeling from it. I can imagine it could become quite gripping and if the standard of writing stays as it is it could become quite popular with the awards. Certainly one to look out for

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The Waterstone’s 11: When God was a Rabbit


The Waterstone’s 11 is a list of 11 books by 11 debut authors which will be released in 2011. Books that they think are worth reading. They’ve provided a sample from each book on their website, and I’m going to read every one.

The first is When God was a Rabbit- Sarah Winman

Synopsis

WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT is an incredibly exciting debut from an extraordinary new voice in fiction. Spanning four decades, from 1968 onwards, this is the story of a fabulous but flawed family and the slew of ordinary and extraordinary incidents that shape their everyday lives. It is a story about childhood and growing up, loss of innocence, eccentricity, familial ties and friendships, love and life. Stripped down to its bare bones, it’s about the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

Thoughts from synopsis

This sounds quite interesting. I’m a bit up and down about family saga type novels, if they are done well they can be really good, but sometimes they can drag a bit. I like that it sounds like it will be a bit more interesting that some family sagas and that it may have heart in it

Thoughts from sample

Wow that is a lot to happen in 20 pages. I liked it but felt like the writer was trying to keep the plot going with lots of events rather than the bits in-between, after a while that might get to much. Having said that it made me laugh, and I can imagine that it could make me cry when I feel more in-touch with the characters. I liked the tone, pretty easy to read and engage with, at the beginning at least it reminded me a little of Middlesex, it had a similar tone and it sounded like the topic could even be similar. I certainly would be interested in reading more, if not all of it.

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