A(nother) Review: Vox by Christina Dalcher

Welcome to the USA!

 

Gentlemen, through the door on your left, please. Ladies, please wait here to get your bracelet fitted. Best to say goodbye now.

 

Vox shows us a scarily similar world to ours, but one where women are restricted to just a hundred words a day. Far-fetched? Possibly. But Dalcher shows us what could happen when good people do nothing.

 

The writing pulls you in straight away and makes you think about where this world is heading. Not here. Surely not here. But where?

 

A book you can’t and won’t put down.

 

Vox is available now from Harlequin

A(nother) Review: A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

You know what it’s like, you wait three years for a new John Boyne novel, and then suddenly it’s an annual event.

I was still recommending and thinking about The Heart’s Invisible Furies when a copy of his 2018 offering – A Ladder to The Sky – fell onto my desk. I wasn’t expecting it – after such an excellent piece like Furies, I thought we’d have to wait a couple of years before the next one.

A Ladder to The Sky is a novel about never-ending ambition. The type of ambition that makes you keep on going, setting a new goal every time you reach your previous. Where does it stop… and how much are you willing to do to get there?

At first, I noticed the similarities to The Heart’s Invisible Furies – A Ladder to the Sky at first seems to be a story about an older gay man retelling the story of his life, similar to the way we explored Cyril Avery’s life, however it soon becomes apparent that this is a tale not about the storyteller, but about the listener, Maurice Swift.

The way that Erich Ackermann talks about the young man, it’s impossible not to fall in love with him. And that’s exactly what Ackermann does.

A Ladder to the Sky is a slow exploration into Maurice Swift’s character. It starts off told from afar, each viewpoint getting closer and closer to the truth of who Swift really is.

Boyne’s writing is so clever, he makes us fall in love with Swift, and so quickly, then starts to peel away his layers like an onion. Each of those layers reveals a reason not to love Swift, and all the way through, no matter what terrible thing we learn, it’s difficult not to still harbour a fondness, a certain admiration for Swift.

Even at his most terrible, I found it hard not admire his determination, his self-belief.

I wrote down a few of my favourite lines, either brilliantly written or a nice observation:

Just because one is homosexual does not mean one is lonely.

 

What is loneliness other than the lack of love?

 

Perhaps it would be a good idea if everyone just stopped writing for a couple of years and allowed readers to catch up

 

Perhaps the person I admire most here, though, is John Boyne himself. He takes a complex life, explores it over many years, interacts with many characters and still manages to tie up all the loose strands – if not into a perfectly, resolved bow, then into a close knot.

A brilliant novel from a man who is fast becoming one of my favourite novelists.

A Ladder to the Sky is published by Doubleday and is available now

A(nother) Review: If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

I would imagine that being Hannah Beckerman is hard.

That’s not meant as a personal slight at all, I’ve met her a couple of times and let me assure you she’s lovely.

She has a ridiculously enviable job – she’s a freelance journalist and gets paid to review books for papers. When you see things like “Astounding – The Times” that’s usually a quote from Hannah.

She’s been judges on book prizes and chairs lots of panel discussions – as well as one on one Author interviews.

On top of all this she gets to go to cocktail parties and hang around with the likes of me.

As well as all these amazing jobs, which seem to largely be composed of reading books and telling people whether she liked them or not, Hannah is an author, her second novel is published next year.

And that’s the rub.

We all have insecurities. We all believe any criticisms levelled at us 100% and disregard any compliments, anyway.

Now imagine getting nice things said about your book by an author whose book you’re about to review. Are they genuinely saying nice things because they’re true, or because they want a nice review.

And what if someone says nice things, but you hated their book?

Anyone who follows books on twitter will have seen a lot of love for Beckerman’s new novel If Only I Could Tell You and maybe you’re also wondering if it’s genuine praise or if there are ulterior motives.

Fortunately, I don’t have a book waiting to be reviewed or an author to be interviewed so you can trust me for an objective review.

The truth is, the reviews you’ve already seen are right, it really is as good as everyone says.

If Only I Could Tell You is about two sisters, estranged from each other for decades. We meet them when they both have teenage daughters of their own, while their Mum is secretly battling a terminal illness.

Audrey wants to reconcile her two daughters but an untold secret from the past is threatening to keep them apart.

Thanks to ALL her other jobs, Beckerman knows good characters, good plots and good storytelling and that is evident in this, her second novel.

The reader is kept in suspense throughout, never completely sure of what is the truth and what is the misconceptions of a young girl. And that’s what keeps you turning the page, all the way to the end.

You want these women to sort themselves out, you’re almost shouting at the book telling them to stop being stupid and just blooming well talk to each other. We all know people like that in real life so it really works.

In summary;

Hannah = lovely

If Only I Could Tell You = brilliant

Everyone = completely correct to heap praise on it

If Only I Could Tell You will be published by Orion on 21st February 2019

A(nother) Review: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Two weeks ago, I moaned about the lack of diversity in commercial fiction, then a week ago I read The Madonna of Bolton– a funny, but emotional tale of growing up Northern. I mean, gay.

 

On the flip side of the diversity coin, this week I’m talking about Queenieby Candice Carty-Williams.

 

At the beginning of the novel we find our eponymous hero suffering from a miscarriage and a break-up – no, not a break-up, just a break.

 

Queenie is a black woman trying to find her way in life, trying to navigate her way through a quarter-life breakdown (my words). She faces all the challenges that Bridget Jones would face, but there are added complications because of her race.

 

Before I delve much further into the book itself, let’s talk about the commercial side of things. This book isn’t different because it features a black woman as the main character, there are lots of books out there like that, but the difference is this has the potential to become a commercial hit.

 

Like The Madonna of Bolton last week, this isn’t mold-breaking or genre-defining but there is here the possibility to have a commercial success of a book featuring a black woman in its lead, something a little bit different to the books that dominate the bestseller lists at the moment.

 

Some people will tell you that some of the sex is too graphic, that some of the Black Lives Matter stuff is too preachy, but I’ve read other books with white leads where the sex is just as graphic (though perhaps a bit more vanilla) and the characters much more militant about their ‘cause’.

 

Queenie’s thoughts on race don’t feel like a cause, they feel like the world-weary thoughts of someone who’s had to put up with these comments all her life.

 

I consider myself quite ‘woke’ – but there are things in this novel which made me realise that there are times when I might be saying the wrong things, even if they are good-intentioned.

 

Let’s forget race, commerciality, and what I learned – the question’s got to be… Is Queenie a good book?

 

Yes!

 

It’s funny, it has a plot, and a cast of characters all of whom are believable. There are times when Queenie’s mental health experiences hit home – consider this a trigger warning – but the book doesn’t go necessarily where you think it’s going to go.

 

Queenie the character is fascinating but actually somewhat unlikable, that doesn’t matter though, because Queenie the book is a great read and deserves to be a huge hit when it’s published next year.

 

Yeah, that’s right, I’ve been banging on about a book that’s not published for another seven months but that’s ok, it gives us all the chance to make sure that everyone is lining up ready to read it when it does come out.

 

Queenie is published on 21stMarch 2019 by Trapeze