Review: Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

26804769A startling and evocative novel, harkening to both One Day and Gravity, a man and a woman revisit memories of their love affair on a utopian Earth while they are trapped in the vast void of space with only ninety minutes of oxygen left.

After the catastrophic destruction of the Middle East and the United States, Europe has become a utopia and, every three years, the European population must rotate into different multicultural communities, living as individuals responsible for their own actions. While living in this paradise, Max meets Carys and immediately feels a spark of attraction. He quickly realizes, however, that Carys is someone he might want to stay with long-term, which is impossible in this new world.

As their relationship plays out, the connections between their time on Earth and their present dilemma in space become clear. When their air ticks dangerously low, one is offered the chance of salvation—but who will take it? An original and daring exploration of the impact of first love and how the choices we make can change the fate of everyone around us, this is an unforgettable read.

Before I say anything: look at that cover, take it in. It is gorgeous. The hardback is beautifully produced, with some of the stars spot varnished it really looks like a shining space scene. I bloomin’ love well-designed books.

I will admit, this was a cover buy – well, it was a birthday present but it was a cover wishlist add. It looks beautiful and it has stars on it.

But it’s so much more than a pretty book. I really didn’t know what to expect but the whole thing was poignant and heartbreaking. I cannot recommend it enough, it’s a beautiful, beautiful book.

At its heart,  Hold Back the Stars is a love story. It follows Carys and Max. It is the last moments of their lives, and how they each got to be there. It is their journey and their tragedy and it is breathtaking. The characters are so well-written, I really felt for them which is so important for a book which is so deeply character-led.  The supporting cast was also wonderful and I really don’t have any complaints.

The world-building was excellent, it was unlike anything I’ve seen before. In fact, the whole book was unlike anything I’ve ever read. Due to the nature of the story, it was very much about the little details and the details soared in this book, every question I had about the world was answered on the page, it’s like the book was reading my mind.

I just loved it. I am so happy when a book I know little about turns into a book I love and this definitely happened with this one. It is as beautiful inside as it is out and I want everyone to read it.

Review: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

29245653Hag-Seed is a re-visiting of Shakespeare’s play of magic and illusion, The Tempest, and will be the fourth novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

In Margaret Atwood’s ‘novel take’ on Shakespeare’s original, theatre director Felix has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. When he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison, the possibility of revenge presents itself – and his cast find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever.

This has been on my TBR list since it was announced and, shamefully, it’s the first Atwood I’ve read. Whoops.

I will definitely be fixing that.

Hag-Seed follows Felix, an ageing theatre director, usurped and left to rot in a tiny shack haunted by the memory of his daughter. It is from this shack that he plots his revenge and finds unlikely allies in the course he teaches at Fletcher correctional.

The Tempest is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, so I was definitely intrigued to see how this would play out. I love that Atwood didn’t just acknowledge the source material but actually used the play at the heart of her novel. I’ve not read any of the other books in the Hogarth series but I have read that the others don’t include the play in such a way. Go Atwood, go!

It unpacks the play, analyses it and spits it out as something magical. I love this book. It made me look at The Tempest in a new way and I now want to go back and study it, school style. Because I am a giant nerd. And proud.

The novel is a slow-burner, it’s very internal. Felix spends a lot of time in his head, plotting, imagining, and often hallucinating. It’s very much an exploration of his character.

I love character driven books, so this really worked for me.

It’s a fresh interpretation of Shakespeare while still sticking to the spirit of the play, and I really, really enjoyed it.

Review: On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher

33785086Evie Snow is eighty-two when she quietly passes away in her sleep, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. It’s the way most people wish to leave the world but when Evie reaches the door of her own private heaven, she finds that she’s become her twenty-seven-year-old self and the door won’t open.

Evie’s soul must be light enough to pass through so she needs to get rid of whatever is making her soul heavy. For Evie, this means unburdening herself of the three secrets that have weighed her down for over fifty years, so she must find a way to reveal them before it’s too late. As Evie begins the journey of a lifetime, she learns more about life and love than she ever thought possible, and somehow, some way, she may also find her way back to her long lost love…

This is a bit different from my usual read, and I wasn’t sure I was going to read it (even though I am an unashamed Carrie Hope Fletcher fangirl) because I didn’t think it would be my sort of thing. Then, I discovered that it has little slices of magic in it so decided to give it a go.

I’m glad I did. I’m a sucker for interesting book production, so when Carrie announced that there would be a special, limited, Waterstone-only edition with purple sprayed pages, I had to buy it. It’s such a pretty little book. The whole package is lovely, from cover to typesetting.

The novel follows Evie Snow, who has recently died, on her journey to gain entry to her own personal heaven. When she died at 82, she was weighed down by her secrets so now in the waiting room of the afterlife, restored to her 27-year-old self, her door won’t open. Through a dual timeline, we are given both Evie’s past and her present. We come to understand why Evie was too heavy, why she made the choices she did and the consequences they had for other people, particularly the lost love of her life Vincent Winters.

I managed to read it incredibly quickly, it’s a very speedy read and a very easy read. The writing style is simple, sometimes leaning a little on clichés but it’s a cutesy read, so that approach works for it. The only thing that let it down in places was a trend of telling, rather than showing.

In these instances, we would be told something and then Carrie’s writing would show us that thing later in the paragraph, rendering the ‘telling’ moot. The most obvious example I can think of is when she reveals that Vincent is bisexual, she states it explicitly and hammers the point in, which felt a bit unnecessary when the next couple of paragraphs showed us his former relationships, one of which was with a man. Later in the novel, despite being with Evie, he shows attraction towards another male character – his sexuality was perfectly (and sensitively) explored in these instances. I understand wanting to make sure the reader knows that this is not a straight man, but you have to have faith in your writing skills and your reader, you don’t need flashing lights and a billboard when you’re already showing us. It is, however, really great that the effort has been made to be inclusive.

That was really my only complaint – I loved the story and found the characters endearing (the names took a while to get used to but once I had settled into them, they added a wonderful sense of whimsy to the novel). I adored Carrie’s approach to magical realism, which has been a point of contention among reviewers (especially those who weren’t expecting it). It is definitely unlike anything I have ever read. It is set apart from other novels in the genre and that can only be a good thing, I think.

On the Other Side is both very much my sort of thing (despite my earlier impressions) in its sense of whimsy, and very much not at the same time. I find that incredibly appealing.

If you’re looking for a sweet, quick read, with a little bit of magic and a lot of feeling, On the Other Side is the book for you. I will definitely be giving it a reread in the future.

Now, I just need to get my hands on Winter’s Snow.

Review: Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

30841109In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favour of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.

One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband…

I watched the Victoria TV show religiously, as I will do when it returns for its second series. I’ve always been fascinated by all things Victorian, and I love old-timey Kings and Queens but oddly, I don’t read that much historical fiction. When I discovered Victoria was also a book, though, I had to read it because I am invested. Very invested.

The book and the show were being written at the same time (I do believe) and it shows, the book is so much like the series, which for me is perfect. It takes everything I loved from the series and delivers it in a delicious booky form. The difference between the book and the series being only where the book ends. If you’ve watched the series, you’ve already passed the end of the book – I am hoping there will be more novelisations released to coincide with the series, I definitely wanted to see a bit more of Albert, who only enters into the novel in the last act.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and found that the emotional moments pack the same punch in book form as they did visually. Victoria was just as feisty as I was hoping and had me rooting for her from the beginning.

Before I started reading, I was worried that the writing style might mimic classics from the same period – I have a lot of trouble reading classics (I just don’t click with that style of writing) but I so wanted to enjoy the novel. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the narration while dealing with the historical was actually quite contemporary in style. Praise be to Ms. Goodwin!

All in all, it was a lovely book, and it was lovely to revisit characters that I have missed during the break between series. A great read if you’re a historical fiction novice like me, and if you love all things Victoria. If you liked the series, you’ll like the book.

Review: Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

24590694Night Vale is a small desert town where all the conspiracy theories you’ve ever heard are actually true. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked ‘KING CITY’ by a mysterious man in a tan jacket. She can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City before she herself unravels.

Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.

Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: ‘KING CITY’. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures …if they can ever find it.

We are still on the Welcome to Night Vale train here on eloucarroll.com. We regret nothing.

(We being I, me, Elou, all on my lonesome. I like to think I’m royal and thus able to pull off the royal ‘we’, do I succeed? You decide. My deciding would be nepotism, and my nepotism would say yes. Yes, I do.)

Anyway, let’s avoid any more tangents, shall we? (There I go again…)

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel is, you guessed it, a novel based on the wildly popular Welcome to Night Vale podcast. I would recommend listening to at least some of the podcasts or picking up Mostly Void, Partially Stars and The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe (the script books for the first two years of the podcast) before you read the novel. Not only will you be more invested by that point but you will also have some idea of what to expect and some familiarity with the setting and some of the characters. The novel does mention things that have occurred previously on the podcast.

Or you could go into it blind and be in for a wild, wild ride. (No, really, you should probably familiarise yourself with Night Vale – I’m not sure it’s hugely accessible for new readers unless you already know what you’re in for.)

As you might have gathered from the blurb Welcome to Night Vale is weird. Unlike American Elsewhere, which I read and reviewed recently, the weird in Night Vale is the random sort of weird that always manages to take you by surprise. I am amazed at the imaginations of Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor but I am even more amazed at their ability to make all of the random things which make Night Vale what it is work together. I always thought that there was such a thing as too out there. Fink and Cranor continue to prove me wrong.

Interspersed with the familiar radio stylings of Cecil, the novel itself follows Diane and Jackie, two unlikely heroines who are thrown together (much to their disgruntlement) by circumstances beyond their control. Both linked by the mysterious stranger in the tan jacket and his cryptic two-word message of ‘KING CITY’. Jackie and Diane are wildly different, and it’s great that we get to experience the story through both of their perspectives, with some chapters happening parallel to one another.

However, it’s not until the last couple of chapters that the plot actually gets anywhere and I think that’s why it took me so long to read (it took me over a week, which is a long time for me at my current reading speed). The wild ride I mentioned earlier was not the wild ride of the plot – that was the wild ride of Night Vale as a thing. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the novel but it could probably have been a fair bit shorter. What works in a short podcast doesn’t necessarily work for a long-form novel. There’s lots of exposition but not enough plot to really justify it, for the podcast this would be perfect but the novel could have done without it. That said, I do love the narrative style (even if it does go every direction except forwards for a lot of the novel). It has a habit of pointing out things that we all know but never really think about, which I really enjoy. At the end of the book, there’s a sentence which spans across three pages. I didn’t notice that it was all the same sentence at first. Until I did. I’m not sure what I think about that but I think that I like how my mind just accepted it and succumbed to the power of the sentence. (I am suddenly worried that the sentence is going to leap out of the book and make a bid at world domination. If any book could convince its sentences to jump ship and take over the world, it would probably be this one.)

Welcome to Night Vale is a mixed bag and it could go either way, I enjoyed it but there are so many reviews from existing fans and Night Vale newbies alike who thought it just fell flat. I can see where they’re coming from. Personally, I like rambling, pointless stories (as long as they have a point of interest, narrative style or characters that I can engage with) but I know a lot of people don’t and if a book’s plot doesn’t really show up until the last few chapters, that’s going to be a problem.

So while I do recommend this book, I recommend it with a pinch of salt. It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea and even though I enjoyed it, I would recommend you explore Night Vale a bit before you pick up the novel to avoid being thrown head-first into a pit of confusion.

On insta-love

Greetings, greetings, one and all. This is a bit of a weird one, bear with me though because I think it’s worth reading. (Well, would, I am the one writing it.)

Insta-love. Not the kind you show on instagram by liking as many of someone’s photos as is humanly possible in one sitting (though, that can be good) but the kind you see in books and movies. Often hailed as unrealistic and annoying and a plot-ruiner.

Well, I have a confession to make on that front.

It’s not that unrealistic. (Controversial?) Sure, if it’s terribly written or portrayed and you’re getting no feeling from either character, I can understand it ruining everything. But as a thing, on the whole, it’s not that bad. Love is weird and it’s different for everyone. This is common knowledge. A love being different to the love I experience, doesn’t make that love invalid and I would never dream of saying it does so why do we assume insta-love isn’t a thing?

Why am I writing about this? Why am I defending insta-love? Well, quite simply, because I feel it myself. Perhaps not full-blown cherubs-with-trumpets-I-want-to-spend-the-rest-of-my-life-with-you-immediately love but it’s very fast.

Context: I met my boyfriend through online dating, we spoke for maybe a week before we met each other in person. We spent a day together and before he went home, I ended up deciding ‘Yup, this is the person I want to be with.’ (If we’re being completely honest, I decided that about an hour into the day.) He agreed. And so we officially became a thing. I didn’t need a second date to know that he was who I wanted, or that a relationship with him was both what I wanted and right for me at the time. Over a year and a half later, and here we still are, living together harmoniously in a little flat on the top of a hill.

I can’t ‘date’. I don’t see the point in devoting time to someone I don’t see or want a future with. If I decide to be with someone it’s because I’m in it for the long-haul from day one. When I was doing the online dating thing, if I felt a strong connection with someone (like my other half) I would cease talking to anyone else on that platform until I had confirmed whether it was something both of us wanted to pursue.

I feel very quickly and very deeply – I felt strong feelings for my other half before we even met. I am exactly the kind of character that gets complained about for being unrealistic but does my existence not make all of those claims a little bit false? Sure, it might be annoying as hell, and it might be difficult to understand if it’s not something you go through, but it’s very much a real thing.

It’s not all sunshine and roses, it hurts when it goes wrong – especially when it goes wrong after a short period of time and the people around you can’t quite understand why you’re so upset about it. That side of things, I think, needs to be explored more. I’m all for happy, wonderful love stories but I’m also all for raw, emotional, painful, not-quite love stories.

A lot of the complaints about it come from young adult fiction, and TV shows and films aimed at teenagers but it’s very much something that teenagers go through. I had so many dramatic unrequited teenage crushes and my teenage relationship(s), other than being a train-wreck, were very much that immediate, sickly sweet kind and so were many of the other teen relationships going on around me. What’s important, I think, is that books/films/shows that deal in insta-love should also deal with how to react healthily to it ending. There are so few stories that I know of that can be used as an example of a healthy way of dealing with a break-up, if you know any, do share them.

Is it just me? Am I the only person on this planet who gets insta-love and doesn’t revile it on principle? Am I speaking into the void?

The Mime Order Blog Tour: If I were a voyant…

On this the 4th stop on The Mime Order’s UK blog tour, as I’ve already posted a review I decided to get creative.

If you’ve read The Bone Season, there is absolutely no way you’ve not thought, if only in passing, about what kind of a voyant you may have been were you thrust head-first into its pages. My own thoughts on the matter have been fleeting, first used as a gag for a video review on my somewhat defunct (but hopefully one day revivable) youtube channel, but as the publication date of hotly anticipated book #2, I decided it was high time I considered it seriously—and photographically.

My choice was to between two obvious options (three, if there were a type of voyant whose numa were twin lens reflex cameras, or box cameras, or any cameras): firstly, bibliomancy. I work in books, I spend most of my life reading books, I design them, I devour them. It would be all too easy for books to be my numa and I thought that might be too obvious a choice to make.

Secondly, cleidomancy (which you may have guessed if you saw a certain question and answer on twitter). Though obvious to almost everyone who knows me in person, you, dear reader, may be wondering why I made this choice and rightly so.

You who read this blog probably haven’t seen my wrists or the box which sits on one of the shelves in my room, waiting for a time when I have my own walls on which I can hang beautiful display frames. You would not have seen the equally beautiful leather-bound notebook I still have not dared to use for fear of ruining it. You might, if you follow one of my tumblr accounts, have noticed my obsession with a certain key-wielding series of video games. You will definitely have noticed my usernames on almost every social media platform ever and perhaps the other URL which brings you to this website.

I am obsessed with keys. I collect them, skeleton keys mostly (currently living in the aforementioned box). I love to imagine the doors they once opened and the rooms into which those doors led, and then the people who walked through those rooms; born, grown, lived, died. It makes sense, then, that if I were to commune with the spirits of the dead I would use one or more of my collection.

The key featured in these images, newly-probably-not-quite-coined bookography (expect more, I like it), is the first I ever purchased and the key that provided the shape for the tattoo on my right wrist. I remember vividly the day that I bought it, the smell of the shop (appropriately situated in Oxford), the long walk to another which sold masks after, the walk back to college and the impending A Level exam. It is my favourite.

So there you have it.

If I were a voyant, I would be a cleidomancer. A smoky-purple aura’d soothsayer, who has a penchant for top hats and deep purple–burgundy colours.

Hop along to Curiosity Killed the Bookworm tomorrow for your next stop! But before you go…

Competition time!

Enquiring minds would like to know what type of voyant you would be and why, in return I will endeavour, with the help of my camera and my partner in crime, to turn two lucky entrants into their voyant selves! Easy peasy!

How to enter

Leave a comment below with your chosen voyant type and why – do be creative! And remember to leave your name and twitter handle (or email) so that I can contact you!

What you win

A photoshoot with myself and Dress.Simple (at a time and date discussed with you by email later) in which we will transport you, using magic, into the world created by the brilliant Samantha Shannon.

Terms and conditions

  1. To enter you must be over 18 or have written permission of a parent or guardian (who will accompany you to the shoot should you win).
  2. You must be able to get to London or Oxford for the resulting photoshoot.
  3. You must be willing to have your image displayed online (via this website and my facebook photography page) and used by Bloomsbury* should they see fit.
  4. All entries need to be in by midnight (GMT) on 18th February 2015.
  5. Winners will be announced within a week of the closing date on this blog, twitter and facebook.
  6. If you do not respond within 48 hours of the initial winners announcement, another winner will be chosen.

Judging

There will be two winners, one chosen by me and the other chosen by a mystery judge, who will be announced 1st February in another Mime Order-related blog post. We will be picking our favourites so make ‘em good!

 If you want to buy The Mime Order it is available on the Bloomsbury website, Waterstones, Amazon and all good retailers! Happy reading!


 *Please note: this competition is not run by nor affiliated with Bloomsbury beyond being a stop on the blog tour, and will only run if more than 5 entries are received

Review: Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

9781472108685

A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, and he is Marya’s fate. For years she follows him in love and in war, and bears the scars. But eventually Marya returns to her birthplace – only to discover a starveling city, haunted by death. Deathless is a fierce story of life and death, love and power, old memories, deep myth and dark magic, set against the history of Russia in the twentieth century. It is, quite simply, unforgettable.

I have been sat on this review for a while. I wasn’t quite sure how to put how much I loved this book into words. I think the best way is to tell you that after I finished reading it, I bought it for my best friend. I not only wanted her to read it, I wanted her to own it. And now she does.

Catherynne M. Valente has steadily grown to be my favourite author alongside Neil Gaiman and it is in a big way because of this book (as well as her Fairyland series and Palimpsest). Valente is a poet, her work is always very lyrical and inspiring. It is as much her use of language as the stories she tells that makes me love her work so much. It’s so rich and fulfilling, it’s very hard not to feel satisfied while reading her work.

Deathless tells the tale of Marya Morevna, a figure from Russian folklore, and Koschei the Deathless. I love folklore and it is clear that Valente does too, she weaves it together in a way which seems completely natural. Without prior knowledge of Russian mythology, it might take some Googling in some places where Russian terms aren’t explained but it is well worth it.

Valente employs repetition, as you might find in old fairy tales, to great effect. My favourite parts of the novel were those which were familiar. It really added to the magic of the novel. Again, she is very poetic and it’s incredibly satisfying.

The characters were compelling and while I didn’t always like them, I always cared about them. It’s hard to choose a favourite but I did particularly enjoy the domovoye (which, as I do not have the book on me, I may have spelt wrong). It has quite a large cast but that is not to the book’s detriment, in fact, it’s something I really enjoyed about it. I liked getting to know all of the different characters and creatures even if they did hurt my heart.

This book tugged at my heart and is still tugging even though it’s been a while since I finished reading it. I would definitely recommend buying it. It currently lives beside my bed and I don’t see it moving any time soon.

Guilty Reread-a-thon: a return to Point Horror

When I was a tiny, little thing, not long having entered the five-year soul crushing machine that was secondary school, I discovered the school library. I hadn’t avoided it for any particular reason, I just kept my lunchtimes outside. Especially when it was sunny and the field was there for the taking. However, once discovered, I couldn’t be kept away from it, with its strange balcony which could have just as easily been a second floor. Well, until a year or so later when the outside world called once again. My first jaunt through the shelves was not un-aided, no. I discovered the school library because of not one but two boys. One, my oldest friend, who would go to the library most lunchtimes at that point in our school career (though I have no idea why, I should ask) and his friend, a new kid, who would later become my first boyfriend. Oh.

What started as a casual, silly, young ‘I’m going to follow this boy around for a while and hope that he notices me and thinks I am pretty’ ritual, kindled my love for a series of books which I still, if somewhat guiltily, reread today. At this point, Harry Potter was the current big thing (unsurprisingly). I liked it as much as the next kid, having been introduced to it in primary school by a teacher (the wonderfully named Mrs Chodyniecki), who read the greatest Hagrid I have ever heard. We were between books, I think, though I couldn’t tell you which, and I was hanging around by the shelves on the left wall, trying to look like I wasn’t just gawping at my oldest friend and his newest friend. (I definitely was.) I am not sure how I discovered the shelf or why I was even looking at it as I definitely hadn’t been in there for the books. It was one of the bottom three and on it, with crinkles down their spines and battered edges, yellowing pages, sat a large collection of Point Horror. I needed something to read, what with the gap between Harry Potter instalments, what better way to fill that gap than by scaring myself silly?

This was probably at around the same time as my witchcraft obsession, so the pull towards horror was unsurprising. The first title I read was The Mall by Richie Tankersley Cusick, who still remains my favourite Point Horror author. I still remember the juddery feeling in my stomach. What started out as a casual perusal quickly warped into an obsession in and of itself, and when I found out that another friend liked them too it kept growing. My Point Horror novels are the most dog-eared and visually read of my entire book collection (followed by Trudi Canavan’s Age of the Five trilogy and one of my copies of Neverwhere, I think), and I still can’t keep Decayed in my eye line when I am trying to sleep. The front may not look so bad but the back is worse and I can’t help but feel like she’s going to crawl out of the cover and eat me – I am a bona fide wimp.

I charged my way through pretty much all of the titles held in the hallowed halls (not so much hallowed as yellowing…) of my secondary school – The Baby-sitterThe Stranger, Blood SinisterApril FoolsThe PerfumeFreeze Tag, to name a few. My favourite, and the one that I find myself crawling back to at regular intervals, is Trick or Treat – I could probably recite parts of that novel if I wanted to. It was the first pit stop for James Dawson’s Point Horror Book Club – a merry parade I wish I’d found early enough to join in myself.

It is with this in mind that I have decided (once I have finished my current reread of the first two of Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series) to embark on a Guilty Reread-a-thon and I invite you, possibly non-existent reader, to join me. Pick up your guilty reads, give them a review, as honest as you like.

What are your guilty reads? Are you, like me, an avid reader of Point Horror? Is there some kind of devastatingly cheesy series that I have been missing out on? Let me know!

Review: Alice in Bed by Cathleen Schine

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Stricken by a mysterious malady, college sophomore Alice Brody has suddenly lost the use of her legs. How does a bright, beautiful, and now immobile young woman proceed with her passions? As she convalesces in a Manhattan hospital, Alice finds herself attended by a motley group of visitors: indifferent nurses, doctors both good and bad, divorcing parents, and eccentric relatives. But Alice is a creature of many charms, whose wit can enchant those bearing even the worst bedside manner. With a captivating heroine of great comic depth, Alice in Bed is balm for whatever ails you.

I enjoyed this little book (I also enjoyed the way the cover felt, lovely and textured!). If you’re expecting something bleak, you will be pleasantly surprised; though situated in a hospital where 19 year-old Alice is unable to move her legs for reasons unknown, Alice in Bed is witty and amusing, quite unexpectedly.

Its cast of characters do sometimes seem like exaggerated caricatures but this is not to the novel’s detriment, in fact, I rather liked it. Alice was by far my favourite and though I find her taste in men somewhat dismal, her interactions with the other characters and inner monologuing can be endearing. Not an incredible amount happens in this book, it is largely and successfully character-driven.

Alice in Bed is a quick read (hence the short review!), you could get through it in an evening. If, like me, you read it over the course of two days and don’t use book marks, you might find the lack of chapters hampering. However, losing your place for a small while is a cheap price to pay for the continuation of your reading experience – it’s worth finding your place again.