Post Holiday Catch-Up

It really doesn’t take long for a holiday to feel like a lifetime ago, does it? Do you find that? That it takes less than a couple of hours back at work before that lovely break feels like nothing but a distant memory.

It was such a nice time though, just me, and my parents and The Sibling, and this lush holiday cottage on the Anglesey coast. It started off rainy and windy, which wasn’t the best, obvs, but we cooked yummy food in the Aga and Mum and I curled up under patchwork quilts and read books. 

And then, like a holiday miracle, the sun appeared so there were lots of coastal paths and skimming stones and lying on a blanket on the beach. There was seafood and ice cream and peregrine falcons and puffins; there was gin and wine and yahtzee and dominoes; there were art galleries and castles and bara brith and Welshcakes and it was just a lovely chilled out kind of a week.  It was weird at times, because we booked it ages ago so obviously The Ex-Boyfriend was supposed to be there, but you know, that particular wound is almost 4 months old now and for the most part I’ve become pretty adept at ignoring it. I’m all about The Future now, whatever it may look like. 
I’m back in the office now for three days and then I’m off again, catching a train in the general direction of Brighton. Hurrah.  Before then though, I want to talk about my holiday reading, because it was pretty freaking excellent.

I took my Kindle, because why would I not? Holiday reading is pretty much the reason I got a Kindle in the first place. I read so much more when I’m on holiday, and books as much as I adore them, they weigh a lot. A LOT. My Kindle weighs nothing and it means I don’t need to even decide what books to take away if I don’t want to.  I did, this time, I had a full holiday reading list, but all of those books were in just the one place and it made life so much easier. Also, I love it, I am an unashamed lover of my old school Kindle keyboard. It’s on its last legs I think with weird black lines appearing at random. When it finally gives up the ghost imma be reals sad.

Anyway, I started my holiday reading off with Matthew Quick’s The Good Luck of Right Now which is just, it’s really lovely. Matthew Quick is a really lovely writer I think. I remember thinking exactly the same after I finished reading Silver Linings, that there’s something about his writing that’s just really lovely. He has this way of taking these fragile characters, these people that are just a little bit different and planting them firmly in your heart.  It was a lovely read, lovely and quirky and all I hoped it would be. This story of this man in his late 30’s who’s never had a girlfriend – never had a friend even – never known anything other than his Mum and is left floundering after she passes away is absolutely gorgeous in its simplicity. Its all t
old through letters to Richard Gere, which is wonderful and even though I figured out The Twist pretty early on, it didn’t spoil the story at all. I was sort of sad to finish it really, I didn’t want to leave Bartholomew and Max and Elizabeth behind; I’m left wanting more because in a way this didn’t feel like a novel with a beginning, a middle and an end, it felt like something more, something that lives on past the pages. Loved it.

And then I read Uprooted. Which. Holy excellent book, batman.

This book this book this BOOK. I could not put it down. When I had to every part of my being was itching to be reunited with it again to the point that Mum and I curled up on the sofa one night to watch Death in Paradise and I couldn’t concentrate because all I could think about was the Dragon.

It's so good

It's a thousand times better than I was expecting.

It's so good

There’s so much I want to say, so much I could say about ideas and themes and parallels but SPOILERS. I went into this pretty much unspoiled, with back cover knowledge only and I don't want to take that away so I'll avoid all that but read it and come back to me and then we'll talk.

I can say that was captivated from the first page by this, a real Grimm-esque fairytale; not the kind that promises happily ever after but that kind that makes you afraid to stay up past your bedtime. It gave me goosebumps, it made my heart race (from in my mouth because that's where my heart was for the most part: IN MY MOUTH) and it had me holding my breath because there was no guarantee here that anything was going to turn out well. & I loved that because that's kind of where I'm at right now you know? I mean, clearly my world is one without malevolent woods and wizards taking girls from their homes and old forgotten spell books but it is one without any guarantees.

This is a story about people, about magic, about how good doesn't always triumph over evil and even if it does it's rarely a battle easily won. Which you know, relevant. The story is fast paced and detailed and fascinating and the characters are freaking awesome: whether you like them (Nieshka) or not (Solya) you like reading them.
And there's a love story and it's fabulous but it's also secondary, which again I loved; I loved that this book had a love story but wasn't a love story, that Nieshka is so much more than that kind of heroine.


After Uprooted I read Lisa Heathfield’s Seed, which, well I’m still not entirely sure what to say about it really. It made me feel all the things. But not good things. Not because the book wasn’t good, in fact the fact that it made me feel so many things is a mark in its favour, its just, it made me super uneasy.

It’s about a 15 year old girl who’s grown up in a nature loving quilt, dominated over by this (awful) guy they call Papa S. Pearl loves her community, because she was born into it, she’s never known anything else and it doesn’t enter her head to ask questions. & then a new family arrives, from the Outside, with a boy Pearl’s age called Ellis. Ellis, obviously, knows that things aren’t right at Seed, and even though Pearl tries to stay away from him, she can’t help but be drawn to him, and when she realises she can’t actually answer any of his questions, it all becomes super complicated.

It just, it made me angry. The whole isolated community that Pearl lives in, that she trusts in so completely and that’s all built on lies, it made me angry. Papa S gave me the creeps and the whole thing with Pearl wanting to be chosen as his next ‘companion’ made my skin crawl. It’s not an easy book this one, and it doesn’t shy away from its heavy themes – cultism is hard to read about and what is essentially child abse even harder: some of the scenes, particularly between manipulative Papa S and blindly accepting Pearl were fairly enough to make my chest tight and my blood boil but at the same time they kind of worked. This book would not have been anywhere near as engaging if it didn’t pull the punches like it did. It was well written, the pacing was good, the characterisation excellent, and the building of tension tight enough to build this feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach because seriously, I could not see how this was ever going to end any kind of well.

I read the last word feeling as angry and as frustrated as I had in the beginning. Make of that what you will (I gave it 4 stars, if you wondered.)

There are rumours about Heathfield writing a sequel although it all seems a little ‘will she, won’t she’ at the moment. I hope there is. I hope there is because I’ve really come to care about Pearl. I want to know where she’s going to go from that heart-stopping breathtaking ending.

Then, I headed down the road of The Thriller with Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go. I liked it. I liked it most of all because I got halfway through and was all smug and ‘I know exactly where this is going’ AND THEN WAS THE WRONGEST PERSON TO EVER BE WRONG. & I love it when that happens. I love that unpredictability, the way it feels when I know where something is going to be totally blindsided. A 5 year old boy is killed in a hit and run, right before his mother’s eyes. This is part Jenna’s story because how do you come to terms with witnessing something like that, and part police procedural (and I love me a police procedural) about the hunt to catch the driver who was callous enough to kill a 5 year old boy and drive away. And that’s all I’m going to tell you, other than it’s totally worth a read this one. If only for the pulling away of that rug.

Right now I’m about ¾ of the way through Prisoner of Night and Fog which started off slowly but seems to be picking up now. S’good.