Catch-Up Quickies 19

First a quick explanation!

Due to some severe health issues over the last few years, and a lingering chronic condition, my planned review schedule went right out of the window and I have been scrabbling ever since to get it back on track.

In my latest attempt to try to regain some lost ground, I have been scrunching some of my (overdue) NetGalley reviews together into one or two posts each week: shorter reviews, but still covering all of the points I intended to.

That’s the plan anyway; and so far, so good…!

Title:  Books Promiscuously Read
Author:  Heather Cass White
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Blurb:  The critic and scholar Heather Cass White offers an exploration of the nature of reading

Heather Cass White’s Books Promiscuously Read is about the pleasures of reading and its power in shaping our internal lives. It advocates for a life of constant, disorderly, time-consuming reading, and encourages readers to trust in the value of the exhilaration and fascination such reading entails. Rather than arguing for the moral value of reading or the preeminence of literature as an aesthetic form, Books Promiscuously Read illustrates the irreplaceable experience of the self that reading provides for those inclined to do it.

Through three sections—Play, Transgression, and Insight—which focus on three ways of thinking about reading, Books Promiscuously Read moves among and considers many poems, novels, stories, and works of nonfiction. The prose is shot through with quotations reflecting the way readers think through the words of others.

Books Promiscuously Read is a tribute to the whole lives readers live in their books, and aims to recommit people to those lives. As White writes, “What matters is staying attuned to an ordinary, unflashy, mutely persistent miracle; that all the books to be read, and all the selves to be because we have read them, are still there, still waiting, still undiminished in their power. It is an astonishing joy.”

Review: Far more dense and scholarly than I was expecting, this book is made up of a series of short passages constructing an argument for how and why we read, referencing sources from Don Quixote and Middlemarch to poetry and Plato.

I love books about books and reading, so thought this would be right up my street, but was somewhat taken aback by the initial prepositions which seemed to carry the assumption that everyone experiences reading in the same way and/or uses it for the same purpose. In the author’s argument for reading, therefore, only literary fiction, poetry and fiction as ‘high art’ seem to really count, ignoring the many reasons why people (promiscuously and voraciously) read genre fiction.

There are some interesting, engaging ideas about the pursuit of reading here, but they are mostly buried in the dry, cerebral prose – too impenetrable to be enjoyable for even most avid book-lovers.

Purchase Link: Books Promiscuously Read on Amazon

Title:  Meet Me in Another Life
Author:  Catriona Silvey
Publisher: Harper Collins UK

Blurb:  Joyful, devastating, and profound, Meet Me in Another Life is a story of love and connection in every possible form that will captivate fans of Stuart Turton, Claire North, and Audrey Niffenegger.

Under a ruined clocktower, Thora and Santi are about to meet for the very first time. Again.

Their connection is instant. They feel like they’ve known each other forever.

Maybe they have?

Now they must unravel the mystery of their strange connection. But some mysteries take more than one lifetime to solve…

Review: Two people meet, over and over again. One is logical and cynical, the other is spiritual and open-minded, but both are scientifically inclined and both long to reach the stars.

As a reader, you follow Thera and Santi as they cycle through relationship after relationship with each other – fellow students, teacher/student, husband/wife, father/daughter, carer/patient – exploring their love of the stars and the meaning of life against a tapestry of recurring motifs (a scarf, a cat, a knife, a tattoo, a stopped clock, a lighthouse, words on a wall, different stars). Then, suddenly, as strangers (aged 15 and 45) they begin to remember and the whole plot shifts.

I thought from the cover and blurb that this was some kind of time-travel romance, but there is actually little romance and no time travel involved. Instead this is an exploration of how well we can know each other (and ourselves) and how we find meaning and purpose in our lives as we float through space, amongst the stars but rarely looking up.

Plot, characters and worldbuilding all came together beautifully to create a compelling story that I couldn’t put down. The ending was poignant and fitting, and left me feeling emotionally wrung out but philosophically stimulated (not a sentence I’ve said before!)

Purchase Link: Meet Me in Another Life on Amazon

Title:  Watering the Soul
Author:  Courtney Peppernell
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Blurb:  Poetry and prose to encourage us to grow. Watering the Soul is a timeless reminder that everyone needs time, love, and forgiveness.

In the deepest, most enchanting part of the forest, a creature hands you a seed. Within the seed is your soul, ready to be grown again.

From internationally bestselling author Courtney Peppernell comes her new book of poetry and prose, Watering the Soul. In true Peppernell style, the book is divided into sections, this time following a step-by-step recipe, to heal your soul. Filled with themes that focus on forgiveness, gratitude, togetherness, and equality, Peppernell takes you on a journey to find a precious yet profound understanding; that a seed is not grown with haste and nor is becoming whole, that in each and every step, we find the meaning of watering the soul.

This is the story of your soul and how it can be grown again.

Review: This is an absolutely beautiful collection; a mixture of poetry and poetic prose encompassing many themes, including mindfulness, forgiveness, love and acceptance.

The book forms a love poem to a loved one, but also to oneself, and to life itself – the dark and the light of it.

Reading through this book felt like a healing, meditative process and made me immediately resolve to try to be a better person – kinder, more thoughtful, more patient, more grateful – without any sense that the author was attempting to ‘preach’ or lecture me into self-improvement.

With the feeling of a wise, serene spirit who simply offers to share those qualities with those who might need them, my main take-away from this wonderful little book is that I am going to need more Peppernell paperbacks to grace my shelves. (The covers are gorgeous too!)

Purchase Link: Watering the Soul on Amazon

Title:  A Corruption of Blood
Author:  Ambrose Parry
Publisher: Canongate Books

Blurb:  A Raven and Fisher Mystery: Book 3

Edinburgh, 1850. This city will bleed you dry.

Dr Will Raven is a man seldom shocked by human remains, but even he is disturbed by the contents of a package washed up at the Port of Leith. Stranger still, a man Raven has long detested is pleading for his help to escape the hangman.

Back in the townhouse of Dr James Simpson, Sarah Fisher has set her sights on learning to practise medicine. Almost everyone seems intent on dissuading her from this ambition, but when word reaches her that a woman has recently obtained a medical degree despite her gender, Sarah decides to seek her out.

Raven’s efforts to prove his former adversary’s innocence are failing and he desperately needs Sarah’s help. Putting their feelings for one another aside, their investigations take them to both extremes of Edinburgh’s social divide, where they discover that wealth and status cannot alter a fate written in the blood.

Review: This is the third book in the Fisher and Raven series and I really recommend reading them in order if you can – there is a lot of personal backstory and character development behind the (technically stand-alone) murder mystery plots.

This book is my favourite of the three so far. There is a really nice balance here between the personal and professional, medical and mystery. As always, the setting feels authentic to the time and place (19th C. Edinburgh) and readers are plunged into the trials of hygiene, health, poverty and social politics, as well as the character’s more specific issues (Will and Sarah’s romantic timing remains extremely pitiable, although their attitudes are more mature and accepting, so I am interested to see how that will develop in future).

There are quite a few potential triggers involved in the content, as the main storyline involves dead babies, rape and child abuse, as well as the possible murder case. I felt, again, that the story was perfectly balanced as the main plot progressed, as I spotted all of the right clues but was then led subtly up the wrong alley. The reveal left me feeling smug, surprised and very satisfied – the best of all worlds for a murder mystery!

Established fans won’t be disappointed in this instalment and newcomers will find a treat awaits them if they enjoy extremely well-written historical medical/mystery fiction.

Purchase Link: A Corruption of Blood on Amazon

Title:  A Line to Kill
Author:  Anthony Horowitz
Publisher: Random House UK, Cornerstone, Century

Blurb:  Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne and the writer Anthony Horowitz have been invited to a literary festival on the island of Alderney to talk about their new book.

Very soon they discover that dark forces are at work.

Alderney is in turmoil over a planned power line that will cut through it, desecrating a war cemetery and turning neighbour against neighbour.

And the visiting authors seem to be harbouring any number of unpleasant secrets.

When the festival’s wealthy sponsor is found brutally murdered, Alderney goes into lockdown and Hawthorne knows he doesn’t have to look too far for suspects. There’s no escape. The killer is still on the island.

And there’s about to be a second death . . .

Review: I love the meta nature of this series, with Horowitz as both author and author-character, subtly snarking at the publishing industry alongside the mystery plot.

The plots technically do stand alone, but there is a lot of character development as the series is unfolding, particularly around the character of Horowitz’s police ‘buddy’, Hawthorne (Kate Becket to Horowitz’s Richard Castle). I find Hawthorne’s taciturn genius of a character both intriguing and compelling and I desperately need to know what secrets he is hiding. And I’m not the only one, as the fictional publishing world also moons over Hawthorn, much to fictional Horowitz’s chagrin. Their mismatched partnership adds a lot of gentle humour to the events that unfold.

In terms of mystery plot, I am in awe of Horowitz (the real one)’s cleverness. The clues are all there, in plain sight, but I was as confused as the narrator as to how they fit together until Hawthorne kindly explained (but not until the end reveal, obviously!)

Anyone who loves their classic fictional detective duos – Holmes and Watson, Poirot and Hastings – will love these modern counterparts, who capture the same energy and investigative dynamic but with more tongue-in-cheek humour and numerous clever nods to the literary industry and its readers.

Purchase Link: A Line to Kill on Amazon

Nearly all 5* reads for me in this batch! A veritable constellation of reading goodness, and all so different!

I hope you find your next great read in the selection above. If you do, pop back and tell me all about it.

Happy reading! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s