Wonder by by R.J. Palacio

Wonder is a book I had seen numerous times in the shops, and had considered buying, but something else always seemed to trump it. What a fool I was not to go with my gut and read it earlier*.

Wonder centres around August Pullman and his family. Auggie, as he is known, was born with a rare genetic defect meaning he has severe cranial abnormalities. People stare and whisper and look aghast when they see him, and poor Auggie does his best to be brave, but it takes it's toll on him.  The story gets going when Auggie is sent to school, having been home schooled previously. As he goes out into the world he has to learn to deal with all the normal problems kids have at school with bullies, and homework and pushy parents, but his experience is magnified because of the way he looks. 

The story is cleverly told, with chapters not just from Auggie's point of view, but also from his sister Via, his friends and classmates. My edition had an extra chapter telling Julian's story. Jillian bullied Auggie dreadfully, but the extra chapter shines some light on his home life, and how his views are formed and changed. 

It is a book full of hope, and the Pullman family are wonderful characters, each with their own failings, but never do they let each other down when the crunch comes. I will warn you that you may have tear in your eye every few chapters. 

*Note to self: Just buy books you like, don't apply meaningless limits, you will miss out of fab books otherwise. 

Where In The Literary World Are You Today?

We Live In the Water by Jess Water

We Live In the Water by Jess Water

Today I am with Bit, a homeless man as he begs to try and get enough money together to buy his fostered son a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. 

I won't be with Bit long as this is a book of short stories. 

- We Live in Water by Jess Walter

Wednesday Wishlist: The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon

The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyson

The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyson

I haven't seen this book physically, but by all accounts it is perfectly formed. In it we meet Mary, telling the story of her life after being sent from her father's far to care for the Vicar's wife where she learns to read and write. It sounds wonderful. 

Do Book Characters Have Faces?

Well, obviously they have faces, unless perhaps it is some sort of sci-fi zombie experiment gone wrong type of book. 

What I am driving at is how clearly do you imagine characters faces? I recently read a book where there was a great deal of description of what the characters were wearing, and their physical stature, that is to say tall, short, fat, thin, but very little about their facial features. The world they occupied was described in great detail, so that was very vivid, but the characters actual faces are just a blur in my imagination. 

Wherever books have a TV adaptation inevitably the actor's face seem to map straight over to the character when I read the book. David Suchet will always be Poirot in my head and Joan Hickson will always be Miss Marple. However, when I am left to my own devices, faces seem to elude me for the most part, I imagine almost the "essence" of a person rather than any great detail.  Places seem much easier to imagine, although often they are a mishmash of places I have been or know well. 

This made me wonder what other people imagine. Do authors have a very clear idea of what their characters look like? Can they create an image in their head akin to a photo? If it isn't too impertinent a question, what do you imagine when characters from books take their place inside your head?

Reader's Reads #5 - Alison Morton

Alison Morton

Alison Morton

Of late I have become an obsessive listener to Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4. Clever, famous (not necessarily the same thing) and interesting people are interviewed and asked to choose eight records they would like to have with them on a desert island. I wanted to get to know some of my readers a little better, so thought it would be fun to feature readers and their favourite reads. This spawned the rather natty, although probably not originally named "Reader's Reads".

Each reader has a comfy seat, anywhere in the world, real or imaginary, a beverage and snack of their choice and a bookcase which will only hold eight books. 

If you would like to be featured, please contact me via the email button (bottom left of the main page) and I'll email out the bits and pieces to you. 

Today we have an actual proper, published author! Alison Morton is the author of the Roma Nova series of thrillers, the first of which is called INCEPTIO and is on my to be read pile. So, over to you Alison!

Roma Nova Series by Alison Morton

Roma Nova Series by Alison Morton

The one which kickstarted your reading habit: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

Now, we are going back into the mists of time, but this book and its sequels grabbed me because children were having an exciting adventure in a strange, yet familiar place. I saw it as ‘goodies v. baddies’; the symbolism completely escaped me at that age! 

The one which changed your view of the world:

I knew choosing was going to be fiendish! The problem is that different books change people’s worlds at different stage of their lives. Often they give a jolt or open a new door just at the stage the individual is ready to receive it. At age 11, Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth (and visiting a lot of Roman sites in Europe) opened the Roman world to me, a fascination I’ve never shaken off, as witnessed by my Roma Nova books! At 14, the worlds of Georgette Heyer, Anthony Hope and Simon Templar reinforced my sense of the romanticism of ‘doing the honourable thing’ and Jean Plaidy was teaching me history. But John Le Carré and Robert Harris shook a lot of that out when I became a student. But by then, I was deep, deep into science fiction with Heinlein, McCaffrey and Asimov… 

The one you go back to again and again: The Falco series by Lindsey Davis (for the moment)

Your question made me revisit my bookshelves. Dynasty by Robert Elegant, and Sarum by Edward Rutherford are dog-eared as is M M Kaye’s Far Pavilions and Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight. My Georgette Heyers, some with pre-decimal prices (3/6 was typical) are dropping to bits, but so are the Tom Clancys…

But the stories of Falco, a cynical detective with an evil sense of humour and a kind heart and who works in first century Rome, are the major seducers of the moment. If you haven’t read any, you’re in for a treat and there are twenty of them! 

The one which is your guilty pleasure:



The one which you had an unexpected response to: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Fascinated by Greek and Roman myths since I was very young, I always look out for these themes. When I began it, I expected it to be just another re-telling of the Trojan War but from the first few pages I was gripped by the authenticity and poetic language. Apart from recounting Patroclus' and Achilles’ developing bond from young manhood sensitively, but without sentimentality, the author threw me into Ancient Greece, the anger of the gods and the battlefields of Troy, dust and blood to the fore. I didn’t expect to feel so emotionally tugged by the love story between two men, but this book should be read by everybody looking for an emotional ride as well as a historical one. 

The one you wish you had time to read:

I actually have read War and Peace, so that’s ticked off the list. ;-)

The crux of the problem is that there are so many and so many sorts of books to read that I feel pulled in every direction, so I can’t name one special book! 

The one with sentimental value:

I think I must go back to childhood! The Emerald Crown by Violet Needham fascinated me with its lost heirs, mysterious atmosphere, stern heroes and gallant heroines, and children growing up in central European country not unlike Ruritania, and trying to make sense of the adults’ concerns while having exciting, sometimes dangerous, adventures. 

The last one you read: An Unknown Woman by Jane Davis

This is not the type of book I read – it was given to me by a fellow author for my opinion. Set in the present, it featured a professional woman in her forties and examined mother and daughter relationships. Sensitively and cleverly written, it drew in this sci-fi and historical thriller reader!

My beverage of choice is: chilled white wine from the Loire Valley

My snack of choice is: palmiers – delicious cheese flavoured savoury biscuits

My comfy chair and bookshelf are located: I tend to lie on the sofa or read in bed, and I have bookshelves in every room in the house except the kitchen and bathroom.

And if readers would like to find out what I write after all that reading, they can find out more about the Roma Nova thrillers here: http://alison-morton.com

I'll Be Lost Forever With This...

What is a reader to do? So many books, so little time, and then some bright spark launches a brilliant literary website which means that my wishlist will become ever longer.

The Literary Hub has launched and is run by the independent publisher Grove Atlantic and supported by some major players such as Penguin books. The idea is to feature on item per day selected from the best literary articles, which may be contemporary or from times gone by. 

As well as the features there are excerpts from books, which is always nice and LitHub Daily with the best of literature from around the net. With the major publishing houses contributing content, this is high quality stuff. 

I can't wait to see how this pans out, I can easily see it becoming a go to place for a serious dose of literature joy. 

Honeysuckle Cottage by PG Wodehouse

You know I am a Wodehouse fan, but this is fantastic. It is a short ghost story in true Wodehouse style. No poltergeists, or blood splattering here. Instead a thriller writer, James Rodman, inherits Honeysuckle Cottage from his aunt, who herself was a writer, but of sickly sweet romance novels which sold by the thousand. The will stipulates that he must live in the cottage for six months in order to fully inherit.

Having ensconced himself at the cottage he finds his writing starts deviating from his normal dark crime genre and doe eyed girls start creeping in, something he has refused to ever write about. I won’t spoil what happens next, but I was chuckling all the way through as the cottage weaves it’s unusual, but as far as James is concerned, evil spell over him.

You can find this story in PG Wodehouse anthologies, or alternatively treat yourself to this delightful little book version from Galley Beggar Press.

Well Read, But Not Well Dressed

My Twitter followers will already know that on Wednesday I went up to Bath. I needed new clothes. Long time readers will know how these trips normally end. However, on Wednesday, the sun was shining, the birds were singing and I had promised myself I could visit the bookshops of Bath after I had bought some clothes. In particular I needed a new jumper, having discovered a hole in my favourite piece of knitwear over the Easter holiday. 

I was in good spirits, having parked up and ambled my way down the main shopping street, I started with the shops in Southgate. This trip was planned with military precision. I knew if I started at Toppings Books which is at the top of town I would only make it as far as Mr B's  before I would be shopped out and want to go home. So at 0900 prompt I made my first purchase. Some shampoo. Not quite on the list, but I needed some. What followed was a tedious two hours of looking at clothes, none of which suited. By this time, I was closer to Mr B's than I was to any clothes shops. What could I do? I needed a place of comfort, so in I went. 

What followed was a lovely half hour or so chatting with Ed, Danielle, Naomi and Emma. Books were discussed and debated, and I picked up a nice selection to keep me going. I didn't manage to buy any clothes though. Not even a pair of socks. Never mind, the weather is warmer so I have less need of knitwear. At least I will be well read, if not well dressed. 

Where In The Literary World Are You Today?

Sombrero Fallout by Richard Brautigan

Sombrero Fallout by Richard Brautigan

Today I am in two separate plotlines, but within the same book. I am simultaneously with a broken hearted author, mourning being dumped by his Japanese girlfriend, and with a short story he wrote about a sombrero which fell from an empty sky. 

Heaven only knows how I will write a review for this one...

- Sombrero Fallout by Richard Brautigan

Wednesday Wishlist: All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon

Oooh, this sounds good! I saw a review on The Book Wheel and now desperately want to read it. 

I love anything to do with Russia. At one point I was even able to speak Russian having learned it at school and got a GCSE in it. Yes, I was so good, I could ask my way to the nearest post office anywhere in Moscow. I could also ask a hotel receptionist where the lift was and what time dinner was served. In fact my scholastic linguist experience was very much the same as Eddie Izzard's take on it (naughty word alert).  Unfortunately I left school and didn't meet another Russian speaker for nearly 15 years, by which time I could only say hello, goodbye and that I had a  brother. It makes for limited conversation. 

Anyway, I digress. I did visit Russia, in 1988, when the West was just starting to have an influence, on what was the USSR. It was such an eye opening experience for a school girl from Bristol. Everything was so different to my small village upbringing. I saw Red Square, the Kremlin and Lenin. The Russian people I met were lovely, and very patient as I practised my Russian on them. I have very fond memories of that trip and would love to go back to Moscow one day.  Consequently I love to read stories set in Russia, and this one looks to be really up my street as it is set in 1986, just around the time that I was experiencing Russia for the first time.