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MBI 2019 Longlist: Celestial Bodies by Jokha Altharthi

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The first book read and reviewed by our panellists Book Worm and Emily is Celestial Bodies by Jokha Altharthi.

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MBI 2019 Meet The Readers Room Panel

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You know the books now lets get to know the 2 people mad enough to join me on this panel…

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2019 Book March Madness

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Do you love reading challenges? Our March Madness Book challenge is back. Books get paired with college basketball teams and you get to try and predict which basketball teams will win. You get extra points for reading books that advance in the tournament (books advance based on whether their basketball team partner wins or loses their match).

Book brackets have been posted on our challenge page. Sheet 1 is the basketball bracket, sheet 2 is the book bracket, sheet three is the list of books with authors. You will pick your bracket on the CBS sports page by picking basketball teams. Those teams will be matched with books in the order you see them in the bracket – think about placing one bracket on top of the other and you will see how they match up.

Participants have one day to sign up – you must sign up and fill out your bracket before the tournament starts (tomorrow at noon EST).

Full instructions can be found on our challenge page. Click here: March Madness Challenge

Good luck readers!!

2019 Book March Madness

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It’s that time again! Once again The Reader’s Room will be hosting our own version of a bookish March Madness, slated to begin with the start of the NCAA tournament (March 21st). Reading will begin March 21. We hope you join us for this challenge! Read more

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

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Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward
Published in: 2019
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★]

This ARC was provided by Quercus Books (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads: In the most explosive and twisted psychological thriller since The Woman in the Window, a beautiful marriage turns beautifully bad.

Things that make me scared: When Charlie cries. Hospitals and lakes. When Ian drinks vodka in the basement. ISIS. When Ian gets angry… That something is really, really wrong with me.

Maddie and Ian’s romance began with a chance encounter at a party overseas; he was serving in the British army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend, Jo. Now almost two decades later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son, Charlie; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, sixteen years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: This was a solid 3 star read for me I started it yesterday morning and finished it late yesterday evening which is not bad going for 368 page book. I have seen some reviews that criticise this book for being boring but personally I was hooked and wanted to know how things would end up. I have also seen reviews saying that the ending saves the book I disagree I would have ended the book a lot sooner than the author did sometimes less really is more and leaving what happened up to the readers interpretation is not always a bad thing.

From the start we know there has been a murder, how do we know this? The fact that the chapter is titled “Day of the killing” was a bit of a giveaway for me. What we don’t know is who has been killed, who killed them and most important of all why did they kill them.

The book moves backwards in time to show the reader all the events that lead up to the killing. We move back 12 weeks before the killing to chapters narrated by Maddie as she decides whether or not she should see a therapist about her obsessive anxiety that appears to have been triggered by a recent accident that has left her with a badly scarred face and memory issues. These chapters work forward to the day of the killing as Maddie tells us how her therapy sessions are going and we begin to learn what her current life is like.

We also move back in time to 2001 when Maddie first meets her husband to be Ian while visiting her friend Jo in war torn Macedonia. Ian is a soldier on protection detail, Jo works to help refugees and Maddie is a travel writer researching Eastern Europe for a series of articles. The relationship between the 3 of them ends with Jo and Maddie no longer talking and with Maddie eventually married to Ian and raising his son.

As we learn more about the events from 2001 forward it’s easy to see why Maddie could feel afraid of her husband the things he sees and does in various war zones around the world but particularly Africa are enough to traumatise and damage anyone, but he is not the only one with a trauma in his past.

What I liked about this book was the way it explored the nature of people who will willing put themselves in harms way whether for money, to help others or just for a new experience. I liked the fact that the women are strong and independent and although they are living in a war zone they don’t let it stop them doing what they want. I also enjoyed the background details about how long the travel time is between countries, the border agents and even the bombs in the background. I am guessing these are the bits that other reviewers have found boring but for me it is these details that make the book, they gave me as a reader a real sense of time and place.

Overall this was an interesting read that provided me with plenty of escapism on a dull and windy Saturday.

Who would like this? I would recommend this to those who enjoy thrillers that are based on how the characters think and feel rather than in blood being splashed liberally around.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think?

Man Booker International 2019

Today the longlist of books up for the Man Booker International Prize 2019 was announced. This means I spent the day furiously pretending to work while actually seeing how many of these books my library system could provide can you guess the answer?

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The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

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The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey
Published in: 2019
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★]

This ARC was provided by Vintage Penguin Random House UK (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads: 15th century Oakham, in Somerset; a tiny village cut off by a big river with no bridge. When a man is swept away by the river in the early hours of Shrove Saturday, an explanation has to be found: accident, suicide or murder? The village priest, John Reve, is privy to many secrets in his role as confessor. But will he be able to unravel what happened to the victim, Thomas Newman, the wealthiest, most capable and industrious man in the village? And what will happen if he can’t?

Moving back in time towards the moment of Thomas Newman’s death, the story is related by Reve – an extraordinary creation, a patient shepherd to his wayward flock, and a man with secrets of his own to keep. Through his eyes, and his indelible voice, Harvey creates a medieval world entirely tangible in its immediacy.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: I have seen a lot of reviews that criticise this book for the lack of historical accuracy however as I had no idea about the Church in this time period these inaccuracies didn’t bother me. That said I can understand why other readers would find this frustrating especially as the majority of the story relates to confession within a confessional box which wasn’t even invented in the time period covered by the story.

This is a slow paced character driven medieval murder mystery the twist in this particular story is that we start at the end knowing who the dead man is and with 2 different confessions on the table we then work backwords for 4 days to the point where the dead man enters the river and drowns. Each day we learn more about the parish priest and his parishioners through their confessions most of which are as insignificant as “I overslept” however some confessions reveal a secret undercurrent to village affairs. Ever present are the signs of pagan superstitions that have not yet been conquered by the church and that add a touch of colour to the narrative.

The village and the river are very much a part of the narrative and it is in the way the author presents her characters against this backdrop that make this a compelling (if slow moving) story. The village and church politics make for interesting reading and I enjoyed seeing how things could be viewed from various viewpoints.

John Reve is an excellent character and I loved spending time with him, learning about his world views and what he would do to protect his parishioners. It was interesting watching him struggle with changes in the village and with his own faith. John Reve is a priest who is very human his life is lived in shades of grey and not everything he does would be sanctioned by the Church which is so much a part of his life.

Favourite Quotes:

“there was no cure for a young man’s desire except to become an old man, and even that wasn’t a cure that could be guaranteed.”

“Now here we were, besieged by a rural dean who , I’d slowly come to realise, was too intent on saving us wholly to care for the fate of any one of us singly.”

“No I might have answered – I cannot fully trust God.”

Who would enjoy this? I would recommend this to those who are not bothered by inaccuracies in their historical fiction, who like character not plot driven stories and those who like snooping into the hidden life of an English village that is cut-off from the rest of the world.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

February 2019 Round Up

Book Worm’s February Reading Round Uptempsnip

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1001 Book Review: Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope

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Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope
Published in: 1860
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★]

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1001 Review: A Dry White Season by André Brink

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Bookworm says read this book.

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