I follow Roxane Gay on Twitter and I have heard her speak a few times but Difficult Women is the first book of hers that I’ve read. Overall, I have mixed feelings about the book and here’s my review… Read more
Over the course of 2016 Book Worm and made our way through the 5 volumes of The Story of the Stone by Cao Xueqin. Considered to be one of China’s four great classical novels, it was written in the 18th century during the Qing Dynasty. I finally completed the last volume in December. Here are our reviews of this important Chinese Classic… Read more
Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney
Published in: 2016
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Find it here: Under a Pole Star
This ARC was provided by Quercus Books (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
Summary from Goodreads: Flora Mackie was twelve when she first crossed the Arctic Circle on her father’s whaling ship. Now she is returning to the frozen seas as the head of her own exploration expedition. Jakob de Beyn was raised in Manhattan, but his yearning for new horizons leads him to the Arctic as part of a rival expedition. When he and Flora meet, all thoughts of science and exploration give way before a sudden, all-consuming love.
The affair survives the growing tensions between the two groups, but then, after one more glorious summer on the Greenland coast, Jakob joins his leader on an extended trip into the interior, with devastating results.
The stark beauty of the Arctic ocean, where pack ice can crush a ship like an eggshell, and the empty sweep of the tundra, alternately a snow-muffled wasteland and an unexpectedly gentle meadow, are vividly evoked. Against this backdrop Penney weaves an irresistible love story, a compelling look at the dark side of the golden age of exploration, and a mystery that Flora, returning one last time to the North Pole as an old woman, will finally lay to rest.
Book Worm’s Thoughts: Having read and enjoyed The Tenderness of Wolves, I was excited to read this latest book by Stef Penney. Although it sells itself as a romance novel, that aspect of the book was actually the least interesting for me. The best parts were the details of exploration and survival.
Under a Pole Star is set in the early days of Artic exploration when the pole was yet to be discovered and there were miles of land just waiting to be claimed by the plucky British or Americans (yep they totally disregarded any claim that the native people might have to the land).
The frozen landscape is central to the story, showing how hardy the Inuit have to be to survive there year round and how tough the conditions are on those who are not native to the land. It also shows how English and American greed leads to tragedy for everyone involved with the exploration.
The book is scattered with Inuit words and with details and images of the stars used for navigation. This is an ambitious book that doesn’t really deliver on the romance, but that transported me to the frozen lands of the North.
Who would enjoy this? This is a long and detailed book so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone looking for a light romance, instead if you are interested in details about polar exploration and survival with romance as a sideline then this could be the book for you.
Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Under a Pole Star
We want to hear from you. Do you plan to read this book? Why or why not?
I have finally returned to the land of the living. The last two days I’ve been knocked out by a horrendous cold which my daughter brought home from kindergarten. She had a mildly stuffy nose, while I felt like I was dying. I was even too sick to read. If you’d like to get a sense of what happens when you try to review a book while under the influence of a 103 degree fever you can check out this review. Anyway, I’m feeling well enough now to actually schedule a joint 1001 review that we read a while back: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Check out what we thought. Read more
It’s been a while since we’ve reviewed a 1001 book so while we wait for our next 2016 Man Booker longlist book, we decided to sneak in a 1001 review that Book Worm read a few months ago: Christ Stopped at Eboli by Carlo Levi. Check out Book Worm’s review and if you’ve read it, let us know what you thought of it. Read more
Next week we should be starting to post some of our Man Booker longlist book reviews so stay tuned for those. Our panel of judges is working hard to work their way through the list. Our contributor Kate predicted this book might make the longlist. Book worm happened to have read it and here is her review… Read more
Good Morning Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
Published in: 2016
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Find it here: Good Morning, Midnight
This ARC was provided by Orion Publishing Group (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars. For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes the airwaves have gone silent. They are alone.
At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success, but when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crew mates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.
As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives?
Book Worm’s Thoughts: This book was not what I was expecting. When I read Artic “research centre”, “space shuttle”, and “catastrophic event” I expected more to happen in terms of action. Almost nothing does happen. Instead, this is a slow-paced character study of how isolation on Earth and in space affects people, especially when it appears that the rest of the population has vanished.
The story is told from two perspective, in alternating chapters. We have events in the Artic from Augustine’s perspective and then we have the same time period but in space from Sully’s perspective. As the stories evolve, we are drawn into the deepest thoughts and concerns of the characters. As we learn more about the lives of Sully and Augustine, we begin to understand how they have both ended up where they are.
I liked the use of both the Arctic and space as settings since both locations demonstrated how it was possible to be entirely alone with no idea of what was happening in the world. The descriptions of both environments felt very genuine and highly detailed. The characters were well rounded and flawed and as such they felt very authentic too. I like the way the author ended the book without tying everything up in a nice bow. This kept the realistic feeling of the book.
However, there was one thing that really bugged me and that was the fact that the author couldn’t decide whether the character should be called Augustine or Augie. Within the space of a few sentences, both names were regularly being used. There may have been a point to this switching, possibly to show the confusion caused by isolation, but as a reader I found this switch annoying and puzzling. Maybe it’s just me.
Who would enjoy this book? If you are looking for an action packed adventure story then give this one a miss. Likewise if you are looking for a new way the world could end forget it! If you like stories about people and their motivations, what drives them to do what they do, what they will sacrifice to achieve their dreams, and how they survive when it seems hope is gone then give it a go.
Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Good Morning, Midnight
We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think?
I know we normally review literary fiction and “high brow” literature but we all have guilty pleasure reads and I’m a break from literary fiction to bring you one of my guilty pleasure reads. Check out my review and let us know what sorts of guilty pleasure books you enjoy. Read more