Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep

Philip Reeve. David Fickling Books. (288p) ISBN 9781788452373

Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep

Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep

A book I’d requested through work as I’m a huge fan of Mortal Engines (plus Philip Reeve’s other works).

This latest book is a magnificent middle grade fantasy adventure following Utterly Dark, the ward of The Watcher of Wildsea.

When her ward drowns it sets a chain of events off that has this adventure crack along at a really fast pace and has you chewing your nails to the finale.

This speed doesn’t stop the story from building up some solid characters throughout. There are the Skraevelings who are the housekeepers of Sundown Watch, Will Dark is Utterly’s scientifically sceptical uncle, Thurza Froy the sea witch, Egg the boy who got kicked in the goolies, and Aish who is brilliant.

Then there is Utterly, the young girl swept up from the sea and cared for by Andrew Dark, her mystery is at the core of this book.

The interaction between these characters and the building of a solid mythology for the island helped me to invest heavily in the story of myths and magics.

Utterly engrossing and captivating story which will be out in the first week of September (2021).


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Cecily

Annie Garthwaite. Penguin. (384p) ISBN 9780241476871

Cecily

Cecily

This gorgeous looking book arrived at work and I made sure that I was first to grab it!

When I got it home I was all prepared to start it straight away but someone else saw it and grabbed it and as they were reading it told me how brilliant it was.

I finally got a chance to read it a week before Annie was visiting the shop to sign some copies, though I didn’t finish it before her visit it was such a compelling tale that there were a few really late nights.

We know the dry history of this period, the histories written in the text books, dates and names, taught to us in a rote fashion.

What Annie does with Cecily is take this dry skeleton of history and adds flesh to it, adds personality and soul.

We not only get to see this turbulent period in a new fashion, we get to see it through the eyes of a woman at the centre of it all and from her perspective.

When I finished this it was a bit of a shock as all I wanted to do was continue reading as I had invested in these people so strongly and needed to know what happened next.

I know what happened next, but I need to feel what happens next.

A stunning book, and I really hope there is going to be a follow up in the same fashion exploring the next stage of the York dynasty.


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Igifu

Scholastique Mukasonga. Archipelago Books. (160p) ISBN 9781939810786

Igifu

Igifu

It’s August so that must mean it’s Women in Translation month.

I’d already lined up quite a lot of novels and novellas for the month I was in the mood for some short story collections and did a shout out on Twitter for some suggestions. Igifu was one of the suggestions that really made me perk up and think I’ve not read any translated works from Rwanda, or sub-Saharan Africa before.

Scholastique Mukasonga builds upon a strong prose to bring to your heart a lost Rwanda through these heartfelt stories, full of family traditions, micro- and macro-politics, colonial impositions, but intertwined in grief and love throughout.

All the stories are brilliant at illuminating aspects of what life was like for Tutsi’s in exile during the genocides and. their aftermaths, and also shows what life was like before to some extent.

The collection is excellent throughout but I personally found ‘The Glorious Cow’ and ‘Grief’ to be the two strongest stories.

In ‘The Glorious Cow’ we hear of how the cows were treated and venerated as life givers and central to the culture of the families described in the story. Prestige and standing were both conferred through these beautiful animals, and the loss when they were slaughtered or had to be left behind when the genocide was ongoing is a different level of bereavement, a cultural loss.

Then there is ‘Grief’, such a strong story to end the collection on. Describing a woman’s discovery that she and her brother who had both left for exile in were the only ones of their family to escape slaughter during the genocide. We are taken through various stages of her personal grief, leading to some horrific discoveries and a knowledge that she has to be the conduit for the voices of the dead.

An emotionally crushing collection of short stories that are a must read, both for the history that’s imparted but also for the strength of Scholastique’s writing.


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Books for September 2021…

Art of the Extreme

Art of the Extreme

and a round-up of what I did in July.

Which saw the reading block well and truly break!

Between March 15th and 2nd July I had read only two books, two books. This month I’ve read eight and didn’t feel pressured by any of it. There was also a good hit rate as well two 3-star, five 4-star, and one 5-star reads.

I’ve also written reviews for the 4- and 5-star reads within 48 hours of finishing them, I know…

Another major job completed this month is getting all the book reviews I had around the Internet onto this site, they are also on Goodreads and Waterstones and in the process of going onto Instagram.

Going into August all prepared for Women in Translation Month, pile made and initial post made.

Also working on a super secret project which should be revealed soon once I get my words in the right place.

So I’m actually going to call July at an end and get into the books I’ve got setup for August 😉

September reads

The Swallowed Man by Edward Carey

Out in a new look, this stunning retelling of the Pinocchio tale is dark and gripping. One of my favourite books of this year so far, follow Geppeto’s descent in the belly of a big fish. Wonderfully illustrated by Edward Carey himself.
9781913547233

The Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgaard

translated by Martin Aitken
This sounds absolutely fascinating, strange happenings in a forest after a new large star shows in. the sky, not sure if I’m getting a triffid vibe or not.
9781910701713

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

translated by Louise Heal Kawai
A trio of adventures based around a tabby cat who wants to save books, especially from a person who cuts them up to read faster!
9781529081473

Art of the Extreme: 1905-1924 by Philip Hook

An era of revolutionary art with artists and movements declaring manifesto here, there, and everywhere. Innovative, frenzied, and at times, shocking. A look at this in a pan-European survey will be really interesting.
9781788161855

The Dragon in the West by Daniel Ogden

Looking into the origin myths of Dragons in western culture, and how these different starting points led to what we see the Western dragon as being.
9780198830184

The Villa and the Vortex by Elinor Mordaunt

I’ve a couple of Handheld Classic editions and love the quality they bring to a book, and I’m in need of a short story collection this September. A double win!
9781912766420

English Pastoral by James Rebanks

I really fancied this when it was out in hardback but with so many other books piling up around me I couldn’t justify it, now it’s in paperback no need for justification.
9780141982571

The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino

translated by Rebecca Copeland
I’ve really been enjoying the retellings of Western myths lately and this will be the first venture into retellings of Japanese myths, sounds really gripping.
9781786899170


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.