Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The 2015 Book Challenge: February



You know what’s hard to find? A book with a silver cover, that’s what. & I needed to find one, because that was the challenge for February in my 2015 Book Challenge. I opened the envelope on the 1st because I didn’t want to break any rules but I was skiing in Les Arcs at the time and so couldn’t really do much about it and as such I lost a full week and it was suddenly mid-February I was still without a silver book.

Or, that’s a lie. 

I actually own 4 silver books: Atwood’s Oryx and Crake; Catch 22; The Catcher in the Rye; and one of the Louise Rennisen series. I don’t recall which. The problem is that none of those books are on my TBR. I have read them all.  The letter states quite clearly that this book cannot be a re-read, which, well that’s fabulous EXCEPT finding another silver covered book did prove problematic. There are less of them about than you might think.  I ended up wondering actually, how flexible the rules are because in the end I decided to go with reading my (beautiful shiny amazing) copy of the new Daniel Handler which is sort of bluey-grey, with (wait for it) LOTS OF SILVER FOIL EMBOSSING. That counts, right? Silver foil embossing on a sort of grey (which is a shade of silver) totally counts? If not, then it’s fine because I also glanced over The Philadelphia Cookbook, because cheese so if this book doesn't count then that one defo does.


Look see, you can just see the silver foiling under that nifty 1/2 sized cover. It's a really pretty book. 
 
Anyway, let’s assume that the lovely Sarah is prepared to be a teeny bit flexible and that silver embossing counts, and talk about We Are Pirates.

Except, I kind of don't know what to say? I liked it, I did. I just didn’t love it as hard as I thought I was going to. I think that part of the problem is that I built it up so much in my head that it was likely always going to struggle to meet my expectations. In my head this book was The Greatest Thing. In reality, it wasn’t, quite, and I feel bad, because I feel like that’s all my fault – if only I’d just let this book be instead of waiting to be wowed with every turn of the page. Maybe then I’d have liked it more.

However, there is no denying that Handler is an excellent writer, and like Adverbs and the Lemony Snicket series, this book is full of that dark humour I’ve come to associate with his work. It’s a funny story, and it’s a dark story and it’s weirdly both simple and complicated and sometimes, I found myself frowning a little, because it just made no sense. I think that was kind of the point. It’s well paced and well thought out and actually remarkably clever: I think it’s probably going to be really popular, despite my occasional 'what even just happened!?'

 



So, what have we got? Well, the whole story is split between teenager Gwen – who I liked -  and her dad, Phil – who I didn’t – with a relatively strong cast of supporting characters, some brilliantly unlikeable, and some just brilliant, but not a single one that didn’t provoke some kind of reaction. I mean, at times I was beyond irritated by some of these people, but that’s a mark of good writing, right? The ability to provoke a reaction like that.
The plot was ridiculous – in a nutshell a bored teenager decides to steal a boat with her BFF, an orderly from a nursing home, an old man with dementia and the brother of the boy she has a crush on so they can escape the humdrum of life and become pirates. So that’s what they do. Meanwhile Gwen’s Dad Phil is trying to make a name for himself in the world of radio, and being a weak-willed asshat for the most part. Like I said, it’s ridiculous, but to be fair I totally expected it to be and kind of loved it for that. So, the plot’s bonkers and pretty much every character drove me crackers at one point or another and you know what, I still enjoyed it. Obviously, you need to totally suspend any and all belief before starting this book, and you need to accept that Handler has a style of writing that takes a while to get into the swing of and you just need to let yourself go I think, and keep your eyes peeled for little gems like this:


We steal the happiness of others in order to be happy ourselves, and when it is stolen from us we voyage desperately to steal it back. We are pirates.


Because lines like that pop up when you least expect them and leave you all 'the guy can write, dammit.'

And the cover art is absolutely gorgeous. Seriously, so pretty.  

I shall be back soon to talk about March's challenge. It's a good one!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Exciting March Releases

I'm posting this from my phone as I am currently in a fight with both Firefox, my browser of choice, and IE which I hate and which won't load anything ever. The Internet and I are not friends right now. So, if there's dodgy formatting or whatever, I'm reals sorry. Also there's no pretty pics in this post as that is way beyond my capabilities and there might be the odd dogy autocorrect - I can spell really. Mebbes I'll come and pretty this up later. We'll see.

So, I have a lot of blogging to do over the next few days. I feel like I should apologise for any kind of blog-post-overload that may happen, so in advance, if you feel like I am spamming you with book talk this week, I really am sorry.

Right now, I want to share with you some of the books I’m excited for in March (how is it March already. Golly!) most notably of all the new Ishiguro. 

You have no idea how excited I am about The Buried Giant. Me and the rest of the world I think, if Twitter and the blogosphere are anything to go by. There’s a lot of Kazuo Ishiguro talk all over the place right now because release day is TOMORROW. I’m so excited and a little nervous and so excited. It’s Ishiguro’s first novel for lots of years and it sounds excellent: it’s set in the Middle Ages and there’s talk of dragons and ogres and a quest and I cannot wait to get my hands on it. I loved Never Let Me Go, as in, it’s one of my favourite books of all time levels of love. I pretty much shoved that book down the throats of everyone I knew when I first read it, I was kind of forceful in my ‘you have to read this’ and I know that The Buried Giant isn’t going to be like Never Let Me Go, just like it’s not going to be like The Remains of the Day, and just like it’s not going to be like When We Were Orphans, but I’m kind of spiralling anyway, because Ishiguro man, Ishiguro.

In addition to The Buried Giant, I’m also quite excited about this little lot:

The Walls Around Us by Nova Sen Ruma will be released on the 24th – from Goodreads:

The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah sounds lovely. And like it’s probably going to hurt a whole lot, in a way not dissimilar to the way Queenie hurt. Ivo’s in a hospice.  To keep him occupied his dedicated nurse suggests a game: Ivo has to list his body parts alphabetically and associate a memory with each one, which in turn unravels the story of Ivo’s life. It hurts already. I’ve heard good things about this one, and I’m really looking forward to giving it a go. It’s out on March 12th.

HausFrau ­– Jill Alexander Essbaum (March 26th) is a spectacularly pretty book. Seriously, I am in love with this cover. It sounds like something a little bit different too, which I am all about this year. My horizons, I am expanding them. HausFrau tells the story of an American expat, living in Switzerland with her husband, she’s fairly unhappy with her life there, adrift from her husband, her children, the people who try to be her friends and she finds herself engaging in a string of affairs. A modern day Madame Bovary is what I’m hearing; a strangely hypnotic, and remarkably captivating portrait of a woman on the edge. It just sounds really…interesting. I’m interested

Emily St John Mandel who wrote Station Eleven which I bought last month has her back catalogue released in the UK this month. The Lola Quartet, The Singer’s Gun and Last Night in Montreal. They all sound really good, and, if Station Eleven is as good as I’ve heard it is, I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting my hands on these lovelies as soon as I possibly can. They look pretty too, which always helps.

A while ago I read the first three books in The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. They were fun books, kind of like The Vampire Diaries in Victorian times. WHAT IS NOT TO LIKE. Anyway, Gail Carriger has a new series: The Custard Protocol, the first book of which (Prudence) is released on March 19th. It’s set in the same world as Parasol – hurrah – and it sounds like fun times: I cannot wait. & I should probably read books 4 and 5 of Parasol in preparation. They’re on my Kindle after all.

February Book Haul



Here is my confession: I went a little bit book crazy in February. Seriously, don’t be expecting my book haul every month to look like this because that would be a level of purchasing-ness my poor old bank balance couldn’t sustain. & the books would overtake my house. & then my boyfriend would leave. & it would be terrible. & I am spiralling, CALM DOWN JOSEPHINE. My point is that I am constantly trying to not buy as many books. I just….failed in February. The thing is, is that I put myself on a book-buying ban in January. You know how it is, the post Christmas slump where purses and banks are empty and every penny has to count. I did remarkably well, actually. Not a single book did I pay for in January. And then February happened and Jen sent me tweets like this one:


& suddenly I was falling into a pit of book buying madness. & ended up with a haul that looks like this:


I love it all actually. I’m reading We Are Pirates right now, and I talked about it in my February releases post. It’s just as crackers as I thought it was going to be. I ‘m really liking it, although it’s taking an uncommonly long time to get through. That’s perhaps more to do with my state of mind than the book though. I’ll be talking about it as soon as I’ve finished as it’s my book of choice for February’s book challenge, so you know, keep an eye out for that.

I’ve wanted to read more of Matthew Quick’s work ever since I read The Silver Linings Playbook which I loved, so there’s Leonard Peacock, on the pile hoping to impress me just as much.

I had to buy The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland because I’ve been DESPERATE to read it since Jen’s first ‘THIS IS OUR NEW BOOK JO’ text weeks ago. I feel like it’s going to be a little bit like Alice and I am so excited.

All the Bright Places has been everywhere lately, and I’ve heard all the good things about it so I’m curious to see what that’s like. It’s described as an exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die and it sounds like it’s right up my street.

Attachments which I’ve wanted for ages because Eleanor & Park owns a piece of my heart and I want all of Rainbow’s words, please. It’s set in 1999 when the internet was still a new thing (I remember that so well) and it’s about Beth and Jennifer who spend their days emailing and this one guy – a lonely IT chap – who spends his nights reading those emails. It’s Rainbow’s first book for grown-ups and I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT IT.

Again, I Was Here has been all over the place. The world is a little Gayle Forman crazy right now, I don't know if you've noticed. I read this last Wednesday night. I liked it. It’s a quick easy read. It’s about a girl trying make sense of the suicide of her best friend and whilst it’s not the best YA I ever read, it’s definitely worth a look at. (Jen: lemme know if you want it, I’ll post.)

And then Station Eleven which I came very close to breaking the ban for in January and which I cannot wait to read. I’ve heard only great things. A travelling theatre company performing Shakespeare in a dystopian world. It pretty much sounds like everything I like in a book. There's a lot of Emily St John Mandel hype about at the moment, and I believe her back catalogue is due for UK release later this month, so hurrah for that, and fingers crossed for Station Eleven; I so want it to be good!
  
Disclaimer and No Place to Die are both review copies which the publishers have very kindly sent to me because they are kind and wonderful people. Disclaimer is due for publication in April and is a thriller based around the concept of ‘what if you realised the book you were reading was all about you’ DUN DUN DUN and it sounds creepy and thrilling and excellent;  No Place to Die is a detective story - a sinister crime scene and a hunt for a killer - and will be released this month. Keep your eyes peeled for more info and reviews of both of those VERY SOON. They both look like they're going to be rather gripping, the kind of book you don't sleep til you've finished – I feel like 2015 might be the year of the thriller. .

I got a couple of ebooks for review too, The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah which I think is going to be several kinds of excellent and hurty and will be released this month, and AND (OH MY GOD SO EXCITED) the new Rosamund Lupton novel, The Quality of Silence which is out in the summer and which I am incredibly excited for because I LOVED Sister so damn much (I liked Afterwards a little bit less, but still, super excited for this.)

As for ebooks generally, because let’s be real, I didn’t only spend my money on print books, I now have The Book of Strange New Things (which, I didn’t get in hardback even though it's so pretty it hurts me because of the massive. I was going to wait for the paperback but I’m kind of impatient) I also downloaded Etta and Otto and Russell and James and The Darkest Part of the Forest both of which I talked about in my February releases post and which are SO different but SO appealing.

WHAT A HAUL, am I right? Just writing this post has made me want to take a week off work and read all the things.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Throwback Thursday: Josephine's Book Edition



We’re going waaaay back in time this Thursday peeps, right back to my childhood when I loved L.M Montgomery more than marmite on toast. Well, almost. I loved her a whole lot anyway.

Growing up, the world that L.M.Montgomery painted in her books was a world I wanted to live in; her characters were people that I wanted to be friends with – I read her books so much that I felt like they were my friends. 
I loved the Emily books, and I loved the Anne books (I think that probably Anne and Gilbert were the first fictional couple I really ever fell for) and I read my copy of Rainbow Valley til the pages fell out. Pretty much most people-who-love books though, are familiar with Emily Starr, and with Anne Shirley so that’s not what I’m here for. What I want to talk about today is The Story Girl which for some reason doesn’t seem to be as well known, and you know, that’s a mystery to me because it’s SO GOOD. Or I mean, I thought it was so good 20-odd years ago. I have to admit I haven’t read it in a while.

The Story Girl is about a group of kids growing up on Prince Edward Island, in the rural type of community that Montgomery wrote so well – it’s one of those kinds of books where there’s a lot going on but not much happens. It’s a book about childhood, and about life and about that one summer. And it’s about The Story Girl:  Sara Stanley, who keeps the rest of the gang entertained with a never ending number of stories. I LOVED Sara when I was little; I kind of wanted to be her to be honest, in the same way that I loved Jo March. I wonder if I’d feel the same way now? (I still love Jo March, FYI…)


In true L.M Montgomery style, the book is charming and touching and paints an idyllic picture of a pretty much perfect summer (those halcyon days though) and each of the children is somebody that you end up liking: observant Beverley – it’s Bev who’s telling us the story, years later when he’s all grown up; sensitive Felix; cocky Dan; beautiful and bossy Felicity; Cecily, the advocate for peace with a stubborn streak; imaginative creative Sara Stanley; the weepy ‘other’ Sara (my least fave I think); and independent Peter, there’s something in them all that appealed to the child that I was, and as in all her books, Montgomery wrote friendship so well. She wrote children so well. They’re not a naughty group, but they’re not goody-goody’s either, and in a story where not much happens, where there’s no beginning-middle-end to speak of, their antics – mischievous and otherwise – drive the story (along with naturally dramatic Sara’s stories, natch.) There’s a bit in the middle that always comes to mind when I think about this book, where the children write their dream books. God, I swear it’s worth a read for that alone, that and the bit where one of the boys thinks that somebody praying for the opposite thing to him will cancel out his prayer. I was genuinely concerned that was a thing when I was small. Aaah, the logic of children. Oh and Sara’s story about how kissing was discovered, or or or, the story about the blue chest.


 "I am sitting on a tragedy," said the Story Girl suddenly”


Isn’t it funny what comes back to you? 
It’s kind of adorable this book, and, I’m sure I read somewhere that The Story Girl was L.M Montgomery’s own favourite so you know, there’s that.

 
The thing about Montgomery I think, not just here, but in all her work, is that she knew how to tell a story. She knew her audience and she understood them and because of that you don’t just like the world she creates, you become hopelessly attached to it.

I guess really, it’s one of those books that transports me back to my own childhood the second I see the cover. It’s for that reason that I almost don’t want to read it again now: what if by doing so it loses some of its magic?

If you’re interested and why would you not be, because surely everybody loves a lovely book, my copy looks like this:

Look at it; it’s so old and wonderful. That’s because it belonged to my Granny: check out the little dedication inside.

 I miss when people used to write in books like this. Which, it’s a weird thing for me to miss because I like books to be perfect. I think it’s the idea of a story telling a story you know? Like, this book isn’t just the story within it’s pages anymore, it’s its own little piece of the past with its own memories and its own stories to tell. I look at this book and I know where it came from and why, and it carries with it a whole other meaning because of that and I just love it. I love that my Granny read this copy, that her name is in it, and that my Mum read this copy, and that then, when I discovered Anne of Green Gables, Granny passed this copy down to me. I’ma keep it (obvs) and hopefully pass it onto my own daughter one day. It kind of feels like more than just a good book, it feels like a little piece of my family history.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Review: The Fire Sermon



I missed Throwback Thursday last week because I was too busy being ill and feeling sorry for myself. Seriously, I am the worst sick person ever, I’m pathetic. I did, however, finish my book in time for the weekend. & a very good book it was too. It’s one that I mentioned earlier this month in my exciting February releases post and I’m super duper pleased to be able to say it lived up to my expectations.

I’ve seen The Fire Sermon described as The Road meets The Hunger Games, which, it kind of bugs me actually how all the YA dystopian books around these days seem to be being dubbed as the next Hunger Games. I get why, because look at how successful THG has been, and it’s a surefire way to attract a shitload of readers - it works; it attracted me - but at the same time it kind of does books like The Fire Sermon a disservice, because this book, fine, it’s a dystopia and fine, it’s got a strong female protagonist and fine its set in a world where the ‘government’ hold all the cards, but it’s strong enough to be judged on it’s own merits; it doesn’t need to be the next anything, because it’s really good as it is. Let THG be THG and let The Fire Sermon mark out its own little patch and own it. I promise you it can.

Basically, we’re 400 years in the future. The world has survived a nuclear apocalypse referred to as ‘The Blast.’ Since the blast, all births have been twin births, always a boy and a girl and always with one ‘perfect’ human (the alpha) and one considered less than (the omega), most commonly with extra or missing features – limbs, eyes, digits -  who is branded as ‘useless’, cast away and forced to live on Omega settlements as a second-class citizen. Which, well it’s all a bit shit really, ableism at its extremes. The Omega’s are kept isolated but they’re not killed because in an excellent plot twist, if the one twin dies, the other dies too. I love that.

The story is that of Cass and her twin, Zach. On the surface Cass and Zach are both perfect. Turns out though, that Cass isn’t; she’s a seer. It takes 13 years for anyone to figure this out – well done Cass – but her asshat twin eventually drops her in it, Cass is sent away and, after escaping from the cell said asshat twin has kept her in for years (to protect himself. If one twin dies then the other dies too, remember), she quite accidentally becomes involved in a revolution that pits Alphas and Omegas against each other. That's a really interesting premise in and of its self because how can you win a war when each casualty of the enemy results in a casualty for your own side? You never just kill one person, you’re always killing two and that brings about a really interesting moral dilemma that I hope we see more of in the rest of the series.  Whilst all this is going on Cass is being stalked by The Confessor, (another Seer gone rogue and now working for the Alpha Council,) and slowly developing feelings for Kip, another Omega who she rescues as she makes her escape and who has no memories of his past. There is a lot going on here, it’s a roller coaster ride. Fun fact about me: I love a good roller coaster.

This book is very well-written. The thing about writing a dystopia is that you need to be able to create a world that’s out of this world and yet still be able to make it believable – imaginable – it’s something Margaret Atwood excels at (and if you haven’t read her Madaddam series, or Handmaid’s then you need to rethink your choices) and it’s something Haig pulls off pretty well; her descriptive abilities are excellent and almost poetic and the world she’s created whilst far-fetched isn’t so much so that you feel detached from it, or its characters.

It’s original – I’ve not come across anything quite like it – and the whole premise of twin births, of alphas and omegas, of life and of death is really really interesting. The characters are complex and well-rounded and make some less than great choices - Cass for example is blinded by this misguided love for her brother  to the point that you kind of want to bang her head against a wall because the guy is an absolute asshat but you know what, that’s really great because that love that Cass has for Zach who really doesn’t deserve it, and the way that colours her choices, it’s what makes you relate to her, it’s what makes her human: she’s an excellent character because  of her flaws and not in spite of them, because she has this undeserved loyalty to her brother, because she’s scared, because she’s lacking in a confidence in her own ability, because some of the time she has no clue what she’s doing. The thing about Cass is she’s honest: she wants to fight, she wants to do the right thing, but she’s just not sure she’s brave enough, and how true is that? So many books paint being a hero as an easy task and so Cass’s fear, and lack of self-belief were incredibly refreshing as is the portrayal of the Omegas. Lemme give you an example here: Kit and Piper, the two guys Cass teams up  with both only have one arm, yet this is never shown as being a disability. It’s just a fact of life and I think that – that they are never painted as ‘less than’ - is really important, even more so given the messed up view of this particular society that the Alpha twin is always somehow ‘stronger.’

The story progresses slowly, but it doesn’t drag; every moment feels relevant and the twists and turns were enough to have me turning pages even though my poor sick self really want to do some sleeping. The whole world is really fascinating, even the parts that fill you with rage. It’s an interesting study of body image and relationships tied in to a dysfunctional (and that might be the biggest understatement you’ll read here for a while) society rife with segregation, discrimination and fear, oh, and a whole mass of ethical dilemmas. There’s also significant twist that might just blow your mind a little bit. 
 I really really liked it. In fact, my main problem is that I reckon there’s going to be quite a wait for the next installment. 

Patience has never been one of my virtues.



The Fire Sermon will be published on February 26th by HarperFiction.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Review: The Death House


Well then. This is a book I loved. I loved it in a ‘couldn’t put it down, needed some downtime when I’d finished it, honest to goodness book hangover’ kind of a way.

TFiOS for the dystopian fan, that’s how this book was sold to me and let’s be real, if you want to sell a book to me then that’s pretty much the sentence to use. GIVE ME ALL THE WORDS. I devoured it. I couldn’t read it fast enough and now I’ve finished it and I’m mad at myself because it’s over now and I half wish I’d taken my time because now all I am left with is ALL THE FEELS. I cannot with this book. I cannot. 


Toby's life was perfectly normal . . . until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.
Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House; an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They're looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it's time to take them to the sanatorium.
No one returns from the sanatorium.

So basically, there’s this group of kids, aged between around 10 and 17 living in this kind of boarding school type house, on an island.

The Death House.

They’re all 'defective', which means at some point they’re going to present with unknown symptoms and be taken to the sanatorium where they’ll never be seen again. Nobody knows what happens in the sanatorium, or even really what the sickness is: it’s never ever explicitly stated and the symptoms seem to vary from person to person so that even a sniffle becomes something terrifying.  There are whispers of all kinds of horrors 'they say it makes you bleed from the eyes'; this is the very definition of living in fear. 
The children - teenagers mostly - pretty much have free rein: there are nurses, who administer their vitamins at night, and teachers who don’t seem to care much about teaching these kids that will likely not reach adulthood and there’s a matron who’s always kind of there in the shadows, a formidable presence, but mostly, they’re left to their own devices: forming friendships and rivalries and waiting until it’s their turn to be wheeled away in the dead of night.
It’s all kind of monsters-under-the-bed stuff really though in a way, the fear of the sickness. I mean it happens: children do get sick and once they are, they're taken, but the fear of that isn’t all there is, it’s ever present but not overbearing; there’s more going on in this book than that, so much more. Pinborough has a story to tell that goes beyond her dystopian setting and she tells it so damn well. The story is incredibly compelling and the characters utterly fascinating – Toby, Jake, Clara, all of them, they get under your skin so that every single one of them makes you feel something different. The book is miserable, God, so miserable and there’s a fear that you can almost taste but at the same time it’s strangely uplifting and some parts were so bittersweet they made my heart hurt.

The use of language is kind of refreshing too – this book contains swear words, kids, - and I liked that, I liked that Toby would tell people to fuck off now and then because let’s be real: you’re 16 and in a house full of people, yourself included, that are waiting to die. A simple ‘go away’ isn’t going to cut it.  It felt like it really was narrated by a 16 year old boy with little time for bullshit. There’s bitterness and anger here, just like there should be and it’s portrayed incredibly well – Pinborough doesn’t shy away from emotion in her writing and it’s incredibly powerful. In Toby, and in Jake – Jake is a freaking incredible character – that emotion is so well written that it makes your fists clench.

There’s this thread of fear the whole way through – of death and of isolation and of the unknown – and an indescribable sadness, but more than that, this is a study of how we react to the things that are inevitable and an incredibly insightful look at human nature and relationships; it’s a character driven story, a heartbreaking tale of love so atmospheric you’ll have goosebumps. And the ending, well. WELL. 

It’s beautiful, this book.  It made me cry.

I’ve been left feeling achey and I’ve been left wanting more and I’ve been left feeling sad that I will never get to read this book for the first time ever again. This book is extraordinarily beautiful. It’s moving and haunting and despite the tragedy of it all, there’s this constant glimmer of a zest for life. Not quite hope (abandon hope Helen, should you choose to enter here and consider this fair warning) but a strange sort of lightness, a demonstration of happiness being found in the strangest of places (and I need to use that Dumbledore gif again don’t I? Oh God. Sorry not sorry.)


Bascially, please please read this book.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Review: Signal to Noise








This book is so great. Seriously. So great. It’s kind of like Eleanor & Park and kind of like The Craft and kind of like nothing else I’ve ever read before: it’s all teenage angst and magic spells and Mexico. It’s gorgeous.  Hang about a minute. I’ma find you a blurb…

Mexico City, 1988: Long before iTunes or MP3s, you said “I love you” with a mixtape. Meche, awkward and fifteen, has two equally unhip friends — Sebastian and Daniela — and a whole lot of vinyl records to keep her company. When she discovers how to cast spells using music, the future looks brighter for the trio. With help from this newfound magic, the three friends will piece together their broken families, change their status as non-entities, and maybe even find love…
Mexico City, 2009: Two decades after abandoning the metropolis, Meche returns for her estranged father’s funeral. It’s hard enough to cope with her family, but then she runs into Sebastian, and it revives memories from her childhood she thought she buried a long time ago. What really happened back then? What precipitated the bitter falling out with her father? And, is there any magic left?


You want to read it don’t you? You should – both want to read it and indeed, read it.

Signal to Noise is one of those rare novels that feels, quite fittingly actually, like a little bit of magic. You read this and you feel like you’re in Mexico 1988 and not in a ‘this book’s actually a bit dated’ kind of way, because it’s actually astonishingly relevant but in a ‘this author must be a sorceress because she has transported me back in time’ kind of a way.

Mexico City, 1988.

You can taste it and hear it and feel it, it’s so damn evocative I swear.

The setting is important, of course it is: place these characters anywhere else and you’d lose something for sure, but it’s not what matters, really. What matters is Meche, and Sebastian and Daniela. What matters is their story and what their story is, is one of friendship, with a side note of magic. That’s probably really important to note, that this is a book about people, not a book about magic. The magic is interesting and clever and a really neat twist, but it’s not what makes this book what it is.
Signal to Noise is also really cleverly done, because you’re in 1988 and Moreno-Garcia absolutely nails teenage angst, it’s absolutely spot on – the characters are solid and honest and awkward and a little bit self-centred and entirely flawed and so freaking likeable oh my god and you’re reading it and you can remember exactly what it was like to be that age. & then, suddenly, it’s 2009. Its 20 years later and these kids are adult now and that’s ridiculously relatable to as well. I mean, you kind of forget once you get into your twenties exactly what it was like to be a teenager, and how fucking awful it felt some days, how terrible and hard and confusing and shitty it was and at the same time how glorious and never-ending and consuming. Signal to Noise takes you right back there – heartache and first love and high school bullies all suddenly feeling as real and as all-important as they ever did, juxtaposed with this parallel tale twenty years in the future that makes how it was then and how it is now almost painfully familiar. You get to look at the world of a teenager from both angles and it’s, it’s just clever, the way that this narrative makes you think and feel. Moreno-Garcia doesn’t go easy on her characters, then or now, and I love that; there’s also a whole actions-consequences theme which is really quite excellent.

This isn’t a flashy novel and I reiterate:  it is absolutely not a story about magic. It is, quite simply, a slow building, beautifully executed book about people – about love, loss, friendship and family. The relationship between the three friends, particularly between Meche and Sebastian is stunningly written, both in ’88 and ’09 and the NOSTALGIA. Jesus God. Mix tapes and walkmans and no such thing as a mobile phone and feeling like you’d never feel more or different than you did right then. ALL THE NOSTALGIA.