Reviews of books I like/love


*started reading again today, oh the excitement – 5/2/13*


Cynthia Rogerson – Stepping Out – Salt

John Lanchester – Capital – F&F

Ashley J Stokes – The Syllabus of Errors – Unthank

AJ Ashworth – Somewhere else, or even here – Salt

Carys Bray – Sweet Home – Salt

Doug Johnstone – Tombstoning

Doug Johnstone – The Ossians (both Faber and Faber)

Julie O’yang – Butterfly (Createspace)

Martin Pond – Cold –

Benjamin Buchholz – One Hundred and One Nights (Little, Brown)

Bruno Portier – This Flawless Place Between (Oneworld)


King of the Jungle – KS Silkwood

Sarah Dobbs’s review Jun 12, 13
5 of 5 stars
Read from May 31 to June 12, 2013

I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this book, off the title and description alone. I thought it was going to be a bit glib, an extended joke about the art scene, which like the writing scene, can result in a lot of bizarre characters and rolled eyes and pretending.


What it’s really about, I think, is a man with talent and passion who got sick of that scene and decided to hide away. So he escapes to a dead-end job burying tramp poo, being rude to drunks and not knowing the names of the plants and trees he supposedly cares for. The novel is split into three sections. Part One, the character is an asshole. Fairly out and out. He hates pretty much everyone and has no real love or attachment or care for anyone and anything. But there’s enough humour and touches of kindness that he’s likeable. He’s often commenting about women being interesting, just my type, but then describes them as skinny and fit. So there are moments when I’m thinking, ugh, what a wanker. How does skinny and fit equate to interesting. But that’s part of the character’s progression.

the novel’s tricking you. And I should have suspected it, the style in which it’s written sets you up to know that, but still I was surprised as things started, subtly, to shift. Part two and I started rather than just laughing at his antics, to warming up. The drunks and tramps he deals with everyday are the closest he seems to have to friends. The descriptions and interactions, at first caricatures, eventually result in some breathtaking moments of vulnerability, when you see through what they are. There’s a scene with Moses and pigeons and a van that I just can’t talk about yet.

Also interesting was the shift to part 3, where the main character has undergone some serious changes. Vanity being one of his calling cards, in part 3, he’s altered in such a way that this is no longer possible. I remembered thinking myself, oh, you don’t seem quite so attractive now which I thought was fairly revelatory in the way we view and judge people. That perhaps underneath the humour and surface, the novel is commenting on how we don’t really see. That when we look we see, not people, but faces or position. The same way we don’t see, or don’t want to look at the tramps that form much of Jonathan’s world.

I’m still having a pissed off spasm at the ending. An argh! moment. (can’t tell you why). But it’s brave choice and so is the novel. Initially, we get a flaky character and the falsity of the art world, but King of the Jungle reveals itself and the character to be something a little more profound, touching and thought-provoking. And that’s what good art can do, right? Make you ask questions and invade your thinking.

Apparently this novel is one of three, so I’m interested to see where this could go next. A memorable novel whose character and premise we get to witness being deconstructed and put back together. Sort of.

Somewhere Else, or Even Here – AJ Ashworth

This collection seems to be about that gravitational pull. The lengths people go to when that pull is broken, a lover or relative has died, or left or not yet arrived and is hoped for.

With its original writing and observations (I have sections highlighted) and it’s varied, clever (but not gimmicky techniques), this collection makes me want to say something corny like: each story is a unique planet in an irresistible solar system of stars…

read more…

March 2013

Capital – by John Lanchester

The novel is an impressive feat, with a large and wide-ranging cast of characters: Roger the banker, Quentina the self-contained traffic warden, Petunia the dying widow, Matya the nanny, Bogden – real name Zbigniew – the builder, to name a few. The breadth of knowledge displayed of the goings-on behind the scenes of different industries, particularly banking, and the world of immigration law, is also impressive and compelling…

Read the whole review at Litro


The Boy in the Suitcase by

Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis

Read the review @thebookgeeks

JULY 2012

REVIEW: How the Trouble Started – Robert Williams

How the Trouble Started by Robert Williams

How the Trouble Started


Faber and Faber

Kindle and Paperback

As beautiful as it is unnerving, How the Trouble Started needs to be on your must-read book-list. This is Williams’ second novel and, while I haven’t read the first, Luke and Jon, I now feel compelled to get myself a copy. It’s clear from the first page – the first line, actually – that this writer knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s all in the gaps. The information we’re given, and the information that’s withheld. It’s our desire to fill in those gaps that draws us along.

Read more…

Natsuo Kirino, Out

‘Out’ by Natsuo Kirino is a provocative, disturbing and highly intelligent psychological thriller. Written by a female author, the novel is a sensitive exploration of the difficulties faced via 4 quite different women who all work the night shift at a boxed lunch factory. When beautiful Yayoi murders her philandering husband, she goes to sensible Masoko for help who then enlists 2 other friends to help deal with the problem of the body. Eventually, they decide it must be cut up and thrown away.

ImageVintage, 2004, pp.528

Read more…

MAY 2012

David Szalay, Spring

My calendar tells me I should be editing, but hey. I recently read ‘Spring’ by David Szalay which thirty-somethings will apparently ‘lap up’, according to Emma Hagestadt at The Independent.

Read more…


Ashley Stokes, Touching the Starfish

Unthank Books

Touching the Starfish

I have to admit that I thought that the title to Ashley Stokes’ debut novel Touching the Starfish was a bit rude. But it’s not. That’s just me.

So what is Touching the Starfish?

It’s a book for every creative writing lecturer out there. If you ever wanted to write about your experiences in this area, then don’t. It’s been done. And I can’t imagine it being done better than TTS manages to do.

Read more…

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