6 Degrees of Separation: From Room to Les Miserables

6 Degrees is hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best; each month, we start with a book, link through to 6 more and see where we end up.

This month’s starter is Room by Emma Donoghue, a book which I found compelling but whose child narrator was not my favourite thing. I assume that, whether you’ve read Room or not, you’re familiar with the premise of a young woman and her son trapped in a single room by her kidnapper and rapist. The kidnapping/escape idea is what takes me to my first link.

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer starts with a mother losing her young daughter in a crowd; the little girl has been kidnapped for weird reasons which unfold later on in this twisty and unpredictable novel.

Coats may not seem like the most interesting link, but another novel in which cold-weather attire is an integral plot point is A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, in which main character Kell has an amazing-sounding coat that can be turned inside-out into into numerous different styles. I want one.

Magic takes me to one of my favourite books of 2016, All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, which begins with Patricia, a young girl with some interesting powers, who has a bizarre conversations with some birds.

Talking to animals moves us along to a weird little gem I read recently – Memoirs of a Porcupine by Alain Mabanckou. Set in Mabanckou’s native Congo, it’s narrated by a murderous porcupine whose fate is linked to an angry young man. It’s a really odd but brilliant book.

From a porcupine to another spiky creature, I’m linking to The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, which isn’t actually about a hedgehog at all, but a concierge at a Paris apartment building whose inner life contrasts firmly with her outrwad appearance.

And I can’t talk about Paris without ending on one of my favourite novels of all time, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, which I read in a manic two days a couple of years ago and still haven’t fully recovered from.

Have you joined in with 6 Degrees this month? Please link to your list in the comments. And have you read any of these books?

6 Degrees of Separation: From Fever Pitch to My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You

It’s time for another round of 6 Degrees, hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. A very complicated spider chart was scrawled in my notebook in the planning stages of this post. I’m not going to lie: it was the most fun I’ve had in ages.

This month, we start with Nick Hornby’s memoir of supporting Arsenal, Fever Pitch, which also happens to be one of my favourite books. If you’re interested in knowing why, I wrote this post about it last year. For my first link, I’m heading to another of Hornby’s books – and, in fact, another favourite of mine – High Fidelity, which shares lots of Fever Pitch’s concerns with masculinity and obsession, but transfers these ideas to music, with Rob, its protagonist, owning a record shop.

Another book in which record shops play an important part is Nikesh Shukla’s Coconut Unlimited, which I read earlier this year and loved. It’s about three Asian teenage boys who start their own reasonably terrible hip-hop collective; it’s a very warm and funny book and I recommend it. The boys spend much of their time browsing the latest rap releases in London’s record shops, and there’s my link.

Nikesh Shukla also edited the recent anthology, The Good Immigrant, which features essays from BAME writers on the immigrant experience, race and prejudice. It’s a brilliant book and one that’s so timely right now. A memorable piece from the collection is by Riz Ahmed, who you might know from the TV show The Night Of as well as his roles in Rogue One and Four Lions; he recounts the experiences of traveling to the USA as an Asian actor with stamps from Iran and Afghanistan on his passport. It’s a terrible injustice but one which he handles with humour and grace.

Another book which is concerned with prejudice is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, which I assume every sensible person on the planet has read. Her main character begins the book as the author of a blog that’s essentially about the stupid things white people say. I love Adichie; she is my literary hero.

Blogging takes me to my next link: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner. This YA novel, which came out in 2016, is about friendship, religion and grief, but also features a character with a fashion blog; it’s one of those fictional blogs with about a gazillion readers which I read about and feel inadequate, but the character has great taste in music so I’m prepared to admit her blog is probably good too.

The Serpent King is set in Nashville, which leads me to my final link. My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You by Kathi Kamen Goldmark is an obscure novel I picked up in 2010, when I was looking forward to a trip to Nashville as part of my honeymoon; I like to read books set in the places I visit, and it was quite tricky to find any for the home of country. Luckily, this one covers both the city and the music. I don’t remember it that well but I do remember that it was fun and an easy read, as well as featuring some brilliant pretend song titles, like My Baby Used to Hold Me (Now He’s Putting Me On Hold).

As always, this was fun; thanks to Kate for hosting. If you’ve joined in this month, or have read any of the books I’ve linked to, please let me know in the comments.

Six Degrees of Separation: From Fates and Furies to Allegedly

It’s time for Six Degrees of Separation again: a monthly post I now spend way too much time thinking about. It’s hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best; check out her post and next month’s starter book.

This month we’re starting with Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – a book I absolutely loved. Groff pulls off a right master stroke with the switch to Mathilde’s narrative halfway through; I spend the whole second half shouting “oh my GOD” and scaring my family. Lotto, the annoying husband in the book, is a failed actor turned playwright and general impresario. It’s this theatre link which leads me to my first link, which is Margaret Atwood’s modern retelling of The Tempest, Hag-Seed, in which a humiliated actor/director finds a new lease of life (and an outlet for vengeance) directing Shakespeare’s works in a prison.

Sticking with the prison theme for the next two links, I’m moving on to The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah, one of the best books I read last year. The main character, Memory, is an albino woman in a Harare prison, convicted of murdering the white man who, she believes, bought her from her parents. It’s a really outstanding book; if you haven’t read it, you should. Staying with prisons, my next link is a bit of a shift in tone: the graphic novel Bitch Planet, by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro and Robert Wilson IV, in which “unruly” women are dispatched to a prison planet and forced to fight for the entertainment of those on Earth. It’s bonkers, but cool.

I’ve developed a real love of space-set literature, most notably in the case of the mind-blowingly wonderful Illuminae, a YA sci-fi novel by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman; it’s brilliantly and innovatively written, with transcripts, interviews, emails and reports instead of a traditional narrative. It’s really fast-paced and completley superb.

Illuminae also features a frighteningly powerful AI, AIDEN, who yields a little too much power over the ship. Also in possession of some scary technology is Ray Bradbury’s story, The Veldt, in which spoiled children enjoy their interactive playroom a little too much for their parents’ liking. I have recently acquired both massive volumes of Bradbury’s stories and have the lofty aim of reading one a day.

The Veldt‘s children are slightly too keen to get rid of their parents, and my last link takes me to another book about terrifying kids; Tiffany D. Jackson’s very recently released Allegedly focuses on Mary, a fifteen year old just released from prison for the murder of a baby six years ago. Jackson does a tremendous job of keeping the reader guessing as to just how disturbed Mary actually is.

So there are my six links; I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else comes up with this month. Have you read any of these books, or have I inspired you to do so? Please let me know in the comments so I can feel like my existence has been validated.

The New York Times Book Tag

I saw this tag a long time ago and, finding myself with an inexplicable amount of free time, I decided to finally do it. If anyone knows who started the tag, please tell me so I can give them gratuitous praise and good vibes. Also, I have never read the New York Times, so I have no idea what the significance of these questions is. If anyone wants to enlighten me about that, feel free.

What book is on your bedside table right now?
I keep my TBR books on my bedside table, so there are currently about a million books on there, including Jonathan Bate’s biography of Ted Hughes, Natasha Farrant’s Lydia and Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun. Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings is still there too, despite me having finished it last week. I am just too lazy to take it to my book room.

the book of memoryWhat was the last really great book you read?
The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah was wonderful. Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am, which comes out in September, is also excellent; sweeping and yet intimate, with characters you want to shake and hug in equal measure. I read a lot of books I think of as ‘good,’ but not that many which I would call ‘great.’ This makes me a bit sad.


If you could meet one author (living or dead), who would it be and what would you ask them?
I’d like to meet Shakespeare and obtain from him some kind of incontrovertible evidence that he really did write all his plays, just to shut up all those annoying people who think it was actually Francis Bacon or a cleaner or someone. As for living authors, I’d like to meet Chuck Palahniuk and ask him some psychologically probing questions to try to deduce whether he is as weird as his books. I’d love to meet Margaret Atwood but would probably be far too starstruck to ask anything.

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelf?
I’ve recently started reading graphic novels, which people I know seem to find quite strange. So you might see all three volumes (so far) of The Wicked and The Divine and think I had gone mad. You may also be surprised (and confused) to find that I have loads of books in Portuguese, given that I cannot actually speak Portuguese.

How do you organise your personal library?
Non-fiction, adult fiction, YA and children’s books all separated. The adult novels are alphabetised by author but everything else is a bit more random. I have a whole shelf for books about Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes as well, but who doesn’t?

What book have you always meant to read but not got to yet?middlemarch
I have spent this whole year saying I am going to read Middlemarch but it doesn’t seem to have happened yet; I think I read it as a teenager, but I may well be confusing it with The Mill on the Floss. I am a failure. I studied English literature at university, when I read a lot of the books I might otherwise now torment myself for not having read.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel like you should have liked but didn’t?
I read I Love Dick by Chris Krauss, assuming from all the feminism-related buzz on Twitter that I’d love it, but it just didn’t work for me. It didn’t fit with my own, personal ideas of feminism and I thought everything that happened in it was just extremely weird.

What kind of stories are you drawn to?
Anything involving dysfunctional families; anything set in US states that aren’t used in 99% of books (so, places that aren’t California or New York); anything to do with the Spanish Civil War. I have also developed a love of books set in space or Africa. If there was an African book about space, that would make my life complete.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
Although I don’t think it’s a perfect book, I would like the US president to read Sex Object by Jessica Valenti; for Obama and whoever comes after him (hopefully not Trump as I’m not sure if he can actually read and I don’t think there’s a colouring book version), it raises a lot of really important issues about how women are treated in society as well as the vile ways in which some people use social media. As I’m actually English, I’d like our PM, Theresa May, to read Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism as a reminder of some of the issues still being faced by women over here, as well as some topical dystopian novels to serve as a cautionary tale of policy gone bad; Orwell’s 1984 and Simon Mayo’s new YA novel, Blame, should do nicely.

What do you plan to read next?
I’m reading spooky stuff in September to prepare Halloween-themed October reviews, so I’ll be reading the YA short story anthology Slasher Boys and Monster Girls, a pile of Point Horror books and Joyce Carol Oates’ The Accursed.

If you feel like doing this too, consider yourself tagged!