The Gifts by Liz Hyder

Coming February 24th 2022 – Zaffre Books/Manilla Press

‘In an age defined by men, it will take something extraordinary to show four women who they truly are…

October 1840. A young woman staggers alone through a forest in Shropshire as a huge pair of impossible wings rip themselves from her shoulders’.

That’s all I’m going to mention about the story itself, because this book pretty much ripped the emotions straight out of my heart and landed them with an almighty boom in between the pages.

The Gifts was an astonishing book to start the year off with. Honestly, I am absolutely blown away by Liz Hyder’s magical, immersive and compelling novel.

It picked me up and swept me off with a whoosh, every time I picked it up. It’s one of those books (which are few and far between) where I have so many notes and post-it’s that I really don’t know where to start to review it!

I’m writing this early in the morning whilst my brain is fresh as I’m suffering a book hangover of gargantuan proportions and don’t want my review to be all “I LOVED IT! I LOVED IT! JUST BUY IT EVERYONE!”

Liz Hyder has made historical magical realism the most magically realistic reading experience. It is relatable, brutally true to present life and beautifully presented with a language that sings. The characters are right there, you can feel them walking around in your mind. The setting and imagery vivid, you can almost taste it, smell it.

I one hundred per cent ‘got’ the story that Liz set out to tell. It’s historical fiction, yes, with magical elements, but it’s also SO MUCH MORE.

I have a lot to say about this book but I also want to keep it all to myself. I read an advance copy that the publisher kindly sent me and if it’s affected me in it’s unfinished state, the finished copy (complete with illustrations!! Eeek!!) is guaranteed to be a marvel. I cannot wait to see it!

When I first started reading, I made notes on the individual characters because there’s quite a few of them, each one playing an essential part to the story. I’m glad I did this, as occasionally, in the first, maybe 100 pages, I did need to refresh my memory about who they were and what they were ‘up to’. And my goodness, they were ALL up to all sorts, I can tell you.

Their individuality soon settled in my mind and I was able to distinguish and switch between them with no problem. That, for me, is a sign of a well written book. I often struggle if there’s many characters, but not here. I was in deep, completely invested in everything going on in the pages.

There’s a chemistry between two of the characters that was done so perfectly. I’m not one for ‘love’ in stories, but I was absolutely buzzing for these two, and their banter was hilarious at times. I was crying with laughter during numerous scenes.

The chapters were short and snappy, which is something I love. I feel like I’m not quite ready to move onto another book yet because The Gifts is still under my skin, like the bursting wings of those ‘chosen’ women.

I’m left with this thought that gets me right here *pounds fist into heart area* – is it really STILL so scandalous that a woman can have the “audacity” to grow a pair of powerful wings and set herself free?

WOW. Just WOW.

Thank you so much Liz for your story. And to the publisher, Zaffre Books for sending me an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Now I’m going to go off and hug the book some more. Etta, Mary, Natalya and Annie, you’re going on my forever shelf eventually, but not just yet, I can’t quite let you go…

Bunny by Mona Awad

‘We call them Bunnies because that is what they call each other. Seriously. Bunny.’

I’m a bit all over the place with this book. I’d call it a ‘yo-yo read’. It’s sickly sweet, ugly pretty, cutely foul and oddly addictive. I was up and down throughout, with awkward ‘do I even like this’ moments. On numerous occasions I was indeed loving it in all its twisted hilarity.

Samantha Heather Mackey is an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at Warren University. In fact, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort – a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other ‘Bunny’.

But then the Bunnies issue her with an invitation and Samantha finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door, across the threshold, and down their rabbit hole.

Bunny was an unusual choice for me as it’s got Young Adult/Fantasy genre written all over it – not my usual choice. But this book feels like it not only blends genres, but bends them too. Into very uncomfortable positions.

⤴️You can treat yourself to this Bunny Zone sign for your wall/garden/bedroom/dustbin area by clicking on the sign!

It’s as funny as hell in places and has a fair few horrific scenes. On Goodreads someone described it as ‘one of the most demented books I’ve ever read’. I dig a bit of weirdness in my books, so my FOMO got the better of me!

I’m a member of The Ladies of Horror Fiction Group on Goodreads and there was a choice of books for September to vote for. Bunny won, so I thought, oh why not, let’s do it! I’m glad I did, but I’m still not sure I even liked it much!

I’m in the UK and the story is American, so I found certain things that I didn’t connect with. The education system in the USA is something I know nothing about. Also certain pop culture went over my head, so perhaps things were a bit lost on me.

The quirky characters were cracking, the humour was dark and dry, it was shockingly funny on countless occasions. It was written in such a way that is felt ‘chatty’ and flowed from page to brain* very easily.

*whilst mashing it up repeatedly.

The Sunday Independent quotes it as ‘Mean Girls with added menace’ and I completely agree.

At three quarters through I felt it was just playing with me. My feelings went from ‘this is weird’ to this is ‘REALLY effing weird’. Then ‘it’s so hilarious but still weird.’ Then ‘uh-oh, I’m getting a bit bored of the repetitive bits in the middle here.’ And the final part was just ‘whaaat??? – I’m not sure I even ‘get it!’

Talk about rollercoaster! It’s like nothing I’ve read before ever. But I think I liked it.

Would I read it again? No. Would I recommend it? I would, yes. But it’s definitely not for everyone. Maybe it would sit better with an American reader, and certainly would be more appreciated by someone twenty years younger than myself.

Apparently the rights are sold to AMC for a possible TV-film adaptation. I think it would be better on screen, I’d watch it, but only because I’ve read it.

It comes across as a weird, fantastical teen/YA story, with elements of horror that is cleverly put together. I enjoyed the characters and their strange behaviours, the writing was extremely good but overall I’d say it is an above average ‘Bunny Tail’ deserving of 3/5 bunnies.

I’ll leave you with a couple of lines which made me pull a right dodgy face;

‘A pause so pregnant it delivers, consumes its own spawn, then grows big with child again.’

‘She looks at us all in her probing, intensely gynaecological way.’

Urgh! That’s just ‘orrible!!

Out of my Reading Comfort Zone

So, I’ve been thinking about my reading list for 2018 and I’ve made a few promises to my other half. I’m going to finally read what he’s been nagging me to read since forever.

I’m a horror, crime, psychological thriller and history fan. Sometimes I go for women’s contemporary fiction and humour. But in 2018 I will be mixing things up a bit and I’m going to read a couple of books that are completely out of my comfort zone. Not an easy decision, I’m a little bit worried I’m not going to enjoy myself, but I’m giving them a go, just to see why he keeps hassling me to read them.

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Ok, so without further ado, here are my #OutOfMyComfortZone 2018 reads:

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With a bit of luck he’ll stop going on and on about why I should read these, and who knows, I might actually really love them! I’m willing to give them a chance.

I’m not one for reading fantasy books at all, but I’ll admit when ANYTHING by Sanderson is being read in this house, there’s a sense of wonder and amazement that goes along with it. Engrossed is an understatement! I’m going to see what all the fuss is about. FINALLY, I hear him cry!

I’ve tried Pratchett books before and failed. I’ve only ever finished one; The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, a children’s book!! I can honestly say I don’t think I gave any others a chance. I’ve noticed that a lot of his books don’t have chapters as such. That, for me, is a worry, but I’m not letting that hold me back. So Pratchetts Witches #1 is my first ‘grown up’ journey to Discworld.

I know it’s only two out of the fifty-odd I’ll be reading next year, but if I read them, I think I’ll get a real sense of achievement. And maybe he will now shut up about them! For all I know, it might be ME that starts raving about how wonderful they are! Watch this space 😉

 

 

 

 

 

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