Saturday 29 April 2023

The Sinister Booksellers of Bath by Garth Nix

From a quiet bookshop in Bath, the Sinister (as in left-handed) Booksellers keep an eye on the activities of beings of the Old World, particularly the goddess Sulis Minerva who lives in the hot spring. One day, unpacking a parcel they stumble on an old map, which pulls bookseller Merlin into its depths. His sister, Vivien, and his on/off girlfriend, Susan, follow in an attempt to save him, and all three find themselves trapped in a sorcerous world created by an Ancient Sovereign, and guarded by living marble statues. Escaping from the map is only the beginning of their problems though, as they realise they aren't the first to be lured in, but might, in a very unpleasant way, be the last.

I've done that weird thing here of joining in with a series on book 2, but I found it didn't hamper my enjoyment. Nix fills in enough of the previous events to enable the reader to understand the background to book 2, but without telling the whole story and robbing us of a desire to read it.

On to book 2 though, and its Sinister Booksellers ... set in an alternate 1980s where magic and the humdrum everyday world exist side by side, it's a non-stop exciting read with very little quiet down-time for either characters or readers (though the characters do find time to sample quite a lot of delicious-sounding cake). For the 'booksellers' this is all comparatively in a day's work - their role is after all to keep people safe from the magical world and to keep that world secret -  but for Susan things are different. Until recently she'd assumed she was as average as the next person, but finding out her father was an Ancient Sovereign known as The Old Man Of Coniston has changed all that. She'd like to go back to how things were but having an ancient being pursuing her, feeling the call of her father's realm, plus  her growing relationship with Merlin, all seem to be acting against that.

I've seen The Sinister Booksellers of Bath described as YA but more off a crossover/ YA plus book, one as appealing to adult readers as their younger counterparts. It's not without its breath-holding moments but nothing too terrifying. A 5 star read which I'd definitely recommend to fans of Neil Gaiman or Alan Garner.

Wednesday 12 April 2023

Go As A River by Shelley Read

On an autumn day in 1948 Victoria Nash, delivering peaches from her family farm, meets Wilson Moon, just passing through town, and in a few minutes both their lives are changed forever. Propelled by impetuous emotion they embark on a secret love affair, not thinking of the consequences.

Stepping in to the role of housekeeper after her mother's death, Victoria's life was probably destined to be one of drudgery; cooking and cleaning for her father and brother, helping in the orchard, selling the fruit. Till she meets Wilson, she's accepted this without question, but now through grief and adversity she discovers a stronger, more independent side to her nature. She's forced to make her decisions, uproot herself, and start over again elsewhere. Like a river, having encountered an immovable rock, she follows a different course.

Not quite a family saga, more the story of one woman's life, but sure to appeal to llovers of the former, Go As A River is a story of love, compassion, and strength versus small-town attitudes and prejudice, set among the stunning mountainous scenery of Colorado. The racism Wilson encounters is shocking, especially its outcome and general acceptance by the town's inhabitants. In contrast the writing is beautiful, and will leave you longing for juicy peaches fresh from the tree, but I found the ending a little too sentimental for my my liking.