The Lost Future of Pepperharrow

I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own, and I have since bought a finished copy too.

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

I loved The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, Natasha Pulley’s first novel, and Bedlam Stacks, which was her second – a standalone that nevertheless ‘overlaps’ somewhat with Filigree Street in a rather pleasing way – so I was incredibly excited about a sequel to Watchmaker, but would it deliver?

In short, yes! If you enjoyed Watchmaker you must read this (and if you haven’t read Watchmaker stop now and go and read that first!)

We return to Thaniel, Mori and Six a few years after we left them, this time as they embark on a journey to Japan; Thaniel for work and health reasons and Mori to finish something he started decades earlier…

I loved seeing Mori’s home and the way the Japanese setting affected our characters. As with Natasha’s previous books, her love and knowledge of the country, its history and culture are clear and give us an immersive sense of time and place.

I must admit that after the somewhat softly spoken, almost genteel feel of Watchmaker I found the harsher, cruder tone a bit surprising and hard to get into at first, but I soon did and it soon felt much more appropriate for the story too. I also found the author’s note on the language and her choice of and use of it very interesting.

Likewise, I struggled to see Thaniel as a big man, a boxer as that’s not at all how I’d imagined him in Watchmaker, but I soon grew into this ‘new’ Thaniel and it worked very well.

Mori might just be one of my favourite ever fictional characters and here he is as enigmatic and magnetic as ever. I thought the way that despite thinking I trusted him absolutely and feeling such warmth towards him, we’re still led to doubt and second guess him, and by extension our own judgement. It’s so cleverly written.

There’s some new characters too who are brought to life just as well, evoking a host of different reactions and feelings between them. From the power-hungry Kuroda to the ruthless Tanaka to the complex, strong and determined Takiko Pepperharrow.

I will struggle to say much about anything without either giving away huge spoilers or just sounding confusing, but it is brilliantly sprawling and intricately woven, as one would expect if you’re already familiar with Mori.

Seemingly unconnected, insignificant or minor events come together to create a puzzle which only reveals itself once all its pieces are in place.

Bringing together folklore, superstition and an air of the supernatural in a rich, historical tale of power, love and destiny, this is an outstanding sequel and joins The Watchmaker of Filigree Street as one of my favourite books.

Gingerbread

I requested and received an advance copy of this free from the publishers, in exchange for an honest review. All views are my own.

Ever since I read ‘Boy, Snow, Bird’ a few years ago I’ve been a huge fan of Helen Oyeyemi’s books, so when I saw this was coming out I was VERY excited!

And when this beautiful book arrived in the post (the cover is by Neil Lang and I think it’s stunning) I was itching to get going with it!

Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children’s stories…Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe.

As many of you will know, I’m not the quickest reader at the best of times and even slower since trying to fit it in around Peapod, so despite my enthusiasm and best efforts it took me an age to finish! But it was worth the long journey…

…and a journey it was – from modern day life through fairytale farms in non-existent countries, through ‘looking-glass’ cities with dark, gingerbread underbellies, and back to the familiar, albeit slightly warped!

This book is impossible to pin down and almost as hard to describe.

It’s a family saga but not like any you’ve ever read before, with an extremely eclectic cast.

It’s sort of magical realism but it’s a very matter of fact magic, if indeed it’s magic at all.

It’s a sharply observed commentary on society, politics, prejudice, feminism, class and more…But one that’s hidden in talking dolls, changelings in wells and not-haunted houses.

It’s like Margaret Astwood collided with Haruki Murakami in a fairytale world.

Deftly written with a lyrical beauty that’s laced through with a sharp wit, this book demonstrates a detailed knowledge, and love of, fairytales and their tropes as well as a shrewd understanding of people – of cliques, of types, of behaviours and, especially, of women and families.

I can’t lie, it’s not an easy read. There’s often a complaint that books don’t flow; if anything this flows so freely that it takes a bit of concentration to try and follow its weird and winding ways.

That said, I was snatching a page or two here and there where I could – I think if I could have read it in larger chunks, I would have followed much easier.

So if I have one piece of advice in regards to this book it is – Read It. But read it when you have time to really read it – lose yourself in it, allow yourself to luxuriate in it, indulge.

WWW Wednesday 3/4/19

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday’:

What are you currently reading?

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

I mentioned last week how I’d chosen to read the e-book of this (from the library) on my phone so I can read in bed without waking Peapod!

It’s been a perfect choice for these overnight reading and feeding sessions. It’s fairly short (I should finish it in the next couple of nights, if not overnight tonight) and an easy read that maybe won’t be in any of my ‘Top….’ lists but is nevertheless very, very enjoyable.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J K Rowling, read by Stephen Fry.

I’m still really enjoying the Harry Potter audiobooks and this is one of my favourite books in the series. Mostly because it makes me so angry (Dolores Umbridge especially, but Cornelius Fudge and Percy Weasley, I am also looking at you!) but also because of The Order itself which is filled with some of the best people. (How under-rated is Lupin in the series?!)

Rumblestar by Abi Elphinstone

I feel so lucky to have been sent a proof of this, I have been looking forward to it for ages having read her books and, though I’m only a chapter in, it is well and truly living up to expectations! Magical!

I’ve got the proof version, but the real cover (designed by Carrie May and Jenny Richards) was revealed on twitter last week and it’s stunning. I’m a big fan of a map in a book and this has that feel on the cover.

As an Abi Elphinstone aside, I found out this week that she has a picture book coming out in late October too! How flipping exciting!

What have you just finished reading?

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi.

I don’t even know where to begin trying to talk about this book! It was fantastic, in both senses of the word. I’ll be reviewing it (as best I can!) this week or next, in the meantime I’ll leave you with the knowledge that it was excellent but with the advisory note to redd it in big chunks if you csn – it’s much easier to follow than if you’re only managing little snippets at a time!

What are you planning on reading next?

I’ll definitely be continuing with Harry Potter on audio. I’ll be starting Half Blood Prince this week.

I’m going to read the next Apprentice Witch book – A Witch Alone – as an overnight ebook too!

It’ll be a while before I finish Rumblestar, so I don’t know what physical book will be next. I have an absolute stack to get through! Scavengers by Darren Simpson and the final installment in Alice Broadway’s Ink Trilogy, Scar, are both hig on the list though.

Having finished Gingerbread, I’d also really like to find time (hahaha, I know!) to read some of the adult fiction titles sat patiently waiting on my shelf too, but I have no idea yet how I’ll manage this!

Have you read any of these?

What are you reading at the moment?

WWW Wednesday 20/2/19

WWW Wednesday is hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’ every Wednesday’:

What are you currently reading?

Monsters by Sharon Dogar.

I’m still chipping away at Monsters. I have mixed feelings on this one but I definitely want to see it through to the end.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling, read by Stephen Fry.

I’m nearing the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on audiobooks too…which is disastrous as Prisoner of Azkaban isn’t available for another 2 weeks…! As you can tell. I’m still really enjoying these!

What have you just finished reading?

Flights of Fancy – Children’s Laureates

I thought this was a lovely book – perfect for aspiring writers, illustrators, creatives everywhere. I’ll post a full review this week.

Little Bird Flies by Karen McCombie

Amy at Golden Books Girl recommended this and I’m so pleased she did as I might not have picked it up otherwise and I loved it. With a remote, rural, historical setting it felt do well rooted and it was such a joy to read – I really liked the writing style. I’ll be reviewing it soon.

What are you planning on reading next?

I’ll definitely be listening to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as soon as its available. In the meantime I might give something else a go but I’m not sure what yet…

I’m just about to start The Closest Thing to Flying by Gill Lewis too which I have high hopes for.

Have you read any of the books here?

What are you reading at the moment?

Mini Monday – a YA double bill

I requested and received advance copies of both books free from the publishers, in exchange for an honest review. All views are my own.

This month I’ve read two YA books, both by authors whose debuts I read and loved last year, so I was very lucky and very excited to get early copies of both of these.

Both of these books not only take on some serious and relevant issues, but also give a voice to what have traditionally been (and continue to be, although it may be improving) under-represented members of society: a British-Pakistani teen and a young black American girl.

Up first:

Kick the Moon by Muhammad Khan. Illustrated by Amrit Bird. Cover design by Rachel Vale.

I thought Khan’s debut I Am Thunder last year was brilliant – well-written, ground-breaking in the way it looked at radicalisation and with huge contemporary YA appeal – so I was eagerly anticipating this one too.

Fifteen-year-old Ilyas is under pressure from everyone: GCSE’s are looming, his dad wants him to join the family business while he dreams of designing comic books, and he’s becoming increasingly unsure of the direction his group of mates is taking.

Serving detention one day, Ilyas finds a kindred spirit in Kelly, but when Kelly is caught up in his gang’s toxic bet, Ilyas must decide where his loyalties lie.

While I didn’t feel this broke the mould in the same way I Am Thunder did, it nevertheless tackles some difficult and important subjects – racism, revenge porn, gangs, bullying and peer-pressure not to mention culture, family and friendship – and it does so with sensitivity, awareness and realism.

Similarly, when I first started reading the book, it felt like there were a lot of stereotypes at play. However, as I read on, they felt necessary, believable and, perhaps most importantly, familiar.

There’s a lot in this book teens will recognise and all of it feels well-described, with voices that sound natural and real, not forced or too ‘adult’. There is a lot of slang used in the dialogue and this feels carefully considered, well-researched and integral to the characters and the story which just would not have the same effect without the characters speaking as they really would.

Immensely relatable, my heart went out to Ilyas as he struggled with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, but it also cheered as he found the courage to stand up for what he believed in and grew in confidence.

This is a book which really understands how hard it can be to find yourself trapped in a bad situation and how it can be even harder to get out of it again. The increasing desperation came across powerfully and will be so familiar to so many. It shows how confusing and difficult teenage years can be as you try to find your way, your goals, your ‘people’ and of course yourself.

A story of hope, change and self-belief: I really enjoyed this and it deserves to be a big hit with contemporary YA fans.

And next…

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. Cover design by Tim Marrs.

Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill.

But when her first song goes viral for all the wrong reasons, Bri finds herself at the centre of controversy and portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. And with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it – she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.

The Hate U Give was one of my favourite books of last year – powerful, hard-hitting and brutally honest, it was truly something else.

On The Come Up returns to ‘The Garden’ (Garden Heights) where THUG was set and – while it isn’t a sequel and reads perfectly well as a stand-alone book – there is much overlap, with events from THUG seeing their consequences reaching into On The Come Up.

As with ‘Kick the Moon’, this didn’t feel quite so ground-breaking as THUG, but still tackles some very important issues – racism, poverty, class, misrepresentation, drugs and gang affiliation – in a compassionate but unsentimental way which very much holds a mirror up to certain aspects of society and the media.

Angie Thomas is an incredible writer – her characters feel real and complex, their relationships and lives the same. Bri’s mum in particular struck a chord with me, while the changing dynamics of Bri and her best friends’ relationships will no doubt hit home for many readers.

Bri herself is incredibly likeable – and if you’ve read THUG and liked Starr, you’ll love Bri just as much if not more: fiercely determined, stretching her wings and aiming for the sky, she is a character with big dreams, plenty of hope and just as much fire…which, whether rightly or wrongly, can lead to trouble.

It was near impossible for me to like this as much as I did THUG, but it was still brilliant and readers from all backgrounds will find both things they relate to and other things which open their eyes or make them pause for thought. It is a book brimming with friendship, love, hip hop and hope!

New Year’s Resolutions Book Tag

I often read tags like this and think they’d be fun to do but never do them, so they’ll be sporadic but as and when I can I’ll be throwing them into the mix!

Today’s is taken from Golden Books Girl, Amy – you can see her answers here!


1. An Author You’d Like To Read That You’ve Never Read

So many! There are a lot of authors/books I feel I should have read but haven’t – this is a big reason I’m going to try and read more classics this year! From a recent conversation though, I’ll say MG Leonard.

2. A New Book You’d Like To Read

There’s lots of books out this year I’m excited for – the new Five Realms (Podkin) book by Kieran Larwood, the second Wild Folk book by Sylvia Linsteadt for starters. New Jess Butterworth and Abi Elphinstone…

But the book I’m most excited about is Circle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen! (You can read my thoughts on the first two books in the trilogy here).

3. A Classic You’d Like To Read

One of my reading goals this year is to read more classics, both adult and children’s (I’m looking forward to the children’s more!).

I have the new Lauren Child illustrated Mary Poppins so I think I’ll start with that. I also have Patrick Ness’ ‘And The Ocean Was Our Sky’ which is a new take on Moby Dick, so I’d quite like to read the two together.

4. A Book You’d Like To Re-Read

I’ve been meaning to re-read the Harry Potter books for AGES! So those! I’d like to re-read Discworld (and read those I’ve not read) too – I can’t see that happening this year, but who knows!

5. A Book You’ve Had For Ages and Want To Read

So many! The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden or Alice by Christina Henry maybe. Or, I haven’t had it for ages but Marcus Zusak’s Bridge of Clay has been on the shelf for longer than I’d have liked.

6. A Big Book You’d Like To Read

Hmm. I’m not sure about this one. Can I say Bridge of Clay twice?! Or I have Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Labyrinth of the Spirits waiting too.

7. An Author You’ve Previously Read and Would Like To Read More Of

I’d like to read the rest of the Murder Most Unladylike Series by Robin Stevens, as well as the Emma Carroll books I’ve not yet read.

8. A Book You Got For Christmas and Would Like To Read

I didn’t get any 😭😭 No one wants to buy a bookseller books! I do have some book vouchers to spend though – I’ll be getting a hardback set of Harry Potter.

9. A Series You Want To Read From Start to Finish

Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows or Shadow and Bone. I read her fairytale collection ‘The Language of Thorns’ and loved it but haven’t read her novels yet.

10. A Series You Want To Finish That You’ve Already Started

The Ink trilogy by Alice Broadway.

11. Do You Set Reading Goals? If So, How Many Books Do You Want To Read in 2018?

Yes, although I don’t get too worked up about meeting them – it’s always nice to reach my target but I won’t binge or speed read to do it. Ultimately, I’d rather enjoy a book than rush through it. This year I’m hoping for at least 75. I’d like to reach 100 but we’ll see!

12. Any Other Reading Goals?

You can read my post on this year’s reading goals here.

Have you read or are you looking forward to reading any of the same books as me? What are you hoping to read this year?

Six for Sunday: Books I Wish I’d Had As a Teen

Six for Sunday is hosted by Steph at A Little But A Lot. She gives a prompt for a list of six books each Sunday – the list can be found here. This week it’s

Books You Wish You’d Had as a Teen

I’m really interested to see what others come up with for this. I’ve struggled with it; I honestly can’t think of any books I’ve read as an adult that I wish I’d read as a teen – maybe I’ve just forgotten when I have thought this or maybe it’s because it feels so long ago!

Either way, I’ve decided to pick 3 books I’ve read as an adult that I think teen me would have liked and 3 books I’ve not yet read that I think both teen and adult me would/will like.

I’d probably also squeeze in a music biography of some sort too, but I’m not sure which. Any recommendations?!

First, the three I’ve read:

Clean – Juno Dawson

The Bees – Lalline Paul

The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak

And for the 3 I haven’t:

Vox – Christina Dalcher

Smoke and Mirrors – Neil Gaiman

Alice – Christina Henry

Interestingly, there’s not many actual YA books on here. I wonder if that’s because it wasn’t a big thing when I was younger and I mostly read adult fiction? Or whether it’s because of children’s, YA and adult books that I read now, YA is still what I read least… I’m not sure!

Have you read any of my choices? What do you think?

Have you taken part in #SixforSunday too? Leave me a link to your list!

 

The Restless Girls

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When I was younger, Twelve Dancing Princesses was one of my favourite stories. Something about the midnight trips out, the worn out shoes, the boats to magical forests and dancing maybe.

As a huge fan of Jessie Burton’s adult novels ‘The Miniaturist’ and ‘The Muse’, I was very excited to hear she was writing a modern version of this.

Especially since I revisited it myself last year as part of some artwork, and was struck by how little autonomy the Princesses have.

Twelve Dancing Princesses

And it is this lack of autonomy, and the sexism that dominates traditional fairytale kingdoms, that is put right in The Restless Girls.

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There’s a real energy and spark to both the girls and the story – with some fantastically impossible events (a dance hosted by a lioness and a peacock with a wild animal band for starters) alongside some fantastically important ones – namely the girls being in charge of their own choices and futures, and being a force for change in those around them too.

Rather than just stumbling across the party in the woods, the girls use their skills, talents and knowledge to find it – each demonstrating their unique personality and strengths, from science to languages to sports.

There is an inspiring sense of determination and loyalty in the sisters and their relationship with each other is portrayed with warmth and understanding; youngest sister Agnes is described affectionately as “their little walking popcorn” which I loved!

It is little phrases and details like this which I really enjoyed in the book – adding depth at times (“The dark was simply the beginning of new things. The dark was necessary.”) and humour at others (the excuses they found for the holes in their shoes are brilliant and there’s a perfectly placed “It’s bloody freezing!” which made me smile too.)

Truly a fairytale for modern times, this keeps all the magic of the original, with midnight feasting and dancing in glittering forests, but throws in a large helping of adventure, independence and resourcefulness too.

Wonderfully detailed illustrations from Angela Barrett complete the package and make this a stunning book to give, gift and keep!

Storm-wake

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Moss has lived with Pa on a remote island for as long as she remembers. The Old World has disappeared beneath the waves – only Pa’s magic, harnessing the wondrous stormflowers on the island, can save the sunken continents. But a storm is brewing, promising cataclysmic changes.

I received a review copy of this from Chicken House and wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s taken me a while to get round to reading and I wish I’d read it sooner. It was wonderful.

Classed as YA, it is in one sense a classic ‘coming-of-age’ narrative. We see Moss as she grows from a ‘Small Thing’ into her teens, and watch as her relationships with both “wild-boy” Cal and Pa change as she does. However, there’s a lot more going on here, and in some ways I’m not sure where or how I’d categorise this, which is no bad thing.

Let’s start with the island and its stormflowers – described in Lucy Christopher’s beautiful and lyrical style, there is a dream-like feel to the place, the flowers and the magical qualities that surround them. But are things as idyllic as they seem, or is there a darker side to the flowers and their effects? There’s a heavy, heady link to poppies and their opioid connections made, but we’re left to draw our own conclusions as the book progresses.

Much of the book feels like this: the line between fantasy and reality is not so much blurred as changeable and shifting. There is a wonderful balance between the real and the fantastic: the real often seeming to be written between the lines of the magic on the page, which I thought was so cleverly done and only added to the sense of foreboding and doubt that gradually creeps in as Moss begins to realise that perhaps not everything is how she has grown up believing it to be.

While not a retelling as such, I loved the many parallels with The Tempest in the book. I want to say more, but am loath to give any spoilers away. Suffice to say – the influence is there with similarities carefully woven into the story. If you don’t know it, it won’t matter: it stands as a well-crafted story in its own right.

This is a book for being swallowed up in – immersed in stories, stormy seas, stormflower smoke and the tingle-fizz of petals on tongues, scales on skin and whispers of another world. You could easily find yourself going as mad as Pa if you try to wrap your head round what’s really real, what’s magic, what’s illusion, what’s lies, what’s truth, what’s a version of all of these… and that’s partly why I loved this book as much as I did. It’ll definitely be a book to come back to and one that will withstand multiple readings.

I’ve not read any of Lucy Christopher’s other books, but will be looking out for them: have you read any? Which would you recommend?

 

WWW Wednesday 15/8/18

Hosted by ‘Taking on a World of Words’,  every Wednesday, we ask and answer the 3 W’s:

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?

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I need to start timing these WWW Wednesday posts better! Just like last week, I finished my current book – Storm-Wake by Lucy Christopher – in bed with a coffee this morning (there may or may not have also been biscuits!), so technically I’m not reading anything at the moment again! But close enough! Full review is here, but I thought it was wonderful.

What have you just finished reading?

I’ve not got through loads, but it’s been a mystery-filled MG sort of week with:

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Kat Wolfe Investigates by Lauren St John (‘Middle-Grade/MG’): This was my introduction to Lauren St John (the shame!) and a very welcome one. While animal stories are generally not really my cup of tea, this was a very well-written, fun mystery with layer upon layer to keep you guessing til the end. It deserves to be hugely popular with its target readers and would make a perfect pressie for any MG mystery/animal fans in your life! You can see a full review here.

Agatha Oddly: The Secret Key by Lena Jones (‘Middle-Grade/MG’): The first in a new detective series for MG readers, this just didn’t do it for me, sadly. I know it will grab others with its mysterious red slime filling London’s waterworks, a sassy and confident female MC and a mysterious underground society, but it just didn’t come together for me.


It’s also been a week for picture books and board books, and there’ll be plenty of posts to follow about these too, but in brief, this week I’ve also read:

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Ten Little Robots by Mike Brownlow and Simon Rickerty (picture book) – the latest in the ‘Ten Little…’ series and every bit as bold, bright and busy as the rest. Thumbs up!

Some Birds by Matt Spink (picture book) – simple rhyming text matched with the most BEAUTIFUL illustrations. Such a gorgeous book. There should be a colouring book of it…

100 Dogs by Michael Whaite (picture book) – this one has been buzzing around in my twitter feed for some time so I picked it up yesterday – it’s fantastic! Perfectly executed rhyming text (something which can be so hard to get right), wonderfully detailed and expressive illustrations and as many different dogs as you can think of (well, ok, 100 of them) – absolutely spot on.

Baby Lit A-Z and Alice in Wonderland (board books) – I’d not seen this series before, but I am now on a mission to collect them all! Classic characters in contemporary illustrations teaching everything from colours to weather to the alphabet.

Little Gestalten’s Grimm and Andersen Fairy Tale Collections (fairy tales) – GORGEOUS!! I’ve been on the hunt for a fairy tale collection with just the right illustrations for years now: nothing too old-fashioned, colour, but not too childish and with the right text rather than simplified for children or minute and closely packed for adults. These were shrink-wrapped so I had to take a bit of a punt, but they are perfect!

What are you planning on reading next?

Like last week, that is still a very good question!

I still haven’t started Katherine Rundell’s Into the Jungle from last week (I think it’s becoming one of those that I want to read so much I keep putting it off!) and I still have that whole shelf full of adult fiction to start on, so maybe some of those. Though

But yesterday, I went to the library for the first time in an embarrassingly long time and picked up some books there too, so I may have to prioritise those so that I don’t get side-tracked, forget about them and end up with a stupidly huge fine!

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I picked up Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys because I LOVED her book ‘Salt to the Sea (it’s a phenomenal YA/Adult fiction told via several converging fictional narratives based on the true story of the sinking of the German military transport ship the Wilhelm Gustloff in WW2). Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry has been one of those books I’ve meant to read for ages, but not got round to and I think Egg and Spoon might be one of the only Gregory Maguire books I’ve not read: I love his twisty takes on fairy tales.

So, I think Egg and Spoon might pip the others to the post, but what do you think? What should I read next?!

Have you read any of the books I’ve read this week? What are you reading at the moment?