Fiction, Literary, Loved-it, Scifi

I’ve Spotted A Breathtaking New Talent… The Girl in the Blue Shoes by Shaun Hume

Ah, self-pub books… Don’t you just love it how one of those can turn out to be either a spectacular, marvelous masterpiece, or a complete pile of indescribable trash, spelling errors or cliches galore? Oddly, the chances of either of those happening are roughly 50/50. So I was incredibly happy to find out that not only is Shaun a really cool guy, but he’s also an incredible writer. I happily bring you a review of the first book of his I’ve ever read, The Girl in the Blue Shoes, and despite being the first, I am sure it will not be the last.

The Girl in the Blue Shoes

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★★★★✬ 4.5 stars

Oxford. A man whose background is hazy, although vaguely academic. And suddenly, a girl who… Shouldn’t be there. Twice, three times. Something so utterly out of place and odd about her that he can’t resist seeking her out, to find out her secret. Even if it’s deathly dangerous.

Giving away more would be giving away too much – as the novelette is a little gem, spanning only 128 pages (of brilliant writing), with a tinge of scifi, thriller and mystery. But I can tell you that The Girl in the Blue Shoes is more about the atmosphere than about pace or events. And it’s sooooo much more about the writing.

So We’ve Got To Speak About The Writing

I… do not know how to begin this paragraph. What can I say? That I was mesmerized beyond all reason by the dance that Hume’s words danced in front of my eyes? I haven’t seen such beautiful writing, well, maybe ever. Maybe it’s just me, but gosh. Hume is a very talented writer. His prose is only a step away from poetry.

After finishing the book, I was trying to remember where had I heard of this particular type of writing for a long time. And to my own surprise, even though I thought it was real, I came to a conclusion that I read about it in a book of fiction. About how The Word was the first type of magic, and older poets and writers knew that not only what you say matters, but how the words shape themselves in a sentence makes a huge difference – their cadence, the sounds they tie into together, their rhythm. And then about such texts carrying a magical power within them, a power to bend minds and wills. I remember reading that passage and deeply understanding, as the given examples perfectly illustrated it. I wondered at that time, whether someone really wrote like that, and how magical it would be. And lo and behold – someone DOES write like that. It’s Shaun Hume.

Just so you don’t think I’m making it up, have a look. This is how the novel starts out:

That has got to be the perfect first sentence.

A post shared by avalinah | Evelina (@avalinahsbooks) on

Do you sense it? It surely pretends to be a simple sentence. And it speaks of a simple thing. But do you see how it swims and swirls? How it creates a rhythm if you read it aloud? Do you see and feel what it says? I do. If you’re not sure yet, read the next paragraph about the metal caterpillar. And if that’s not enough, have some more quotes:

I felt the touch of cold upon my hand and my heart contracted, the pit of my stomach falling out and shattering on the floor in a billion tiny pieces which bounced and then became marbles of clear white light.

Or another one:

It was as if Time was slowing everything up, like it too was on the lookout for me, trying to slow my steps, stem my progress towards uncovering one of its deepest, darkest secrets. Time was worried. But it was its own worst enemy, unable to stop what it was responsible for.

And one more…

A long barren corridor, like that of the barrel of a gun, myself the bullet as I rushed with all gusto towards the single door to my north.

I mean, if you let me have my way, I’d quote and quote, and you’d never see the end of this review. It was very hard choosing these particular lines, as I had many more in my notes. But what I meant to show you was that these lines carry power. They paint an atmospheric picture of the feeling you’re supposed to experience while reading it. And for once, it’s not the plot that gives it, but the writing. I bow my head to that.

The Atmosphere

Then let’s talk about the atmosphere of The Girl in the Blue Shoes. The tale does not aim to be scary or horrifying, but it has this eerie coldness, like that quiet of a cold early winter morning when the street is empty and you can only hear the birds far off. Something is always only ever so slightly ‘not right’, something you can only ever see our of the corner of your eye or feel with the back of your prickling neck. It’s this that’s the most captivating bit of the story.

The Plot

The plot is actually the bit that made me deduct half a star. Being very short, it wasn’t incredibly convincing plot-wise, but I believe that this story wasn’t meant to be built on a plot (yes, it’s definitely literary that way.) The plot isn’t the spine of this story. Because quite simply, the writing both gives the feel and drives you. You should be questioning why the main character insists on seeking out odd hunches. But you don’t. It just draws you in completely and suspends all of your disbelief. I really enjoyed that.

Overall...

I am really glad I learned of Shaun Hume and The Girl in the Blue Shoes. I know I will be reading more of his books, and I sure hope he writes more literary! I am going to enjoy seeing the growth of this writer in more of his works, as I definitely haven’t seen a lot of works written in this manner.

Other Similar Books

These books don’t share the same vibe with The Girl in the Blue Shoes when it comes to the writing, but they do have some of the same topic matter, so if you enjoyed them, you will probably enjoy The Girl in the Blue Shoes too. You can read the review for The Punch Escrow here, and I will soon be posting one for Doorways in the Sand as well.

The Punch Escrow   Doorways in the Sand

I thank Shaun Hume for giving me a copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you ever read anything that captured your mind like that? And how much do you value the writing in a certain story?

I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.

46 thoughts on “I’ve Spotted A Breathtaking New Talent… The Girl in the Blue Shoes by Shaun Hume

  1. SO cool!! It’s exactly like you said, so scary to pick up a self-published book because, well, you never know. I mean it’s the same case with traditionally published though. I find ones all the time that I find surprisingly bad.

    So glad you loved this one 🙂
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    1. It’s the same case, I guess – but at least with traditionally published there will be less grammar and spelling errors and you know someone’s at least read it before 😀

  2. I’ve only read two self-published books. One was an enjoyable enough adventure, but full of spelling and grammar errors, and the other I didn’t finish. HOWEVER there are plenty of good self-published books out there (wasn’t The Martian originally self-published?). I’m looking to read more sci-fi this year, so I might give this one a shot. 🙂
    Ivyclad Ideas recently posted…January Wrap-upMy Profile

    1. Wow, I think I’ve read more 🙂 but I’m more impressed that you know the exact number, cause I don’t think I could remember how many it was for me 😀

      Oh yeah! The spelling and grammar errors are a common problem. It’s because editors and proofreaders are definitely a very much needed profession 😉

      I think The Martian might have been! I know for sure Senlin Ascends was at first too 🙂

    1. Yeah, that’s the thing – if the book comes from a source of traditional publishing, you know that A LOT of people have read it before you, to get it ready for publication. So it only leaves the matter of whether their tastes are the same as yours, or at least close enough. But with self-published, that’s not really the case. I think that’s why it’s so hit or miss! But I’m glad that you can also find REAL talent, lurking there 🙂
      By the way! The book should be free on Amazon currently, so you could grab it 🙂

  3. Oh wow, those lines are wonderful! Somehow your review for this book reminds me a bit of how I felt about Kafka on the Shore.

  4. You’re right, it’s not often that we stumble upon a mesmerizing book and those chances decrease even more when it comes to self-published books. I’m glad this one was such a hit! And that first sentence sure is gripping and atmospheric I would have dived in right away! The plot is so intriguing as well and the cover is quite beautiful! Everything points towards a quality novel here, which is great.
    Wonderful review, Evelina! I might have to check out this one.

  5. It is always a pleasure to find a gem like this and I happy that you loved this book 🙂
    I read a book last year called the Poison of Love whose writing gave me chills. And it was a novella too of similar length. But the way the author had written everything was so thrilling. i kept thinking about it for 2-3 days after I finished that book. And guess what, it was a translated book. I was just wondering the effect of the original text.
    Nice review though 🙂
    Sim @ Flipping Through the Pages recently posted…NetGalley ARCs That Have Been On My TBR the Longest and I Still Haven’t ReadMy Profile

    1. I guess the books with writing like that “taste” even better when they are short 🙂 oh, and I know what you mean! I felt the same about The Gargoyle. It was a translated book, but it was just sooo beautifully written. Super impressed with the translation to my language!
      Oh, just putting it out there, The Girl in the Blue Shoes is currently free on Amazon, just in case you are interested 🙂

    1. Yeah, totally is 🙂 and I know you know it well, because you read more independent publishers and authors than me, I think 🙂 I think this book is now free on Amazon, BTW! So hurry up and download 🙂

  6. Isn’t it awesome when we discover something so amazing? gems like that are hard to come by, glad you enjoyed the book so much.

    1. I know right! And the books you can’t quite place in a single genre are usually the most interesting 🙂 BTW, I think this book is currently free on Amazon, if you’re interested 🙂

  7. I love this review, Evelina! As always, you’re so eloquent and to the point. I appreciate the directness of your praise! That said, I don’t think this writing style is for me in the written format. I tried to read that first paragraph and it took a lot of effort and focus; it was time-consuming. While the writing is indeed beautiful, I think I’d need to listen to the book read aloud to me in order to appreciate it. And by a real person, none of this silly app text-to-voice stuff. Did you do text-to-voice? If so, how was it? If not, why not?

    I’m so glad that you loved this novella! I am always a bit shy about trying self-published authors, honestly. But it’s always great when they work out! How did you and Shaun get in touch?

    1. Thanks, Jackie 🙂 oh man, these comments have been sitting here for a while. Sorry about that! It’s weird how I’m more willing to let your comments sit there for longer, cause I know YOU WILL UNDERSTAND 😀 but I really miss you! Check your messenger sometime! Even if it’s only for when you’re sitting on the porcelain throne in the morning xD (it’s actually a good time save.. xDD)

      I think the reason you and me react differently to this writing is, again, the vivid imagination thing! Because to me, these lines just basically evoke images, I don’t even have to try. Smells, even. I was wondering if you’d like it, purely based on the words themselves. I guess it doesn’t bridge the gap of pictures in your head vs no pictures 🙁 that’s too bad!

      I actually read this book as a book. Like, I mean, I visually read this one 😀 on the kindle. And I’m glad I did! I feel like I would have skipped through it too fast on audio – because it is pretty short.

      And I think a lot of people are shy of self-pubs 🙂 for good reason. So it’s even more awesome when they do pan out 🙂 we actually met on Twitter 😀 I don’t remember, I think we might have just both commented on someone’s post, and then he asked me if I’d like to read his book, and I said I’d read both 😀 (one is still waiting in line 🙂 )

  8. If you enjoyed this one so much I would recommend Hour of the Star by Claire Lispector to you! It sounds like a short read but a particularly magical one. Beautiful writing is something that really attracts me to books so knowing it is done so well here and woven into the atmosphere building as well makes me so happy 😀 I don’t mind about the plot not being the focus – I’m more of a character driven reader anyway.
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  9. Glad this self-pub book was so good. You’re right they can be utterly hit and miss but I definitely find reading blog reviews and listening to other people helps find the good ones. Sounds like this was a really good one for you. I’m not really one for literary reads but so glad you enjoyed it. Fingers crossed he writes more which works for you.
    Becky @ A Fool’s Ingenuity recently posted…The Duchess Deal // Tessa Dare Proves Her Books Only Get BetterMy Profile

  10. Self-published books can be hit or miss, but that’s the way with all books anyway. How awesome you found a favorite like this, the writing does look wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I love that moment when you discover a new author and his/her debut book is SO GOOD and the writing is amazing and he/she is new and you know you will follow that author forever just to see how he/she evolves.

    I will definitely check out this book, especially since it’s so short – I am always amazed by authors who manage to build a world and characters in less than 200 pages!

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