July Reads

Another month has passed, which means it’s time for another wrap-up! I must apologise in advance for my tardiness with this post – I had written half of it before 1st August, then it fell by the wayside, but it’s here now! Better late than never, right?

Once again, my reading hasn’t been great having only read six books – I’ve found it hard to have time to pick up books, having to prioritise other things (if you haven’t taken a look at this post, please do!).

Without further ado, last month I read…

Plum by Hollie McNish (Picador Poetry) – 5/5

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Plum is poet Hollie McNish’s newest collection and features both new and old poetry – her recent poems are interrupted by earlier writing from her formative years – voices that are raw, honest and also very, very funny. If you’re looking to get into poetry, this is a fantastic place to start – Hollie is warm, honest, funny, sarcastic and passionate. I could listen to her poetry over and over again (a personal fave of mine is Mathematics – I encourage you to go and have a watch on YouTube!)

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla (Unbound) – 5/5

Good Immigrant

This is a collection of essays written by BAME authors, edited together by Nikesh Shukla. It explores what it means to be Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic in Britain today. The essays look at identity, culture, family and diversity; I found it enlightening, eye-opening, funny, heart-breaking and infuriating all in one. This is such an important read and one that everyone should pick up!

Them: Adventures with extremists by Jon Ronson (Picador) – 3/5

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It seems I was on a bit of a non-fiction roll this month! I’m a big fan of Jon Ronson’s books and my favourite of his is The Psychopath Test, however I wasn’t mad about Them: Adventures with Extremists. The book goes on a quest to explore extremism, from Islamic fundamentalists to Neo-Nazis. Originally written in 2001, this book is definitely still prevalent today; I found it fascinating in parts, but also a little boring in others.

Dying to Live by Michael Stanley (Orenda Books) – 4/5

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Dying to Live is the sixth book in the Detective Kubu series – I loved the setting of the book, the African landscape added a different dimension, making it stand out from so many British crime books, which can sometimes feel a bit samey! If you’re looking for a fairly light crime novel, which is a bit different, then I’d definitely recommend giving the Kubu books a go. My full blog tour post is here.

Our Memory Like Dust by Gavin Chait (Doubleday Books) – 2/5

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This one puzzled and perplexed me – my full review can be found here. Our Memory Like Dust wasn’t completely up my street, but I definitely think you’d enjoy it if you’re a fan of light sci-fi or dystopian fiction. Chait is a complex storyteller, using many themes, characters and contemporary issues to make a wider point about society – although I think some of these points went over my head…

The Marshking’s Daughter by Karen Dionne (Sphere) – 4/5

Marshking's Daughter

Last of all, I picked up The Marshking’s Daughter to help get me out of my slump! I was hooked from the get-go; it is thrilling, suspenseful and action packed. The story is centred around a woman who was born into captivity after her Mother was abducted – I was wary that this might read like Room by Emma Donoghue. I shouldn’t have been worried as it was completely different. Dionne creates wonderful, atmospheric scenery which chills you to the core. After finishing The Marshking’s Daughter I was excited to pick up another thriller.

What did you read in July? Do you have any recommendations? 

June Reads

A little bit later than usual, here is my June reading wrap-up!

Despite going on holiday in June, thinking I would have all the time in the world for reading, I actually ended up having a relatively slow month – it took me ages to get into anything and even longer to finish things. I’m amazed I managed to even read six books as the last week and a half of the month I ended up reading nothing.

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (Titan Books) 4/5

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I was hooked on If We Were Villains from the first few chapters and then utterly engrossed until the final page. I definitely recommend this one if you’re looking for a solid literary thriller, which will leave you thinking about it for a long time after. My full review for the blog tour can be read here.

Miss You by Kate Eberlen (Pan MacMillan)  4/5

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The tale of Gus and Tess is light-hearted and fun; exactly what I wanted for a pool-read on holiday. Recounting their crossed paths, it is a hybrid of One Day and Sliding Doors – will they or won’t they ever find true love? Yes, it is cheesy and predictable, but it is also funny, warm and tender.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Berkley Books) 5/5

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Liane Moriarty is a fantastic storyteller, she weaves an impressive web of characters and storylines, which all merge into one big plot point by the end. I was absolutely gripped by Big Little Lies; it is an easy read but also one that makes you question whether you truly know someone and whether face value judgement can ever be right. I can’t wait to download and watch the TV adaptation of this as I’ve heard nothing but amazing things!

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (Doubleday) 3/5

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I picked this up as I absolutely loved Hawkins’ first novel, Girl on the Train. Sadly, I was a little disappointed; Into the Water is still an enjoyable read, but there are just too many characters which at first is particularly confusing as the narrative switches perspectives multiple times. It took me a long time to get into the actual story and by the end I wasn’t satisfied – Into the Water certainly isn’t as gripping or fast-paced as her debut. It felt like something was missing.

Secrets of the Italian Gardener by Andrew Crofts (RedDoor) 3/5

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I read this in one sitting and for such a short book it packs so much in thanks to Crofts magical storytelling ability. It encompasses everything from what it is to endure grief to understanding, and accepting, your own morality. Political, tense, philosophical and intriguing, The Secrets of the Italian Gardener is a well-developed, thought-provoking read that will make you quetion good vs. evil. My full review for the blog tour can be read here.

The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith (Doubleday / Transworld) 4/5

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Mahsuda Snaith’s writing is stunning – it draws you in from the first page and envelops you in feeling and emotion. The Things We Thought We Knew is a beautifully moving coming-of-age tale that captures life on a council estate with such clarity. It is gutsy, eye-opening and emotional, showing the reader what it is to truly find ourselves in this cruel, crazy and vivid world. My full review for the blog tour can be read here.

Did you read anything good in June? Do you have any recommendations for me?

Best of 2017 | Mid-year wrap-up

As we’re already half way through the year (say what…it seemed only yesterday I was thinking about my new year’s resolution and guzzling the last of the Christmas prosecco!) I thought I’d do a quick wrap up of my favourite reads so far.

I’ve almost read 50 books, so am pretty much on track to read 100 by the end of the year. Whilst this isn’t as many as some book bloggers, I’m really chuffed with my progress this year – to put this into perspective I only read 52 books last year. I’m intrigued to see if these five will feature in my top books of the year wrap up in December, or whether I’ll continue my streak of five-star reads and these will get knocked off the top spot (so to speak).

So, without further ado here are the five books that I’ve been raving about, recommending to friends and non-stop thinking about. Needless to say, all of these books have been five star reads for me.

Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge (Guardian Faber Publishing)

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Written by award-winning journalist Gary Younge, Another Day in the Death of America tells the story of the children and teens killed by gun crime in a single 24-hour period, in America. Younge randomly chooses 23 November 2013 to chronicle the deaths of these ten young men. Whilst I found it tragic in parts, it is a book I needed to read. It is so well written; insightful, intelligent and thoughtful. I find the issue of gun control and violence in the US petrifying and scary; Younge’s account further opened my eyes to the complicated issues that are faced in the States, whilst also highlighting the vulnerability of youth. Although difficult to read in places, I was engaged throughout and thoroughly recommend reading this one. This was one of the first books I read this year and since then I’ve leant it to friends to read and talked about it over and over.

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown (Viking)

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Rich in history, The Witchfinder’s Sister is a compelling story based around Matthew Hopkins, the Manningtree witchfinder, in 17th century Britain. We follow his (fictionalised) sister, Alice, as she learns of the hideous things her brother is doing to local women – she battles her moral compass as she decides whether she should intervene and along the way we find out the family secrets. This is a mesmerising tale full of darkness, terror and detail, instantly transporting you to the streets of Essex and the candlelit room where Alice resides. I absolutely loved it and was stunned to hear it was a debut novel – I had a book hangover for days. If you’re interested in historical fiction and/ or witches, I’d highly recommend this. Since reading this I’ve read a few other books based on this period and they haven’t compared.

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain (Vintage)

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This story sung to me. A tender tale about the complexities of friendship and overcoming circumstance, Gustav and Anton’s lives are at the heart of this book. Split into three parts, we journey through their friendship, their love and their lifelong commitment to one another. Set in a post WWII Switzerland, it starts in kindergarten when the two children meet, the narrative then shifts back in time to look at the relationship between Gustav’s parents. The latter part of the book is set years on, with Gustav and Anton as two grown men living their separate, but still intwined, lives. Tremain pens humanity and pain on the pages so exquisitely – so much so that her writing flawed me, with the last paragraph making me cry happy tears. This was my first foray into Tremain’s writing and I am so happy and excited that I have the rest of her books ahead of me to discover.

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier (Virago Modern Classics)

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Light-hearted, high-spirited and fun – this book is very different from Du Maurier’s most famous novel, Rebecca. I raced through this in a day and was captivated by the wonderful, mischievous Lady Dona St. Columb. Full of humour and action, Du Maurier paints such a vivid, vibrant scene that I was instantly transported to Navron House and the Cornish creek. The ending managed to surprise me too, as only Du Maurier could do – she executes the twists in her stories so well. This is the best book by Daphne Du Maurier that I’ve read so far.

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo (Canongate Books) 

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Set in Nigeria, Stay With Me is a mouthpiece for Yejide and Akin, a married couple whose troubles push them to the brink of separation. The themes of individual identity, heritage and societal expectations of women are explored as Yejide struggles to conceive; she cannot offer Akin the family his family have always dreamt of. The plot then thickens, set against a backdrop of Nigerian politics. Stay With Me weaves a stunning and engaging story of deception and love. Featuring many twists and turns, the narrative flows effortlessly. It swiftly switches perspectives, between Yejide and Akin, making the reader challenge their assumptions of what the female or male view of marriage should be. I felt wholly invested in this book and was sad when the book ended – Adébáyò manages to fit so much in less than 300 pages! As with others on my ‘best reads of 2017’ list I was also astounded to hear that this is her debut novel. Without a doubt, I will be keeping an eye on what Adébáyò does next as I’m sure she has a bright future ahead.

Have you read any of my favourites? What did you think of them?

May Reads

Where has the month gone? I barely blinked and suddenly it is June! In April I set myself a challenge of reading a book every other day and whilst I didn’t do too badly, I didn’t do too good either. As is always the way, life kind of just got in the way.

In total I read 11 books over the course of May, which included two graphic novels.

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier (Time Warner Books) – 5/5
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Light-hearted, high-spirited and fun – this book is very different from Du Maurier’s most famous novel, Rebecca. I raced through this in a day and was captivated by the wonderful, mischievous Lady Dona St. Columb. Full of humour and action, Du Maurier paints such a vivid, vibrant scene that I was instantly transported to Navron House and the Cornish creek. The ending managed to surprise me too, as only Du Maurier could do – she executes the twists in her stories so well. This is the best book by Daphne Du Maurier that I’ve read so far.

One Hundred Shadows by Hwang Jungeun, translated by Jung Yewon (Tilted Axis Press) – 3/5
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This is a piece of translated Korean fiction, which I received in the March Moth Box (the service is run by Mercedes of Mercy’s Bookish Musings – her channel on YouTube is great). Set in a slum electronics market in central Seoul, a tentative relationship between Eungyo and Mujae forms and during this period we hear about people’s shadows rising above them, particularly when stress or depression creeps in. As the future of the market is threatened, the novel explores the economic downturn in Seoul as well as the effect it has on the lower-classes. It is full of fantasy, magical realism and lyricism, and whilst I’m not a fan of this style, I know other readers have praised these elements. Sadly, the ending also let it down for me, as it felt open-ended and inconclusive.

The Search by Howard Linskey (Penguin UK) – 4/5
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Set in Durham and centred around the case of missing Susan Verity, The Search is told from multiple perspectives – which I’m a huge fan of – as Detective Ian Bradshaw teams up with investigative journalists Helen Norton and Tom Carney to solve the 20-year-old, re-opened mystery. You can read my full post from the blog tour here. 

Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs (Jonathan Cape) – 5/5
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From the creator of The Snowman, Raymond Briggs, Ethel and Ernest is a heart-warming graphic novel that follows the life of his parents. There are loads of great, UK-specific historical and political references throughout, which show the impact both Labour and Conservative governments had on the country over time. All-in-all it is such a great cosy story, although it did make me blub at the end! If you read this and don’t find the end sad then you must have a heart made of ice.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Hamish Hamilton) – 4/5
ExitWestSet in an alternate reality that could be a not too distant future, Exit West is a exploration of the current refugee crisis taking place in the world, where people can flee civil war by stepping through black doors into a promising future. It tells the tale of Nadia and Saeed’s relationship, after they meet in a country on the brink of a savage war. I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a book to make you think about the turmoil the world is currently going through.

When The Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs (Penguin) – 3/5Wind BlowsI didn’t intend to read two graphic novels this month, but almost as soon as I’d reserved this at the library I received a call saying it was ready to be collected. Reading this was a different experience to Ethel and Ernest and whilst the art style is similar it definitely felt more experimental, with stark double-page spreads of a singular image. The story is macabre and sombre as the threat of nuclear war looms and consequently the affect this has on a couple. Briggs has a way of getting under your skin and into your brain.

The Wrong Knickers by Bryony Gordon (Headline) – 4/5
WrongknickersAfter reading quite a few heavy books I wanted to finish the month on something a bit cheerier. The Wrong Knickers is a hilarious, eye-opening and chaotic read which follows acclaimed journalist, Byrony Gordon, through her twenties. It had me laughing and cringing throughout. I wish I saved this for reading on a beach whilst on holiday.

The last four books I read were all nominated for the Bailey’s Prize for Fiction – I wanted to get through all of the shortlist, which I almost managed to do! Unfortunately, I didn’t quite get around to reading The Sport of Kings and as it was a chunky one I thought I’d give it a miss. The mini-reviews can be read in my Baileys wrap-up here.

Did you read anything good in May? Do you have any recommendations for books that should be on my radar?

April Reads

It feels such a long time since I last wrote a monthly wrap-up post. I’ve had a funny month for reading – whilst I’ve managed to read a similar amount to previous months, it has felt stilted.

I’ve had days of no reading at all and then I’ve gone through sudden bursts of reading all day and all night until I couldn’t consume any more, until I physically couldn’t keep my eyes open. This month I’m hoping to read a bit more consistently and will be aiming for a manageable chunk each day! I’ve got LOTS of review books piling up for June releases, so my (rather ambitious?) aim is to read a book every other day in May. So far I’ve already ticked off two novels, hopefully I can achieve this.

How Much the Heart Can Hold (Sceptre) – 3/5
By Carys Bray, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Bernardine Evaristo, Grace McCleen, Donal Ryan, Nikesh Shukla, D. W. Wilson

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This collection of short stories explores how love is not a singular concept. Each story is penned by a different author and looks at different types of love, from Agape (love for humanity) to Philautia (self-love). I adored the stories by Carys Bray and Nikesh Shuklah – they were real, brimming with humanity, they stuck with me and left me wanting to read more by these authors. Bray’s story in particular conveyed so much in so few pages, it even made me well up! However overall I felt that this collection of short stories was uneven and some of the other stories had too much magical realism in them for me, particularly as I prefer realist collections. Unfortunately on this occasion I preferred the concept of the collection rather than the process of reading it.

Ashes to Ashes by Paul Finch (Avon) – 3/5 

Ashes to Ashes is book number six in DS Mark Heckenburg series and is a thrill-a-minute detective story packed full of gory action. We follow Heck from London to his hometown of Bradburn on his mission to catch the killer. I took part in the blog tour for Ashes to Ashes and you can read an extract of the book here.

Diary of an Oxygen Thief by Anonymous (NLVI Publishers) – 2/5

A story of a misogynistic sociopath, this book didn’t do anything for me. I got annoyed by the narrator’s incessant whining. It was a short book at only 143 pages but still felt like a slog to get through, which for me is never a good sign! As I said in my full review, I think this is a marmite book – you either love it or hate it.

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Faber & Faber) – 3/5

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I don’t know where to start with this one. It’s epic, it’s lyrical, it’s expansive. Barry’s writing is beautiful and often made me pause to reread swathes of sections. It was full of suffering, wartime carnage and love; some of the dialogue, thoughts and feelings made my heart hurt. There were parts I sped through, however on top of this there were also parts which felt extended, never-ending and perhaps that was Barry’s intention – after all, we follow two soldiers and lovers into civil war that spans many, many years.

I honestly felt so conflicted when I finished this. I wanted to love it, but I just didn’t quite connect with the characters. I think I might have to reread this in the future when I’ve got more time to concentrate on it and absorb it. If you’re looking for something a bit different I’d recommend this as Barry’s writing style is like nothing I’ve read before – on top of that it won the Costa Prize and I know that many, many people have loved Days Without End.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (Tinder Press) – 4/5

Effortless to read and brilliantly claustrophobic See What I Have Done is the fictional retelling of the alleged Lizzie Borden murders. This is an absolutely cracking debut and one that you should go out and buy asap! The lovely folk at Tinder Press are doing a huge marketing campaign around the book and I’m positive it will have great mainstream success. You can read more about the story here.

The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain (Vintage) – 5/5

This was my favourite book of the month by far; the story sung to me. A tender tale about the complexities of friendship and overcoming circumstance, Gustav and Anton’s lives are at the heart of this book. Split into three parts, we journey through their friendship, their love and their lifelong commitment to one another. Set in a post WWII Switzerland, it starts in kindergarten when the two children meet, the narrative then shifts back in time to look at the relationship between Gustav’s parents and later it goes forward to them as two grown men. Tremain pens humanity and pain on the pages so exquisitely – so much so that her writing flawed me, with the last paragraph making me cry happy tears. This was my first foray into Tremain’s writing and I am so happy and excited that I have the rest of her books ahead of me to discover. I’d love to do a full review of this but I just don’t think I’ll be able to do it justice.

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski (Orenda Books) – 4/5

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I first heard about Six Stories through Twitter and I was immediately interested in reading it as the book was getting loads of great reviews from bloggers that I trust. First of all, this is such a unique concept for a crime novel; inspired by the podcast Serial, Six Stories takes historical crimes and dissects them through six individual ‘podcasts’ which are set out as chapters within the book. Wesolowski creates a haunting landscape at Scarclaw Fell and as we delve deeper into the crime committed we learn the part that each character played. The web grows larger and as readers we’re encouraged to make our own mind up about the fateful day that Tom Jeffries died. Six Stories is inventive, mysterious and full of horror. Also, Orenda Books publishes some absolute corkers, they always have stunning cover art – definitely one to check out if you’re on the hunt for a fantastic independent publisher.

Obsession by Amanda Robson (Avon) – 4/5 

One evening, a wife asks her husband a question: who else would you go for, if you could? It is a simple question – a little game – that will destroy her life. Obsession is an explosive psychological thriller. I’ll be taking part in the blog tour for Obsession later this month, so I don’t want to give too much away here! Keep your eyes peeled for my post on 19th May!

As usual, I’d love to hear what you’ve read this month. Do you have any recommendations for me?

February Reads

My February wrap-up is a little later than planned as I wanted to get a couple of book reviews up before hitting publish on this post.

Last month I had a relatively good month for reading, finishing off seven novels and one audio book. Two of the books are upcoming releases and both not out until June, so I’ll be putting up full reviews in the next couple of weeks.

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Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes (SF Masterworks) – 4/5

“Charlie Gordon, IQ 68, is a floor sweeper, and the gentle butt of everyone’s jokes, until an experiment in the enhancement of human intelligence turns him into a genius.”

 I was a bit wary going into Flowers for Algernon, as it’s billed as science-fiction, which isn’t normally my cup of tea, but I’m glad I put those reservations aside as it transcends the genre. After an experiment Charlie’s IQ starts to soar beyond belief; Flowers for Algernon focuses on artificial and human intelligence, the nature of intelligence and the divisive nature of it. I really enjoyed how the book was written in periodic reports from Charlie’s point of view; as a reader we saw him grow, decline, love and suffer. Originally published in 1958, this feels like a modern story. I recommend reading this if you’re interested in stepping into science-fiction, but don’t want anything too ‘out there’.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven – Chris Cleave (Sceptre) – 5/5

A WWII novel like no other, Everyone Brave is Forgiven follows Mary, Hilda, Tom and Alastair as the bombs start falling in London. Focusing on home life during the war, this is full to the brim with love, humour, courage and friendship. My full review can be read here. Spoiler: I loved Everyone Brave is Forgiven and have recommended it to plenty of friends and family since finishing it. 

I See You – Gregg Hurwitz (Sphere) – 4/5 (a newer version of this novel has been published under The Crime Writer)

Having read, and loved, one of Hurwitz’s more recent novels – Orphan X – I went into this novel with high expectations. After a massive brain haemorrhage Drew Danner wakes up in hospital with no memory of the past 24 hours. With blood on his hands, he is accused of his ex-fiancée’s murder. Once discharged Danner makes it his mission to find out who framed him for murder. We follow Drew as he unearths the clues to the mystery. One thing that I found a little jarring at times is that I See You is a book within a book, with Danner writing his story as he tells it – it felt an unnecessary addition to what was otherwise a great, action-packed, thrilling read. Whilst the plot wasn’t particularly complex in places, I See You was still puzzling and was a fast-paced, enjoyable read with a sprinkling of dark humour thrown in.

The Museum of You – Carys Bray (Hutchinson) – 3/5

The Museum of You is a quaint novel about belonging and family. Clover grows up during the height of her father’s mourning and in the shadow of her dead mother, with more questions than can be answered. She wants to know her heritage, her background and more about her family, so decides to create her own museum at home; curating her parent’s belongings into a shrine for the Mother she never met. This was an endearing, cosy novel, looking at grief from both a parent and child’s perspective. I thought the premise was great but unfortunately, The Museum of You just didn’t keep me engaged – I didn’t connect with the characters and was left wanting more.

Closed Casket (New Hercule Poirot Mysteries #2) – Sophie Hannah (HarperCollins) – 4/5

In Closed Casket, the eponymous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot returns to solve another murder mystery; this time we’re at Lady Athelinda Playford’s estate in Clonakilty, County Cork. The Lady of the house gathers friends and family to inform them of a change to her will. Expecting uproar and her imminent murder Playford has also invited Poirot and Catchpool along for the ride, to keep her safe. When the evening takes an unexpected turn, Poirot steps in with his little grey cells to solve the gory, twisted murder.  The charactes, in true Christie fashion, are eccentric and unlikeable. I’d heartily recommend this if you’re a fan of murder mystery, but don’t expect Christie’s traditional Poirot as there are subtle differences, with Hannah breathing new life into the detective.   

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive – Tom Malmquist/ translated by Henning Koch (Sceptre) – 4/5

I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy from Sceptre. Originally published in Swedish, Henning Koch (author of The Dinner) has translated this stunning memoir. In Every Moment We Are Still Alive we hear of the horrifying moment in which Tom gains a daughter but loses his soul-mate, in a cruel twist of fate. I found this heart-breaking, tender and hypnotic – rich and raw, I couldn’t put this down. A full review of this will be up on the blog in March.

Planned UK release date: 01st June 2017

One Little Mistake – Emma Curtis (Black Swan) – 4.5/5

“You trusted your best friend…you shouldn’t have” – as soon as I saw the front cover I knew I was going to love One Little Mistake. This gripping, psychological novel follows Vicky and Amber’s ‘perfect’ friendship, until one day Vicky makes an irreparable mistake, which sends their lives tumbling apart. From the first page I was hooked with this domestic thriller, so much so that I finished it off in two sittings. The publishers kindly sent me an advanced copy for review, which I am in the process of writing up – it will hopefully go live next week.

Planned UK release date: 29th June 2017 (already available to purchase on eBook)

The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider Press) – 3/5  

The Princess Diarist recounts what really happened behind the scenes of the first Star Wars movie, after Carrie Fisher discovered the journals she kept whilst filming. I listened to this one on audio book and I wish I’d read it instead. Narrated by Carrie Fisher herself there were a number of humorous parts, but I found it a little slow in places – I wasn’t invested in the stories and often felt my mind wandering instead of focusing on the narrative.

As usual, I’d love to hear from you. What did you read in February? Have you got any recommendations for me?  

 

January Reads

I kicked off the year with a pretty good month of reading. I worked my way through eight books which consisted of one poetry collection, two non-fictions, three novels and two crime thrillers.

Sorry my mini-reviews are a little late this month! Here goes…

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Rupture – Ragnar Jonasson (Orenda Books) – 4/5

I was kindly sent an advance copy of Rupture by the lovely Karen over at Orenda Books, which arrived the day before Christmas Eve.

Set in the town of Siglufjörður Rupture is chilling, dark and atmospheric. We follow the local policeman, Ari Thór, and his investigation into a suspicious death from the 1950s in the isolated fjord of Hedinsfjörður. The story unfurled slowly, was full of detail and really packed a punch – I don’t want to say too much as I implore you to read it and see what all the fuss is about. An absolute must read if you’re a fan of crime thrillers. I have to admit that I’d never read any of Jonasson’s work before, and with this being the fourth book in his Dark Iceland series I thought I might be a little bit lost, but in fact I found that Rupture worked fantastically as a stand-alone novel. To be honest, I enjoyed it so much that I’ve now added the other three books to my TBR pile.

Ragdoll – Daniel Cole (Trapeze) –  5/5

I won’t say anything about this one here, as I’m involved with the blog tour for Ragdoll and will be posting an in-depth review on Tuesday 21st February. Keep your eyes peeled!

Another Day in the Death of America – Gary Younge (Guardian Faber Publishing) – 5/5

I added this to my reading list for Non-Fiction November, then sadly never got around to reading it. In Another Day in the Death of America award-winning journalist Gary Younge tells the story of the children and teens killed by gun crime in a single 24 hour period, in America. Younge randomly chooses 23 November 2013 to track and chronicle the deaths of these ten young men.

Whilst I found it tragic in parts, it felt like a book I needed to read. It was so well written – insightful, intelligent and thoughtful. I find the issue of gun control and violence in the US petrifyingly scary and Younge’s account further opened my eyes to the complicated issues that are faced in the States, whilst also highlighting the vulnerability of the youth. Although difficult to read in places, I was engaged throughout and thoroughly recommend reading this one.

Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick (Touchstone) – 3/5  

This was a collection of autobiographical essays by Anna Kendrick, the actress and star of Pitch Perfect. I was really unfussed by these; they were quite self-indulgent and often not that funny. If you’re looking for a light hearted, humorous memoir I’d recommend either Amy Schumer’s or Sue Perkins’ instead as both of them are much better!

The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer (Harper Collins) – 3/5

 ‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

Whilst I enjoyed The Shock of the Fall, and it was an okay book, it didn’t wow me. It didn’t surprise or shock me and it felt a little lack lustre. I thought Filer’s portrait of mental illness and the health system was good, but perhaps a little too simplistic at times. Personally, I think this book could’ve been chopped in half and still told the story succinctly.

Gold from the Stone – Lemn Sissay (Canongate Books) – 4/5

My Mum got me this poetry collection for Christmas as I’ve been super keen to find more poetry that I enjoy. Lemn Sissay’s work is bold and personal, commenting on race, the government, social services, relationships and much, much more – it is filled with rage, humour, sadness and love.

After reading this collection I went on to watch countless YouTube videos of Lemn reading them – his performances breathed endless life into the words, so strong and powerful. My favourite from the collection was Invisible Kisses, it’s just breath-taking       .

And the hippos were boiled in their tanks – William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac (Penguin) – 2/5

After being involved in a crime one Summer, Kerouac and Burroughs decided to collaborate on a novel about the event they’d experienced. At the time, the two authors were undiscovered and yet to write anything of note – their original manuscript was rejected by publishers, left untouched for decades in a filing cabinet until it was published many years later. Kerouac and Burroughs narrate alternate chapters, piecing together a tale of bohemian New York during World War II. For me, this had so much promise, but in truth I found it clunky and static, with little to keep me interested. It took me months to read this, which is crazy as it is pretty short at a mere 214 pages. 

Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff (Windmill Books) – 4/5

A tale of love and lies, we follow newly married Lotto and Mathilde through their marriage; with two sides to every story, we hear both the male and female view of what their life is like as time passes by. Groff’s storytelling is sublime and her descriptions and plotline kept me hooked until the very last page. However, one thing I wasn’t overly struck on was Groff’s incorporation of Greek tragedy, but at the same time it wasn’t off-putting as it mirrored Lotto and Mathilde’s tragic tale.