Blog Tour: The House by Simon Lelic (Penguin UK/ Viking)

Hello, welcome to my stop on The House blog tour – I’m very excited today to be able to share what I thought of the book with you today!

About the book:

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What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake. Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.

And now the police are watching them…  

Author: Simon Lelic
Paperback: 340 pages, Penguin UK (Viking) – published 3rd November 2017, available to pre-order here.
E-Book: Published 17th August, available here

My thoughts:

For some reason I was expecting The House to be full of supernatural mystery, with a ghost story linked to it. Spoiler: It isn’t. Looking back at the blurb I’ve got absolutely no idea where I got that from as it definitely sounds like a thriller, which is exactly what it is!

First of all, I love the way The House is narrated – I tend to gravitate toward books that are told through multiple perspectives and The House unfolds from both Jack and Syd’s points of view, so this immediately got a big tick from me. They recount the story to us, the reader, through their written account of what had happened at The House; the way they’ve documented the weird goings on is used cleverly as a plot device later in the book as we find out why they wanted to write everything down.

There are moments of extreme tension in The House; at times I had to read a couple of chapters more to a) find out what was happening because I was hooked and b) it creeped me out and I didn’t want to switch my light off! There was one section in particular that had me listening out for every sound in my house. The themes running through The House are dark and brooding, touching on family, love, trust and revenge.

Simon Lelic’s writing is great, every chapter reels you in inch by inch. As each layer peels away, we learn the truth – or deceit – behind The House, however every time I thought I had it sussed, I was wrong. I hadn’t heard of Simon before, but I’ve now added some of his other books to my TBR and I’m excited to see what he does next.

I massively enjoyed The House and raced through it in a couple of evenings – I highly recommend giving it a read if you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller full of suspense.

About the author:

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Simon Lelic was born in 1976 and has worked as a journalist in the UK and currently runs his own business in Brighton, England, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

You can read the other posts on the blog tour here:

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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?

Baileys Prize Shortlist Wrap-up

When the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist was announced earlier this year I made it my mission to get through all of them before the winner is announced (the prizegiving is taking place 7th June 2017). I got on pretty well and (thanks to my local library!) I read five out of the six. The only one I missed out on was The Sport of Kings – I didn’t have enough time to get stuck in before I had to send it back to my local library as it was reserved for another member!

Here are my thoughts on the 2017 shortlist:

The Power by Naomi Alderman (Penguin / Viking) – 4/5
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Set in a contemporary – and almost dystopian – world, The Power is a feminist study into what would happen if true, unlimited power was in the hands of women. In this new world, with the flick of a wrist, women can emit an electrifying force and this emergence of power soon leads to corruption. I honestly didn’t know what to think once I had finished The Power – it blew my mind. It was fascinating and terrifying; I still regularly think about it and I read it over 3 months ago now. I definitely encourage you to read this, whether you’re male or female, as I think everyone will take something different from The Power. Ultimately, it questions gender, power and religion. Trigger warning: there are some harrowing scenes throughout, featuring sex-trafficking, death, rape and civil war.

First Love by Gwendoline Riley (Granta) – 3/5
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What First Love lacks in length, being the shortest novel on the shortlist, it certainly makes up for with emotion and grit. The main character, Neve, is in an unhappy, abusive and seemingly loveless marriage with Edwyn. But there is more to it. It appears that her formative years have played a huge part in contributing to her current situation as well as her mental state; or is it actually Edwyn’s fault they’re in the predicament they are? Riley writes pithy dialogue which is true to life, giving us a glimpse into Neve and Edwyn’s marriage behind closed doors. We never truly understand their backstory. First Love is raw and disturbing in places, but it lacked a real story – the timeline felt confused and it is missing a satisfying ending, however I’m certainly keen to read more of Riley’s work to see how First Love compares.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien (Granta) – 3/5
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Spanning many, many years of Chinese history, Do Not Say We Have Nothing is an epic, expansive study into the realities of life under Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution. Family loyalty, music and brutality all feature heavily in Thien’s writing. I’ll admit that I had some trouble reading this – it took me at least 100 pages to get into the story, in addition to this there are so many characters, often with multiple names and nicknames that I had to wrack my brain to figure out who was who at times. It is a fascinating read, but also felt quite heavy-going, which made it hard to emotionally invest in the characters. Whilst this isn’t my favourite book of the shortlist I can definitely see why it has been nominated as it is a fantastic piece of historical writing that offers insight to the country’s fragmented state of affairs.

The Dark Circle by Linda Grant (Virago) – 3/5
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Set in a tuberculosis sanatorium in the Kent countryside, The Dark Circle charts the beginnings of the NHS at the end of the Second World War. Second generation Jewish immigrants, twins Lenny and Miriam, are sent there in their teenage years to recover and gain strength. Linda Grant’s characters, whilst diverse, felt lacklustre; there is something missing for me as I didn’t care what happened to them, which is never a good sign. If the plot was stronger and quicker in places I think I would have been more connected to their stories. It is a moderately enjoyable read, but it certainly felt wayward in places, particularly as the story progressed to hear about their later lives.

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adébáyò (Canongate Books) – 5/5
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Spoiler: I absolutely loved this book. 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! 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.

My prediction

Based on my overall reading experience I would absolutely love Stay With Me to win as it drew me in and enveloped me with its layered commentary on marriage and the pressures of being a woman. Having said that, I don’t think it will win – I think The Power will. It has so many themes that are prevalent and important in today’s predominantly patriarchal society. Until we have full equality between men and women I think this will continue to be an important, eye-opening read. It is clever, powerful (sorry, I couldn’t resist…) and really, really is something special. It is such a unique novel. Either way, I’d be happy if one of these fantastic novels won the prize! Now, we just have to wait until 7th June for the winner to be unveiled.

May Reads: What I’ll be pre-ordering

There are so many great books coming out in May (a couple of which I’ve already reviewed on Harry’s Book Club – See What I Have Done and Love Me Not). Here’s an overview of the ones I’m most excited about that will be hitting the shelves soon, the 4th May is clearly a popular day for publishing!

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins (Transworld) – 2nd May

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In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help. Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind. But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped. And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool…

You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood (Michael Joseph) – 4th May

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An unnamed defendant stands accused of murder. Just before the Closing Speeches, the young man sacks his lawyer, and decides to give his own defence speech. He tells us that his barrister told him to leave some things out. Sometimes, the truth can be too difficult to explain, or believe. But he thinks that if he’s going to go down for life, he might as well go down telling the truth. There are eight pieces of evidence against him. As he talks us through them one by one, his life is in our hands. We, the reader – member of the jury – must keep an open mind till we hear the end of his story. His defence raises many questions…but at the end of the speeches, only one matters: Did he do it?

These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper (Hodder & Stoughton) – 4th May

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In a forgotten corner of Paris stands a building. Within its walls, people talk and kiss, laugh and cry; some are glad to sit alone, while others wish they did not. A woman with silver-blonde hair opens her bookshop downstairs, an old man feeds the sparrows on his windowsill, and a young mother wills the morning to hold itself at bay. Though each of their walls touches someone else’s, the neighbours they pass in the courtyard remain strangers. Into this courtyard arrives Edward. Still bearing the sweat of a channel crossing, he takes his place in an attic room to wait out his grief. But in distant corners of the city, as Paris is pulled taut with summer heat, there are those who meet with a darker purpose. As the feverish metropolis is brought to boiling point, secrets will rise and walls will crumble both within and without Number 37.

Release by Patrick Ness (Walker Books) – 4th May

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It’s Saturday, it’s summer and, although he doesn’t know it yet, everything in Adam Thorn’s life is going to fall apart. But maybe, just maybe, he’ll find freedom from the release. Time is running out though, because way across town, a ghost has risen from the lake…This uplifting coming-of-age novel will remind you what it’s like to fall in love.

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (Viking) – 4th May

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Recalling Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity, Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others. Anything is Possible tells the story of the inhabitants of rural, dusty Amgash, Illinois, the hometown of Lucy Barton, a successful New York writer who finally returns, after seventeen years of absence, to visit the siblings she left behind.

What books are on your pre-order list? Do you have any recommendations for me?