The Turnout, Megan Abbott – Book Review

Well, what a strange little book this turned out to be! I love the idea of psychological thrillers set in the tense pressure cooker atmosphere of ballet school – I read and enjoyed Erin Kelly’s Watch Her Fall earlier this year – so when I saw Megan Abbott was turning her hand to this theme I was excited to see what she had in store.

This book is about the Durant Ballet School, owned and run by sisters Dara and Marie and Dara’s husband (who is also their sort of adoptive brother), Charlie. And if you think there’s something about that family dynamic that sounds a little off, you’d be completely right.

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Freckles, Cecelia Ahern – Book Review

I’ve been a fan of Cecelia Ahern for over ten years. Over that time, my taste in books has grown and changed and her writing style has matured too. But, while not quite a whimsical as her earlier stories, there’s always something comfortingly familiar about her writing, and she still finds a way to show the hope and love in the mundane and everyday.

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Beautiful World, Where Are You, Sally Rooney – Book Review

This has to be one of the most anticipated books of the year. And, for me, it delivered. I fell in love with Normal People last year, and BWWAY is like the next step from that. Instead of students losing their virginity, now Rooney explores adults her own age on the cusp of 30 and their complicated relationships both with friends and lovers.

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False Witness, Karin Slaughter – Book Review

The description for this book doesn’t give much away, but it’s worth stating from the offset that this is a truly dark tale full of triggers for sexual abuse, paedophillia and drug abuse. It’s tough going at times, and after the first chapter (which, objectively, I have to say is an amazing first chapter with a killer twist) I was unsure I was in the right headspace for it. But I carried on.

And, this book does have a beautiful way of showing that even in the darkest places there can be some humour, hope and love. But it’s no walk in the park.

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Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro – Book Review

I had this book on pre order. It arrived, and I read it. (And then I didn’t post my review for months, but now it’s nominated for the Booker Prize it reminded me and I thought it was probably time.)

I rarely pre-order books, but I’m so glad I did – I would not want this book to linger on my TBR until the hype dies away. It’s the author’s first novel since winning the Nobel Prize for fiction, and it’s worth the wait.

With a lot of understandable hype surrounding it, Klara and the Sun seems to have divided readers a little on its release. But for me, it made for touching, mind-bending and intelligent reading. 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Drama, Futuristic, Sci-Fi

The Final Girl Support Group, Grady Hendrix – Book Review

This is the first I’ve read of this author – although I was intrigued by his previous release The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Vampire Slaying. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this one, so it was my first meeting with this author’s weird and wonderful mind.

And what an experience it was! This genre isn’t really my usual thing, it’s a kind of blend of horror with satire, littered with popular culture references throughout.

We all know the final girls from from the movies. The one girl who makes it through, surviving the gruesome massacre and taking down the bad guys. This is the story of what happens next.

The final girls in this story all lived out their traumatic experiences that made them famous years before. Some have moved on with their lives more than others, but all still get together once a month for their Group. It’s a chance to talk through everything with others who can understand, and over the years they’ve become a kind of broken family with a strong bond.

This book is a bit of a homage to classic horror films, and each of the women’s stories draws heavy inspiration from them, from Nightmare on Elm Street to Scream, and I’ll definitely be doing some nostalgic rewatching of some of these to refresh myself on their stories. But our main protagonist is Lynnette. Lynnette has struggled to adjust to life after being the sole survivor of her family slaughter. She lives in a constant state of paranoia, keeping the outside world at length and living in a self-imposed cage. She’s convinced that “Out there in he world it’s a non-stop murder party and if I make the slightest mistake I’ll wind up dead.”

So when she becomes convinced that someone wants to bring down the final girls, is it just a product of her delusion? Or is someone really back to finish the job?

This book is packed full of action, drama and fun (and quite a lot of gore). Some characters I loved, and some of the villains I loved to hate. It’s dripping with sass and punchy one-liners; “If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then reliable handguns with a lot of stopping power are a final girl’s.”

But at the heart of it, Hendrix has created some strong fiesty heroines who are true survivors and I loved reading about their dysfunctional relationships in this wild ride.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. 4/5.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Comedy, Crime, Satire, Thriller

Survive The Night, Riley Sager – Book Review

Goodbye reading slump, hello Riley Sager!

For the last few months, for various reasons, my reading (and posting) has completely slipped. I should have realised sooner – all I needed was a true edge-of-your-seat, popcorn thriller to get me racing through the pages again. And this was it.

No, this book isn’t perfect – it’s not deep, it’s exaggerated and unrealistic in places. But what a ride. This is by far the most addictive, unputdownable book I’ve read this year – and for saving me from a reading slump, I have to give it five stars.

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The Maidens, Alex Michaelides – Book Review

After his debut became one of the most popular thrillers of the year in 2019, the pressure was high for this author’s follow-up release. This one follows the thriller with a killer twist format but it’s set in the world of dark academia, weaving literature and Greek mythology against the backdrop of the traditional Cambridge University.

And it worked for me. For the most part. I loved it almost as much as The Silent Patient.

Let’s get something straight: I don’t mind a slow-burn thriller at all. I like it. In this book Michaelides paints a beautiful picture of Cambridge University, and a sinister picture of elite study groups and suspicious professors. Top it off with some mysterious notes littered with Greek mythology and a string of ritualistic murders of young, beautiful girls. It’s a recipe for a deliciously dark thriller.

Mariana is our protagonist, a recently widowed group therapist who finds herself returning to Cambridge University, her alma mater, to help her neice Zoe when Zoe’s friend is found murdered. She thinks she’ll just visit briefly to provide some support, but she soon finds herself drawn into the mystery. There’s more to it than meets the eye. Her friend said some strange things the night before the murder – and she’s part of elite group of girls, the Maidens. They’re a study group with the professor Fosca, and she won’t be the last maiden to die.

This book does have a slow build, with an atmospheric and authentic depiction of college life as Mariana reflects on meeting her husband there years before while she dives deeper into the current mystery. There’s red herrings and twists a-plenty (and even a familiar face making an appearance), as our plucky therapist-turned detective has no idea who to trust.

The ending is what lets it down just a little. We know this author is the king of twists, but this is a little far. I did start to connect the dots near the end and wonder where it might be going, but the ending isn’t something that could be worked out easily and comes a little out of nowhere.

But, I enjoyed the ride. The writing is great, it kept me reading. I liked Mariana as a character and the different themes woven into this story. There’s a lot to enjoy about this neat little thriller, and I’ll be reading whatever this author does next.

I received The Maidens in exchange for an honest review. 4/5.

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The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett – Book Review

I probably wouldn’t have got around to picking up this book if it wasn’t for the constant rave reviews and commendations I’ve seen everywhere since its release. I was interested in the elements exploring race but the family saga genre didn’t really appeal to me. But I’m glad I gave this a try. It’s an eye-opening, sweeping story which looks at relationships, race and identity. There are moments of pure brilliance here, and some characters I won’t forget in a long time.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Drama, Family, Historical

The Other Black Girl, Zakiya Dalila Harris – Book Review

Well, this was one crazy whirlwind of a debut! This author has created something truly original, a genre-spanning novel which tackles big issues and gives a new perspective on being a black woman in a modern, cut-throat and predominately white industry. But, it’s definitely a little out there – and it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Contemporary, Drama, Horror