Three Hours, Rosamund Lupton – Book Review

I received Three Hours in exchange for an honest review

I’ve read and enjoyed every book this author has written. She isn’t an author who churns out thriller after thriller, instead sneaking out a new release every few years, each new release gaining acclaim and getting translated into multiple languages. Everything she writes is so meticulous researched, beautifully written with care and attention to every little detail, and this is no exception. Tackling the controversial topic of school shootings could be her most ambitious subject matter yet, but this book was completely on point; emotional, intelligent and compelling.

Three Hours, Rosamund Lupton

 

Three hours can go in the blink of an eye, or feel like a lifetime. When a rural, liberal school in quiet area of South England comes under threat from a gunman, it’s some of the most important hours in the characters’ lives. In the heart of the English countryside in the middle of a snowstorm, a brave bunch of students and teachers battle with the elements and the threat of gunmen, whilst an expert team of investigators work to save them, and the tension throughout is palpable. Continue reading

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2019 Wrap-Up and Top Ten Books

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a great 2019 and are looking forward to what 2020 might bring. For me, it’s time for my annual look back at what I’ve been reading. 2019 was the first year I surpassed my Goodreads reading challenge in four years and my highest total yet! I read a total of 54 books, not as many as some people but it’s good for me. I feel like I read a pretty good variety, from classics like 1984 and Little Women, to plenty of new releases too. It’s going to be tough to whittle this down to a top ten, but here it goes…

Covers link to my review, or Goodreads.

The Ten Thousand Doors Of January

A magical tale of adventure, portals and stories. This book was beautifully written and definitely one of my favourites ARCs of the year.

The Grace Year

I loved this twisted YA story and I’ve recommended it to others too. It’s a dark dystopian which won’t be for everyone, but it’s a great story and gives enough hope at the end to make the darkness worthwhile.

Circe

I put off reading this for quite a while as it’s not my usual genre, but I read it while in Crete, complete with a visit to Knossos, and it was perfect. Madeline Miller really brings the Greek mythology to life in this intelligent novel.

 

Shades Of Magic 2 and 3

I struggle to commit to full trilogies but I finally finished this one this year and it was so worth it. One of my favourites, I’m excited to get into the Vicious series next.

The Water Cure

Another one which won’t be for everyone, but this haunting and compelling story got under my skin.

The Institute

It was a tough call between this one and King’s The Outsider which I also read this year, but this one takes the win for me. A gripping plot, loveable characters and believable friendships and so much fun!

 

A Monster Calls

One that had been on my list for years and was worth all the hype. Touching and power.

 

The Dreamers

A unique, surreal book about a sleeping sickness which sweeps a small American town, this book transcended genres in a way which was thought-provoking and poignant.

 

The Goldfinch

I loved The Secret History so I was a little apprehensive to read this one as it’s received some mixed reviews. I knew it was going to be different to her hit debut, and it was, but this was a vast epic all of its own. If I’m going to commit to a nearly 800-page novel I want it to be good and luckily this one definitely was.

 

The Art Of Racing In The Rain

Another one which was on my list for a while and totally worth the hype. Heartbreaking and heartwarming, this tale narrated by Enzo the dog will touch any animal lover’s heart.

And that’s it for another year! I already have SO many books on my list for 2020 including a few Christmas pressies like The Testaments and The Starless Sea and some Kindle deals I picked up recently (The Turn Of the Key, The Lost Man, City Of Girls, Platform Seven and SO many more than I can hope to get through…). I’ll probably be starting with my 2020 ARCs – I’ve got four lined up; My Dark Vanessa, Three Hours, The Other People and The Holdout. Any recommendations where I should start from all of these? Let me know in the comments, and let me know what’s on your list for 20201

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Postscript, Cecelia Ahern – Book Review

Postscript, Cecelia AhernPS. I Love You was a firm favourite of mine back when it released; it triggered a love for Ahern’s heartwarming stories which lasted years and I continued my way through most of her collection. This author just knows how to pull at the heartstrings, but PS. I Love You in particular won a special place in my heart. So when I saw she was releasing a sequel 15 years after the original novel I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. So much so, I actually own two copies now – I bought the shiny new hardback while waiting to hear back from the publisher, then I got approved for a galley copy on my Kindle too.

Fifteen years is a long time to follow up with a sequel; I first read PS. I love you when I was a teenager in the height of my chick-lit loving phase; the author was younger, our protagonist Holly Kennedy was younger. We’ve all grown up and this book has grown up too – there’s definitely a more mature feeling to this instalment in Holly’s journey; she’s now in her late thirties, her flighty friends and family have all settled down, and in many ways she’s moved on from Gerry. Continue reading

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The Wych Elm, Tana French – Book Review

This was my first experience of Tana French, although her books have intrigued me for years. I thought this standalone story with a creepy, wintery cover was the perfect place to start this November and it was. This one has received some mixed reviews from long-standing lovers of the author but I went in fresh with no previous expectations and I loved this novel. Yes, it’s a slow burn, character-driven tale but I thought it was riveting – in places this was without a doubt one of the most mesmerising, evocative novels I’ve read this year.

The Wych Elm, Tana French

We meet Toby at a transitional point in his life. Before, he’s a happy-go-lucky golden boy – or over-privileged and cocky depending how you look at it – enjoying a high-flying job, a girlfriend who is nothing but sweetness and light, and a close-knit group of friends. But, after a brutal attack, he’s left diminished; a shadow of the man he was, suffering the aftermath of a severe brain injury. Left unable to work, he moves back to Ivy House, a family home, to take care of his uncle Hugo who’s recently been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. Continue reading

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Dreamland, Nancy Bilyeau – Book Review

Dreamland, Nancy Bilyeau
I received Dreamland in exchange for an honest review.

Peggy is a privileged heiress in an elitist American family. She’s always been a black sheep in the family – one of the only one to take a regular job despite already being worth a fortune – but she’s called upon to put differences aside and spend a summer with the family group at the exotic Oriental Hotel on Coney Island. Her sister, Lydia, is engaged to wealthy bachelor Henry, and the entire family must show a united front and spend time with Henry and his family at his request in order to seal the deal.

At first, she’s a reluctant holiday maker, but she soon discovers more to her forced trip than meets the eye. She spends time alone in Coney Island amusement park Dreamland and meets a mysterious European artist, and soon finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation.

There’s a whole load of family secrets and tensions and social politics packed into this short tale, and it’s definitely an incredibly well-researched historical piece. This author knows her stuff. It’s just that, personally, I wanted a little more action and a little less politics. I was expecting more scandal and drama than stolen kisses on a theme park ride and someone rebelling by wearing a modified bathing suit and swimming for a large chunk of the novel. The final third does pick up considerably, but I did find myself second-guessing everything expecting more twists and turns which just didn’t come. Perhaps I’ve just become too accustomed to the modern thriller.

I was intrigued to read after about the inspiration behind this novel; the Battenberg family is not real but Peggy herself is inspired by Peggy Guggenheim. And Dreamland really did exist, enjoying its heyday in the early 1900s before dramatic events near the end of the novel took hold. The author does capture the atmosphere of the amusement park and the stifling tensions of upper class society perfectly.

It’s difficult to review a book with which I can find absolutely nothing wrong, but I just didn’t feel compelled to keep reading. The reader follows Peggy’s quiet rebellion from her family closely, and perhaps this should have been more empathetic than it was – but I just struggled to connect with her odd combination of rebellion and naivety or comprehend the restrictions of being a young woman in this sheltered, upper-class society. There are some glimmers of closeness between Peggy and her sister Lydia, but most of her family are quite unlikeable. So, a thriller this is not but it is an intelligent examination of social classes in the 1900s, with a little murder and intrigue thrown in.

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The Beautiful, Renée Ahdieh – Book Review

I received The Beautiful in exchange for an honest review

The Beautiful, Renée Ahdieh

Vampires and murders set in 1800s New Orleans?! This book promised magic, intrigue and darkness and I was very excited to get started. But it’s left me with some mixed feelings.

The story starts off strong; we follow teenagers Celine and Pippa on a journey to New Orleans. Both are fleeing their pasts in Europe for the hope of a new life in the land of opportunity, and the city doesn’t disappoint. As the girls travel through the heart of the city at the peak of carnival season, they’re swept up in the atmosphere and anticipation of what’s to come, and so was I. Continue reading

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The Silent Companions, Laura Purcell – Book Review

This was my Halloween pick for this year, and I really enjoyed it. Moving backwards and forwards in time, Purcell weaves a tale which is compulsively readable, with all the pace of a modern thriller but the creeping atmosphere of a classic gothic horror story.

The Silent Companions, Laura Purcell

The book opens in 1866 at St Joseph’s Hospital. Patient Elsie Bainbridge has been in a horrific fire, and is now suffering from serious burns and memory loss. Oh, and she’s mute. Having been treated like a freak and a criminal by most of the new hospital staff, she’s surprised when a new young doctor is introduced to her, one who believes she can be cured and wants to help her tell her story. Continue reading

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Mini Reviews

So many books, so little time! I’ve been doing well this year and read a fair few books (I’ve already hit my Goodreads Challenge goal!), but I’m struggling to find the time to review them all. Enter..mini reviews! Here’s a few a I read recently but haven’t had time to review in full. I’d love to hear your thoughts on them too!

 

My Sister, The Serial Killer
My Sister, The Serial Killer

I loved this – a breath of fresh air, this book felt totally quirky and unique and proved you don’t have to write a 500+ page epic to get on the Booker Prize shortlist.

 

 

 

The Bride Test

The Bride Test

This book was super cute, but I have to admit I was left a little disappointed after all the hype. It was a little too smutty and slushy for me, and I wanted the story to delve deeper into the issues of Khai’s autism and Esme’s difficulties adapting to her new culture. But it was a sweet, fun read which lots of people love – I think I just expected a little more from it. Maybe romance just isn’t really my thing.

 

 

The Tattooist Of Auschwitz

The Tattooist Of Auschwitz

An incredibly inspiring story, I loved the character of Lale the tattooist. However I think the writing let down Lale’s story a little; it’s very formulaic and feels like the author is so determined to relay the facts correctly, she doesn’t take the time to explore the little details which make a story great. Still, it’s a short, sharp insight into life in a WWII concentration camp and an inspirational couple.

 

 

The Passengers

The PassengersThe first I’ve read of John Marrs, and it won’t be my last. A pacy, intelligent thriller – I loved that this is set in a not unrealistic futuristic world and explores the issues and complicated moral implications of a hot topic like driverless cars, but also feels like an emotional, character-driven tale. Really highly recommended if you like a good thriller.

 

Circe
Circe

I passed on this one when I originally saw it on Netgalley as it didn’t really seem like my thing, but after all the hype following release I could resist no longer. Read this during a trip to Crete (including the ancient palace Knossos) so it was truly perfect timing. I went into it knowing very little about Greek mythology but found it fascinating. A very clever re-telling from a highly talented author; it’s changed my perspective on my ‘safe’ genres and I’m so glad I gave it a try.

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The Grace Year, Kim Liggett – Book Review

The Grace Year, Kim Liggett

 

I received The Grace Year in exchange for an honest review

This book has been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games, The Power and Lord Of The Flies. Some big books to live up to, right? But it does, and it does it with a style all of its own.

In a bizarre, dystopian, misogynistic world, there are limited routes for women – they finish school young, and they’re either they’re betrothed at sixteen or destined for a life of labour working menial jobs. When they come of age there’s a veiling ceremony, where girls are desperate to get a veil and be destined for marriage. But not Tierney. She’s our protagonist, a headstrong girl who is just about to be sent off for her Grace Year, a rite of passage for all girls her age; a year where they are banished from society in order to purge themselves of their magic. Her veiling ceremony doesn’t quite go to plan, but she has no idea what’s in store for her in her Grace Year…

“My chin begins to quiver when I think of the year ahead, the unknown, but I plaster on a vacant smile as if I’m happy to play my part, so I might return and marry and breed and die.” Continue reading

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Swan Song, Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott – Book Review

I received Swan Song in exchange for an honest review

I really wanted to love this tale based on true events about scandal, betrayal and gossip between the glitterati of New York. When I saw this on Netgalley and saw it had been longlisted for the Women’s Prize For Fiction I was keen to give it a try. I mean just look at that cover; it evokes a sense of gossip and scandal in a past era.

Swan Song, Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott

The story is about Truman Capote around the time of his most controversial publication, Answered Prayers. I have to admit I haven’t read any Truman Capote, but I have a second-hand copy of In Cold Blood waiting on my bedside table, and I’m determined to read it before the year is out. I thought this might be a nice warm-up for it, but it didn’t really work out that way. Continue reading

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