Ready Player One, Ernest Cline – Book Review

Firstly, I’m not hugely into gaming, or the ’80s as a decade. The writer of this book clearly LOVES both. Ready Player One is a unique book, in that it is set in a dystopian future packed with state-of-the-art tech, and yet so much of its inspiration comes from the past. The writer has a passion and the story is infused with that passion at every turn, and it rubbed off on me, even though I couldn’t associate with every reference personally.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

The story is set around a bizarre challenge. James Halliday, owner of a multi-million pound company dies, and leaves an unusual will. His company is responsible for the Oasis, a VR world which almost everyone uses as it provides an escape from the rundown realities of their dystopian existence. In his will, he offers to give all of his shares in the company and sole responsibility for the Oasis away, to one lucky player. There’s just a series of challenges they’ll need to complete first. Continue reading

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The Butterfly Garden, Dot Hutchison – Book Review

This was a fascinating, dark and unusual novel. There’s plenty of stories about twisted men who take young girls, but I haven’t ever read one quite like this. This novel tackles incredibly dark topics, but manages to maintain some level of beauty and hope.

In the present, two FBI agents are trying to get to the truth about a crime scene they’ve just discovered. They’ve found a hidden prison, where a mysterious man nick-named ‘The Gardener’ has kept beautiful women against their will for decades.

The Butterfly Garden, Dot Hutchison

Maya is one of those girls, and she’s got a story to tell. Through interview scenes in the present and flashbacks through Maya’s journey, we learn the true nature of of the Garden and its inhabitants. Continue reading

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Two Steps Forward, Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist – Book Review

I received Two Steps Forward in exchange for a honest review

I absolutely loved Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project and I hoped this romantic travel adventure traversing famous European pilgrimage the Camino would tick the same boxes. But Two Steps Forward is a different novel, it’s less a laugh-out-loud fun-fest and more a story of quiet self-reflection, slow-building romance and natural beauty, but it excels in its own right.

Two Steps Forward

Zoe and Martin are both at a crossroads in their lives when they find themselves at Cluny, and separately decide to embark on walking the Camino. It’s a traditionally religious route, but they both decide to tackle the trail for their own diverse reasons. While the two set off from the same start point, they’re not together and they make their own journeys told through alternating chapters from each character’s point of view. Continue reading

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Behind Closed Doors, B.A. Paris – Book Review

I somehow missed the boat on this one when it was first released, so I’m behind the times here but I  waited until the hype had died down to try it. And, it was different to what I expected – not so much a who dunnit or a twisty mystery, but more an emotionally-loaded, compulsive and thrilling drama.

Behind Closed Doors, B.A. Paris

This novel is about the perfect marriage, but from the beginning it’s clear all is not as it seems. Everything is actually pretty much spelt out early on – Jack is a villain through and through, there’s no shades of grey here, and his motivations are neatly spelled out. His wife, Grace, is more of a complex character. She annoyed me at times but I also couldn’t help but sympathise with her plight. Continue reading

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The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin – Book Review

I received The Immortalists in exchange for an honest review

What would you do if you were told the date of your death? Would it affect the way you live your life? Whether you believe in it or not, that date will e ingrained in your mind throughout your days. That’s what I learnt from The Immortalists anyway – a story of four siblings, starting in 1969 when they get their futures read, throughout the trials and tribulations of their lives.

The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin

This is a gorgeous, emotive and intimate story. I expected it to be a little more supernatural, with a focus on the psychic who foretold the group’s fates. But really, she doesn’t take centre stage here at all. It’s all about the four of them; Simon, Klara, Daniel and Varya and the way these siblings choose to live their lives.

The book opens with a short stint when this group are young, as the four of them visit a psychic who’s skills have been heard along the grapevine.They quickly wish they hadn’t as they all receive their varying death sentences.

We then follow them through their lives, starting with Simon, each sibling picking up where the last one’s story left off. Each is intertwined with the other, yet their all their own people, and I’m sure everyone will connect with different siblings. Simon starts a new life as a gay dancer in San Francisco, Klara a magician in Vegas, Daniel a loyal husband and military doctor, and Varya a researcher on the topic of how to extend human life. For me Simon and Klara were front runners in terms of stories told – their fragile, young lives and points of views made them all the more vulnerable and endearing to me, but every one of them has an important voice which contributes to this story’s many layers.

This is a story which revolves around a death date, but really it’s about life – and how this group chooses to live it. The storytelling here is utterly captivating – I love stories which span different time periods and places, and this nailed it on those counts. It captures times and places I’ve never experienced so personally they felt intimate and visceral; the characters like long-lost friends I won’t forget any time soon. A stunning debut, I absolutely fell in love with this story, and I can’t wait to see what the author does next.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Drama, Family, Historical

Beartown, Fredrik Backman – Book Review

I received Beartown in exchange for an honest review

Backman’s huge hit A Man Called Ove didn’t blow me away and I’m not really a sports fan, so initially I wasn’t sure about tackling this hockey-focused story. But after seeing so much hype, I went for it. And I’m glad I did. This refreshing, emotional read was a huge change of pace for this author tackling some meaty topics, but in my opinion he’s completely pulled it off.

Beartown is a small, somewhat isolated town in the Swedish forest. It’s got little going it for, except for hockey. And the town is literally obsessed with the sport; they sleep, eat and breathe it – it’s their only chance to become more than they are; to put Beartown on the map.

Beartown, Fredrik Backman

“Sometimes the entire community feels like  a philosophical experiment; if a town falls in the forest but no one hears it, does it matter at all?”

In the first part of the novel Backman takes his time setting the scene; I could almost feel the ice cold temperatures, and the claustrophobic single-mindedness of the secluded town with one shared goal. The author introduces a whole host of characters, from the club coach, manager and president to the parents and the children who dedicate most of their lives to succeeding at the sport. It was a little difficult to keep up to start with, but the author takes his time laying the foundations introducing the town and a whole host of residents and the passion they all share. There’s one thing that underpins this community: hockey – like it or not, they all have it in common, but they all carry their own secrets and differences too.

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The Music Shop, Rachel Joyce – Book Review

I finished this book around lunchtime, and by the evening I was actually missing the story and it’s characters. It’s a gorgeous little gem of a book – I wasn’t expecting it, and now I have no idea why it took me so long to try this author.

The Music Shop, Rachel Joyce

In a run-down street just out of the city, in the 1980s, there’s a music shop. It’s a place where you can come when life gets too much and the shop’s owner, Frank, will find you a piece of music to help. Music is more than just music in this shop, it’s something which connects people, which lifts them up and takes away their worries – even just for the length of one song, they can escape. Frank is the man who makes it happen.

The owner, Frank, is happy with his lot – he has a little community on Unity Street where he lives and works, he’s passionate about music and enjoys sharing it with others. He’s stubborn and set in his ways, and that’s enough for him, until a foreign woman who claims she doesn’t even like music faints outside of his shop, and everything starts to change. Continue reading

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Have Been On My TBR the Longest and I Still Haven’t Read

It’s the first time this year I’m participating in Top Ten Tuesday – and the first since it moved over to That Artsy Reader Girl! I’m excited to be back and loving the new logo. This week’s theme is definitely one I can relate to – my TBR list seems never ending, so I’m joining in to look back on some of those poor neglected books that have been on the list the longest. Continue reading

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The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, Imogen Hermes Gowar – Book Review

I received The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock in exchange for an honest review

I read a lot of debuts; it’s always a risk – but I love finding those hidden gems when they’re still relatively undiscovered. This book was promoted as Vintage’s debut of the year and, whilst I hadn’t heard much about it from my fellow reviewers, I was drawn in by the gorgeous cover and the promise of mermaids, and went for it.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, Imogen Hermes Gowar

I would love to fall in love with every book I read, but unfortunately this one wasn’t really for me. It had a lot of promise – combining history, romance and magical realism, this book should work for me, yet I found myself struggling through the slow, meandering plot about characters who I just couldn’t care for. Continue reading

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Genuine Fraud, E Lockhart – Book Review

I received Genuine Fraud in exchange for an honest review

I loved E Lockhart’s We Were Liars, it felt unique, both the writing style and the plot itself, so I was keen to read the author’s latest novel. Genuine Fraud is less original – the writer admits in the introduction that it draws inspiration from other novels, particularly The Talented Mr Ripley. It was a fast-paced, entertaining novel but lacked some depth and character development. There’s not really enough length for me to feel truly invested in the characters, and none of them were really likeable – although I think this was intentional. 

Genuine Fraud, E Lockhart

Lockhart does tell the story well; starting in 2017 we meet Jule. 18 years old and staying in a luxury hotel Mexico alone, it’s clear she’s running from something. She has a selection of wigs and identities which she changes at whim, and when she suspects her cover has been blown, she quickly makes a run for it. The story unfolds backwards from there. Continue reading

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