Category Archives: Book Reviews

A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara – Book Review

I feel like A Little Life is difficult to review, because I’ve been so entirely immersed in these characters’ lives for so long, so entwined in the secrets, trauma, fear and hope of their stories, that I can’t look at this book objectively. It punches you in the gut with raw emotion and pain; with beautiful, elegant prose which never feels out of place despite its length, and with a touching tale of love, and a friendship which developed into more.

A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara

This book came highly recommended, to the point where I was bought it for Christmas 2016 after having it profusely recommending to me for a year. I’m glad it came with that personal recommendation though because without that I may have been hesitant about embarking on this epic tome. Continue reading

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The Rest Of Us Just Live Here, Patrick Ness – Book Review

Patrick Ness is an author who has been on my TBR list for years. I’ve heard so many great things about him, so I treated myself to a break from the Netgalley books to pick up one of my own – The Rest Of Us Just Live Here. But, in the end it left me with some mixed feelings.

The Rest Of Us Just Live Here, Patrick Ness

The premise is an original and intriguing one – the idea of taking your typical YA fantasy and turning it on its head; instead of following the character at the heart of the action, this story instead focuses on the outsiders. But, what I quickly realised, is this essentially makes the story just a standard YA contemporary tale instead. While there’s plenty of action going on with vampires, ‘the Immortals’ and a precious amulet, this activity is sidelined to small snippets which appear at the beginning of each chapter, while the main focus is on Mikey and his group of friends who are living their own lives, watching the aftermath of the ‘indie kids’ encountering ‘the immortals’ from a distance.

This clever concept ironically pokes fun at stereotypical YA novels, whilst being one itself. But once I settled into the unsettling way this novel does things, I found it excelled at both. The background action is fun, there’s echoes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a general sense of nostalgia for this genre. But the strongest thing that really carries this novel is the characters Ness has created in Mike, his sister and their friends Henna and Jared. These characters have all the typical teenage problems and then some, but they’re relatable and entertaining and the strength of their relationships is touching. I finished this book a few weeks ago and the characters still feel as strong as real people.

This wasn’t exactly the epic tale I was perhaps anticipating from such an established author, but it is well-written, quiet novel about friendships, relationships and growing up, set against an original backdrop. Ness is clearly a talented author, and I’m excited to go back and read some of his other novels.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Crime, Fantasy, Young Adult

The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Heather O’Neill – Book Review

I received The Lonely Hearts Hotel in exchange for an honest review

Heather O’Neill’s new Baileys award nominated novel completely blew my socks off. Between the blurb’s comparisons to The Night Circus and the Goodreads reviews slamming it for its controversial topics and crude nature, I had no idea what to expect. But as soon as I started the novel, it’s all there. Yes, it’s controversial, it opens with an incestuous scene and goes on to introduce orphans who are abused, punished and raped, and yet from the beginning there was something decadent, evocative and magical about this novel.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Heather O'Neill

Set in Montreal during the Depression era, O’Neill sets the perfect scene for her bleak, brutal tale of two troubled orphans, isolated on a small island where the austere winters are palpable. The author explores the seedy underbelly of both Montreal and New York, and the glitz and glamour of the 1920s entertainment industry, making for something that’s both dark and escapist but, overall, incredibly atmospheric.

Despite the harsh themes and grim setting, the characters are the true light of this novel. I often talk about character development, but the author really has nailed it here – in Rose and Pierrot, she’s created not one but two incredibly unique, whimsical characters who are loveable, authentic and sympathetic. We follow the pair  from their formative years in an orphanage through to adulthood and beyond. Throughout, many forces seem to be working to keep these star-crossed lovers apart.

It took me a while to get through this one, but that was solely because I wanted to savour it. Books like this don’t come along often. It’s unusual and controversial – there’s orphans, abuse, heroin, clowns, prostitutes and lots of sex. But if you can get past the initial shock at the frank manner in which many degrading events are portrayed, you may just find that this book is just as full of positive themes – there’s freedom, feminism, love and much more all wrapped up in beautifully poetic prose and a magical story.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Drama, Historical

Dare to Remember, Susannah Beard – Book Review

I received Dare To Remember in exchange for an honest review

Dare To Remember is an interesting, well-written debut, but I’d recommend you don’t go into this expecting the fast-paced thriller that the blurb suggests. It didn’t exactly set the world alight, but it is a good, slow-burning psychological drama and a character study.

Dare to Remember, Susannah Beard

The story follows a couple of years in the life of Lisa Fullbrook, opening immediately after a brutal attack. Lisa and her best friend, Ali, were attacked in their own flat, and Lisa wakes up groggily in hospital – she’s the only survivor. Shaken by the loss of her friend and haunted by survivor’s guilt, Lisa moves out of the city to a small village, where she lives a reclusive life trying to work through her trauma. Continue reading

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Filed under Book Reviews, Drama, Psychological thriller

Defender, G.X. Todd – Book Review

I received Defender in exchange for an honest review.

I was excited to read this debut as the author lives quite local to me, something I don’t come across often. But, in the end, I took a while to get round to it and when I finally did, it didn’t blow me away. Maybe someone from Birmingham in the UK just wasn’t able to conjure the dry, empty landscape of a post-apocalyptic Texas which I wanted. Or maybe, it’s to do with the plot. Either way, I know this book worked for a lot of people, but I struggled to connect with it the way I’d hoped to.

Defender, G.X. Todd

The premise of this novel is great – a blend of your typical post-apocalyptic theme with a touch of some more supernatural science fiction thrown in. It’s an ambitious tale, touching on themes of sanity, grief and survival. Continue reading

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Filed under Book Reviews, Drama, Dystopia, Thriller

He Said/She Said, Erin Kelly – Book Review

I received He Said/She Said in exchange for an honest review

Erin Kelly is an author who I’ve meant to read for years – I’ve actually had her debut The Poison Tree sat on my shelf for longer than I can remember. I finally got around to trying this author when this new release popped up on Netgalley, and I loved it.

He Said/She Said, Erin Kelly

The story starts as Kit, a serial eclipse chaser, is leaving his pregnant wife Laura behind to see the 2015 eclipse abroad. The writer takes us back in time, to the first eclipse the couple watched. At a festival in Cornwall years earlier, the two witnessed their first eclipse together, but they also witnessed a brutal attack on a girl named Beth, which changed the course of their lives forever. Continue reading

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Filed under Book Reviews, Psychological thriller

A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman – Book Review

I naturally seem to gravitate towards psychological thrillers and dramas and, recently I realised that my reading had got quite dark – just over the past couple of months I’ve read books covering murder, cults, incest and more. A Man Called Ove was my attempt to change that – I was looking for something heartwarming and humorous, and this was perfect. I really enjoyed this book.

A Man Called Ove

Everyone has someone a little like Ove in their lives. He doesn’t mince his words, he’s a stickler for rules and he’s the epitome of the term ‘stuck in their ways’. He’s only driven one brand of car his entire life, and he can’t quite understand why anyone would want to do any different. Each morning, he walks a circuit of his neighbourhood to check for burglaries, even though one has never occurred in the decades he’s lived in the area. But scrape back the curmudgeonly veneer you’ll find a softer side to Ove. Continue reading

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Filed under Book Reviews, Comedy, Drama

Foxlowe, Eleanor Wasserberg – Book Review

I received Foxlowe in exchange for an honest review.

Using a naive young protagonist as our narrator, Eleanor Wasserberg peels back the layers of what life may be like living within a small commune or cult, realistically portraying the effects of brainwashing from a young age and what can happen when one follower stands out from the crowd.
Foxlowe, Eleanor Wasserberg

There’s something distinctly chilling about Foxlowe right from the opening lines of the first chapter; “Tiny red beads came from the lines on my arm. These soft scars gave way like wet paper.” It’s told from the point of view of Green, a young girl growing up in Foxlowe, a mansion housing a commune within the English countryside. Isolated and sheltered from society, the ‘Family’ (as they call themselves) have developed their own set of rules and way of living; they believe the Bad is everywhere Outside, where people have become corrupted by money and power. They live self-sufficient lives, growing their own crops for food and creating artwork which they sell at local markets to raise money. There’s echoes of paganism in their rituals, living right by the ‘standing stones’ they mark the Solstice twice a year, and celebrate the harvest of that autumn brings. Continue reading

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Filed under Book Reviews, Drama, Psychological thriller

The Roanoke Girls, Amy Engel – Book Review

I received The Roanoke Girls in exchange for an honest review.

The Roanoke Girls had everything I wanted – a mystery set in a sprawling farmhouse mansion, dark family secrets and complicated relationships. But it won’t be for everyone. This book deals with some extremely serious, dark and disturbing subject matter – to call the Roanoke family dysfunctional would be a huge understatement. If you’re a reader who is triggered easily, I’d perhaps suggest you avoid this one, but if you like your stories dark, twisted and multi-layered then read on.

The Roanoke Girls, Amy Engel

The ‘secret’ of the Roanoke family is revealed quite early on, but I’m not going to spoil it here. Because, to be honest, if you knew the subject of this book, it could put you off reading. I actually think this book is one that is best when the reader goes in fresh, and just soak up the characters and atmosphere for yourself. Because, if you’re anything like me, it will suck you in completely. Continue reading

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The Wonder, Emma Donoghue – Book Review

Since reading Room years ago I’ve followed Emma Donoghue closely and read a number of her books, but I’ve never found one which could top the Booker-nominated, film-inspiring sensation that was Room. But this one come pretty damn close. I’m not sure I’d say The Wonder quite surpasses Room, but it stands in its own right as a riveting piece of historical fiction.

The Wonder

The story takes place in middle Ireland, a few years after the Great Famine. Lib Wright, an English nurse who trained under Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War, is called to the area to take an unusual position. Her ward is Anna O’Donnell, an eleven-year-old who who has supposedly not eaten a morsel of food for four months. Lib is required to simply watch the young girl, and report her observations to a committee after two weeks. Continue reading

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