Category Archives: Drama

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 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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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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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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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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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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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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The Book of Mirrors, E.O. Chirovici – Book Review

I received The Book of Mirrors in exchange for an honest review

“I remembered the title of Flynn’s book and the maze of distorting mirrors you used to find at carnivals when I was a kid – everything you saw when you went inside was both true and false at the same time.”

This book left me with mixed feelings. The writing style felt slightly unnatural to me, almost devoid of emotion and more just a relaying of various facts about the characters’ lives. Each of the main narrators had their own romantic entanglements but I really struggled to care about them, and, to some extent, all of their voices felt very similar.

The Book of Mirrors, E.O. Chirovici

But, on the other hand, this psychological thriller has an intelligent, strong, multi-layered plot which, despite some issues with the narrative,  was enough to carry it through and keep me avidly reading. Continue reading

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The Bear And The Nightingale, Katherine Arden – Book Review

I received The Bear And The Nightingale in exchange for an honest review.

This book took me a little out of my comfort zone; set in another time and place, with a strong undercurrent of fantasy. It left me in a strange situation, where I didn’t really get along with the story – but I can’t quite put my finger on why. The writing was beautiful, the author weaves elements of religion, mythology and fantasy amongst a story of a very likeable young girl. And yet it wasn’t quite for me.

The Bear And The Nightingale, Katherine Arden

Set in the historic wilderness of Russia where winter stretches most of the year and the country is ruled by Grand Princes, this story follows a family in a small village as they forage for food and share fairytales together around the fire to keep warm at night. The protagonist is Vasya, a headstrong young girl who has a touch of magic in her genes. Vasya is almost at one with the Russian wilderness; she understands every nook and cranny of the forest from a young age, and she can see things which others can’t. Continue reading

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