I received Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore in exchange for an honest review
This was a wonderful, quirky surprise, quite unlike anything else I’ve read this year. A twisty mystery thriller, packed with eccentric characters, bookish references and hidden secrets.
The Bright Ideas Bookstore has its regulars, those bookseller Lydia has affectionately named ‘Book Frogs’. Mainly men, the Book Frogs are lost and lonely, those who’ve slipped through the cracks of society and finding a peaceful refuge in the store. And they seem harmless, until Lydia finds one of them hanging from the ceiling, with an old photograph of her tenth birthday party in his pocket.
Joey was a little different, but Lydia liked having him around the store. “He was a shattered young man, Lydia often thought, haunted but harmless – a dust bunny blowing through the corners of the store.” His death shakes Lydia, but she’s drawn in deeper when she finds out he’s left the entire contents of his flat to her, including a stack of books with hidden messages which leads her on a journey into her own past. Continue reading
I received I Know a Secret in exchange for an honest review
This is the twelfth in the Rizzioli ad Isles series, and Tess Gerritsen has done it again! Fast becoming one of my favourite thriller authors, Gerritsen has really mastered creating unputdownable stories which explore complex issues and characters without ever dropping the fast pace.
The story opens, as most of them do, with a body. This one is of Cassandra Coyle, a young amateur film maker who specialises in the horror genre. There’s something horrific about her death too; her eyes have been gauged out and placed in her had post-mortem. Our resident Doctor, Maura Isles, struggles to identify a cause of death, and so the mystery begins.
The characters shine through again in this instalment; I love the story arc of Jane Rizzioli and Maura Isles and their strong friendship (although I don’t think you need to read all the books in order to enjoy this one), unbroken by the countless murders the two have seen. In this novel we have a third point of view, Holly. Holly was fascinating to read as well – she certainly knows a few secrets and it’s unclear until the very end whether she’s a culprit or another victim.
The body count and the suspect list increases, as Gerritsen unfolds a mystery which stems back decades, linking to an old unsolved case of a missing nine-year-old girl, and a scandalous child abuse case which connects the victims. It’s one which not only kept me on tenterhooks, but it’s deeper and more multilayered than many in this genre.
I already know that Gerritsen has a background in medicine which helps with those oh-so-authentic (and gory) autopsy scenes, but this novel feels well researched in other areas too. The tale is rich in symbolism, from religious iconography to to horror movie classics, and clues are scattered behind throwaway lines, just tantalisingly hidden from view until the big reveal. It’s an intelligent story, yet it’s a page-turner too – a rare and extremely satisfying combination.
I received I Am Behind You in exchange for an honest review
This was a bizarre book. Simultaneously bleak, brutal and beautiful but, above all, weird. It won’t be for everyone, but I enjoyed how different it was.
We meet four families from vastly different backgrounds, from a footballer and his wife to a same sex couple of farmers, who gradually found solace in each other when they lost their wives. What the group has in common is that they’ve all got secrets, and they all wake up one day to discover all signs of life have disappeared from their campsite. Continue reading
I received Artemis in exchange for an honest review.
I have to admit, when I initially heard the premise for Artemis, I was nervous. Andy Weir’s debut worked because, despite being sci-fi, it felt like realism. Every step of the main character’s journey and struggles on a failed mission to Mars felt meticulously researched. Can the author pull off that same feel of authenticity in a new novel set in an entirely fictional city on the moon? Turns out, the answer is yes!
I loved Artemis. I loved the incredible world-building, the high-stakes heist and, most of all, the protagonist, Jazz. This wiley, feisty, street-smart character is a rebel with a heart; she seems to have split readers but I am firmly in camp Jazz. She’s got confidence and wit in bucket-loads and it was fantastic to read. I’m so glad the author opted for diversity here, with a Saudi Arabian woman from a Muslim family as the main character, for me it strengthened the novel as a whole. Continue reading
I saw one reviewer describe It as a story of the ties that bind, and I think that’s a pretty much perfect description. In a nutshell, It’s about a group of friends, the self-named ‘loser’s club’, who face an unspeakable horror when they’re young. When It returns 27 years later, they each leave their new lives behind to come back and defeat it together.
Stephen King’s imagination is like no other, and his depiction of an unspeakable terror which will take on a different form dependent on the viewers’ own fears allows that imagination to run riot. It preys on children because they’re weak, but also vulnerable and susceptible to the powers of the imagination in a way that adults just aren’t. The children in this story believe easily and bond quickly, and the bond they forge at that age is almost unbreakable. That’s why, when decades later they receive the call, the bunch regroup without question. Continue reading
So, I’m a little late posting this one – and given the weather’s turn it’s hard to believe that less than a month ago I was seeing out the last of the summer in Crete. But, I was, and so this book packed with Cretan history seemed like the perfect pick for my trip. Victoria Hislop’s much-hyped debut, hailed as a ‘beach book with a brain’, offers an insight into some little-known (or at least to me) Greek history. With a historical drama and touching family saga played out against the natural beauty of the island of Crete, it seemed ideal for my recent holiday. But it’s not without it’s flaws.
I knew little about the island of Spinalonga before this book, but after reading it’s an island I won’t forget in a hurry. This was Greece’s leper colony from the early 1900s through to the 1950s; one of the last European leper colonies in existence. The disease of leprosy was misunderstood, and victims were often feared and demonised. Hislop frames her story around a village family who are inflicted by the disease, and the majority of the tale is set between Spinalonga and Plaka, a small town opposite the the island, during this period. Continue reading
I received The Good Daughter in exchange for an honest review
Karin Slaughter is an author I’d seen around for a while, but I’d never got around to picking up one of her books until now. I don’t know why it took me so long, because from the first few pages of this book I could tell this was a seasoned, skilled writer; her story jumps off the page and draws you in immediately.
The book opens in 1989, as young sisters Charlotte and Samantha are preparing for dinner. There’s no slow build-up here, we jump straight to action as the family evening is interrupted with a home intrusion which has devastating consequences.
Fast-forward 28 years later, and the sisters are living separate lives as they’ve moved on from their traumatic childhoods as best they can. They have both forged successful careers as lawyers, but yet more tragic events in their hometown force the two to come back together and confront their past in a dramatic courtroom drama. Continue reading
I received My Absolute Darling in exchange for an honest review
I’d struggle to recommend this book to a friend, simply due to the fact that it contains some extremely disturbing content, to the point where I almost stopped reading. It almost feels at points like the author is relishing the horror that the protagonist endures. But there’s no doubt that this is one of the most skilled, powerful debut novels I’ve read in a while. And, if you stick with it through the darkness, you will find some hope. Continue reading
The Swimming Pool was a good summer read, offering a character-driven psychological drama against the backdrop of an English summer in London. Set over the course of the school summer holidays, it follows teacher Natalie Steele as she discovers the new local swimming pool, forms some sinister friendships and discovers quite a bit about herself.
Natalie is somewhat stuck in a rut. She and her fellow teacher husband Ed live by a structure of strict regimes, with a small but dependable group of friends and young, slightly overprotected teenage daughter; they are almost the epitome of sensible. Ed, it seems, is naturally this way, but Nat has intentionally chosen a life of routine due to some murky events in her past which are gradually revealed. In her past, she wasn’t always such an upstanding citizen, and she’s ready to rebel again when she meets her glamorous, alluring neighbour, Lara Channing, at the local swimming pool. Continue reading
This book was a rare find, one that completely sucked me in to the the point where I was slowing down my reading as I didn’t want it to end. It’s definitely responsible for lifting me from a huge reading slump. From a journey through the glitz and glamour of the ages, to a dark sci-fi mystery complete with a secret society and a poignant musing on the meaning of life and love – it’s got it all. It was emotional, engrossing with humorous touches and it’s definitely a strong contender for my book of the year so far.
In a world where everyone wants to live longer, to look younger, Tom Hazard has a rare condition which would cause a scandal if revealed. He’s 439 years old, but looks in his early forties, due to a condition which means he ages at around one fifteenth of a regular human’s pace. But is it a blessing or a curse? Continue reading