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
I received The Vanishing Of Audrey Wilde in exchange for an honest review
I was sold on this book by the fact that it was a dual timeline mystery described by Lisa Jewell as ‘The most beautiful book you will read this year.’ I have to admit I felt a little let down as I started it; this book has been described as ‘beautiful’ and ‘evocative’ but I found the writing a little too flowery when it wasn’t necessarily needed. It took me a little while to get into the story as I took time to adjust to the tone of voice, but once I did I found a strong plot which took me by surprise.
At the centre of the story is Applecote Manor, a grand manor in the Cotswolds. In its time it was a pristine picture of elegance, but in present day it’s crumbling and dilapidated. The story follows two timelines and shows what one house can mean to two different people. In present day, Jessie sees the mansion as a fresh start; a chance to escape the bustling city life of London and build a life with her new family. In the summer of 1959, Margot and her three sisters also escape the city for a summer in the countryside, when they are sent by their mother to live with their aunt and uncle. Continue reading
I received One Of Us Is Lying in exchange for an honest review
One Of Us Is Lying was an entertaining, quick read which perfectly captures the murky world of High School – a great guilty pleasure read with a little more depth. Five students enter detention. Only four leave alive.
All the stereotypical High School characters are here – the successful jock, the prom queen, the brain and the rebel. The only character who is a slight enigma, an outsider, is Simon, a character who dies within the first chapter. But why did he die? Who is a culprit and who is a victim? Using Simon’s death as a catalyst, the author casts a tale of High School secrets and lies. Continue reading
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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