This Week In Books – 28 September 2016

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This meme was set up by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Here is what I am reading now, then and next!

Now…


51sebyhy8gl-_sx324_bo1204203200_I have just started reading The Graces by Laura Eve, which I have been hearing such a lot of good things about. I can’t judge it myself yet as I have literally read one line! But I am hoping it lives up to the hype. Here’s the blurb…

Everyone said the Graces were witches.
They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair.
They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different. All I had to do was show them that person was me.
Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?

Then…

On Monday I started The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, which I finished last night. I thought it was an absolutely brilliant book, which had me gripped from start to finish. My review will be here soon…51vcqngvagl-_sx311_bo1204203200_ 617s7zmziql-_ac_us160_ 51iz-pesxql-_sx332_bo1204203200_

I also read – and really enjoyed – Let The Light Shine by Nick Alexander. You can read my review here. And my review of Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok, which I have also read recently, will be here soon too…

Next…

511egdsizyl-_ac_us160_41w-qt4wavl-_ac_us160_I was really pleased to find The History of Us by Jonathan Harvey in the library, as I loved The Girl Who Just Appeared by the same author (you can see my review of that one here). I also picked up The Fever by Megan Abbott at the weekend, which I’m really looking forward to reading soon.

What are you reading now, then and next?

Teaser Tuesday – 27 September 2016

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by the Should Be Reading blog.

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If you fancy joining in, here’s how…
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!
• Share the title and author so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

Yesterday I started reading the new novel by The Room author Emma Donoghue, which is called The Wonder. I was sucked in from the very first page and am struggling to put it down! It tells the story of a nurse, Lib, who is sent to Ireland in the 1850s to observe a young girl who has stopped eating for four months, but is still fit and healthy. Is everything as it seems or is there a miracle at work?

Here are my two teaser sentences taken at random from the first chapter..

617s7zmziql-_ac_us160_“Lib looked around. Until today, it must have been child’s play for Anna to sneak food from the kitchen next door in the night or for one of the adults to bring it in without the others hearing a thing.”

If you’ve published a teaser today, feel free to link to it here!

Book review: Let The Light Shine by Nick Alexander

The book:

Let The Light Shine by Nick Alexander
Published September 2016 by BIGfib Books
Pages: 396

My copy: ARC

*** A big thank you to the author for sending me an advance review copy of this novel ***


51vcqngvagl-_sx311_bo1204203200_The blurb:

Penny and Victoria are about as different as two siblings can be, one with a smart London lifestyle, the other struggling to make ends meet.

But they are joined by more than blood, and their shared tragic past is affecting the present more than they realise.

When events begin to tug at the fabric beneath which dark secrets are hidden, the resulting chaos threatens to tear the two families apart.

Could there be aspects of the past that youngest child Penny doesn’t remember? Could the truth of Marge be more complex than the beloved mother the girls choose to perceive? And could the true story of that terrible Christmas be the key to understanding Victoria, Marge, and much much more?

My thoughts…

I do enjoy reading about dysfunctional families, and the one portrayed here is fascinating. Penny is over-worked and under-appreciated, and gets minimal help from her stoned artist husband Sander.

Meanwhile sister Vicky seemingly lives the good life in London with her rich husband – but of course everything isn’t as it seems, as she’s worryingly reliant on her Valium … and what’s wrong with her son Bertie?

But most terrifying of all is mum Marge, who is critical of everything both her daughters do – and also plays them off against the other. She’s definitely the villain of the tale here, and I found myself most enjoying the sections where she was present!

At the heart of this family’s problems are the events of one Christmas 40 years ago. We have a brief glimpse into this fateful day at the very start of the book, and we are left to work out exactly what happened.

I found this a really easy and enjoyable read, and I got through it in just a day. I found almost all the characters really frustrating at times – I particularly thought Sander needed a good talking to and was annoyed that Penny was so soft with him  – but as the novel progresses you definitely find out more about why the characters act as they do and this enables you to become more sympathetic towards them. I liked the seaside setting of Penny’s home, in contrast to Vicky’s London flat, and I also enjoyed when the book travelled to other parts of the UK for short bursts.

Even without the mystery of what happened all those years ago, the story works well on its own as we have more than enough family drama to keep things interesting! There is also a storyline involving one of the young characters coming to terms with their sexuality, and I thought this was handled really sensitively by the author.

Overall, I definitely recommend this novel to anyone who likes a good family drama with lots of dysfunctional characters – and a bit of a mystery to solve too.

My rating: 8 out of 10

Book review: Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carla Rifka Brunt

The book:

Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carla Rifka Brunt
Published by Pan in 2013
Pages: 384

My copy: Secondhand copy

51pcbbltdl-_sx328_bo1204203200_The blurb:

There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter, Finn Weiss. So when he dies far too young of a mysterious illness that June’s mother can barely bring herself to discuss, June’s world is turned upside down.

At the funeral, she notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd, and a few days later, June receives a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet.

As the two begin to spend time together, June realises she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he might just be the one she needs the most.

My thoughts…

This book was on my Amazon wishlist – I have no idea how it got there but I’m glad it did! I popped it into my virtual basket recently to make up the numbers on an order, and it turned out to be a great move.

It is the 1980s, and June is left devastated when her beloved uncle Finn dies of AIDS. A mysterious man who is spotted loitering at Finn’s funeral turns out to be Toby, his boyfriend of many years – but June didn’t even know he existed. Why the secretiveness? June finds herself unable to resist when Toby extends the hand of friendship – but will she like what the relationship tells her about Finn, and the rest of her family?

Although it isn’t marketed as such, this is definitely a suitable read for young adults. I found myself instantly drawn to our 14-year-old narrator June, who is grief-stricken but has no-one to turn to. Her mum can’t bring herself to speak about Finn – and she hates Toby – and her older sister is too busy being cool and mysterious to really take an interest. June is quite an unusual character and is a real loner – her idea of a good time is to tromp about in the woods on her own and imagine she is living in mediaeval times. She isn’t your average teen, and I really liked this about the character. She was unusual yet totally believable. Her growing friendship with Toby is also well portrayed – she is unsure about him just as we, the reader, are, and I enjoyed finding out more about him over the course of the book.

Also, as with a lot of YA novels, there is a love interest in the shape of Ben. I also liked Ben as he is a total geek, but unselfconscious about it, and he seemed a good match for June.

This book is very much about the characters, but there is a lot to love in the setting too – I liked the contrast between the Westchester woods near June’s home and Finn’s funky New York apartment. June’s trips to the city definitely added another dimension to the novel. There’s also the portrait of June and her sister than Finn was working on when he died, and this gives us not only the title of the book, but becomes an interesting recurring theme throughout the book too.

As with another book I recently read on a whim and loved (see my review of A Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing here), I was gutted to find out that this is the author’s only novel. I would love to read more from her as I thought this was a brilliant book. The characters were believable and well portrayed, and I loved June and her growing friendship with Toby.

I’m not giving this book the full ten out of ten as there were a few bits I didn’t find completely convincing, but overall I really loved this novel.

My rating: 9 out of 10

Book review: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

The book:

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Published by Windmill in 2016
Pages: 400

My copy: Library

51yyhy3wltl-_sx318_bo1204203200_The blurb:

Every story has two sides.
Every relationship has two perspectives.
And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets.

At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but behind closed doors things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed.

My thoughts…

I have quite mixed feelings about this novel – and judging from other reviews I have read, while the critics loved it, it has definitely divided people.

The book is split into two sections, and we start with Fates where we meet gorgeous golden couple Lotto and Mathilde, young, beautiful – and married after knowing each other a mere two weeks. We find out a bit more about Lotto’s messy childhood, and then we speed along through the years, revisiting the couple at different parties they hold with their motley crew of friends and acquaintances.

I quite enjoyed the first 100 or so pages as we learn more about the couple and their friends. Throughout this section, Mathilde remains a complete mystery, and I was looking forward to finding out more about her in part two. However before we get there, we have a good bit more of Lotto’s story to come, and the book dig start to drag at times. And this is not to mention the highly pretentious language that much of the book is written in! It is very overblown at times, and much of this is quite unnecessary and adds nothing to the story, and I did find myself skimming – or skipping – over the odd paragraph here and there, and I think the style of the novel has definitely put off a lot of other readers.

But despite this I was still interested to find out how the book would pan out and what Mathilde had to hide, and when we finally get to her section – Furies – I felt that the book did pick up pace and become more interesting. I really liked the way that we found out much more about the couple’s relationship by hearing the other side of the story, and Mathilde definitely had some secrets of her own.

Overall I did like the book – I found the characters interesting (even if they were pretty unlikeable), and I think the second half did round off the story nicely. However the style of the book is frustrating and I can totally understand why people would ditch the book altogether as it does ramble on a lot. There is also a LOT of sex, which actually becomes a bit tiresome! I think the book could have done with being cut down by about 100 pages to make it more palatable. But overall, I did find myself quite liking it despite myself!  

My rating: 6 out of 10

Book review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

The book:

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
Published by Simon & Schuster in 2013download1
Pages: 400

My copy: Second-hand copy

The blurb:

Stressed single mother and law partner Kate is in the meeting of her career when she is interrupted by a telephone call to say that her teenaged daughter Amelia has been suspended from her exclusive Brooklyn prep school for cheating on an exam. Torn between her head and her heart, she eventually arrives at St Grace’s over an hour late, to be greeted by sirens wailing and ambulance lights blazing. Her daughter has jumped off the roof of the school, apparently in shame of being caught. A grieving Kate can’t accept that her daughter would kill herself… And so begins an investigation which takes her deep into Amelia’s private world, into her journals, her email account and into the mind of a troubled young girl. Then Kate receives an anonymous text saying simply: AMELIA DIDN’T JUMP. Is someone playing with her or has she been right all along?

My thoughts…

I finished this book just yesterday and I keep thinking about it – but not for good reasons! I keep thinking of different things that didn’t really make sense or add up.

The story is told through various methods including Amelia’s first person narrative, emails and texts prior to her death, and in the present day as Kate joins forces with a policeman to uncover the truth…

We soon find out that Amelia had been tapped up to join an exclusive, secret club of girls – The Magpies. They’re a very unpleasant bunch and make new members go through several initiation rituals before they can become a fully-fledged Magpie. Amelia – completely out of character – goes along with these, mainly because she has fallen for one of her fellow Magpies. She keeps all of this from her best friend Sylvia and her mum, even when things become increasingly nasty – although she does confide in Ben, a stranger she exchanges texts with. 

Although I was interested to find out what would happen in the book and read it to the end, I have to admit I did have a lot of problems with the novel. Firstly I never really took to Kate or Amelia – I didn’t find either character very convincing and as I found out more about them, things just didn’t quite fit together for me. Kate’s secretive nature about the identity of Amelia’s father was odd – and the twist in this part of the story was also bizarre and didn’t really add anything to the plot. Also the identity of the mystery texter ‘Ben’ and the writer of bitchy school newsletter Gracefully seemed totally unbelievable! I also found it implausible that Kate would be allowed to go around interviewing potential witnesses with the Lieutenant.

And why oh why did the token British character have to say “luv” at the end of every sentence?!

It seemed that the author had tried to fit too many twists and sub-plots into this novel, and when they all finally came together most of them were totally unbelievable, and although everything was supposedly tied up at the end, I still had loads of questions. What actually motivated these characters to act as they did? And why did no-one seem to question the very odd behaviour of a lot of the grown-up characters? While all the teenagers in the book were pretty horrible, the grown-ups also behaved in completely unbelievable ways that were never fully explained. In fact, since finishing the book I keep thinking of other problems and plot holes, and things that just didn’t really add up at all.

Although there was enough here to keep me reading, ultimately I found myself indifferent to the characters and unable to believe in the story at all.

My rating: 4 out of 10

Book review: The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob

The book:

The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob
Published by Bloomsbury in 2014

Pages: 497
My copy: Second-hand copy


51hdaajxjpl-_sy346_The blurb:

Of all the family gatherings in her childhood, one stands out in Amina’s memory. It is 1979, in Salem India, when a visit to her grandmother’s house escalates into an explosive encounter, pitching brother against brother, mother against son.

In its aftermath, Amina’s father Thomas rushes his family back to their new home in America. Now, twenty years later, Amina receives a phone call from her mother. Thomas has been acting strangely and Kamala needs her daughter back. Amina returns to the New Mexico of her childhood, where her mother has always filled silences with food, only to discover that getting to the truth is not as easy as going home.

My thoughts…

I picked this book up on a total whim when I spotted it in a charity shop – in fact it was to make up the numbers in a 3 for 2 deal. I had never seen or heard of the book before and by a massive stroke of luck it turned out to be a brilliant buy!

Told in the third person throughout, we follow Amina as she travels home to see her father who is behaving oddly. We also go back in time to find out a bit more about her family. The first flashback section was one of my favourites, as 11-year-old Amina, older brother Akhil and her parents Kamala and Thomas go to India to visit Thomas’s mother, brother, his wife and son Itty. Thomas’s mother Ammachy is an absolute horror, insulting everyone and being generally unpleasant and manipulative. But Thomas’s brother Sunil is by far the most interesting character we meet, and is the sleepwalker referred to in the book’s title. He is clearly bitter and disappointed at being left behind to live with his horrible mother while Thomas has started a new life in the US. There is so much tension within the family and this section was sad, funny and revealing. I was actually disappointed that the whole book didn’t revolve around the characters we met in this section!

Instead we move on and find out what happened to destroy Thomas’s family, and the impact this has on the whole family in the years to come.

I really loved everything about this book. The characters are vibrant and three-dimensional, and we get to know them warts-and-all. The focus of the whole novel is on the family and how they interact with each other, and how one’s actions affect another for years to come. But even the novel’s minor characters are brilliantly brought to life and have their own unique characteristics.

I usually struggle with overly long books, and this comes in at 500 pages, and I was expecting the book to start dragging or become boring, but this was not the case here at all and I never wanted the book to end! The characters made me laugh, cry, get frustrated and then laugh all over again. Although Amina is the character we follow through the entire novel, by the end the book is really about Thomas, and it leaves you thinking and having to read between the lines a bit to really understand his feelings and motivation.

The only bad thing I have to say about this novel? That it took Jacob ten years to write which doesn’t leave me hopeful for a follow-up any time soon! But other than this, I absolutely adored this bittersweet novel and I would love to read more about this family, especially Ammachy!

My rating: 10 out of 10