Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Review: There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

Oh, hi. It's been a while. I kind of let writing take a back seat the last few weeks because life got in the way. I spent a few days in Oxford the week before last and then I came down with the mother-of-all colds, leaving me feeling unlike my usual self. But I'm back and with a new review and hopefully a regular routine once more, so here we go:



THERE'S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE BY STEPHANIE PERKINS
2017 • 304 pages  Macmillian Children's Books

Makani Young is still adjusting to her new life with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska after her parents send her away from her beloved Hawaiian home. She’s made friends and has even had a hint of romance, yet her old life is hard to forget. But things in her new quiet little Nebraskan town take a strange turn when one by one, her classmates are violently murdered. No one knows who is next on the killer’s list or why they are being targeted, but Makani realises her past may soon catch up with her.

The title of this book alone – There’s Someone Inside Your House – has the familiar nostalgic feel to the popular slasher films of the 90’s. A quiet town, a group of high schoolers, each one of them inadvertently involved in a mass killing spree. Stephanie Perkins recreates that chilling plotline here in this contemporary YA thriller, with an attempt to flesh out the characters more than we would normally be accustomed to in this style of novel. Does it work? A little, although the focus on character development did cause the plot to fall a bit flat.

I think I expected a bit more from this novel. It starts well – the tension is built up from the beginning as we are told of the death of the first victim. The scenes where we see the murders were my favourite parts by far, which may seem morbid but I felt that they created the most atmosphere. While it’s not exactly frightening, it does have its fair share of guts and gore which I don’t mind but perhaps it’s something to be wary of if it’s not your thing. The thriller/slasher part of the story I really enjoyed; it was just what I was hoping for when I first started reading. However, it was the other half of the plot that let it down for me.

As a protagonist I knew from the get-go that Makani has something to hide. She’s a person of interest because you know she has a past she wants to keep hidden and the mystery of her story runs alongside the main plot. Yet the focus of this was taken away by her budding romantic relationship with Ollie, the school outcast. I don’t mind a bit of romance in a thriller story; it breaks things up a bit and adds another layer to the plot, but after a while this started to feel like a romance novel with a slasher side story. It was entertaining enough but it lacked a certain ‘umph’ that would have kept me completely hooked.

There’s Someone Inside Your House is an otherwise interesting addition to the young adult thriller genre. It doesn’t necessarily add anything new but it’s an entertaining read written in an easy style, and it’s a good story to get cosy with in the cold autumn months. If you like YA romances and thriller stories then this might be one to check out, but don’t go in to this expecting a complex and intricate plot.

Overall rating: 2 stars

If you'd like to check out my other reviews you can see them here. Until next time, happy reading, fellow book lovers.

My arc copy of There's Someone Inside Your House was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.

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Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Authors I Want to Read More Of

I've been thinking lately about the authors I enjoy and those of whom I'd like to read more of. Some I feel like I haven't given enough of a chance to find out if I really enjoy their work, whereas others I know their writing will hook me no matter what. I've narrowed my choice of to four and I thought I'd write a post about the authors I've chosen and tell you more about why I want to pick up their books. So, here goes:


MARGARET ATWOOD

A reputable and prolific writer, Atwood had been on my radar for a good many years. I read The Handmaid's Tale back when I was at university and I won't lie, since watching the TV adaptation I've been itching to pick up another Atwood. I've also read Oryx and Crake which I really enjoyed but I've yet to pick up the rest of the books in the trilogy so I think I'll continue with those for my next Atwood pick. But I also want to try Alias Grace soon, and I have no shame in saying that it was it's upcoming adaptation that sparked my curiosity because it looks and sounds amazing. Reading more Atwood has been on my to-do list for the longest time and I'm eager to rectify this in the not too distant future.


SARAH WATERS

My relationship with Sarah Waters is an odd one because I've only read one of her books and I didn't enjoy it. I read Affinity way back in 2012 and I didn't really think much of it. It's always saddened me that my first venture in to her works wasn't a positive one because on paper Sarah Waters novels sound like the kind of books I should love. I'm eager to give her another chance and Fingersmith seems like a good one to pick up since it seems to be a firm favourite with lovers of her writing. I'll let you know how I get on once I've read it.


GILLIAN FLYNN

I won't deny it - Gone Girl is one of the best thrillers I've ever read. It may not count for much since I haven't read a ton of a thriller/crime books but GG definitely stands out for me among the rest. I find thrillers to be an easy genre to read, one that I know I can get my teeth in to an devour in just a few sittings. When I read Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects earlier this year this was the exact outcome so I certainly plan on reading her other two published novels. 


ROSE TREMAIN

A fairly new one for me but Rose Tremain has quickly become an author of particular interest. She writes historical fiction but isn't set to writing in one era and since reading her most recent novel, The Gustav Sontana a few months ago, I'm eager to read more of her writing. The one that caught my eye is Restoration, which is set in the court of Charles II in seventeenth century England. This period is one I love to read about and it'll be interesting to see how her writing compares when reading a novel set in the 1600's rather than WWII Europe.

***

Let me know, have you read any of these authors or want to read them? I'm hoping to get to at least a couple in the next few months so lets see how I get on! In the mean time if you'd like to check out some of my other reading goals you can find them here.

Until next time, happy reading!
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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

A Little Unhaul

I think I sometimes enjoy getting rid of books as much as I enjoy buying them. There's something about taking a book that you didn't enjoy off your shelves and passing in on to a new home. I have very limited shelf space and I'm picky with the books I choose to keep. It's my goal in life to one day have a room full of books and I want all of the books I put on my shelves to have been ones that I've enjoyed. If a book isn't for me then I pass it on, and that includes books that I've had on my TBR and no longer feel like picking up. So I thought I'd take you through some of the books that are destined to move on to a better home, where hopefully they can be more well-loved. 


THE WANDERERS BY MEG HOWREY (2017)
Simon and Schuster UK  384 pages

I read The Martian last year and it was one of my favourite books of 2016. Since then I've wanted to read another sci-fi novel that made me feel all the feels that Andy Weir's debut did. I thought I might have found it with The Wanderers because it screamed 'for readers who loved The Martian'. Sadly, this just didn't cut it for me. The story follows three astronauts as they take part in a simulation to prepare them for a journey to Mars, each of them having their own narrative as well as members of their individual families. 



To me it all felt very flat. The story never lifted off the ground (excuse the pun) and with so many characters getting their chance at telling the story I was left feeling confused and less and less interested. This was sent to me for review back in April and it was a very underwhelming experience. I'm surprised I still have my copy after all this time so it's well overdue to be sent to a new home. 



CLOUD ATLAS DAVID MITCHELL (2005)
Sceptre  531 pages


This book has been on my shelves for years. I bought it second hand around 5 years ago (no exaggeration) and it's been sat unread since. This was one of those books that I'd heard a lot of people talk about so I picked up because it was popular, but I've never once been inclined to actually read it. After several years of sitting on my shelves untouched I think it's about time that I finally let Cloud Atlas go. If I'm not going to read it after all this time I'm pretty sure I never will. 



LOOKING FOR ALASKA BY JOHN GREEN (2006)
Harper Collins • 263 pages


This is one of those "it's not you, it's me moments" because I think the time may have come where I finally say goodbye to John Green. The Fault in Our Stars is still on my shelves for the time being but I've been weighing up whether or not I should keep Looking For Alaska for a while now. I liked it at the time I read it, but I've slowly been reading less and less YA over the years and I doubt I'll read this one again. It never left a lasting impression on me so this is another one I'm putting on to my to-donate pile. 




THE BUTCHER'S HOOK BY JANET ELLIS (2016)
Two Roads • 349 pages

You might remember that I wrote about my reading progress with The Butcher's Hook in a recent post. Spoiler: I didn't get along with it. I made it about half way and decided to give up, and even now I still feel kind of sad about it because I really thought I was going to love it. Historical fiction set in eighteenth-century London with an anti-heroine at the centre of the story sounded exactly like my kind of read. I gave it a fair try but the writing style and the story failed to grab me. Sadly, I think this is one of my most disappointing reads of the year.

***

There are several others that I've decided I know longer want to keep, but we could be here forever if I went through each book that I'm un-hauling. They'll be many more in the future too no doubt. If some books aren't for you it's best to pass them on in the hope they will find someone who can love them.

If you'd like to check out more of my reviews (some of which I most certainly won't be un-hauling) then you can check them out here. Until next time, happy reading fellow book lovers!

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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Review: S.T.A.G.S. by M. A. Bennett



S.T.A.G.S. by M. A Bennett (2017)
Hot Key Books  304 pages

One weekend. Three deadly activities. Greer MacDonald is a new student at the prestigious St Aidan the Great Boarding School, known to its exclusive pupils as S.T.A.G.S. It is a school where technology is absent, the teachers are replaced by friars, and a group of elite students –known as the Medievals – run the school. When Greer inexplicably receives an invitation from the Medievals to spend a weekend at the stately home of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular boy at school, she is too curious decline such an invitation. But little does Greer realise that there is more to the weekend than she initially understands. Ultimately, she and the other two students who have been invited must come together to uncover the truth about the infamous Medievals, and the blood sports they have been chosen to take part in.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read from the start. S.T.A.G.S feels a little bit like a mash up of The Hunger Games and Downton Abbey, which sounds like a strange comparison but it really works. You're thrown in to the historical and prestigious boarding school, which feels overwhelming and daunting at the same time. From the opening line I was in Greer's shoes, suddenly in a world entirely cut off from modern society and feeling like I was transported in to the past, much like the aptly named Medievals who unofficially run the school. Then things take a dark turn and the seemingly ideal fa├žade of S.T.A.G.S is torn away to reveal a disturbing and rotten underbelly. I read this in one sitting, which for me is something that rarely happens.

M.A. Bennett (I later found out) is a pseudonym for writer Marina Fiorato, who as you may know I was already familiar with through her delightful historical novels. This is her first shot at YA but I doubt it'll be her last because she writes effortlessly. From the outset, you know something has gone wrong – you're told that on the first page. But the journey throughout is gripping and I was sucked in to Greer's story as she becomes swept up in a mysterious and dangerous game. The plot is fast but it doesn't hold back on fleshing out its characters and providing believable character arcs for a novel that feels slim, but one that ultimately packs a punch. And whilst a fun read, it sheds light on issues such as class and morality. It's entertaining but there's a deeper meaning to the story which shines through.

Although a YA novel, S.T.A.G.S has a thriller-mystery spark to it that makes it stand out from so many other Young Adult novels. It's contemporary but the tranquil English country setting gives it a unique edge that compliments the entire feel of the book. It's thrilling and despite the dark elements to the story, I enjoyed the fact that there was a strong friendship at the centre. I like to root for the characters I'm reading about and spur them on, and that's exactly what I did with Greer and her companions throughout. There's definitely potential for a sequel, but even as a standalone this works brilliantly. Definitely one of the best YA books I've read all year.

Overall rating: 4 stars

If you'd like to check out my other reviews you can see them here. Until next time, happy reading, fellow book lovers.

My arc copy of STAGS was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.

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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Book Haul ft. Marina Fiorato


So, I bought some books. My TBR shelf was looking a bit sparse so I thought I'd treat myself to a few new reads, in particular,  the novels of Marina Fiorato. I read The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavannah last year and loved it, and since then I've been meaning to try out some more of her work. I'm keen to get to all of these soon because they all sound like great reads. I was also recently sent S.T.A.G.S by M. A. Bennett for review which I later found out is a pseudonym of Marina Fiorato and what re-sparked my interest in reading some more of her work. S.T.A.G.S is a brilliant YA thriller and my review is up on The Bookbag if you want to know more about it.

Anyway, on with the books:


THE BOTTICELLI SECRET (2010)
Hodder Books • 514 pages

An irrepressible young woman in 15th-century Italy must flee for her life after stumbling upon a deadly secret when she serves as a model for Botticelli... When part-time model and full-time prostitute Luciana Vetra is asked by one of her most exalted clients to pose for a painter friend, she doesn't mind serving as the model for the central figure of Flora in Sandro Botticelli's masterpiece "Primavera." But when the artist dismisses her without payment, Luciana impulsively steals an unfinished version of the painting--only to find that someone is ready to kill her to get it back. 

Fourteenth-century Italy was a rich and sumptuous era and one I'm always keen to read more of in historical novels.  Kate Quinn's The Borgia Chronicles sparked my interest in this particular place in history and The Botticelli Secret sounds like a lot of fun. A story about centred around art, mystery, and possibly murder? Count me in. It's a chunker of a book but if the premise is anything to live up to then I'll fly through it.




THE DAUGHTER OF SIENA (2011)
John Murray Publishers • 387 pages

Amid the intrigue and danger of 18th-century Italy, a young woman becomes embroiled in romance and treachery with a rider in the Palio, the breath-taking horse race set in Siena.... It's 1729, and the Palio, a white-knuckle horse race, is soon to be held in the heart of the peerless Tuscan city of Siena. But the beauty and pageantry masks the deadly rivalry that exists among the city's districts. Each ward, represented by an animal symbol, puts forth a rider to claim the winner's banner, but the contest turns citizens into tribes and men into beasts--and beautiful, headstrong, young Pia Tolomei is in love with a rider of an opposing ward, an outsider who threatens the shaky balance of intrigue and influence that rules the land.

The eighteenth-century is another historical era I'm keen to read more of, although to be honest, any historical novel set pre-1800 instantly grabs my attention. This one definitely sounds like more a romance which I don't usually go for, but the plot sounds different to any other historical novel I've read (a story centred around a horse race?). I think I'll save this one for when I'm feeling a bit soft at heart and in the mood for some love.



THE VENETIAN CONTRACT (2012)

John Murray Publishers • 407 pages

1576. Five years after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, a ship steals unnoticed into Venice bearing a deadly cargo. A man more dead than alive disembarks and staggers into Piazza San Marco. He brings a gift to Venice from Constantinople. Within days the city is infected with bubonic plague—and the Turkish Sultan has his revenge. But the ship also holds a secret stowaway—Feyra, a young and beautiful harem doctor fleeing a future as the Sultan's concubine. Only her wits and medical knowledge keep her alive as the plague ravages Venice.

Out of all three of the books in the haul, I think this is the one I have my eye on most at the moment. A story woven in to sixteenth-century Venice full of adventure, mystery, and a woman ahead of her time are all the things I look for in a historical novel. This has the potential to be amazing and I only hope it lives up to my expectations! The Venetian Contract is a high contender for being my next historical read.


***

I don’t think three books is bad for a book haul. I’ve been tempted to buy a few more over the last month but I’ve held back and not let my TBR shelf become too crowded. Let’s see how I hold out throughout September…


Until next time, happy reading!

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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Currently Reading?

Do you ever look at the pile of books you're currently reading and not feel inclined to pick any of them up? This is how my reading situation stands at the moment as the books on my bedside table pile up. I have a few books on the go but so far none of them are really grabbing me, and although I'm fine with DNF-ing books it's not something I do easily. I like to think I've given the book fair chance, especially if it's so well loved by others. But with my current reads, I feeling like wiping the slate clean with them all and starting my currently reading pile afresh. To help me make up I mind, I thought I'd jot down what I'm reading at the moment and how I feel about each of them. So here we go:



Little Nothing by Marissa Silver (2013)
One World Publishing

This one came in my March Moth Box and unlike the previous books I'd received through from the Box, this one I'd heard of. It's a literary novel blended with fairy tale elements and it's set in an unknown country at the beginning of the last century. The story has a mysterious feel embedded within its pages, and although this isn't a typical book for me to reach for, I was intrigued by it.



I'll give it the benefit of the doubt: I thought the story started off well and I was fascinated by the tale of Pavla, a child born with dwarfism as we follow her struggles through childhood. The writing style is delicate and whimsical, but I slowly started to become less and less interested. I'm only 80 pages in, but I've been reading it for close to a month now and I have no desire to continue with it. Perhaps I should just sit down with it for an hour and see where it takes me, but otherwise I think this will be one I'll have to abandon. 



The Butcher's Hook by Janet Ellis (2016)
Two Roads

I bought this back in January after hearing it's praises being sung all over BookTube by numerous people who I'm forever taking bookish advice from. As a fan of historical fiction, I find it's a genre that doesn't get discussed as much as others, so when I heard about The Butcher's Hook I got really excited. Set in London in the Summer of 1763 we follow Anne Jaccob, the young daughter of wealthy parents whose home life is anything but happy. On the brink of being married off to a man twice her age, she finds joy when she meets Fub, the butcher's apprentice, and starts to fantasise about a life of passion with him. 


It sounds amazing and again, this is one that started off well and then slowly started to lose my interest. I'm around half way through and 169 pages in but I feel like nothing has really happened. I don't need masses of plot to enjoy a book, but I'm not connecting to the characters either. The story is plodding along very slowly and the writing style started to grate on me after the first few chapters. It's literary but wordy, and I find it comes off a bit 'try hard'.



This is one I thought I was going to love and sadly I'm left disappointed. I may try and read another chapter to see if my interest picks up after a few days away from the story, but ultimately this is a 2 star read for me at best. 




My other reads lately have also been pretty hit and miss. Just yesterday I finished Perfume by Patrick Suskind (a book from The List) and gave it 2 stars. I was close to DNF-ing that too, but it was so short that I powered through. What I need is a really good book. Since reading The Alice Network my reading has become a barren wasteland for books I want to abandon. I've a few books in the pipeline which I'm hoping will drag me out of this funk.

In other news, I'm just two books away from reaching my reading goal for the year! *inserts dancing gif*


Happy reading, book lovers!

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Friday, 4 August 2017

Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn


THE ALICE NETWORK (2017)
William Morrow Publishing  528 pages

It’s 1947. The Second World War has ended and American socialite Charlie St. Clair is unmarried and pregnant. After she’s shipped off to Europe by her family to have her ‘little problem’ taken care of, Charlie decides to take matters in to her own hands and head to London. She is clinging on to a small hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi occupied France, may still be alive and she thinks she’s found the person who will have the answers. Meanwhile, former British spy Evelyn Gardiner spends her days drunk and alone, still haunted by what she endured during her espionage in the First War. That is until a young American shows up at her door uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in years. This meeting forces two unlikely women together as they go in search of the truth, no matter what the cost.

Historical fiction is by far my favourite genre to read, yet I haven’t read many books set during and around the world wars. It’s not really a period I reach for when I want to get my teeth in to a good historical novel. With The Alice Network however, I made an exception and the payoff couldn’t have been better. I've been a fan of Kate Quinn for years and I've been anxiously waiting the release of this book for months, although I’ll admit I was a bit tentative when I found out she’d branched out from her usual stories set in Ancient Rome and Renaissance Italy to write something completely different. But from the first page I knew I had nothing to worry about because this had me hooked from start to finish. It’s raw and brutal and utterly mesmerising. This is historical fiction at its very best.

The story is brilliantly paced, each chapter alternating between Charlie’s story in 1947 and Eve’s espionage in France in 1915. Both women have their own stories to tell but you know ultimately that both narratives will come together and Quinn weaves them together masterfully. Some parts of the narrative were slower than others but even when events weren’t unfolding on the page at rapid speed I was always engrossed in the story, wanting more and more from the next chapter. Quinn’s signature style is abundant throughout and it’s laced with her usual humour which had me crying one moment and gasping the next.

Quinn is undoubtedly a masterful storyteller, but it’s her characters which never cease to amaze me. The Alice Network is influenced by real events and so some of the characters are based on real people, who Quinn fleshes out wonderfully. Charlie and Eve came alive on the page and the supporting characters were all equally brilliant. The whole plot is wrapped in secrets and gradually both Eve and Charlie uncover the truth – I can’t say any more than that but both timelines come together wonderfully. The story and the characters have stuck with me long after I turned the final page and I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. 

If you’re looking for a gripping page turner then look no further. This book captivated me and left me on the edge of my seat. It’s compassionate, emotional, and an enthralling reading experience I would whole heartedly recommend. It was everything I wanted it to be and more.

Overall rating: 5 stars
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Thursday, 20 July 2017

Review: The Madonna of the Pool by Helen Stancey



THE MADONNA OF THE POOL BY HELEN STANCEY
2017 • 142 pages • Fairlight Books

In most short story collections, an overarching theme is usually present in each of the narratives which help each story gently flow in to the next.  In this debut collection Helen Stancey explores the quiet disappointments, achievements, and complications that each of us experience through everyday life. She draws attention to the small events and decisions that can both disrupt and significantly alter the lives of others and ourselves, all while maintaining a delicately poetic tone throughout.

This is certainly a quiet collection of stories, in that it doesn’t feel as though you’re being bombarded with dramatic imagery or metaphors. Instead, Stancey has pieced together a collection that feels subtle and truthful to the human experience without feeling overwrought. Each story follows a different character – or group of characters – as they deal with a significant event in their lives, usually one of disappointment or loss but the significance behind each of them is how the characters move on from their experience. Overall, it’s a realistic portrayal of human endurance captured in twelve short stories, each intently focused to create a snapshot of the characters’ everyday trials and triumphs.

I find short story collections great when you want a bit of variety in your reading and whilst Stancey has a poetic and dreamy way of writing, very few of these stories stuck with me. As I said, this is a very quiet collection which draws attention to the small yet challenging events in life, but I confess I did find some of them quite dry. The story that I enjoyed the most was Shall We Dance? which followed the character Anna as she attended her mother’s funeral, where she quietly reminisced on her childhood memories of her mother. Whilst a sad story it brought focus to Anna’s own relationship with her own children, and how with death comes life – an inevitable cycle we are all a part of. I found it to be the most thoughtful story in the collection and the one that I was moved by the most.

The other stories, while good, didn’t strike me as especially memorable and I think short story collections are subjective depending on their reader. Stancey’s style is certainly readable and effortless in its execution but I just wasn’t wowed by it, which is what I was hoping for. However, I did enjoy the similar tone that ran throughout each of the narratives; each story has a feeling of melancholia wrapped within it but simultaneously there is also a hint of hope and ambition beneath the sadness. I guess what Stancey was hoping to get across from this collection is that where there is disappointment, there is also optimism. For me however, where there were one or two memorable stories in this collection, the rest were simply okay.

My copy of The Madonna of the Pool was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.

Overall rating: 2 stars
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Saturday, 1 July 2017

Mid Year Update

It's a little hard to believe but we're already a little over halfway through the year - 2017 is flying by, guys! Summer has hit and it felt like February was only last month, but in light of having hit the mid-way point in the year I thought I would do a little update to see how my reading has been going so far this year.




2017 READING CHALLENGE

My GoodReads goal for 2017 is to read 40 books. I've had this same goal for the past few years but I have to say that year is going much smoother than usual. So far I've read 30 books, which puts me 10 ahead of schedule and I haven't felt under pressure once. Each year I read a little more than the last but this year I feel like I'm on a roll! I've made more time for reading without it feeling strenuous and I'm really pleased with the mount of books I've read so far.



FAVOURITES OF THE YEAR (SO FAR)

It's not very often I give a book five stars. I only give them primarily to books that earn a spot on my list of absolute favourites, and new favourite books don't pop up very often. The only book I've awarded five stars to so far this is Pride and Prejudice and that was a re-read back in February. I've had a few very good reads but nothing that's completely blown me away and left me thinking about it weeks after. But here are some of the books I have really enjoyed so far this year:

  • Shelter by Jung Yun
  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang
  • The Birds by Daphne du Maurier
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  • The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
Whether any of these will end up on my list of favourite reads of the year in December only time will tell. There's still six month left of the year to read some more amazing books. 


MOST ANTICIPATED READS FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR

There's one book I've been waiting what feel like the better part of a year to be released and in July it's finally out in the U.K. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is undoubtedly my most anticipated read of the year - I've been so pumped about it I even pre-ordered it on Amazon and I'm so excited that it's release date it nearly here! It's a different to her usual novels set in Ancient Rome or Renaissance Italy in that it's a WWII drama than spans two different timelines, but I've no doubt it'll have Quinn's signature style all over it.




BOOKS I PLAN TO READ BY THE END OF 2017

Looking over my 2017 Reading Goals I feel like I'm doing pretty well with the challenges I've set myself: I've been reading short stories, some non-fiction, and even translated works. My reading has definitely developed and I'm reading on a wider scope now than I ever have before. Monthly TBR's aren't something I always set myself/stick to but there are a few books I would like to get to by the end of the year:

  • Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
  • The Muse by Jessie Burton
  • For The Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser
  • The Butcher's Hook by Janet Ellis
Ideally I'd like to get through all of the books on my physical TBR, but it's important to be realistic, right? If I manage to get to these four by the end of the year I'll be pleased. 

***

So there we go - my mid-year reading update. I think my reading this year has gone pretty well so far. How's your reading going? Have you read or are planning to read any of the books I've mentioned?

Happy reading, book lovers!

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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Review: Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge



CASTLE OF WATER BY DALE HUCKLEBRIDGE
2017 HQ Press • 384 pages

Barry Bleeker and Sophie Ducel are two very different people destined to take the same journey. As they are both aboard a flight to the Marquesas Islands, their tiny plane crashes leaving Barry and Sophie the only survivors. Until recently, Barry was an investment banker in New York before he decided to leave his life behind and pursue his dream of painting. Sophie meanwhile, was a French architect who along with her husband Etienne was planning a honeymoon of a lifetime. Now Barry and Sophie are alone on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific, where they must learn to put aside their differences and survive.


I’ve no doubt you’ve heard this kind of story before. Stick two very different people who dislike one another together on a desert island and you can probably guess where the story is going to end up. It’s your classic stranded-at-sea tale that has been used as a plot device for many books and films but do you know, it doesn’t matter because it’s how the story is executed which makes this work. Dane Huckelbridge brings together all the usual elements familiar to a survival story and adds humour and history to make what is an emotional and fascinating novel about human relationships.


Both characters are faced with the standard problems that come with being stranded on a desert island: meagre food, basic rations recovered from the crash, very little shelter, and nothing but water surrounding them for miles. Barry and Sophie may heartily dislike their current situation and both of them are grieving the lives they once had, but they are survivors and so they must learn how to survive. It does take a little while to build up pace and the first third or so of the story plays with some pretty predictable stereotypes, but it does develop in to a rather moving narrative.


Instead of being just about survival, the story bends in a way so it becomes about the characters. Their story is one of survival but ultimately there is more to it than that. You learn about the lives of both characters before fate washed them on to the shores of an uninhabited island and Huckelbridge manages to mould Barry and Sophie in to well rounded, diverse characters. Stripped down, it’s a simple story but it manages to simultaneously deal with complex and life shattering issues.

When you only have two people driving the plot, there is the worry that the story will run dry and become stale but Castle of Water stays fresh throughout. The imagery is rich and the language captures Barry and Sophie’s struggle to survive wonderfully. Each small victory or major inconvenience they experience is magnified due to their situation and I did feel as though I was experiencing their journey with them. I will admit, I did see where the story would end up from quite early on but I don’t really think it mattered because I had a pleasant experience reading this book. It’s touching, darkly humorous, and emotional throughout. It was a delightful read and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to read it.


Overall rating: 3 stars

My copy of Castle of Water was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.
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