The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb for this book intrigued me instantly, as did it’s description of being a bit Agatha Christie/Groundhog Day/Quantum Leap, however I have to admit that as I sat down to begin this story I was apprehensive given the length of the book! At a hefty 512 pages I was worried it would be overly wordy and lose the momentum that mystery books like this need to keep a reader invested in the plot.

I needn’t have worried. I have never been so impressed with a mystery/crime book in my life. I was hooked instantly even though I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I love that the reader is plonked into the same position as the lead character and drip fed clues and information and for the most part has no idea of the significance of an action until much later in the book.

I usually love guessing the ending of mysteries, but find myself a little disappointed if I do manage to guess the ending or if the ending is so baffling it would never be able to be guessed by a sane person. Stuart Turton has achieved the impossible and created a mystery which ends so perfectly, which makes all the sense in the world but which very, very few people would be able to see coming.

I’m very cautious about reviewing this book in detail as I don’t want to give away a single plot point because it was such an incredible feeling to read this book knowing nothing about it. I was completely immersed and desperate to find out what would happen next.

I will say that I loved the sci-fi aspect of the plot, and I thought the repetition of the days was achieved masterfully. How on earth all the loose ends managed to get tied up at the end is completely astounding but very satisfying as a reader.

I cannot rave about this book enough and have already recommended it to several friends. I think this Christmas I may just bulk buy copies and hand them out to everyone I know.
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The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Nobody can write war like Pat Barker. Not the romanticised bloody battles which are so often written about, but the heart rending, visceral, brutal effect that war has on humanity.

Back in college I read Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy and it connected me with WWI in a way that nothing else had managed. The Silence of the Girls had a similar effect. It took one of the greatest Greek myths ever told and made it accessible. The familiar characters became flesh and blood, more flawed than heroic and the women who had been previously ignored became their own people, with personalities and emotions.

Their fear and disgust became mine and I could feel myself in their camp, smelling the blood and the sweat and following them around as they tried to survive.

I loved Briseis and couldn’t help rooting for her to escape Achilles and find some kind of happiness in her future.

I found it really important that this book wasn’t a love story. Briseis didn’t fall helplessly in love with the man who enslaved her. She didn’t forget that he had murdered her family and Pat Barker doesn’t shy away from the fact that these so called heroes are raping women they have claimed as prizes. It is such an important book and it really makes you think about the way these stories have classically been told, with faceless women doing what they are told because the men deserve their spoils of war.

I thoroughly recommend this book, it’s one of my top reads of the year.
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Always Forever Maybe by Anica Mrose Rissi

Always Forever Maybe by Anica Mrose Rissi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exhange for an honest review.

I would find it very hard to say I enjoyed reading this book given the subject matter, however, I can say that it is a very powerful, engaging and important book.

Always Forever Maybe tracks the relationship between Betts and Aiden, from the first head over heels, love at first sight moment, to the intense puppy dog love stage and beyond into more toxic territory.

Anica Mrose Rissi charts the rise and fall of this abusive relationship so realistically it is very difficult to read in places. Although Aiden does become more psychically abusive towards Betts as the book goes on, much of the story focuses on his emotional abuse- alienating his girlfriend from her friends, trying to change her behaviour and making her apologise for insignificant things so that she keeps the peace and avoids his dramatic mood changes.

The intense fast-paced nature of this relationship is so common in abusive relationships. It’s a way of gaining complete control over a person and making them feel as if they need the relationship and can’t leave. Even with the support of her friends, Betts still found herself trapped, feeling as if Aiden was the only thing that mattered.

I loved Betts and Jo’s friendship, and the unwavering support Jo showed for Betts even when she was being a bad friend to her. Jo also provided some much needed comic relief in this book and was probably my favourite character for this reason.

Although it was difficult to read, I’m glad a book like this is out there. This type of toxic behaviour in relationships can be so easy to explain away when you think you are in love. Hopefully, this book will help some people realise that they shouldn’t be subjecting themselves to such treatment.

Whilst it’s incredibly well written, I only recommend this book to you if you feel you can handle the topic. If you are at all senstive to the subject of domestic abuse I would advise reader discretion.

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I have lost my way by Gayle Forman

I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve never read any Gayle Forman before so I was really interested to see what I though of “I lost my way” when I won a copy via Twitter.

From the first page I was completley drawn into the story and I binge-read it in one sitting. I couldn’t help it!

The book follows three people who have “lost their way”. Freya, an up-and-coming recording artist who had lost her voice; Harun, a gay muslim who is about to leave his secret boyfriend behind and enter into an arranged marriage with a woman; and Nathaniel whose home life has completely fallen apart leaving him all alone.

All three stories converge at the beginning of the book, whcih follows them over the course of a single day. During this day they help each other find themselves and discover what life can be like if you’re true to yourself.

I think part of the reason this book was so easy to read is Gayle Forman’s writing style. She has a really clear, simple way of putting accross a lot of complex emotion. The three main characters all jump off the page at you and their voices are all so individual. I love POV books for this reason; I enjoy hearing the inner workings of each characters minds and in this book it really helped me to see why each character so desperately needed the support of their new friends. Vitally for a POV book, each of the story arcs were captivating and well developed so there was no feeling of being desperate for a different story line to continue. They were all as strong as each other and beautifully interwoven.

Each of the three protagonist’s stories were incredibly sad, however, when I finished reading the book I felt really positive and happy. The way they all came together to protect and save their new friends after only a day of knowing each other was so beautiful and I loved the dynamic between them.

There is potential for a sequal to be written and I would welcome one with open arms because I am not ready to leave these characters yet. Having said that, this book did beautifully conclude this chapter of their lives so it could just as easily be left as a standalone novel.

*This book does deal with difficult themes such as suicide and homophobia so please be aware of this before you decide to read*

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From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon

From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sometimes in life you just need to let yourself read a fluffy, happy, sunshiney contemporary book and last year my favourite contemporary read was “When Dimple met Rishi”. I loved it so much as soon as “From Twinkle, with Love” was announced I pre-ordered it straight away. I still couldn’t resist requesting it on Netgalley as well and I definitely did a happy dance when I got the notification that I was approved.

“From Twinkle, with Love” follows Twinkle Mehra, an aspiring filmmaker with a huge amount of ambition and talent and a massive crush on swim-superstar Neil Roy, but when she is approached by Neil’s twin brother Sahil to direct a film for the upcoming Summer festival, Twinkle starts to fall for the other Roy brother.

I loved how cute this book was. The characters all seemed genuinely high school age, they weren’t trying to be older than they are and the things they were concerned with were all refreshingly normal.

Twinkle’s family dynamic was also a strong factor to the book, helping to explain the attitude problem she has at times. Whilst her relationship with her parents was complicated, the constant unwavering love from Dadi was beautiful and she stole the scene whenever she appeared.

The romance between Twinkle and Sahil was heart meltingly adorable and I read most of the book desperate for Twinkle to come to her senses and drop her fixation with boring athlete Neil and fall head over heels for nerdy, film obssessed, devoted Sahil instead.

The cultural identity of this book is so strong, as it was for “Dimple”, and whilst it’s not Sandhya Menon’s job to teach us about Indian culture, I enjoy being able to read a book in which the culture is so integral to the story because you do end up learning a lot. More importantly, it’s so vital and wonderful that many young people will see themselves represented in this book where previously they haven’t been.

“From Twinkle, with Love” is a must read book for the summer if you love fun, flirty contemporary reads.

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank you to Macmillan and My Kinda Book for providing an uncorrected proof copy.

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

If you are remotely interested in the world of YA fiction you can’t have missed the hype surrounding Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel Children of Blood Bone. For this reason, I was thrilled when My Kinda Book offered to send me an ARC. My first reaction was, wow, that’s a big book. It’s possibly the longest YA book I’ve ever seen at a mighty 600 pages but trust me when I say there is no fat to this book. Every word is vital to the story. It’s an intricate, beautifully woven story and the parallels it draws between the society of Orisha and our own society is stark and important.

Children of Blood and Bone opens in an Orisha devoid of magic where once it was rich. Different majis had different powers; some were burners, others were reapers controlling death alongside healers and tiders who could control the waves. Zelie, our heroine and the daughter of a reaper, has become used to life without magic, without her mother and with the ever present danger of a monarchy hell bent on eradicationg magic forever shadowing her life. Zelie has one chance to bring back magic and with the help of her brother and a rogue princess she embarks on an epic journey to acheive her goal, whilst struggling to contain her powers and her feelings for an enemy.

It’s not often that a book can be so hyped and yet live up to that reputation. This book is rich with mythology and world building and Adeyemi has masterfully crafted her characters to the point where I felt bereft when I finished reading because I missed them. The story switched from the point of view of each of the four main characters and this was so effective because it made me keep switching my point of view. At times I could totally see the justification for wanting to take away magic and then would come a Zelie chapter and I’d be right back to wanting to kick the monarchy’s butt.

Zelie as a heroine is so inspirational. She’s a complete bad ass but also massively flawed. She makes a lot of mistakes but the very core of her is good. Her moral compass is unwavering and her courage is unmatched.

Aside from the epic action and adventure of the book, I really enjoyed the romance aspects. It was a slow burner and completely additional to the plot so not focused on too heavily. It was a nice light relief and added another facet to the characters.

Children of Blood and Bone is an incredible piece of fantasy fiction and it was a wonderful escapism for me to disappear to Orisha on my lunch break or before I went to sleep each night. However, it also focuses on issues that are at the forefront of our society, heavily featuring racially-charged violence and injustice. It’s incredible to me that this book can be such an entertaining fantasy story whilst also being so powerful in conveying important messages that we can and should apply to our own lives.

As if by the end of the book we didn’t already know that Adeymi is a master storyteller, I think the cliffhanger she leaves us on makes it abundently clear. I find it hard to believe that anyone who has read this book isn’t waiting with bated breath for the next installment in the series.

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The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recived an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

I’ve followed Dawn O’Porter’s career for a while now, enjoying her social media presence and the documentaries she made several years ago on taboo topics such as mail order brides and polyamory. For this reason I was intrigued when I head the premise of this book, and thought that it couldn’t be more of a Dawn O’Porter topic to write about.

The shock value of this book, which was heavily picked up in the media and was all I’d really heard about before I sat down to read it, is that it follows Tara, a single mum in her mid-30s who is filmed (without her knowledge) masturbating on what she thinks is a deserted tube train late one Friday night. The book looks at how society reacts to such a bold display of feminine sexuality and how Tara’s life is effectively ruined because of a momentary lapse in judgement.

The book also follows two other women, who are in completely different situations but are equally facing judgement from society for not “following the herd” (which kind of explains the title of the book) or rather, not taking the traditional roles expected for women. Camilla is a rich blogger, happily single and adament she does not want children, whilst Stella is dealing with the loss of her Mother and identical twin sister to cancer and the knowledge that she has an 85% chance of contracting cancer in her lifetime unless she has her breasts and womb removed.

Once I started this book I found it very hard to put down. The three plots are each as gripping as each other and intertwine in a clever way. You do have to suspend your belief a bit as quite a bit of the action is somewhat far-fetched (I’m particularly thinking about the climax of Stella’s storyline here) but once you give yourself up to the madness it’s a bonkers and completely enjoyable thrill ride.

Dawn O’Porter can write women in a way not many people can. It’s clear she’s a people person in life and understands women of all kinds. She writes mothers and child-free women with equal believability and she really has a handle on the important issues facing women today. This book has an exciting fictional plot but underneath the craziness there’s a lot of truth which should give any reader a lot of food for thought.

Given the subject matter it’s not surprising that parts of this book are quite sexually explicit. I felt that this was approached in quite an empowering way for women. All of the sex in this book is on women’s terms, for the pleasure or benefit of the woman involved.

I couldn’t have asked for anything more in a piece of women’s fiction than I got in this book. It was a bit bonkers, really entertaining and thought-provoking.

The Cows is now available in paperback edition, click below to buy a copy.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cows-Dawn-OP…

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