book meme

WWW Wednesday | 3 March

Hi everyone! I’m back with another WWW Wednesday, hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The three Ws to be answered are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

Transcendent Kingdom

I’m currently reading Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (thank you to NetGalley & the publishers for a copy of this book), which is out in the UK on 4 March. So far, I’m really enjoying this one! It’s very different Gyasi’s other book, Homegoing, which I absolutely loved – but that’s not a bad thing. Transcendent Kingdom follows Gifty, a neuroscience PhD student who is studying the affects of depression and addiction. Switching between the present and the past, it also tells the story of her childhood, as part of a Ghanian family living in Alabama. Her writing, as expected, is superb.

What did you recently finish reading?

Every Last Fear: Amazon.co.uk: Finlay, Alex: 9781250268822: Books

My last read was Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay, a thriller which grapples with two mysteries about the Pine family. Did Danny Pine, the eldest son, really kill his teenage girlfriend? A new true crime Netflix documentary thinks not. And, when the Pine family (apart from Matt, our main character), is found dead on holiday, was foul play involved? Or was it an accident? I linked my review if you’re interested in how I found it.

Just before that, I finished Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – I absolutely adored it and I will be posting a very gushing review very soon, I’m sure.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Luster: Amazon.co.uk: Leilani, Raven: 9781529035988: Books

I just posted my March tbr, so you can check that out to see all of the books I want to read this month. I haven’t decided what I want to read next – I think it’ll be very dependent on my mood. Perhaps Luster by Raven Leilani. I’m very intrigued to see if that lives up to the hype.

What are you currently reading? And what do you think you’ll read next?

to-read

Bedside books: March tbr

So what books are on my bedside, waiting to be read this month?

I’m hoping to make a dent in my physical tbr, and I also have a couple of ARCs I need to read and review. I always like to set myself a smaller tbr than what I’ve managed to read the previous month, as it means there is still room for mood reading and picking up books on a whim! As always, I’m not going to stick religiously to this, but I did pretty well at sticking to my tbr last month, so hopefully March will be the same.

Physical tbr:

  • The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai: I’ve heard nothing by phenomenal things about this one, so I’m very excited! It’s been compared to Homegoing and Pachinko (both of which I thought were excellent) in it’s epic, multigenerational structure – but The Mountains Sing tells the story of the Tran family in Vietnam. Hopefully this lives up to all of the things I’ve heard about it.
  • Luster by Raven Leilani: I’ve been hearing increasingly mixed reviews of this one lately, but I’ve been interested in Luster since I first heard about it last Autumn. Luster follows a young black woman who is figuring out her life. She starts seeing a man who is in an open marriage, and I believe she becomes increasingly involved in his life, in a way that is supposed to be quite uncomfortable to read about? It’s hard to summarise books you haven’t read!
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters: While the previous two are relatively new releases, The Little Stranger was published in 2009. It is, I believe, a historical fiction with a horror/mystery/supernatural element, set in Warwickshire in the 1940s. Sarah Waters is such a well-loved author, and this will be my first book of hers – I’m very excited to see what happens!
  • The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale: This is my non-fiction book this month. It’s a true crime novel about a 13-year-old boy who is convicted of killing his mother in Victorian London. It’s another by Kate Summerscale, whose non-fiction I’ve really admired, and I’m excited to see what this one is like!

ARCs:

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Transcendent Kingdom
  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi: I’m currently reading this book. It’s Gyasi’s second book, and it is incredibly different to Homegoing. Set in America, it follows Gifty, who was born in Alabama but whose parents were from Ghana. It’s told in first person and it jumps around in time, telling the story of present-day Gifty and her life growing up. Gyasi has such an engaging narrative voice, I’m really enjoying it so far! The publication date in the UK is 4 March – I’m hoping to finish it tonight and post a review tomorrow (don’t hold me to that!).

I’m really excited to read all of these books (and hopefully a few more if there’s time!) – I think it’s going to be a month of some very good books.

What’s your most anticipated book on your March tbr? And have you read any of these books? What did you think?

book review

Review: Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Every Last Fear: Amazon.co.uk: Finlay, Alex: 9781250268822: Books

Publisher: Head of Zeus/Aries

Pub date: 2 March

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Danny Pine, the eldest son of the Pine family, was convicted 6 years ago for the murder of his teenage girlfriend. His parents have always believed he’s innocent, and recently cooperated with a Netflix doc that claimed he was wrongfully convicted. Matt Pine, Danny’s brother, isn’t so sure of Danny’s innocence. The book opens when Matt hears some devastating news: his family – including his parents and two younger siblings – were found dead in their holiday home in Mexico. The book grapples with two mysteries: is Danny innocent? And how did the Pines die?

I thought the two mysteries were handled well, and I liked the way that they intertwined. This thriller kept me guessing as I was reading, though my suspicions were proved right in the end. Another thing I liked about this novel is the way that it’s told – though Matt is the main character, we also get the point of view of the FBI agent and Danny in the present day, flashbacks to other members of the Pine family before their deaths, and transcripts from the true crime documentary. The author did a good job of building suspense through the time jumps and narrator switches, drip feeding you information in a way that was frustrating in a good way (frustrating because I really wanted to know what happened!)

Another reason I thought these switches in point of view worked so well was that none of the characters were particularly well-developed or interesting – this was a book that definitely prioritised plot over character development. Constantly switching between people meant the author could get away more easily with having quite two-dimensional characters. However, as someone who prefers character development over plot, it did begin to wear on me a bit.

I also couldn’t connect with the characters. A lot happens in this book that should have me empathising like crazy with Matt, but I just didn’t really care. On top of that, I found his reactions to a lot of the events unbelievable/unconvincing. Death in this book is definitely a plot device – it is not meant to be emotional and it doesn’t want to engage with the theme of grief. So overall, though I liked the premise for this one, I found the character aspects of this book a bit of a let down. This is definitely one for people who prefer fast-paced and plot-focused books, who don’t care if their characters aren’t well fleshed out.

For more of my reviews, connect with me on Goodreads.

For pictures of pretty books, follow me on Instagram.

wrap up

February wrap-up

Happy March, everyone! I’m writing this wrap-up with a lot more optimism than for January’s – I think a combination of the roadmap out of lockdown (it’s nice to have some semblance of a plan!) and the sunny weather has really boosted my mood. I hope the same can be said for you too! It’s been a difficult few months, but hopefully we can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.

My sister got her vaccine last week, which feels like a huge weight off my shoulders. She’s diabetic and was moved on to the shielding list, and as the older sister it’s my job to worry about her – so this has just been a lovely relief. I love hearing everyone’s vaccination stories, it brings me such joy; I’d love to spend every work meeting with people giving a roundup of everyone they know that has been vaccinated 😂 Anyway, enough about this… on to the books!

Books I’ve finished this month:

A book stack in front of a plant and some daffodils.
The (physical) books I’ve read this month
  • Insatiable by Daisy Buchanan*: This book follows Violet, a woman who is drawn into the dazzling world of an older, richer couple. What follows is a lot of sex and bad decisions. I wanted to like this book, but ended up giving it 2 stars as I felt it lacked depth or any good character development.
  • The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale: A non-fiction book following the story of a Nandor Fodor (a ghost hunter) and Alma Fielding, who is being haunted in 1930s London. Summerscale is a gifted storyteller and her books are well-researched and always enjoyable. 4 stars.
  • The Confession by Jessie Burton: A split-narrative novel following Elise in 1980s Hollywood and Rose in 2017 London. This novel is beautifully written, with truly authentic and flawed characters – I found it engaging and delightful. 5 stars.
  • Bunny by Mona Awad: I can’t summarise this one in two lines as I don’t really know what happened. Wonderfully bizarre yet perhaps relying too much on its shock factor, this is a book I think you have to read for yourself. 3 stars.
  • The Night Swim by Megan Goldin: A thoughtful and sensitive thriller, following Rachel, a true crime podcaster, as she visits a small town to cover a rape trail. While she’s there, she gets drawn into the case of a girl whose accidental death 20 years ago might not actually be an accident. 4 stars.
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert: A fun, sweet and steamy romance. I found this refreshing and a very quick read. I’ve not written my review yet, but I would say 4 stars.
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: An amazing, richly-detailed portrait of a Korean family that move to Japan in the 1930s. I absolutely loved it – review to come, but definitely a 5 star read.
  • Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall: If you are a white woman, you need to read this book. Mikki Kendall discusses the factors that aren’t usually covered by mainstream feminism but should be. It’s a really engaging and well-written collection of essays that will introduce you to intersectional feminism. A must-read, 5 stars.
  • Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay*: This thriller follows the Pine family and deals with two crimes: the murder of Danny Pine’s teenage girlfriend, which he is convicted for, and the deaths of the rest of the Pine family 6 years later. I liked this, but part of it fell flat for me and I didn’t find the characters too convincing. 3 stars.

My favourite book of the month was probably Pachinko, with The Confession coming a very close second!

Books I’ve started (but not finished):

  • The Dog Share by Fiona Gibson: This was a dnf for me. The book started with a whole lot of set-up – by the time I put it down (almost 20% of the way in) the book was still setting up the characters and the two main characters (who you know are going to fall in love) hadn’t even met. Not for me!
  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi*: This is my current read! I started it last night, so I’ve not read much, but I’m enjoying it so far.

(* Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of these books in return for an honest review)

Post round-up:

Here’s a round-up of my February posts, in case you have missed any and would like to catch up!

How has your month been? What was your favourite book of the month?

Let me know in the comments and feel free to leave a link to your own February wrap-up so I can check it out!

For more of my reviews, connect with me on Goodreads.

For more pictures of pretty books, follow me on Instagram.

book review

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Rating: 4 out of 5.

CW: This novel discusses sexual abuse/rape, so this review mentions the same topics

Image result for the night swim

I love the premise of thrillers but I rarely actually rate a thriller novel highly or enjoy it while I’m reading. I find they can be quite trope-y, predictable and often badly written – I know this sounds like I’m generalising an entire genre but this is just based on my experience. I want to love them, but I often just can’t. However, I persist reading them because I get drawn in by the blurbs, with the hope that the one I’m reading will be different.

So now you can see why I was so pleasantly surprised by The Night Swim, which is a fast-paced, compelling and unsettling thriller. The novel follows Rachel, a true crime podcast host, as she travels to a small town in America to cover a rape trial that is dividing the town. While she’s there, she also gets pulled in to a cold case from 20 years before. Jenny Stills’ death was ruled an accidental drowning, but her sister is convinced that she was murdered.

One of the things that this novel does really well is it’s handling of the rape trial. Goldin handles such a sensitive topic in a respectful and honest way. In terms of the way the book is written, she doesn’t sensationalise and she doesn’t include unnecessary or graphic detail where fewer would do. In terms of the content, she includes a sensitive, considered commentary on the treatment of rape victims (both in the media and by a gruelling and violating trial) – set in the context of a small town where everyone has an opinion/takes a side. The result is often heart-breaking and uncomfortable to read. I don’t think I’ve ever read a thriller that so sensitively discusses the topics it covers. A difficultly with enjoying true crime/thrillers/murder mysteries etc. is the way that the genre exploits violence against women (think: unnecessarily graphic shots of violence against women in TV shows) – one of the results of centring the discussions from the point of view of the female gaze instead of the male gaze is a book like this, I think. It was very refreshing.

I thought the narrative balanced the two plots well – and I don’t feel like either of them suffered as a result of the other. The story is told through multiple formats – the main is Rachel’s third-person narrative, and this is interspersed with letters from Jenny’s sister and podcast transcripts from Rachel’s podcast. I thought this mix was well-handled, and Goldin chose good moments to take you out the main narrative and switch it up, leaving you wanting more from each thread of the story. The chapters were short and succinct, which worked really well for me and meant I felt like I flew through the novel.

The one thing I would say about this novel though is that it’s not your typical thriller novel – it’s definitely more considered and character-driven rather than focused on plot. The rape trial isn’t a mystery and Rachel doesn’t play a very active role in the case. That just might be one to bear in mind if that’s not your cup of tea/you prefer your thrillers to be action-packed.

The Night Swim was compelling, well-written and unsettling. I really enjoyed reading this book, and found it a refreshing and interesting read. It seemed to me at the end that they were leaving it open for a sequel, and I would definitely be up for that if they were! In the mean time, I’ve heard good things about her other novel, The Escape Room, and will definitely be picking that up when I can!

For more of my reviews, connect with me on Goodreads.

For pictures of pretty books, follow me on Instagram.

book meme

WWW Wednesday | 24 Feb

Hi everyone! I’m back with another WWW Wednesday, hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The three Ws to be answered are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

Pachinko: The New York Times Bestseller: Amazon.co.uk: Min Jin Lee:  9781786691378: Books

I’m currently reading Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and I’m absolutely loving it! This is a generational saga following a Korean family who moves from Korea to Japan in the 1930s. I’m about 50% of the way through this book and I’m excited to see where it will go! The writing is really beautiful, the characterisation is rich and I’m learning so much about Korea and Japan in this period that I wasn’t aware of. I’ve only managed to pick it up twice, but considering it’s a large book (over 500 pages), I’ve made really good headway into it because it’s just so captivating. Obviously I have to see what the rest of the novel brings, but I could see this being a five star read.

What did you recently finish reading?

Get a Life, Chloe Brown: A Novel (The Brown Sisters, 1): Hibbert, Talia:  9780062941206: Amazon.com: Books

Before Pachinko, I read Get a Life, Chloe Brown, which I really enjoyed! I hadn’t read a contemporary romance in ages – it’s definitely my first of the year and might be my first in like 6 months, so I found it very refreshing. There’s a lot of hype surrounding this book and I think that if you like contemporary romance, you will like this one; it’s fun, fluffy, steamy, well-written and has really good representation. Chloe, the main character, has a chronic illness and Red is trying to overcome trauma from a previous abusive relationship – and I think both aspects were handled really well! I’ll definitely be able picking up the next two books.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I think probably Transcendent Kingdom, as I loved Homegoing and I want to get to it before it’s released in the UK in early March. After that, I’m completely unsure! I’ll be thinking about my March tbr later this week, so that should help me narrow down my options at least.

What are you currently reading? And what do you think you’ll read next?

book review

Review: Bunny by Mona Awad

Image result for bunny mona awad

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Before I started reading this book, all of the reviews I’d seen said something along the lines of ‘wow, this book was wild/bizarre/strange/unusual etc., etc.’ – so I went into this book knowing that something weird was going to happen, but not knowing what. Like these other reviews, I’m not going to give you more detail about why this is the case, as I think you’re best going into this novel completely fresh and unprepared. This book follows Samantha Mackey, who is studying an MFA at an elite university. She feels like an outsider in her class – she’s poorer, less put together than the ‘Bunnies’, a group of unbearable rich girls who call each other ‘Bunny’. However, at the beginning of the new school year, the Bunnies invite Samantha to one of their ‘Smut Salons’ and from there Samantha is drawn into an utterly bizarre world that she struggles to escape.

I enjoyed this book, but I would say that I think it relies quite heavily on the ‘what the fuck’ shock value – the turn from slightly unsettling to absolutely absurd comes whiplashingly quickly, and I think the momentum of this reveal carries a lot of the novel from there. It was strange, it kept me reading and I was desperate to figure out what exactly was happening. Did I? Not really. Was I left with more questions than I began with? Yes. Did I enjoy it? I think so?

The author is undoubtedly talented – this novel is disorientating by design – and she creates such an incredibly close, claustrophobic atmosphere the entire way through to add to your discomfort/confusion. However, I’m not sure that I found the characters convincing – I could accept this for the Bunnies as they are a parody of a group of popular girls (though taken to the nth degree) but I found Samantha lacking in personality. The novel tries to talk about loneliness as a theme, but I found this a bit weak and lost in all of the ‘what the hell is happening’ parts of the story. Samantha also lacks agency, which I believe the story itself actually references, but I found the way she fell in with the Bunnies too quick and easy – and when she starts witnessing weird things happening, she doesn’t doubt or question them, even right at the very beginning.

I think this would be a very divisive book – I think some people will absolutely love the absurdity of it, I think others will hate it with a passion – but I do actually find myself sitting on the fence with it. I thought it was interesting, I admire the bizarre and ‘wtf’ moments, I like that it’s different – but I also think that past the shock value, there wasn’t as much going for it as I expected, and I did find the main character unlikeable.

Would I recommend this? I think so, if only so you can read it for yourself and make up your own opinion.

For more of my reviews, connect with me on Goodreads.

For pictures of pretty books, follow me on Instagram.

discussion

Let’s talk: dnf’ing!

I recently received a book from NetGalley for review, which I was quite excited to read. It sounded like a cute rom com – I was expecting fluff, fun, sweetness, maybe a narrative about a woman finding herself. But the book started so slowly, with a lot of backstory, and by 16% of the way through I was just really finding it difficult. It felt like the real story hadn’t started yet and I was just finding it quite boring. I don’t like using the word boring to describe books, as someone’s obviously put a lot of time and effort into it, but I really was just feeling bored by it. I put it down, I tried to pick it back up, I read another page before my mind started wandering again, and eventually I decided to just put it down for good. But I feel a bit guilty about it – did I give it a fair chance? How long do you think you need to read a book for before deciding it’s not for you?

I don’t often dnf books – I’m very curious and hate not knowing things, so if there’s a mystery involved, I will usually read until the end, even if I’m not enjoying it. But when I do, I feel quite guilty about it – especially if I’ve been sent a book for review. That makes me feel more obligated to finish the book as I’ve been sent it for free, in return for a review. But I guess dnf’ing something is sort of a review in itself.

How do you feel about dnf’ing something? Do you have any particular rules or limits for when you will put it down or for how long you will read it for before dnf’ing it?

book meme

WWW Wednesday | 17 Feb

Hi everyone! I’m back with another WWW Wednesday, hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The three Ws to be answered are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

Image result for get a life chloe brown

I started reading Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert last night. I’ve seen lots of hype around this book and I’m really in the mood for a good rom com, so I’m very excited about this! I read around 10% of it last night before bed and have found it fun and captivating so far!

What did you recently finish reading?

I picked up The Dog Share by Fiona Gibson a couple of days ago (thanks to NetGalley for the eARC), but really struggled to get into it and I put it down for good yesterday evening. I just wasn’t enjoying it – though it has made me feel a little bit guilty as I hate dnf’ing books!

Image result for the night swim

Before that, I read The Night Swim by Megan Goldin, a thriller that I really enjoyed! [CW: Sexual abuse, skip to the next paragraph to avoid.] My review is still to come but I think I’ll give it four stars. It follows Rachel, a host for a true crime podcast, as she covers a trial for a rape case in a small town. While she’s in town, she also gets pulled into a cold case from 20 years before; the sister of the victim believes she was murdered, but the case was ruled an accidental drowning. I liked the juxtaposition of the two cases, and I found this a quick and engaging read. I think the author handled the sensitive subject matter particularly well.

Before that I read Bunny by Mona Awad – my review will be posting for that soon, but in short: what on earth did I read?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Image result for pachinko min jin lee

I set myself a four book tbr for this month, and I’ve already read three of them. The fourth is Pachinko, which I think I’ll dive into after my current read; a slight change of pace but I like mixing it up and reading some quicker books followed by some heavier ones. I think after Pachinko, I will jump into Transcendent Kingdom – the UK release date is 4 March and I have an eARC from NetGalley to read before then. I absolutely loved Homegoing so have very high hopes for that one!

What are you currently reading? And what do you think you’ll read next?

book review

Review: The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale

Image result for the haunting of alma fielding

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Over Christmas I read and adored The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale so I obviously had to treat myself to The Haunting of Alma Fielding, Summerscale’s latest book. This is a nonfiction book, set in 1938 when Nandor Fodor (a ghost hunter for the International Institute for Physical Research) starts to investigate a haunting at Alma Fielding’s house. The book follows the characters over the months, as Fodor realises the case is even stranger than he first believed. All of this is set to the backdrop of the run-up to WW2.

I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as the first – I think the first probably appealed more to my personal interests (true crime, detectives, Victorian literature) – but I nevertheless found this one very interesting, well-researched and enjoyable. Kate Summerscale has such an easy writing style, and the book never felt dry, dense or repetitive. I think she’s a very gifted storyteller, weaving together information from scattered primary sources to create one vivid and interesting case. I really liked the way that she reflected what was happening between Alma and Fodor in the general pre-war feeling of England at the time, but perhaps wanted a little bit more of this detail. I think I found this a slightly simpler book than The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, as it didn’t deal with quite as many themes. This is all personal preference though, and I think this one would definitely be a better starting point if you aren’t sure about reading nonfiction/don’t want anything too heavy or time-consuming.

The subject matter was really interesting – I had no idea that people had such an interest in the paranormal in the 30s or that there were Societies dedicated to trying to prove it. As well as Alma and Fodor’s brushes with the paranormal, Kate Summerscale also relates some other stories of hauntings and investigations from the time, which I found very interesting.

This book explores the hauntings in relation to psychology (Freud makes a cameo!), especially to trauma. Fodor’s own suspicions and beliefs about the hauntings are interesting, but I actually found Summerscale’s own most interesting, and I was disappointed that these were mostly kept out of the book until the final chapter. Obviously, she wanted to tell the story in an objective manner, but her thoughts on the subject were so interesting that I would’ve liked to see them spread more throughout the book itself.

After buying the hardback for myself, I should say I was then sent the audiobook to review through NetGalley (which is typical really! I was approved about two months after requesting it so had by then bought it for myself!). I listened to some chapters as the audiobook and read some of the others, and really enjoyed both formats. I think this is the perfect subject matter for an audiobook (I much prefer to listen to nonfiction than fiction) and the narrator did the various characters really well; he really added a creepiness to séance scenes.

The Haunting of Alma Fielding was meticulous and fascinating, and I certainly recommend it to fans of nonfiction and those who like the idea of investigating real-life hauntings!

For more of my reviews, connect with me on Goodreads.

For pictures of pretty books, follow me on Instagram.