Book review: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin


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Title: The Immortalists

Author: Chloe Benjamin

Genre: General Fiction

Publisher: Tinder Press

Publication date: 9th January 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

It’s 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York’s Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. Four siblings, too young for what they are about to hear, sneak out to hear their fortunes.
We then follow the intertwined paths the siblings take over the course of five decades and, in particular, how they choose to live with the supposed knowledge the fortune-teller gave them that day. This is a story about life, mortality and the choices we make: is it better to live a long and cautious life, or to burn brightly, but for the shortest time?

My review:

The premise of this book left me pondering on so many “what-if” moments. Original and daring, the idea of four young children learning the date of their death and living with this knowledge seemed so fascinating that I immediately wanted to read on and find out how it will affect each one of them. The concept seemed unique and one that could develop in endless ways depending on the choices that each sibling makes and, after discovering how different each one is, I was certain that the plot would follow suit.

Several chapters into the book and I was already starting to doubt the concept and wondering why the author had decided to follow such a rigid path for these diverse characters. Klara and Simon both appeared as feisty and impulsive characters at first yet  the choices they made and the consequences of their actions seemed unexciting. I found it equally difficult to follow Daniel and Varya’s lives which at first appeared somewhat more compelling but turned out to be just as bleak as their siblings’. Fear, confusion and distress were the feelings that possessed their lives and unfortunately that compromised other exciting moments that they missed out on. Knowing when they would die but not how or why absorbed their lives completely, and understandably so, but the plot was ultimately lacking in positive emotions and the depressing nature of their paths weighed down the story line and weakened the concept in originality.

Although this book raised some thought-provoking and critical questions, I found the execution to be poor and the plot dull at times. I was disappointed with some of the decisions the characters made and would have enjoyed more diversity in the way they reacted to finding out when they would die. However, the issues covered were powerful enough for me to appreciate this book for what it is and it left a huge impact on me and my thoughts and reflections for a long time after I had finished it.

Book review: The Vanishing Season by Dot Hutchinson


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Title: The Vanishing Season

Author: Dot Hutchison

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publication date: 21st May 2019

My rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Summary:

Eight-year-old Brooklyn Mercer has gone missing. And as accustomed as FBI agents Eliza Sterling and Brandon Eddison are to such harrowing cases, this one has struck a nerve. It marks the anniversary of the disappearance of Eddison’s own little sister. Disturbing, too, is the girl’s resemblance to Eliza—so uncanny they could be mother and daughter.
With Eddison’s unsettled past rising again with rage and pain, Eliza is determined to solve this case at any cost. But the closer she looks, the more reluctant she is to divulge to her increasingly shaken partner what she finds. Brooklyn isn’t the only girl of her exact description to go missing. She’s just the latest in a frightening pattern going back decades in cities throughout the entire country.
In a race against time, Eliza’s determined to bring Brooklyn home and somehow find the link to the cold case that has haunted Eddison—and the entire Crimes Against Children team—since its inception.

My review:

Most Thriller lovers are familiar with The Butterfly Garden and its incredibly unique setting. More than two years later and I still remember the electrifying sensation that I felt as I read that book which ultimately left me wanting more from this series. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the final book in the Collector series was soon to be published and immediately requested it on Netgalley. Unfortunately, this book left me feeling very disappointed at how the series ended and also confused at the dreariness of the setting and lack of plot. There were several key factors that caused my letdown and my main reasons for disliking this book.

Firstly, the author focused too much on the lives of the FBI agents and too little on Brooklyn’s disappearance. The spotlight was almost always entirely on the main leading investigator Eliza and her past, such as why she decided to take this job and what made her engagement fall apart. As much as I tried I couldn’t take a liking to her or any of the agents on the team and was simply not interested in any of their interactions. Some conversations felt forced and, although I liked the appearances of some of the girls from the Garden, the continuous references to them started to feel irrelevant after a while.

The plot slowly began to come together towards the second half when the team connects Brooklyn’s disappearance to that of several other little girls. I was glad to finally see some progress in the case and was hoping to join the team on a rollercoaster ride of solving this complex case. My main issue with this book was around this point when the team very quickly and almost without any research into anyone involved in Brooklyn’s life suddenly discovers the key figure that connects all the disappearances. The lack of investigation really diminished the thrilling element and I felt as if there was a sudden rush to find the perpetrator because the character development had been exhausted and there was no other way for the story line to progress apart from finding the kidnapper.

Other small points which I found irritating included the constant mixture of random Spanish sentences mixed with English speech as well as the almost too perfect ending. I understand the approach that the author was aiming for but the execution felt poor to me overall. Although I strongly recommend The Butterfly Garden to Mystery/Thriller fans, unfortunately there is not much from this book that I can rave about.

The Vanishing Season will be out to buy on 21st May.

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book review: The Night Before by Wendy Walker


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Title: The Night Before

Author: Wendy Walker

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Publisher: St Martin’s Press

Publication date: 14th May 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

Laura Lochner has never been lucky in love. She falls too hard and too fast, always choosing the wrong men. Devastated by the end of her last relationship, she fled her Wall Street job and New York City apartment for her sister’s home in the Connecticut suburb where they both grew up. Though still haunted by the tragedy that’s defined her entire life, Laura is determined to take one more chance on love with a man she’s met on an Internet dating site.
Rosie Ferro has spent most of her life worrying about her troubled sister. Fearless but fragile, Laura has always walked an emotional tightrope, and Rosie has always been there to catch her. Laura’s return, under mysterious circumstances, has cast a shadow over Rosie’s peaceful life with her husband and young son – a shadow that grows darker as Laura leaves the house for her blind date.
When Laura does not return home the following morning, Rosie fears the worst. She’s not responding to calls or texts, and she’s left no information about the man she planned to meet. As Rosie begins a desperate search to find her sister, she is not just worried about what this man might have done to Laura. She’s worried about what Laura may have done to him…
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My review:

Many readers may not have heard of Wendy Walker but with her upcoming publication, The Night Before, I am sure that she will soon become a name to remember in the Psychological Thriller category. This book had all the right ingredients of an alluring and nail-biting thriller and I was lost in Laura’s world of confusion, distress and desperation. I was a little disappointed to find out that the author had decided to follow one of the latest trends in the industry with an unreliable female narrator but quickly warmed to Laura and her personality. The first few chapters flew by as I was immersed in her world and was keen to discover how her first date after the big break up would transpire.

I read the rest of this book in only one other sitting, eager to find out what had happened to Laura after she disappeared. Blaming her date seemed obvious but the rest of the characters involved appeared to be so distressed about her disappearance that it really left the field wide open for all other surprises. The author really delivered here as we were taken on a roller coaster of twists, riddles and mind games where all characters were involved.

Although I enjoyed the premise of this book, I was slightly disappointed with how it ended and in particular the way in which Laura’s disappearance was handled. At first the events seemed a little far-fetched, especially considering how the characters were originally portrayed, but it slowly started to make sense and all came together in the final few chapters. I would have preferred a different ending but looking back at all the hints the author left, I can understand why and how she chose to develop the plot the way she did. Tense, suspenseful and captivating, The Night Walker is a must read for all Psychological Thriller fans.

The Night Before will be out to buy on 14th May!

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Studious Saturday: Top books in my immediate TBR list

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As some of you have probably realised by now, I tend to be a mood reader and decide which book to read next depending on how I feel and recent recommendations. However, as my TBR list has increased to over 100 books, I decided to prioritise and pick my top immediate reads. In no particular order, these are the books that I hope to read next…


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I have heard so many wonderful things about All The Light We Cannot See and I bought it during my recent bookshop hopping adventure in Glasgow. Since then it has been sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to pick it up and I really hope to start reading it soon.


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I hadn’t heard of Matt Wesolowski before all the reviews of Changeling took over my WordPress Reader feed. I haven’t seen one negative review so far and this, together with my interest in cold cases, means that this book has jumped right to the top of my list.


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The premise of Vox is so fascinating but I was hesitant to read this book after all the mixed reviews. However, I have decided to try it as it has been a long time since I last read a good Dystopian novel.


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Every time I read a Markus Zusak novel I feel a great need to disconnect from the world and reflect on what I have just read. His books are like no other and his writing is so powerful that I find it extremely difficult to start a new book afterwards because I just know that it would pale in comparison. That is probably the main reason that I have been putting off starting Bridge of Clay for the past few months. However, my lovely hardback signed copy is waiting for me patiently in my bookshelf and I don’t think that I’ll be able to resist much longer!


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There is so much hype surrounding Louise Beech’s books and I am eager to find out what exactly about her writing makes her books so special. I have heard that all her books are very different and decided to start with her newest release, Call Me Star Girl. From the reviews I have read it seems that her writing is very addictive so I may be on the way to hopefully discovering a new favourite author!


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It has been a long time since I last read a heartwarming and emotional book and Fredrik Backman has been on my list of new authors to discover for so long therefore A Man Called Ove seemed like the perfect fit. I am a firm believer of reading the book before watching the movie but I have wanted to watch this movie for such a long time so I have some real motivation to finally read this book!


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I am late to the party it seems because The Silent Patient is everywhere. Every time I walk into a bookstore this book is staring back at me. It is set to be this year’s bestseller in the Psychological Thriller category and I am keen to understand why. I have been reading a lot of Thrillers and Crime fiction lately so may wait until I read some of the books in other genres in this list before starting The Silent Patient but I hope to read this book over the summer break.


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The new (or now not so new) sequel to the Cormoran Strike series has been on my radar ever since its publication date but every time I consider buying it I am put off by how long it is. Some recent reviews also confirm my suspicion that the writing tends to be long-winded which is one of my pet peeves of a Thriller. However, this series is one of my favourites and I really need to find out how it continues after the abrupt ending that we were left on in its predecessor.


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Kristin Hannah blew me away with The Nightingale and I must admit that the premise of The Great Alone sounds even better. I suspect that it is bound to be another emotionally draining read so I am waiting for the right mindset before starting it. However, from looking at the high Goodreads rating and recent reviews, I am sure that it will not disappoint.


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I am in two minds about The Woman in the Window. After reading the full story surrounding A. J. Finn (or Daniel Mallory, the real writer behind the pseudonym) I immediately discarded this book from my list. However, I keep adding it back to my TBR list after reading the never ending list of reviews in the book blogging community. The hype has even reached Spain and I have seen so many people reading this book lately. The generic trend of unreliable female narrators that is the main focus of these Thrillers don’t hold much hope for me but I hope to be pleasantly surprised and not disappointed like I was with The Girl on the Train.

What are some of your top picks on your immediate TBR list? I would love to hear your suggestions and recommendations!

Studious Saturday: exploring bookshops in Edinburgh

studious saturdays

Happy Saturday! It’s been a while since I posted my last bookshop hopping experience in Glasgow and decided that it is time to follow up with some of the bookshops we visited during our day trip to Edinburgh.

Blackwell’s

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Our first stop was Blackwell’s, conveniently located on a main road in the city center. Books are neatly arranged with the bestsellers on one side upon entering and the rest by genre, to the right of the entrance. We spent a long time looking through the contemporary fiction section, recommending books to each other and picking out new ones that looked interesting. The non-fiction area was busy with people hoping to buy some of the more famous books but we still managed to look through these shelves.

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Perhaps the best part of this bookshop was the little Cafe Nero that was set up at the very end, complete with a fun sign that was almost too tempting. However, we decided to carry on with our tour through Edinburgh and move on to the next bookshop.

Lighthouse Bookshop

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Our next stop was Lighthouse Bookshop, a short walk away from Blackwell’s and close to the University of Edinburgh. This was such a delight to visit and by far our favourite bookshop during our visit in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The staff are attentive and the range of books on display are carefully chosen to match their political values and passion for justice and equality around the world. We spent a very long time here, looking through all the shelves and even choosing some rarer books from the Politics section to take home.

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The shop is equipped with comfortable chairs and a variety of eccentric and quirky phrases written out on the notice boards. Lighthouse arranges several events each month, including their own Book Fringe alongside the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Radical Book Fair.

Our experience didn’t end here as we continued our walk up to Armchair Books. Unfortunately, the various staircases and hills led to us feeling very tired as we approached the end of our day in Edinburgh and we decided to only quickly browse through the shelves and head back towards the train station. Nevertheless, it was another fun and worthwhile experience and I greatly enjoyed discussing books and authors with family in this beautiful city.

Have you been to these bookshops in Edinburgh? I would love to hear what you thought of them!

If you are enjoying this series of exploring bookshops in different cities, watch out for my next post in a few weeks’ time which will be based in Madrid!

Book review: Watching You by Lisa Jewell


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Title: Watching You

Author: Lisa Jewell

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Cornerstone Digital

Publication date: 12th July 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you.
As the headmaster credited with turning around the local school, Tom Fitzwilliam is beloved by one and all—including Joey Mullen, his new neighbor, who quickly develops an intense infatuation with this thoroughly charming yet unavailable man. Joey thinks her crush is a secret, but Tom’s teenage son Freddie—a prodigy with aspirations of becoming a spy for MI5—excels in observing people and has witnessed Joey behaving strangely around his father.
One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, also lives on the same street, and she’s not convinced her teacher is as squeaky clean as he seems. For one thing, he has taken a particular liking to her best friend and fellow classmate, and Jenna’s mother—whose mental health has admittedly been deteriorating in recent years—is convinced that Mr. Fitzwilliam is stalking her.
Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, a schoolgirl writes in her diary, charting her doomed obsession with a handsome young English teacher named Mr. Fitzwilliam…

My review:

Watching You starts with one of the most enticing first chapters I’ve recently read in a thriller; a dead body is found in the kitchen of what appears to be the ideal family, viciously stabbed several times. We first hear from one of the protagonists, Joey, who is being interviewed by the police and Lisa Jewell’s fluid writing style really starts to show here. I was immediately compelled to read the next few chapters but was disappointed to find out that we are instead introduced to several other characters in this community in Bristol and the connections between these characters doesn’t start to become clear until around the halfway point of the book, by which point I was already starting to lose interest.

The main drawback for me was the lack of context behind the spying aspect. At one point it seemed that everyone was watching each other but the reason behind it was vague so I was frustrated that it assumed such a large chunk of the plot. Snippets of the crime scene and day of the death are slowly revealed through the police interviews, a clever backdrop to use, and by discarding characters one by one it is not too difficult to guess who the culprit is behind the murder, which made for a slightly disappointing and predictable conclusion.

Nevertheless, as with many other novels by this author, the best is left until last and her true talent shines in the last chapter. The ending is enough to put into perspective everything that we have learnt so far about these characters, especially one particularly deceitful and malicious character. Few authors are able to deliver such a strong ending despite the predictable murderer and the implications from the final words are enough to justify reading through the slow beginning. I would recommend Watching You to anyone who enjoys a slow burn thriller with a shocking ending, although I encourage others to try Lisa Jewell’s other novels first as the pacing is much stronger and the characters more refined.

Book review: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak


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Title: I Am the Messenger

Author: Markus Zusak

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: RHCP Digital

Publication date: 1st January 2015

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Summary:

“Ed Kennedy is just your less-than-average Joe who is hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. But after he single-handedly manages to catch a bank robber, he receives a playing card in the mail: the Ace of Diamonds. This is the first message. Four more will follow. But before this particular card game can end, Ed will be changed forever . . .”

My review:

Markus Zusak at his best! This book’s concept is hard to explain because it deals with so many beautiful and complex life issues that are difficult to summarise without giving too much away. However, just like other books by this author, it sucks you in from the very first page and it is clear from the ingenious first chapter that it will be another Zusak masterpiece.

What made this book so special for me was the perfect combination of friendship and community that becomes evident as we learn the objective of each message. Although at first each character appears to be plain, Zusak’s emphasis on how “sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference” is the key element that triggers such strong emotions and encourages the reader to sail through this book. The storytelling aspect is brilliant and the writing is truly one of a kind. He easily develops the short staccato sentences to fully strengthen the characterisation and his word choice is extremely careful so that the final result is a polished and beautifully written story.

Lovers of The Book Thief may at first struggle with this book because it has a completely different feel, however I strongly encourage to keep reading as the story develops into a unique and beautiful tale of how the most ordinary people can sometimes do the most extraordinary things.