Books I have read and loved.
Recent reads that I have to share. Be warned though every one will start with 'How I loved this book...' because I am not including all I read, just those that have really touched my heart.
Mhairi McFarlane is a must-read author for me, I adore her writing style and the humour that is woven through on every page. She never fails to write scenes that have me in stitches but that are often underpinned with witty but truthful observations of life. I have immense respect for her as an author who can write poignancy alongside hilarity and never miss a beat. This book though is a step above, and I didn't think that was possible. The book starts with her reliable humour, a weaving of a friendship circle that is complex, realistic and highly amusing and then boom, she bashes us over the head with the completely unexpected. The Queen of romantic misdirection is at her absolute finest here and Last Night deserves to be acknowledged as one of the finest romcom novels out there. I shall remember this story for a very long time indeed.
This book is quite remarkable. It tells the story of Melody-Janie, a young woman who lives an isolated life in a caravan on a cliff top on the North Cornish coast. I was so taken by it I am afraid this review will fail to do this poignant, haunting novel justice. The writing is nothing short of poetic and the county becomes a character in itself, described with an intimacy and knowledge that speaks to the truth of a Cornwall often unseen by tourists – elemental, uncontrollable and fierce, both beautiful and bleak. The subject matter matches the setting, and is a story of loneliness, mental health and the fragility of human beings whilst at the same time is a testament to love, hope and the importance of friendship. However, I suspect readers will be split and it will be a novel you either love or hate. It is clear where I stand. I received an arc in exchange for an honest review but cannot wait to buy this in paperback so I can keep it on my shelves forever.
I galloped through this book, devouring it in two days. It had an intriguing structure but more than that two characters I wholeheartedly fell in love with at the very start. It is the most perfect romcom I have read in ages, the plot races along, the writing is really funny and truly warm, and the characters grow beautifully as their story progresses. Alongside the humour and the romance there is a real depth to the characters back stories, their reactions and decisions. I cannot fault it and am only sorry that it is finished. A new must-read romcom author for me.
I was late to the party with this one and had been saving it for a while as a treat and my goodness, did it deliver. I fell in love just reading the prologue and knew I was in for an outstanding read. The descriptions of setting pull you in and weave a magic that captures your mind whilst the characterisation wins your heart. I felt true empathy with Kya as she grew from abandoned child to self-contained adult and your heart bleeds from the very beginning at the hand life has dealt her. The book is a coming-of-age novel, with a murder mystery and romance at its heart but it also speaks to prejudice and the attitudes towards outsiders in a small community. The writing is insightful with its examination of society, the cruelties that occur and the little kindnesses that restore your faith in humanity. The descriptions of nature and life on the marsh completely take your breath away, her knowledge is clear and Della Owen's writing is vivid, eloquent and quite unlike anything I have read before. This book will stay with me for a long time and thoroughly deserves to be branded as a classic that should and will be read for many decades to come. Truly remarkable.
Oh my goodness! How I fell in love with this book and its rich evocative story-telling that traverses continents and generations. The detail and depth of the subjects that the author covers is breathtaking, and the narrative wise and insightful.
It is a story of love, loss and family and demonstrates how love and duty can bind us as much as liberate us. It is set largely in Uganda and the UK and examines familial and marital relationships in depth and across the generations with a razor-sharp understanding of the myriad of emotions that accompany each relationship. How deep affection and guilt often go hand in hand, how we accept manipulation from family members that we would never accept from others and how new relationships are blighted because of old, unrelated, baggage. The characters are so rich that I would love to read more about many of them, Shabnam's involvement with the unions is just one example of a snippet worthy of a novel of its own.
The author shows how racism, both overt and subtle, impacts the lives of our characters in tumultuous ways; whether it be Amin's expulsion of East African Asians in the early 70's, racially motivated violence in Leicester, dismissive superiority in the boardrooms of London or modem-day mistrust of the Asian community in Uganda. Zayyan weaves this seamlessly into the narrative with a remarkably deft touch that does nothing to diminish the seriousness of the issues whilst keeping the reader fully immersed in the story.
As well as the romance between some of the major characters, this is also a love story to Uganda but one written with a full awareness of its faults. This novel is a truly remarkable debut and I am excited to sing its praises to all who will listen. I have found a new favourite author.
I adored this well-written tale of two women at opposite ends of the social spectrum in the sixteenth century coming together and working in tandem in herbalism and alchemy. Their story covers a myriad of themes from both lives, including the suspicion and misogyny behind witchcraft trials in the villages and their impact alongside the high arts represented by Mary Sidney's renowned Wilton Circle. Although a fictional account of The Countess of Pembroke's life, the author's knowledge of history and the literature alongside her skill at writing makes this a novel that pulls you in utterly, making me as a reader willing to believe this is how it was. It certainly is a fitting tribute to a woman who was at the forefront of new thinking and intellectual debate in a time women were overlooked in every arena. I loved it and shall be looking for more books from this author.
How I loved this book and Otty and Joe. Miranda Dickinson writes with such heart that it spills over into her characters and I fell a little in love with both of them, was desperately willing them to get together and getting a little cross when they were making poor decisions. I love reacting this way, it means the author has completely pulled me in to her world. Our Story is a wonderful novel to escape with. Fun, empathetic and engaging, it was delightful reading and an absolutely perfect rom-com.
This is a remarkable book. It is rare that I am moved to tears by reading and is testament to O’Farrells writing prowess that I was here, especially as readers come to the book knowing Hamnet’s fate. The way she weaves the story of this boy and his family is spellbinding, her writing evocative and a reminder to all of the beauty of prose. I loved every page.
Maggie O’Farrell creates scenes that are vivid and captivating, making you feel you are there in that moment, whether it be in woodland in the English countryside, a bedroom in the Shakespeare’s family home or aboard a ship from Italy as a plague-carrying flea. She describes emotions with such beauty, such depth that I felt them myself - hence the tears - and I can only bow down to this Queen of storytelling. I want to read it again and again and again. I cannot recommend it enough, it truly is a thing of beauty.
You know how every now and again a book comes along and you fall utterly, utterly in love with it? That has happened to me this year with The Authenticity Project by Claire Pooley and I think it will remain on the top of my feelgood reads list for many years to come.
From the very first page the writing captivated me, and I knew this would be a book to steal my heart. It starts with Julian, an elderly gentlemen who is struggling with loneliness and the façade he uses to cover it. He writes his story in a notebook, leaving it for someone else to pick up and carry on. The book gets passed from one person to the next and the truth is revealed about people’s real lives, their doubts and fears and how much they are at odds with the way others perceive them. It examines how people struggle regardless of age, class, lifestyle and that we all have burdens to carry. However, it also shows the power of positive human interaction and how small actions can mean so much. It is uplifting and rammed full of optimism, becoming a book about community and support, friendship and love and I defy anyone not to pick it up and be both transported and delighted.
I cannot do justice to how much I loved it. The story of Circe, a woman locked in by her divinity whilst also dealing with the very female roles of mother, daughter, sister and lover. This retelling made Circe much more accessible and empathetic than the male-centric version that I grew up with. Full of self-discovery, courage and empowerment it turns the myth of vicious witch into a story of a true heroine. I loved it so much that having read it once I am going to store it, like a secret treasure, for a re-read so I can wallow in it slowly and feel the magic again.