Posted in 2021, Bryony Gordon, First Read, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Top Books

Glorious Rock Bottom by Bryony Gordon

Bryony Gordon is a respected journalist, a number-one bestselling author and an award-winning mental health campaigner. She is also an alcoholic.

In Glorious Rock Bottom Bryony opens up about a toxic twenty-year relationship with alcohol and drugs and explains exactly why hitting rock bottom – for her, a traumatic event and the abrupt realisation that she was putting herself in danger, time and again – saved her life. Known for her trademark honesty, Bryony re-lives the darkest and most terrifying moments of her addiction, never shying away from the fact that alcoholism robs you of your ability to focus on your family, your work, your health, your children, yourself. And then, a chink of light as the hard work begins – rehab; AA meetings; endless, tedious, painful self-reflection – a rollercoaster ride through self-acceptance, friendship, love and hope, to a joy and pride in staying sober that her younger self could never have imagined.

Shining a light on the deep connection between addiction and mental health issues, Glorious Rock Bottom is in turn, shocking, brutal, dark, funny, hopeful and uplifting. It is a sobriety memoir like no other.

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The book you are holding in your hand might not always be easy to read.

PROLOGUE

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(@headlinepg, 6 August 2020, ebook, 173 pages, bought from @AmazonKindle)

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I don’t think I’ve ever read an alcoholic drug addict’s memoir before which makes Glorious Rock Bottom a first for me. I got quickly absorbed in the author’s unflinching, no holds barred account of her addiction, numerous falls from grace and her painful rehab and sobriety. This is not an easy book to read and some of the author’s revelations about her behaviour when drunk or high horrified me (a married wife and mother letting a stranger perform oral sex on her in return for cocaine is just one example). I felt the author’s rage, hopelessness and pain every step of the way as she realises she’s become a monster and a danger to herself and her family and needs to get her shit together. This is an incredible book.

Posted in 2021, historical fiction, literary fiction, Maggie O'Farrell, Novel, Top Books

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a sudden fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London.

Neither parent knows that Hamnet will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright: a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

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A boy is coming down a flight of stairs.

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(@TinderPress, 1 April 2021, paperback, 384 pages, bought from @AmazonUK)

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I’m a huge fan of the author and have been looking forward to reading Hamnet for ages since I heard so many good things about the book. I loved Hamnet, I got absorbed in the lives of the characters and the tragedy that shapes and almost obliterates the bond between them. I found the book incredibly sad at times especially when Agnes realises, too late, that her sick daughter is recovering and her twin is the one dying, her hopelessness is painful too read. I cried so much reading this book as it really twisted the knife in my heart, in a good way. The afterword mentions that Hamnet’s cause of death has never been disclosed just the date he died which struck me as incredibly sad. This is an astonishing book.

Posted in 2021, Contemporary Fiction, literary fiction, Luiza Sauma, Novella, Re-Read, Top Books

Flesh and Bone and Water by @luizasauma

Brazilian-born doctor André Cabral is living in London when one day he receives a letter from his home country, which he left nearly thirty years ago. A letter he keeps in his pocket for weeks but tells no one about.

The letter prompts André to remember the days of his youth – torrid afternoons on Ipanema beach with his listless teenage friends, parties in elegant Rio apartments, his after-school job at his father’s plastic surgery practice – and, above all, his secret infatuation with the daughter of his family’s maid, the intoxicating Luana. Unable to resist the pull of the letter, André embarks on a journey back to Brazil to rediscover his past.

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A few weeks ago, I looked you up online for the first time.

1

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(@PenguinUKBooks, 5 April 2018, paperback, 240 pages, borrowed from @GlasgowLib)

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This is a reread. I got a copy from NetGalley but remember very little about the book. I didn’t realise I’d already read it when I picked it up so decided to revisit the book. I read my original review and I enjoyed Flesh and Bone and Water a bit more the second time around. There are things that made a huge impact on my second read through that I can’t remember from the first time I read the book such as the truth about the bond between André and Luana, a pretty huge plot point that I don’t remember. That’s the fun of re-reading, I guess, even when it’s a beloved book I’ve read many times I always spot different things. This is a short book and I read it quickly because I was so engrossed.

Posted in 2021, Contemporary Fiction, Dean Koontz, mystery, Novel, Science Fiction, suspense, thriller, Top Books

The Other Emily by @DeanKoontz

Number one New York Times bestselling master of suspense Dean Koontz takes readers on a twisting journey of lost love, impossible second chances, and terrifying promises.

A decade ago, Emily Carlino vanished after her car broke down on a California highway. She was presumed to be one of serial killer Ronny Lee Jessup’s victims whose remains were never found.

Writer David Thorne still hasn’t recovered from losing the love of his life, or from the guilt of not being there to save her. Since then, he’s sought closure any way he can. He even visits regularly with Jessup in prison, desperate for answers about Emily’s final hours so he may finally lay her body to rest. Then David meets Maddison Sutton, beguiling, playful, and keenly aware of all David has lost. But what really takes his breath away is that everything about Maddison, down to her kisses, is just like Emily. As the fantastic becomes credible, David’s obsession grows, Maddison’s mysterious past deepens—and terror escalates.

Is she Emily? Or an irresistible dead ringer? Either way, the ultimate question is the same: What game is she playing? Whatever the risk in finding out, David’s willing to take it for this precious second chance. It’s been ten years since he’s felt this inspired, this hopeful, this much in love…and he’s afraid.

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She is lost, and he must find her.

1

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(Thomas & Mercer, 23 March 2021, ebook, 363 pages, bought from @AmazonKindle)

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I’ve been a fan of the author, on and off since my teens so for more than thirty years. I’ve really enjoyed his last couple of books so had high hopes for The Other Emily. This is the kind of twisted, bizarre suspense novel with science-fiction elements Koontz is brilliant at writing. I love the short chapters and how quickly this helps to build suspense. I was hooked on the book within a few pages and didn’t want to stop reading until I reached the end. I had so many questions as I read. What happened to Emily? Is Maddison actually Emily? If she is, why does she seem unaware of this? If she’s not who is she and why is she Emily’s double? I loved the fact the truth isn’t revealed until the final few chapters. This is a corker.

NB: This is supposed to be a kindle-in-motion book with interactive elements but despite having media enabled and set to auto-play no interactive elements materialised.

Posted in 2021, ARC, Autobiography, Deborah Levy, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Top Books

Real Estate by Deborah Levy

‘Three bicycles. Seven ghosts. A crumbling apartment block on the hill. Fame. Tenderness. The statue of Peter Pan. Silk. Melancholy. The banana tree. A Pandemic. A love story.’

From one of the great thinkers and writers of our time, comes the highly anticipated final instalment in Deborah Levy’s critically acclaimed ‘Living Autobiography’.

‘I can’t think of any writer aside from Virginia Woolf who writes better about what it is to be a woman’ Observer on The Cost of Living

Following the international critical acclaim of The Cost of Living, this final volume of Deborah Levy’s ‘Living Autobiography’ is an exhilarating, thought-provoking and boldly intimate meditation on home and the spectres that haunt it.

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In the winter of January 2018, I bought a small banana tree from a stall outside Shoreditch High Street station.

1, LONDON

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(@PenguinUKBooks, 13 May 2021, 304 pages, hardback, #ARC from the publisher and voluntarily reviewed)

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I’ve only read a couple of the author’s book’s and have loved them so I was looking forward to this, part memoir, part autobiography and part mediation on need and longing. I really loved Real Estate and plan to read the other two volumes of the author’s living autobiography. I will definitely check out more of her fiction as well. I found this book engrossing. In many ways, nothing particularly spectacular happens but it’s the little minute nuances about everyday life and experiences that held my interest from start to finish. A great chunk is set in Paris, a city I love and I had a great with the author there.  I loved the way the author thinks about her life, experiences, various stages of her life, the people she meets and the things that mean a lot to her. I can’t recommend Real Estate enough.

Posted in 2021, ARC, edelweiss+, First Read, Poetry, Stephanie Norgat, Top Books

#TheCoversation by @StephanieNorgat

In The Conversation, Stephanie Norgate explores relationships between nature and the city, the past and present and character and writer. Shaped through both speech and storytelling, these visual, sensuous and imaginative poems celebrate friendship, even in grief, closeness in times of isolation and lockdown, and the longing to bridge gaps and find cures. Miracles are found in the everyday, in a child’s sleep or a lit-up house. Textiles transform into remembrancers, landscape into emotion. A contemporary Daedalus views his life from a hang-glider. A scrap of handwriting, café talk, an exploding car, an earthquake, the naming of fields or a line of walkers ignite conversations about place, time and the tender paradoxes of mortality.

Stephanie Norgate’s first collection Hidden River (2008) was shortlisted for both the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and was followed by The Blue Den (2012). The Conversation is her third collection. Her poetry has been praised for the ‘depth of its lyricism’ (Jackie Wills, Warwick Review), and for being ‘energetic and generous, and displaying a ‘feeling for place, for the roots of things’ and for being ‘searching, memorable and disconcerting She has the ear for the music of a line and the shape and strength of an image.’ (R.V. Bailey, Artemis).

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Don’t tell me that you’ve never lingered

under the eaves of my mystery house,

THE HOUSE

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(@BloodaxeBooks, 16 September 2021, ebook, 64 pages, #ARC from the publisher via @edelweiss_squad)

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This is a new poet for me. I enjoyed The Conversation so much I devoured it in one sitting. I will definitely read more of the poet’s work because I thought this was a fantastic collection of poetry. I loved every poem. The Conversation is full of the kind of poems I love, vivid, descriptive, almost fantastical, easy to get lost in and consumed by. The opening poem The House is the best in the collection and one of the best poems I’ve ever read, it’s beautiful and haunting. I read it several times because I enjoyed it so much. I’d highly recommend this book.

Posted in 2021, ARC, Blog Tour, Contemporary Fiction, First Read, kristen zimmer, LGBT Fiction, NetGalley, Novel, Top Books

#WhenSparksFly by @kristen_zimmer

The room is dark, except for the streetlights coming through the blinds. I can barely see her, but I feel her. She pushes me up against the wall and we kiss harder than we ever have before. I’ve been waiting so long for it to happen, and finally, it’s going to. Then the bedroom door flies open, and someone screams her name…

Britton Walsh has never had a home. After a lifetime in the care system, she doesn’t expect she’ll ever find one. But beginning her senior year with new foster parents in a new city, means starting over yet again. Tom and Cate Cahill seem okay. The hitch? Their daughter, Avery.

Beautiful, popular and cool, Avery is everything Britton is not. She’s all Britton could ever ask for in a sister, or even a friend––but having survived without either for so long, Britton knows the way her heart races whenever Avery enters the room can only mean one thing…

But Avery has a secret. Something that is eating away at her and stopping her letting anyone in, least of all Britton. Will Avery’s insistence on punishing herself for a mistake in her past make Britton’s last year of high school, and finding a place to call home, impossible? Can two such different people ever find common ground, friendship, or maybe even something more?

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Beverly High School, day one – school number seven for me.

1

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(@Bookouture, 28 April 2021, 288 pages, ebook, #ARC from the publisher via #NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed, #BlogTour 30 April)

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This is a new author for me. I really loved When Sparks Fly and will check out other books by the author. I don’t often read LGBT fiction or love stories which may seem strange as I’m gay myself but I have read this genre in the past and found books to be very poorly written and cheesy. I should read some recent LGBT fiction. This is more of a YA / New Adult book as Britton and Avery are senior’s in high school but the book is very accessible for older readers. I loved it. I wanted Britton to finally find a place to settle down and be happy before she went off to college. I wanted Britton and Avery to have a brilliant love story. This book gave me all the feels. I laughed, cried and loved every word. This is a great book.

Posted in 2021, Brian Freeman, Contemporary Fiction, Novel, Prime Reading, thriller, Top Books

#TheNightBird by @bfreemanbooks

Homicide detective Frost Easton doesn’t like coincidences. When a series of bizarre deaths rock San Francisco—as seemingly random women suffer violent psychotic breaks—Frost looks for a connection that leads him to psychiatrist Francesca Stein. Frankie’s controversial therapy helps people erase their most terrifying memories…and all the victims were her patients.

As Frost and Frankie carry out their own investigations, the case becomes increasingly personal—and dangerous. Long-submerged secrets surface as someone called the Night Bird taunts the pair with cryptic messages pertaining to the deaths. Soon Frankie is forced to confront strange gaps in her own memory, and Frost faces a killer who knows the detective’s worst fears.

As the body count rises and the Night Bird circles ever closer, a dedicated cop and a brilliant doctor race to solve the puzzle before a cunning killer claims another victim.

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Like a shiny Christmas display, red brake lights flashed to life across five westbound lanes of the San Francisco -Oakland Bay Bridge.

1

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(Thomas & Mercer, 1 February 2017, ebook, 364 pages, borrowed from @AmazonKindle, #PrimeReading)

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I’ve read and enjoyed other books by the author so was really looking forward to reading The Night Bird. I thought it was a great book and will definitely read more books in the series. I was hooked within a couple of pages and didn’t want to stop reading. The book opens with a bang with a violent, tragic event on one of San Francisco’s many bridges. My jaw hit the floor so hard it hurt like hell and I knew I had to keep reading to find out what was going on. This is the kind of thriller I love where so much happens and there are so many possible outcomes you have no idea how it’s all going to pan out. Who is the Night Bird and what does he want? Why is he targeting patients of a notorious psychologist who’ve all received her controversial treatment for phobias? I found this book completely engrossing and absorbing. I really didn’t like Francesca, the psychiatrist and could understand why her treatment which involved actually altering people’s memories of phobias and their triggers turned people against her. As the book proved, her treatment made it far too easy to control and manipulate people. I loved this.

Posted in 2021, Contemporary Fiction, Elizabeth Chakrabarty, First Read, literary fiction, Novel, Review Copy, Top Books

#LessonsInLoveAndOtherCrimes by @DrNChakrabarty

Tesya has reasons to feel hopeful after leaving her last job, where she was subjected to a series of anonymous hate crimes. Now she is back home in London to start a new lecturing position, and has begun an exciting, if tumultuous, love affair with the enigmatic Holly. But this idyllic new start quickly sours. Tesya finds herself victimized again at work by an unknown assailant, who subjects her to an insidious, sustained race hate crime. As her paranoia mounts, Tesya finds herself yearning for the most elemental of desires: love, acceptance, and sanctuary. Her assailant, meanwhile, is recording his manifesto and plotting his next steps. Inspired by the author’s personal experiences of hate crime and bookended with essays which contextualize the story within a lifetime of microaggressions, Lessons in Love and Other Crimes is a heartbreaking, hopeful, and compulsively readable novel about the most quotidian of crimes.

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In the future, there is a body.

1, LOVE IN THE DARK

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(@PressIndigoThe, 15 April 2021, 272 pages, ebook, copy from the publisher and voluntarily reviewed)

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This is a new author for me. I had no idea what to expect when I started to read this but it sounded like something very different from the books I usually read and something I’d really enjoy. I was engrossed, almost obsessed from the first few pages. The book uses an unusual structure in that there is a lengthy autobiographical introduction about how the author’s own life and experiences of racism and harassment served as the catalyst for the book. There are also author notes included after some chapters which reflect on important moments in the book. These sections may sound intrusive and I expected them to be but they really weren’t. They just made the book richer and more enjoyable. I’m a white woman and I haven’t experienced any form of racism but I could still relate to the author’s experiences because I was bullied in school because I liked to read and was overweight. I loved the way the events move from Tesya’s experience of racism in her last job to her experiences in her new job which horrifying mirror what happened the previous year. I felt every moment of her terror and confusion as she wonders, how can this be happening again? This is an incredible book.

Posted in 2021, Fantasy Fiction, frances hardinge, historical fiction, Horror Fiction, Novel, Top Books

#TheLieTree by @FrancesHardinge

The Lie Tree is a wonderfully evocative and atmospheric novel by Frances Hardinge, award-winning author of Cuckoo Song and Fly by Night.

Faith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.

The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter . .

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The boat moved with a nauseous, relentless rhythm, like someone chewing on a rotten tooth.

CHAPTER 1, EXILES

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(@panmacmillan, 7 May 2015, ebook, 417 pages, bought from @AmazonKindle)

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This is the first book I bought by the author because I’d heard so much about it and I find it strange that I’ve read some of her other books first. I thought The Lie Tree was a fantastic read, part historical fiction, part horror, part gothic mystery. I wish I’d read it sooner. The author’s style and subject matter is similar to her other books. I got pulled right into the book within the first few lines and it consumed me until I finished. The Lie Tree was in my head all the time in between reading sessions and I couldn’t wait to return to it and find out what happened next. This is a terrific book.