Books

Quarterly Book Review 2019 #3

Where has the time gone?! I’m already on the third part of this year’s Quarterly Book Reviews, this quarter I will be reviewing books from July – September. This month has been full of biographies, I re-read This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay which I reviewed last year and found some brilliant thrillers that kept me guessing.

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The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

“Being nice is a good thing. You can be strong and nice. You don’t have to be one or the other”

Tiffy Moore has broken up with her boyfriend (well, ex) and now needs a cheap flat, quick. Leon Twomey needs some cash to help his incarcerated brother. They agree on a flatshare, Tiffy runs the the one-bedroom flat in the evenings then when she’s at work Leon occupies the flat in the day. Tiffy and Leon haven’t met, however they get to know each other through sticky notes left around the flat and their lives start to intertwine more than they could ever have imaged.

This book was beyond great, I was hooked from the first page. Although the book seemed ctuesy and fluffy on the outside, deep down the book had quite a serious undertone. Both characters had issues going on in their lives, Tiffy with an abusive ex-boyfriend and Leon with his falsely accused, incarcerated brother.

Each chapter was narrated by either Tiffy or Leon, the format of the typing changed with each character too. The supporting characters were all very unique and had interesting back stories, they tied into the story really well.

For anyone that loves a good rom-com story with a twist!

★★★☆

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Vox by Christina Dalcher

“Monsters aren’t born, ever. They’re made, piece by piece and limb by limb, artificial creations of madmen who, like the misguided Frankenstein, always think they know better”

Set in a near-future dystopian America where the rise of an extremist religious group have become to power. They have stopped woman working, reading and have shackled them to a word counter ‘bracelet’ that limits their speech to 100 words per day. Dr. Jean McClellan ignored the signs that this day was coming, now it’s time for her to stand up for herself, her daughter and all the woman in America.

Vox was hailed as a new version of The Handmaid’s Tale but honestly, I have little good feedback about this title. The concept was a very interesting concept, considering what is happening in America right now with Women’s Bodily Autonomy being taken away bit by bit. However, it fell super flat for me.

The whole story seemed rushed and every issue was sorted out too quickly.. it wasn’t realistic at all. The characters all fell super flat too, they were all just stereotypical characters with no substance and depth. The worst part of this novel was how random it was, the narration by Jean was all over the place, a lot of the time I struggled to keep up with what was going on as nothing was explained in a linear way.

Disappointed with Vox, it could have been the new Handmaid’s Tale with a more modern edge, however it ended up being boring, flat and rushed.

★☆☆☆

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She Chose Me by Tracey Emerson

“Grace is a Sinner”

Grace has returned to London after twenty years teaching abroad to look after her ill Mother. However, when Grace starts receiving blank Mother’s Day cards and the feeling she is being watched, she realises that the past is catching up with her and she can’t keep running forever.

She Chose Me is a powerful thriller that keeps you guessing. The duel narrative wasn’t confusing even when we were unsure on who the second narrator was and all characters were engaging even though we, as the readers, weren’t meant to like all of them. It was easy to have empathy for all characters involved in the book and I could easily picture the scenes as I read them. Out of all the characters Cassie was the most interesting, Emerson really delved into her inner psych and explored why she acts the way she does. I thought I had the story sussed the whole way through the book but the last few chapters showcased an amazing twist that I didn’t see coming.

A story for all fans of Psychological Thrillers.

★★★☆

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Just a Child: Britain’s Biggest Child Abuse Scandal Exposed by Sammy Woodhouse

“Most of us forget exactly how we felt as a child, and don’t understand how our developing minds worked, but unfortunately those who groom children do not. They are masters of getting inside a child’s head and finding out what make’s them tick, and they know exactly how to abuse that knowledge for their own gratification, stealing childhoods and wrecking lives as they go.

Sometimes the best books are written not by professional writers, but by those that have been through the ringer yet are determined to help themselves and others in the same situation.

Just a Child is the heartbreaking autobiography of Sammy Woodhouse, who from the age of 14 was groomed by a group of men in one of the UK’s biggest child exploitation cases. Sammy met Arshid Hussain, who was 10 years older than her, and instantly fell in love. What followed was decades of abuse at the hands of Arshid and his gang, who ran one of the biggest child sex trafficking rings in the country, all under the nose of the authorities who were meant to protect her.

Books about those subject matter are always going to be hard to read and digest. Although Sammy isn’t a professional writer, her account of this ordeal is written so well and really draws you in. This book is very educating and showcases the life long question of “why do they stay with their abuser?”. There is moments that are unbearable to read and you will want to scream “Get out of there!” at young Sammy. However, you see through the story how one brave woman stood up to the abusers and the authorities and changed the law, and saved many young lives in the process.

A hard read, but one that should be read by all, I would honestly campaign for this book to be used in schools to educate children on the signs of exploitation and domestic abuse.

★★★★

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Educated by Tara Westover

“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.”

I’m really digging biographies this quarter, I’ve read 3 already!

Educated follows the life of Tara Westover who was brought up in a Survivalist, Mormon family in rural Idaho. She didn’t have a birth certificate, go to school or get to participate in normal childhood activities. Instead her father insisted on preparing for the end of days – spending days canning foods, scrapping, hording armed weapons and making escape plans. By the age of 16, Tara was craving an escape from her radical Father and abuse Brother, so she finally decided to go to school and have an education.

I always find books about religious extremism very interesting, mostly because I’m not at all religious, and Educated was no exception. Told over many years, Tara has a captivating way of telling her story and no stone was un-turned in re-telling her memories. Although, some parts of the story seemed a little far-fetched, even for a biography about survivalists – either Tara was very lucky in her quest for an education or she left a lot of details out of the book.

Despite this, Educated was an interesting read about a community that doesn’t receive a lot of attention and a girl who was willing to risk it all for a chance in education.

★★☆☆

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Down Among The Dead Men: A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Assistant by Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams is your average young woman, however her career choice is a little unusual.. she is a mortuary technician.

Down Among The Dead men follows Michelle as she navigates the fascinating world underneath most hospitals. We get a glimpse of all the interesting characters that make up the staff: the cooky pathologists, caring undertakers and the technicians themselves. The stories that unfold from the dead that come into the Mortuary are shocking, some so ridiculous you wouldn’t have thought it could happen and other’s so sad and heartbreaking.

This biography was interesting, telling and educating.. before this novel I had no idea how a mortuary worked. The only let down was that Michelle had a habit of adding a lot of details about her life outside of work, which wasn’t always that interesting.

An interesting book to pick up for one of the most underrated parts of life and death.

★★☆☆

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The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

“Sometimes things happen and you have no way of understanding them. You try to find a reason to justify it, but there isn’t always an answer. It’s just life”

After reading a few Biographies I jumped back on to the thriller train, The Other Woman was a great book to get me re-introduced to the genre.

The Other Woman follows Emily who meets the man her dreams, Adam. Her new whirlwind romance seems like the start of a wonderful new chapter, however lurking in the shadows is Adam’s obsessive mother Pammie, vying with Emily for every bit of Adam’s attention… but how far will Pammie go to have Adam all to herself?

This book sucked me right in, I was hooked from the first page. I found Emily to be a very real character, I empathised with her immensely. Emily’s friends and family were all interesting characters with their own quirks, but Adam and his family were something else. Pammie was the epitome of the ‘evil mother in law’, very manipulative and always had a trick up her sleeve. Adam was a very interesting character, he wasn’t the typical ‘prince charming’ and had a very dark side to him.

All fans of thrillers should pick up this book, it was immersive, emotional and had a great twist at the end.

★★★☆

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The Holiday by T.M Logan

“No one thought anything of it if you had your phone out – because everyone did. Everyone was doing it, all the time, so no one thought it out of the ordinary. And that meant you could take pictures of literally anything. Anything at all.”

Wow this novel really kept me guessing!  The Holiday follows a group of four woman, friends from their college days, as they travel to France on a vacation with their families. Kate finds texts on her husbands phone from another woman using a fake name.. however one of the woman is one of Kate’s four best friends. Kate uses the week away to uncover her Husband’s secret affair but someone else is trying to hide their secret.. even if they take it to their grave.

The Holiday is a book I wasn’t really looking forward to reading but I’m glad I gave it a go as it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. One minute I thought I had it sussed then the next moment I changed my mind. All the characters were unique and had their own personal dramas which linked to the other characters issues.. T.M Logan thoroughly mapped out this book. However, don’t read this book expecting to like any of the characters, they were all horribly flawed but this made them very life like.

For fans of thrillers that keep you guessing!

★★★☆

Other Books Read but Not Reviewed:

  • Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
  • What Red Was by Sophie Price
  • This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay (2nd time reading)
  • Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

Books I Did Not Finish:

  • Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E Thomas – Book was boring and the narrator wasn’t at all likeable or approachable

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge read so far: 38

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xox

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