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The Two Houses by Fran Cooper

The Two Houses sit grey and brooding beneath a pale sky. – Opening sentence The Two Houses begins as a ghost story; the tale of one house forcibly split into two in an effort to rid the supposed ghost of the woman who died there. However, as the novel progresses, you realise that the ‘ghosts’ in The Two Houses are that of the mind; emotional; a collection of dark memories and hushed secrets kept by the living. Jay, an artist, and Simon, an architect, are a successful married couple living in London.  The book begins with Jays breakdown over her inability to have children. She’s not even sure she wanted to have children in the first place, but failure is an unfamiliar feeling to her, and robbed of the option to choose, she finds herself unable to get out of bed in the morning. Simon, at a loss, recommends some space in the…

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

A sex tape. – Opening sentence Front the front cover alone, it’s clear to see that One of Us is Lying was somewhat inspired by The Breakfast Club (1985) (although no one in The Breakfast Club gets murdered). I think that’s the reason why my boyfriend bought me the book for Christmas, as we recently watched the popular 80s film for the first time a few months back. I don’t tend to read a lot of YA books at the moment. Not out of choice, but because I simply don’t own many of them. So when I first started One of Us is Lying it took me a while to sink into the particular feeling of a YA, and place myself into the mindset of my younger self. However, it didn’t take long until I was completely hooked. The book begins with five unlikely students in detention.  Out of nowhere, one of them suffers a severe allergic reaction, and…

The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

Some people are born deaf, mute or blind. – Opening sentence I recently started a new job at an independent publishing company in London. Some of my colleagues there have formed their own book club, meeting monthly in the large meeting room at lunch with cakes and treats, to discuss their latest read. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to be involved. Not only would it be a good opportunity for me to get to know my colleagues better, but it would also be a way to discover new books that I might not otherwise be introduced to. Each month, one person chooses three books, and the remaining members vote for which one they would prefer to read. This month’s winner was The Reader on the 6.27. Set in France, the story follows Guylain Vignolles, a 36-year-old engineer at the TERN recycling facility. Guylain is by all accounts a sad and…

Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar

My name is Jakub Prochazka. This is a common name. My parents wanted a simple life for me, a life of good comrade-ship with my country and my neighbors, a life of service to a world united in socialism. – Opening In the not-too-distant future, a distant comet enters the solar system bringing with it some unidentified space dust along its wake. Settling between Earth and Venus, the purple cloud transforms the night sky, spreading fear and confusion among the population. What is it? Is it dangerous? Will it cause us harm? Manless space probes have been unsuccessful in their quests to collect samples, and no country wants to be the first to send a manned ship towards their unknown fate. That is, until the Czech announce their intentions to send one of their experts. Jakub Prochazka has been fascinated with the idea of space since he was a young…

The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowlers

Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. – Opening sentence If you consider yourself a book lover, then you NEED this book. It’s a very well put-together collection of authors who used to be popular, but have drifted into obscurity over the years. Christopher Fowler, the author behind this book, spent 10 years putting this collection together; “The forgotten authors wrote the popular paperbacks that shaped our imaginations and became touchstones in out lives. They were influential and often hugely successful, were adapted for television and theatre, but still vanished from bookshelves. What happened to these writers and their novels? The project of unearthing them became a ten-year labour of love that made me new friends around the world, as the loved ones of writers got in touch and offered their stories. Soon I had over 450 authors in my files, and what had started out as a small weekly newspaper…

Histories by Sam Guglani

It reminds him of school, the sun coming in like this, low through windows, lighting the corridor. – Opening sentence Histories is a collection of interlinked stories set in a modern-day hospital. Each short story is a window into the mind of those who we trust to look after us in our times of need; not just doctors and nurses, but all the other medical professionals including physicians, porters and more. The author, Guglani, brings these characters to life in an intimate and poetic prose, revealing what it really feels like to work in an environment of illness and death. Guglani is a doctor himself with 20 years’ experience, adding a layer of authority to his collection. Although Histories is a work of fiction, Guglani draws on his insight and experience as Consultant Oncologist. I know that I, along with countless others, often take the work of healthcare professionals for granted. I trust…

Such Small Hands by Andres Barba

Her father died instantly, her mother in the hospital. – Opening sentence I’d seen and heard a lot of good things about Such Small Hands in the book blogging circle, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the dark and creepy tale. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with scary stuff. The majority of horror films give me nightmares for weeks, but I’ve never really experienced the same feeling with a book. Such Small Hands is a short novella, originally written in Spanish but translated by Lisa Dillman. Apparently it is based on a true story, which definitely made the whole book a lot scarier afterwards. Beautifully written, we follow the story of a young girl called Marina. The sole survivor of an accident that killed both her parents, Marina is sent to a girls orphanage. The story depicts not only her struggle to fit in, but her peers’ struggle to accept…

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks

‘The last thing one settles in writing a book,’ Pascal observes, ‘is what one should put in first.’ So, having written, collected and arranged these strange tales, having selected a title and two epigraphs, I must now examine what I have done – and why. – Oliver Sacks Oliver Sacks remains one of the world’s best-known neurologists, even after his death in 2015. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat is a collection of Sack’s more notable patients encountered during his career. Divided into four sections, Sacks groups these patients into four parts; Losses, Excesses, Transports and The World of the Simple. It’s a fascinating, and heartbreaking, insight into neurology and the way the brain works. I studied Psychology at A Level and have always enjoyed learning about why we are the way we are, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat captivated me at once. From the man who…

Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee

More than a hundred years had passed since the single tiny seed broke free and left its home. – Opening sentence I didn’t know anything about Broken Branches prior to reading it, although the blurb hints about a ‘family curse’ which intrigued me a lot. Other reviewers have described Broken Branches as a mystery and/or horror – but although it tries to be a bit ‘spooky’ in places; it wasn’t enough to scare me at all and I wouldn’t characterise it as such. The story is about a man called Ian Perkins. After the unfortunate passing of his older brother, Ian inherits his old childhood home. With his wife and young child, Ian moves into the home and makes it his mission to get to the bottom of the so-called family ‘curse’. Ian is a realistic and relatable character, but early on it’s obvious that not everything it quite what it seems. Author M.…

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

Vincent is a waiter at Coffee House. – Opening sentence Ghachar Ghochar is only  a short story – I read in all in one sitting – but one with a big impact; something which I think only the very talented can achieve in their writing. I admit, I was initially drawn in by the striking cover design – but also by the opportunity to expand on my own personal range of  genres. Ghachar Ghochar is the first of  Shanbhag’s works to be translated into English, and has been praised as being a masterclass of crafting. I can see why. Set in Bangalore, the story is told from the perspective of one unnamed character, referred to only once by his childhood nickname ‘Krukane’. In some ways it reminded me of Stoner: A Novel as both are stories about men who consider themselves to be thoroughly ordinary and boring. Both stories describe the…

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