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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…

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

She’s buried beneath a silver birch tree, down towards the old train tracks, her grave marked with a cairn. – Opening sentence You might have heard of this book. Published in January 2015,  The Girl on the Train was an instant success. It had sold over 1 million copies by March 2015, and occupied the number one spot of the UK hardback book chart for 20 weeks (a record!). For whatever reason, I didn’t get swept up in the initial hype. I knew that the book was a sensation, but I just never got around to owning a copy. Then it got made into a movie a year later in 2016. And I still hadn’t read it. By now I was starting to hear things like “overrated” and “not worth the hype”, and I decided that I really should read it myself to what all the fuss was about. So I borrowed my Mum’s…

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

He was still bleeding. – Opening sentence A massive thanks to Georgina Moore who sent me a proof copy of this book after I felt like the only book blogger who hadn’t read it yet! I don’t know if this is just me, but I hadn’t heard of the historic Lizzie Borden case before reading this book, so the poem on the back sort of gave it away a little bit: Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one (Apparently this is quite famous and well-known, but I’ve been living under some sort of rock.) For those of you who are also unfamiliar with the Borden case, here are the quick facts: On 4th August 1892, the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden were discovered by their daughter, Lizzie Borden. Both had been violently murdered with an axe.…

Ink by Alice Broadway

I was older than all my friends when I got my first tattoo. – Opening sentence I was extremely excited to win this special copy of Ink from @ScholasticUK, as I have wanted to read it ever since I got my hands on the teaser back in August 2016. In Ink, tattoos (or ‘marks’ as they are referred to in this book), are obligatory. You get your first mark, you name, two days after you are born and from then on every important milestone in your life in inked; the good and the bad. Upon your death, your marks are preserved and compiled into a Skin Book, and your book is judged in the “weighing of the soul ceremony”. If your life is deemed to be good – and your soul is worthy – your book remains with your family and your name will be forever remembered. But if your soul…

Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjon

The October evening is windless and cool. – Opening sentence I didn’t really have any expectations for Moonstone. I’d heard good things about it, and because it was set in Reykjavik, Iceland, where I was heading for a long weekend – I picked up a copy from BookBridgr. I certainly didn’t expect to be confronted with a graphic sex act on page one. It kind of made me want to hide what I was reading, in case people knew. And because I knew nothing about Moonstone beforehand, I didn’t know if it was some sort of erotica novella. Back in the hostel, in the privacy of my room, I continued reading. And I’m glad I did, because what I read wasn’t erotica, but one of the most deeply moving stories I have ever read. Based on true events that happened after the war in 1918, Mani Steinn is a boy…

Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

The small, female oblong stood in the shadows beyond the doorway. – Opening sentence Harmless Like You may be one of the most haunting books I have ever read. In that sense, it reminded me a bit of Stoner, another book who’s main character lives a painfully slow and lonely life. The story is told by two narrators, Yuki and Jay, who’s stories are separated by fifty years yet are combined in an unbreakable way; mother and son. Yuki is a high-schooler in New York in the 60s. Born in Japan, her english-speaking father was assigned a position in America, so Yuki has grown-up with only her parents word for how wonderful Japan is (and how they can’t wait to go back). However, Yuki doesn’t want to go back. She has no memories of Japan, and when her parents speak in Japanese and talk about their old life it feels…

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