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Normal People by Sally Rooney

Marianne answers the door when Connell rings the bell. – Opening sentence Sometimes you read a book that holds you in a death grip and doesn’t let you go. This was one of those books. From what I’ve read in other reviews, Normal People is quite polarising with some readers finding themselves more affected than others. With me, Normal People got completely under my skin. At some points, I was so affected that I have to have long breaks between chapters. I’m not sure exactly what it was. Yes, there are some dark sections (triggering for some), but they are not necessarily explored in all their grimy details. In fact, it’s probably what is left unsaid which is the most concerning – and there is a lot that is unsaid between the characters in this book. Never before have I willed two characters to talk to each other more openly. Marianne and Connell, the two central…

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Out of the gravel there are peonies growing. – Opening sentence Alias Grace was the chosen title for my work’s book club. The only other Atwood title I have read is The Handmaid’s Tale, so I had high expectations for Alias Grace. And it didn’t disappoint. Based on the true historic crime of the murders of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery in 1843, Atwood brings to life the story of Grace Marks and James McDermott. Both were convicted for the murders, with James McDermott being hanged and Grace Marks sentenced to live imprisonment. Atwood writes in the afterward and acknowledgements that she included as much factual content as available to her, adding that little is truly “known” about the details of the case due to the various inaccuracies in both Grace Marks and James McDermett’s confessions, sensationalised news coverage, and contradictory observations from witnesses, doctors and others who wrote about the…

IT by Stephen King

The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years – if it ever did end – began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain. – Opening sentence IT by Stephen King is a beast of a book! At 1,153 pages, it left my arms physically aching when I attempted to pick it up, so I ended up reading the majority of it on my kindle instead (this also made my commute much easier!). I’d already seen the 1990 miniseries and the 2017 film before I started reading, so I knew what I was getting myself into, but the book had always intimidated me…  Other books this size include a lot of ‘waffle’ and ‘filler’ – and I expected the same in this case and that I would have to skim through some chapters to get…

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell

September 30th, the day I received the news of my adoptive brother’s death, I also received a brand-new couch from IKEA. – Opening sentence Sorry to Disrupt the Peace describes itself as a “dark comedy about loss, grief, solitude, and ghosts” – I must have missed the comedy! While it does have some comedic elements to it, the fact that it’s quite clearly suggested that the main character, Helen Moran, has some symptoms of mental illness/disability makes it less comedy, and more tragedy. At the beginning of the book, Helen Moran is told that her adoptive brother has died by suicide. She immediately leaves New York City to travel back to her adopted parent’s home in Wisconsin, a home that doesn’t exactly welcome her back with open arms. Helen and her non-biological brother, both born in Korea, were adopted by wealthy, white, American parents. Helen recounts that they both struggled with their identity as…

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…

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