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All Rivers Run Free by Natasha Carthew

The first time it happened it was the worst of all times; the young woman told herself it was important not to forget this. – Opening sentence Thank you to @riverrunbooks for sending me this beautiful proof! All Rivers Run Free follows a young woman called Ia, who has lived a heartbreaking life. At just 25, Ia has known only pain, sorrow and loneliness, and lives an isolated life in a caravan on the edge of a cliff on the Northern Coast of Cornwall. Her ‘husband’, Branner, took her in after the death of Ia’s parents when she was 12. But he didn’t touch her until she turned 15; “Despite no ceremony no ring she’d learnt to abide had made the van her home and she kept his dream of rebuilding the surrounding ruined cottage into a worthy house give him babies whatever he wanted she would do it.” This way of writing…

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

“Sir?” she repeats. – Opening sentence So, after polling my Twitter followers on what I should read next, the winner was Thirteen Reasons Why. It’s been sitting in my TBR pile for a while, and I had been refusing to watch the Netflix adaptation until I had read the book, so I was glad to finally find the time to do so. I started reading Thirteen Reasons Why yesterday afternoon, and I finished the entire book in one full sitting; I was gripped. I knew that it dealt with issues of teen suicide, but I didn’t quite anticipate how dark the book was going to be. It all begins when Clay Jensen, a typical high-school American boy, receives a mysterious parcel with no return address. Inside, he discovers a map and a series of cassette tapes containing the last words of Hannah Baker, his classmate who committed suicide two weeks earlier. The…

Restless Souls by Dan Sheehan

I haven’t seen Tom in three and a half years. – Opening sentence I was super-excited when this beautiful looking proof was posted through my letter box (thanks Jennifer!). The cover art depicts Restless Souls as 1/3 comedy, 1/3 road trip and 1/3 tragedy. However I must have got the wrong copy, because the majority of what I read was full-on tragedy. Part one had me choking back tears, as it covers some pretty heavy stuff that the majority of media publishers like to pretend don’t exist; modern poverty, male suicide and mental illness through trauma. However,  instead of shying away from these taboo subjects, author Sheehan casts a light on them, using clever humour to soften the blow and place them in a more natural, relatable setting. And that’s where the comedy comes in, and why it’s so important. I wouldn’t say this book has moments of laugh-out-loud comedy, but it does…

Hollow Shores by Gary Budden

My old man was a lorry driver, back in the eighties. – Opening sentence Hollow Shores is the debut collection of intertwined short stories by writer Gary Budden, combining psychogeography, history, nature, punk sub-culture and more. In the acknowledgements, Budden writes, “A massive thanks to Nathan Connolly at Dead Ink for taking a punt on what he described as ‘a really weird book’.” “Really weird” is definitely one way to describe this collection, but I would prefer to choose enchanting, haunting or melancholic instead. Indeed, I’ve never read anything like it (and probably won’t again). All these stories are centred between the stretch of coast between Norfolk and Kent, including the Thames estuaries,  known as the ‘Hollow Shores’. Where fiction mingles with fact, Budden made me nostalgic for a place I’ve never actually visited. As the various characters deal with themes of loss, change, relationships, self-enlightenment, home and family, they all share a…

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

Three miles up the river Thames from the centre of Oxford, some distance from where the great colleges of Jordan, Gabriel, Balliol, and two dozen others contended for mastery in the boat races, out where the city was only a collection of towers and spires in the distance over the misty levels of Port Meadow, there stood the priory of Godstow, where the gentle nuns went about their only business; and on the opposite bank from the priory there was an inn called the Trout. – Opening sentence When Philip Pullman announced that he was releasing The Book of Dust, I was beyond excited. I first read the original His Dark Materials trilogy during my teenage years and, like many others, immediately fell in love. It is one of the few series that I regularly go back to, and each time I discover something new that I either missed or mistook. Such is my love for His…

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Dear Franklin, I’m unsure why one trifling incident this afternoon has moved me to write to you. – Opening sentence We Need to Talk About Kevin has been on my radar as a must-read book for a while. I didn’t know too much about it, but had a pretty good idea based on the title and it’s reputation (actually, a visit to the wikipedia page for this novel will tell the reader almost everything – so I’m surprised how I got away with knowing as little as I did. Don’t worry though, as always, my review is spoiler free). Published in 2003, We Need to Talk About Kevin was the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2005, and adapted into a film in 2011. It’s been dubbed as a mother’s worst nightmare. Now that I’ve read it, I can easily say it’s one of my all-time favourite books; it made me feel…

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. – Opening sentence I had the pleasure of attending a book-themed wedding a few weeks ago. It was wholeheartedly lovely. Each table at the reception was themed around a different book, and the parting gift to all guests was a book (or four, in my case!). This is how I came about my first copy of Jane Eyre, a classic that I had never gotten around to reading. I knew that it was celebrated amongst book lovers, but in my youth I’d always dreaded the ‘old fashioned’ and instead stuck to modern fiction. However, the day after the wedding I found myself sitting in one of the comfy seats in Costa, and decided to try the first few chapters of Jane Eyre – and I was immediately hooked. I can’t even fully explain it, but there a charm in Jane…

The Child by Fiona Barton

My computer is winking at me knowingly as I sit down at my desk. – Opening sentence The Child is Fiona Barton’s second crime/thriller novel, following her successful first title, The Widow (which I haven’t read). In classic crime style, The Child starts begins with an horrific discovery; the body of a newborn baby, discovered in a building site in London. Kate Waters, an old-school journalist trying to survive in a world full of online click-bait-churning zombies, decides to do some digging. But the story is much bigger (and darker) than she initially expected, and Kate is drawn into an emotional and dangerous story – putting a strain on both her personal and professional relationships. Barton herself used to be a senior writer at the Daily Mail and news editor at the Daily Telegraph, which helped to bring the character of Kate Waters to life, and make the interactions more believable and realistic. I,…

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

Vanessa dreams she is a grown woman, heavy with flesh and care. – Opening sentence Gather the Daughters is a dark and uncomfortable novel that I know is going to haunt me for a while. It follows the story of a small community of island-dwellers, told from the perspective of four young girls. The ‘wastelands’ surrounding their island are full of disease, war and defectives – life on the island is the only life. Newborn boys are celebrated with laughter, girls with tears. These girls know that as soon as they experience their first bleed – coming of age – they will be married and have children. That is what happens to all the woman on the island during the ‘summer of fruition’, where all the eligible men and new young woman spend the summer together until they are all paired off and married by Autumn. This is how it has always been on the…

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

A twenty-story-tall metallic figure appeared in the middle of Regent’s Park this morning. – Opening sentence Waking Gods is the second book in The Themis Files; the sequel to Sleeping Giants (one of my top reads of 2016). As a fan of science-fiction, I LOVED Sleeping Giants – but I think I loved Waking Gods even more! The second book is much darker, in a way that I wasn’t quite expecting, but it worked really well and was the right direction for book #2. Waking Gods is written in the same style as Sleeping Giants, through a series of interviews, news reports and journal entries. It’s an unorthodox style that Neuvel pulls off really well, and it in no way hinders the reader experience. While Sleeping Giants set the scene and gave us a lot of background information, Waking Gods needed no introduction and jumped straight into the action. This made Waking…

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