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Misery by Stephen King

umber whunnnn yerrrnnn umber whunnnn fayunnnn These sounds: even in the haze. – Opening sentence I found this copy of Misery in my local charity shop, and it’s been wedged into my bookcase for at least a couple of years since then. I’ve only read a handful of King’s work; Rage, The Long Walk, The Shining, and IT. Each one I’ve absorbed with a fierce passion, so, when looking for something to read over the Halloween period, I decided (finally!) to give Misery it’s turn. And from page one, I was gripped. Paul Sheldon, a famous writer, wakes up hazily by resuscitation. He’s in a lot of pain, and doesn’t quite remember who he is, let alone where he is. As his brain starts to piece together his memories, he remembers veering his car into a ditch during a heavy snow storm, and the person who resuscitated him was Annie Wilkes, who…

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. – Opening sentence I first read The Handmaid’s Tale when I was a teenager, but it didn’t leave much of a lasting impression. I think a lot if it went over my head; I was too young to fully comprehend it. So, after the release its much anticipated sequel, The Testaments, I decided to re-read The Handmaid’s Tale. And I’m so glad I did. I was blown away by how powerful it is, I can’t BELIEVE how much I had forgotten, and not appreciated, from my first reading (especially as I love the dystopia genre, and The Handmaid’s Tale is definitely dystopian in its theme). Devastatingly sad, The Handmaid’s Tale follows the story of a women known as Offred. This name has been given to her as she is the property of her commander; we never discover her true name. Offred was a normal woman before the…

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

From above, from a distance, the marks in the dust formed a tight circle. – Opening sentence Whenever I have the opportunity to be part of a blog tour, I am always hesitant. What if I don’t like the book? I wouldn’t be able to lie in a review (in fact, I’d probably drop out of the tour altogether, and write my review independently). However, I’d heard such good things about Jane Harper’s previous novels (The Dry and Force of Nature) that I decided to take the risk – and I’m so glad I did because The Lost Man truly lives up to the hype! I’ll level with you, I’m somewhat of a cover snob and I’ll admit The Lost Man isn’t the most Instagram-worthy cover out there. But we all know what really matters is what’s inside – and what’s inside makes The Lost Man a very special book. The Lost Man is set in the Australian Outback, which…

The Bees by Laline Paull

The old orchard stood besieged. – Opening sentence Do you ever read a borrowed book, and love it so much that you don’t want to give it back? That’s the dilemma I’m in now. One of my closest friends, Lisa, lent me her copy of The Bees about 6 months ago. Feeling guilty for letting it sit and gather dust over this time, I finally picked it up to read. The book follows the story of Flora 717, a lowest-class worker bee (role; sanitation) just hatched into a totalitarian hive society. It’s such a unique narrative (the only book that comes close to comparison would be Watership Down), that I was instantly gripped with fascination and admiration. We are quickly introduced to the harsh politics of hive life; Flora 717 is born deformed – “excessively large” and “obscenely ugly”, with the ability to speak (unheard of for sanitation workers) – and wouldn’t have survive…

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…

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