Review: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

DSCF1487You know that feeling you get when a story has become so ingrained in your mind that it refuses to leave, even after the last pages have long since been surrendered?. I love those kind of stories, especially ones which wash gently upon you with their quiet beauty. These stories are inescapable, taking residence in your mind as their ideas continue to grow and bring you comfort. Something within their essence refuses to be forgotten. Without a doubt, The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan is one such story.

At first glance the novel is strikingly beautiful. Designed by Diana Beltran Herrera, the brilliant blue and cheerful pink colours produce a vibrant, rather sweet cover. I think I can be excused for thinking the novel may be a bit fluffy at first glance, yet having now read the book, I have fallen even more in love with the intricate cover design.

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Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

DSCF1473I have a confession; despite its fame and ever popular reviews, I had never before read the modern classic that is The Handmaid’s Tale. Whilst I’d read other things by Margaret Atwood and knew that she was an excellent writer, I had never really felt a burning desire to pick up what is arguably her most famous piece of fiction. With the rise in dystopian novels, many of them seemingly influenced by the iconic Atwood, as well as the success which seems to have followed the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, I decided it was about I ticked this one off my list.

As already mentioned, this book is a dystopian novel set in a time period which is assumed to be in the somewhat near future. We follow Offred, a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, in a version of America where the government has been overthrown by a totalitarian, Christian theonomy. Essentially, what this means for Offred is that she has one sole purpose in her life, and that is to breed. Stripped of all of the former rights of her gender, Offred must obey the rules or face the same brutal fate of those who have already been punished or hanged in the name of God. Through Offred, we come to understand the true horrors of this world.

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Review: Sleeping Beauties by Jo Spain

DSCF1482I’ve been very lucky recently in that I’ve been able to read quite a lot of new crime-thriller releases. Of course, when you’ve read quite widely in a certain genre, you can’t help but begin to notice all too well the clichéd tropes and generic plots. I personally felt this was the case with one of the last books I read, The Pool House (review here), and was left feeling pretty uninspired. Thankfully, the spark was reignited with one of the latest books to end up my way, Sleeping Beauties. This is actually the third novel in Jo Spain’s Inspector Tom Reynolds series, but please don’t let that put you off. I’ve never read anything from this author before and it did not hamper my experience one bit.

As you might expect from the name of this series, this new novel once more follows D. I. Tom Reynolds and his team.  The premise is pretty twisted; Fiona, a young woman has gone missing from a small Irish village, the locals unsure whether she was abducted or not due to her dubious reputation. Then, shortly after her disappearance, a body is found in a local nature spot, the valley of Glendalough. When Tom and his team begin their investigation they discover the worst; it is not one body, but five. With a serial killer actively hunting young women, time is slipping away for the team to not only stop the killer, but to find Fiona before she can become victim number six.

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Review: The Pool House by Tasmina Perry

DSCF1480I think most people will have guessed by now that I love myself a crime fiction/thriller novel, especially when it’s executed well and follows an original idea. If I’m reading a novel of this genre, I want to be kept in suspense, feeling engaged with the characters throughout.  Likewise, I want to be left uncertain of where the plot will take me, whilst simultaneously being awed by the writing. If a book can to that, especially in a genre which is so often seen as merely an entertaining or fun read, then it is certainly an accomplishment.

When I first saw the cover for The Pool House, I didn’t necessarily think it would tick all of the above. If I’m honest, I wasn’t a massive fan of the cover design and felt that it made the novel seem quite tame. However, I read the blurb and I was definitely intrigued. Essentially the novel focuses upon Jem Chapman and her high flying husband Nat after a recent relocation to America. After befriending two pairs of socially elite couples, they are given an exclusive offer; the chance to join them in a house share in the Hamptons. Excited by the rare and privileged opportunity, Jem and her husband accept, unaware of the disastrous events of last summer. Soon Jem learns of the young woman who was found dead, drowned in the houses pool after excessive drinking. Her death is described as an accident, a drunk woman who did not know how to swim. Yet the more Jem gets to know her new housemates, the more she begins to prise apart the cracks in their foundations.

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Review: Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney

DSCF1478Autumn and winter are undoubtedly my favourite seasons of the year. Perhaps the fact that I have my birthday and Christmas to look forward to helps somewhat, but the cold weather and cosy nights really do create the perfect reading environment. Here in the UK our summer (or the closest we’ll get to one), is coming to an end and the weather is already starting to turn somewhat. Finding myself far too excited for the copious amounts of knitted jumpers and cosy blankets that are to come, I was more than eager to delve into a book which seemed certain to encapsulate the frostier weather we have coming our way.

I have never read anything by the author Stef Penney, despite one of her previous novels winning the Costa Book of the Year. When her latest book, Under a Pole Star, arrived in the post I was thrilled. Not only is the cover beautiful and extremely fitting to the kind of weather I have been anticipating, but the book itself also sounded very interesting. The novel mainly follows Flora Mackie, a woman who first makes the hazardous journey across the Arctic Circle at the tender age of twelve. Ever since this first trip she develops a love for the place, a desire to return which will not be quenched by the inhospitable climate or the cold opinions of those who believe a woman in the nineteenth century has no place in the male dominated world of exploration. Nonetheless, Flora returns in 1892 where she encounters Jakob de Beyn, a geologist on a rival expedition. When their paths cross, they discover a shared enthusiasm for the brutal extremes of the northern world, both seeing the beauty in a place which continually attempts to thwart all those who wish to discover the dark secrets of the north.

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Review: Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

DSCF1469After far too long a time of putting it off, I recently made the excellent decision of dipping into the world of Robin Hobb. For the sake of clarity and continuity I started with Assassin’s Apprentice¸ the first book in The Farseer Trilogy. As you can see from my review here I fell in love with this series. A few weeks on and I am still kicking myself for not getting to this brilliant world sooner. It’s therefore to be expected that I wasted little time in getting to the sequel, Royal Assassin.

In this second book we once more follow Fitz, the young character I became so very attached to in the first book. As a royal bastard and a trainee assassin who has sworn his life to his King, it is understandable that the struggles Fitz must face grow ever more burdensome as he tries to recover from previous events. With outside enemies in the shape of the Red Ship raiders, and the more subtle foes from within the court itself, Fitz’s skills are continually put to the test. But with the King’s health mysteriously failing, and the King-In-Waiting, Verity, bound up in defending the realm, there is little to stop the malicious Prince Regal from taking advantage of the situation. Who can stop him but perhaps Fitz, even if it means sacrificing all that he is.

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