Category Archives: Reviews

Mystery/Thriller Reviews # 1: Behind Her Eyes & Before I Go to Sleep

Who doesn’t love a good twist? They work when they are done well. Like really, really well. The ending for thrillers can make it to break it for me. For instance, The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle was intriguing and a page turner for sure but the ending was underwhelming. It was clichéd and frankly, dare I say – even a little offensive. I usually don’t have high expectations for thrillers but I pick them up frequently to get out of reading slumps. Works every time.

Behind Her Eyes and Before I Go to Bed have many overlapping elements, and they are set in London with a female protagonist. I gave three stars to Behind Her Eyes and a sad two star rating to the latter. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough was unputdownable… is that even a word? Louise is a single mom. She makes out with a mystery man from the bar one night and turns out, he’s her new boss. Married boss. Oops. Any review of Behind Her Eyes you come across on the internet will mention the crazy ending and yes, the ending is indeed crazy. It’s unbelievably bonkers.

S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Bed sounded so promising. The biggest issue I had with this book was that I wasn’t compelled to pick it up, but I desperately needed to know the ending. It took me about a week to finish. Christine, the victim of a “hit and run case”, wakes up every day not remembering who she is, a twenty something trapped in a forty something body. I admit I enjoyed the bits that talked about memory and Christine’s journal, the whodunnit element. But as I said, I wasn’t compelled to read it. I’d still recommend these books though: they were properly creepy.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This book legit made me tear up. The story follows Eleanor Oliphant who is a thirty year old socially awkward woman that lives alone and follows a regimented, monotonous routine. She works at an office all week and drinks herself to oblivion during the weekend. It is understood that Eleanor did not have a normal childhood and did not have a normal mother, as her mother is presently in prison. Eleanor speaks to her mother once a week and absolutely loathes it. And she’s been doing it every week for nine years.

I loved reading this novel because it is hilarious, heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once. I did not exactly empathise with Eleanor but I understood her character, her mental illness and her ability to learn how to live and not just survive. She meets Raymond, the new guy at work, and they quickly become friends. This is the first book I’ve given five stars to in 2017 and I’m really glad I read it because Eleanor’s story shows how the little things in life matter a lot, and make life worth living: relationships, friends, love, kindness. I know it’s kinda cheesy but I would totally watch this movie!

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Review)

“Black life is cheap, but in America black bodies are a natural resource of incomparable value.”

Between the World and Me is a powerful piece of work.  Ta-Nehisi Coates, a journalist by profession, deconstructs black consciousness in a series of letters to his son Samori. Reading this text was truly heartbreaking. And I don’t know how to begin talking about this subject, but here goes anyway. It is important. Ta-Nehisi Coates charts the brutality and inhumanity of slavery, the absence of control and power for black people which has been the only consistent thread since the seventeenth century to present times.  Ta-Nehisi Coates refers time and time again to the severe regulation and curtailment of the black ‘body’ in America. He is referring to the black individual, and the larger collective. Blackhood in America is an essentialism and rightly so, it is unique and exclusive to American history and the way race relations in tandem  with the American Dream unravelled in it. Ta-Nehisi Coates is relentless in recounting the ritualised violence on black bodies – “the essential below” – from plantations to twenty first century streets and prisons. Everyone should read this book.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐

Lets play a little (bookish) game of two truths and a lie:

1. I will read anything Ruth Ware writes.

2. I am running out of space on my bookshelf.

3. I don’t buy pretty covers.

If you guessed right, #3 is the lie! 😂 The Lying Game is a psychological thriller that had me on my toes the entire time. I was hooked within the first sentence. Ruth Ware’s writing is absolutely fantastic. I fell in love with the eerie, mysterious tone and setting of her debut novel ‘In a Dark, Dark Wood’ and the sense of dread and claustrophobia in her second novel ‘The Woman in Cabin 10’. I felt that the plot in Cabin 10 wasn’t the greatest but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The Lying Game is about Isa Wilde and her three friends who share a secret, one that comes back to haunt them seventeen years later. It ticks all the right boxes for me: girls boarding school, small town, gossip, mystery and tension. I had a few problems with the main characters though: I didn’t like any of them. Isa is an emotional mess and she’s constantly putting her 6-month old daughter in danger. Thea never seemed to have grown up. Fatima’s character felt like forced diversity. Despite that, I got on board with the slow-burn plot. Ruth Ware is filling the Gillian Flynn hole in my heart.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (Review)

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What a delightfully cozy read! After having conveniently forgotten the ending of the movie adaptation (it’s been a while since I watched it), I decided to pick the novel up. It was a much needed respite after some intense books!

Now, if you know anything at all about the synopsis, you’re most likely thinking “Cozy? Respite? It’s a ghost story!” Yes. Books of a gothic nature are right up my alley. I loved how Diane Setterfield referenced classical gothic books in the novel like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Women in White, and Turn of the Screw. The characters in the story are really bookish and I, nodding along, enjoyed every bit of that.

Margaret is a bookseller and amateur biographer. One day she receives a curious letter from a famous author named Vida Winter, who is nearing her deathbed. Margaret is invited to stay with Vida Winter and write her ‘true’ biography, as the author was previously given to inventing various life stories and telling confusing origin tales to the general public. What follows is a story filled with intrigue, suspense, scandal and ghosts! So much yes. 

 

 

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (Review)

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(Mild spoilers)

Fates and Furies has been steeping in my mind for a little while now and I don’t know how to feel about it. It was a roller coaster of emotions! The blurb caught my attention right away: “the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets.” The story is about Lotto and Mathilde and their perfectly perfect marriage. It is split into two sections for each character that felt like two separate novels to me in terms of pacing and tone.

Lauren Groff knows how to write delicious sentences. The writing in Lotto’s half is memorably flamboyant. I loved it. Whenever I put the book down I was itching to get back to it. Case in point:“Hurricanes of entitlement, all swirl and noise and destruction, nothing at their centers.” 

In the start of the novel, we are introduced to Lotto and Mathilde honeymooning on a beach. They had met at a college party a few weeks ago. R e d f l a g. There is a seemingly innocuous third narrator who appears within square brackets throughout the novel, who (I believe) is marriage personified.

Lotto is six feet six, an heir to a fortune, an aspiring actor, later a playwright and Mathilde… well, we know nothing about her background until the last 150 pages. And it is seriously messed up: I’m talking Lady Macbeth having a love child with Amy Dunne. The terrifying questions this novel made me think about were a) how well do you really know someone close to you? b) are omissions or silences untruths?

Do I recommend Fates and Furies? I would, but with some caution. It is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

English Animals by Laura Kaye (Spoiler Review)

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⭐⭐⭐

SPOILERS AHEAD!

I wanted to love this. I mean, look at that cover! Before I talk about why English Animals didn’t work for me, here’s a little summary of the plot: Mirka, a 19-year old Slovakian girl, goes to a little English village to work for a couple named Sophie and Richard, presumably as an au pair. We soon learn that she’s to assist Richard in his taxidermy business and other minor jobs helping around the farm. Mirka forms a wonderful bond with Sophie and starts to secretly fall in love with her.

Now, going into spoiler territory, I’ll discuss what worked and what didn’t in the story. The writing… hmm. On one hand it was simplistic and a breeze to get through, but on the other hand, I felt like the author didn’t really have a ‘style,’ if that makes sense. I don’t want to sound too critical right away so here is a list of things I enjoyed about English Animals:

  • Quick, easy read. Took me two days to finish.
  • It’s relevant in a post-Brexit world. Mirka meets some rather conservative folks (they are British AF) who have an issue with her Slovakian heritage.
  • The lesbian relationship between Mirka and Sophie was well written I’d say. I haven’t read anything quite like it yet. I loved how well Mirka got along with Richard as well.
  • TAXIDERMY. The descriptions about taxidermy were creepy and fascinating to say the least. I found it quite funny when Mirka went into pristine detail about her “scenes” like rabbits at an office party or hamsters watching Netflix. She gave them personalities too!

Stuff I didn’t particularly enjoy about the novel:

  • We all know the relationship couldn’t last forever. But at least it could’ve been handled with more sensitivity. Richard finds out about their illicit affair but isn’t pissed off since Mirka is just a girl and not a threat. WTF?
  • THE AMOUNT OF ANIMAL KILLINGS. Okay. I know, taxidermy. But hear me out: I have never read animal shooting scenes in such cringe-inducing detail before.
  • Richard was always drinking and/or high. His taxidermy skills weren’t  the greatest, understandably. I still find it hard to believe that Mirka, in just a matter of months, is a bonafide genius. How?

This review is longer than I expected. I’d like to end by saying that I’d love to read the next book Laura Kaye writes because I can see a glimmer of talent and promise.