For friends Riley, Sam, Mia and Scarlett, their trip to Whisper Island, Alaska, was meant to be a once in a lifetime adventure – just four young women, with everything to live for…
But as soon as they arrive things start to go wrong. First there is the unexpected arrival of Sammy’s drug addict brother and his girlfriend Opal – why are they here?
And then the deaths begin.
As the dream trip quickly turns into a nightmare, suspicion is high. Are they really alone on the island? Or is there a killer hiding in the shadows?
And as each of the girls reveals a dark secret of their own, perhaps the truth is the killer is closer than they think…just a whisper away…
This has such a great premise and I had really high hopes. It sounded right up my street. I love horror films, particularly the old-fashioned ‘there’s a killer loose, but we don’t know who or where’ variety, and those ones where a group of people rent a cabin, or an old house, or, indeed, an island, and then start dying. So I was looking forward to this.
Unfortunately, while there was a really sound idea here, the execution ((excuse the pun) didn’t live up to the quality of the idea. The beginning dragged, and the first exciting thing didn’t happen until about half way through. The writing felt in need of a really good edit, and I easily guessed ‘whodunit’ very early on.
Born at the stroke of midnight at the exact moment of India’s independence, Saleem Sinai is a special child. However, this coincidence of birth has consequences he is not prepared for: telepathic powers connect him with 1,000 other ‘midnight’s children’ all of whom are endowed with unusual gifts. Inextricably linked to his nation, Saleem’s story is a whirlwind of disasters and triumphs that mirrors the course of modern India at its most impossible and glorious.
It feels a bit ridiculous that I’ve got to the ripe of age of fifty-three without having read any books by Salman Rushdie. I have had this one in my bookcase for about five years! And I decided that 2023 would be the year I would finally read it.
Well, it certainly got the year off to an excellent start. This is one of those books that, when you read reviews on Amazon, you wonder what the people who have given it less than five stars are reading. I know everyone is entitled to an opinion, and that reading can be subjective, but the moment I opened this book I was completely and utterly captivated.
The writing is breathtaking, absolutely on another level to almost everything I’ve read before. That this won the Booker of Bookers is no surprise. Every page, indeed, every paragraph, contains something that makes you stop in your tracks (at least if you are a nerdy, book obsessed person like me).
Saleem, with his huge, dripping ‘cucumber’ nose and amazing sense of smell is such an unusual narrator – if you want a masterclass in how to write an unreliable narrator, then this is the place to find it. Do these things really happen to him? Is he telepathic? Is he linked to the other ‘midnight’s children’? Or is he weaving a tale to make his life seem more interesting, as he recounts these events to Padma, delighting in surprising and shocking her as he does.
The parallels of his life to the changes in India after independence and through partition are beautifully woven throughout. I learned more about the history of India than I ever did at school. If you want to get the most from this book, you will need to not mind looking up things as you go – but it is really well worth it.
The writing is unconventional, and breaks all the rules – but this is a writer who knows how to break those rules, and certainly doesn’t do so for the sake of it. The narrative is carefully and beautifully constructed, metaphors, similes, imagery, vocabulary all working seamlessly together to create a wonderful story.
The people that populate this extraordinary novel are gorgeously drawn – like ayah Mary Pereira, who infuses her pickles with all her bitterness, hurt and love; Parvati-the-witch, who loves Saleem; Naseem, who really begins it all; and gorgeous Aunty Pia; Picture Singh the world’s most charming man; Uncle Hanif, film director; Shiva, Saleem’s huge-kneed rival, the novel is bursting with life and all the human emotions you can think of – love, hate, jealousy, empathy, cowardice, fear, sadness, joy, the list goes on and on.
I was genuinely sorry to get to the end – and very sorry I had taken so long to read it. I’m also very glad that I have a whole back catalogue of Rushdie to enjoy.
I know your name, your birthday, your kids’ names, where you live, where you work. I know when you get that big promotion, or when you argue with your spouse.
But someone knows everything about me too. Someone knows all my secrets and they’re using them against me. They’re setting me up.
The police think I murdered Emily Parker. To prove my innocence I need to find the real killer.
I need to beat him at his own game
Bartender Clay gets caught up with a murderer and finds himself the suspect. He goes on the run, accompanied by a journalist trying to make a name for herself, and the pair track down the real killer.
This is an exciting and gripping novel, and great fun to read. I did enjoy it. It’s well-written, and is an easy read. The denouement (which is not quite the ending) is great, very well-executed.
That said, there were a few things that I didn’t like so much. There were grammatical errors that were hard to avoid. I also didn’t really buy the involvement of Clay’s best friend and her new boyfriend. Why would they risk helping him? And their involvement didn’t amount to very much, even though it put them at a huge risk, so I wasn’t sure why that particular plot line was necessary; the novel would have worked better without it.
So overall, not perfect, but very definitely worth reading.
In the days before Homeira Qaderi gave birth to her son, Siawash, the road to the hospital in Kabul would often be barricaded because of the frequent suicide explosions. With the city and the military on edge, it was not uncommon for an armed soldier to point his gun at the pregnant woman’s bulging stomach, terrified that she was hiding a bomb. Propelled by the love she held for her soon-to-be-born child, Homeira walked through blood and wreckage to reach the hospital doors. But the joy of her beautiful son’s birth was soon overshadowed by other dangers that would threaten her life.
No ordinary Afghan woman, Homeira refused to cower under the strictures of a misogynistic social order. Defying the law, at the age of thirteen, she risked her freedom to teach children reading and writing and fought for women’s rights in her theocratic and patriarchal society.
Devastating in its power, Dancing in the Mosque is a mother’s searing letter to the son she was forced to leave behind. In telling her story – and that of Afghan women – Homeira challenges us to reconsider the meaning of motherhood, sacrifice, and survival.
This is a beautiful book. It is not simply a memoir of misery and gloom, although there is sadness and grief and loss and anger here. This is much more. This is a real story, about a real woman, who had to make an incredibly difficult decision.
Because it is real, and because life is so much more complicated than simple ‘good’ and ‘bad’, there is humour here too, and laughter, and love and friendship. There are wonderful family relationships, and insights into a world that feels very different but that, in some ways, shows how similar people actually are.
The writing is absolutely beautiful in places, and this is a story that carries you along, caring so deeply about the writer and what happens to her.
I find it difficult to review books like this because it is all to easy to point out the faults in another country when we don’t acknowledge the slow erosion of rights in our own country – particularly those of women and the LGBTQ+ community (especially when situations in other countries are often partly or wholly caused by the actions of this country). I prefer to let the women of these countries speak for themselves. Books like this are so important because they allow women a voice.
Highly recommended – a very important and beautiful book.
Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.
At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.
This is such an unusual book. On the surface, it is a simple story, of two young people who fall in love. But it is so much more than that. Through the two protagonists, the author explores so much of life, and love, and society – it’s expectations, it’s cruelty, the freedoms it seems to offer that can be utterly superficial. It’s a story about being young, and hopeful, and about trying to make a life, a good life, in a world where those hopes are dashed.
I can’t fully understand the complex issues that this book raises – I have never had the experiences that are written about here, but this novel, as well as being utterly compelling and a joy to read for the beauty of the writing, goes a long way to show these experiences. It is written in second person – which does really take some getting used to – but it is so worth persevering, because the writing is so good. Not many authors could have done this so successfully, and it is a testament to the author’s talent that this is such a beautiful novel.
I was so upset to hear of the death of Hilary Mantel a few weeks ago. She was a writer I had admired for a very long time and one of the few authors whose works I could read more than once, each time finding something new to enjoy. I enjoyed her books not only as a reader but as a writer looking to improve my own craft. She was truly inspirational, intelligent, inventive, bringing characters, history, emotion, and the nuance of politics and power to life with a few strokes of her pen.
I was lucky enough to hear her speak a few years ago, at Austin Friars, Thomas Cromwell’s home in London. Afterwards I queued with my copy of ‘A Place of Greater Safety’ clutched in my hands, nervous and so excited to actually meet Mantel in person. She was kind and gracious, and this photo is something that makes me smile every time I look at it (apologies for the terrible quality!).
‘A Place of Greater Safety’ is my favourite of her books and one that I know Mantel kept in a drawer for a few years before it was published. Set during the French Revolution, the book is a page turning tour de force that is an absolutely astounding achievement. I devoured every page, tears streaming down my face at the end. I’ve read it three times, which for me is incredibly unusual – I never read books more than once!
Of course the ‘Wolf Hall’ trilogy consists of three books that are absolute masterpieces. The opening lines of ‘Wolf Hall’ get me every time:
‘So now get up.’
Felled, dazed, silent, he has fallen; knocked full length on the cobbles of the yard. His head turns sideways; his eyes are turned towards the gate, as if someone might arrive to help him out. One blow, properly placed, could kill him now.
What a way to introduce us to Thomas Cromwell.
‘Bring up the Bodies’ manages to be emotional while being a clear-headed account of dreadful politics in which people were pawns and lives mattered only in how much they could add to another person’s power, wealth, or standing. Things haven’t changed that much! The final in the trilogy, ‘The Mirror and the Light’ took a long time to be written and it was a long, long wait to read. Reading it was a strange experience. I couldn’t wait to turn each page but that was bittersweet knowing that each page turned led to the end of the trilogy. There aren’t many authors that can say they have that effect on the reader.
If you’ve never read any Mantel, then I envy you. I heartily recommend that you read these wonderful novels. I’m about to read them for the fourth time. Of course, Mantel wrote other books. ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’ is a fabulous collection of short stories. Then there’s ‘Beyond Black’, ‘Fludd’ and a host of other works that aren’t nearly so well-known but just as beautifully written and just as much pleasure to read.
It’s so sad that we will not get to share more of Mantel’s wonderful imagination or amazing skill as a writer. The way the publishing world is going, with its endless book deals for celebrities and politicians and actors, there is less and less room for new talent, and unknown talent, writers out there that have so much to tell and so much to give. Yes, there’s self-publishing, which is fast becoming the best route for those authors without connections, an illustrious film career, a cooking show, or a former royal husband, but it is practically impossible for authors to be able to make a living wage simply through their writing. So it seems very unlikely that we’ll ever get the chance to share the wonderful stories of another writer like Hilary Mantel.
“Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories.” ― Hilary Mantel ‘Wolf Hall’
Five years after giving up work to travel full time, Dog-ma Jacqueline (Jackie) and Dogfather Mark race against time to leave the UK before Britain exits the EU. If Brexit happens, their four Cavapoos (Cavalier/Poodle cross) Kai, Rosie, Ruby, and Lani will lose their puppy passports, and the Lambert Family will be unable to travel together. But Brexit isn’t their only obstacle. A few months into their adventure, the pandemic suddenly shatters their plans, and leaves them trapped in the epicentre of Europe’s No. 1 coronavirus hotspot.
The fourth road trip Europe adventure in author Jacqueline Lambert’s “inspirational and hilarious” series of true travel memoirs invites you to join the couple as they discover even more amazing and little-known places, this time in France and Italy. However, this isn’t just a priceless escape travel story filled with humorous mishaps and mountain adventure. The coronavirus pandemic separates the family from their loved ones at home, and leaves Jackie stranded alone during a blizzard in a remote Italian village, with Mark thousands of miles away, back in the UK.
Between terrible weather, political mayhem, and a global pandemic, Jackie and Mark try to take lessons from each hardship. Yet, even with a positive attitude, a sense of adventure, and a caravan full of loved ones, you can’t stop all the obstacles life rolls your way. These “amusing and informative” travel stories are certainly proof that It Never Rains… But It Paws!
I chose to read this book because we are planning to buy a campervan in the next few years when we retire and travel with our four dogs – so this sounded like a very good way to find out what the reality of that dream might be.
And it didn’t disappoint. The book is full of the ups and downs of a life on the road, and doesn’t shy away from telling it like it is – there are problems and mishaps galore, and life isn’t always a comfortable idyll.
But despite the often terrible weather, the financial worries, the sometimes seemingly insurmountable problems caused by ridiculous politics, the genuine love that Jackie and Mark have for their life and their dogs shines through.
There are wonderful descriptions of glorious countryside, and some interesting history too, along with some very entertaining anecdotes. This is a very light-hearted and enjoyable read.
December 2023. The human race has fought a deadly virus and lost. The only things left from the world before are burning cities and rotting corpses.
But in London, one woman is still alive.
Although she may be completely unprepared for her new existence, as someone who has spent her life trying to fit in, being alone is surprisingly liberating.
Determined to discover if she really is the last survivor on earth, she sets off on an extraordinary adventure, with only an abandoned golden retriever named Lucky for company.
Maybe she’ll find a better life or maybe she’ll die along the way. But whatever happens, the end of everything will be her new beginning.
This is such an interesting novel. It’s such a good idea to have the protagonist in a situation like this be someone relatively normal who has absolutely no survival skills at all – it makes the everything so relatable. Most people’s reaction, mine at least, to being the last person on Earth would be to get very drunk!
There’s a great deal of very dark humour here, as well as a good dose of what the reality would probably be like – I mean, what would happen to all those bodies if everyone died? The author doesn’t shy away from describing what that would be like. And the narrator’s unflinching honesty as she looks back on her life before the virus is done beautifully. I loved her and related to her and so wanted her to succeed. The addition of a faithful dog just made the novel even better.
That this is a debut is really impressive.
Compelling, funny, sad, honest and skillfully crafted.
Now she’s watching Real Housewives and drinking wine in a crummy hotel room, trying to work out how she got here.
When the Twin Towers collapsed, Gigi Stanislawski fled her office building and escaped lower Manhattan on the Staten Island Ferry. Among the crying, ash-covered and shoeless passengers, Gigi, unbelievably, found someone she recognised – the guy with pink socks and a British accent – from the coffee shop across from her office. Together she and Harry Harrison make their way to her parents’ house where they watch the television replay the planes crashing for hours, and she waits for the phone call from her younger brother that never comes. And after Harry has shared the worst day of her life, it’s time for him to leave.
Ten years later, Gigi, now a single mother consumed with bills and unfulfilled ambitions, bumps into Harry again and this time they fall deeply in love. When they move to London it feels like a chance for the happy ending she never dared to imagine. But it also highlights the differences in their class and cultures, which was something they laughed about until it wasn’t funny anymore; until the traumatic birth of their baby leaves Gigi raw and desperately missing her best friends and her old life in New York.
As Gigi grieves for her brother and rages at the unspoken pain of motherhood, she realises she must somehow find a way back – not to the woman she was but to the woman she wants to be.
An unforgettable novel about love – for our partners, our children, our mothers, and ourselves – pushed to its outer limits.
This is a very well-written, smart, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreakingly sad novel with a very likeable and relatable main character.
My children are adults now but I remember clearly that being at home alone with babies could often be lonely and boring and was absolutely exhausting. It’s still taboo to say so, even more so now, I feel, with these ‘influencer’ mums who are always immaculate (and so are their homes). So honesty like this is always refreshing. I would have loved to have read this when my children were little.
The characterisation is fabulous, and very well-observed. There are some wonderful observations of middle-class life here, and how it feels to not really fit in. There’s an understanding too of how past events continue to have ramifications on our emotions, our choices, our lives, however long ago they happened.
One twin ran. The other vanished. Neither escaped…
DON’T TRUST ANYONE Cat’s twin sister El has disappeared. But there’s one thing Cat is sure of: her sister isn’t dead. She would have felt it. She would have known.
DON’T TRUST YOUR MEMORIES To find her sister, Cat must return to their dark, crumbling childhood home and confront the horrors that wait there. Because it’s all coming back to Cat now: all the things she has buried, all the secrets she’s been running from.
DON’T TRUST THIS STORY… The closer Cat comes to the truth, the closer to danger she is. Some things are better left in the past…
The most dangerous stories are the ones we tell ourselves… No. 36 Westeryk Road: an imposing flat-stone house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A place of curving shadows and crumbling grandeur. But it’s what lies under the house that is extraordinary – Mirrorland. A vivid make-believe world that twin sisters Cat and El created as children. A place of escape, but from what?
Now in her thirties, Cat has turned her back on her past. But when she receives news that one sunny morning, El left harbour in her sailboat and never came back, she is forced to return to Westeryk Road; to re-enter a forgotten world of lies, betrayal and danger.
Because El had a plan. She’s left behind a treasure hunt that will unearth long-buried secrets. And to discover the truth, Cat must first confront the reality of her childhood – a childhood that wasn’t nearly as idyllic as she remembers…
I’m going to use a cliche because it’s true – I couldn’t put this book down. Every page was a pleasure to read.
The narrative takes you from past to present, as Cat returns to her childhood home to try and make sense of her twin sister’s disappearance. But there are so many reasons she left and coming home brings all those things back to the surface. Switching like this can often be clunky and awkward, but here it works so well and the flashbacks, the details of the twins’ strange childhood, are beautifully done, so evocative and detailed.
As the past is slowly revealed, the tension really grows, and the reader is pulled along by the narrative, as almost every page seems to reveal another piece of the puzzle. It’s expertly done, absolutely gripping.
A very impressive debut. Very much looking forward to her next book.