Hello book lovers. I know we all say this every year but I cannot actually believe that it is December again? I don’t know if a few months of lockdown early on in the year has played a part in this but it feels like Christmas 2020 was last week? I can also only apologise for the radio silence on here the last few months. I have no excuse and the amount of reviews I have had to upload from @larareads_x for autumn shows how long it has been since the last wrap up but here we are. Anyway, I am back and hopefully these come to you just in time for some fun Christmassy book ideas for your family and friends or alternatively maybe one appeals to you to curl up with during these long nights.
Sunset by Jessie Cave
I read this book cover to cover in a day. This is potentially the best debut I have ever read and undoubtably the best book this year. Jessie Cave is a seriously talented writer. Her exquisite observation of detail within her characters is breathtaking.
I will keep the summary of this story very brief as no words I have will do it justice. Sunset follows Ruth and Hannah, sisters, best friends. Hannah dies suddenly in a tragic accident and we follow Ruth on her journey of unimaginable grief. This reflective story is one of loneliness, sisterhood and finding the strength to rebuild a life from the pits of despair.
I sobbed throughout the whole book. It is raw, honest, and utterly heartbreaking. Despite the horror of the story Jessie manages to create light and relatable moments with her funny, sharp prose.
How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie
Grace, the protagonist is writing a memoir from her prison cell in which she is serving a life sentence for killing six members of her family.
Grace is a really unusual voice, she is well spoken, smart, funny, brutally opinionated and well, a psychopathic murderer. Bella Mackie has managed to successfully write that tricky character which is impossible to relate to and yet you find yourself rooting for them.
I thought I’d like this more than I did. I enjoyed it but it didn’t blow me away. This book has really long chapters (not my thing) and I did find it a little slow in places. A lot of the story focuses on Graces back story, some of which is necessary, a lot of which is boring. Sorry.
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I think absolutely everyone has already read this gorgeous book but if there is anyone still out there debating picking up Malibu Rising, this is for you.
The story is set in 1983 on the day of Nina Rivas annual party, anticipation is at an all time high. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas. Nina, the talented surfer and model; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a successful photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu, especially as the children of the international star Mick Riva.
Malibu Rising is the book of the summer, it is probably my favorite book so far this year. It absolutely radiates sunshine and was a close second (kinda) to a summer holiday for me.
It is told so beautifully, Taylor Jenkins Reid has flawless characterization. It’s hard to believe these people aren’t real.
Malibu Rising will both steal your heart and break it. Must read.
Bunny by Mona
This was reccomend and given to me by one of my best friends @izmacniven she described this as ‘Mean Girls on acid’ and to be honest I cannot think of a more succinct or accurate description.
Samantha has just been accepted on to an elite MFA program at a prestigious and exclusive college ‘The Warren’. She finds her simpering classmates (who refer to themselves as bunnies) intolerable, and with good reason. The coterie of four women have made an art form out performative friendship and excluded Samantha from their ridiculous gang. Things go from bad to just plain weird when Samantha gets a text inviting her to one of the Bunnies infamous ‘workshops’. Feeling lost and isolated in her new life at The Warren Samantha agrees.
I spent most of the book totally confused but it is SUCH a unique read and the writing is so exquisite, it was totally worth the confusion. I expected it to be a really girly easy read but this was anything but. Bunny manages to function perfectly as both a dark academic satire and a creepy horror novel.
To sum up, Bunny is fucking bizarre but I loved it.
Pretending by Holly Bourne
Big thank you to @tandemcollectiveuk and @hodderbooks for this beautiful copy of Pretending by @hollybourneya . I loved it!
April hates men. Not only has she experienced a traumatic sexual assault at the hands of a man she once loved, she works for a women’s aid charity where she witnesses first hand the heartbreaking regularity that women experience the same of similar crimes.
After a series of awful dates April comes up with a plan, an experiment of sorts. She will hide all the parts of her that she thinks men will find too difficult, too messy, too problematic and become ‘Gretel’. In her mind Gretel is the classic care free, girl next door that she believes all men crave.
The only problem is that while she is busy pretending to be someone else, she meets a man she would love to just be April with.
Pretending is an emotional rollercoaster of a book that comes with lots of trigger warnings. It is certainly tough to read at times but Holly Bourne has an amazing ability to write a story that is both hard hitting and perceptive yet still hilariously relatable.
This modern, timely love story is a must read.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I won’t write a huge review on this one because I don’t think there are many people left who haven’t read it or posted a review themselves but what I will say if if you if you haven’t yet discovered this story, read it.
The story begins with Monique who is a struggling writer. She is offered a once in a lifetime piece – An opportunity to write the biography for internationally famous movie star Evelyn Hugo.
Evelyn is now in her eighties. She has decided that as she nears the end of her extraordinary life, it is time to tell her story to the world.
As the title suggests Evelyn Hugo has been married seven times and apart from wanting to know about her extraordinary life, the world is dying to know more about her marriages in particular WHO was the love of her life.
Far from ‘just’ a love story, this is a beautiful, profound and complexed tale of the life of a woman. A woman who is written so perfectly, you can scarcely believe is fictional.
The Dinner Guest by B P Walter
The Dinner Guest was my October buddy read with the lovely @bethreadsfiction_ and another amazing thriller for us. This book is a really great combination of a modern domestic thriller meets classic murder mystery.
The Dinner Guest starts with the murder of Mathew and jumps back in time using various viewpoints leading us to understand how and why the murder took place.
The story is set in opulent West London and follows a group of pretentious, upper class characters who are all (while very well written) pretty unlikeable. Mathew and Charlie think they have it all, wealthy, successful jobs, the perfect son, ‘happy’ marriage. But when a stranger enters their lives and secrets start to be unearthed their perfect facade crumbles.
Both @bethreadsfiction_ and I found the ending to be a bit random and even a little disappointing given how much we had enjoyed the book. It felt quite vague and left us with tons of questions.
The Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung
Where to begin with this book? To be as succinct as I can here, The Cursed Bunny is really really odd.
This is a collection of short stories by Korean author Bora Chung. The collection is a strange mix of horror, sci-fi and magical realism. The stories are written to address the very real horrors in our world, capitalism, the patriarchy and our flailing modern society to name a few.
The prose is VERY unique and will likely be a bit of a marmite book but I actually really enjoyed the utter bizarreness of it all!
These are quick and interesting Halloween stories!
Jane is Trying by Isy Suttie
Jane is Trying felt a lot like Ghosts by Dolly Alderton or Olive by Emma Gammon to read. It is a similar narrative in that it is told through the eyes of a sightly neurotic thirty something who is trying to ‘fix’ a major problem in her life.
The story follows Jane through a difficult period, she has a dramatic breakup from a long term partner, leaves her well paid job in London and is forced to return to her small hometown and house of her parents.
This is a character driven, quick, easy and girly read that packs a punch. I loved it.
A lot like Adios by Alexis Daria
I am so obsessed with reading about this big, messy, gorgeous Latinx familia.
A Lot Like Adiós follows Gabe and Michelle who were best friends throughout their childhood. They had always had a deep connection but never taken their relationship any further. At eighteen Gabe leaves for university and due to a strained and difficult relationship with his father, decides not to return. Ten years later, Michelle who is now a talented graphic designer, receives an email from Gabes’ business partner asking for her help on a big project.
Michelle decides to accept the job offer and reconnects with Gabe. Michelle wants to keep Gabe at arms length but as old feelings begin to return the reunion takes sexy turn.
This steamy, fun and beautifully written romance is everything I needed to read right now. I felt genuinely sad when I finished the book like I’d left my friends behind within it’s pages.
Please write Ava’s story soon @alexisdaria 👀
The Other Black Girl by
August buddy read with my girl @bethreadsfiction_ ⭐️
Nella is a twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant at Wagner Books. She is the only black girl in the office and getting tired of the constant micro-aggressions and isolation. Nella is thrilled when Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens when Nella begins to receive ominous and threatening notes. As Hazel starts to mark her territory within the office, Nellas suspicions about The Other Black Girl begin.
This book is a page turner, it’s dark and full of twists you do not see coming. It is sold as a thriller and I suppose it is but most of the action doesn’t happen until the final quarter of the book. I would say The Other Black Girl is more of a commentary on some serious social issues with a mystery thrown in.
Both the writing and the plot are exceptionally clever, I really enjoyed it.
Writers and Lovers by Lily King
I got this on a reccomendation from @bookbaruk and bloody loved it! Thank you!
Writers and Lovers was not the easy, cheesy romance I was expecting it to be. It is a character led story that focuses on mental health, grief, loss and recovery.
Our protagonist Casey is lost, lonely and desperate. She has just returned to Massachusetts following a devastating break up and the tragic death of her mother. Her career is flailing and the book she has spent six years working on is going nowhere. Casey is dating two men and hugely conflicted about what step to take next.
This story centers around that hugely terrifying and yet exciting time that comes between one phase of life and the next.
Highly reccomend if like me you love character led fiction.
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
November buddy read with my girl @bethreadsfiction_ 💜
We had both seen a lot of mixed reviews for Apples Never Fall prior to reading. A lot of people said that the book was unessesarily long. It is a decent sized book and a lot of the writing is not necessarily essential to the plot but personally I loved reading about all the individual the characters and finding out more about each of their lives. If you go in to this expecting a traditional thriller you might be disappointed but this seemingly simple tale of dysfunctional families and relationships, of people’s flaws and the messiness of their lives, of unmet expectations and unspoken dreams, hit all the right notes for me.
Apples Never Fall follows the Delaney family. Stan, Joy and their four adult children. They appear at first to be your average happy, busy family but then Joy Delaney goes missing the secrets start to emerge. Her adult children are rightfully horrified, but they are reluctant to report her missing because they know that the prime suspect will be their father, and they’re not entirely sure of his innocence themselves.