Wednesday, 18 March 2020

SHELF LOVE: February reads



This month, I've found myself reading a lot more and have managed to hit my four books target. I've read a mixture of genres and have mixed reviews about each. I'm finding the more I read, the more critical I am getting about the plots and the writing style, amongst other things.

To see what books I selected this month, keep reading!



Above The Bay of Angels - Rhys Bowen, 347 pages
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction

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Blurb:


Isabella Waverly only means to comfort the woman felled on a London street. In her final dying moments, she thrusts a letter into Bella’s hand. It’s an offer of employment in the kitchens of Buckingham Palace, and everything the budding young chef desperately wants: an escape from the constrictions of her life as a lowly servant. In the stranger’s stead, Bella can spread her wings.
Arriving as Helen Barton from Yorkshire, she pursues her passion for creating culinary delights, served to the delighted Queen Victoria herself. Best of all, she’s been chosen to accompany the queen to Nice. What fortune! Until the threat of blackmail shadows Bella to the Riviera, and a member of the queen’s retinue falls ill and dies.
Having prepared the royal guest’s last meal, Bella is suspected of the poisonous crime. An investigation is sure to follow. Her charade will be over. And her new life will come crashing down—if it doesn’t send her to the gallows.

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I've read a couple of Bowen's books before and really enjoyed them. They all tend to be historical, set years ago, with a heavy female protagonist in each. When this book showed up as an advert on my Kindle, I downloaded it straight away.

I really enjoyed this book. Bowen's written style is me to a T, with detailed descriptions leaving me visualising the settings throughout. I loved the added suspense throughout the book with tensions rising and a thriller-esque style plot unfolding.

I would definitely recommend this book if you're looking for something light-hearted and a little different to your usual thriller/mystery novel.

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Rating:

****





A Spark of Light - Jodi Picoult, 384 pages
Genre: Suspense, Thriller

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Blurb:


The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the crosshairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

One of the most fearless writers of our time, Jodi Picoult tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.

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I don't really know where to start with this book, other than saying that it was a real disappointment. I had high hopes when reading the blurb and thought that it would be a good read but I really struggled to get into it. 

The book starts at (almost) present day, with the gunman already in the Center and the hostages inside. The book then unravels with each chapter going back an hour in time, until the beginning of the morning, unravelling the characters and their lives; as well as their reasons for being at the Center that day. I found that the suspense started very quickly into the novel but due to the structure, the suspense began to lessen chapter by chapter, with the plot getting less interesting as it went on (in my opinion).

I found that, again, due to the structure I really struggled to remember who each of the characters were. They had very similar names and as you learnt more about them as the day went back in time, I found myself having to constantly flick back as a reminder (which isn't that easy on a Kindle). This ruined the book a bit for me as I couldn't fully immerse myself into the book for this reason.

If I'm honest, I probably wouldn't recommend this. I thought that the initial plot was an interesting one but the structure really ruined it for me.

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Rating:

*




Unspeakable Things - Jess Lourey, 296 pages
Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller

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Blurb:


Cassie McDowell's life in 1980s Minnesota seems perfectly wholesome. She lives on a farm, loves school, and has a crush on the nicest boy in class. Yes, there are her parents' strange parties and their parade of deviant guests, but she's grown accustomed to them.
All that changes when someone comes hunting in Lilydale.
One by one, local boys go missing. One by one, they return changed - violent, moody, and withdrawn. What happened to them becomes the stuff of shocking rumors. The accusations of who's responsible grow just as wild, and dangerous town secrets start to surface. Then Cassie's own sister undergoes the dark change. If she is to survive, Cassie must find her way in an adult world where every sin is justified, and only the truth is unforgivable.

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I don't really know what I expected from this book. I took it to be the stereotypical easy-read thriller that I was looking for one evening but I can't say I was a fan. I guess the blurb is quite dark in itself but some parts of the book were so dark they made it uncomfortable to read. There was a good twist that I didn't expect but I found the whole plot quite disturbing and it wasn't an enjoyable read for me (particularly with it also being based on a true story).

I also found it quite hard to concentrate when reading and found myself skipping over pages, skim-reading large chunks to try and get to the exciting part of the story. For me, it never presented itself...

I probably wouldn't recommend it for these reasons. However, I've seen that it does have a lot of good reviews so maybe it was just me that didn't quite get it?

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Rating:

*





Single - K.L. Slater, 344 pages
Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller

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Blurb:


‘I keep feeling like I’m being watched – dropping the boys off at school, choosing wine at the supermarket – but when I turn around there’s nobody there…’

When single mother Darcy’s son falls from a rope bridge at a local playground, life stands still. She clutches his small, limp body, frozen, until a pair of strong hands push her aside, and she watches as George, a local doctor, saves her son’s life.

George is a single parent too, and with his twinkling hazel eyes, easy charm, and lack of wedding band is almost too good to be true, but coffee becomes lunch, lunch becomes dinner, and soon they can’t go an evening without seeing each other. When he invites her to move into his beautiful home with its sprawling garden for her boys, Darcy doesn’t hesitate.

But as Darcy is settling in, she receives a bunch of flowers with a chilling message. George says they’re from an obsessed ex-girlfriend, Opal, and days later Opal turns up at Darcy’s son’s football match. She claims to have shocking information that could threaten George’s custody of his daughter.

Darcy doesn’t know who to trust, but she’s starting to suspect that, whatever the truth, she might have put her beloved boys into terrible danger …

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I ordered this as it was free on my Kindle Unlimited and I've read a few of Slater's books before, which I enjoyed. I also enjoyed this one! It was an easy read and kept my attention throughout, thanks to Slater's inclusion of a strong plot and lots of twists. It was fast paced and full of detail which helped the reader to connect well with the characters. A true example of how you don't always fully know the people closest to you...

However, I found the ending was quite rushed and confusing which left me wondering what had actually happened when the book ended. I wanted a little more clarity and a longer ending which I personally think would have helped to improve the book.

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Rating:

***


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What's the best book you've read lately?



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