The Porpoise – Mark Haddon

42105243._SY475_TW: Sexual abuse and incest.

Full disclosure, I don’t really understand what happened in this book, so here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

A newborn baby is the sole survivor of a terrifying plane crash. She is raised in wealthy isolation by an overprotective father. She knows nothing of the rumours about a beautiful young woman, hidden from the world. When a suitor visits, he understands far more than he should. Forced to run for his life, he escapes aboard The Porpoise, an assassin on his tail… So begins a wild adventure of a novel, damp with salt spray, blood and tears. A novel that leaps from the modern era to ancient times; a novel that soars, and sails, and burns long and bright; a novel that almost drowns in grief yet swims ashore; in which pirates rampage, a princess wins a wrestler’s hand, and ghost women with lampreys’ teeth drag a man to hell – and in which the members of a shattered family, adrift in a violent world, journey towards a place called home.

The big negative to The Porpoise is that, having finished it, I don’t actually know what I read. The plot is based on the Greek legend of Apollonius and his exposure of a king who falls in love with his own daughter after the death of his wife, and the incestuous relationship that follows. This isn’t a story I was familiar with, but feels pretty standard for Greek mythology. However, the narrative of The Porpoise isn’t as straightforward as that. The book opens with the story of Philippe, whose wife is killed in a plane accident, developing a deeply unhealthy obsession with his daughter, Angelica – the sole survivor of the crash. Some years later, a young man makes an attempt to rescue Angelica, fails, and escapes on board The Porpoise. At this point, the book expands into a new storyline following the tale of Pericles. As if this wasn’t enough, another thread is introduced with Shakespeare, so the book ends up covering at least three stories at once and I never managed to quite work out where they all linked up.

Despite my  lack of comprehension, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you take the different threads as separate stories, you can just enjoy them for what they are, which is beautifully written and quite exciting stories of familial abuse, escape and adventure.

The Porpoise is a unique and engaging novel, highly entertaining despite the uncomfortable subject matter. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but it is guaranteed to be a good read for anyone who can properly get to grips with the narrative style and multilayered plot.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman

31199021._SY475_Fat Charlie Nancy’s life is pretty normal, until the day his father drops dead in a karaoke bar. Returning from London to Florida for the funeral, Fat Charlie makes a series of unexpected discoveries, including that his father was a god, and that he has a secret brother he never knew about. Fat Charlie unwittingly invites his brother, Spider, into his life only for him to decide to take it over completely, leaving Fat Charlie with little option but to take drastic measures to get his flat, his fiancé, and his life back.

I really loved Anansi Boys. I’m a big Neil Gaiman fan, and I think this might be my favourite yet. I had read American Gods before this, so I was familiar with Anansi already, but that is my no means necessary. This is NOT a sequel to American Gods, and the fact that Anansi appears in both is the only real link between the two.

The characters are excellent (as Gaiman’s characters usually are). I really liked Fat Charlie, and the way his confidence and personality grew throughout the story was very effective and realistic. Spider, Daisy, Rosie and her mum were all also brilliant, but the other top stand-out characters for me were definitely Maeve and Mrs Higgler.

The way race is represented in this book is, in my opinion, incredibly well done. All the main characters are black, but this isn’t explicitly mentioned for most of the book. Instead, it’s implied through their language and behaviours. I really liked that the protagonists were black without it being a gimmick or key plot feature (beyond the context of Anansi being an African god).

The plot isn’t particularly epic or fantastical. It is, essentially, one man trying to solve the problem of his charismatic brother, but with some mythology and magic thrown in. The magical aspect of this book is particularly good. I loved the way Spider’s magic worked; with things being a certain way or people thinking things just because he says so. He isn’t casting spells or really ‘doing magic’ as such, but he’s the son of a god, so if he says something is so then it must be.

I 100% recommend Anansi Boys to all Gaiman fans, fantasy or mythology fans, and all fiction readers in general. It’s Gaiman at his best, with all the thought-provoking depth of American Gods but much lighter and more humorous.

Finally, I read the version illustrated by Daniel Egneus, and the visuals are stunning. They complement the style and the story so incredibly well, I definitely recommend reading this particular version.

Goodreads | Amazon

One Year of Ugly – Caroline Mackenzie

51137113Yola Palacio and her family fled Venezuela to start a peaceful life in Trinidad. They are just a few of the many people living illegally on the island, and things seem fine until Yola’s Aunt Celia dies and the family’s quiet life is turned upside down. It turns out Celia owed a lot of money to local criminal, Ugly, who drags the entire Palacio family in to settle her debt. The year that follows is one filled with drama and trauma for the Palacios, as they are forced to open their homes as safe houses for other illegal immigrants escaping Venezuela, and later as staff in an illegal strip club. However, amidst the struggle of working for Ugly, Yola finds herself fatally attracted to Ugly’s right-hand man, Roman. How can she start a relationship with the man responsible for enforcing Ugly’s reign of terror over her family? But how can she resist?

This story follows a year in the life of one family as they struggle to survive as illegal immigrants at the same time as being forced into further criminal activity, thanks to one family member’s bad decisions. It covers some complex social and cultural issues, which I found fascinating because I knew nothing about the difficulties in Venezuela before reading this book.

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Yola is a brilliant lead character, with a very witty and relatable narrative voice. Her blossoming romance with Roman was very sweet to read about, and provided some light relief amongst the rest of the drama.

One negative note, though, is that it took a very long time for me to really get into this book, because it took so long for the story to properly kick off. Large portions of the first two thirds are mainly just Yola either stressing about her feelings for Roman, or reminiscing about Aunt Celia. Fortunately, the lagging plot was mostly saved by the fantastic characters. To be worthy of a 5-star rating, the first sections of the book needed to be as captivating as the last.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

A Window Breaks – C.M. Ewan

50230789._SY475_Tom, Rachel, and their daughter Holly have been through some tough times. First, their son, Michael, was killed in a joyriding accident, then they were attacked and mugged leaving Holly badly scarred. Seeking an opportunity to reconnect and attempt to put their family back together, they go to stay in a secluded lodge in Scotland. But, once they’re all settled in bed, they hear the sound of glass breaking and are launched into a night of absolute terror.

This book was full of tension and excitement, in the perfect remote setting for a truly terrifying plot to unfold. It’s a gripping read, which I would not recommend reading at bedtime.

I loved the concept of a novel following a home invasion. It was exciting, scary and really gets you thinking: What would you do? However, I personally think this book would have been much better if it was based on a random break-in. Instead, there’s a whole load of background and sub-plot which I found a little bit ridiculous and didn’t really care about.

A Window Breaks was mostly a very good, exciting book, but was let down by the over complicated and far-fetched subplot.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

The Space Between Time – Charlie Laidlaw

46194330._SY475_Emma Maria Rossini is the daughter of a famous actor and the granddaughter of a renowned astrophysicist, living in a huge house with her beautiful and loving mother. But life isn’t as perfect as it seems, and Emma has to combat a very difficult relationship with her father, as well as coping with some seriously tragic events.

I enjoyed this book much more than I expected. It was surprising and moving, well-written and with a complex lead character. Despite her unusual upbringing, Emma goes through some relatable experiences, and her narrative voice injects a level of wit to quite a dark plot for some much needed light and humour.

I was also quite impressed that the author managed to write so well from a female perspective. It is difficult to write effectively from the point of view of the opposite gender, but Laidlaw really pulled it off. I loved Emma’s voice and the way she told her story. I particularly liked the inclusion of the Rossini Theorem, and the way it was incorporated into Emma’s narrative to show the influence it had on her life, even if I didn’t understand all of it.

It’s a slow burner, but one with a fantastic character journey which really does tug at the heart-strings.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

Magic For Liars – Sarah Gailey

34594037._SY475_When Ivy Gamble is hired to investigate a suspicious death at the magic school her sister teaches at, she gets drawn in by much more than the case. The longer she spends at the academy, the more she begins to lose herself in a life she’d convinced herself she never wanted. All the while, a killer is on campus and it’s up to her to find out who it is.

Magic for Liars is a good book, but a teeny bit too “YA” for me. The detective aspect of the novel felt really unrealistic (yes, I realise this is a fantasy novel and therefore not super realistic generally, but the crime/detective element could definitely have been based more on reality). It seemed very unlikely that a real detective would have gone about the investigation the way that Ivy did, and it felt like a very “teen” mystery, despite the main character being a grown woman and the murder itself being pretty grisly.

That being said, I did find Ivy kind of juvenile (so maybe it made sense for her to carry out her investigation in the way that she did) and irritating. She was there to investigate a serious crime, but spent most of her time over-analysing her relationship with her sister, starting up a romance with a teacher at the academy (also, a potential suspect) and carrying around a massive chip on her shoulder re not having magical abilities. She was unprofessional and kind of tedious.

Other than that, I actually really enjoyed the story and the way it was written. The writing style was very easy to follow and the plot wasn’t particularly complex, but was quite gripping nonetheless.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

Ask Again, Yes – Mary Beth Keane

43666435._SY475_.jpgThis is the story of two neighbouring families, the friendship between their children, and a tragedy that tears them apart. Kate and Peter live next door to each other and were born six months apart. They are best friends, but their families just don’t get on. One horrific night, their bond is pushed past its limits. But can they move on from the events of the past when they meet again, years later?

Books of this genre aren’t rare. They’re full of drama and explore the darker side of family, but what makes this one stand out if that the catalytic event is truly shocking, while the fall-out is well considered and realistic. Issues around mental health and alcoholism are quite well (though not very sympathetically) explored, and suicide and sexual abuse are touched upon. Quite a lot of ground is covered, but it failed to keep my interest throughout.

Firstly, I would say that the pacing isn’t brilliant. The early portions of the book progress very slowly, and then things pick up speed as things start to happen later on. Because of this, the beginning of the story dragged a little and the end portions felt a bit rushed.

I did like the exploration of Peter and Kate’s marriage, and Kate’s commitment to Peter despite his problems driving her away and her family telling her to leave him. However, very little else stood out to me.

I would recommend Ask Again, Yes to fans of dark domestic dramas. The characters are well developed and their relationships are interesting, but I would steer clear if this isn’t your genre.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

Blog Tour: The Moments – Natalie Winter

Today is my day on the tour for The Moments by Natalie Winter! I enjoyed this book so much, so I’m very pleased to be able to share my review. Remember to check out the other stops on the tour as well! (More info is available at the bottom of this post). Thanks for stopping by!

Life is made up of countless moments. Moments that make us who we are. But what if they don’t unfold the way they’re supposed to…?

hbg-title-9781409184850-15Matthew and Myrtle both feel like they’ve never found the person they’re destined to be with. They both make their way through life trying to find the happiness they desire, but never feeling like they’ve truly found where they belong. But they’re meant to be together, if only they can find each other.

The Moments follows the respective lives of Matthew and Myrtle, all the way from birth into old age. Their stories are told in a series of moments, which was a style that I truly loved. The snapshot-style of story telling meant that the plot progressed at a good speed without lingering too long on any particular periods, which really kept the pace up and stopped the book from ever getting boring.

The central thinking-point of the book is whether happiness can be missed by missing the right moment – like getting on the wrong bus or using the wrong gardening company – or will happiness find you eventually? It’s a really intriguing concept, which is explored beautifully through the choices Myrtle and Matthew make throughout their lives.

Myrtle and Matthew are very good lead characters. They were both a little bit annoying in their own ways, but likeable enough and well developed. I had mixed feelings about the rest of the characters in the book, because some of them were pretty hard work, and most of the good ones has some very negative moments. However, this did help to make them feel like real people.

Overall, The Moments is a very readable and pretty emotional story about relationships, missed opportunities and the moments that determine our lives.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon


The Other Half of Augusta Hope – Joanna Glen

44025076Augusta Hope has never fit in. As a child, she memorised the dictionary and corrected her teachers. As an adult, she has no interest in the dull, small town her family lives in. When tragedy strikes and severs her connection with her beloved twin sister, Julia, Augusta is more determined than ever to find somewhere she belongs.

I loved this book so much more than I expected. This isn’t a genre I particularly like, though there are always some gems (like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine) so I do give a few a try. It took me a while to get into; it wasn’t really until around halfway through the book that I realised how engrossed I was. But this is one of those books where pushing on is really worth it.

Augusta is quite a difficult character, but that’s kind of the point. She’s spiky and weird, but she knows she’s weird and all she wants is to find her place in the world. She and her family are eccentric and challenging characters, not always particularly likeable, but it just works.

The book is also about Parfait, a boy from Burundi who makes his way to Spain (to the exact place Augusta and her family visit). As the narrative alternates between Augusta and Parfait, it is inevitable that they will meet, but getting to that point is an emotional roller-coaster.

The Other Half of Augusta Hope presents a striking comparison between two people from very different worlds, coming together through their own individual tragedies. It is beautifully written and poignant. A surprising page-turner.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

The Bad Daughter – Joy Fielding

37649581Robin Davis hasn’t spoken to her family in six years. When her father, his young wife (Robin’s childhood best friend, Tara) and daughter, Cassidy, are shot, Robin rushes to be back with them. But her return isn’t entirely welcome, and she doesn’t know who she can trust. Was the shooting really a random robbery, like the police suspect, or was someone close to the family involved?

The Bad Daughter is a really good crime/thriller novel. The official synopsis heavily implies that Robin is the mystery character, coincidentally returning home when her family have been attacked, but this isn’t the case. The story is told from Robin’s point of view, as she tries to figure out what really happened.

This book has some really great characters, all with their own personalities and problems. The relationships within the family were brilliant. They’re a messed up family with a very strained past, but they’re family nonetheless and they want to believe the best about each other despite their considerable doubts. Melanie was my favourite; she’s harsh and defensive, but only in response to the judgement she’s had to put up with in the past.

The plot was very good because the mystery was drawn out effectively with red herrings dotted about here and there, and a really strong twist at the end – which I didn’t really like but definitely didn’t see coming. This is by no means one of the best books I’ve read, but it captured my attention and kept me engrossed in the story. I really enjoyed it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon