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Posts Tagged ‘Friday Reads’
Okay, I’m going to just come out and say it: I need to stop reading books that are halfway through a series. I was drawn to Sophie Hannah’s The Telling Error because, among other things, its plot involves secret online personas, Twitter spats and, well, the Internet. Oh, how I love the Internet. But my Internet-based attraction ignored that The Telling Error is part of the successful Culver Valley Crime series. So, as I have experienced before with books read out of sequence, I found this slow to get into. I don’t have the character investment those familiar with the series presumably do. I also found there to be a confusing (and possibly deliberately so) number of characters. As I read this on a Kindle I really wished I had the real deal in my hands, in order to flick back and check who was who.
That said, once my brain had caught up I found this to be a gripping and darkly comic tale. When a key character revealed the reason for their dissatisfaction with their partner I genuinely laughed out loud. Hannah has clearly had a lot of fun writing this and, (once I’d really got stuck in), the reader is in on the joke.
Laughs aside, there is genuine fear and apprehension to be found in these pages, and Hannah’s analysis of the human character feels uncomfortably like the ugly truth. (Please note this book doesn’t contain overly gruesome detail of dead bodies: always a plus in my eyes!) An interesting premise for existing fans, but new arrivals may be better starting at the beginning of the Culver Valley series.
The Telling Error, Sophie Hannah: My bad: 3.5/5
Heart Shaped Bruise is a cracking Young Adult Crime/Adult Crime crossover. This is the tense angst-driven story of 17-year-old Emily Koll who, for reasons that become clear, adopted a different name and infiltrated the life of 16-year-old Juliet Shaw (who happens to have stabbed Emily’s father). It’s a brilliant premise.
Please note if you are buying this for your teen there is some swearing, some underage drinking and smoking, and brief mentions of sex (though there’s nothing graphic and everything happens ‘off page’). There are also some hefty themes of: media manipulation, anger management, living up to your parents’ expectations, first love, loss, suicide, and (minimal and not gratuitous) violence.
Written as if Emily’s journal while in Archway Young Offenders Institution, this desperate smear of emotions pulled me toward the revelation of Emily’s darkest secret in two sittings. The big twist comes brutal and swift (even though I have to confess I’d guessed what it would be. Don’t read too much into that: as a writer I understand the ebb and flow of plot. I also spot seemingly unnecessary sentences that have been left in for plot purposes which would otherwise have been edited out of a tightly written text like this).
Byrne’s writing style is gripping and occasionally packs real punch. I shall remember this sentence forever: ‘The moment I’d had enough of flicking matches at her and finally set light to everything she had’.
A riveting read for adults, young and mature alike, this book leaves a stain after it’s finished. Much like a bruise that takes time to heal.
Heart Shaped Bruise, Tanya Byrne: I <3 this 4/5
The early arrival of my new nephew delayed this review of Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist. When I got the 5am call to baby-action I grabbed a handful of things enroute: spare pants, phone, wallet, house keys, and my copy of The Miniaturist. Come hell, high water, or a screaming baby I wasn’t going to miss out on what happened next. That’s how gripping this book is.
The Miniaturist is the story of eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman, who arrives to start her new life as wife of successful merchant trader Johannes Brandt, in Amsterdam 1686. Her husband is not at her grand new home to greet her. Instead Nella encounters her sharp-tongued sister-in-law Marin. Things are off to a shaky start. When Nella enlists the help of a mysterious miniaturist to furnish Johannes’ wedding gift of a cabinet-sized replica of their house, dangerous secrets start to surface.
Burton crams historical, visual and sensory detail into The Miniaturist. But far from leaden, her descriptions are as richly satisfying and as deftly executed as the sugar dusted treats that appear throughout the book. Seventeenth century Amsterdam is alive.
But its the pace and suspense of The Miniaturist which really elevates it. Taut and heart-stopping on occasion, Nella grabs you by the hand and runs with you through her life. A staggering story, full of emotional punch, this book has wonderfully strong, brave, and complex female characters at its heart.
Upon finishing I re-read the prologue, and it made me reconsider everything I’d just read afresh. A stupendous achievement. I don’t want to risk blurting out any spoilers, so I’ll just say: read this book, you won’t regret it.
The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton: A sugar coated star debut 5/5