Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
I have put off reading this for so long. It’s been sitting on my shelf staring at me and I have steadfastly ignored it. But I finally took the plunge. And I’m still trying to work out how I feel about it. There was a suggestion that it really wasn’t a sequel at all, it was a first draft of the novel we all know and love so much. I can see that. On that basis, it’s fascinating to consider from a creative writing point of view. But as a novel in its own right? I’m not sure it can hold its own.
A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge
The English Civil War looms and a girl yearns to find her long-lost family. She does not heed the warnings her mother gave her before she died. There’s something terrible and rotten in that family. Can she conquer the darkness and walk in the light? A gripping read, an original plot, and some likeable characters. What’s not to like?
Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore
This is Helen Dunmore’s last novel, written even as she knew she was unlikely to survive the cancer she’d been recently diagnosed with. The novel is all about what survives, what remains when we are gone. Set at the time of the French Revolution the novel focuses on a group of characters in the city of Bristol. Historically specific and yet widely pertinent.
The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch
It all started with Rivers of London. Now it’s all about ghosts on the London Underground. I love this series about PC Peter Grant, junior member of the Met’s Special Assessment Unit, taking care of all matters paranormal. Jolly good fun.
The Dry by Jane Harper
Years of drought are taking their toll on a small remote rural community in Australia. The pressure finally gets to a local lad who kills his family and himself. But a friend from the past arrives for the funerals and finds he isn’t so sure it’s as clear cut as it seems. A really good read. But it won’t fill more than a day on the beach because you won’t be able to put it down.
Forces of Nature by Jane Harper
I read this straight after The Dry and perhaps that was a mistake. I felt exactly the same about it for most of the way through, but felt disappointed by the ending. A group of women head into the bush on a team-building exercise. One of them doesn’t come back. Each of the survivors is hiding something. But one of them is hiding a really big something…
In My House by Alex Hourston
Just one word in an airport: help. Maggie’s life will never be the same again after she responds and effectively enables the escape of a young woman from the grip of a trafficker. Later, the young woman contacts Maggie and suddenly becomes part of her life. It’s a difficult book to categorise. It’s not a thriller. It’s all about emotions, opening ourselves to others and dealing with the consequences when it doesn’t work out as we’d hoped.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
A couple embark on a journey to escape an unnamed war-torn city and head west seeking a new life. The fighting and its effects are very real but there are elements of fantasy that create a strange blending of genre that can occasionally cause a jolt. But, on the whole, it’s an enjoyable book with a great insight into some terrible human dilemmas.
Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean
A fantastic novel based on the true story of a group of men from St Kilda in 1727. They are dropped on a remote sea stack to collect seabirds for food. They should be there for several weeks only, but no one comes to collect them. Left to imagine why no one from their community came for them, they conclude that the world must have ended and that they, for some reason, have escaped the destruction. But how to move forwards with, well, life? A fascinating book, tinged with sadness but well worth reading.
The Harrowing by James Aitcheson
The harrowing of the north was a brutal time in our history. James Aitcheson does a fabulous job of allowing us to see, across nearly a thousand years, what it actually means to be subject to an organised harrowing. There’s darkness aplenty, and it’s not a sentimental novel so don’t expect a sudden happy resolution to the situation, but there is a thoughtful and hopeful ending, and the journey towards that ending is certainly worth the taking.
Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott
A fantastic historical fiction/fantasy novel set in a small town which appears on no maps and has been self-governing since the time of Elizabeth I. Why? What is the town hiding? Why is it illegal to study the town's history? Even the best kept secrets find a way out in the end... A great read and I can't wait to read the next instalment, Wyntertide.
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