Hi all, hope you’re all well and are keeping in good spirits! I have another Recently Read post for you today. This past month has been a real mixed bag when it comes to books – I’ve adored some and have been left majorly disappointed by others. As always, here are five completely honest and spoiler-free reviews…
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Beach Read by Emily Henry
Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.
They’re polar opposites.
In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighbouring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.
Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.
Wow, I really didn’t like this. I feel bad giving it such a harsh review but I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the worse books I’ve ever read. It just felt so pointless. I thought it was never going to end so I’m shocked I actually managed to finish it.
I couldn’t stand the main character, January – she came across as unbearably whiny and spoilt. I spent the majority of the book wondering if the author had intended us to feel sympathetic toward a young, best-selling writer who was living rent-free in an enormous beach house. I couldn’t connect with her at all.
The ‘banter’ was painful and the whole thing felt a bit teen-angsty, despite the fact the main characters were in their late twenties/early thirties. I’m also not a fan of writing that takes ten pages to describe someone getting up, getting dressed and driving into town, etc. I began skim-reading towards the end as I just wanted to get it over with.
This has an average rating of 4.05 of Goodreads so clearly I’m in the minority. To me it just read like a boring, cheesy romcom.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.
Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.
Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him…
Unfortunately this didn’t live up to the hype for me. The start was promising enough – I was hooked straight away and couldn’t wait to unravel the mystery. Alicia’s diary entries were my favourite part of the book and I was eager to learn more about her backstory (I wasn’t as interested in Theo’s). I was gripped right up until the last few chapters and was ready to give it four stars – then the ending came!
The ‘twist’ was a clever idea but I don’t think it was executed all that well. It caught me off guard in a ‘huh?’ sort of way rather than blowing my socks off like I was hoping. It all fell a bit flat and I was left feeling disappointed.
This was an exciting read and it certainly kept me entertained, but I think there are better thrillers out there.
The Heat Wave by Kate Riordan
Elodie was beautiful. Elodie was smart. Elodie was manipulative. Elodie is dead.
When Sylvie Durand receives a letter calling her back to her crumbling family home in the South of France, she knows she has to go. In the middle of a sweltering 1990’s summer marked by unusual fires across the countryside, she returns to La Reverie with her youngest daughter Emma in tow, ignoring the deep sense of dread she feels for this place she’s long tried to forget.
As memories of the events that shattered their family a decade earlier threaten to come to the surface, Sylvie struggles to shield Emma from the truth of what really happened all those years ago. In every corner of the house, Sylvie can’t escape the specter of Elodie, her first child. Elodie, born amid the ’68 Paris riots with one blue eye and one brown, and mysteriously dead by fourteen. Elodie, who reminded the small village of one those Manson girls. Elodie who knew exactly how to get what she wanted. As the fires creep towards the villa, it’s clear to Sylvie that something isn’t quite right at La Reverie . . . And there is a much greater threat closer to home.
Oh I LOVED this. Compelling, tense and much creepier than I’d anticipated, it actually gave me some strange dreams! I thought the plot was original and I reveled in all the twists and turns.
The characters were all very well crafted, especially Elodie – she made me so anxious and I was constantly trying to guess what she would do next. I also really enjoyed Sylvie’s narrative. Her derelict French house was a character in itself; with its creaking doors and sun-bleached garden.
The only thing that stopped me from giving five stars was the ending (I sense this is becoming a pattern with me!) It was a little haphazard and I was left feeling dissatisfied. Still, this was a beautifully written novel and I couldn’t stop thinking about it once I’d finished.
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.
She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.
Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.
Another creepy one that had me up reading past 2am! Someone on Goodreads described this as ‘432 pages of pure psychopathic heaven’ and I’d have to agree. I was hooked right from the beginning – it usually takes me 100 pages or so to properly get into a book, but this gripped me straight away. I finished it in one sitting.
The Family Upstairs has everything I’d want in a thriller – ominous characters, lots of secrets, an eerie old house, cults… the list goes on! The story is told from three POV; that of Henry, Lucy and Libby. Henry’s chapters were by far my favourite; he was so well-written and I enjoyed following his evolvement.
A lot of reviewers have complained that there were too many characters/side stories thrown in, but personally I didn’t mind. For me they added to the plot rather than took away from it. There were enough red herrings to keep me guessing but not so many that it became ridiculous. The plot was far-fetched, yes, but so clever and well crafted – Lisa Jewell is an amazing writer. I’m looking forward to reading more of her work!
This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens
When Minnie meets Quinn at a NYE party, it’s clear that they’ve got nothing in common – except for the strange fact of their being born in the same place at the same time on New Year’s Eve. A crazy coincidence, but not a reason to pursue a friendship, and definitely not an excuse for Quinn to hope for something more.
He is a privileged party boy who believes the world is his for the taking. She is a hard-working realist, whose lack of confidence tends to hold her back.
Opposites don’t really attract…it’s not like this is a rom-com, right?
The clock strikes midnight, their moment passes, and another year begins. But if Quinn and Minnie are from different worlds, why do they keep bumping into each other? And why is it that each frustrating interaction somehow seems to push their lives in the right direction? Could it be that instead of clashing, their different outlooks might complement each other?
Perhaps now is the time for them to finally come together…
This was a sweet and endearing story and I loved the first half. Minnie was a wonderful character – I could relate to her on so many levels!
The flashbacks where Quinn and Minnie unknowingly cross paths were a nice touch (albeit unrealistic). A lot of reviewers have complained that they were unnecessary but I enjoyed them.
This started as a strong four star but unfortunately it started to lose it’s magic towards the end. It became overly predictable and way too corny in places. I’m all for a bit of cheese but this was a whole other level – the banana scene alone forced me to deduct half a star (if you know, you know).
Overall, this was an easy, pleasant read. I just wish the second half had been more engaging!
What have you been reading recently? x