adult fiction · contemporary · review

Fever Dream – Samanta Schweblin

“But it’s true, right? That I’m going to die.”

 

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Blurb: “A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family.

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I first heard about Fever Dream because author and booktuber Jen Campbell mentioned it in one of her videos and even read out one of her favourite passages. Then I was sent the book myself and while it is a type of story I don’t normally read, I tried to remain open-minded as I want to push myself to read new, exciting things.

Fever Dream follows a woman named Amanda who is dying in a hospital and the boy called David sitting at her bedside is not her son. In fact he is a stranger she only met a few days ago. Through a creepy narrative, the reader learns about David’s mother who became terrified of her own son, Amanda’s “rescue distance” with her daughter and just how Amanda ended up in the hospital in the first place.

From the outset something feels off. As I progressed through the story I was hit more and more with this feeling of tension and unease. I had an increasing number of unanswered questions but I found it remarkable how the writer created that initial feeling of unfamiliarity and was able to keep that going throughout the story. I found myself waiting for the horrible moment when the pieces would fit into place and I’d have to look at the dark picture reflected in the puzzle. I felt very much like the character of Amanda who is in a state of delirium and doesn’t really know where she is or what’s happening, except that David is there.

The format is the use of italics of David’s interruptions and comments but for the most part it reads like a stream of consciousness.

I took a leap of faith with this book and didn’t enjoy it and it’s strange because I can’t place my finger on exactly what it is. I think I just expected more than I was given but that doesn’t discredit the craft and work in this story which I can very much appreciate.

Fever Dream is unsettling and dark with a well-written protagonist and bound to be a good read for those that enjoy stories where all is not what it seems.

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adult fiction · contemporary · review

Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult

“It just goes to show you: every baby is born beautiful. It’s what we project on them that makes them ugly.”

 

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Blurb: “When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father. What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.”

Jodi Picoult is a writer whose work I’m frequently been told to read. However, none of her material every really appealed to me; and that’s no fault of Jodi, it’s just not a genre I often reach for. Although, after being interested in the topic of this one, and after reading a chapter sampler on my kindle, this quickly changed.

Small Great Things follows an African-American nurse named Ruth who works on a birthing ward. She’s worked in this role for twenty years and turns up to work like any normal day and is assigned her patient for the day: a woman who had her baby overnight. Ruth tends to the new-born, performing the necessary examinations only for the angry father to request to see her manager. He doesn’t want “someone who looks like Ruth” touching his baby. Ruth is moved to another patient and when an unfortunate situation results in the death of the baby she’s banned from looking after, the finger is swiftly pointed at her.

The story focuses on a rather serious and relevant situation which sadly many go through on a daily basis. With many readers expressing a need for more diverse books and a more diverse publishing industry, this book (after a discussion with my #FeminisminYA* friends on twitter) has very mixed views. Jodi Picoult is a white woman writing about a character who faces racism; something that she has not personally experienced. The plot is also inspired by a real life event that enraged Picoult so much she simply had to write about it but fictionalised the events and character motivations that led to the court case. There are some readers who feel that white writers should use their position to include POC characters in their works (with writers often shamed for not including them) but there are others who feel that issues of racism and differing cultures should be left to those who experience them and live them every day; regardless of how much “research” is put into it. After speaking to the aforementioned #feminisminya group I rethought why it is that I like this book so much.

The book is told in multiple perspectives: Ruth (the nurse), Turk (father of the baby) and Kennedy (Ruth’s Lawyer). I truly believe this was the best way for the story to be told as it covers very different viewpoints and each one is so well written that I don’t think it could have been shared in any other way. The reader can learn more about Ruth’s backstory and why she wanted to become a nurse and why Turk is so against anyone who isn’t white. But, as a white woman, the only character I can really discuss the accuracy of is Kennedy.

Kennedy is a character who really means well. She has a husband, a daughter, a thriving career, and she really does believe that everyone should be treated well regardless of their skin colour. However, she is prone to slip ups and saying things that she believes are helping when really they are doing the opposite. Through reading her chapters, I noticed similarities between her and myself, including some phrases and points she’d expressed.  Her chapters were so important in showcasing things that are so engrained into white society and it made me sit back and think so many times.

And that is why I loved this book: because it got me thinking.

I feel like I have gained more of an understanding through my process of reading this book though it saddens me that cases such as these appear too often in the media. I urge you to read this book but I also urge you to listen to the people who are screaming at the top of their lungs yet to some of us, it’s merely a whisper.

*#Feminisminya is a weekly twitter chat discussing various themes within YA books. It takes place Tuesdays 7:30pm on Twitter under this hashtag and everyone is free to join in*

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adult fiction · review

Deception – Roald Dahl

“Why do we lie? Why do we deceive those we love most? What do we fear revealing?”

 

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Blurb: “Here, among many others, you’ll read about how to get away with the perfect murder, the old man whose wages end in a most disturbing payment, how revenge is sweeter when it is carried out by someone else and the card sharp so good at cheating he does something surprising with his life.”

When I was a child, Roald Dahl was a permanent fixture in my reading life. I have so many vivid memories of reading his books and watching the film adaptation of Matilda so much that I ended up breaking the VHS tape. The most vivid of these memories is a time when I had a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which had an extra chapter added to it but for the sake of keeping “secrets” the words on the page were backwards and you had to use a mirror to read it.  Deception is one book in a four part collection of Roald Dahl’s adult fiction exploring different vices: Deception, Lust, Cruelty and Madness. Now that I am twenty three years old (at the date of this post) it seems only right to make the transition from his children’s works to the adult ones.

Deception is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a book of ten short stories exploring the different ways people can deceive others and what their reasons may be for doing so. My favourite stories were: My Lady Love, My Dove which is about a couple that rent out rooms in their house but hide microphones in them in the hopes of hiding out saucy details only to end up on the other side of it and Vengeance is Mind Inc which tells the tale of two men who decide to create a company in which they will carry out violent crimes on specific journalists etc who slander various people in the papers.

From this collection I learnt that there’s a vast number of ways you can be deceptive and I really liked how the stories had no real sense of closure. There was no redemption of those who chose to be deceptive.

If you’re a Roald Dahl fan, these collections are worth looking into but they’re very different to what you’ll be used to.

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adult fiction · contemporary · review

The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters – Nadiya Hussain

“It’s not as if we get to like everything in life, but we accept it and get on with it.”

 

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Blurb: “The four Amir sisters – Fatima, Farah, Bubblee and Mae – are the only young Muslims in the quaint English village of Wyvernage. On the outside, despite not quite fitting in with their neighbours, the Amirs are happy. But on the inside, each sister is secretly struggling. Fatima is trying to find out who she really is – and after fifteen attempts, finally pass her driving test. Farah is happy being a wife but longs to be a mother. Bubblee is determined to be an artist in London, away from family tradition, and Mae is coping with burgeoning Youtube stardom. Yet when family tragedy strikes, it brings the Amir sisters closer together and forces them to learn more about life, love, faith and each other than they ever thought possible.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This book is the debut from Nadiya Hussain – the winner of Great British Bake Off 2015. I’ve noticed that Nadiya has dipped into creative writing before with her Bake Me A Story which is a recipe book accompanied by original stories but this is her first full-length novel.

The story is centred around the Amir Sisters, living in a small English village. Fatima is in her thirties and has failed her driving test fifteen times and gains her income from being a hand model, Mae is a teenager with a YouTube channel that has gained over 11,000 subscribers, Bubblee is an artist living in London and Farah is married to her cousin. There is also a brother in the family called Jay though he’s difficult to get hold of. When Farah’s husband is involved in a serious car accident, secrets start to reveal themselves causing severe tension within the family.

I really liked the diverse aspects of this book as Nadiya has ties to Bangladesh and this is something she translates over to this story. It was nice to learn something about a different culture. The story is told in multiple perspectives, alternating between each of the sisters. However, the narratives of each sister weren’t obvious meaning I had to go back several times mid-chapter to clarify which sister I was currently following. As Farah is more of the central character plot-wise it would’ve made more sense if everything was from her perspective but I understand the need to split the story in the way it is.

The first half of the book was very bland. It seemed to take a very long time to establish some kind of path the story was going to take and once it reached that point, the story improved greatly and the second half was much better. The book overall just felt very empty. It wasn’t clear where they characters were based and when Bangladesh was introduced there wasn’t much distinction between the two made. It was hard to picture what the characters looked like either as there were barely any descriptions given.  It just feels like it needed more adding to it.

Having said that, it is Nadiya’s debut and the only thing she can do with her next book is keep writing and as she continues to do so, her writing will get better and better.

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adult fiction · contemporary · review

The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney

“The frame around which one builds one’s life in a brittle thing, and in a city of souls connected one snapped beam can threaten the spikes and shadows of the skyline.”

 

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Blurb: “Maureen didn’t mean to kill a man, but what can a poor dear do when she’s surprised by an intruder and has only a holy stone to hand? Lucky that she’s just reconnected with her estranged son Jimmy because, as the most feared gangster in Cork, he certainly had the tools to sort out the mess. So Jimmy enlists his boyhood buddy Tony who, with six kids and a love of the bottle, could certainly do with the money, even if his teenage son, Ryan, is far too keen to grow up so he can become a gangster himself. And all is going to plan until Georgie, the girlfriend of the hapless intruder, starts to wonder where he went…”

For the past few years I have followed the Bailey’s Women’s Prize from the longlist, to the shortlist and then to the winner. However, I have never actually taken the step to read them. This year there was a wonderful sounding collection of books up for the title and The Glorious Heresies was crowned the winner.

If you frequent my blog or have seen my shelves on Goodreads, then you know that this book isn’t the kind of thing I normally read. But I tried to go into it with an open mind after my disastrous attempt at reading a wider range of fiction this year.

The story follows a group of characters all linked in some way to a man who is accidently killed when he intrudes on someone’s home. The person who dealt the unexpected blow is a woman called Maureen who enlists the help of her gangster son, Jimmy, to deal with the body. Jimmy turns to one of his inner circle, Tony, to help him. Tony’s son, Ryan, wants to grow up and become a gangster like his father and frequently deals drugs to a selection of contacts he had. The woman next door, Tara, isn’t privy to keeping her mouth shut, much to Jimmy’s annoyance. To make matters worse, Georgie, the girlfriend of the man Maureen killed, has started to look for answers.

I expected the murder to happen right at the start which it doesn’t; it’s a few pages in. Initially this threw me off but as I delved further into the story, it became clear that while the body is the factor that links them together, the plot itself is more so about the characters. Lisa McInerney had created a group of characters that are meant to be inherently unlikeable yet through her writing choices, it becomes easy to find them fascinating and at some parts, actually start to feel sorry for them. For me, the character of Tony was one I couldn’t stand yet as his arc progressed I found myself caring more about him than any other characters I crossed paths with on this journey.

The Glorious Heresies is so beautifully constructed that even the stagnant parts of their book still hold your interest. Definitely worthy of being a prize winner.

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adult fiction · review

The Girl In The Ice – Robert Bryndza

“Erika felt immediate guilt for passing judgement, for the two people standing expectantly in front of them were nothing more than terrified parents.”

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Blurb: “When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation. The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dip deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in the water around London. As Erika inches closes to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

As you’ve probably noticed if you frequent my blog a lot, I read a certain type of book. But recently I’ve become disillusioned with reading Young Adult because it all feels like too much of the same. So apart from the books floundering on my TBR list and the new releases I know for a fact I want to read, I’m taking a little break.

After reading Gone Girl last year I was surprised by how interesting I find the mystery of crime fiction. Although, the genre is so vast that I didn’t really know where to start. Then I was sent this book.

Lee Kinny is a gardener at a museum who, when passing a frozen lake near his place of work, discovers a body trapped under the ice. DCI Erika Foster is brought in on a missing person investigation case which, thanks to Lee’s discovery, quickly becomes a murder investigation. The body is of Andrea Douglas Brown, the daughter of a rich and influential man who the chief of the police department says “can make and break careers.” There are no obvious suspects but as Erika and her team begin digging, they make some worrying findings.

I found this book so interesting to read. The fact that there are no obvious suspects very early on only made me even more hooked, wondering where this story could possibly go. With the addition of most of the police force urging for a conviction rather than trusting Erika’s hunches there’s just an added pressure as time starts running out; especially when you start getting some chapters from the killer’s point of view.

It’s so important in fiction to have a solid, believable protagonist and Erika Foster was just that. She held the story together so well and she just seemed to dominate every scene that she was in. I was rooting for her throughout this book. She was a fantastic main character.

This is the first in a series and definitely worth picking up if you’re into crime fiction.

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