Friday 28 July 2023

Suture by Nic Brewer | Book Review

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Suture by Nic Brewer
My rating: 4/5
Publisher: Book*hug Press
Publication date: 21st September 2021

To make her films, Eva must take out her eyes and use them as batteries. 

To make her art, Finn must cut open her chest and remove her lungs and heart. 

To write her novels, Grace must use her blood to power the word processor. 

Suture shares three interweaving stories of artists tearing themselves open to make art. Each artist baffles their family, or harms their loved ones, with their necessary sacrifices. Eva's wife worries about her mental health; Finn's teenager follows in her footsteps, using forearms bones for drumsticks; Grace's network constantly worries about the prolific writer's penchant for self-harm, and the over-use of her vitals for art. 

The result is a hyper-real exploration of the cruelties we commit and forgive in ourselves and others.

This book is definitely not for the faint hearted but at the same time it is beautifully written. Told in three interwoven stories, the characters must give something for their art. Eva takes her eyes out to use as batteries for her camera, Grace writes with her blood and Finn removes her organs for creating works of art.

This is an interesting and literal take on the "putting your heart and soul into your work" phrase. The stories also focus on the flip side and how watching their loved ones do this to themselves affects their families. Eva's wife worries about Eva's mental health, the people closest to Grace worry that she is overdoing it and long after giving up cutting her chest and removing her lungs for art, Finn's teenager gets into music, using a bone from their arm as a drumstick. Finn then understands how her mother felt about her.

This is honestly not like anything I've ever read before. I loved it.

Wednesday 19 July 2023

When We're Thirty by Casey Dembowski | Book Review

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When We're Thirty by Casey Dembowski
My rating: 4/5
Publication date: 21st April 2021

Hannah Abbott is stuck in a dead-end relationship and at a job she loves but that barely pays the bills. The four walls of her tiny New York City apartment have never seemed so small. She’s barely toasted her thirtieth birthday when her old college friend Will knocks on her door with an unexpected proposal. 

Will Thorne never forgot the marriage pact he made with Hannah, but he also never imagined he’d be the one to initiate it. One ex-fiancĂ©e and an almost-career-ending mistake later, however, he finds himself outside Hannah’s door, on bended knee, to collect on their graduation-night pinky promise.With both of their futures at stake, Hannah and Will take a leap of faith. 

Now, all they have to do is convince their friends and family that they’re madly in love. As long as they follow the list of rules they’ve drafted, everything should go smoothly. Except Will has never been good with rules, and Hannah can’t stop overthinking the sleeping arrangements. Turning thirty has never been so promising.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved this.

Hannah Abbott is a music journalist working at a magazine. She and her best friend Kate have the closest bond but her relationship with boyfriend Brian isn't the one. 

Soon after her thirtieth birthday, Will Thorne, an old friend of Hannah and Kate's from college, turns up at Hannah's doorstep brandishing an engagement ring and asking Hannah to marry him. Way back in college, they had a pact. If neither of them were married at thirty, they'd get married. This is a pact that I think everyone is familiar with but this novel puts a wonderful spin on it. 

Hannah could do with his health benefits for her bad knee following a car accident, and Will needs to appear like he has his life together to his high-powered family of fellow lawyers, especially following his recent heartbreak.

Firstly, I loved every character. They were all so well developed and I felt immersed in their world. All their problems felt real. It wasn't an easy ride. I love a bit of forced proximity/fake dating where you know they'll end up together and the path runs smoothly, but this isn't the way for Hannah and Will. The turns in the plot were perfect and that scene where Hannah is interviewing Leonard Nulty, the lead singer of her favourite band, broke my heart a little following the recent disbanding of my own favourite! Highly recommend.

Monday 10 July 2023

Notes On An Execution by Danya Kukafka | Book Review

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Notes On An Execution by Danya Kukafka
My rating: 4/5
Publisher: Phoenix 
Publication date: 5th January 2023

Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in twelve hours. But this is not his story.

Ansel doesn't want to die; he wants to be celebrated, understood. Yet now he awaits the same fate he forced on those girls, years ago.

This is the story of the women who survive.

As the clock ticks down, three women - a mother, a sister, a detective - reckon with the choices that culminate in tragedy, the impact on those in its wake, and the possibility of redemption.

I went in blind on this, choosing it because I'd seen a few social media posts on the book so I didn't really have any expectations. It definitely starts slow but it is so worth it.

Ansel Packer is counting down to his execution. He is on death row for murdering multiple women and the story is told from four points of view; Ansel's in prison, his mother Lavender, his sister-in-law Hazel and New York State police captain Saffy Singh who remembers Ansel from a group home they lived at together back in the 80s.

Ansel's life plays out in front of us from his mother's escape from her partner, his time spent at the home to his interactions with the women he killed then later, meeting his adult niece for the first time. 

Ansel has obviously had it rough in his early years and clearly that has been traumatic in a way. It doesn't excuse what he did. What Kukafka has done really well here is not force us to feel sorry for Ansel nor revel in the fact that he is being executed.

It is a very thought provoking novel that I would definitely recommend. The prose is beautiful too.

Friday 7 July 2023

Verity by Colleen Hoover | Book Review

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Verity by Colleen Hoover
My rating: 5/5
Publisher: Sphere
Publication date: 20th January 2022

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity's notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn't expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity's recollection of the night their family was forever altered.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already-grieving father. But as Lowen's feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife's words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue loving her...

My head is spinning. Colleen Hoover is known for her romance novels but this thriller is top notch.

Thirty-one year old writer Lowen Ashleigh is struggling for money, her mother has just died of cancer and she is about to be evicted. She is hired by the Jeremy, the husband of famous author Verity Crawford to finish off the last three books in Verity's series after Verity is injured in a car crash. In order to do so, Lowen goes to stay in their house to sift through Verity's office, looking for any notes that may help or for a way to get into Verity's head and write how she would write.

When Lowen discovers the manuscript of an autobiography of Verity's, she learns more than she cares to know about Verity and the type of person she really is, her obsession with her husband and jealousy of her children when they came along. It doesn't help that Lowen and Jeremy are falling for each other too.

I cannot believe how surprised I was by this book. Warning, there is a lot of spice and some of the details involving the children genuinely made me feel a little sick to my stomach. I sort of guessed part of it but nothing prepared me for the twist at the very end. Incredible. I would love more Colleen Hoover books like this one!

Thursday 6 July 2023

Sincerely, Me by Julietta Henderson | Book Review

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Sincerely, Me by Julietta Henderson
My rating: 4/5
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publication date: 23rd February 2023

Danny is the definition of a man who 'could do better'. He drinks more than he should, currently lives in his best friend's garden shed - and he hasn't spoken to his sister in 16 years.

But when Danny is the subject of a misleading newspaper article, claiming his lifestyle is actually quite enlightened, he suddenly finds himself in the limelight. Letters begin to flood in from strangers seeking his guidance.

Wolfie is the daughter of Danny's estranged sister, Lou. She's never met her uncle, but her mother is struggling. So when Wolfie sees Danny's picture in the paper, she sets out to find him.

Within a week, Danny goes from being responsibility-free to a big brother, an uncle and an unwitting existential 'guru' to some very lost souls.

Can he become the man they all need him to be?

Julietta Henderson has a really gorgeous way of writing a heartfelt novel with just the right amount of humour.

Sincerely Me follows the story of thirty-nine-year-old Danny Mulberry who currently lives in a shed in best friend Dom's garden. A misunderstanding means he is arrested and a photo of him is in a local publication. This is received very well and all of a sudden, Danny becomes an "agony aunt" style figure with readers sending letters to the publication to him, asking Danny for advice.

One of these letters comes from fifteen-year-old Wolfie who is the daughter of Danny's estranged sister Lou. Danny hasn't seen Lou for sixteen years so he was unaware of Wolfie's existence. Lou has been in an accident and Wolfie's letter reunites them. Dom, being the kind best friend he is, moves Wolfie and Lou in with him whilst Lou recovers.

This is awkward for both Danny and Lou at the beginning but it forces them to revisit what happened to cause their estrangement. I absolutely loved the development of all of their relationships and characters, especially Danny's own through writing his letters. I knew when I read The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman that Henderson has a special way of writing and this is confirmed in Sincerely Me too. Beautiful.