Mini Book Reviews: July 2018 Part 1

So my “mini” book reviews are starting to get out of hand – considering I’m on a bit of a reading kick right now and getting through 7-8 books a month rather than my usual 3-4, these posts are ending up over 2000 words long and being a bit mammoth! I was also struggling to find the time to sit and write them all in one go, so this month, I’m trying something different: I’m splitting the post down more (and may even split into individual book reviews at some point) but also reviewing as I read. For example, I sometimes have thoughts while I’m reading books or immediately after finishing them that I forget a week or two later when it comes to writing the review, so I’m writing as I go! Let’s see how it goes:

An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim* – 7.5/10

Plot: In 1981, in the grip of a flu that’s killing people at an alarming rate, Polly makes the biggest decision of her life. In order to save the love of her life, Frank, who has tested positive, she will take a one way trip 12 years into the future to kill two birds with one stone: avoiding the virus, but also allowing her to use her pay to save Frank. They make plans to meet once she has reached “the future” – for Polly, it seems like only a day has passed; for Frank, it’s been years. But when she’s rerouted another 5 years into the future, their plans are thrown into disarray. On top of that, the new world is totally different – America is divided, she has zero rights and is in a bonded contract to work for the company that sent her to the future for over 30 months, with that time getting longer the more simple life necessities she needs to buy. Can she find Frank and resume the life she left behind?

My thoughts: This was a super interesting concept and done very well – I really enjoyed the two landscapes the author plunged us into and the true fear you felt on Polly’s behalf being trapped in a world she doesn’t know or understand with no way back. I always love a dystopian world novel, and this one not only fit that criteria for me, but also felt vaguely realistic, like it could really happen.
The story was at a lot of times heartbreaking and harrowing. Being told in alternating sections between the past and “future”, we get to delve deeper into the story of Polly and Frank’s relationship, building up a picture of how they came together and why Polly’s so desperate to find him again. The romance and sci-fi elements sat side by side really well for me here and I thought the novel as a whole was an excellent piece of work.

Her Name was Rose by Claire Allan* – 7/10

Plot: Emily lets a stranger with a child in a pushchair step out in front of her out of courtesy, but never imagines that is a decision that will change her life as a car sweeps up the mother and kills her. Stuck in a dead end job, Emily digs deeper into Rose’s life to find out she has it all: a perfect husband, amazing job and perfect life. At first, she tells herself she’s just applying for her job because she needs a better one, but slowly she starts to make more and more conscious decisions to fill the empty place Rose left behind. But, of course, there’s more to Rose’s life than everyone assumed, and when a man is found dead, the plot thickens. Can Emily find out what’s going on and get out before it’s too late?

My thoughts: This book was a fun ride but wasn’t my favourite. It’s part psychological thriller – where Emily slowly draws into Rose’s life and convinces the reader that this is the right thing to do – and part mystery – trying to figure out who did what and why, and who can and can’t be trusted. This means you’re in for a good few twists along the way which are thrilling and sometimes a bit crazy. The building of facades in Emily’s life echoes those that happened in Rose’s, but also warn the reader of the dangers of putting a perfect life out there on social media – something very relevant right now and done well. Like I said, a good enjoyable read, one that would make a good summer thriller, but not an absolute fave.

Mine by J. L. Butler* – 6/10

Plot: Francine is a divorce lawyer working on high level cases in London. When a new wealthy client comes in, she begins an affair with him under the noses of their superiors and his soon to be ex-wife. He insists the relationship between him and his wife is over, however Francine follows them to a restaurant then back to their home. The next morning, she awakes with blood on her clothes in her neighbour’s flat, with no recollection after seeing them together. Then that ex-wife doesn’t show at court, and it soon becomes apparent that she hasn’t been seen for a few days.

My thoughts: Unfortunately the slow start to this book got me started off on a bad foot with it – I wasn’t enthralled and was worried I’d picked up something that was going to bore me. For the first couple of chapters, I was skimming past legal talk that didn’t interest me, then worried it was going to go a bit “50 Shades” on me when she picked up an illicit relationship with a wealthy client. Luckily the story soon started to move on, but I still found that I hadn’t quite connected with Francine meaning the rest of the story still didn’t quite grip me.
In the end, I enjoyed trying to find out where the missing wife was, who could be trusted and the obsessions that were building throughout the plot. Occasionally I felt like a couple too many aspects were thrown into the story just to add a bit more to it, such as the creepy neighbour and annoying friends, but eventually it did add to the plot in a way that made sense. I can’t say it was an amazing read, but I did enjoy it when I got into the story.

Dark Pines by Will Dean* – 6/10

Plot: In the forest of an isolated Swedish town during hunting season, with gunshots ringing left, right and centre, a body is found. And this isn’t a first: the town was home to the “Medusa” murders in the 1990s where bodies turned up with their eyes missing. Tuva is a deaf reporter who hates the forest and longs to return to the city, but this is a story that could make her career. Are the murders connected and can she find the root of it all?

My thoughts: I know a lot of people love this and it’s been very popular, but I’m sorry – I just wasn’t a massive fan! Normally I love isolated landscapes like this but I think I struggled to identify with someone who found the setting in the forest scary rather than somewhere to explore and who longed to be back in the city, and that’s so much unlike me. I can totally understand the fear of a murderer being out there in the woods, but most of the time the fear was of the woods themselves not the murderer. I also love a good murder mystery or crime thriller, but this didn’t hold enough intrigue for me – I ended up not even all that fussed about knowing who the murderer was! I tried hard to take my time and get into it at first but I ended up rushing through parts as I got further in as I just wasn’t really connecting. I can understand why people like it, but sadly just not for me!
There were of course some good parts: the medley of characters throughout were certainly interesting, from the sisters who make trolls in the woods to the strange taxi driver with a young son. I also enjoyed having a main character who differed from the usual, being a deaf reporter but not forcing this as a plot device.

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