Mini Book Reviews: January 2019

New year, new list of books to get reading! I managed to tick a few of the books I was excited to read in 2019 off my list already during January, but I’ve still got several to go. Based on how much I’ve enjoyed reading in the first month of the year, it looks like we’re off to a good start…that is, until everything changes at the end of February!

Never Go There by Rebecca Tinnelly* – 8/10

Plot: After the unexpected death of her husband, Nuala makes the decision to go against what he’d always begged her not to do and return to the place he grew up to follow the mystery that is his past. It’s only once she arrives that she begins to uncover truths and secrets that reveal a story and a man she doesn’t even recognise.

My thoughts: The description of this plot had enough keywords like “secrets” and “truths” to get me intrigued, and the plot itself definitely delivered on these promises. The life of a small village in Somerset very much appealed to me as the claustrophic and insular environment reminded me very much of villages around me – they’re not necessarily as pretty as they seem! This was an addictive and twisty read that kept you going to the very end, though in parts was a little predictable. Definitely recommended.

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths* – 8/10

Plot: When a fellow teacher at Clare Cassidy’s school is found murdered, her life and work collide as clues around the body hint of a connection to RM Holland, a writer whose life Clare is currently investigating. Then the mystery gets even deeper when a mysterious note appears in her private diary where she has confided her suspicions, but who wrote it and how could it have got there?

My thoughts: This story had an excellent combination of a potentially haunted school, a slightly gothic style murder and a sharp witted female detective – everything that makes a wonderful mystery story for me. While Clare’s character was at times pretty stereotypical of a lead in a book like this, there were some other brilliant characters – I really liked her teenage daughter and the female detective who broke the mould. The story itself was good enough to keep me interested throughout and very well-paced with a creepy atmosphere.

The Quick Guide to Writing a Press Release That Really Works by Amber McNaught

I can’t really rate this like a regular book as it’s more of an instructional quick eBook, plus it’s not fiction, but I thought I’d include it anyway! Amber is a fellow blogger at Forever Amber who has written another instructional eBook for bloggers that I’ve reviewed before here. This might not be a book that’s relevant to all bloggers, but as someone who also works in digital marketing and PR, this is totally relevant to me. I already know that I love Amber’s writing and she often has very helpful little pieces of information, so this was a no-brainer for me to buy. Anyone who works in the same industry will know how tricky it can be to write a press release that actually gets picked up, and picked up well, so it’s something I’ve done a whooole lot of research into, but still, Amber’s book had pieces of information that I hadn’t considered before and that I will definitely add to my process. It’s a quick and easy read, so if you’re thinking about writing a press release for anything, give it a go!

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield* – 7.5/10

Plot: The Swan on the upper banks of the river Thames is an ancient “storytelling” pub. On one midwinter’s night, a badly injured and drenched man bursts in holding the body of a little girl. It’s only a few hours later that the girl takes a breath and is, once again, alive. This is a twisting tale of folklore and storytelling that crosses the genres of fantasy, reality and history.

My thoughts: I absolutely adored Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, a book I read in 2017 and wish I’d written, so I was really excited about this new one. The cover is only the first gorgeous thing about this book which mixes beautiful writing alongside a twisting and turning story. The style was quite unusual – rather than focusing on one character, the storyline flits between different viewpoints and characters – a true ancient storytelling method with no one real narrator, and sometimes an external narrator too. It was a gorgeous read, though a little slow at times – this gave you opportunity to enjoy the storytelling but if you prefer a fast-paced read, you won’t find that here.

Outside by Sarah Ann Juckes* – 7/10

Plot: Ele has been held captive in a small room by a man known only as “Him”, but she’s convinced that there is, in fact, a world Outside, and she’s going to prove it, even if she’s never seen. When a hole appears in the wall at a time when everything seems like it’s ending, she sees her chance.

My thoughts: This was definitely a creepy read. It was very similar to Room by Emma Donoghue which I reviewed and really enjoyed last year, but had a bit more of a mystery element and some twists to unravel. There were points were aspects seemed a little unrealistic – I wondered occasionally why certain decisions were (or weren’t, as the case may be) being made. But overall, a good read that had a good ending.

Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman – 9/10

I’ve actually published a review of this on the blog before, so head over there for the full thing! Carol Goodman is pretty much my favourite author ever and I was overdue a reread of this book which I class as my second favourite of hers. As a quick overview, this features a secluded boarding school in upstate New York, suspicious deaths, disappearances, births and murders and a plot to sink your teeth into and unravel.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley* – 8/10

Plot: A group of old friends take a trip to a secluded hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands over Christmas where they find themselves snowed in. It begins innocently enough, but as they’re trapped by a blizzard unlike no other before, one of them is murdered.

My thoughts: Another very good murder mystery, this one with the fun twist of an isolated group of people – so it can only be someone we know – and the secluded Scottish landscape. We know about the murder almost immediately in the story, but we don’t know who the victim is, let alone the murderer – keeping us in the dark until later, an excellent plot device! We jump back to earlier, when the group arrives for their stay then go chronologically up to the event itself with occasional jumps into memory, viewpoints flitting between the different guests. While there were lots of quite similar characters, they were fairly easy to keep straight (which can be tricky in a book like this!) and the plot was fast paced. The group dynamics were wonderful – you never know who to trust, as seemingly neither do they, and the mystery is kept very well until it’s revealed. Definitely recommend it as a chilling read for dark nights.

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