The Hungry Ghost by H.S. Norup

Reviewed by Sophie:

Firstly, thank you to Pushkin Press for allowing me a chance to read this book.

I was intrigued by the description of the book having not heard of the author previously.

This book is actually the second by this author and although it has the same characters as the first story, I was able to read it as a stand-alone novel.

Having lived in the Far East and visited Singapore, I was transported back to this fantastic part of the globe. The humidity, beautiful gardens and shrubbery and the genuinely amazing sights that this gorgeous city had to offer.
I enjoyed hearing the language being used in the dialogue between the characters and the culture of the country.

The author’s descriptions are a sense overload. They mention in one part the “musty smell of decaying wood”, “raindrops on the greenery glitter” and the “birds call out over the high-pitched background song of cicadas”. They state “It’s as if I’ve crossed the boundary to a magical, prehistoric world”. It’s just glorious.

I became engrossed with the story of Freja and Ling. I wanted to know who Ling was? Why everyone was telling Freja not to follow her? Why she was bad? What was Freja trying to remember?

This book itself is a mixture of the real world and a magical realm. Both as gripping as the other.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. It was something different to what I normally would read but I now want to read more by H.S Norup.

Author: H. S. Norup
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Release date: 24 September 2020

Before I Die by Jackie Morrissey

Reviewed by Lotte:

We begin with our main character – Maureen – an elderly lady that found herself recovering from an ankle injury. In a bid to help her during that time, her well-meaning but totally misguided daughter, asked a carer to drop in to assist Maureen. Afterall, Delores was the live-in carer for a friend of Maureen’s so what could possibly go wrong? Different events unfold that throw suspicion on both sides…is Maureen starting to get confused and mixing things up? Or is Delores not quite what she seems? And how on earth would you go about proving it when everything seems so reasonable?

This story isn’t overly elaborate but my, it packs a punch. There aren’t the usual overt, outlandish actions and plot twists that you’d expect from a book like this. Instead, it’s made up of clever, subtle events that could be completely believable in real life. That is where the beauty lies. I’m still reeling from the ease and realness of the events. It’s this very realness that makes this tale so dark and utterly twisted.

With this in mind I loved the plot! Despite the small twists and little changes, it still managed to move quickly. Morrissey built the intensity throughout until I was so on edge by the time we came to the last ‘scene’ I felt like I was barely breathing as it all unfolded. The way it all came together was well thought out too. We weren’t given all the answers straight away or in a linear way which kept up the mystery. There was also no knowing how much the other characters knew, apart from Maureen, or when they might show up which again, just heightened the unknown and the questions. At one point Maureen’s inner monologue said “She assembled what she knew for Michael” which was pretty much how I felt around that time and throughout the rest of the book, trying to rearrange my thoughts and the events until things started clicking in to place. Lastly, Morrissey’s choice of demographic was very smart because the more Maureen protested, the more it cast doubt and fuelled the senile theories. Very catch 22!

This was a fast, easy to read book, that delivered in its ability to create suspense and characters that you wanted to get behind. I really enjoyed reading it – well as much as you can enjoy reading something that unsettles you so much!

*Advanced review copy provided by the publisher / Netgalley*

Author: Jackie Morrissey
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Release date: 27 June 2020

Sunny Days and Sea Breezes by Carole Matthews

Reviewed by Sophie:

Just like an ice lolly on a hot day, this book was just what I needed and moreish from the first bite.

It has the recipe of a gorgeous chiclit, girl moves to a new place, girl makes friends, girl meets boy etc. But there is more to the book. I totally felt for Jodie. Carole Matthews doesn’t throw the reader in to Jodie’s story, she weaves it in slowing. Giving her little bits of information gradually.
Being a recent first time mum, who also had news in my pregnancy that made me feel fear that I had never felt before, I completely felt for Jodie’s horrific tragedy. I felt her loss and pain. Her need to grieve and the space needed.

I loved the setting. It made me recall a holiday I took to Jersey…I know it’s not the Isle of Wight but I felt the same when reading about the place. It made me smile and feel the memories of the holiday flooding back.

Matthews’ vocabulary is scrumptious. With the use of some beautiful adjectives throughout the book. I especially love her use of description of the various elements especially the imagery created about ‘Sunshine ‘ and ‘seabreeze’. Her use of specific detail made me melt into the pages and felt like I was being given a virtual tour of the houseboats.

She always manages to make you feel cosy and happy through her writing and the characters she creates. This story has the same delicious ingredients of a heart warming book.

Author: Carole Matthews
Publisher: Sphere
Release date: 25 June 2020

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Reviewed by Lotte:

This mystical fable starts in an Inn along the banks of the river Thames, famous for its stories. One evening a stranger arrives with a seemingly dead child, and severely injured himself. No one knows the pair and thus the unknown begins. The girl, first confirmed dead, returns to life. But who is she? And how did this happen? We are taken through the lives of three separate groups who each believe she is their missing child. But what is real and what is just hope? What is the truth and what is old folklore?

Straight off this is not a fast paced, action packed story. Instead it is a slow, meandering tale with the beauty and the magic being found in the subtleties of the writing and the stories within the main storyline. It is enchanting in its mystery combined with the sadness and complexities of human nature and spirit. Setterfield takes us through the lives of these three groups, the heartbreak they’ve endured, the hope they hold on to and ultimately the truth…or thereabouts. Because not all can be explained. The gentle magic running throughout this plot left you hanging on, even to the end, never completely revealing everything…Quietly.

I felt drawn into each of the lives of these people, wishing that in some way this girl could magically belong to all. Each group had very different circumstances and reasons to like them, to feel for them. I found myself rooting for all three!

As I said, this was a slower read and if I’m honest I would have liked a little more pace. However, the chapters were almost self-contained additions to the plot, so it was possible to just chip away at the story, and in some way, this worked well, allowing the details, the implied notions and the query of reality to fully sink in.

Author: Diane Setterfield
Publisher: Atria
Release date: 4 December 2018

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Reviewed by Sophie:

Wow! What a hidden gem. I actually got this book thinking it was another eBook entirely. However, I am so glad I got it.

Evelyn is a star but has never spoken to a journalist about her life until now…

Through Taylor’s masterful storytelling we hear about the ups and downs of Evelyn’s life and her 7 husbands.

I loved every single moment of this book. The characters and the story. I didn’t want this book to end. Evelyn’s life is full of hardship that the reader can’t stop reading as well as some other bits, that I never saw coming! Each husband has his own personality and influence on Evelyn.

This book had me engrossed from beginning to end, I devoured it all. I was upset to finish. I loved the way it was written; the descriptions, the pace and would recommend this book to everyone.

I am so happy to have discovered this gorgeous book and a new author. It’s one that will stay with me for a while.

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Release date: 13 June 2017