Book Review – How Much Of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang

Ba dies in the night, Ma is already gone. Lucy and Sam, twelve and eleven, are suddenly alone and on the run. With their father’s body on their backs, they roam an unforgiving landscape dotted with giant buffalo bones and tiger paw prints, searching for a place to give him a proper burial.

How Much of These Hills is Gold is a sweeping adventure tale, an unforgettable sibling story and a remarkable novel about a family bound and divided by its memories

Published April 2020 by @viragopress

I wasn’t sure when I started reading HOW MUCH OF THESE HILLS IS GOLD if I was going to enjoy it. It’s very different to books I usually read, and in the first 10 or so pages I struggled a little to understand what was going on. But this year I’ve well and truly pushed myself out of my comfort zone and challenged myself, so I persevered. I’m so glad I did as within a few more pages I’d settled into the writing style and ended up really loving it

It’s the story of two siblings, Lucy and Sam, the children of Chinese immigrants come to California during the gold rush to seek their fortunes but finding not only the landscape hostile, but also the western prospectors and employers. Brought up almost feral and in the most deplorable poverty, at 10 and 11 years old they find themselves alone, with the responsibility of their fathers body to bury.

This book isn’t for the faint hearted. The early chapters in particular are brutal as siblings Lucy and Sam trek across an unforgiving landscape searching for somewhere to bury their father. Yet, despite some horrific scenes, there’s a poetic beauty to Zhang’s writing which is really striking

There’s several themes running throughout this book but the main ones are belonging and identity. The question of what makes a home a home surfaces frequently, and explores how it has different meaning to each of the characters. It also tackles issues of immigration, race, class, gender and the validity of recorded history told and shaped by voices outside the real and lived experiences of those it’s telling.

I read this book over several days, savouring the beautifully writing and thinking about the story. There’s a lot to think about for sure. Harrowing, striking, heartbreaking and beautifully, beautifully written, I’m really glad I had the opportunity to read it

Many thanks to the publisher and @tandemcollectiveuk for my #gifted copy as part of the #howmuchofthesehillsisgoldreadalong

Book Review – The Light Keeper by Cole Moreton

A young woman stands on the brink of a high cliff overlooking the sea, arms wide open as if to let the wind carry her over. She has run away from home to this wild, beautiful place to make a decision that is, for her, truly a matter of life and death.

Sarah is pursued by Jack, her distraught husband, who is desperate to find her on these hills before it is too late. Will he make it in time?

Volunteers on the cliff edge patrol for people to save, but the number of men and women going over has ominously increased of late . . .

Does the secret lie with the Keeper who lives alone in the old lighthouse, a few steps from the four hundred foot drop in this gorgeous, terrifying place? The radiance has gone from his llife, but we do not know how or why.

The Light Keeper is set in and around the real Georgian lighthouse at Belle Tout on the South Downs, in a dramatic landscape known the whole world over. The white faces of the Seven Sisters rise from the waves, a series of high chalk cliffs with a primal beauty. We are close to Beachy Head, where the lost and lonely come to end their lives, but this is a story of hope, redemption and love.

Published by @marylebone_house

What a gorgeous little book this is! I wasn’t sure what to expect at first and was very pleasantly surprised when I started reading it

The Keeper lives on the cliff edge of the South Downs, in a half renovated lighthouse near the infamous suicide spot of Beachy Head. Isolated and engulfed in his own pain and despair, he keeps himself to himself. But when a missing woman turns up at his lighthouse, he finds himself saving himself in his attempts to rescue her

What I loved about this book was, despite the very real and hardhitting subjects, there’s a stunning dreamlike quality to the writing. It’s completely immersive and swings from swirling and urgent to lulling and serene. I absolutely loved it .
It’s a pretty small book, at just over 200 pages but so much is packed between those pages. It tackles themes of grief, suicide, childlessness, domestic violence, faith and the loss of it. Achingly sad at times, but with a beacon of hope that flickers slowly before burning brightly, The Light Keeper really took my breath away with it’s beauty. I’ll remember it for a long time to come

Thanks to the publisher for sending a #gifted copy as part of the blog tour

Book Review – The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins

Published 11th June 2020 by Dialogue Books (UK)

The Vanishing Half caught my attention a few weeks ago after reading some raving reviews and I requested it from Netgalley immediately. Not having read Brit Bennett’s previous book, I went in with no expectation but man, does this book live up to it’s high praise

Telling the stories of twin sisters, Stella and Desiree Vignes, brought up in a small town in 1960’s America where unusually, the community is almost entirely made up of light skinned black people. When the twins run away from their small town, and eventually separate, one will end up returning to the place she tried to escape while the other will pass herself off as white, living a life that otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to access but also living a lie

Wow. This book is amazing. There’s just so much to think about as it takes on issues of race, identity, gender, prejudice, belonging and so much more. It’s timely, insightful and thought provoking. The comparisons between the two sisters lives, and that of their daughters, are both shocking and heartbreaking

Brit Bennett’s writing is gorgeous. I couldn’t put this book down, becoming fully invested in not just Desiree and Stella’s lives, but their daughters Jude and Kennedy, two completely different girls who both feel the ripples of their mother’s choices. I read it over a couple of days and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it and desperate to return. I can’t recommend this beautiful book enough, and I’ll certainly be picking up Brit’s previous book as soon as I can. A must read

Thanks to the publisher for my #gifted copy

Book Review – The Sight Of You by Holly Miller

Joel is afraid of the future.

Since he was a child he’s been haunted by dreams about the people he loves. Visions of what’s going to happen – the good and the bad. And the only way to prevent them is to never let anyone close to him again.

Callie can’t let go of the past.

Since her best friend died, Callie’s been lost. She knows she needs to be more spontaneous and live a bigger life. She just doesn’t know how to find a way back to the person who used to have those dreams.

Joel and Callie both need a reason to start living for today. 

And though they’re not looking for each other, from the moment they meet it feels like the start of something life-changing.

Until Joel has a vision of how it’s going to end . . .

Published June 11th 2020 by @hodderbooks

I knew this book was going to be right up my street the moment I read the synopsis way back last year, and so I was beyond excited when my request to read it on Netgalley was accepted!

Joel has dreams predicting the future of his loved ones. The good and the bad, he’s scared to love anyone else and is broken by his desire to stop the glimpses of what’s to come that weigh heavy on him

But then he meets Callie – healing after the loss of her best friend, Joel and Callie click. They’re soul mates. But when Joel dreams of Callie, he has to make one of the hardest decisions of his life. Sometimes loving someone means letting them go

I adored every word of this book. It’s tender, romantic and heartbreaking. Joel’s predicament is unique, a curse he struggles to live with. I felt so bad for him, and I’m not going to lie, a little bit in love with him too. The romance between him and Callie is so beautiful and pure – I yearned for their happiness. Both characters are gorgeous and likeable. I was fully behind them throughout

I felt every emotion while reading, Holly Miller’s beautiful writing takes you on a rollercoaster of hope and heartache that is physical. The Sight of You was everything I’d hoped for and more. If you enjoy books with an epic love story with a unique twist, like The Time Travellers Wife, The Light We Lost or In Five Years, then this one is for you. Stunning 💗

Book Review – Like A House On Fire by Caroline Hulse

Things Stella and George have had blazing rows about:– Misquoting Jurassic Park
– Leaving a Coke can on the side of the bath
– Fitting car seats for their hypothetical kidsIn other news, they’re getting divorced.But first, Stella’s mum is throwing a murder mystery party and – with her dad losing his job, her mum’s recent diagnosis, and some very odd behaviour from her sister – now is not the time to tell everyone.All Stella and George have to do is make it through the day without their break-up being discovered – though it will soon turn out that having secrets runs in the family…Published May 14th 2020 by @orionbooks

I’ve had a copy of Caroline Hulse’s debut, Adults, for ages and had been meaning to get around to it soon. After reading LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE this will be happening even sooner!Set mainly over an evening, when Margaret attempts to bring together her nearest and dearest one last time, this is one of the most honestly observed stories of family dynamics I’ve read. Misunderstandings, resentment and jealousy, denial and secrets unfold in an excruciating family event noone really wants to be atI loved the dry wit and humour it’s written with! The dynamics of the family are recognisable and relatable as they switch from irritation with each other to being fiercly protective. The characters are incredibly authentic and Caroline Hulse writes the everday person with compassion and insightThis isn’t a book I raced through, however I loved picking it up and spending time with it at a lovely leisurely pace which I really appreciated. I really felt I knew these characters by the end, and the addition of Margaret’s attempts to involve her reluctant family in a murder mystery party really made me chuckle. A reminder of the imperfections of family and that life is constantly changing, even for those who fight against it, I really enjoyed this bookThank you to the publisher for my #gifted copy

Book Review – The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Set on a remote island off the Irish coast, this is one guest list no one would want to be on, just as no one would have wanted an invitation to the New Year’s Eve party in Foley’s previous novel, The Hunting Party .

Lives unravel amid the revelry on an eerie and remote island as family and friends assemble for a glam wedding in an updated Murder on the Orient Express. Each of the principal characters has a reason to want one of their number dead, there are old secrets, and one of them is murdered.

Published February 2020 by Harper Collins UK

Ok, I’m naming Lucy Foley queen of the modern whodunit. Yet again with The Guest List, she gathers a group of people in a remote location, gives the reader a glimpse of a sticky end, then takes them on a merry dance from one disgruntled narrator to the other as they try to work out just what has happened

And boy are there plenty of disgruntled narrators here. As golden couple Will and Jules gather their nearest and dearest on a remote Irish island for the wedding of the century, it quickly becomes clear not everyone is wishing the lavish couple well

Jealousy, brooding resentment and old secrets all rear their ugly heads and as more events from the past are revealed, there are plenty of suspects with big enough grievances to put them in the frame for murder. Alternating chapters from several narrators, I was hooked and desperate to know more. With each chapter ending on a cliff edge, I flew through this book unable to put it down. With a wild and atmospheric backdrop, The Guest List has the perfect thriller blend I love. Brilliant

Thanks to the publisher for my #gifted e-arc

Book Review – Keeper by Jessica Moor

He’s been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes.
Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside.

When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide.

But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.

Will you listen to them?

An addictive literary page-turner about a crime as shocking as it is commonplace, Keeper will leave you reeling long after the final page is turned

Published March 2020 by Viking UK

This was my second go at starting this book after having to abandon it at the beginning of March when my work descended into chaos for a couple of weeks. It was worth the wait though, second time around I was able to give it the full attention it deserves

Keeper is a dark, uncomfortably honest exploration of domestic violence. When the body of a young woman is found washed up on the banks of a river, it appears to be a sad but clear case of suicide. But further investigation reveals a mystery surrounding the woman’s identity and links to a local refuge

Brutal, traumatic and shocking, Keeper charts Katie’s story as she becomes a victim of emotional and physical abuse in flashbacks, as the investigation in the present explores the misconceptions, attitudes and unjustness towards those who’ve escaped domestic violence. This book will make you angry, and so you should be. Candid and eye opening, Moor gives voice to these women through writing that is both sobering and inspiring

Keeper is not an easy read, it’s harrowing, raw and at times graphic. But it’s an important one that I’d encourage anyone to read. An outstanding debut

Thanks to the publisher for my gifted copy

Book Review – The Secrets of Sunshine by Phaedra Patrick

Single dad Mitchell Fisher has said a firm goodbye to romance. He relishes his job cutting off the padlocks that couples fasten to his hometown’s famous ‘love story’ bridge. Only his young daughter Poppy knows that behind his prickly veneer, Mitchell is deeply lonely – and he still grieves the loss of her mother.

Then one hot summer’s day, everything changes when Mitchell bravely rescues a woman who falls from the bridge into the river. He’s surprised to feel an unexpected connection to her, but then she disappears. Desperate to find the mysterious woman, Mitchell teams up with her spirited sister Liza to see if she’s left any clues behind. There’s just one – a secret message on the padlock she left on love story bridge…

Brimming with Phaedra Patrick’s signature charm and a sparkling cast of characters, The Secrets of Sunshine follows one man’s journey to unlock his heart and discover new beginnings in the unlikeliest places.

Published 14th May 2020 by HQ

Oh yes, I’m on a reading roll at the moment and have another FIVE star review for you today. I can’t stop smiling when I think of this book. It’s soul food, the perfect pick me up during these strange times. It is indeed sunshine in word form

Single dad Mitchell has turned his back on romance and has no qualms about his job removing ‘love locks’ placed on the city bridges by romantic and love struck strangers. Then one day while working on the bridge, a woman falls into the river below and Mitchell jumps in without thinking. Overnight he becomes a local hero and a focus for the cities romantics. But is Mitchell himself ready to move on and accept love once again?

Ah… Mitchell 💛 I loved this character so much! Prickly and lonely, his sad story broke my heart before the author kindly put it back together with such care. I can’t remember ever rooting for a character as much as I did for him. The other characters are equally as brilliant, from his nine year old daughter, Poppy to the adorable concierge, Carl and lovely, lovely Liza. I want to know these people and have them as my friends

The story is undoubtedly romantic, my heartstrings were in overdrive, but it never felt cheesy. In fact, there’s some pretty serious topics going on aswell as a bit of a mystery. Yet this is a book bursting with hope and inspiration. It’s about moving on, forgiving yourself and acceptance. I finished this book with a huge soppy smile and feeling completely uplifted. Warm and heartfelt from beginning to end, It was perfect!

Thanks to the publisher for my #gifted proof copy

Book Review – The Glass House by Eve Chase

Outside a remote manor house in an idyllic wood, a baby girl is found.
The Harrington family takes her in and disbelief quickly turns to joy. They’re grieving a terrible tragedy of their own and the beautiful baby fills them with hope, lighting up the house’s dark, dusty corners. Desperate not to lose her to the authorities, they keep her secret, suspended in a blissful summer world where normal rules of behaviour – and the law – don’t seem to apply.
But within days a body will lie dead in the grounds. And their dreams of a perfect family will shatter like glass.
Years later, the truth will need to be put back together again, piece by piece . . .
From the author of Black Rabbit Hall, The Glass House is a emotional, thrilling book about family secrets and belonging – and how we find ourselves when we are most lost. Published 14th May 2020 by Michael Joseph Books

Eve Chase is one of my must read authors. I adored her previous two books and couldn’t wait to read her latest, The Glass House (thank you @michaeljbooks for the netgalley ebook) And I wasn’t disappointed! I adored every page of itNobody writes a dual timeline and a dark family secret like Eve Chase. She blends past and present seamlessly, meaning it’s a pleasure to switch between the alternating times. Cleverly woven strands provide links that keep the reader intrigued as to how the two stories connect, while her beautiful writing evokes the atmosphere of the setting and characters and brings them to lifeThe setting of Foxcote in the forest was stunningly atmospheric and I loved the hint of gothic in the writing. The dark family secrets kept me gripped and I became as entangled in this story as the characters themselves. It ripples with mystery and atmosphere while a theme of self identity runs throughout, connecting those from both past and present, with life changing and dramatic consequences. An absolute dream of a bookI read an advance E-book courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

Book Review – Dear Child by Romy Hausmann

Gone Girl meets Room in this page-turning thriller from one of Germany’s hottest new talents
A windowless shack in the woods. Lena’s life and that of her two children follows the rules set by their captor, the father: Meals, bathroom visits, study time are strictly scheduled and meticulously observed. He protects his family from the dangers lurking in the outside world and makes sure that his children will always have a mother to look after them.
One day Lena manages to flee – but the nightmare continues. It seems as if her tormentor wants to get back what belongs to him. And then there is the question whether she really is the woman called ‘Lena’, who disappeared without a trace 14 years ago. The police and Lena’s family are all desperately trying to piece together a puzzle which doesn’t quite seem to fit

Published 14th May by Quercus

When Matthies gets a call late one night from the police to say they think they’ve found his missing daughter, Lena, he thinks his thirteen year nightmare is over. But the woman from a cabin in the woods is not Lena, so why is her ‘child’ Hannah the image of her? As more disturbing details of life in the cabin are revealed, it’s clear the mystery is only just beginning. What really happened to Lena all those years ago and who is the monster who has kept the children under lock and key in the woods for so many years?

Wow, wow, WOW – This book is incredible! I started it one Saturday afternoon and didn’t stop until I’d read the last page. I couldn’t look away. I barely took a breath. This is one of the best thrillers I’ve read in a long time

Told from the viewpoint of multiple characters, this is a tense and harrowing story, with a real slice of menace that had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. The characters are magnificently captured – Matthias who’s angry, blunt and completely obsessed in his focus to find out what happened to Lena, and Hannah who is vulnerable and naive – yet strangely sinister, both stood out to me

Romy Hausmann’s writing is transfixing and accomplished. It’s haunting and raw, with perfect pacing that had me hooked from beginning to end (and as a translated novel I feel the translator also deserves credit as none of the intensity or horror is lost while the book just flows) This is the author’s debut, and I’ll certainly be looking out for more in the future. Dear Child is up there as one of my top books of the year so far

I was lucky enough to win a proof copy from the publisher