This Christmas’s selection of books gifted to me turned out to be a brilliant selection. So taking advantage of a bit of time off they all went straight to the top of the ‘To Be Read’ pile and are now finished.
Sabrina by Nick Drnaso
I read this first, picking it up on Stephen’ s Day and it still comes to mind from time to time. Its a fairly downbeat read, but it’s very much a though provoking one. Especially when I’m skimming through Twitter.
Sabrina of the title is a missing person. Her boyfriend Teddy is the principle character we follow, although Sabrina’s sister and Teddy’s friend Calvin are other prominent characters. Its not a whodunnit. I’m not even going to try explain the story, other than to say, Sabrina goes missing in Chicago, Teddy moves in with his friend Calvin in Colorado to get his head together, and then a video is released claiming to be her murder.
The dialogue is sparse, and the graphics aren’t exactly jammed with detail, but the author has a lot to say and gets it across really really well. The story is unsettling. I really didn’t know what I felt about the different characters . If you find yourself looking at the world around you thinking a version of ‘WTF is going on in the world’, then Sabrina will resonate.
Definite 5 star book. Not for the paranoid.
Normal People – Sally Rooney
I approached this with a little trepidation as I didn’t really enjoy her highly acclaimed first novel, Conversation with Friends. Normal People came with similar high praise, had been longlisted for the Booker Prize, and probably nominated or won other prizes I don’t know about.
First things first I enjoyed Normal People much more that Conversations With Friends.
Its a love story. It’s about being young and in love, about class and social difference. One told over a number of years as Marianne and Connell’s relationship develops and lapses through the years as they also change, meet new people and find themselves in different situations.
There are some questions left unanswered, especially about Marianne’s family and **SPOILER ALERT** we never find out if they grow old and live happily ever after. It is after all a story of young love.
It is also beautifully written, and one to read for the pleasure of reading.
4.5 stars on my Goodreads (pretend they do half stars)
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.
Well, this one was an unexpected gem. ‘Agatha Christie meets Inception’ I read somewhere. A fairly good description. The author adds a note after the end explaining his desire to write an Agatha Christie style novel.
Basically Evelyn Hardcastle (her of the 7 deaths – or 7 and half if you get a different version) is destined to die at 11pm. The location is an isolated country manor, filled with well to do society and various servants. So far so typical ‘whodunnit’. Our detective has 8 days to solve the murder.
The twist is that our detective and narrator has woken up with no memory and no idea about who he is, but we soon find out that he is Aidan Bishop, and that in each of the 8 days he will wake up in a different body (or host) with their predilections, and all their strengths and weaknesses. If he doesn’t solve the crime, his memory will be wiped and he will start over and over again trapped in this ‘other world’ which he has already been in for an indeterminately long time.
He is given this information by a shadowy masked figure whose allegiance is unknown, especially when he discovers he has rivals in among the host of characters.
So if you can keep track of who is who, and where he is, then you’ve got a really enjoyable twisty detective story. If you are one who likes to guess who did it and how, you’ll really enjoy this. Its good fun, and will keep the little grey cells well exercised.
5 stars on Goodreads
The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan
For some reason I don’t read a huge amount of Crime fiction, but I heard a lot of good things about The Ruin so on my Christmas list it went. It is an absolute cracker. A must read for any crime fans.
In the prologue we are introduced to a very young police officer in the West of Ireland, investigating a call out to an isolated house. He finds a dead woman and two neglected children. Skip forward 20 years, the young police officer is a detective sergeant moved from a big deal unit in Dublin to a Galway station filled with resentful or taciturn colleagues who seemingly want nothing more than to take him down a peg or two.
So far so familiar. Our detective is set to investigating cold cases, one (you can guess which) has links with a current case being investigating. The story zips along, but not without having a few digs at the Irish social care system, the Catholic Church and the police, and managing to create some genuine emotional moments along the way.
This was a real page turner. The beauty of some time off was that I was able to give time to just read my way through it in some long sittings, culminating in a 3am finish.
Another 5 star on Goodreads. I loved this.
Children of Blood and Bone by Toni Adeyemi
Before I started on my Christmas list I was finishing this one off. It features in many end of year lists as a top Young Adult read, and deservedly so
It has elements of a traditional fantasy but set in Africa, in Nigeria. Magic is gone from the land, and the people that once had it are oppressed, with the tyrannical King actively trying to destroy those that once used magic.
We’re introduced to young magi Zelie, and her brother, along with Princess Amari and her brother. You’ve got a bit of love hate romance, a bit of power and injustice (modern comparisons?) and some good old fashioned fantasy tropes.
Enjoyable YA fantasy in a different setting. Excellent.
4 stars on Goodreads for me