“Dignity” by Alys Conran

Thanks to Orion Publishing Group and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve been procrastinating on this review for a few days because I always seem to struggle more when writing positive reviews. I know I’m not alone in this but it’s weird, is it human nature to focus more on the negative? When I like something I tend to be quite effusive about it but “BUY THIS BOOK OMG IT’S SO GOOD” is a little less thoughtful than “I struggled with the characterisation”. Perhaps it’s because we tend to be more thoughtful when critiquing someone elses work? Anyhoo, I digress.

Continue reading ““Dignity” by Alys Conran”

“The Murmur of Bees” by Sofia Segovia

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Thanks to AmazonCrossing and Netgalley for the Advance Review Copy. 

Wow. What an absolute gem of a novel. The cover and synopsis grabbed my attention immediately and I knew once I had finished the first few chapters that I was reading something truly special. 

The novel follows the saga of the Morales family in Northern Mexico and those linked to their story. The book starts with a mystery, an abandoned baby boy with some unusual friends. It follows his relationship with the Morales family and others in the small community in which they live. The novel is written from various different points of view, some first person and some third person so readers get to really understand the different perspectives and motivations of the characters. 

The writing is beautiful and evocative with clever and witty turns of phrase. The characters are dynamic and relatable, and I genuinely cared about what happened to them. There is an element of the supernatural running throughout the book, but it never felt cheesy or contrived. The novel also follows historical events such as the Spanish Flu and political upheavals in Mexico during the early 20th century.  

At its heart the novel is about family and in particular the relationship between brothers, even if not blood related. There is a genuine feeling of malevolence and tension in the portrayal of the antagonist which continues through to the heart stopping climax. The novel also touches on themes of prejudice, the need for adaptation and change and the real-life history of the area is also incorporated into the narrative. 

This is a wonderful and vibrant novel, an absolute gem. I laughed, I cried and there were times I felt like I was there. The cover is also gorgeous and eye-catching. I’d heartily recommend picking this one up upon its release.  

“The Embalmer” by Anne-Renee Caille

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Thanks to Coach House and Netgalley for the review copy.

This is a rather unusual yet compelling book. I guess I hesitate to call it a book at all. It’s more a series of vignettes by a narrator interviewing her funeral director father about some of his past cases. The book itself is very short and each of the passages is perhaps one or two pages long.

Some of the examples written about are absolutely brutal and this is certainly not a book for the faint of heart or squeamish. If you have a morbid streak as I do, you are likely to appreciate it much more.

The book is written in a stilted, almost poetic style and it felt quite uncanny and chilling to read. Although there isn’t a supernatural element to it, at certain points I felt a shiver down my spine and it got my heart thumping.

It’s definitely not a book for everyone but I really enjoyed this. It felt unusual and thrilling and was definitely something different. If you’re looking for something unique, consider giving it a read.

“The Flower Girls” by Alice Clark-Platts

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Thanks to Bloomsbury UK and NetGalley for the advance reading copy

About halfway through reading this book I thought I had it all figured out. How very wrong I was.  

This is a very dark, chilling novel that is sure to leave you feeling unsettled at its conclusion. The story is about the “Flower Girls” Laurel and Rosie, who were involved in the murder of a young girl whilst small children. The novel follows a series of characters including the Flower Girls who are now adults, a policewoman, a writer, a lawyer and a victim’s rights advocate. There are a lot of surprises unveiled during the course of the novel and some things are not quite as they seem. 

The story makes reference to, and has parallels with, notorious murder cases of modern times, including Jamie Bulger and the Moors Murderers. With that in mind, it can make for rather gruelling and intense reading at times. Some of the themes explored raise questions about the efficacy of indefinite detention of young offenders, what can drive children to commit terrible crimes, is evil a result of nature or nurture and what rights should the victims of crime have to determine or prolong the punishment of offenders. 

Some of the dialogue and actions of the characters sometimes didn’t quite read true to life for me, particular the writer’s story arc, which disrupted my immersion in the narrative at certain points. However, the author takes some risks with expected tropes of the genre which helped elevate it above a standard thriller. The book left me feeling genuinely unnerved and made me reflect personally on some of the knee-jerk reactions I have to similar crimes that happen in reality. This book could be useful basis for discussion with those working in the fields of rehabilitation or the criminal justice system and some of the themes could be used when exploring these issues in a classroom situation.