‘The Sewing Machine’ spoiler-free review!

 

The Sewing Machine

Hi everyone! Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie. Huge thanks to Anne Cater/Unbound for sending me a free copy to review!


synopsisIt is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents. His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.


my thoughtsThis was a really enjoyable historical fiction! Fergie has a nice writing style, not too flowery but captivating enough to sweep you up into another period in time. I found it difficult to put the book down, constantly telling myself “just one more chapter”.

There are a LOT of characters to get to grips with in this story and I will admit to being confused at times as to how everyone was linked. This is in part due to the incorrect assumptions I made from reading the blurb, as well as the fact that the actual point of the story was to not reveal the links until the very end! So I recommend just going with the flow and not trying too hard to figure things out before their time; you’ll only give yourself a headache 😉

Even though there are a lot of characters, they are, on the whole, incredibly likeable. I felt invested in every individual storyline and there were no characters that made me feel bored or want to rush through to get to a different perspective (which we all know can sometimes happen with multiple POVs!) Every single narrative voice and time period was compelling.

I really loved the idea of the sewing projects being recorded in notebooks and how these were passed down through the generations. I’m sentimental at heart so I love things like that, real pieces of the past that you can tangibly experience.

This is clearly a very well-researched novel, into which has been poured a lot of love. I would recommend it to fans of multi-generational family sagas!

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A final rating of 4 musical notes!

4 notesMake sure you check out the other stops on the tour if you’re interested! And thanks, as always, for reading x


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‘A Version of the Truth’ spoiler-free review!

 
a version of the truth

Hey everyone! Today is release day for A Version of the Truth by B. P. Walter which was very kindly sent to me by Avon Books. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I’d hoped to. Read on to find out why!


synopsis

We all see what we want to see…

2019: Julianne is preparing a family dinner when her son comes to her and says he’s found something on his iPad. Something so terrible, it will turn Julianne’s world into a nightmare and make her question everything about her marriage and what type of man her husband is or is pretending to be.

1990: Holly is a fresher student at Oxford University. Out of her depth and nervous about her surroundings, she falls into an uneasy friendship with a group of older students from the upper echelons of society and begins to develop feelings for one in particular. He’s confident, quiet, attractive and seems to like her too. But as the year progresses, her friends’ behaviour grows steadily more disconcerting and Holly begins to realise she might just be a disposable pawn in a very sinister game.

A devastating secret has simmered beneath the surface for over twenty-five years. Now it’s time to discover the truth. But what if you’re afraid of what you might find?


my thoughts

This is a really hard one for me to rate. I so wanted to give a glowing review for release date but unfortunately, I found this one quite hard to swallow.

I was quite intrigued by the opening of this one but things quickly went downhill from that awful cliché hated by bookworms everywhere: “I let out a breath I only now realised I’ve been holding”. Later on, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was incorrectly referenced as being written by Emily Brontë. I know this is nit-picking but the fact that little things like that grated on me so much shows how frustrated I was feeling for the duration of the book.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I was liking the book at first. I enjoyed the Oxford University vibes and I was suitably intrigued. However, the subject matter become more and more disgusting as the book progressed. I feel like the whole purpose was just to shock the reader.

This book features some of the most unlikeable characters I have ever had the misfortune of reading about. Unlikeable characters in themselves would not normally be enough to lower my opinion of a novel quite so much but, in this case, I just couldn’t bear reading about them. Not one of them had any redeeming qualities; even the Mary-Sue heroine annoyed me and I really struggled to feel any sympathy towards her despite the horrible ordeal she is put through.

Now I’m no prude but the amount of sex in this book was a little much for me. And it wasn’t even the fact that it was there, it was the way things were described. Every chapter got progressively more disgusting. Add to that some very questionable comments about gay men, bisexuals and AIDS and I was losing interest fast.

I pushed through A Version of the Truth since it had been gifted to me by a publisher but the ending was honestly the biggest cop-out I’ve ever read. I have never been so dissatisfied.

Wow, I had hoped I could give this review a slightly more positive spin but I guess writing it has made me realise just how much I disliked this book! It’s a real shame to have to give a negative review on release day. But hey, other readers might enjoy this one. I feel like it will certainly be divisive and, unfortunately, due to the subject material, I landed firmly in the negative camp.

a version of the truth

Are there any books that have made you have such a strong reaction whilst reading? Let me know in the comments! And thank you for reading x signature (2)

‘The Last’ spoiler-free review!

 

The Last book review

Hey everyone! Today I’m reviewing The Last by Hanna Jameson, which was very kindly sent to me for free in exchange for an honest review by Viking Books UK! You may remember me mentioning this in my list of January anticipated reads so I’m hugely grateful that I was able to get a copy! The book released in the UK on January 31st so definitely check it out if you’re interested.


synopsis

Breaking: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington

Breaking: London hit, thousands feared dead

Breaking: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm

Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia, and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?


my thoughts

This was a very unique book. The concept of an apocalyptic murder mystery is highly original (or at least it’s not something I’ve ever come across before). It’s like Cluedo at the end of the world! The plot was hugely compelling; I genuinely could not stop reading. I must have read over 100 pages in a single sitting. If you like gripping reads, this is definitely one to try.

I will admit that the book jumped in very quickly and that it took me a minute to feel invested. The narrative does go back eventually and fill in the gaps but readers should bear in mind that everything kicks off before you even know where you’re at. With hindsight, I can see why this was done but it can feel a little disconcerting when you’re just starting the book.

The concept of nuclear war is terrifyingly plausible and the author definitely highlights current world issues to lend her story a frightening level of believability. Let’s hope we never get to this point!!

The novel is ambiguous in moments (something which I don’t mind but that might annoy other readers). I did find the ending slightly too open-ended for my tastes but, equally, I don’t think there’s any other way the author could have wrapped it up.

Overall, this was a scarily fascinating book that I would definitely recommend for fans of apocalypse stories. It’s tense and creepy at times and grips the reader from start to finish. I really enjoyed it!

the last

A final rating of 4 musical notes!

4 notes


Have you read this one? Are you a fan of apocalypse stories? Let me know some of your favourites in the comments! And thank you for reading xsignature (2)

‘The Hate U Give’ spoiler-free review!

 

thug review

Yes, I know. I’m ridiculously late to the party with this one. But with Angie Thomas’ new book, On The Come Up, coming out in February, I figured it was finally time to read her debut! And it deserves every bit of hype.

Let’s check it out!


synopsis

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.


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I’m not sure what I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said. It is one of the most powerful books I have ever read and I totally understand why it has become such a huge phenomenon in the book community.

Obviously, the subject matter here makes this an incredibly heavy read. In fact, I could only read it in short bursts and had to intersperse it with other books for a bit of light relief.

I was worried initially that I wouldn’t be able to connect with the story (and please do not read anything racist into that before I explain!) The book is very dialogue-heavy which is not something that usually works for me. Add to that the fact that I had distanced myself from this book for so long due to the hype and hopefully you can understand why I was nervous.

Thankfully, Thomas writes dialogue REALLY well and I found that it really drew me in, adding to the intensity of the book. Further to this, the family and peer argument scenes in this book were so bloody realistic. I actually felt my heart beating faster and my breathing quicken as if I was right there in the thick of everything.

After thinking about the ending, I’m quite pleased with how things wrapped up. It would have been very easy for Thomas to take things in a different direction and I don’t think I would have been satisfied with it if she did. As it stands, I found the ending powerful and emotive – especially with the author’s note that follows. It’s easy to see why this book has had such an impact. The Hate U Give is clearly a very important piece of literature in the Black Lives Matter movement and I, like Angie Thomas, hope that one day we can look back and say that the issue has been eradicated.

thug

Of course, my final rating can be nothing less than 5 musical notes!  5 notes


So most of you have probably read this one by now, right? What did you think of it? Are you planning on reading On The Come Up? And do you like my new rating system?! Leave me a comment below! Thanks for reading xsignature (2)

‘Your Turn To Die’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! This weekend, I’ve been participating in the 24in48 readathon and one of the books I read was Your Turn To Die by Sue Wallman. Let’s take a look at it!


your turn to die

What the book is about…

Sue Wallman’s most spine-tingling thriller yet! Every winter, three families gather in an old house to celebrate the New Year. This year, 15-year-old Leah and the other kids discover that the house has a dark past. As they dig into the history, terrible things start happening, and if Leah isn’t careful, this New Year might be her last.


What I thought of it…

Well, I haven’t read Wallman’s other books but if this is the most spine-tingling yet then I don’t think I’ll bother. If I’m totally honest, I wasn’t expecting this to be anything amazing. But it was even worse than I thought it would be. I didn’t enjoy it at all.

The characters were completely flat, with no distinguishing features or personalities. I only read this yesterday and I’ve already pretty much forgotten everyone. For teenagers, their behaviour throughout the entire book came across as completely juvenile; I could not imagine real teenagers acting the way that these characters did. I also thought that the dialogue between them read unrealistically; it did not feel natural in the slightest.

I found the plot boring and highly predictable to a point – and then the final twist was so farfetched that I wanted to throw the book across the room. It’s like everything that had been building up from the start was completely disregarded for this big twist that left me feeling a bit cheated. Though I have to admit to skimming the last 100 pages so something might have slipped past me (but I doubt it).

Also, that poor dog. The author lost me when the dog was fed chocolate and it only got worse from there. Major trigger warning for animal cruelty. I wouldn’t normally say anything like that for fear of spoilers but if you have any inclination to read this (and I don’t see why you would but it’s possible), you need to be prepared. The treatment of the dog turned my stomach.

Do yourself a favour and just skip this one. Life is too short to waste time on bad books!

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Has anyone else read this one? Do you push on when you’re not connecting with a book or do you DNF? x

‘Hunted’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! Last night, I finished Hunted by Meagan Spooner, which was my book club’s pick for this month. For some reason, I was nervous about reading this one and wasn’t sure I would like it (Beauty & the Beast retellings are getting a little overdone after all) but I needn’t have worried!


What the book is about…

hunted

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?


What I thought of it…

Spooner has done a great job with this one. What could have been just another generic YA retelling is actually far more original and compelling thanks to the inclusion of Russian folklore. I’ve always been a sucker for Russian-inspired fantasy so as soon as I realised that’s what I was in for, I comfortably settled in for the journey.

The wintery aesthetic in this book was gorgeous. Give me all the snowy books please and thank you. Even though the book’s setting was quite limited, I thought the author did a great job of conjuring it and I could really picture everything that was happening. I believe this is in part due to the inclusion of a lot of sensory detail – sounds, smells, textures all added dimension to the story. 

Spooner’s writing is very readable. It is easy to become swept along in the narrative and the fact that the reader knows information that the protagonist, Yeva, does not makes things very interesting.

I also really enjoyed getting some snippets of the Beast’s perspective, as this is not something I’ve seen often in retellings. His narrative voice felt strangely reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster, both in his moral conflictions and in the articulate way he expressed himself. It was fascinating to read Yeva’s hatred and thirst for revenge on the one hand and see the Beast’s struggles on the other; Spooner did a great job of balancing things and making the reader question their feelings towards the characters.

I have to say that the hate-to-love trope, which can sometimes annoy me, was VERY well done in this instance. The author handled the situation in a way that felt far more believable and plausible than other Beauty and the Beast retellings I’ve read.

I also want to give points for the disability rep; while not a huge part of the book, it was nice to see it included.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It is a compelling story which builds to an immensely satisfying conclusion and I would definitely recommend this one if you are a fan of fairytales or of books set in the wilderness of Russia!

hunted

Have you read this one? What did you think of it? What are some of your favourite fairytale retellings? Let me know in the comments! x

‘The Story Keeper’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! Today is my day on the blog tour for The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola. I’m so grateful to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for the opportunity to read this one.


What the book is about…

story keeper

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the word-of-mouth folk tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857, the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and the crofters are suspicious and hostile, claiming they no longer know their stories. Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters tell her that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl has disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the spirits of the unforgiven dead. Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but then she is reminded of her own mother, a Skye woman who disappeared in mysterious circumstances. It seems there is a link to be explored, and Audrey may uncover just what her family have been hiding from her all these years.


What I thought of it…

This Gothic mystery was an absolute delight to read. I immediately fell in love with the setting of Skye, with the author conjuring a perfectly gloomy picture that truly transported me. The atmosphere was practically dripping from every page.

It is not often that I am so absorbed by a book that I am never distracted by my phone or things going on around me. This one did it. Seriously, every line held my attention; I was captivated.

This is a wonderful portrait of a moment in history. Finding out in the author’s note that this book was based on real events added an extra level of awesome. Anna Mazzola has done a great job of capturing the misogyny of the era and the difficulties women would have faced.

The Story Keeper is very slow-burning (something which didn’t bother me but that other readers should bear in mind). Events in the novel unfold at a glacial pace but I enjoyed the creeping feelings of tension and the slow reveal of information.

Honestly, this book hit all of my buzzwords: an atmospheric setting, unreliable narrator, ambiguity and intrigue, and dark fairytales. If any of these things tick your boxes too, then you should definitely give The Story Keeper a try!

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To find out more about this one, check out the other stops on the tour! x

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‘Tell the Wolves I’m Home’ spoiler-free review!

Hello everyone! Last night, I finished Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt so today I’ve got a review for you 🙂


What the book is about…

tell the wolves im home

1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life–someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.


What I thought of it…

I knew right away that this was going to be a special book. I instantly connected with the writing style and I knew it was going to have a powerful emotional impact on me.

Brunt’s characterisations were so well done. I really sympathised with June and felt a little bereft when the book ended and I was no longer in her head. Her sister, Greta, who starts out seemingly vile, has some of the best character development and I really came to understand her and why she behaved the way she did. The author did such a great job of making her characters feel real.

Another thing Brunt did amazingly well was capture how ignorant people were about AIDS in the 1980s; it was genuinely hard to read. I know that’s the way things were but gosh, it was tough to see it in black and white on the page in front of me.

I did have a slight issue with the fact that the book kept talking about AIDS being ‘given’ to a person. Technically, it’s HIV that is passed between people and AIDS just results from that; you don’t infect someone with AIDS. I’m seriously nit-picking but it did grate on me a little each time it came up because it’s not wholly accurate. However, even with that, this is a 5-star book for me.

This was such a quiet and gentle book. There is a vein of poignancy running throughout and you would have to have a heart of stone to not be affected by it. Brunt has written a story of such raw beauty and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

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Have you read this one? Or any other books about the AIDS epidemic? I’d love to read more books about this topic if you have any recommendations! x

‘Cuckoo’ spoiler-free review!

Hello everyone! I just finished Cuckoo by Sophie Draper, which was sent to me by Avon Books – and I loved it! Let’s jump straight in…


What the book is about…

cuckoo.jpg

There’s a stranger in your house…

When her stepmother dies unexpectedly, Caro returns to her childhood home in Derbyshire. She hadn’t seen Elizabeth in years, but the remote farmhouse offers refuge from a bad relationship, and a chance to start again.

But going through Elizabeth’s belongings unearths memories Caro would rather stay buried. In particular, the story her stepmother would tell her, about two little girls and the terrible thing they do.

As heavy snow traps Caro in the village, where her neighbours stare and whisper, Caro is forced to question why Elizabeth hated her so much, and what she was hiding. But does she really want to uncover the truth?

A haunting and twisty story about the lies we tell those closest to us, perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Cass Green.


What I thought of it…

I’m gonna come out and say it straightaway: this is one of the best thrillers I’ve read. Cuckoo is slow-burning and mysterious (I fully acknowledge that some readers won’t enjoy that style and will want something more fast-paced, but I really love books that are written in this way).

The book has a great atmospheric opening. I could really picture the dreary autumn day and the rain lashing against the windows of the quaint village pub. The vivid descriptions of the setting continued for the book’s duration; it was great to be able to picture everything so clearly, as thrillers often leave out this kind of detail. The farmhouse was almost a character in itself, which I have mentioned in the past is something I love in a book! At one point, the protagonist Caro is snowed in and this lends the story such a claustrophobic feel. The atmosphere leaps from every page.

The unique selling point for this book is the inclusion of various dark fairytales scattered throughout the plot. While this may sound strange, it works SO well and really adds to the book. Draper’s writing is really quite creepy at times and there were some nights I couldn’t read it before going to bed! I’d say that Cuckoo almost borders on horror in places.

This book hooks you in immediately and doesn’t let go, twisting and turning right to the very end. And I mean, RIGHT to the end. It never lets up. But it does it in a slow, creeping way that ensures you are feeling everything right along with Caro.

I will be keeping an eye open for more of Sophie Draper’s books!

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I hope you’re all having a wonderful January so far and a great start to 2019! x

‘The Wicker King’ spoiler-free review!

Hi everyone! January 2019 is the first month of the Dragons and Tea Book Club hosted by lovely ladies Melanie and Amy! The first book they picked to read was The Wicker King by K. Ancrum, which I decided to read with them due to its mental health themes. Let’s see what I made of it!


What the book is about…

wicker king

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfil a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.


What I thought of it…

This book was unlike anything I’ve ever read. The short ‘micro-fiction’ chapters make it an incredibly fast-paced read and I really liked the inclusion of mixed media. The physical book is actually beautiful.

I love that the beginning of the book foreshadows the end, giving a feeling of coming full circle. This is something I always find satisfying in a book. Ancrum’s writing really is very good.

What struck me most about this book was its intensity. I thought the author’s writing was very clever. There is little to no description of the two boys, making them fairly indistinguishable. It is often not specified who is talking, causing the reader to feel as confused and helpless as the boys themselves. Furthermore, all minor characters feel underdeveloped, emphasising that the boys only have eyes for each other. All of this serves to emphasise the co-dependency between August and Jack, and to show that the mental health of both boys is taking a significant hit.

When I initially drafted this review, I talked about the book’s ending not having the emotional impact I was expecting. I was preparing to have my heart ripped out and, while there was a certain rawness to how things tied up, it didn’t destroy me the way I had thought it would. However, after Melanie and Amy arranged for the author to chat to us on Goodreads and answer questions, I have come to appreciate the book’s ending more and more. There is a real power there.

I also have to mention that both the dedication and author’s note were lovely. Ancrum is doing a great thing, giving voice to troubled teenagers and helping them to recognise that some things are not acceptable and shouldn’t have to be dealt with alone. I definitely want to read her next book, The Weight of the Stars!

the wicker king

Did anyone else join the Dragons and Tea Book Club this month? What did you think of The Wicker King? x