Sunday, 7 August 2016

What I've Been Reading Recently

I See You*
Clare Mackintosh
Rating: ****
Zoe is a harassed single mum commuting to a thankless clerical job in London, when one day she notices her photograph in a mysterious newspaper advert. The next day: same advert, different woman's photograph. Meanwhile, Kelly is a British Transport Police officer who (as is required by the genre) is troubled and in disgrace with her superiors. While we watch Zoe slowly unravel with the realisation that someone is watching her, Mackintosh does an excellent job of ramping up the tension as Kelly investigates a series of crimes seemingly related to the adverts. I especially enjoyed these chapters, which skewed more towards police procedural than psychological thriller. The author's experience in the police force shines through, making each character fully rounded and believable. As is generally the case with this brand of thriller, I found the ending required somewhat of a suspension of disbelief, but other than that Mackintosh has more than lived up to the promise of her gripping and prize-winning debut, I Let You Go.

The Loving Husband*
Christabel Kent
Rating: ***
Fran wakes up in her isolated Fens farmhouse to find her husband missing, his side of the bed empty. What follows is a tense thriller in which the reader if left, like Fran, not knowing who to trust. It's far from perfect - the police characters seem to come straight from bastard cop central casting, and the final denouement is rushed - but The Loving Husband cleverly toys with the reader, switching between past and present narratives and constantly wrong-footing you when you think you have it all figured out.
Am I Normal Yet?
How Hard Can Love Be? 
What's A Girl Gotta Do?
Holly Bourne
Rating: *****
Alex recommended that I read Holly Bourne's trilogy about three teenage girls navigating college, family, friendships, first love and feminism, and I'm really glad I gave them a try. The characters of Lottie, Amber and Evie are brilliantly obstreperous, totally loyal, and believable flawed, and this is YA with real heart and an explicitly feminist message. I spent the books willing them to come out of it all ok, whether 'it' was struggling with a relapse of OCD, working at an American summer camp while trying to come to terms with family issues, or dealing with online abuse and misogyny. How I wish I'd had books like these when I was a teen; instead, I'll have to content myself with pressing them upon every teenage girl of my acquaintance.

Thirteen Hours
7 Days
Deon Meyer
Rating: ****
Originally written in Afrikaans and then translated into English, Meyer's Benny Griessel series has been rightly critically lauded around the world. Griessel, in the way of all brilliant detectives, is a troubled soul and an alcoholic, an old dog being forced to learn new tricks in a world of cyber crime and affirmative action, and the books are packed full of insights into modern, post-apartheid South Africa.  However, the Cape Town setting is one of the main attractions for me, rather like Edinburgh is for Rebus fans, and there's a real pleasure in following Griessel along streets I know so well. The British editions come with a handy glossary at the back, fairly essential for anyone less familiar with Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans slang, but it's partly through this use of language that Meyer (and his brilliant translator) is able to communicate so much about the politics of the country. For example, there's a wonderful set-piece in 7 Days where an uppity police sergeant insists on speaking in Xhosa to a female Zulu detective; a subtle demonstration of the micro-aggressions a black woman still faces in the SAPS, while in Cobra the disappointments and corruption of the ANC government are put into a global context, with a British professor commenting of the multi-racial squad, "Well isn't this an advert for the Rainbow Nation."
Something New: Tales From A Makeshift Bride
Lucy Knisley
Rating: *****
Recommended to me by Laura, Something New - which follows the author's journey to a makeshift, homemade, entirely personal wedding - is one of the best graphic memoirs I've read. As Thomas and I are currently knee-deep in planning our own non-traditional, makeshift wedding the book felt very relevant, covering everything from international bridal traditions to the dreaded dress shopping and how she and her husband wrote their vows. Best of all were her reflections on bi-erasure and the unique tensions present when you are a queer feminist marrying a straight man, which really hit home for me. Accompanied by her beautifully inked drawings, this was an at times moving, at times amusing, always engrossing book.

* These books were kindly provided by the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Note: none of the links in this post are affiliate links.


  1. I keep picking up the Holly Bourne books at work and wondering if I should read them, I think I will! Thank you! :)

  2. I like the sound of I See You. I don't read too many thrillers, crime type novels, but every now and then one sparks my interest so it's nice to keep it on my radar for when I fancy something different.

    ~ K

    1. It's worth a read, I think. Definitely a good one for reading under a blanket with a cuppa on a grey day.

  3. *adds the Holly Bourne trilogy to must buy list*

  4. Hello!
    I am so sorry I have not been around recently. I've actually been on a cruise for almost 2 weeks and before I was in France for a week! I do apologise for the lack of blog presence and comments. I do hope you are well!
    I ALWAYS love reading your reviews- they are always such interesting books!!

  5. I've got I see you on my Kindle waiting but having read a few thrillers lately, I needed something else in between. The Holly Bourne books sound great too.