Lockdown Literature – What I’ve Been Reading Pt.1

May 27, 2020Hels

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”

Lockdown has been a crazy, surreal, exhausting and bizarre time. One wonderful thing about it is the time I’ve been able to spend reading. I’ve read a LOT during the last few weeks. I’ve written some dedicated reviews for some of the incredible books like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Dear Edward and Where The Crawdads Sing but I wanted to do a round-up post of everything else I’ve read!

 

Blood Orange (Harriet Tyce) ⭐⭐⭐

Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…

Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle.

But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything….

I do love a good thriller, and for the most part, I enjoyed this. The concept was not particularly original – other than the actual blood orange part, but that felt a little like an afterthought. An unreliable female narrator who drinks too much has been done a lot, but I was intrigued about where it was going. After the first few chapters I realised I couldn’t stand any of the characters, and while usually this would make me put a book down, I wanted to know what happened to them. I think Tyce writes well, her writing of Carl made me absolutely detest him, and it is a good debut novel.

 

Further Confessions of a GP (Dr. Benjamin Daniels) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Benjamin Daniels is back. He may be older, wiser and more experienced, but his patients are no less outrageous.

Drawing on his time working as a medical student, a locum, and a general practitioner, Dr Daniels would like to introduce you to a number of his patients, not to mention the super nurses, anxious parents, hypochondriacs, jumpy medical students and kaleidoscope of care workers that make up Dr Daniels’ daily shift.

Further Confessions of a GP is the follow-up to the bestselling Confessions of a GP.

I absolutely loved this book. It’s funny and light-hearted, while also being incredibly informative and utterly fascinating.

It’s written as a series of anecdotes, so you can dip in and out, I found I couldn’t read too much of it at once as it doesn’t flow as a story, but I really enjoyed the variety of the stories. I loved meeting the teenager who was convinced he lost his virginty and caught HIV in the 30 minutes he drunkenly left a club and fell asleep in a kebab shop and Crackhead Kenny, and felt suitably revolted when meeting a Jack Russell with a foot fetish…

They’re a mix of brilliantly funny and heartbreakingly sad stories, and he also offers some fascinating insights into the NHS and certain areas of medicine, such as the cost of prescriptions and our growing resistance to antibiotics.

I absolutely love books like this, they give such a unique insight into the working lives of our doctors.

 

The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams ⭐⭐⭐.5/5

Penny Bridge has always been unlucky in love, so she can’t believe it when she meets a remarkable new man. Followed by another. And then another… And all of them want to date her. Penny to choose between the three, but are any of them The One?

This is a quick, easy read, perfect for the summer. It’s fairly predictable, but still enjoyable. I really loved Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams so was looking forward to reading this.

I liked Penny for most of the book, but particularly towards the end, I felt her confidence and independence came across really well, and it showed how her character had developed. I actually didn’t really care for any of the three guys, I didn’t really find any of their relationships particularly believable, they felt a bit too cliché. I felt like the book was more about Penny and her journey and the “love square” was just a part of that – I think I’d have enjoyed the book more if it had focused on her and made the love interests a bit of a sub-plot.

I was impressed at how the book dealt with issues of infertility very sensitively, and the book also included great LGBTQ+ characters.

I really like Williams’ writing style, though at times the dialogue felt a little stilted. I’d probably give it 3.5/5, it’s not the most groundbreaking rom-com I’ve read, but it’s perfect if you want a lovely, easy read.

[Gifted for review by NetGalley]

 

The Woman in the Window (A.J. Finn) ⭐

It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.

Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.

But one evening, a scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

Uhmmm. I didn’t enjoy this. It was predictable, a little self indulgent and I was bored of the typical unreliable female narrator who drinks too much. I thought the twists were predictable, and I spent most of the time feeling increasingly frustrated at almost every single character.

 

The Switch (Beth O'Leary)

The Switch (Beth O’Leary) ⭐⭐⭐

Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen… So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire.

But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – local schoolteacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn’t straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?

I was really excited to read this after absolutely loving The Flatshare, which was one of my favourite books last year. It’s a very easy read, very lovely and charming. I loved Eileen, but didn’t really warm to Leena unfortunately, and I could see where the story was going from pretty early on. It’s a really nice read, and I know how popular it is – though I think any book would struggle to live up to The Flatshare to be honest!

 

The Unhoneymooners (Christina Lauren) ⭐⭐

The honeymoon of a lifetime . . . with her sworn enemy.

Olive is always unlucky; her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. While she’s about to marry her dream man, Olive is forced to play nice with her nemesis: the best man, Ethan.

Yet Olive’s luck may be on the turn… When the entire wedding – except for Olive and Ethan – gets food poisoning, there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs. Putting their mutual hatred aside, Olive and Ethan head for paradise. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him spirals out of control.

Forced to play loving newlyweds, she and Ethan find themselves in closer proximity than they ever expected. Soon, Olive finds that maybe she doesn’t mind pretending. In fact, she’s beginning to feel kind of…lucky.

I was expecting this to be cheesy, but…it surpassed all my expectations. It’s very predictable, which is fine, but unfortunately I found myself rolling my eyes through much of the book. I quite liked Ethan, but couldn’t stand Olive, she came across as so immature and actually just quite mean a lot of the time.

I wanted to enjoy this as a light-hearted read but it was just too much for me! Plus, the term ‘lady parts’ was used way too often for my liking.

 

The Apartment (K.L. Slater) ⭐⭐⭐

Freya Miller needs a miracle. In the fallout of her husband’s betrayal, she’s about to lose her family home, and with it the security she craves for her five-year-old daughter, Skye. Adrift and alone, she’s on the verge of despair until a chance meeting with the charismatic Dr Marsden changes everything. He’s seeking a new tenant for a shockingly affordable flat in a fashionable area of London.

Adder House sounds too good to be true… But Freya really can’t afford to be cynical, and Dr Marsden is adamant she and Skye will be a perfect fit with the other residents.

But Adder House has secrets. Even behind a locked front door, Freya feels as if she’s being watched: objects moving, unfamiliar smells, the blinking light of a concealed camera… and it’s not long before she begins to suspect that her dream home is hiding a nightmarish reality. Was it really chance that led her here—or something unthinkably dark?

As the truth about Adder House starts to unravel, can Freya and Skye get out—or will they be locked in forever?

I’ve read a lot of K.L. Slater books, some are brilliant, others can sometimes fall a bit flat. I thought the first half of this was great – the tension was reasonably well built, and I felt concerned for Skye. There were random flashbacks to 1920 and psychological experiments which I didn’t particularly enjoy, and I thought these extracts gave too much away.

I’m not sure how believable I found Freya’s character. While I totally understand that she wanted to protect Skye and give her everything, she just seemed incredibly naïve and far too trusting.

Because there were only a few characters in the book, I thought the culprit was fairly obvious, though I wasn’t totally sure where the book was heading. I found the ending a little abrupt and a bit too convenient. I felt like there were a LOT of questions left unanswered which I found frustrating.

It’s a quick and easy read, moments of it might grip you but I think there were too many holes in it for me.

[Gifted for review by NetGalley]

 

Half a World Away (Mike Gayle) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Kerry Hayes is a single mum, living on a tough south London estate. She provides for her son by cleaning houses she could never afford. Taken into care as a child, Kerry cannot forget her past.

Noah Martineau is a successful barrister with a beautiful wife, daughter and home in fashionable Primrose Hill. Adopted as a young child, Noah never looks back.

When Kerry contacts Noah, the sibling she lost on the day they were torn apart as children, she sets in motion a chain of events that will change both of their lives forever.

Ohhhhh this book. I was an emotional wreck finishing it.

The ensemble of characters is absolutely brilliant. Each of them felt so real and I was immediately drawn into their stories, particularly Kerry’s. The story alternates between Kerry and Noah, although I’d have loved a chapter from Kian at the end of the story.

The format of two siblings separated and each having very different upbringings is a storyline that has been done a lot, and it’s such a testament to Gayle’s writing that he made this book so unique. It is quite predictable at times, and once a certain storyline was brought in I could see where it was going, but that didn’t mean I was any less invested. While the ending was heartbreaking, I actually got really teary when Kerry has left Noah after meeting him for the first time.

The timeline jumped around a little, and some events would be talked about afterwards rather than the reader being present for them, I understand why as a lot of time was covered, but I think this would be my only slight criticism.

It’s a beautiful story about families, and it deals sensitively with a lot of tough issues. I’ve now ordered a few more books by Mike Gayle and can’t wait to read them!

 

What have you been reading during lockdown?

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