Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee

Another new author for me this year – and an excellent one at that. ‘Death in the East’ is a classic example of a good detective fiction. This book, to me, was like a combination of Christie and Conan Doyle – a magic combination. However, this is also a book that takes a good look at moral issues surronding the British control of India.

A classic locked room mystery – well, two actually – came to the attention of our hero Wydenham. One from his past, which he has struggled to make peace with, and one now – which really does seem impossible.

All of this takes place as Wydenham reflects on his position and the position of Britain in India (as wel as the relationship of other groups with Britain). Mukherjee himself says that this a theme that was required and, sadly, reflects some of the concerns that are part of all of our cultures.

This books is beautifully written and fully engaging. A real page-turner, which is the best thing about a crime fiction novel. There is a great collection of characters who make for a wonderful addition to the plot. Also, it is actually the fourth book in a series, but it works wonderfully as a standalone book. Nothing is lost at all from not having read the other books. Although, this does mean that there is a whole collection of books to added to the wishlist…

I was lucky enough to be gifted this novel as part of a blogtour. The paperback is published this week – so make sure you grab a copy.

Why Visit America by Matthew Baker

What a BOOK! I could end my post there – summarising how I felt about this collection of stories in one sweeping statement, but I feel there is even more I could say to make you pick up this book.

I was lucky enough to be gifted this book as part of a Tandem Collective readalong on Instagram. This is a book that I would have been very unlikely to have picked up in the real world – dystopian short stories would not have been my usual choice (I am not a short story fan). However, I would have missed out on the most fascinating collection of tales which are eerily likely with the path that this strange world is taking. Baker tackles all sorts of ethical issues in his stories, including how the over-population of the planet may be handled – and the ever-present issues of immigration. Every story is incredibly thought-provoking and just when you think he cannot surprise you any more, you read the next tale.

The stories are rooted in the United States, but you could transfer them to any of the rich nations of the world. And they almost make you more concious of the countries and people who do not have the same wealth. You will certainly look at yourself and the kind of person you are.

Yet, what struck me the most was how much I could relate it to the history of America and how the nation was established. It is telling that the cover has a buffalo on it. I could see so many parallels to the attempts by settlers to destroy a culture and establish a new one in their own vision – blinkered to the ideas of ‘outsiders’ despite being the ‘invaders’. Although, maybe that is just my own take.

This could well be one of my books of the year. A fantastic and engaging collection of stories that can spark debate and reflection. I think the hardest job is picking your favourite, and not recommending it to every single person you meet.

Fearless by Dr Pippa Grange

A non-fiction read for me, which is about something other than history or interesting figures, is really quite unlikely. However, I was gifted ‘Fearless’ by the lovely Tandem Collective for a readalong, so, of course, I gave it a go.

Fearless is a bit of a self-help guide to help readers find ways to live a life without fear. To begin with, you may think you are not the target audience of this book, and think that fear has no impact on your life (I did a little). However, Dr Pippa Grange explains how fear is often in the background, having an influence on decisions we make. For me, it is definitely the fear of failure that follows me around a little on a day-to-day basis. Yet, this book makes you realise that it does not have to control you and, in fact you can make it work for you and not against you. There are many times these experiences can be made into a positive.

What I liked about this book (and usually the reason I would avoid such books) is that it is not patronising and it is not preachy. It is practical and to the point (although there are a lot of sport examples). Every now and then it may be a little awkward to read, especially if you recognise yourself, but just give yourself a little reminder that it will allow for change.

(Please remember that this is not a definitive guide – there is a lot of support out there if you need it).

Lost You by Haylen Beck

A new thriller to me this summer is ‘Lost You’ but Haylen Beck. To begin with, well from the title, I thought it may be the usual tale of relationships within a family. However, I was a little wrong. This was a clever and slick tale which did not at all follow the path I was entirely expecting. In fact, it raises quite some moral questions.

I do not wish to spoil the plots and twists of this book – always an issue when you come to review/share thoughts on a thriller. However, this is certainly not your usual missing child thriller – it is far more complex that that. All the moral questions are raised around the ideas of surrogacy – and potential power games and manipulation of vulnerable people (for many different reasons).

As the tale develops, I am not sure that the twists are a surprise, however it is still a well constructed narrative and a page-turner. Quite a study of people’s psychology and the impact events can have.

A book for fans of modern thrillers, especially with a very modern theme.

Hidden Intentions by Dave Flint

I was lucky enough to be gifted a copy of ‘Hidden Intentions’. And I am glad I was, as, again, it is a chance to try something new.

This novel is billed as a murder mystery – however, for me it is more of a study of human nature. You do not need to solve any murder mystery; you are of the motive, victims and culprit. Yet, you go on a journey with Toby as he moves through his formative years to adulthood. You become very aware of the impact that people and their experiences have on the person. There is almost a Jekyll and Hyde feel to the character of Toby. When loved, respected and trusted we have the gentle Toby, but when things are not as they should be and Toby or his world is threatened we the hidden Hyde – the dark side of human nature.

Although this novel is rather slow-paced, that is part of the charm of the novel. After all, time does not always pass at speed in day-to-day life. You need to take the journey at Toby’s pace to understand the path that it takes.

It has quite an ending, which I will not spoil, but as you reach the conclusion of this novel, you will be left contemplating what exactly makes people take some of the actions they do. Also, that age-old question: do you really know anyone? Can you hide who you are? Can we have conflicting emotions towards people?

There are some interesting questions raised in this book, too, as its setting of the 50s and 60s leaves you thinking about gender roles and cultural identity. Do these forced ideas of both create people and force actions, rightly or wrongly?

This is certainly an interesting read – especially if you have an interest in human nature.

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie

I have rejoined reading along with ‘Maidens of Murder’. I only took a break as I had only just read the June choice. However, July’s choice is ‘Appointment with Death’, a story with my favourite Christie character Poirot.

This was a classic Poirot, for me. I really enjoyed reading this book from the moment I started. This was a fabulous read, as it has the Queen of Crime’s best signature ingredients. There is the exotic setting of the red cliffs of Petra; there is the really rather villianous Mrs Boynton; a colourful collection of other travellers and, of course, a murder.

This was a page-turner for me as it reminded me of my favourite, ‘Murder on the Orient Express’. A murder takes place and there is quite a psychological study of the characters along the way. However, a theme that everyone involved seems to return to is the idea of sacrifice for the greater good. Does the death of the victim create a much better life for many of the other characters? Christie creates quite a philosophical question within the novel – just as she does with ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.

If this is a Poirot you have not yet read, then I would highly recommend it. You will not be disappointed if you love a classic Poirot murder mystery.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

A creepy house in the highlands of Scotland, slightly strange children and a poison garden – what a recipe for a novel.

‘The Turn of the Key’ is an excellent thriller, clearly inspired by the chilling 19th-century ghost stories – a well-crafted, serious page-turner. Ruth Ware has managed to bring thrilling, chilling stories bang up to date.

A dream job very quickly becomes a nightmare. Rowan answers an advert for an idyllic-sounding nannying job in Scotland. However, the family’s state-of-the-art house does not make the job easy. There are many unexplained goings-on and the children are not accepting Rowan the way she hoped. However, there is far worse to come…

This book, told as a reflective letter, is a compelling read. I found myself keen to know what was going to happen. In fact, I did not see any of the twists coming. On reflection, there were hints of one or two, but the biggest twist was the excellent reveal.

This is a great book for anyone who enjoys thrillers and mysteries. A really enjoyable and well-written read. I am glad, again, to have discovered a new author. My only regret is that i did not read it during Autumn, as it would be perfect foe those darker, stormier nights.

The Truants by Kate Weinberg

This is book that I had seen a lot of hype about. However, I am not sure it is quite up to the hype, for me personally, anyway.

I felt that this book was lacking a little something – I saw all the twists come other than one. And I did not really feel a bond with the characters, other than a couple of the fairly minor ones.

It was wonderful the way it worked a study of Agatha Christie and her books into the plot. And, as a fan of her novels, I am tempted now to research more into the life of the Queen of Crime. Especially that famed disappearance that clearly has been an influence on the plot of this book.

This book was not unenjoyable to read, and I did want to know what conclusion would be reached. I needed to know that very final piece of the puzzle that I had not quite worked out. Although, I am not sure it is really truly concluded for you – you are probably required to reach your own conclusion.

I wouls suggest you give this book a go – however, if you are a fan of ‘whodunnits’, you may not be surprised by much of the book.

Say Say Say by Lila Savage

This book was a lovely surprise in my first ‘Books That Matter’ box, which I was kindly sent by Tiffany for the ‘Lockdown Lit Bookswap’ from Busy Mama Bookclub. The fabulous thing about this swap was that I have been introduced to a book that I would have been unlikely to encounter otherwise.

This book was an interesting read and was making a rather interesting commen on the role of a carer (or caregiver as it is an American novel). Not just the employment but the relationship that they build with the families that they work with.

Ella takes on the role of the caregiver for Jill, whi has been left unable to look after herself after a car accident but whose husband Bryn has been doing his best to look after her at home. Ella is not living the life she was expecting but, as she becomes more involved in the life of Bryn (who she begins to idolise) and Jill, she evaluates the path her life is taking. The love she witnesses also causes her to take a look at her relationship with Alix.

This was an interesting comment on the role of the carer. How relationships build with families, but also the good and bad days that can be experienced – although, ultimately, there was love for the job. However, I found the relationship Ella built (mainly in her head) with Bryn uncomfortable to read. There was clearly a wonderful friendship at a time when they both needed a friend; however, I feel that would have been enough – there was enough to make you think in this book.

Overall, I am glad to have found a book that I would not have read otherwise.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evarista

I am not usually one to pick up a book if it is award-winning. I don’t avoid them; I just don’t seek them out. However, as it is pride month, and there is so much support (as there always should be) for diversity of all kinds in fiction, this book seemed like a great choice. It was also a chance for me to discover a new author.

This book is engaging from the word go and really difficult to put down. It is a really clever tale about 12 women who have stories that interlink, even if ther are not aware of it. However, it is not just their stories that absorbing, but all the themes that are explored throughout this book. There is the exploration of gender and what it means to be a woman – is there a set rule? There is an exploration of racial and heritage identity which was probably the most fascinating to me. It is such a complex issue, which we are fully aware has been thrust to the forefront of all our minds at the moment.

I do not feel that I can give this book the justice it deserves. Especially without spoiling it for others who may like to read it. Yet, it is true that it is a book that will stay with you. It will make you think about the world around you. And you will certainly be reflecting on your relationships, friends, family, acquaintances and lovers. Do you really ‘know’ everyone?

I really do not think I can express how utterly stunning this book is, other than to urge you to read it if you haven’t. I will certainly be seeking out more of Bernadine Evaristo’s books…hearing amazing things about ‘Mr Loverman’.