Monday 19 April 2021

Reading Round Up 2021 #16

 Hello bibliophiles.

Another week has passed, I got the chance to visit a bookshop and browse the shelves. Even though I didn't buy anything, I felt better just for picking out books that I will be buying (hurry up pay day).

It was a good few days of reading again too which you'll see in a moment when you read my reviews.


Life After Truth by Cerdwen Dovey 4 out 5 stars

Fifteen years after graduating from Harvard, five close friends on the cusp of middle age are still pursuing an elusive happiness and wondering if they've wasted their youthful opportunities. Mariam and Rowan, who married young, are struggling with the demands of family life and starting to regret prioritising meaning over wealth in their careers. Jules, already a famous actor when she arrived on campus, is changing in mysterious ways but won't share what is haunting her. Eloise, now a professor who studies the psychology of happiness, is troubled by her younger wife's radical politics. And Jomo, founder of a luxury jewellery company, has been carrying an engagement ring around for months, unsure whether his girlfriend is the one. The soul-searching begins in earnest at their much-anticipated college reunion weekend on the Harvard campus, when the most infamous member of their class, Frederick - senior advisor and son of the recently elected and loathed US President - turns up dead. Old friends often think they know everything about one another, but time has a way of making us strangers to those we love - and to ourselves... 

What a gem of a novel.

Gentle in its telling, Life After Truth is a story about a group of five Harvard graduates. It looks at one long weekend spent together for their 15th graduation anniversary.

All in their late thirties, it becomes apparent just how much their lives have changed. Not only from the last anniversary five years ago but right back to when they graduated.

We get shown a glimpse of how they lived/how they are living. The divides in many things including class, race, jobs, families and religion.

Ceridwen has done a brilliant job at making this book diverse, excluding no one in her cast of characters.

What I read was honest, raw, truthful.

I really liked the groups friendship, as all of them together and as perhaps pairs that were slightly closer. Even with the differences between them, there was a simmering bond between each of them - even if part of those bonds were partially held together by secrets and little white lies.

As a thirty something myself, it made me think about how I've changed over the years, the path my life has taken compared to others in my life. I think I could hold my head up high at a reunion and have no regrets.

And this is what I felt with them. Although they'd all had their ups and downs, what had occurred over the years had shaped them, made them more knowledgable, still scared about what the future holds but also willing to continue to make mistakes along the way.

Life After Truth is a story that is quietly powerful. There is no major drama to keep you turning the pages, it is somehow closer to real life and it is that realism that makes it so compelling.

The Walking People by Mary Beth Keane 3.5 stars out of 5 

Rural Ireland, the 1960s, and Greta Cahill must abandon her deserted village to follow her fearless sister Johanna onto a ship bound for America.

It's here in New York that she steps out of her sister's shadow and in to a life of her own, rich with love, work and family.

As the years pass Greta longs to revisit the past - to see her mother, to show her what she has made of herself - but she must protect a family secret, decades old.

So when her children conspire to unite the worlds she's kept so carefully apart, Greta fears she could lose it all...

Atmospheric is how I'd describe The Waking People.

I felt an incredible weight of sadness when reading it, not because the whole story was downcast, more because I really felt for the characters, the decisions they made and the secrets they kept.

Looking at a certain part of immigration - the Irish travelling to America - we get to see the evolution of Greta (as well as her family) and how things change as the years go by. I admired Greta, she was determined despite being fearful and worrisome.


This was a book that I feel will be even more moving when put in audio form. I spent my time imagining the Irish accents as I read.

The ending confused me somewhat. I'm not sure what the author wanted us to take away from it, it just seemed too abrupt, no real conclusion.

Over all a good, honest story. For me it just lacked a certain amount of wow factor to give the book an overriding edge.

On Hampstead Heath by Marika Cobbold 5 out of 5 stars

Thorn Marsh was raised in a house of whispers, of meaningful glances and half- finished sentences. Now she's a journalist with a passion for truth, more devoted to her work at the London Journal than she ever was to her ex-husband.

When the newspaper is bought by media giant The Goring Group, who value sales figures over fact-checking, Thorn openly questions their methods, and promptly finds herself moved from the news desk to the midweek supplement, reporting heart-warming stories for their new segment, The Bright Side, a job to which she is spectacularly unsuited.

On a final warning and with no heart-warming news in sight, a desperate Thorn fabricates a good-news story of her own. The story, centred on an angelic apparition on Hampstead Heath, goes viral. Caught between her principles and her ambitions, Thorn goes in search of the truth behind her creation, only to find the answers locked away in the unconscious mind of a stranger.

Dearest Thorn is a journalist with a conscience so when her lies begin to catch up with her, she wants to reveal her secret but is torn when it becomes clear that the truth won't necessarily set her free.

I adore Thorn. She is a quirky yet loveable character. Miss Marsh is an inspiring person, I particularly enjoyed the relationship that she had with her ex-husband. Refreshing and realistic. I wonder whether the author based her on anyone in particular?

The way her character is presented and how the story unfolds is exceptional. There is a heady mix of light and dark within this tale. Humour mixed in with darker sarcasm. Light-hearted moments combined with more sorrowful times.

Everything together made for a quick yet in-depth read.

Covering subjects such as grief and depression, On Hampstead Heath is a novel that is both entertaining and poignant.

Thought provoking.

Maybe we need a bit more old fashioned journalism back instead of this need for fake news and celebrity based articles.

Also looking at the complexities of work/life balance and posing the question can we really have it all? The dream job, the perfect relationship and family. Does that sort of equilibrium even exist?

You And Me on Vacation by Emily Henry 5 out 5 stars

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She's a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart--she's in New York City, and he's in their small hometown--but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven't spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she's stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together--lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

This was just the book that I needed to read right now (even if it did make me crave a holiday abroad).

Sometimes you require a good romance to give you a boost of positivity.

Emily Henry nails it with You and Me on Vacation.

A novel with all the feels.

Alex and Poppy are best friends. Every year they go on holiday together and with each 12 months that past it becomes clear that their feelings for each other aren't strictly platonic - with neither of them willing to be the first to let their real emotions show.

I kid you not, I was smiling from ear to ear with every page that I read. Constantly willing these two to get over themselves and make the decision to actually be together.

With clever use of going from past to present, the author does a fantastic job of painting a picture of the fantastic locations, as well as giving us much needed details of the characters pasts.

This let us see just why they are so closed off to the possibility of taking a risk.

Will they, won't they?

The question remains throughout the whole of the story.

This was an emotional rollercoaster that I didn't want to get off of. With all the ups and downs, I was truly invested in this pair.

I won't give away the outcome but despite everything that happens I can confirm that you do get a happy ending.

Tall Bones by Anna Bailey 5 out 5 stars

When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again.

Abi's disappearance cracks open the fa├žade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi's family, there are questions to be asked - of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father - both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him.

Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark - the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones....

What a debut!

Welcome to Whistling Ridge, a small community lives here, a collective of Baptist people who appear to justify their every action by saying that it is God's way. Everyone is expected to behave in a certain way and outsiders are most definitely not welcome.

The story begins when Emma leaves friend Abigail in the woods (although she somehow sensed this was the wrong decision to make), this was out near the Tall Bones, the aftermath of a party. This was the last time anyone saw Abi. Now missing, no one seems to know what happened to her - or should we say no one is willing to reveal what they know.

So many secrets, an abundance of suspects, just where will the lies end and the truth begin?

From start to finish, this is a novel that is atmospheric, eerie, chilling even. There is literally no one that can be trusted. Each character has things that they can't communicate for fear of being outcast.

Told between the Now - after Abigail's disappearance and Then - before Abigail vanished, details are slowly unveiled.

I found myself doubting many and trusting few.

The way that it is written, the timelines used, everything gradually becomes clear, pieces of the puzzle slotting together.

Fascinating and horrifying all at the same time.

I'll admit this wasn't the easiest book to read. Not because the story was bad, because of the subject matter. With themes of child abuse, homophobia, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, the author doesn't sugar coat anything and the novel is certainly better for this.

Anna's writing style is brave, honest and raw.

There was a real depth to this tale.

Tall Bones is a compulsive and complex story to read. One that I'm sure will spark many discussions/debates about how we treat people, our levels of acceptance and tolerance to those considered 'different'.

I cannot wait to read more works from Anna Bailey in the future!

My current read is The Book of Longings (loving it so far). Come and tell me what you're reading right now.

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