Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

Happy (US) Publication Day | Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

Happy publication day to Reputation by Sarah Vaughan! I devoured this a few months ago and would recommend it as the perfect vacation thriller.

Here are 5 things to know about Reputation to help you decide if it’s the book for you…

  • Sits somewhere between a courtroom drama, political thriller and domestic noir
  • Looks at what it takes to be a woman in the spotlight, particularly in politics
  • Examines the seedy underbelly of the tabloid media and the lengths they’ll go to for the story
  • Whip-smart wordplay in the courtroom scenes will have you on the edge of your seat
  • A sharp focus on contemporary issues in our cultural conversation

Enjoy!

Mid year book freakout 2022

The Mid-Year Book Freakout – 2022 edition

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2022

This is a tough one, but the one that made the biggest impression on me is Sequoia Nagamatsu’s How High We Go In The Dark.

2. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

Love Marriage by Monica Ali

3. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng, publishing in October this year.

5. Biggest disappointment

The It Girl by Ruth Ware.

6. Biggest surprise

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

7. Favourite new author (debut or new to you)

Sara Novic, author of True Biz.

8. Newest fictional crush

I’ll have to pass on this one this year!

9. Newest favourite character

Kate Burns, aka Lady Lane, in Diana Clarke’s The Hop.

10. Book that made you cry

Girl A by Abigail Dean

11. Book that made you happy

Fight Night by Miriam Toewes

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

The Republic of False Truths by Alaa Al Aswany

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

  • All the Things We Don’t Talk About by Amy Feltman
  • My Body by Emily Ratajkowski
  • Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

P.S. How cute is my new mug? Check out FableBound on Etsy for lots of bookish gifts.

the it girl by ruth ware - book review

Murder mystery in Oxford’s hallowed halls: The It Girl by Ruth Ware ★★★

I was very excited to receive an advanced copy of The It Girl. Ruth Ware is an auto-read author for me, and this one has dark academic vibes that I couldn’t wait to dive into.

It’s the late noughties and Hannah has just started at Oxford University. Bookish and shy, she initially feels out of place amidst her polished and wealthy classmates, but soon falls in love with Oxford and the allure of all that prestige and history. This is a place, she is sure, where she will be happy.

‘With the sun shining and puffs of white autumnal clouds in the sky, the view had an almost unreal beauty and Hannah had the strangest feeling that she had stepped inside he pages of one of the books in her suitcase – Brideshead Revisited, maybe. Gaudy Night. His Dark Materials. A storybook world.’

Her roommate, April, is dazzling: beautiful, rich, charming. She’s also smart – she’s earned her place at Oxford. And she’s vicious too, at times, with a dark sense of humour. But despite their differences, she and Hannah become firm and fast friends. And then – no spoiler, it’s in the blurb – April is murdered.

Ten years later, Hannah is married, pregnant, living in Edinburgh, working in a bookshop, and has tried to leave the trauma of her best friend’s murder in the past. Her evidence alone convicted the prime suspect – but a journalist has just come forward with intel that might lead to someone else – someone who was never investigated. The thought that Hannah might have convicted an innocent man – who has recently died in prison – torments her, and she sets about on a quest for the real truth of what happened that terrible night.

‘She is there too. Hannah. Not the Hannah of now, but the Hannah of then. The Hannah of before. Young, happy, full of hope and promise, and so unbearably, unutterably innocent of all the horror that life could hold.’

For the first half, I was hooked. We had Ruth Ware’s trademark evocative descriptions, the heady friendships of teenage girls, a sprinkling of 00s pop culture – all set within the beautiful, austere world of Oxford.

This thriller switches between past and present, although only for the first half of the book. And it was towards the second half that the story began to lose steam for me. The pace slows to a trickle and the suspense is totally lost as nothing much happens for quite a chunk of time. I also didn’t feel invested enough in the other characters to really interrogate who might have been the culprit. Had we spent more time with them in 2010 then I would have felt a greater sense of buy-in. The flashes we get of these characters do give a sense of who they are, but I was left wanting more.

The ending does pick up pace-wise as Hannah approaches the truth, and there are a few thrilling, cinematic moments, but by that point I wasn’t as interested in the idea as a whole and so I don’t feel that the narrative fully redeemed itself.

I wanted to love this, I really did! But it just didn’t end up being for me.

With thanks to the publisher for the advanced copy. The It Girl will be published on July 12th 2022 by Gallery/Scout Press.

Happy Publication Day | The Hop by Diana Clarke

Diana Clarke’s second novel, The Hop, publishes today! Here are 5 reasons I loved it:

  • Electric cast of three-dimensional characters
  • Refreshing and empowering perspective on the sex work industry
  • Documentary-like writing style in first-person vignettes
  • Touches on difficult topics without being harrowing
  • Propulsive and compelling storyline with whip-smart commentary on contemporary culture

If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, check out the links below!

10 books with fruit on the cover

Inspired by the recent Top Ten Tuesday prompt of ‘Books with —- on the cover’, I decided to try this one out…

Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers

Devotion by Madeline Stevens

New Animal by Ella Baxter

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Putney by Sofka Zinovieff

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Things We Say In The Dark by Kirsty Logan

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (sorry, I had to)

Final scores:

Apples: 1
Oranges: 3
Strawberries: 2
Peaches: 2
Pomegranates: 1

Can anyone identify the fruit on the cover of ‘New Animal’? Maybe I need to be more adventurous.

5 dystopian fiction reads for AAPI heritage month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. I’m going to be doing a mini-series on books I’ve loved by AAPI authors in different genres – last time it was lit fic, today it’s dystopian fiction…

How High We Go In The Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

I picked this book because of that beautiful cover and title, and this is a case of judging a book by its exterior completely paying off. If you’re mentally prepared for a (fictional) pandemic read, and aren’t opposed to a dose of sci-fi, give it a go.

The School for Good Mothers by Jassmine Chan

I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of this chilling novel about a woman who makes a mistake and risks losing her daughter forever. It feels very prescient today as I write this the morning before heading to the national march in support of a woman’s right to choose.

Severance by Ling Ma

I still think about this book at least once a week. It’s a blistering satire on the millennial workplace and our late-capitalist malaise as a pandemic turns 99% of the population into zombies. One of the best books I’ve read in years.

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

I know this book is polarizing, but the GR description is just so compelling I think I’ll have to find out for myself: Amanda and Clay head out to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a vacation… But a late-night knock on the door breaks the spell. Ruth and G. H. are an older black couple—it’s their house, and they’ve arrived in a panic. They bring the news that a sudden blackout has swept the city. But in this rural area—with the TV and internet now down, and no cell phone service—it’s hard to know what to believe.

The Resisters by Gish Jen

I haven’t read this one yet, so here’s a snip from the back cover copy: An astonishing story of an America that seems only too possible, and of a family struggling to maintain its humanity in circumstances that threaten their every value—even their very existence.

Do you have anything you’d add to this list? Let me know!

5 literary fiction reads for AAPI heritage month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. I’m going to be doing a mini-series on books I’ve loved by AAPI authors in different genres, and coming up first are my favourite lit fic reads – to be enjoyed any time of the year!

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Read if you like: short, lyrical novels about growing up and discovering your sexuality, navigating the immigrant experience, the trauma of war, the power of storytelling and survival, and the occasional inscrutable metaphor.

Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades

Read if you like: books set in New York that celebrate girlhood in its many forms, the trope of being a ‘good immigrant daughter’, stylistically bold writing, and something you can read in half an afternoon.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Read if you like: having your heart torn into a thousand pieces.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Read if you like: slow burn novels about family dynamics, the unease of unbelonging, quiet and sad prose, and the ripple effects of trauma.

All the Lovers in the Night by Mieko Kawakami

I haven’t yet started this, so this is from Goodreads: All the Lovers in the Night is acute and insightful, entertaining and engaging; it will make readers laugh, and it will make them cry, but it will also remind them, as only the best books do, that sometimes the pain is worth it.

Do you have anything you’d add to this list? Let me know!

I’ll be continuing this miniseries with a post spotlighting dystopian fiction by AAPI authors later this month.

One-Word Reviews for the Last 10 Books I Read

This is this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic. My reviews may be many things but they aren’t brief, so this might be a challenge…

True Biz by Sara Nović

In a word: Revelatory.

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

In a word: Twisty.

Burntcoat by Sarah Hall

In a word: Feverish.

Fight Night by MIriam Toews

In a word: Raucous.

How High We Go In The Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

In a word: Devastating.

The Hop by Diana Clarke

In a word: Refreshing.

Reputation by Sarah Vaughan

In a word: Gripping.

Girl A by Abigail Dean

In a word: Transfixing.

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

In a word: Incisive.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

In a word: Tense.

Reacting to one-star reviews of books I love

Reacting to One-Star Reviews of Books I Love

I can’t remember where I first saw it (if you’re the creator, let me know!) but I love the idea of this book tag. Disclaimer that everyone is entitled to their own bookish thoughts and feelings and just because they’re wrong about these books, doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. 😉

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

Okay, most of the scathing reviews of GWO took umbrage with the lack of punctuation. Which I get – I do! When I recommend this book to people, I always warn them about this particular style quirk. I know that it’s a personal preference thing (which I personally liked, once I got used to it).

But how can this reviewer call the characters uninteresting? We literally have socialist anarchist artists living in squats in London in the 80s, which may be many things, but it certainly isn’t boring. That’s just one example amidst a huge cast of characters that span genders, sexualities, backgrounds and time frames.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I confess I did laugh out loud at: ‘If chapter 14 is an example of how Brits flirt, I can’t believe their whole race isn’t already extinct.’ Then I went back and read chapter 14, and laughed again to see Rochester’s line ‘does my forehead not please you?’

I think this reviewer needs a bit of a history lesson, though. This is stuffy and staid Victorian times, and this chapter 14 dialogue is about as risqué as you’re going to get.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.”

– favourite line from Jane Eyre

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Did I read the same book as this reviewer? I am left scratching my head, wondering if I somehow missed a fifty shades esque romp couched in the language of a multi-generational family epic of love and loss in 20th century Korea.

The reviewer actually makes a fair point about getting attached to characters you then don’t see again, as the narrative jumps forward to the next generation. I don’t disagree that that was mildly dissatisfying at points. BUT – that is the only part of this review that is sensical to me.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

This did elicit a wry chuckle, perhaps ELaIC is pretentious – honestly, that’s never something that’s bothered me very much in and of itself, so I am the right market for this book.

I enjoyed how the scathing takedown of the book in paragraph two actually describes what I loved about the book – the charming wistfulness, the innovative prose, the playing around with traditional form.

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

I just want to preface this by saying I am no Sally Rooney stan. I enjoyed Normal People, didn’t love Conversations with Friends, so was intrigued by the hype around BWWAY but didn’t go into it with any real expectations.

But I do think it’s fascinating that she invokes such strong emotions in people. There is some real vitriol in the negative reviews for BWWAY. But I picked this one as I don’t actually disagree with it being self-indulgent, essentially plotless, with pretentious characters. I guess this is just a matter of to what to degree you enjoy and/or tolerate such literary tropes.

(P.S. – finishing out of spite is funny, though.)