The Crooked Little Lies by Sophia Lambton

The think I love about reviewing books is that sometimes a publisher will send me a book to review. This novel, a debut, was sent to me by the Crepuscular Press – love that name. It is the first in a series and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Isabel and Anneliese van der Holt are twins born six days apart with Isabel being the older sister. They are brought up by their father, Josef, who is a neurology professor, and each twin is exceptional and obsessive about their respective passions. Isabel is a musical prodigy while Anneliese is passionate about medical sciences which makes it easier for her father to bond with her. As for the mother – we are told about her but she is not a character we ever see, she seems to have no emotional input. When Josef is offered a new teaching post, the family move from Zurich to London and the story covers the period after World War One to the beginning of World war Two.

The novel follows the girls from childhood to their early twenties and they are fully fleshed out- the character building is very strong. In fact, in the beginning there is very little that is likeable about Isabel and as a reader, you begin to feel some sympathy for Anneliese. However, our perceptions change and although Isabel is hedonistic, she thinks only of her own pleasure, by the end of the novel the reader has more sympathy with her situation. On the other hand, when Anneliese starts seeing a psychologist our sympathy for her is tested because of the actions that she begins to take.

The whole novel is told chronologically through the alternate perspectives of the sisters, and occasionally that of their father. Through dialogue we see the relationship between the sisters as being fraught, tested and sometimes close; we see how they react to different scenarios. There is so much in this novel – the writing at times is lyrical and poetic and some of the situations keep you asking for more. It is as if the reader is being gifted glimpses without ever knowing the full story – we are always wanting more. The ending does not bring us resolution, it is not even really a cliff-hanger. The final page is almost like the end of a chapter and we are just waiting to turn the page to start the next one, we are left waiting to see what the sisters do next.

If You Read This by Kareen Getten

I have always enjoyed reading Middle Grade and YA literature – a habit developed when I was teaching. There is something heart-warming about introducing reluctant readers to books, to awakening their interest.

This middle grade book is a sweet novel dealing with loss and grief. The main character is Brie whose mother died three years previously. On her 12th birthday, she is given a box of three letters from her mother which promise her a treasured secret. From what we read about Brie’s mother, she was a character who lived life to the full, was loud, exuberant, exciting and she always included Brie in her adventures. Brie’s father seems to be reserved, or in Brie’s words – doesn’t listen and never spends time with her, always preferring to work. The first letter tells Brie to get her Papa to take her to Brim’s island – where Brie’s grandfather – Brim – lives because that is where the secret is. Brie hopes that this will be a chance for her to spend time with her father, but he lets her down and she travels with her Nana, her aunt and uncle and a couple of friends.

Brie misses the closeness that she had with her mother, and although we can see that her Nana and her aunt and uncle adore her, she feels as if there is something missing. The ‘rift’ with her father is not helping her. On the island she acts impulsively in a way that her mother would have adored and the ending is very touching. This is a story about healing a broken family. An excellent read for a middle grade child.

The Mermaid by Christina Henry

My New Year’s resolution this year was to see if I could survive a whole year without buying a book. For me, someone who can read at least 100 books a year, this was a pretty daunting resolution. But – we’re nearly at the end of June and I am ok so far. I’ve been relying on my local library and the books that I get sent to review from Netgalley – and of course gifts. My April birthday gift from a dear friend was this – The Mermaid by Christina Henry.

Having read Christina Henry’s ‘Lost Boy’ I expected Little Mermaid vibes – I really should read blurbs – instead I found myself in a novel that can be described as historical fiction with a sprinkling of magical realism.

One of P T Barnum’s famous hoax’s was that of The Feejee Mermaid that was exhibited in the 1840s and it is this that the author uses for this novel. Only this time, the mermaid is real! Amelia is a fabulous character, strong, independent, feisty and loyal. When she joins PT Barnum, it is on her terms and the dynamic is wonderful. The P T Barnum depicted here, is, as the author tells us in the afterword, her own invention. The other characters, she fleshes out to suit her story as not a lot about them is revealed in history. The details of the exhibitions and tours I think are pretty much as they would have been – my opinion only.

However, what we have is a story that keeps you turning the pages. Amelia’s understanding of the world also allows the author to express ideas about humanity, the role of women as questions that a mermaid would ask, but a reader would acknowledge as a statement, an opinion. Amelia values her freedom, she will never be a caged animal. There is also sadness, a longing within her and she is such a believable character – even if she is a mermaid. The other characters are similarly well rounded and Caroline is super.

A wonderful book, a main character that you root for. Loved it

PS You can also catch my reviews on my YouTube channel – Milly’s Book Shelf https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtGtDQheMvXTFN0XuiRDbYQ

Isaac and the Egg by Bobby Palmer

I was sent this amazing book by Netgalley in return for an honest review and it will be published on 18th August. I love reviewing books before they are published – it always make me feel as if I have a secret.

Anyway, I can’t even begin to talk about this book except to say that I laughed, I cried, I didn’t know where I was being led but I loved it. This is a book about grief and the pain of grief, the fragility of life. It is also about love and hope and joy.

Isaac is suffering and when he stands on a bridge and scream, he hears something scream back and finds Egg. And this is the start of a roller coaster of emotions for the reader. We have all sorts of references within the novel from films and pop music. One minute I was laughing, the next I was in floods of tears. I just didn’t know where I was going, there was a hint of mystery amongst all the sadness.The writing is lovely and particularly, I liked the way that there was mirroring of phrases.

This is a quirky, off-beat novel full of emotion and love. The two characters work their way into your heart and if you ever thought good old beans and toast was boring – think again.

A fantastic debut that writes about grief in a wonderful and unique way and a definite five star in my world.

PS You can also catch my reviews on my YouTube channel – Milly’s Book Shelf https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtGtDQheMvXTFN0XuiRDbYQ

A different vibe

I’ve given Mike Malone a little holiday, and have changed style and genre. Sometimes it’s good to step out of your comfort zone.

This was written with the help of my husband who is more knowledgeable about things historical than I am. I would describe this as a very gentle walk through Prague taking time to explore it’s history and it’s famous poet, Rainer Maria Rilke – with a bit of haiku thrown into the mix. And I’ve used a different pseudonym