I used to be a huge bookworm, in my childhood, teen’s and early twenties. Then I had children, spent far too much of my time messing around on social media, and somewhere along the line I stopped reading as much.
My reading now goes in phases- sometimes I read more, sometimes I read less, but it is very unlikely I will finish more than one or two books in a month unless it’s one of those ‘can’t put it down’ types.
Since we have been in lockdown I have found myself reading a fair bit more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly churning out the books at a rapid rate. I finished off one I only had a few chapters left of and have read another four. But that’s still a lot more than I read before and I’m loving it. I am loving going upstairs to bed early and getting absorbed into the chapters, or sneaking 5 minutes in the sunshine while the kids are playing in the garden.
I thought I would do a mini review of the ones I have read so far (I haven’t read all the ones in the photos, plus I have read a couple extras, but I have given some away to my sister now so I can’t take photos of the exact ones).
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
When I asked on instagram what people thought of ‘The Family Upstairs’, I got mixed reviews. Most people said they really enjoyed it, but I had a few people say it didn’t grip them. I haven’t read any of Lisa Jewell’s other books, but after The Family Upstairs I will definitely read some more.
A twisty thriller mainly set in a large house in London’s Chelsea. The blurb on the back of the book states…’A baby is awake in her cot. Well-fed and cared for, she is happily waiting for someone to pick her up.
In the kitchen lie three decomposing corpses. Close to them is a hastily scrawled note. They’ve been dead for several days. Who has been looking after the baby? And where did they go?’
The Family Upstairs is essentially a thriller. There’s multiple characters and storylines, and lots of plot twists. I found the book a bit of a slow burner to begin with, and also a little confusing to start. There are three point’s of view, and also two different timelines. The first half definitely dragged a little by the time I got halfway I was hooked and didn’t want to put it down- it all starts to make sense and once you get to grips with the characters you are desperate to find out more.
The book starts with Libby, who finds out on her 25th birthday that she is the sole inheritor of a Chelsea mansion. She arrives to see it with the estate agent to find that it is dilapidated and hasn’t been lived in since Libby was a baby. Slowly Libby learns what happened in the house, and the book presents the story of the lives of the children living there back then, culminating in their broken and traumatised, emotionally damaged psyches. Libby is to find her life changed forever as she learns of the secret family histories of her newly inherited mansion.
This is the most twisted and darkest of books, as revelation after revelation unfolds, which makes for an uncomfortable but never less than a compelling reading experience. As mentioned it was a bit of a slow burner, but gripping towards the end.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
When I read the back cover of Dear Edward I knew straight away it was the book that would be going straight to the top of my reading pile. You know how some books just draw you in from the back cover and almost make you want to stop reading what you currently are so you can read that one instead.
When a domestic flight comes down in the US, 12 year old Edward is the sole survivor. All other 191 passengers including his mother, father and brother are killed instantly. Ironically I am not all that keen on flying, but I had a morbid curiosity about what it would be about. When Edward wakes he is a hero, people all over the world know his name. The book then alternates between the final hours on the doomed plane, and Edward’s teenage years and how he copes with his grief as he grows.
Even though the book is rather sensationalist in its storyline, it’s actually rather gentle. There isn’t a huge plot, and it moves along at a rather slow pace. The stories of the characters on the plane itself I found interesting and intriguing, but I felt at times we didn’t get enough information about them. Reading about Edward learning to cope and live after such a tragedy is at times profound- we read a lot about grief, trauma, coping and therapy.
It made me question my own life in a strange sort of way, and the ending had me in floods of tears, both from Edward’s point of view and also the passengers and what they thought in their final few minutes. It was actually pretty tame for the most part despite the harrowing subject, but it definitely was one of those ones that stayed with me for a few days after I had finished it.
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
I had seen so many people rave about this book on instagram, with some people saying it was one of the best books they had ever read, so I had high expectations for The Flatshare. Did it live up to its hype? Yes and no. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, I thought it was a brilliant book, easy to read (especially at the moment), and a lovely story. Was it the best book I had ever read? No probably not, but then that is impossible to decide anyway. Either way it is a must read for me.
The book follows Tiffy and Leon and is I guess what you would call a typical rom com, but also it is in some ways better. It’s an uplifting, gentle, heartwarming story that makes you smile and get absorbed in the characters the whole way through. Both have agreed on an unusual arrangement between themselves and are sharing not only a flat, but a bed together. Yet they have never met. Tiffy has the apartment to herself at night, and when she’s off to work, is when Leon comes home.
During this arrangement, they start to exchange very simple little notes and letters that are left around the apartment, and slowly their lives starts to intertwine without them meaning to.
While there is the typical cute side, there are other underlying elements due to the fact that both Tiffy and Leon are dealing with their own demons and struggles. It feels very realistic and true to life, and that is why I enjoyed it so much.
The story is told in alternative point’s of view, which helped you get to know the characters even more, and had just enough of a plot to really grip you and make you want to know what happens next. It is definitely one of those books I would recommend to anyone.
The Life We Lost by Jill Santopolo
I absolutely loved this book, probably one of the best I have read in ages. This story was written like a love letter, with simple writing and short chapters meaning it felt like it was easy to pick up here and there when you had a few moments. You didn’t need to think much, which sometimes is just the type of book you need. However that being said this book really captivated me from the beginning, and stayed with me for a long time afterwards.
Told from the perspective of Lucy, one of the two main characters, she narrates the time when she met a man named Gabe and developed an intense, once-in-a-lifetime type relationship, which didn’t work out, but since then has affected every aspect of her life. It is such a raw, heartbreakingly honest, and devastating account of that kind of love that changes the whole course of your life.
While both of their lives move on without the other, Gabe and Lucy still find themselves orbiting around each other from time to time, encounters which provoke passion, pain, betrayal, jealousy, grief and a very intense love.
I sobbed my heart out at the end, and as I said above it is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time. The ending was a little bit of a cliche, but that doesn’t stop me from giving it the highest rating I can.
One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus
One of Is Lying is actually a young adult fiction book, centered largely around a high school in the US. While I wouldn’t read teen fiction constantly, I do actually enjoy a well-written young adult book from time to time. This book is one of those type of books.
Five students have detention one afternoon. There’s Cooper, Bronwyn, Addy, Nate,and Simon, the slightly feared creator of About That, Bayview High’s gossip blog. They’re all in detention for something none of them did, and they can’t understand why the teacher doesn’t believe them. Before detention is finished for the day, Simon is dead, and apparently it wasn’t an accident.
The book then follows each of the main characters from one of their point’s of view each chapter, as both they (and we) try and work out what happened to Simon that afternoon. It’s a whodunnit type of murder mystery and will keep you guessing till the end- the author has a great way of drawing different characters in until you are suspecting everyone.
This was one of those books that while I enjoyed it overall, I wasn’t desperate to read it if that makes sense. You know those ones where you can’t wait to get in bed in the evening so you can read another chapter? This wasn’t one of those, I almost found myself wanting to get to the end and find out what happened so I could move on to a different book.
That said overall I did enjoy it and I would recommend it, especially if you like murder mystery type books plus young adult fiction.