Review: You Let Me In – Camilla Bruce


This book was dark and creepy, full of folklore and atmosphere. I know this is not a book for everyone, as it definitely contains triggers for trauma, childhood abuse, unhealthy/coercive relationships, miscarriage/stillbirth, murder and suicide (I’m also sure I’ve forgotten something). It’s very unsettling but, it has to be said, it is so clever and I really, really enjoyed this. It’s magical realism, gothic, full of folklore but also is quite the mystery.

The book opens with some newspaper articles which describe the disappearance of our protagonist, Cassandra Tipp, and in it it tells us the life of Cassandra as the world saw her. Accused of murder of her husband, her brother and father lost in what appeared to be a murder/suicide several years later. She was the subject of a book written by her psychiatrist, but in her later years also an author of romance novels. From there the book is essentially a manuscript she has written for her heirs – her story, in her own words.

Her life, as she writes it, is a fairytale. But the dark, creepy, Brothers Grimm sort. She relays the stories of her life with the faerie community in the woods, and of her relationship with a strange spectre of a man – Pepperman – who has been the constant in her life since she was 5. Cassie is one of the most complex unreliable narrators I’ve ever read from the perspective of and ultimately it’s up to us as the reader to decide if her story is true, that she was part of the fae community, or if as her therapist determined it was an elaborate coping mechanism for extreme childhood trauma and abuse.

This book was very unsettling, but oh it was clever. While Cassandra as the narrator tried to romanticise things, it was very clear that her life was full of far-from-ideal relationships. She’s absolutely a victim, but the question at the end of the book is of what. I can’t actually get over the depths and complexities of Cassandra. I finished this book 2 weeks ago at the time of writing this, and I’m still unsure what ‘truth’ I believe. The use of magical realism in the form of a whole underground faerie community to make you question reality and the truth is so, so clever.

While this book is dark and unsettling, and sinister it was also oddly beautiful and atmospheric. The prose is lyrical, the descriptions of nature are vivid, the characters are all fleshed out and rich. I think it’s the sign of a very good writer to tell such a deeply unsettling narrative, and still manage to capture so much beauty around it. I really can’t wait to see what Camilla Bruce does next.

Review: A Study in Scarlet – Arthur Conan Doyle

AStudyInScarletThis is my second venture in to the literary world of Sherlock Holmes and it was much better than the first. Maybe, as Julie Andrews once said, “start at the very beginning; it’s a very good place to start”.

The first half of this book was incredible, I finally felt I was getting Sherlock Holmes. The introductions between Holmes and Watson, the actual murder that takes place, it was all grand and I loved it. The main problem I had was that the perpetrator is caught within the first half of novel. We then spend the majority of the second half of the book, 20 years prior, which details the history and motivations of the killer and his victims. It all felt a little disjointed to me, the first half and the second half didn’t marry up very well and, honestly, it all went downhill for me in the second half.

Overall this was okay. The first half I would have been much happier with on it’s own or expanded somewhat, the second half I could have really done without. It dragged the entire book down for me, quite considerably, because up to that point it was a 5* read for me, it ended on a 3* though. I still enjoy reading a Sherlock novel and I don’t think I’ll be stopping any time soon, I just haven’t quite got that buzz that others seem to get from them yet!

Review: The Secret History – Donna Tartt

I picked this up in a 2 for £7 in Tesco, something I hate doing now as I do prefer my local bookshop, but when it’s a book that I’m a little unsure as to whether I’m going to like I try look for it a bit cheaper. Seeing this at what was effectively £3.50 I nabbed it up in an instant. It’s been recommended to me from various people; several friends on goodreads have read it and given it 4+ stars so I consider that a book that is highly recommended, especially as it comes from various people who don’t often have similar tastes.

This book was a bit of a mixed one for me. I hated it, then I loved it, then I hated it again. I plodded through the first 200 pages, whizzed through the second 200, then struggled a little bit with the final 200 or so (of course this is estimating). The prologue had me gripped; opening with the knowledge Bunny being dead, we know who did it and in the first 200-300 pages we begin to understand why it was done. It’s a passive book initially and is very slow to get going, but it picks up pace to work in with the urgency that comes with the situation. Damn as it picks up it’s good!

The characters are intensely dislikeable but somehow, you can’t help but actually like them. All of them are horrible people, if you knew them in the real world, you’d hate them. The situation, the characters, it’s all crazy but for some reason it’s believable. It’s compelling, in some ways it’s addictive. There is just something brilliant about this book and something that is going to stick with me; what it is exactly is unknown but there is just something.

I will definitely be reading more of Donna Tartt’s work; this for me is a solid 4/5!

Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

THotBI’m really uncertain as to what I want to say about this book. I’ve been putting off writing a review for about 3 or 4 days now and yes, I have had work to do but normally I can do a review in 20 minutes or so but The Hound of the Baskervilles has been an interesting ride and I don’t really know where to begin.

I guess I should say this was my first Sherlock book. I’ve been a fan of any adaptation as long as I can remember but this is my first foray in to the source material! That in itself is an exciting thing. I don’t really know why I’ve been putting this off? Maybe I was concerned I wouldn’t like it or it would be above my head… who knows?

What I can say is that this book – and the story itself isn’t very long – is a damn good read! It’s not the first in the series and I didn’t feel too lost, which is a good thing. I think having that familiarity with the characters through TV really helped in this instance because I didn’t feel too lost. Maybe reading an earlier Holmes book would have been a better move? I don’t know. This was good though! The actual scope of the book is quite broad for such a short novel, there was supernatural and science… it all came together quite brilliantly I thought!

But… while it was good it didn’t really live up to my expectations of Holmes. I can’t lie. It’s by no means going to be my last Holmes, I’m going try some of the shorter works, but I think I went in expecting more than I actually got. Still, it’s a solid book and worthy of 3/5!