One Day in December by Josie Silver



BLURB: “Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it? But then, through a misted-up bus window one freezing day, she sees a man she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away.

Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. But at a party later that year, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus.

Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life. But what if fate has other plans?”

REVIEW: I absolutely loved this book from the get-go. Silver’s writing is easy to read as well as being engaging, heartwarming and bittersweet in turn, and the reader is instantly able to connect with Laurie, the protagonist, and agonises over her predicament. As the novel goes on, the will-they-won’t-they situation facing Laurie and Jack becomes ever more intense, and there are several moments throughout the novel where I was on the edge of my seat thinking they were finally about to get together. Although the reader can clearly see that the two are destined for each other, all the way through I still could not predict exactly how the events would turn out. All of the characters are likeable and have very individual personalities, making them both realistic and empathetic. The combination of the characters and the writing style make the whole novel feel highly identifiable, and it had the perfect ending to it.


The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley



BLURB: “In uncharted Peru, the holy town of Bedlam stands at the edge of a mysterious forest. Deep within are cinchona trees, whose bark yields the only known treatment for malaria.

In 1859, across the Pacific, India is ravaged by the disease. In desperation, the India Office dispatches the injured expeditionary Merrick Tremayne to Bedlam, under orders to return with cinchona cuttings. But there he meets Raphael, an enigmatic priest who is the key to a secret which will prove more valuable than they could ever have imagined.”

REVIEW: I received this book for Christmas, having been eager to read it for some months. I was instantly hooked by Pulley’s interesting writing and narrative style; from the beginning, everything is vividly portrayed and described, and made the protagonist Merrick Tremayne’s highly unusual home instantly appear realistic and believable. This exquisite description was a feature that I continued to admire throughout the novel, as I genuinely felt that I could see and imagine the various areas of Peru, and the mysterious, somewhat magical land of Bedlam, as though I had visited there myself. As a character, Merrick is easy to warm to – an intelligent, forthright yet compassionate man, we find it easy to sympathise with his physical condition and continuously will him on in his mission in Bedlam.

When Merrick reluctantly travels, together with old university friend Clem, both are met with more than they bargained for when they discover how closely the precious cinchona trees are guarded. Visitors are viewed with suspicion and threatened with violence, and Merrick quickly invents a tale that they are simply on the search for good, Peruvian coffee. Raphael, a mysterious local, offers his aid against the will of the local pub owner, and soon turns out to know far more about Merrick’s quest than is initially realised..

The heady mixture of deep religious belief, superstition and just a touch of magic makes this novel both complex and hard to put down, and the reader is sucked into a world that feels both real and fantastical. I loved reading of the growing friendship between Merrick and Raphael, and found Clem rather a frustrating character. It often felt almost as though he was getting in the way of the story, despite initially appearing to be an integral part of the plot. I was still surprised, however, at how matter-of-factly his death was dealt with, and at the fact that his pregnant widow was barely even mentioned or thought of – this, I felt, seemed out of character for an empathetic and considerate protagonist like Merrick. However, Clem’s death is also overshadowed by the figures of the markayuq, religious statues who seem to have minds and spirits of their own. These figures are both fascinating and terrifying, and reminded me somewhat of the Weeping Angels in Doctor Who!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. In a strange sense it felt as though not a lot really happened at all, but at the same time it felt fast-paced and I found it very difficult to put down. I absolutely loved the ending and am very much looking forward to reading Pulley’s other novel, ‘The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’, which I have yet to discover.


Top 10 Books of 2018

Despite having read a few less books than last year – a total of 65 – I have read some really amazing novels. A lack of time and having a lot more going on, both mentally and emotionally, hasn’t meant that I haven’t still really enjoyed reading as much as I get the chance to. I’m hoping to read a few more books in 2019, but for now, here are my Top Ten Books of 2018!


10. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty


“He made her more confident, funnier, smarter. He brought out all the things that were there already and let her be fully herself, so she seemed to shine with this inner light. He loved her so much, he made her seem even more lovable.”

9. The Corset by Laura Purcell


“But then I have noted that murderous thoughts seldom trouble the pretty and the fashionable.”

8. The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson


“There is so much fear in this place sometimes I think it has seeped into the walls.”
7. House Rules by Jodi Picoult
“I think you’re the only person who gets me. When I’m with you, the world doesn’t feel like a problem I can’t figure out. Please come to the dance, because you’re my music.”
6. Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
“I think the hardest part of losing anyone is that you still have to live with the same scenery. It’s just the person you are used to isn’t a part of it any more, and all you notice are the gaps where they used to be. It feels as though, if you concentrated hard enough, you could find them again in those empty spaces. Waiting for you.”
5. hold back the stars by Katie Khan
“First love can break you. But it can also save you.”
4. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
“You can’t have too much dog in a book.”
3. How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
“Everything is going to be all right. Or, if not, everything is going to be, so let’s not worry.”
2. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
“Every woman is the architect of her own fortune.”
1. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
“Death, once conceived, was rapacious. It took all with it.”



The Corset by Laura Purcell



BLURB: “Dorothea and Ruth. Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless.

Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted to have the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality, and the power of redemption. Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?”

REVIEW: As followers of this blog may remember, I absolutely adored Purcell’s previous novel, ‘The Silent Companions’ – in fact, as it currently stands it will probably be my top book of the year – and couldn’t wait to see if  ‘The Corset’ was just as full of Gothic magic as its predeccessor. It proved to be just as gripping from the off, and was also told from the alternating perspectives of two very different women.

The novel tells the story of Dorothea and Ruth. Dotty is a wealthy young woman living with a disapproving father who is desperate to marry her off, despite the fact that she is secretly planning to run away with a policeman. She also has an obsession with phrenology, a medical sensation of the period in which it was believed that the shape of a person’s skull could determine their character. Dotty, however, is particularly interested in the link between phrenology and murder. As part of her research, she is a frequent visitor at Oakgate prison, having deep discussions with the female inmates and examining their skulls as part of her ‘charitable’ work. When Ruth arrives at the prison Dotty is eager to meet her, due to the severe nature of the crime she is accused of – murder.

Through Ruth’s perspective, we are taken back to where her story begins, and learn a great deal about her unhappy life and the unsettling events that occurred within it. Living in poverty with a drunken father and overworked mother, and mercilessly tormented by her classmates, Ruth is forced to leave work and become an apprentice to her mother after her talent for needlework is discovered, in order to keep the house afloat. But with the tremendously difficult birth of her younger sister Naomi, things suddenly begin to take a dark turn, and Ruth realises that whatever she shows starts to possess a power that she can neither control or stop. This continues when Ruth is forced into work for the formidable Mrs Metyard, whose mania after the death of her husband makes her hugely dangerous for Ruth and the other maids to be around. Her daughter, Kate, appears just as cruel, and Ruth endures hell on earth while living under the Metyards’ roof. The only person who seems able to help her in this dreadful place is Billy Rooker, Kate’s fiance, who often tries to help Ruth and the other girls when the anger of Mrs Metyard puts them in peril. Mrs Metyard’s cruelty is uncovered, however, and Ruth instead begins to work for her daughter, Kate, now married to Billy. But when Kate dies a sudden and mysterios death, Ruth believes that her stitches have once again wreaked pain and revenge, and confesses to her murder…

Dorothea, meanwhile, is fascinated by Ruth’s story, though she takes little heed of the idea of the needle and thread causing so much chaos and death. Alongside her visits to Ruth, Dorothea is also attempting to ward off an unwanted marriage proposal, prevent the remarriage of her father and make her own dreams of a love match a reality. When she learns some home truths about her father, however, Dotty is faced with an impossible decision that only Ruth can help her to make…

I really enjoyed having the alternating perspectives of these two characters, as it enables the reader to get to know them better. I did, however, find myself enjoying Ruth’s chapters considerably more than Dotty’s, and eagerly raced through the pages to get to them. Despite seeming a relatively ordinary young woman, Dotty is decidedly less likeable than the supposed murderer Ruth. She comes across as selfish and macarbe, though the reader does eventually come to admire her will and determination to stand on her own two feet. Ruth, however, is a far more sympathetic character, as we learn more deeply of her suffering, her strength throughout these obstacles, and the fact that the events that unfolded leading up to Kate’s death were not really her fault. I remained hooked all the way through, and as the story got darker and more unpredictable I couldn’t put the novel down. The twist at the end was brilliant, although I had hoped for mercy for Ruth. My love for ‘The Silent Companions’ remains stronger, but I would definitely highly recommend ‘The Corset’.


hold back the stars by Katie Khan



BLURB: “Ninety minutes.

A few years from now, not too far in the future, two people meet. It is a classic story of boy meets girl. Except that it’s not. When we find them, they have an hour and a half left. Unless they can save themselves, they won’t survive.”

REVIEW: I was really intrigued by this book, which was bought for me as a gift by my boyfriend when I was going through a particularly difficult time. The premise – a couple who have only ninety minutes left to live – is interesting, and as a reader I was automatically hooked. The novel opens with two astronauts, Max and Carys, having been stranded from their spacecraft and currently floating out amongst the stars, with a diminishing air supply and no feasible way of saving themselves. From this point onwards, the novel switches between their present situation and their past life together, telling the reader the story of their relationship and the world in which they inhabit.

There is initially a vague indication of Max and Carys belonging to a world not unlike our own, but with a vastly different set of rules and political systems. In this world, people are encouraged to live as individuals rather than settling down as couples or families, and go on ‘rotation’ to different parts of the world every few years in order to stop them getting too comfortable anywhere and wasting their potential. At first, the reader is unsure if this is a kind of dystopia or if it is a post-apocalyptic version of our current world. It is later revealed that the latter is true, as we discover that the whole system of the world has changed after nuclear war broke out between the USA and the Middle East, destroying half the world. The relationship that blossoms between Max and Carys is therefore forbidden under their world’s laws, yet it also represents stability in a world in which people are expected to constantly move and change. The depiction of the relationship itself is also very realistic and believable, and many of the feelings the characters discussed and situations they were in reminded me frequently of both my past relationship and my current one, indicating the true realism of Khan’s writing.

The book becomes even more fascinating when, after the reader has become fully attached to Carys and Max and become a champion of their dangerous relationship, we return to the stars among which they are about to die. The death of Max in this chapter, who sacrifices himself to save Carys, is truly heartbreaking, and Khan’s depiction of Carys’ grief after the event is quietely brilliant. I was grieving myself whilst reading this novel, and really felt the depth and empathy of the chapters following Max’s death.

However, the novel then provides us with an alternate ending; one where Carys dies in order to save Max. This is equally as heartbreaking, and the way in which Max falls apart after Carys’ death is also brilliantly written. But. In a third and final unexpected twist, Khan then provides us with another possible ending; one in which Carys and Max realise that they cannot both survive, and that neither of them wish to carry on without the other – and end their lives together by cutting off their own air supplies simultaneously. This ending was the most beautiful and tragic of them all, and the only one that did not have me sitting there in tears – there was a sense of choice, and a sense of love, that made this ending my favourite one, and the one I felt most likely to have occurred if the novel were a real story. Although we as the reader do not actually know which is the real ending – it is left up to us to decide – I feel this is the one that made the most sense after learning of the relationship between the two characters, and I think will be the ending that most readers truly believe in.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book; it was unsual, romantic and excellently written, and I would highly recommend it.


The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell



BLURB: “Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge. With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile,  Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. For inside her new home lies a mysterious wooden figure – a silent companion – that bears an unsettling resemblance to Elsie herself…”

REVIEW: I had been eager to read this book since its release, so was extremely happy to receive it as a gift from my boyfriend recently. My hunch about this novel was right, as I absolutely loved it; I cannot praise it highly enough and would be very surprised if it doesn’t end up being my top book of the year. This novel tells the story of Elsie, and flashes between past and present as Elsie, locked up in an asylum and so traumatised she has lost the use of speech, begins to write the story of what happened to her at the urging of her doctor. The whole novel contains a real echo of the traditional Gothic novel, reminiscent of classics like ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘The Monk’ and is hugely gripping from beginning to end. The suspense built in the novel genuinely did give me chills on many occasions, and I felt so sucked into the story that I often completely forgot what was going on around me, as can only happen when reading a truly great book.

As well as the flashes between Elsie’s past and present, a third timeline is added when we learn of the origin of the silent companions and their arrival at The Bridge. During the reign of Charles I, a nobleman’s wife named Anne writes of the events leading up to the King visiting the manor house. She writes frequently of her mute daughter, Hetta, whom she conceived through witchcraft and who seems to show similar kinds of tendencies in terms of her work with plants and herbs. When seeking novelties to decorate the house and impress the King, Anne comes across the wooden ‘companions’ in an antique shop. These are portraits of various people that are also shaped like human beings, meaning that when hidden around the house they would give one a fright upon being seen. As soon as the companions are brought into the household, however, terrifying things begin to occurr…

When pregnant and widowed Elsie is relocated to The Bridge in 1866 with her husband’s cousin Sarah, the servants and villagers act with oddity and hostility towards her. Elsie soon finds herself in danger of far more than malicious gossip, however, when the companions are discovered and begin to multiply, leading Elsie to question just how her husband’s sudden death occurred – and if her and her baby will be next…

This novel is incredibly well-written; both sinister and vividly descriptive, the reader is hooked and thrilled by the entire tale. There are many heartwrenching moments in the novel as well as terrifying ones, and the combination of these leave the reader constantly on edge. The end of the novel – particularly the final word – is especially chilling and leaves the reader stunned, continuing to think about the novel long after closing it. I would very highly recommend this book.


The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty


“None of us ever know all the possible courses our lives could have and maybe should have taken. It’s probably just as well. Some secrets are meant to stay secret forever. Just ask Pandora.”


RATING: 4.5/5

BLURB: “Mother of three and wife of John-Paul, Cecilia discovers an old envelope in the attic. Written in her husband’s hand, it says: to be opened only in the event of my death.

Curious, she opens it – and time stops.

John-Paul’s letter confesses to a terrible mistake which, of revealed, would wreck their family as well as the lives of others.

Cecilia wants to do the right thing, but right for who? If she protects her family by staying silent, the truth will worm through her heart. But if she reveals her husband’s secret, she will hurt those she loves most…”

REVIEW: Having read previous novels by Moriarty, I was very much looking forward to reading ‘The Husband’s Secret’. This novel tells the stories of four women: Cecilia, Tess, Rachel and, taking place several years prior to the other perspectives, the story of Janie. The novel is instantly gripping as Cecilia discovers the letter from her husband and the reader eagerly urges her on to open it; we are also introduced to Tess very early on, who discovers that her husband is having a relationship with her cousin and best friend Felicity, and to Rachel, a grandmother who is heartbroken at the thought of her son and grandson moving abroad and who has already lost so much. The book is instantly gripping, and the reader is intrigued to see how the stories of these three women who are intially present in the novel could possibly be linked. In this manner, mystery is built whilst the protagonists are made easily likeable as we wait for the letter to be opened.

I had expected to reach almost the end of the novel by the time the contents of the letter were revealed, but actually uncovering the story of Rachel’s murdered daughter Janie and the identity of her killer relatively early on in the novel somehow makes it even more intriguing, as I could not see where the story would then go. The reader is then introduced to Janie through flashbacks where she tells the story of the events leading up to her death, and the twists revealed through these and, indeed, through the present-day perspectives, keep the reader guessing despite the fact that the conclusion of the main mystery has long been revealed. I absolutely loved the ending of the novel and how it links to the butterfly effect, with Moriarty showing us how the lives of the characters would have been had certain events not taken place. I find the whole idea of the butterfly effect fascinating, and loved seeing it depicted fictionally. I didn’t love this novel quite as much as ‘What Alice Forgot’, but I greatly enjoyed it and would highly recommend it all the same.