Review – The Sisters by Claire Douglas

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Title: The Sisters

Author: Claire Douglas

Publisher: HarperCollins

Release Date: August 2015

Genre: Thriller

My Rating: 3/10 Gave Up

 


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Holiday Reads/I’m Back

So that’s it. I’m back. I finished my degree, started back at work full time and now I have nothing to do with my spare time other than read and write about it.

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While the beginning of this year was quite good for reading considering I was so busy, the summer just got too much that I ended up re-reading the entire Harry Potter series for a bit of mindless comfort. This is something I haven’t done since my teenage years when I read nothing else other than Harry Potter over and over again, starting from the beginning each time I reached the end. It meant that I read them with a slightly different perspective and started noticing things that I previously overlooked, particularly in characters’ emotional development. I finally get exactly why Harry is so angsty all the way through Order of the Phoenix! J. K. Rowling has such an intricate way of constructing and developing characters that I just love, and have never really appreciated before. This re-read ended up being exactly what I needed to keep me going through the final through months of dissertation stress.

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But I’m finished now, and the stress is over. I had a wonderfully relaxing holiday in Lanzarote last week where I managed to get through three books that have been sat on my shelf for far too long – The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr, The Breakdown by B. A. Paris, and The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell. Fortunately, I really enjoyed all three (more detailed reviews to follow soon!) making my week in the sun even more wonderful.

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The One Memory of Flora Banks was perhaps the best way to ease myself back into reading something other than Harry Potter. It’s a fairly easy-read YA story – I finished it in less than a day – about a girl who suffers from amnesia. Despite not being able to remember anything since she was a child, she kisses a boy at a party wakes up the next morning having remembered it. It sounds really cheesy, and in a way it is, but it’s very well written with an exciting plot and decent characters.

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I then moved on to The Breakdown by B. A. Paris. I read Behind Closed Doors by the same author at the beginning of the year and absolutely loved it, so I was excited to get stuck into this one. I was slightly disheartened when my sister, who also really enjoyed Behind Closed Doors, told me she couldn’t get past the first few chapters, but I ploughed on anyway. I ended up really enjoying it, not quite as much as Behind Closed Doors, but good nonetheless. It’s the sort of psychological thriller where the plot comes together right at the end, and suddenly there’s a reason for the annoying characters and slightly dubious plot. 

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Finally, I read The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell, who is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. For some reason, I expected this to be a romance novel, but it wasn’t at all. It tells the story of three donor children who share the same biological father. As usual, Lisa Jewell writes wonderfully real characters, each equally interesting and endearing. While nothing can beat my favourite Lisa Jewell book, The House We Grew Up In, this one comes close.

So there you have it. Look out for full reviews of each of these, along with everything else I’ve read this year over the next few weeks.

Cait

WWW Wednesday – 27th September 2017

Welcome to this week’s WWW Wednesday post, a meme hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. This is my first WWW post since September, and first post at all this year(!), but I’ve been very busy with my masters degree so I’ve had to take a step back from my blog. I have several reviews waiting to be written when I get chance, and I’m going to try to post WWW Wednesday and general reading update posts a little bit more regularly.

Please go and have a look at everyone else is reading and make sure you post your own WWW in the comments so I can have a look.

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The premise of the post is quite simple – answer the three Ws:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What did you recently finish reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

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I’m Back…Or I Will Be Soon…

Did you miss me? Probably not. I’ve been gone so long that I doubt anyone even remembers I was here in the first place, but the good news is, I am back. I was so pleased at how my blog gained popularity over the few months of last year when I was most active, but then life got in the way and I went off and did a masters degree and had many sleepless, stress-filled nights, that I simply didn’t have time for this anymore. I am now a month away from handing in my dissertation, and a month away from returning to normal life. I’ve therefore decided to schedule a few posts for the next month until I come back properly.

Despite not posting reviews, I have actually managed to read quite a few books this year. Although I’m nowhere near last year’s tally, I’ve managed 13 books since January, not including my recent re-read of the entire Harry Potter series. That means I’ll have 13 reviews to post at some point in the next few weeks.

I’ll leave this here for now, and say I hope you welcome me back into the book blogger community, and forgive my absence!

Review – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Minor Spoilers)

I’m not going to do my usual style of review for this, as this review is more of the play, which I saw in December, and then read the book afterwards. I’m not going to rate it, because if I’m honest, I’d rather just forget it exists.

First of all, I’ll say that I did enjoy the play. My review might make it sound like I thought otherwise, but the play was good as a whole entity, I just had a lot of issues with the plot.

Before I went, I avoided all spoilers, all reviews, even casual tweets or comments about it. I was very disiplined and managed to go into it without any expectations at all. Afterwards, of course, I did read the reviews and found people had the same opinions as me.

The play, as a play, was pretty incredible. The magic was magical, the sets and costumes, the acting and all that was brilliant. I wasn’t sure about the Imogen Heap music, but whatever. The story, however, was the most ridiculous story I’ve ever encountered. I’ll try not to use many spoilers, but the character of Delphi was just unbelievably ridiculous. She created so many plot holes, the main one being HOW ON EARTH CAN VOLDEMORT HAVE A CHILD!? I’ll just leave that there.

Other than that unbelievable plot device, the whole thing felt like fan fiction. Goblet of Fire fan fiction more than anything. Although I quite liked Scorpius, everyone else was just a caricature of their real (book) selves, particularly Ron who was reduced to a bumbling idiot mess with no substance at all. It all just felt unnecessary, and to be honest, as a massive Harry Potter fan, I’d rather just forget it ever happened. It doesn’t feel like J K Rowling actually had anything to do with it, despite her name being on the cover.

I was so excited to see this, having bought tickets 18 months in advance, and really tried to love it. My sister and I sat in a nearby restaurant between parts and exclaimed ‘I think the second part will be better’, without wanting to admit our disappointment. We were both relieved when we finally read all the other reviews and articles afterwards, to find that we weren’t alone.

Perhaps minor, casual Harry Potter fans would enjoy this, but I certainly didn’t.

Why the rise of the Psychological Thriller is ruining the classic ‘whodunit’

As far as I’m aware, the psychological thriller sub-genre is a relatively new one. It’s certainly one I’ve only come across recently in any case. For those who aren’t familiar, it is used to categorise books that have some sort of large twist; something that messes with your mind and makes you go ‘ERM WHATWHYHOW’ when you reach it. Twists that are so unexpected and yet so cleverly written that you truly did not see it coming.

This all stems from the success of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, released in 2012. Suddenly, everyone wants to cash in on Flynn’s success, by branding their book as ‘the new Gone Girl’. I’ve seen so many books with this sort of reference on the cover I can’t even count, and yet the majority of the ones I’ve actually read, really fail to hit the mark. This term ‘psychological thriller’ is being used to describe any generic thriller with a female protagonist and a creepy looking cover. Not that I haven’t enjoyed the ones I’ve read, I have, they’ve just disappointed me. I’ve learnt that expecting something on par with Gone Girl is just not going to work.

I understand that publishers need to use certain marketing tools to sell books, and trying to cash in on one of the bestselling novels of the decade is not a bad idea. Clearly it’s working; I certainly keep falling for it myself. The problem is, these are books that I’ve ended up being disappointed by, when if they didn’t have the ‘Gone Gir tag on the cover, I would have really enjoyed. It’s difficult to know when to draw the line, but many books marketed as ‘psychological thriller’ have very average ratings on websites such as Goodreads. Many of the two and three star ratings that are dragging the overal average down are simply people who feel they’ve been duped into believing this would be something that it’s not.

I’m reluctant to name names here, although you’ll see many examples in the reviews on my blog, as I don’t want to insult the authors in question. It is the publishers that are responsible for this trickery, not the authors, who just want a crack at writing a decent thriller.

One name I will mention is arguably the most overhyped book of the last year, and that’s The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I read an article recently about the rise of books with ‘Girl’ in the title, and that goes some way to summarising what I’m trying to express here. The Girl on the Train is the driver of the ‘psychological thriller’ bandwagon. Now, I enjoyed the book, despite having a few issues with the ending’ yet I fail to see why this is better than other similar book of the same genre. I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh is much more suibtable categorised, and is the only book I’ve read so far that even comes close to Gone Girl, yet it hasn’t taken off in the same way at all. Yes, I’m sure Claire Mackintosh is enjoying modest success and has achieved a very decent number of book sales for a debut author, yet as far as I’m aware, there are no movie deals here. This is not ‘the book that everyone’s talking about’ in the same way that The Girl on the Train is. Now this is pure speculation, and I do not have sales figures for either book, but the reason I believe for The Girl on the Train’s incredible success is because of that one word in the title. The reader automatically compares this to Gone Girl and expects something of the same, even if it’s subconscious.

For me, the best thing about Gone Girl is the intelligence in the writing. Gillian Flynn’s style is something matched by no other. She manages to cleverly weave a stomach churning plot with deeply unlikable characters, yet still managing to make it a joy to read. All three of her books are masterfully crafted, yet unbelievably messed up; so much so, that you begin to worry for her sanity. This clever style is unmatched by anything I’ve ever read, particularly by anyone attempting to slot themselves into this genre.

Of course, this is no bad thing. An author must always bring something new to the table, otherwise what’s the point in picking up debuts rather than well-published reliables?

I’m not an author. I’ve never even attempted to write a book myself, I lack the creativity. I am, however, an avid reader. I am a reader who is getting sick to death of being disappointed by the books I read, simply because of inappropriate marketing.