“The Outcast” by Sadie Jones

As the book opens, it’s 1957 and nineteen year old Lewis has just returned to the family home after being released from prison. Kit is the youngest daughter of the pillar of the local village who has hero worshipped Lewis from early childhood. The story goes back to Lewis’s early childhood and tells the tragedy and grief that leads up to his imprisonment, and then follows on from his release to look at the fall out and the effects on himself, his family, Kit and the rest of the village.

There are so many interesting things about this book, I don’t know where to start!

I guess the first thing that struck me when I finished the book was the narrative. Although told in the third person, the focus is always on either Lewis or Kit, and while they never directly speak to the read, you always feel as though you’re seeing their unique perspective on the story and it results in a very personal and close relationship with the reader.

I usually prefer linear plots, but this one starts at the mid point of the story for the prologue, then jumps back to the beginning and follows the rest of the story in the traditional chronological order. This actually add to the story for me, as you know what has happened and you gradually come to understand why it has happened and the ongoing fallout from the tragedy.

The claustrophobic society of the village, the lack of communication between family members and the repression of emotions are all indicative of the 1940’s and 1950’s before the advent of the idea that people need to share feelings and talk about traumatic experiences to get comfort from each other. This leads to one of the characters starting to self harm, something that while I’m aware of it, I know very little about. I thought the descriptions and explorations of the feelings of the characters involved, and also those of the people who eventually find out what has been happening were compelling to read.

This is not a pleasant read, but I have to say, it held my attention and I savoured reading it, taking care to understand an unusual subject matter. Well written with heart and feeling, and a very worthwhile read.

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“What I Saw And How I Lied” by Judy Blundell

Not long after Evie’s stepfather, Joe, returns home after the end of the Second World War, he and the family decamp to Palm Beach for the summer. They become friends with the Graysons and Peter, an ex-GI who was in the war with Joe. But Evie notices that all is not as it seems between Joe and Peter, and while she gradually gets to know Peter, there seems to be an ominous undertone building up in his relationship with her mother and stepfather.

The cover of this book looks stunning, with a film noir feel, drawing me in to what I anticipated would be a thrilling book with a teenage [I]femme fatale[/I]. What I actually got, was a coming of age story for a teenager with the elements of mystery, war, prejudice and adultery, albeit on a fairly domestic scale.

I loved the sense of period that the author created, and the language and characters felt authentic for that period. Once the story moves to the setting of the hotel, it does start to feel slightly claustrophic, only adding to the general darkening atmosphere of the plot.

However, I don’t think it lived up to my expectations, and by the time I got to the end, I was a bit disappointed that the heroine hadn’t either been or developed into that [I]femme fatale[/I] I’d been hoping for.

“Dead Witch Walking” by Kim Harrison

The first of a supernatural series, Dead Witch Walking follows white witch Rachel Morgan, who quits her job as a runner working for Inderland Security (IS). No-one gets to walk away from their contract at IS without paying a price, usually with their life, so Rachel has to find a way to outrun the assassins and set up her own agency in order to make a living. In order to do this, she decides she’ll find the necessary evidence to out one of the city’s most respected businessmen, Trent Kalamack, as the drug lord she believes he is.

I hadn’t been intending to start another supernatural series of books, as I’m already engrossed in far too many, but I was out for the day and close to finishing the book I had with me, and picked this one up from a charity shop to tide me over until I got home.

Although it is set in the US, there was something about it that made it seem more global than the other series of books I’ve been reading. I think perhaps it’s because the Sookie Stackhouse and Anita Blake series are both set in southern states, whereas Harrison has set her book in a big city, Cincinnati, and it gave it a more urban and cosmopolitan feel, which I liked a lot.

However, on the whole, I though the story itself wasn’t anything out of the ordinary in this genre and the characters didn’t really grab me.

One thing that probably also put me off was the typeface and the size of the book. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I found it difficult to read, and the book was slightly smaller but thick, which I found made if hard to hold comfortably, and I think this had an adverse affect on my enjoyment of the book in general.

I certainly won’t be dashing out to by the next one, but if my TBR pile ever diminishes to next to nothing, I might consider picking up more of the series.

“The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner” by Stephenie Meyer

We first met Bree Tanner for a brief moment at the end of the third of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, Eclipse but she was obviously an important character to the author, as she had a whole back story worked out for her, which she has now written up in this novella.

I thought it might be a while before I got to read another installment in the Twilight saga (I’m still holding out for the completion of Midnight Sun), and to be honest, I’d convinced myself I wasn’t that bothered by this new story as it wasn’t about our beloved Bella, Edward and Jacob, but couldn’t resist the lure of an especially early opening of Waterstone’s on publication date.

At 178 pages, it’s a quick, easy read, and it does feel like returning home after holiday – you’ve had a great time away reading other things, but it’s lovely to be back with the your own creature comforts. From what I’ve seen of what’s coming in the Eclipse film, I’m guessing Meyer gave this material to the filmmakers, and it rounds out the story nicely.

The story concentrates more on Bree discovering the secrets Riley is keeping from his group of newborns. I enjoyed it, and I loved the characters of Diego and Fred. When the story starts, Bree has already been a vampire for a few months, but personally, I would have liked to see Meyer start the story in Bree’s last day as a human, or in the first few days as a vampire.

Interestingly, Waterstone’s had opened an hour early for the book release and I was expecting to find crowds of teenagers at the bookshop, but it was a very quiet store that I walked into. In fact, the display of books was still pretty full, and I had the whole shop to myself. I didn’t actually arrive until about 8:45am, so perhaps i’d missed them!