The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen

The Bright Sessions #1

If you like books about unlikely friendships which lead on to unlikely relationships then this book is for you. It is an interesting look at what happens when someone deeply feels the emotions of the people around him, he’s an empath, which in many ways makes him vulnerable to the ever changing moods of people he encounters. It also gives him a clear understanding of the struggles of those who have difficulty expressing their feelings. I like it when there is a character like Caleb who seems to be the popular guy, the football hero, the guy with all the friends and seeming to have it all together, who turns out to be deep in the depths of inner turmoil. I like the journey a character like this goes on. Yes, you can pick where Caleb and the lovely Adam are going to end up, but it is the way that they get there which is lovely. This is sensitively written, funny in parts and will make you have all of the feels, from outrage through to heart meltyness.

I have never listened to the Bright Sessions Podcast but this book is enough to send me on a mission to listen. 

This is a must have for secondary school libraries, it doesn’t matter that the setting is the USA, this book is universal and will have lots of appeal, especially in a diverse collection. It doesn’t move fast, it is a slow thoughtful read but beautifully done. 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to this great book.


The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is one of my absolute favourite authors. I love her gentle but pointed prose and I look forward with eager anticipation for every new book. This book did not disappoint, the tone is so perfect and she drew me in from the first sentences. It is always such a relief when an author you love delivers you another book that you love.

This is the story of a brother and sister, their mother has ‘run away to India’ as they are told when they are children. Danny and Maeve are left with their father, Cyril, in a magnificent house, a house which has remained largely untouched after the previous owners died, the house has personality, it is glass and from the street you can see all the way through it, nobody else in their town has a house anything like this mansion, but a lovely house doesn’t necessarily mean a happy home. The children live there with their largely absent father and the housekeepers and cook who look after them as if they were their own. Maeve is considerably older than Danny and assumes the role of his protector and this continues all their lives. It is this relationship which makes the book so special. When Cyril brings home Andrea his wife to be, she immediately takes against the children, her jealousy and rage permeate the house, poison the atmosphere and when she comes to move in she arrives with two daughters that Maeve and Danny had no idea to expect. Why didn’t Andrea mention at any point that she had two small daughters? Why has Cyril chosen such an unsuitable person to marry? Why is Andrea so incredibly spiteful to these perfectly pleasant children? The story unravels these mysteries and the stories of all of the characters.

I loved these people, I became incredibly caught up in their lives, this is the gift Ann Patchett passes to her readers, an involvement in their stories and a deep feeling of attachment for these people, some of whom are difficult and prickly, but as you unravel the complex web you come to understand their struggles and trials. 

This is sitting right up there with my top books of the year. I’m off to buy myself a paper copy because this is a book to keep and to go back to. And I’m sure on the next reading I’ll have a little sob in the same place that I did this first reading. Sigh. Lovely. Sigh.

Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for giving me access to this treasure.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

There is something about the Ruth Ware style that really appeals to me. I like the atmosphere she creates, the way her characters interact and I think she nails the quiet mystery perfectly. As a boarding school girl myself, I was intrigued from the beginning of this one. The different personalities of the old friends, the way that they met, the ongoing relationship they have, tied by a terrible trauma which happened during their time at school. 

When they are summoned back to the scene of the traumatic event, the friends drop everything in their lives to be there, terrifically worried that their secret might have been discovered. The villagers are suspicious of them, sinister things start to happen and an atmosphere of tension and pent up grievances is palpable. 

This is what Ruth Ware does so well, takes simple scenarios and makes them full of tension and has you on the edge of your reading chair, gripped! I stayed up late at night to finish this book and it was satisfying and as there is a new book from this author out in the world now, I’m excited to read that one too!

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

An immersive novel, once you are in you’ll struggle to think of anything else but the river and the mysteries it throws up. It seems like a historical novel but throws some magic and some mystery into the mix. Our base is The Swan, a tavern on the banks of the river. One stormy night a man arrives, he is near death and with him is a child who appears to be already dead. She is an unusual looking child of about 4 years old. The local nurse is summoned and she feels, along with everyone else that the child is beyond her help. But the next day the child is alive, everyone who has anything to do with the child feels compelled to take her, to provide a home for her and to make her their own. Then there is the man, he recovers, and leaves.

Through these events we come to know the locals in the hamlets around Oxford. The childless couple, the Parson and his maid, a photographer, the family missing their eldest son who may be a terrible rogue. Then there is my favourite the nurse who treated the child at the beginning, I loved her. 

If you are a Sarah Perry fan, if you like a bit of mystical with your historical and if you love a good mystery, this book is going to be right up your alley. The tone is so perfectly pitched and the pace is perfect, it meanders just like the river, it throws up all manner of mysterious items, just like the river and it takes you on a wonderful journey, just like the river. 

The Mapmakers’ Race by Eirlys Hunter

Endearing and full of life, this is an old fashioned rollicking adventure of the sort that I read when I was a kid. The story of a family of explorers and mapmakers who are competing in a race with an an enormous reward at the end of it. The Santander family are renowned for their skills but enroute to the race Papa has gone missing and Mother has been left at the station. The children, their parrot and an enterprising young man they persuade to join them are on the hunt for the best route for the railway to run to the town of New Coalhaven on the coast. It is an arduous route with rivers to cross, mountain ranges to trek over. There are bees and bears and drama galore. 

What a glorious cover this is!

Their adventure is full of danger and disasters and yet the children persist. When their spirits are low and they are in danger of starvation or hypothermia they persist. What a team they are! And ultimately this is how they survive, by pulling together, harnessing the best of each of their skills and by being kind and loving to each other. 

This book is old fashioned and wholesome, the production of the book is lovely, the pages feel great in your hands. It’s a lovely story made more gorgeous by the wonderful illustrations. I found myself going forward and back to the maps as I was reading it. This book would be a lovely gift for a child, and I will be recommending it widely. I was intrigued by the setting, I was surprised that this author wrote a book set in America, I had expected this book to have a New Zealand flavour, as it is it would work for a child anywhere in the world. I would expect that people who love Katherine Rundell’s books would enjoy this one. 

Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare

I’m so pleased this lived up to the hype. I was hooked from the first page, gripping stuff! You are immediately caught up in Evie/Kate’s story. It is told in sections, what is happening now and in flashbacks to her life in Melbourne and the story leading up to her current situation. Evie is being looked after by her uncle Jim, she has only limited recollections of what happened. She has been removed from Melbourne to a small town in the Hawkes Bay of New Zealand, she isn’t sure how she got there. Jim is controlling everything, what she eats, when she can leave the house, he keeps her drugged and she is in hiding. Gradually, through the fog of the drugs she begins to put things together, the events of a night where a young man died, where she was drunk behind the wheel of a car and where Jim turned up holding something. 

The mystery of what happened is at the core of this book. It is cleverly and slowly revealed to the reader as the book goes along. I honestly didn’t pick the twist. 

This is contemporary, it is interesting and the action just hums along. I was totally hooked on this, read it in two days and am still thinking about it now. Highly recommended if you like a contemporary thriller.

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

Machines Like Me

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was delighted to win a hardback copy of this book from the publishers. It is a lovely looking book and with a cover which feels expensively smooth and waxy, it has been a pleasure to hold in my hands as I’ve worked my way through it. I do feel it was work at times! Ian McEwan is an author I almost always enjoy reading, I like his cleverness and the way he places his characters in conflicts of the heart and the mind. This is exactly what he does in this book, lots of moral complexity and a real commentary on the purpose of AI and our decision making in our conscious human way versus the logic of machine learning. Having read Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari I got the distinct impression that that book had made quite the impression on Ian McEwan, there is a quote from the book in this novel and a feel that the conclusions that eventually the machines will overtake us humans is clear in this novel.

Charlie purchases an Adam, a robot who looks and feels and acts human, it is a vast expense, he could have bought a house! Charlie shares a house with Miranda. She is young and gorgeous and Charlie fancies her enormously. He asks her to help form Adam’s personality, they will each be responsible for half of the different facets of his personality, she agrees and this the beginning of their relationship. Adam falls for Miranda but not before warning Charlie that Miranda harbours dark secrets and is not to be entirely trusted. This is the beginning of the story which will twist and turn throughout the early 1980s where the author has altered political history, bought Alan Turing back to life and generally messed around with the past to make it fit his story.

I found sections of the story totally engaging, Charlie and Miranda’s relationship, the arrival of Mark a young boy they decide to adopt, the relationship between Miranda and her unfortunate best friend. The novel tackles so many big issues and yet somehow seems to do so in a slightly distant and removed fashion. Of course there are amazingly clever passages, there are eminently quotable sentences, some of the comments that the characters make to each other are brilliant, but it was missing a heart, a little like Adam.

It is enjoyable but not amazing and that is a bit disappointing.

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