3 books, 3 points
Bumper Six-Book Edition! haha
Welcome back to Three Books, Three Points… with six books this month! A bumper edition 🙂 I’ve been really behind with my book reviews so here is a catch-up post with some fab books published in the last few months, and one, ‘The Revelations’ out last week. I really enjoyed all of these books – with uni it’s been quite hard to find time to read anything that’s not a research paper recently, hence the big catch up post!
For this reason too, the Book Shelf Club launch has been delayed somewhat. Hopefully I’ll manage to get it all up and running in the next few months! You can follow the link in the sidebar or below this post to sign up for updates if you want to be the first to know when it launches 🙂
Anyway, without further ado, onto the books!
The Revelations** by Erik Hoel
Publication Date: 6th April 2021
An intellectual soup of consciousness, genius and animal testing with a suspicious death thrown into the mix – The Revelations is hard to describe, but very, very good.
-After an intellectual breakdown of sorts whilst studying his previous PhD programme, Kierk is living in his car, having left the PhD programme. However, he has an offer of a place on a prestigious programme to study the nature of consciousness. Last minute, he decides to accept the place. I was expecting to dislike Kierk, but found him surprisingly likeable, along with the other students on the course.
-Following Kierk’s thought processes is great – there is a lot of discussion of consciousness theory which I found fascinating but not overbearing, and I enjoyed the lengths he puts himself through to push his mind to the next level. The sudden death of one of the students places the others under suspicion, along with an animal rights group that has been infiltrating the consciousness research facility. Along with fellow student Carmen, Kierk sets out to discover just what happened.
-The descriptions of the testing facility are very realistic and could be upsetting – I found myself clearly picturing the suffering these animals go through. I enjoyed the slightly disconcerting atmosphere of the book, toying with our idea of reality. The ending was sudden – and I think I’m going to go back and re-read it – I imagine there are more layers to this than I picked up on the first reading! Overall I really enjoyed it – a book that challenged me and really made me think.
The Sanatorium** by Sarah Pearse
Oh, The Sanatorium! The modern architectural marvel, the hotel of dreams… why don’t you book in for a stay? You’ll never want to leave – and you might not…
-I picked this ARC up for a creepy read (Thank you NetGalley!) and I was not disappointed. Elin and Will arrive at the Sanatorium to celebrate her brother’s engagement. During the conversion of the hotel, the architect, Daniel LeMaitre, disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Now completed and open to guests, the hotel’s disturbing clinical past is displayed in the architecture and décor – but is that all?
-When guests start to disappear, Elin, a detective currently on leave, feels she has to find out who is involved. I felt a bit of resistance at first as the build up of incidents, suspects and general creepiness was relentless. It almost felt a bit like a pile-on of ‘thriller’ tick boxes – but eventually I gave in and embraced it – it made me smile wondering just what was going to happen next.
-I fell in to the story, and wow – The Sanatorium is an absolute riot! It’s got suspicious characters. It’s got an impassable snowstorm (of course!). It’s got creepy masks and an unethical clinical history, and tension in spades. I just really enjoyed being utterly creeped out and suspecting absolutely everyone. I’d really recommend this to anyone who wants to curl up and lose themselves in this icy, ominous world for a while. Slightly prescriptive, but if you can get past that, great fun.
The Eighth Girl** by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung
-The Eighth Girl follows Alexa Wu, who has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and is told from her viewpoint and that of her therapist, Daniel. Only Alexa, her best friend Ella, her stepmother, and Daniel know about her diagnosis. When Ella takes a job
at a lap-dancing club, Alexa finds herself visiting there as Ella works. Drawn into the dark underworld of the club, Alexa starts to uncover a child sex-trafficking ring.
-The book felt disjointed as other personalities took their place in front, although in this case, I’m not sure it’s a negative. As I tried to figure out what was really going on, I felt disconnected. I didn’t know where the story was going, and this mimicked the lack of stability I imagine Alexa was experiencing as her alters took their places in front.
-The Eighth Girl is an uncomfortable read – the hyper-sexualisation of Alexa and the inner thoughts of Daniel, the therapist, were hard to read – but possibly have their roots in reflexivity. The author is a psychologist herself, and so I would imagine that the darker side of therapy is honestly written about, if disturbing. It was interesting to glimpse Daniel’s thoughts too as the therapeutic relationship progresses. As the story went on, I found myself wondering about some of the circumstances Alexa found herself in, but it all became clear towards the end of the book. An unsettling read, and unlike anything I’ve read for a while, but one I’d recommend – hard reading but worth it.
Safe and Sound** by Phillippa East
I was expecting a murder-mystery type of thriller but Safe and Sound is so much more than that. An exploration of childhood trauma, mental health, loneliness and struggle, I absolutely loved this book. It went above all my expectations.
Housing association worker Jenn accompanies the bailiffs to a flat where the tenant has not paid her rent. Looking through the letterbox, they discover a sad scene – the tenant is dead, and has been so for ten months. How could this have happened? Feeling personally responsible, Jenn is drawn into the life of Sarah, the tenant. She feels bound to discover what happened.
-The story runs alongside flashbacks to ‘back then’ – following two young girls, Prin and her cousin Jane. As the story unfolds, we see how the events that happened to Prin and Jane weave into the current story. This was really well done – not jumping back and forth but just giving enough information in the background to create an undercurrent of unease.
-What I loved about this book was the sensitive portrayal of mental illness in Jenn’s case. As her determination to uncover Sarah’s story becomes an obsession, we see the effect on her son, on her job, and on her family. It is not overdone or sensationalised, but gives an insight into how this is affecting Jenn’s life and her thought processes. I felt this book was way more than I initially expected. Really worth reading.
The Butcher of Berner Street** by Alex Reeve
-Leo Stanhope is one of my favourite literary characters and I was glad to see him back in this, Alex Reeves’ third book in the series. Now working as a journalist, Leo gets roped into yet another scrape
when he receives an anonymous letter inviting him to a fight club . Unfortunately the owner of the club is murdered and Leo finds himself dragged into the investigation, and the murky goings on surrounding it. I was pleased to see my favourite supporting characters Jacob and of course Rosie back too.
-I always wonder how Leo manages to get himself into such situations but I like that he’s a character with flaws. We see more of Leo’s reality as he navigates life as a trans man in Victorian England with the ever-present danger of being found out, although with a lesser focus than the first two books in the series. Leo’s talent for getting into trouble is of course still in full swing, and as a journalist he is guilty of interfering with a police investigation perhaps more than he should be, even by Victorian standards. We see very plainly how journalistic writing can sway public opinion, and Leo learns some harsh lessons from this.
-Despite his sometimes somewhat naïve decisions, I always want myself wanting the best for Leo. It’s lovely to read a series where you’ve seen the character develop over time and I feel that Leo deserves some happiness after his past experiences. I feel the story maybe lacked a little depth compared to the previous two books in the series, but I still read it in one sitting and really enjoyed it.
GIRL by Kenya Hunt
-GIRL, Kenya Hunt’s collection of essays talking about her experience as a black woman. Thoughtful and heart-breaking, writer Hunt, along with guest authors, catalogues the experience of black womanhood in London.
-GIRL is set out as a collection of essays – a fact that came in useful as the implications of each piece of writing needed time to mull over, to learn, to realise. From the experience of racism when attempting to book an AirBnB to the unsettling rise of Trumpism, via ‘wokeness’ and the multi-layered meanings of the word Girl, the collection is eye-opening and subtly urgent. Each essay is as good as the last.
-The writing in GIRL is honest, factual, raw. Hunt’s unique insights as an American living in London bring the stark realities of racism in the UK to light. Racism as insidious, entrenched. For me, as a white woman in the UK, GIRL is a much-needed education on the lived experiences of black women. Read it!
You can find the previous edition of 3 Books 3 Points here!
** I am a member of NetGalley, where I received this review copy for free in exchange for an honest review.
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