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The Empathy Problem
The Empathy Problem

The Empathy Problem by Gavin Extence

Motivated by money, power and success, Gabriel has ruthlessly worked hard to get to the very top of the banking game. An inconvenient brain tumour makes its presence known in his life, but that’s not going to stop him. Or is it? The tumour has other ideas. As it grows, it appears to be doing things to Gabriel’s personality. Whether he likes it or not, he seems to be becoming less selfish, less mercenary, less unlikeable. Then he sees a woman playing her violin outside St Paul’s Cathedral and the experience transforms his life in ways he never expected. This thought-provoking book takes the reader on a journey into the questions that affect us all: Can you change your life? Is it ever too late? How do you navigate a love story when you know what the ending will be? Gabriel is a fascinating character and it’s impossible to read this book and not react to his decisions, thoughts and actions.


The Dead House
The Dead House
The Last Days of Summer
The Last Days of Summer

The Dead House by Harry Bingham

This is the fifth in a series but can be read alone: I started with the fourth book and didn’t feel like I missed out. It’s a well written and paced crime novel, but one that stands heads above the competition. Featuring DS Fiona Griffiths - maverick, eccentric, determined and possessed of a sharp detective instinct - in a case that starts with the discovery of the body of a young woman laid out respectfully in a remote, Welsh old "dead house" (church annexe), the story goes in directions that I didn’t foresee. Some amazing, powerful scenes, especially as the plot reaches its climax. Very engrossing and compulsive, avoiding a lot of the clichés of the police procedural genre.

 

The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan

I certainly wouldn’t describe this as an enjoyable read. It’s an unsettling but beautifully written book. Jasper is released from Huntsville prison after serving 10 years for an horrific crime. However, it’s not until much later in the book that we discover the truly horrendous nature of the crime. He has nowhere to go except to his sister, Lizzie’s home. She is a woman who is hardened to the world by having had to cope with the aftermath of Jasper’s crime. She also has two daughters. Katie knows what her uncle has done and doesn’t trust him whereas Joanne is unaware of the details of his crime and is prepared to accept him for who he is. The local townspeople disapprove of Lizzie for taking Jasper into her home but as far as she is concerned, he is her brother and she must try to support him and hope trouble steers clear of their home. The atmosphere in this book is oppressive, the heat suffocating and Jasper full of suppressed anger that looks set to boil over at any moment. However, there are real moments of fragile tenderness in the relationship between Jasper and Joanne. Wonderfully descriptive and disturbing, it is a story that burns slowly in the scorching heat of the prairies before reaching its inevitable violent conclusion.

The Swimming Pool
The Swimming Pool
I See You
I See You

The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish

Teachers Natalie and Ed Steele live in the desirable neighbourhood of Elm Hill with their teenage daughter, Molly. When Natalie hears that the local lido has been restored to its former glory, she begins to feel anxious as Molly has a phobia of water following a childhood accident. Yet Natalie is inexplicably drawn to the lido and Lara Channing, the glamorous former actress who campaigned for its restoration. Lara is surprisingly keen to befriend Natalie and she is quickly seduced by their lavish and carefree lifestyle to the extent that she ignores old friends. Even Ed finds himself sidelined as he wants to maintain his distance from the Channings. All along you know there is an underlying reason why Lara has sought out Natalie’s friendship but we are left guessing her motives until the very end. This is an excellent summer read - pacy, gripping, intriguing and unsettling!

 

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

Almost inevitably, following the success of debut novel I Let You Go, Clare Mackintosh’s second novel has a lot to live up to: it doesn’t disappoint. It’s clever, sharp, very very tense and compelling reading. When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there. She shows her family, who are convinced it’s just a look-alike. The next day, there’s a photo of a different woman and then another...The scenes set in the London underground and during commutes are particularly evocative and paced to perfection. I’m dying for more people I know to read this so I can talk about it! The relationship between British Transport Police officer, Kelly and her twin sister, Lexi was deftly crafted and I enjoyed the inter-familial dynamics of Zoe, her divorced husband, her children and her new partner. Highly recommended. And you’ll never see public transport the same way again!

The Next Together
The Next Together
The Museum of You
The Museum of You

The Next Together by Lauren James

This is a hard book to review: I really enjoyed it as it was so entertaining, but I did have to suspend disbelief and overlook a few annoyances. It’s a time travelling romance with a conspiracy theory element, when Matt and Kate keep meeting each other over and over. There are several main timescale stories running through - Carlisle during the Jacobite Rebellion, Crimea during the 19th century war, a government laboratory during the early 21st century, as well as a "now" narrative in 2039 where Matt and Kate start to run into the legacy of their previous existences. It was easy to keep track of the different strands, though the narrative jumped back and forth between them, but I wasn’t convinced by some of the dialogue in the historical sections. Some of the modern turns of phrase and expressions really grated on me! I did really want to keep reading though as I wanted to see where the story was going and it’s a very quick read.

 

The Museum of You by Carys Bray

12 year old Clover wants answers; her mother died when she was a baby and whilst her father has provided everything she could possibly need, she just wants to know her mother. During the summer holidays, she decides to curate the undisturbed boxes in the spare room to discover the whole story. Told from the perspective of both father and daughter, this was a joy to read. I love the characters (neighbour Mrs Mackerel was a hoot!) and relished the unfolding of the mystery surrounding Clover’s mother. A touching, funny and entertaining read.







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