The Whish List

Book Reviews: "Be awesome! Be a book nut!" – Dr Seuss

Month: July 2014

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. Reviewed for Woman & Home

seating-arrangementaI really wanted to love this book more than I did as a book about the trials and tensions in the build-up to a family wedding set in New England should be right up my street. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good read  but for me,  the characters are mainly so unsympathetically drawn that I found myself desperately trying to finish the book and ‘leave the party early’ Winn, the father in particular made me want to shake him as he moons about, lusting after his daughter’s friend and bemoaning his exclusion from a private member’s club. Only Biddy, his long-suffering wife is a character you can identify and root for as she tries to hold things together. Apart from Biddy (and a comatose lobster!) the rest of the ensemble leave a lot to be desired.

Overall, Maggie Shipstead’s writing is wonderful at evoking place and the simmering atmosphere of regret and repression. So although I wasn’t totally sold on this book due to its depiction of characters with all their human frailties on show, I guess this is the point to a large extent as it becomes a more satirical take on the family saga. As a debut novel, this  book shows what a talent Maggie Shipstead has and I’m already eagerly anticipating her latest novel; ‘Astonish Me’ set in the world of professional ballet dancers.

As an entertaining if at times, uncomfortable diversion from the Great British summer, this novel that sweeps you up into the beauty and rarified surroundings of Waskeke will prove an escape from your own family dramas!



Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Reviewed for Mumsnet)

“Sublime story of small town secrets and lies…” 5little lies cover


As a Mum who’s just dropped her youngest off for a first school visit, this tale of Mums at Pirriwee Public School that begins with an incident at a school ‘orientation’ day, is completely apposite for me and I guess for lots of you too.
The story is so well constructed and Liane Moriarty builds the tension wonderfully along the way. You know that something pretty horrific is going to happen at the school Trivia Night as much of the story is told in flashbacks but she cleverly keeps you guessing as to who the main protagonists will be and what will actually happen.
If you loved Liane Moriarty’s previous bestseller; ‘The Husband’s Secret’ (that won the most popular Richard and Judy Book Club title for Autumn 2013) then you will love this one too. From the broken daisy chain on the cover to the cracking dialogue and characterisation, everything works so well in this book. While the kids are at school (or on a school visit!), put your feet up and lose yourself in a truly engrossing read.


The Hive by Gill Hornby (Reviewed for Mumsnet)

“Don’t bee-lieve the hype!…” 3the hive cover 2


I think the general premise of this book was great and Mums with primary school children can totally recognise the ‘Queen Bees’ of the playground hierarchy and how various cliques form and function. It’s just not very captivating and could have been so much more. I like the structure of the book, how it unfolds over a school year but I found the characters are bit one-dimensional and the plot a bit plodding. Saying that, you will enjoy it and it’s a topic with a lot of potential but could ‘bee’ better.


The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop (Reviewed for lovereading)

This is another wonderful book from Victoria Hislop. The subject matter of the ‘ghost town’ of Famagusta is inspired, especially in the 40th anniversary year of its occupation.
As always in Hislop’s novels, the sense of place is exquisitely evoked but in this book it is also the characterisation and plot that are vividly realised.
Just when you think you have worked out what’s going to happen and think you know how a particular character is going to behave and react, the rug is pulled from beneath you and your expectations are challenged.
It’s the story primarily of two families and their lives both before and after the Turkish invasion of Famagusta. Aphroditi, the main female character is sympathetically portrayed and you find yourself really willing her on to survive the aftermath of invasion and the betrayals and heartbreak it brings.
40 years on, it seems incredible that such an abandonment of a place could happen and that little has been done to revive its fortunes. Like Spinalonga in Hislop’s original bestseller ‘The Island’, Famagusta becomes another place that is the basis for a novel of the power of family and kinship amongst horror and despair.
As a fictionalised account of the impact the invasion of Famagusta had on local families, this book is superb. A great read!


Reasons she goes to the woods by Deborah Kay Davies (Reviewed for lovereading)

My Mum and Sister-in-law would love this book purely because they love books with short chapters so this book, where each ‘chapter’ is a page long would be right up their street.
Aside from its unusual structure, this is such an original, clever book which conveys such a lot from such small snapshots. Each word and sentence is perfectly placed to devastatingly good effect.

Pearl, the protagonist is a wonderful creation; full of naughtiness, precociousness and the recognisable narcissism of childhood. We follow Pearl and her family as she grows into adolescence, through a series of episodes and events some of which are terrifying and uncomfortable to read and others which are incredibly sad and poignant.

I completely love this book and can’t help a sneaking admiration for Pearl as she struggles to cope with the unpredictability of living with a mentally ill Mother and negotiating the perils and pitfalls of growing up.

I can’t wait to read more from this author and as an aside, I have a sneaking feeling I was at Cardiff University when she was there! I hope that one day I can write such a wonderful book!reasons she goes cover


After the Silence by Jake Woodhouse (Reviewed for lovereading)

After the silence coverI am so pleased that this is going to be the start of a quartet as I was thoroughly engrossed in the world of Inspector Jaap Rykel. As is common in a lot of detective fiction, Rykel has flaws and has made mistakes that haunt him still and impact on his thoughts and actions. The supporting characters are well-drawn and nobody is one-dimensional or black or white. Our sympathies and certainties are constantly under review as many of the characters act in surprising and unforeseen ways.

Amsterdam is a superb setting and is practically a character in its own right. The beautiful, romantic side of Amsterdam is cleverly counterposed with its’ seedy, claustrophobic underbelly.

The action moves along at a cracking pace and after an initial struggle to adjust to the Dutch names, I was totally captivated and can’t wait for the next book in the series!