The Whish List

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

The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson reviewed on the discussion thread for Mumsnetbooks

Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah. Reviewed for lovereading

All the classic Christie ingredients are here to make a heady cocktail of poison, intrigue and country house murder most foul!
This is a wonderful read with a superb cast of characters, narrated not by Monsieur Poirot but by Edward Catchpool a Scotland Yard detective. Both men have been invited to Lady Athelinda Playford’s country estate but neither are sure why. Lady Athelinda is a famous children’s author, very much in the Blyton mould who has created a long running series about a character called Shrimp Sutton who solves mysteries.
We find out at a very dramatically convened dinner party, that Lady Athelinda is planning to alter her will in favour of her faithful secretary, Scotcher to the exclusion of her own children who have also been summoned to supper. The first twist in the tale comes with the fact that Scotcher is terminally ill and likely to predecease Lady Playford. What follows is murder, mystery and mayhem all played out in glorious homage to Christie but in Sophie Hannah’s own inimitable style.
I haven’t read Sophie Hannah’s first take on Poirot – ‘The Monogram Murders’ but I certainly intend to now. I would also like to see a series of Edward Catchpool and Poirot teaming up to solve other cases as I think they make for a good double act.
It’s no mystery, it’s an open and shut case – you’ll love this book!


All the classic Christie ingredients are here to make a heady cocktail of poison, intrigue and country house murder most foul! It’s an open and shut case – you’ll love this book!


The Invitation by Lucy Foley. Reviewed for lovereading


Please accept this invitation to a wonderfully beguiling summer read set on the Italian coast in the 1950’s. It’s a love story with a twist that you won’t see coming.


This is a captivating book that has stories within the main story of a young journalist and his invitation to join the party on a luxury yacht in 1950’s Italy as they make their way to the Cannes film festival. Hal has met Stella an enigmatic fellow passenger and the book is largely concerned with their lives and relationship. I can’t remember being so enamoured and shocked by the ending of a book for quite some time so stick with the story when it slightly flags halfway through.

This is a gorgeously descriptive book and I loved some of the asides along the way, especially a theory as to why the houses of a coastal town are all painted a different colour (so that a fisherman can spot his house from sea and maybe even spot whether his wife has got company while his back is turned!)

The book has a very filmic quality which mirrors the fact that the guests of the Countess on the yacht, are going to show the film that they’ve made at the famous film festival. There are lots of interconnections throughout the book and it’s cleverly constructed. This book has already been likened in theme and style to Victoria Hislop and I can think of no higher praise.

This summer, you’re invited to be swept along with a love story that intrigues, enchants and haunts.



The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry – reviewed for lovereading


A sumptuous, wildly addictive book that’s evocative and richly written. It’s about love, place, belief and scientific discovery all realised in a seasonal structure that frames the story perfectly.


This book is such a gorgeous beast of a book! It cleverly mimics the great Victorian novels but has a contemporary voice that’s unique.
It’s primarily about Cora Seaborne, who is an unhappily married wife and mother but is passionate about the natural world and the new discoveries that seem to be happening all around her in Victorian London. Although she is very much a true portrayal of her time and class, she is also recognisable to us from a contemporary perspective as she is torn between duty and freedom, progress and belief etc. This is thrown into even sharper relief when she and her son, Francis move to the Essex village of Aldwinter following the death of her husband. Here she meets Will Ransome, the local vicar and his family and becomes caught up with the mystery of the mythical Essex serpent that seems to have made a reappearance at this place and time.
Sarah Perry cleverly gets you questioning; what is real?, who do we believe?, who can we trust etc?
Aside from the will they/won’t they nature of Cora and Will’s burgeoning relationship, the cast of supporting characters are really interesting too, from; ‘damaged’ surgeon, Luke to Martha, Cora’s class agitating maid and companion.
I also loved the way the novel was framed by the passing of the year and the changing of the seasons. Although this book’s going to be released in the summer, I predict that aside from the sun loungers, it will be equally at home with a glass of something red around a roaring log fire.



The Butterfly Summer by Harriet Evans reviewed for lovereading


A beautiful read about family secrets, lost love and an inheritance that casts a long shadow. A beguiling book with a genuine twist at the end that I didn’t see coming!


This is a fantastic book. It’s contemporary fiction that is also a rollicking, good story; part mystery, part family saga but so much more.
Nina Parr is the central character we follow on a journey to uncover a mysterious family legacy with plenty of twists and turns along the way. She meets an old woman who tells her that the father she believed dead is in fact alive and that there are other aspects of her family history that have been hidden from her. Nina has a failed marriage behind her and a semi-detached mother who she lives with in a rambling house. She begins a search for the truth that leads her to a discovery of the mysterious legacy of Keepsake a property shrouded in mystery and family secrets.
I can see this book being the holiday read of choice around pool sides this summer but don’t be fooled that it’s a regular ‘chick-lit’ read, as it deals with some pretty big themes and is gripping and affecting throughout.
The book is beautifully written and although I think I’m pretty wise to potential twists coming a mile off, I really didn’t see the one right at the end coming!
A beguiling read that will fly off the shelves this summer.


The Stopped Heart by Julie Myerson. Reviewed for Mumsnetbooks


In a dark dark wood by Ruth Ware reviewed for Mumsnet books


Missing pieces by Heather Gudenkauf. Reviewed for lovereading

Small town thriller provides plenty of twists and turns. Sarah and husband Jack return to his hometown following a family emergency and find their marriage under threat as secrets resurface.

This thriller about small town secrets and a woman’s search to find out the truth about the husband she thought she knew and his family, is fast-paced and tautly written and doesn’t let up until the final denouement.
Sarah returns to her husband Jack’s hometown following his aunt’s involvement in an accident and soon realises that the tragic events from his childhood that he shared with her, may not be the full picture.
Heather Gudenkauf cleverly builds the suspense and red herrings so that by two-thirds of the way through the book, you’re not sure who or what to believe. I personally would have liked a bit more background to Sarah and Jack’s relationship and life together back in Montana, prior to their trip to Penny Falls but that is a minor quibble and I guess was a necessary omission in order to keep the action coming and momentum flowing.
If you like murder mysteries with an intriguing cast of potential suspects and a sympathetic main character with a rollercoaster ride of discovery, then you’ll enjoy this book and the pages will fly by.



The Secrets of Happiness by Lucy Diamond for Mumsnetbooks


Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase – reviewed for lovereading

Black Rabbit HallEve Chase has certainly pulled a rabbit out of the hat with this dual time tale of family, tragedy and enduring love. It is truly affecting and beautifully written.


This is a beautifully written dual narrated story about the Alton children in the 1960s and the summers they spend at their family home of Black Rabbit Hall and modern day Lorna who has a strange fascination with Black Rabbit Hall based on an old photograph of her mother’s and is looking to hold her forthcoming wedding there.
A family tragedy brings the Alton siblings’ idyllic childhood to an abrupt end and the repercussions of what happens resonates through the years as we come to discover.
There are many classic elements of engaging story telling here; the crumbling family pile, the wicked stepmother, the illicit love and innocence destroyed but the book does not become a cliché and is involving throughout. There are definite parallels with du Maurier and that’s not just because of the Cornish setting and the wonderful sense of place the book evokes. It’s also because of the human relationships at the heart of the story and the twists and turns that you don’t quite see coming.
The pace really picks up towards the end of the book and the revelations come thick and fast but the story stays believable and remains dramatic not melodramatic.
I’m certainly going to recommend this book to anyone who loves to be engrossed in and moved by well-crafted literary fiction.