Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Friday, 20 December 2013

Quick thoughts on recent reads

Pictures at an Exhibition by Camilla Macpherson

Each chapter of this story begins with a painting. There are two strands to the narrative; one in the present day featuring Claire, and one in the past which is told via letters written by Daisy Milton to her cousin Elizabeth, letters that have been found now by Claire. She is trying to come to terms with a very sad loss in her life and these letters, to her partner Rob's grandmother, open up a past world to her. I found this an enjoyable, engaging debut novel, which was innovative in including QR codes for each of the paintings that are a key part of the story. Reading this novel left me with a desire to visit the National Gallery and view at least some, if not all, of the paintings included in the novel, which I have since done, and it was wonderful coming face to face with the works that are featured in the novel, thinking about the part they played and getting my own perspective on them too. 

Published by Arrow
Author links: twitter @CamillaMacphers | website
Views of other bloggers: Jaffa Reads Too |


The Last Family in England by Matt Haig

I bought this book many moons ago and it has been sitting on my bookshelf ever since, waiting patiently, and every so often I would think about reading it and then think, not now, maybe soon. I finally picked it up to read on holiday and I'm very glad I did. It tells of Prince, a young dog who strives to fulfill the Labrador Pact, taking care of his human family, but despite his efforts things begin to go wrong, and he must look again at his behaviour. I loved that Prince was the first person narrator of this story! This is a marvellous, clever and very readable yet layered story, a perceptive, memorable novel that was this author's debut. I can't believe I haven't actually read a book by Matt Haig until now; I admire, and have found helpful, many of the thoughts he has shared via social media, in particular with regard to writing and on depression. I've also got The Radleys and The Humans waiting to be read now and I intend to get to them much more quickly than I did this one.

Published by Vintage
Author links: twitter @matthaig1 | website


Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll

It's 1881 and Tilly is skating somewhere she shouldn't; on the frozen lake at Frost Hollow Hall. No one is meant to go there anymore. We learn as the novel opens that ten years before, Kit Barrington tragically died there. When the ice cracks and Tilly slips beneath into the freezing water, she sees a beautiful boy. Who can he be, is he real, what does he want with her? After hearing so many good things about this debut childrens/young adult novel this year, I couldn't resist buying it whilst I was on holiday recently. It sounded like a lovely, classic read to curl up and enjoy, and indeed it was a very enjoyable book; an enchanting story, an atmospheric setting and with a lovely character and great first person narrator in Tilly. I eagerly raced through it and would certainly recommend it. An engaging, mysterious and ghostly read for Winter.

Published by Faber & Faber
Author links: twitter @emmac2603 | website
Other blog reviews: Serendipity Reviews


Sad Monsters by Frank Lesser
(illustrated by Willie Real)

This is a fun, humourous book, with a really eye-catching and frankly very cute monster on the cover. It takes as it subjects many of the monsters that we think we know well from literature and popular culture, and shows them in a different light; as unhappy, or lonely, or misunderstood; they are actually 'growling on the outside, crying on the inside'. The stories take different forms, from letters, diary entries, and even a will, with three or four pages concentrated on each monster. It features, amongst others, Godzilla, Bigfoot, and Medusa. One of my favourites was a letter from 'The Roommate of Dorian Gray'. 

Publisher - Souvenir Press
Thoughts of other bloggers - Curiosity Killed the Bookworm  |


  1. What a great selection, I especially like the sound of Frost Hollow Hall and Sad Monsters.

  2. QR codes in a book?! I love how innovative that is. Aside from the fact it is about art and art always makes me pick up a book, I'll definitely check it out just for the codes.

    Sad Monsters looks amazing. The monster on the front is completely cute.

  3. Pictures at an Exhibition sounds very interesting. How connected are the paintings with the story? Even if they connected only thematically I think that this a great idea. This seems like an inventive way to combine art forms.

  4. Hi Lindsay,

    I am definitely adding 'Pictures At An Exhibition' to my own reading list.

    Even as a short review, when read in conjunction with the synopsis, this book seems to have it all, which for a debut novel is all one can ask for surely?

    The cover art is also particularly alluring and Camilla's website passed a few well spent minutes of my time.

    Thanks for sharing,



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