Book Review: The Miniaturist – by Jessie Burton

I decided to give The Miniaturist a read because I had seen so many reviews and advertisements about it, even a TV advert which I think is quite rare for a book. Also, it is a mystery novel (and I love a good mystery).

The Miniaturist is set in the late 1600’s in Amsterdam. The protagonist, Nella Oortman, moves from her family house in the country to her new town house in which she is to live with her newly wedded husband, her sister in law, and their two servants. Her husband, Johannes Brandt, gives Nella a cabinet-sized replica of their home as a wedding gift. Nella writes to an unnamed miniaturist and asks her to help furnish the miniature house; however, she begins to receive more miniature pieces than she has requested. Nella soon discovers that these extra pieces symbolise events and secrets that are taking place within her household- events that are impossible for anybody who lives outside the household to know about. Sometimes they even symbolise events that have not yet taken place. The miniaturist seems to be the architect of their fate.

I really enjoyed this novel as there was a lot of suspense and moments that were unexpected. I like it when I cannot predict a story and there were a couple of genuine moments throughout the novel that I had not foreseen. The novel was also written with a lot of detail, so whilst reading I was able to place myself in Amsterdam in the 1600’s, and in a house full of secrets.

However, there were also a couple of points to the novel that I enjoyed less. One of these points is that I found it took quite a long time to get into the novel. Although Nella receives her first delivery from the miniaturist fairly early on in the book, I felt that it took longer than necessary for the author to truly reveal that the miniaturist was creating pieces that related to the secrets in Nella’s life. Also, we never actually find out how the miniaturist knows all of these secrets, which is probably a deliberate move by the author to leave the reader wondering, but nevertheless I found it quite annoying. Despite the novel being a mystery, I would have liked to have known more about the miniaturist. But I suppose you can’t have everything.

I would give this novel 4 stars.

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Book Review: A Man Called Ove – by Fredrik Backman

A Man Called Ove is the debut novel of the Swedish author Fredrick Backman. It is not surprising that this novel has become a number 1 best seller across Scandinavia since it is so warm and charming, and you just cannot help but fall in love with Ove (in a Grandad-ish sort of way.)

The novel is made up of short chapters, some set in the present and some going back to when Ove was growing up and his life with his wife. Ove is a some what grumpy old character, he doesn’t talk very much and when he does it is usually either something rude or a grunt. However, he is a man with principles. If there is one thing you can say about Ove it is that he is extremely moral. Despite his often less than pleasant language, Ove has a big heart and you will learn through the novel that he is quite irresistible.

A Man Called Ove is an easy to read novel that will make you laugh out loud in some places, and almost bring you to tears in others. By my short summary of the novel I think it is clear that I developed a soft spot for Ove throughout the book. To be honest, I don’t know who wouldn’t. But he wasn’t the only loveable character. His new neighbour, Parvaneh, was also charming; a real motherly woman who was not dissimilar to Ove. From her first appearance in the novel (when her useless husband drives his car into Ove’s letterbox) it was clear that she could see the real Ove. She very much had her own mind, was not afraid to say what she really thought to/ about Ove, and most importantly her kind nature helped Ove to finally feel something again after his heartbreak.

This novel is warm and funny and will make you think again about the importance of living, not just to be alive but to actually live. Whilst the novel is sad at times, there is also so much humour. Through these contrasting emotions Fredrick Backman reinforces the meaning of life and restores faith in man-kind.

As the story revolves around a loveable man called Ove, it is hard to be negative about the novel. Of course there are annoying characters who I would prefer didn’t exist, such as “Blonde Weed” and her “Mutt”, but as Ove is of this opinion too it doesn’t become a problem.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an uplifting read. I would give it 4 stars.

Book Review: I Let You Go – by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh is another psychological thriller, and another page turner. My last review was on The Sisters by Claire Douglas which was very similar in style, however I found that there was a lot more mystery in I Let You Go, and the author was still revealing unanswered questions that I, as the reader, had in the last few pages.

Its always hard to give a summary of thrillers and mystery novels without giving too much away, but I’ll give it my best shot. There are two interlinking stories throughout, one being the story of Jenna who has run away from her life in Bristol to live in an isolated cottage on the Welsh coast; and the other is the development of a police investigation that Jenna has a somewhat shocking connection to, and the home life of Ray who runs Bristol’s CID. Jenna has moved away to get a fresh start and to sever all connections with her past, however the past soon catches up with her and she must face up to one devastating night she has tried to escape from for a long time.

There is so much more to the story than I am able to say without giving away all the twists and secrets, and I would hate to spoil it for anyone. All I can say is that this is definitely an intense and thrilling read. I thought that I had worked out the biggest secret within the first 100 pages and I was so disappointed as I want to be shocked by a thriller, however that was just my imagination running a bit too wild. Thankfully there were numerous twists I did not expect, and the book was so much better for that. Although normally I am hoping for a massive revelation (and I Let You Go I would say has smaller- yet still unforeseen- revelations), I was surprised by the fact that I found discovering Jenna’s past steadily, with the detectives, in some ways even more thrilling and gripping.

I can’t really say anything too negative about the book as it is exactly what I look for in a thriller. I would give this book 4 and a half stars.

Book Review: The Sisters – by Claire Douglas

I have recently found a new love for psychological thrillers, hence the reason I chose to read The Sisters by Claire Douglas and I can honestly say that I was gripped from the first few pages. After the last line of the first chapter revealed that the protagonist, Abi Cavendish, shockingly killed her twin sister, Lucy, I knew that this book was going to be difficult to put down.

The story centres around Abi who lost her beloved twin sister a couple of years ago in a tragic accident. Abi is still desperately haunted by Lucy’s death and sees her sister everywhere in the world around her, although evidently this is a reflection of her grief and guilt as Lucy is dead. Abi meets Beatrice (Bea) who is handing out leaflets on a street in Bath and is immediately drawn to Bea as she uncannily resembles Lucy through her looks, her personality and even her “high and tinkly” laugh. She later finds out that Bea also has a twin, Ben, and that their parents died in a car crash when they were young. At first it seems that Abi has so much in common with the twins, however all is not what it seems. As the story unfolds strange and mysterious things begin to happen and there are many unexpected twists.

It is often said that a good book is always too short, and that was definitely the case with The Sisters. I read the entirety of the book in 24 hours and, although I clearly had a lot of time on my hands, this goes to show how captivating it was. I really enjoyed the fact that I was constantly toying with who I believed was responsible for all the mysterious events that took place and honestly I could not have absolutely guessed the culprit until very near the end when it is revealed.

That said, however, I did suspect a couple of the plot twists prematurely. I would not go so far as to say that this made the book any less enjoyable as there were other twists that I had not foreseen or expected, however I do believe that it would have been just that little bit more exciting and thrilling if I had been completely unsuspecting.

Nevertheless, I would absolutely recommend this book to everyone who loves a bit of mystery! I would give the book 4 stars.