The Night Ship by Jess Kidd

An epic and imaginative historical novel, based on the true story of the wrecked Batavia – from the Costa Award-winner and twice BBC Radio 2 Book Club author

1629. Embarking on a journey in search of her father, a young girl called Mayken boards the Batavia, the most impressive sea vessel of the age. During the long voyage, this curious and resourceful child must find her place in the ship’s busy world, and she soon uncovers shadowy secrets above and below deck. As tensions spiral, the fate of the ship and all on board becomes increasingly uncertain.

1989. Gil, a boy mourning the death of his mother, is placed in the care of his irritable and reclusive grandfather. Their home is a shack on a tiny fishing island off the Australian coast, notable only for its reefs and wrecked boats. This is no place for a teenager struggling with a dark past and Gil’s actions soon get him noticed by the wrong people.

The Night Ship is an enthralling tale of human cruelty, fate and friendship, and of two children, hundreds of years apart, whose fates are inextricably bound together.

My thoughts on the Night Ship by Jess Kidd

This is the third book I’ve read by Jess Kidd and, while I enjoyed it, I have to say it wasn’t my favourite. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t come away with the same feeling I had with the others – a real love of the characters and a feeling of loss that they wouldn’t be in my life anymore.

Characters are so important to me in books. I don’t have to like them – but I do have to connect with them on some level. Here I couldn’t. And I think that was down to place. My imagination really let me down here. I couldn’t picture Batavia or the island it ran aground on with anywhere near the clarity I think I needed to to understand what the characters were going through. Yes, I know life in both places was hard, and brutal, and cold, and that people ended up looking after themselves because there was no other real way to survive. But I couldn’t appreciate it. Which meant that their fates didn’t mean a lot to me in the end. And that’s a real shame because I think if things had of ‘clicked’ with the place, the people would have made more sense and I would have enjoyed the book more.

Saying that, this isn’t a bad book by any means. Jess Kidd still writes beautifully, something I’ve thought since the first time I turned a page in one of her novels. And she mixes the mystical with the everyday really well – I am not one for supernatural type books (though strangely, I love this in the TV I watch!). With hers, though, it seems perfectly natural for a ghost to appear in a scene, or a message to cross the centuries.

Which brings me to the question, would I recommend it? Yes, I think I still would, with caveats because I would recommend Jess Kidd as an author I think everyone should read – though I would probably start with Himself.

3.5 / 5 stars


Find on:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Please note I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings, and opinions are my own.

The Island of Lost Girls by Alex Marwood #bookreview

For twelve-year-old Mercedes, La Kastellana is the place she calls home. It is an island untouched by the modern world, with deep-rooted traditions – though that is all about to change with the arrival of multimillionaire Matthew Meade and his spoiled young daughter, Tatiana. The Meades bring with them unimaginable wealth, but the price they will all pay is far darker than Mercedes and the islanders could ever have imagined.

Robin is desperately searching for her seventeen-year-old daughter Gemma, who has been missing for over a year. Finding herself on La Kastellana, the island playground of the international jet set, Robin is out of her depth. Nobody wants to help and Robin fears she is running out of time to find her child.

But someone has been watching, silently waiting for their moment to expose the dark truth and reveal to the world what really happens on the island of lost girls.

My thoughts on The Island of Lost Girls

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The Girls Are Good by Ilaria Bernardini #BookReview


Martina wants to be the best gymnast in the world. But so does everyone around her.

During one week of intense competition, Martina and her teammates are tested to the limit, and any sign of weakness can quickly spell the end.

By the end of the week, one of the gymnasts will be dead. Every girl will do anything to win…but at what cost?

My thoughts on The Girls Are Good…

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Truly, Darkly, Deeply by Victoria Selman

Twelve-year-old Sophie and her mother, Amelia-Rose, move to London from Massachusetts where they meet the charismatic Matty Melgren, who quickly becomes an intrinsic part of their lives. But as the relationship between the two adults fractures, a serial killer begins targeting young women with a striking resemblance to Amelia-Rose.

When Matty is eventually sent down for multiple murder, questions remain as to his guilt — questions which ultimately destroy both women. Nearly twenty years later, Sophie receives a letter from Battlemouth Prison informing her Matty is dying and wants to meet. It looks like Sophie might finally get the answers she craves. But will the truth set her free — or bury her deeper?

My thoughts on Truly, Darkly, Deeply

It must be a strange feeling, to be tarred with the brush of someone who does something really bad, especially if you’re a child and couldn’t have done anything about it. This is the starting point of Truly, Darkly, Deeply.

Sophie (the child, now adult) gets a letter from the serial killer (Matty, now dying in prison). She once thought of him as a father. Then a monster. Now she doesn’t know how she feels, other than stuck. Despite it being 20 years since he was arrested, she hasn’t moved on. Instead, it’s her, her dog, and her mom and a constant revisiting of the past.

Will meeting Matty (his dying wish) help her heal and move on? Or will it provide more questions than answers? As she decides what to do, we (the reader) are taken back to where it all began and how it all went wrong.

I can’t say I’ve read anything that has taken quite this approach to what is a crowded serial killer ‘scene’. Which is why I wanted to read it, and what I enjoyed about it. It felt fresh. Different. While there were murders, they weren’t the most important thing about the story. Rather is was how one man had impacted the lives of all those around him.

Sophie’s life is obviously the primary one. But there’s her mother as well, family friends, and her family back home (who were less than sympathetic). I enjoyed going back to the beginning and seeing as it all unfolded. And I enjoyed getting to know Sophie, who was sympathetic without being wishy-washy-weak.

I’ve noticed (and you may have too) that I am using the word enjoyed a lot. And that sums up how I felt about the book. It was enjoyable. I enjoyed it. Was it the best book I’ve ever read? No. But is was well written with characters that grabbed my attention and a story that stood out from the crowd.

Why am I not raving about it then? Simply because – as a reader – it didn’t ‘grab’ me as much as I would have liked it to. Books I love are generally loved based on a gut feeling. A wishing that there are still pages to turn. With Truly, Darkly, Deeply, I finished the book with a sense of satisfaction but not that ‘something more’ feeling I wanted.

Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely. Would I buy it for a friend? Again, yes. Will I be thinking about it months from now? Probably not. Which leaves it with a solid 3.5/5, pushing a 4 but not quite there.



Find on Amazon UK

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Please note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings, and opinions are my own.

Amy & Lan by Sadie Jones #BookReview

This is the story of how we came to Frith. And we’re never, ever, ever leaving.’

Amy Connell and Lan Honey
 are having the best childhood, growing up on a West Country farm – three families, a couple of lodgers, goats, dogs and an orphaned calf called Gabriella Christmas.
The parents are best friends too. Originally from the city, they’re learning about farming: growing their own vegetables, milking the goats, slaughtering chickens and scything the hay–

‘Mind your eyes! Don’t break your neck! Careful!’

The adults are far too busy to keep an eye on Amy and Lan, and Amy and Lan would never tell them about climbing on the high barn roof, or what happened with the axe that time, any more than their parents would tell them the things they get up to – adult things, like betrayal – that threaten to bring the whole fragile idyll tumbling down.

My thoughts on Amy & Lan

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Nine Lives by Peter Swanson #BookReview

If you’re on the list you’re marked for death.

The envelope is unremarkable. There is no return address. It contains a single, folded, sheet of white paper.

The envelope drops through the mail slot like any other piece of post. But for the nine complete strangers who receive it – each of them recognising just one name, their own, on the enclosed list – it will be the most life altering letter they ever receive. It could also be the last, as one by one, they start to meet their end.

But why?

My thoughts on Nine Lives…

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Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda #BookReview

Lydia is hungry.

She’s always wanted to try sashimi, ramen, onigiri with sour plum stuffed inside – the food her Japanese father liked to eat. And then there is bubble tea and the vegetables grown by the other young artists at the London studio space she is secretly squatting in. But Lydia can’t eat any of this. The only thing she can digest is blood, and it turns out that sourcing fresh pigs’ blood in London – where she is living away from her vampire mother for the first time – is much more difficult than she’d anticipated.

Then there are the humans: the people at the gallery she interns at, the strange men who follow her after dark, and Ben, a goofy-grinned artist she is developing feelings for. Lydia knows that they are her natural prey, but she can’t bring herself to feed on them.

If Lydia is to find a way to exist in the world, she must reconcile the conflicts within her – between her demon and human sides, her mixed ethnic heritage, and her relationship with food, and, in turn, humans.

Before any of this, however, she must eat.

My Thoughts on Woman, Eating

Woman, Eating, is not your typical vampire novel. Yes, Lydia, the protagonist (a young woman who has recently put her vampire mother, and Sire, in a home because of an unknown illness similar to Dementia), drinks blood, is ageless, and sensitive to sunlight. But there is very little neck-biting, throat-ripping involved.

Instead, what Woman, Eating offers is a ‘coming of age’ story (this isn’t quite the right term but it’s the best I can come up with at the moment) about a young woman trying to figure out her place in a world where doesn’t quite fit and where she doesn’t have the confidence to be her true self. In that sense, Lydia represents so many young women, who are so often told what they should be and how they should act.

The fact that she’s a vampire is almost secondary. The hunger she feels is representative of the hunger we all (most of us?) feel when we start out adult life, to do well, to do more. I thought it was very clever in this regard. That doesn’t mean it was all good though, and I did have some reservations. Mainly that it went a bit too long without anything happening, that scenes were repeated once too often.

Is this the end of the world? No. But did I end up losing interest in the end? Yes. However, I would still say it’s worth a read. And that – for a debut novel – this was an impressive book. I look forward to seeing what Claire Kohda gives us next. 3.5/5 stars


Please note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair, honest, review. All thoughts, feelings, and opinions are my own.

Find on:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

March Reads in Review

Hello April! I have to say, I am really glad you are here as March was pretty rubbish. My daughter caught Covid, then my dad and my mom. And, while none of them were that badly affected (thankfully), it did add a complexity to the month (home-schooling, double-shopping) that I found difficult for some reason to bounce back from and why I didn’t do much blogging – though, here the fact that I struggled to find books that I enjoyed – also didn’t help.

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Shadow Girls by Carol Birch #bookreview

Manchester, 1960s. Sally, a cynical 15-year-old schoolgirl, is much too clever for her own good. When partnered with her best friend, Pamela – a mouthy girl who no-one else much likes – Sally finds herself unable to resist the temptation of rebellion. The pair play truant, explore forbidden areas of the old school and – their favourite – torment posh Sylvia Rose, with her pristine uniform and her beautiful voice that wins every singing prize.

One day, Sally ventures (unauthorised, of course) up to the greenhouse on the roof alone. Or at least she thinks she’s alone, until she sees Sylvia on the roof too. Sally hurries downstairs, afraid of Sylvia snitching, but Sylvia appears to be there as well.

Amidst the resurgence of ghost stories and superstition among the girls, a tragedy is about to occur, one that will send Sally more and more down an uncanny rabbit hole…

My thoughts on Shadow Girls

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This Little Family by Inès Bayard #BookReview

Life is going well for Marie. She and her husband, Laurent, live a comfortable life in a large apartment in the eleventh arrondissement in Paris. Laurent has a good job at a big law firm and Marie enjoys her work at a bank, where she feels appreciated by her clients and colleagues.

Comfortable and secure, and ready for family life, the couple begin to try for a baby. But not long afterwards Marie experiences a shocking encounter which threatens to derail their plans completely, and her world slowly starts to fall apart.

Less than two years later, the family’s apartment is cordoned off by police tape as forensic officers examine a horrific scene in the family apartment. Three bodies around a dining table. Marie, Laurent and their little toddler, Thomas, in his high chair. All three of them have been poisoned by Marie.

This Little Family is a dark and furiously compelling novel about women, power and control, from a bright young star in French literature.

My thoughts on This Little Family…

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