Listen folks, I’ll level with you, I’ve had a pretty substantial mug of hazelnut coffee this morning after a month abstaining from caffeine and I’m feeling quite buzzed.
I’ve been thinking of writing some bookish content outside of just book reviews a lot recently but thinking about it doesn’t get it done does it? Well it turns out caffeine is the conduit between thought and action so here I am today, brandishing my notebook and getting my creative content thang on.
I thought I would kick off with a post about the kinds of storylines, characters, tropes I enjoy in my books. What determines whether I’ll reach for a book when I read the blurb. What will instantly hook me in and make me think ‘that’s a bit of me that’.
I thought I’d do it in list form (because who doesn’t love a snappy, succinct list when we all lead busy lives?) and I’m giving examples where I can so that maybe you might be inspired to pick up some of these books if you haven’t already read them.
So let’s get crackalackin!
- Historical Fiction – now not so long ago I would have balked at the idea of reading historical fiction and in some cases I still would veer away. I like my HF (I’m abbreviating, lazy) dark and seedy NOT romantic in any way. Also I don’t enjoy travelling too far back in time, if I see a date in the early 1700’s on a blurb that will immediately put me right off (I know, soooo fickle). My favourite historical period has to be the Victorian era. It will come as no surprise that one of my all time favourite books is The Crimson Petal And The White by Michel Faber. Bawdy, seedy and a right Victorian romp (and yes I’m always wanging on about it *eye roll*)
- Piggy backing on the HF theme I also enjoy a book involving asylums, the mental health of women and how this was dealt with back in the day, and how depression/anxiety was referred to as ‘hysteria’ or an ‘attack of the vapours’. Most often treated with water therapy or the administering of laudanum or simply commiting women to asylums and leaving them to rot. This theme is tackled in The Crimson Petal And The White with the brilliant character of Agnes and again perfectly in the super short story The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Bodies Of Water by V H Leslie perfectly explains the water therapy element with a supernatural twist.
- Unreliable narrators – I love being spun a yarn. Can I trust this person and what they are telling me. I love trying to second guess them but equally enjoy when I get it completely wrong and am shocked by a twist. A perfect example of this which springs immediately to mind is The Woman In The Window by A J Finn which I reviewed here. I think I may do a whole post dedicated to my favourite unreliable narrators soon so watch this space.
- Dual Timeline Narratives – I love a dual timeline narrative, especially when it centres around one family in different decades or one particular house. I loved The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson Ellis but I have to say I preferred the narrative that went back in time as opposed to the modern day storyline. It always better when both narratives draw you in and you have no preference. I also like a supernatural twist which is portrayed marvellously in the brilliant The Stopped Heart by Julie Myerson. When two worlds overlap like an overlay of time. One house, two families, decades apart but so close to each other and separated seemingly by the thinnest of veils. I adore this book. There are almost too many fabulous dual timeline books and as I sit here, more and more are rushing into my mind so forgive me the next sentence/mind dump…..The Vanishing Of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase, The House Of Birds by Morgan McCarthy, Your Blue Eyed Boy by Helen Dunmore, Fell by Jenn Ashworth (fabulous), Bitter by Francesca Jakobi (review to follow this week, another fabulous 5 star read), Honour Thy Father by Lesley Glaister….. I could go on but I won’t. Man I really love the dual timelines don’t I?!
- The Unravelling Of Characters – that’s the best way I could put this! I enjoy seeing a character trying desperately to keep it together and appear ‘normal’ to those around them whilst ultimately slowly unravelling mentally. Perfect examples? David Kelsey in This Sweet Sicknes by Patricia Highsmith, Annie in Jenn Ashworth’s A Kind Of Intimacy and William Hemming in P S Hogan’s The Intruder.
- Isolation. – I enjoy a story involving someone trying to escape a past life or choosing to live in isolation. The one that springs to the forefront of my mind is the twisty turny I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes also gripped me with the hiding from a previous life trope. That book often comes back into my head, insidious, tense and gripping. The isolation of the lighthouse/island life portrayed in The Light Between Oceans also had me enthralled, (it also had me bawling my chuffing eyes out but we’ll gloss over that one!
- Sea Myths – quite simply, mermaids, selkies, sea people etc etc. The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar……I need say no more. The Secrets Of The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford and Elijah’s Mermaid by Essie Fox also spring to mind. Also this reminds me I still need to get my hands on a copy of Sealskin by Sue Bristow…..
- The concealing of homosexuality – it still blows my tiny mind that homosexuality was illegal not that bloody long ago really….I’ve read some real eye opening, heart rending books based in this ignorant era. The marvellous Tin Man by Sarah Winman, The Haunting Of Henry Twist by Rebecca F John, The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne (fave!) and A Mans World by Rupert Smith. I find it fascinating the lengths people went to to conceal their true sexuality. The ‘treatment’ and attempted ‘straightening out’ was just heart breaking. It’s a subject I find intriguing.
- Creepy Gothic Shizzle – kinda speaks for itself, but give me a creepy old house, a hint of the supernatural and I’m in heaven. Think The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell. Just perfect.
- Creepy shenanigans behind closed doors – I’ll do my best to explain this one. I love a book which tells the story of a family behind closed doors, they more often than not appear ‘normal’ to the outside world but have some very dark goings on behind the net curtains. The author who for me nails this perfectly is Lesley Glaister. Her novels make the ordinary extraordinary and that’s what I love. The concealing of secrets, skeletons in the closet etc. If this is also your bag I recommend Honour Thy Father by Lesley Glaister and The Visitors by Catherine Burns.
So does that little list give you an insight into my reading tastes? If you can think of any recommendations that fall into any of the categories above then please do let me know, I’m all ears.
I’ve included links to any reviews of the books I’ve mentioned, why not check those out and show a gal some love.
See you all soon.