Review: ‘My Sister, The Serial Killer’ by Oyinkan Braithwaite ⭐⭐⭐.5

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SYNOPSIS:

My Sister, The Serial Killer is a backly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach.  This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

MY REVIEW:

“Ayoola summons me with these words – Korede, I killed him. I had hoped I would never hear those words again.”

The first line of this book sent shivers down my spine. I’d been excited to read this much-hyped book for a while and was pleased when it was chosen as July’s book for my book club. But sadly this was a book that didn’t live up to it’s promise or the hype.

It started well and had a lot of good points. Initially there was a lot of tension: would the sisters get caught at the crime scene and while disposing of the body? Will the social media search for the victim lead to their exposure? I like the short chapters and though I never quite got to grips with the Nigerian-English, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book. 

Korede and Ayoola had what is understandably a tense relationship, though to those who don’t know Ayoola’s deadly secret it seems Korede is unnecessarily harsh towards her and even gets accused of victim shaming when others believe Ayoola’s lies. I liked her character for the most part and understood her desire to protect her little sister as it must be a complex range of feelings to have someone you love do such terrible things and ask for your help. Korede seemed like a decent person put in an impossible situation. She’s forever scared of being found out while Ayoola seems unbothered by her crimes and doesn’t understand why her sister is edgy and anxious. She sees herself as the victim, claiming each man died in an act of self-defense, though this seems a sketchy claim from the evidence. There were also things in their past that were teased that I was excited to learn more about and if that could be where Ayoola’s “tendencies” began.

Unfortunately, for me things soon went wrong as the atmosphere evaporated in a novel that was too lighthearted for its subject matter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like black humour – Sweetpea is one of my favourite books and Rhiannon a character I love – but I just didn’t think it was done well in this book. Instead of funny it came across flat. 

Once the tension had gone the story plodded on mundanely before ending abruptly in a way that made me really mad. I can’t say too much about why because I do think everyone should make up their own minds about any book and I don’t want to spoil things for anyone yet to read it. I felt as if the author had written a longer book and explored some of the plot points in greater detail then this would have been a great book. Instead it felt too short, unsatisfying, lacking in depth and like everything was tied up in a bow far too neatly. So, I’m joining #blacksheepofbookstagram in being one of the few people to say this one didn’t live up to the hype and wasn’t for me.

Out now.

‘Little’ by Edward Carey ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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The wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals, who transforms herself into Madame Tussaud.

In 1761, a tiny odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Switzerland. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors the princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The Revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and…at the wax museum, heads are what they do.

In the tradition of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked and Erin Morganstern’s The Night Circus, Edward Carey’s Little is a darkly endearing cavalcade of a novel–a story of art, class, determination, and how we hold on to what we love.

 

This breathtaking book reached into my soul and took up residence there. A magnificent work of historical fiction that I found all-consuming and enjoyed so much that I took my time reading so I could savour it for as long as possible.

When I started this book all I knew about Madame Tussaud was that that it’s the name of the wax museum in London and Blackpool. I had never thought that it was named after a real person or what that person’s life may have been, but the synopsis was intriguing and the cover was such a work of art that I couldn’t resist.

Although this is a fictionalised version of Marie’s life, there are many things in the story that did or were rumoured to have happened. I don’t know a lot about the time in history this was written but I have always loved history and learning more about the past. There were many amusing anecdotes woven into the story that I was surprised to find were facts and not things embellished for histrionic entertainment. I guess it’s like they say, there are some true facts that if you made them up would seem unbelievable. While entertaining us, thee author didn’t shy away from some of the more disturbing realities of the era and vividly described the true horror of the revolution, leaving me with some images I will never forget.

Though we were born over 200 years apart there are some similarities between us that helped me forge an immediate connection to Marie: I was born a similar tiny size, it was predicted I wouldn’t live and our heights are roughly the same. I also get called ‘little’, although for me it’s part of an affectionate nickname and isn’t used instead of my name like in the story. I thought she was feisty, determined, intelligent and compelling person who lived a fascinating life. She seemed to have an air of rebellion about her and often got into trouble for not abiding by society’s rules. Also she didn’t just dream of a life beyond what she was told was befitting of her, but strives to make it happen despite the many obstacles and disappointments.

The author takes this mesmerising book to another level with his remarkable storytelling and the phenomenal illustrations that illuminate the story. I haven’t read an illustrated book since I was a child and it was great to be able to visualise things exactly the way the author intended. I spent a long time just looking at the illustrations in awe.This really was a book you need to buy in print to fully experience its magic.

Filled with anguish, desperation, ambition and triumph, Little is a dark, sardonic and morbid comedy. It is one of those under-hyped books you will be glad you took a chance on. It was the first time I had read anything by this author and I became an instant fan. This is the best book I’ve read so far this year and has taken a place among my all-time favourites. Anytime this author has a new release I’ll be at the front of the queue impatiently waiting for sure. I can’t recommend this novel highly enough.

Out Now

Thank you to Gallic Books for my Little Tote bag.

Book Review – ‘In Bloom’ by C J Skuse ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Thank you to NetGalley, HQ Stories and CJ Skuse for the chance to read an arc of this novel.

Rhiannon’s back and killing for two…

“If only they knew the real truth. It should be my face on those front pages. My headlines. I did those things, not him. I just want to stand on that doorstep and scream: IT WAS ME. ME. ME. ME!

After her carefully plotted plan to frame her cheating fiance Craig for the murders she has committed was successful, pregnant Rhiannon Lewis is now finding she’s not as happy as she thought she’d be. While Craig languishes in jail for her crimes, she’s living with his parents on the coast and dealing with early pregnancy, journalists vying for her story and that urge to kill haunting her every thought. Then there’s the unexpected complication of the little voice inside her telling her to stop fulfilling her murderess urges or else!  She is frustrated, bored and miserable. Without killing who is she? What is there to make her happy in life? Can Rhiannon give up the thrill of violence and be happy as your run of the mill suburban mum? Can she evade suspicion for her crimes and stop her life crumbling around her as the pressure mounts? Will she ever bond with her baby and is he or she even safe with her as their mother

In Bloom, the fantastic sequel to the book that everyone’s talking about, jumps straight in where Sweetpea left off.  I’d been slightly apprehensive before reading and wondered could it really live up to such a spectacular debut? I needn’t have worried. While there isn’t the shock factor of not having read anything like it this time around, there is again instant tension and dark humour as Rhiannon tries to avoid being caught red handed as the police look for clues against her fiance. I loved being back with this character and even though it was a few short weeks since I read book one I found I’d missed reading her unique, caustic, crude and  witty prose

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about these books is the cultural references that are thrown in at random and regular moments such as “….it’s back like Backstreet”. For me they add to the relatability of the character and make many moments even more hilarious. Putting Rhiannon in the extremely uncomfortable situations of living with Craig’s parents, being pregnant and trying to curb her thirst to kill made it an interesting read that was totally different to Sweetpea, where she’d been in the comfort of her own home, in a job she could do with her eyes closed and in control of who and when she killed. Seeing her become increasingly desperate and overwhelmed as she grappled with where she is now in life, particularly her struggle to bond with her baby and fears about motherhood, humanised her even more. We may not all be serial killers but any mother can recognise that urge to protect your child and worry that you won’t be good enough.  The moments of true emotional anguish and turmoil were another unexpected dimension to her character and a flair of brilliance from the author

This book surpassed expectations. It was hilarious, bloody, heartfelt, scathing, emotional and intoxicating. Rhiannon is the best character I’ve read in years. She’s someone you should really loathe and despise, but instead you find yourself drawn to her and rooting for her. She is the friend with the sharp, quick wit that you’d love to have, bar the murderous tendencies of course. The ending was even more electrifying than in the first book. Now I just have to face the long, arduous wait for book 3 to see what Rhiannon does next….

Out now.