As we come to the end of 2021 here is my penultimate My Year In Books post. We’re not done yet, there’s a winter edition coming soon.
There’s also a list post coming soon, about the excitement I got up to in 2021. I did. We all love a good list, so follow, come back, or stay tuned for that.
Let’s get to it…
The One That I Couldn’t Escape From
Silent Child – Sarah A. Denzil
So last year I read The Magpie Trilogy, which was my introduction to Sarah A. Denzil’s writing. Enjoyable, fast-paced thrillers where each chapter ends leaving you wanting to read the next. They are easy reading and entertaining.
When I saw that Stolen Girl had been released and was available on Kindle Unlimited, I thought it was about time I read the first instalment, Silent Child.
Emma’s world fell apart when her son Aiden disappeared ten years. Thought to have drowned during a bad storm, after which all the police could find was Aiden’s red coat floating in the water.
“You can’t control how other people react, only how you, yourself, act. That’s the great tragedy of life. One moment everything is perfect and the next it’s all in tatters because of the circumstances happening all around you.”
Fast forward to the present day. Although Emma feels the loss of her child everyday, she has finally gained back some control in life, moved on with her future. Well, until she receives a call informing her Aiden is alive, at the hospital, and had likely been kidnapped and held captive for the past ten years.
Traumatised and in shock, Aiden, the only one that knows the full story and can help the police discover what happened to him, is mute.
Having missed ten years of her sons life, and him be returned to her almost as an adult, Emma desperately tries to form a connection with Aiden. To rebuild their relationship and find whoever did this to her son.
“Moments are what make this life, aren’t they? A life is built on moments; seconds passing by. Some seconds are fleeting—part of a silly dream, or chopping up vegetables, taking the rubbish out, trimming our nails. Some are not.”
Written sometime in the future. We are not learning things along with Emma, the narrator. She know more, and snippets of things to come are given.
Set in a rural town in Yorkshire, we meet a small community of family, friends and possible suspects that surround Emma and Aiden. Plenty of twists, turns and red herrings were thrown in but, I have to admit I did figure this mystery out. And I’m not generally good at that!
“Monsters are men and women just like us, and they have the ability to hide their true face.”
I warmed to Emma and Aiden (enough so to read the next instalments anyway!), even if I did want to shake Aiden a few times to get him talking sooner!
A great pick if you want a page turner that keeps you entertained without churning those brain cells too much.
The Short One In Between
Aiden’s Story – Sarah A. Denzil
When logging my previous read on Goodreads and looking for its sequel I came across this short story.
A stream of consciousness written in a journal as suggested by his psychologist, we get a glimpse into the thoughts of Aiden and how he is coping with family life after being held captive in the bunker for 10 years. *Slight spoiler alert if you haven’t read Silent Child*
It’s a great little companion read and bridge between the two main books.
The Sequel That Kept Me Gripped
Stolen Girl – Sarah A. Denzil
Having read Silent Child at just the right time, I could go straight on to its sequel. Usually I’m too early for these things and by the time the next instalment is released I feel like I’ve forgotten too much to be able to become all absorbed again. Well, I didn’t have this problem.
With the characters still taking up space in my thoughts I got right back into their lives.
Unlucky lives, I must say.
As life crumbles yet again, we follow the narration of both Emma and Aiden in alternating chapters.
Neither are coping with life as much as the other believes. Emma is just getting by.
“When I say that I’m fine, I’m lying. I’m saying the words people want to hear. No one wants the truth when they ask you how you are; they want to go through the motions of checking in, to prove to themselves that they care, when they don’t. The word fine is part of the dance we perform with each other. I’m not fine at all, but I am better.”
And Aiden is blaming himself for disrupting her life with his return.
“She was happier when I was gone. I think that a lot. Over and over until it hurts. She was happier when I was gone. But that isn’t true, is it?”
I don’t want to give away too many spoilers if you’re yet to read the first in the series but, as the Price’s are settling into to life after the return of Aiden and coming to terms with what happened to him, another kidnapping takes place.
“This is how the world works. You start to feel happy and then something comes along to take it all away.”
Although I must admit to getting frustrated with Emma at times, I’m rooting for her solve the latest kidnapping as she has to delve into her past while trying to hold herself and Aiden together.
It was great to have some chapters from Aiden’s point of view. To explore his character and gain an understanding to how much of an outsider he feels in life.
“The world is a stranger to me. Its bizarre customs, social conventions, behaviours I don’t understand, people who wrinkle their noses when I ask questions, or who stare and then look away when they recognise my face.”
This was a sequel that although far fetched in places, did keep me reading. Not just to solve the kidnapping, but to see Aiden develop and find his place.
“It takes a village to raise a child, but in some ways, it also takes a village to help a monster.”
The One About Loving Books
The Paris Library – Janet Skeslien Charles
The thing I love about being part of a book club is that I discover books I never would have otherwise. A bit like this one.
I went audiobook for The Paris Library. Not only had I just got a great deal on Audible for a couple of months, but I feel these types of historical fiction work well as audio for me. They create an atmosphere and sense of place that maybe my imagination wouldn’t without that extra nudge.
Paris 1939 we meet Odile. With a passion for books that outweighs my own, she lands her dream job as librarian at The American Library Paris.
“Breathing in the best smell in the world”
Based on real events of World War II, during Nazi occupation in France, the library and it patrons are under threat. When Jewish subscribers become unable to visit the library staff take it upon themselves to keep reading alive by delivering books to their readers.
“Book are like people, without contact they cease to exist.”
The library and its books are places of no judgement, they and the staff that deliver them provide this piece of normality to its community. Even if that sometimes means risking their own life.
Montana 1983 we meet Lily, a quiet teenager that is struggling to fit in with life. And just so happens to be Odile’s neighbour.
With Odile now widowed and lonely she is closed of from community, has shut everyone out. But fortunately Lily is nosey and wants to know what lurks in Odile’s past.
With the two timelines interwoven we discover what happened to Odile and her library, how she ended up where she is, and the lengths a friendship can go to.
“It seemed, that life had offered me an epilogue.”
I loved the characters of both Odile and Lily. They were deep and believable. Forming a strong bond, Odile provided an escape for Lily from her home life, but also some stability. She is a companion and support, but is very honest and doesn’t take any nonsense from Lily.
Both having struggled with family life and friendships, Lily and Odile had more in common than they realised, and both benefited from others company.
I enjoyed this listen much more than I expected. The different voices narrating really added to it, and oddly while listening to parts fireworks went off outside my house. Creating a weird atmosphere and juxtaposition of celebration and war.
I was surprised when reading the authors notes, that so much of it is based on real people.
“I was skeptical about soulmates, but could believe in bookmates, two beings bound by a passion for reading.”
The One That Messed With My Mind
The Escape – C. L. Taylor
After that previous book of feels I was back on the thrillers, wanting something I knew would be an escape. Ha! Says in the title really.
I’ve read quite a few C. L. Taylor books now, the most recent being Strangers last year. What I love about her writing is the way character depth isn’t forsaken for edge of your seat plot twists. She seems to get the balance just right.
This psychological thriller is gripping from the start.
When a stranger asks Jo for a lift what else can she do but be polite. She soon regrets this kindness when the stranger appears to know everything about Jo, has history with her husband, threatens her daughter’s life, and turns stalker seeming to want to break Jo along the way.
The two main narrations are from couple Jo and Max. Both seem genuine but differ a fair bit in their telling of the story, and their ideas of what’s going on.
This back and forth, confusing retelling, is interspersed with the anonymous thoughts of an onlooker.
“God bless? I don’t need God’s help. I don’t need the police’s help either. I can find you all by myself, Jo. I’m good with people. I tell them what they want to hear…”
Although I’m on Jo’s side throughout, totally believing her, she doesn’t help her situation. It’s a tense and frustrating read, in a good way. Some of the decisions she makes, I’m inwardly shouting at her. Jo desperately tries to show her truth as everything builds up against her.
I was watching BBC drama Angela Black at the same time as reading The Escape. Well not the exact same time. I’m not that good. But, they ran parallel in my life. And in content.
The One That Broke Me
Finding Henry Applebee – Celia Reynolds
Another book club read, and one that had been tempting me for a while. With one of those understated book covers that made me know I was in for a treat. Well, who knew my heart would get broken along the way.
Henry Applebee is an elderly man on a mission, to right a wrong that happened many years ago, in 1948.
“Here he was, once again in a bustling train station (albeit one on a much grander scale), ready to resume where he had left off all those years ago, the night of a snowstorm, and of a slow-curling flame…”
As everything seems to be against him, he is rushing to catch the train to Edinburgh when he meets a helpful young lady, Ariel. Also desperately trying to catch the same train to Edinburgh for her own secret mission.
Henry, Ariel, and jazz musician Travis are all seated together on the long journey as we read chapters from each of them telling their story.
Journey may be quite a cliché way of describing it, but here we follow 3 characters on a journey through time, while travelling by train on a journey that is crucial to the lives of them all.
“These days, people don’t daydream enough. And there are few better opportunities for doing so than when you’re travelling on a train.”
I really did love this book. Although it did break me in places! It even snowed outside my window as there was snow outside the window of their train. Can you get any better than that?!
I loved how Ariel and Henry warmed to each other. I loved the way the characters lives are entwined and their serendipitous connections.
A tale of true love, regret, grief and loss. The exploration of how a single moment in life can cause a chain reaction and affect many.
Friendship is a theme throughout the book. It can be of any age, any background and met at any stage in life. Sometimes where we least expect.
“Just because you’re as old as the hills, doesn’t mean you feel things any less deeply. It’s like everything else, as far as I can tell: the trivial falls away, but the extraordinary stays with you forever.”
What have you been reading lately?
Catch up with the rest of My Year In Books.