Book Review : The Growing Season – thought provoking dystopia

The Growing Season – by Helen Sedgwick

4 star read

Why I read:  Science fiction and dystopia with strong feminist themes

Book blurb: “Now anyone can have a baby. With FullLife’s safe and affordable healthcare plan, why risk a natural birth?

Without the pouch, Eva might not have been born. And yet she has sacrificed her career, and maybe even her relationship, campaigning against FullLife’s biotech baby pouches. Despite her efforts, everyone prefers a world where women are liberated from danger and constraint and all can share the joy of childbearing. Perhaps FullLife has helped transform society for the better? But just as Eva decides to accept this, she discovers that something strange is happening at FullLife.

Piotr hasn’t seen Eva in years. Not since their life together dissolved in tragedy. But Piotr’s a journalist who has also uncovered something sinister about FullLife. What drove him and Eva apart may just bring them back together, as they search for the truth behind FullLife’s closed doors, and face a truth of their own.

A beautiful story about family, loss and what our future might hold, The Growing Season is an original and powerful novel by a rising talent”

 

 

My review

A beautiful, thought provoking book.  Exquisitely layered with hope, sadness, heart-break, love, family, science-fiction and dystopia.  Set in the near future where a  bio-tech baby pouch has been invented and is owned by a private-for profit FullLife Company who have exclusive rights to the pouches. This pouch is marketed to allow anyone to experience pregnancy and as an end to female equality issues.   A journalist discovers that there are problems with some of the babies being born from the pouches which is being covered up by the FullLife Company.   A mix of characters try to figure out what is happening and causing babies to die in the pouches, as there is a lot at stake both financial and society wide.

This book explores many ethical dilemmas around women’s roles, equality,  family, life and death.  This is done in a wonderfully thought out and caring way that forms part of the book and the characters views.    The pros and cons of the science and how this impacts on society are explored which I enjoyed as science ethics really interests me.  Earlier parts of the book run a little slow but the last section makes up for this.  The thriller part of the novel runs slim, a lot of pages are devoted to backstories of the characters and their views, and exploring the ethics around the technology.  To me this added to the book,  giving emotion and making it a really thought-provoking read.  Some themes reminded me of the Handmaiden’s Tale with its look at how conceiving babies is a woman’s role but how the pouch could transform that.  But The Growing Season is a wonderfully original novel that deserves a place amongst the must-reads of dystopian fiction.

Sedgewich writes in a passionate, evocative prose that is very captivating.  The characters are all human, fleshed out with flaws and strengths, errors and achievements that allow you to connect with them.  At times I got a little confused with who’s story I was reading as characters would switch around within chapters so you do need to pay attention.

It is a book I will read again, for the hope contained within the pages for a better future and the beautiful tale of love and heartbreak.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Strong female characters, science fiction, dystopia, feminism, science ethics.

****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

ebook
Expected publication: September 7th 2017 by Vintage Digital
ISBN 1473548756 (ISBN13: 9781473548756)
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Book Review – They all Fall Down – Mental Health Psychological Thriller

They All Fall Down  by Tammy Cohen

Why I read: Psychological thriller set in a psychiatric clinic.

Book blurb: “She knows there’s a killer on the loose.
But no-one believes her.
Will she be next?

Hannah had a normal life – a loving husband, a good job. Until she did something shocking. Now she’s in a psychiatric clinic. It should be a safe place. But patients keep dying.

The doctors say it’s suicide. Hannah knows they’re lying. Can she make anyone believe her before the killer strikes again? .”

My review

A psychological  thriller set inside a psychiatric clinic.  Hannah is admitted into a clinic and is convinced that someone is killing off the other patients.  She believes her life is in danger and is trying to convince others that everything is not right.  Throughout the novel she discovers why she is here and about the clinic she resides in.   The book has 2 other main narrators, Hannah’s mother and a woman who works in the clinic, who add their own views and twists to the story.

This book has all the ticks for a good thriller, a few different suspects, an unreliable narrator and plenty of plot twists to keep things interesting.   The main story is told through a number of different narrators who all have their own voices and put a different spin on what is happening throughout the story.   It was  gripping with some brilliant twists and very cleverly written.  I loved hearing about Hannah’s story, how she ended up where she is and seeing that despite this she still had the strength within her to go on challenging what was around her and walking her path to recovery.

Tammy Cohan handles mental health really well.  She portrays various mental health disorders in a largely realistic but also sympathetic manner.  Its a difficult subject handled well in the context of a thriller.   I suffer from depression myself and could relate to some elements.  The grey areas between being unwell and in recovery.  How the illness impacts on your life and can cloud the way you see things.

Overall its a very good book, well written with interesting characters and plenty of clever plot twists to keep you reading.

I’d recommend to people who enjoy: psychological thrillers, mental health, well-written female characters.

****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Paperback, 384 pages (I read an ARC pdf)
Published July 13th 2017 by Doubleday
ISBN 0857524623

 

Book Review: Stillhouse Lake = Psychological Thriller

Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1) by Rachel Caine

Why I read: Wife of a Serial Killer, Psychological Thriller.  Kindle First Choice.

Book blurb: “Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop.”

My review

A fast-paced psychological thriller that had many twists and turns.  It has a gory plot as Gina is the wife of a serial killer, on the run from her past and the people that would hurt her family.

Gina is a brilliantly written character, a true warrior.   I enjoyed the self-analysis that Gina does as to how she did not spot her husband Melvin’s crimes.  What she realised looking back afterwards was not “normal” which would ring a bell with anyone who has been in a controlling relationship before.  But from her past she grows strength, she fights to protect her family and to outsmart those who wish them harm.  Although the book lacked some realism I totally enjoyed seeing how she tackled every obstacle.

One downside was the cliffhanger ending.  It felt far too much like an attempt to get me to read the next book which really wasn’t needed.   The main story however was nicely tied up, with many twists to keep you guessing along the way.

I’d recommend to: fans of serial killer thrillers, psychological thrillers,  strong female characters

****

Kindle Edition, 302 pages
Published July 1st 2017 by Thomas & Mercer
Original Title
Stillhouse Lake
ASIN
B01MFGX5GI

 

My Sister and Other Liars – Psychological Thriller

My Sister and Other Liars – by Ruth Dugdall

Why I read:  My Amazon Prime  Kindle First read for April.  This looked great for travel reading, a psychological thriller with twists to keep me entertained.

Book blurb: “Sam is seventeen, starving herself and longing for oblivion. Her sister, Jena, is mentally scarred and desperate to remember. Between them, they share secrets too terrible to recall.

Eighteen months earlier, Sam was still full of hope: hope that she could piece together Jena’s fragmented memory after the vicious attack that changed their family forever. But digging into the past unearthed long-hidden lies and betrayals, and left Sam feeling helpless and alone in a world designed to deceive her.

Now, in a last bid to save her from self-imposed shutdown, Sam’s therapist is helping her confront her memories. But the road to recovery is a dangerous one. Because Sam has not only been lying to her doctors: she’s been hiding dark secrets from herself.”

My review

An intriguing mystery and psychological thriller filled with a sad and disturbing tale. Sam is a young women on a mental health unit for eating disorders. As part of her therapy for anorexia she starts to recall her past that led her there. The book tackles difficult subjects and traumas Sam and her family have endured so is not an easy read. But there is plenty to keep you gripped and wondering to the very end. It is a book of twists and darkness that makes uncomfortable reading but still a book you can’t put down.

I’d recommend to people who enjoy mystery and female/family based psychological thrillers.

****

Kindle Edition, 364 pages  Published May 1st 2017 by Thomas & Mercer

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Short reviews of books read last year

I reviewed a few of my reads from last year.

The Mistake I Made by Paula Day

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25110726-the-mistake-i-made

A psychological thriller told from the point of view of Roz a single mother struggling with horrific debt. The story explores choices she makes in an effort to get out of debt and demonstrates how all actions have consequences.

I enjoyed the twists and escalation of situations Roz found herself in. A fun easy read, the pages flew by which was perfect for travelling.

****

The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu, Sarah Ardizzone (Translator)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6671933-the-boy-with-the-cuckoo-clock-heart

This is a sad, bittersweet love story with about a boy who has a cuckoo-clock attached to his heart and falls in love with a fragile singer. The writing is enchanting and textured like a poetic fairy-tale. Although I enjoyed the first part of the book and the dark sinister tones. I still found myself rushing to the end as I found it hard to relate to the characters.

***

The World Inside by Robert Silverberg

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/261625.The_World_Inside

A well written story that is filled with many interesting concepts and well developed characters. A future vision of large apartment complexes, self sustaining and filled to the brim with humans whilst the rest of the planet is used to make food. It gives a fascinating view of how society could cope with overpopulation. The chapters form their own stories each being told through the eyes of different person which gradually get darker as the book progresses. Ethics and morality are explored as each person’s status is determined by the floor they are born on.

However I can’t say I enjoyed the book, many parts were creepy and disturbing. Some sections seemed too much like a guys porn fantasy with features of this “utopia” including every woman being available to their sexual desires and forbidden to decline their advances. Overall though it is worth a read as an interesting exploration of a horrific future

***