Title: Our Country Friends

Author: Gary Shteyngart

Pages: 336 Pages

Publisher: Atlantic Books / Allen & Unwin

The Blurb

It’s March 2020 and a calamity is unfolding. A group of friends and friends-of-friends gathers in a country house to wait out the pandemic. Over the next six months, new friendships and romances will take hold, while old betrayals will emerge, forcing each character to reevaluate whom they love and what matters most. The unlikely cast of characters includes a Russian-born novelist; his Russian-born psychiatrist wife; their precocious child obsessed with K-pop; a struggling Indian American writer; a wildly successful Korean American app developer; a global dandy with three passports; a Southern flamethrower of an essayist; and a movie star, the Actor, whose arrival upsets the equilibrium of this chosen family. Both elegiac and very, very funny, Our Country Friends is the most ambitious book yet by the author of the beloved bestseller Super Sad True Love Story.

The Review

Previously I would stick with books even if I didn’t enjoy them. I persevered with the third LOTR book for 3 months just to get it over with but lately I am just not that same person. I Marie Kondo my books. If they aren’t giving me joy then I don’t carry on with them. I tried with Our Country Friends. I read three chapters and I just didn’t care about the characters so I DNF’d it. Maybe it was a bit too hasty and maybe I will come back to it at another point in my life but at this moment I just do not have time to read books that aren’t bringing me joy.

Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart is available now.

For more information regarding Allen & Unwin (@AllenAndUnwinUK) please visit www.atlantic-books.co.uk/allen-unwin/.

Title: Meredith, Alone

Author: Claire Alexander

Pages: 368 Pages

Publisher: Penguin Michael Joseph

The Blurb

Meredith Maggs hasn’t left her house in 1,214 days. But she insists she isn’t alone.

She has her cat, Fred. Her friend Sadie visits when she can. There’s her online support group, StrengthInNumbers. She has her jigsaws, favourite recipes, her beloved Emily Dickinson, the internet, the Tesco delivery man and her treacherous memories for company.

But something’s about to change.

First, new friends Tom and Celeste burst into her life. Then an estranged sister she hasn’t spoken to in years.

Suddenly her carefully curated home is no longer a safe place to hide.

Whether Meredith likes it or not, the world is coming to her door . . .

The Review

What an absolutely special story.

Meredith, Alone is – unsurprisingly – the story of Meredith. She is a social recluse and insulates her world to only the bare minimum of people. She spends her days baking, doing jigsaws, working from home, looking after her cat and that is about it. However, it seems that the world doesn’t want Meredith to stay like this and with the ever growing team of people in her life wanting more for Meredith, she has to start making some serious decisions.

Meredith is an unforgettable character. Claire Alexander could have gone a completely different way to make her memorable. To make her kooky and a bit strange but it is Meredith strength that shines off the page even when she is presenting her at her lowest.

The story is heartwarming but not twee. Alexander doesn’t follow expectations in some areas such as relationship development and the narrative is all the stronger for it. It is also the exploration of the complex relationship of family and how certain traumas can often have lasting effects. Alexander doesn’t justify them or tie them in a neat bow she allows people’s behaviour to just be what it is without trying to overcomplicate things.

Please find yourself a copy of Meredith, Alone. It truly is a great story.

Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander is available now.

For more information regarding Claire Alexander (@ClaireAWriter) please visit www.claire-alexander.co.uk.

For more information regarding Penguin Michael Joseph (@MichaelJBooks) please visit their Twitter account.

Title: Death By Society

Author: Sierra Elmore

Pages: 292 Pages

Publisher: Elm Street Publishing

The Blurb

MEAN GIRLS meets IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY when two teenage girls’ worlds collide when one attempts suicide to avoid toxic popularity.

Carter Harper may have created an award-winning app and have a 3.93 GPA, but her successes are overshadowed by brutal bullying, depression, and loneliness. Tired of being treated as the popular girls’ plaything, Carter thinks her only choice is to die by suicide.

Abby Wallace is one of the most popular girls in school, subordinate only to Kelsey, her best friend with benefits. The ambitious poet destroys reputations without care to prove how cool, cruel, and strong she is, all while pushing down her past trauma and secret guilt.

Carter and Abby’s tumultuous relationship comes to a boiling point when Abby stops Carter from attempting suicide. But what happens when they have to protect one another from Kelsey’s harmful antics? If Carter and Abby can stand each other for more than three minutes, they can stop Kelsey from hurting more girls—and maybe become friends in the process.

In the tradition of Courtney Summers and Laurie Halse Anderson, DEATH BY SOCIETY questions how far we’ll go to gain power over our lives—and what happens when we use our voices for both good and to harm others.

The Review

I’m sad to say but me and Death by Society didn’t get along. The premise of the story seems good and I know that this will resonate with a lot of people but it just wasn’t for me. I’m not sure if it is a cultural gap (British vs American) or if it is because I work with teenagers who are often marginalised and suffer with mental health problems but the way the story was told just didn’t mesh with my lived experience. As I say this book will be for someone that person just isn’t me.

Death by Society by Sierra Elmore is out now.

Title: Love Marriage

Author: Monica Ali

Pages: 432 Pages

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group

The Blurb

Yasmin Ghorami has a lot to be grateful for: a loving family, a fledgling career in medicine, and a charming, handsome fiancée, fellow doctor Joe Sangster.

But as the wedding day draws closer and Yasmin’s parents get to know Joe’s firebrand feminist mother, both families must confront the unravelling of long-held secrets, lies and betrayals.

As Yasmin dismantles her own assumptions about the people she holds most dear, she’s also forced to ask herself what she really wants in a relationship and what a ‘love marriage’ actually means. 

Love Marriage is a story about who we are and how we love in today’s Britain – with all the complications and contradictions of life, desire, marriage and family. What starts as a captivating social comedy develops into a heart-breaking and gripping story of two cultures, two families and two people trying to understand one another.

The Review

I have never read a book by Monica Ali before. I know a lot of people would recommend starting with Brick Lane but I started with Love Marriage.

Love Marriage is the story of Yasmin and the Ghorami family. They are your typical family with explosive problems, unobtainable values and expectations not met. It is how the family responds to the everyday nuances of life that tell this story.

It is the family of characters and not necessarily the plot that drives the story along so at times the pacing felt rather slow for me. The last 100ish pages seemed to be when the story picks up speed but the first three quarters seemed to be a lot of exposition and minor incidents.

Overall, Love Marriage was an enjoyable read but personally I feel my books need more pace and less reflection.

Love Marriage by Monica Ali is available now.

For more information regarding Little, Brown Book Group (@LittleBrownUK) please visit www.littlebrown.co.uk.

Title: The Measure

Author: Nikki Erlick

Pages: 368 Pages

Publisher: Harper Collins

The Blurb

Your fate arrives in a box on your doorstep. Do you open it?

It seems like just another morning.

You make a cup of tea. Check the news. Open the front door.

On your doorstep is a box.

Inside the box is the exact number of years you have left to live.

The same box appears on every doorstep across the world.

Do you open yours?

THE MEASURE

IT’S THE DECISION OF A LIFETIME.

The Review

I feel like 2022 has had some absolute cracking novels. It has been an overly impressive year with the quality and diversity of the books that have been released and to be honest I thought I had already found the books that would be in my top ten by the end of the year but then I read The Measure and I was blown away.

The story seems simple enough. It is almost a retelling of the myth of Pandora mixed with an allegorical tale of everything that has happened since 2020. Erlick has been clever because facing our mortality is a topic that we have all had to deal with since the pandemic so the story at its very basic level is relatable. And then you get to the characters and oh wow how Erlick tells their story is beautiful and touching.

Without going in to too much detail the story centres around knowing when you are going to die. If you had the option to know, to find out that information, would you do it? Or would blissful ignorance be the better option? If you do find out, what do you then do with that information? Does it change the way you live your life?

The way that Nikki Erlick explores this topic is masterful. The twists and turns along the way are breathtaking and heartbreaking in equal measure. There are some books that sit with you and make you think long after turing that final page and I know without a shadow of a doubt that The Measure by Nikki Erlick will be a book that I will keep with my for a very long time.

The Measure by Nikki Erlick is available now

For more information regarding Nicki Erlick (@nickierlick) please visit www.nikkierlick.com.

For more information regarding Harper Collins (@HarperCollinsUK) please visit their Twitter account.