Thanks to Helen Lewis at LiterallyPR for a copy of The Ascension of Greenville in exchange for a fair review. This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you purchase something through one of these links I’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you.
The town of Greenville, Utah, is dominated by the Septosect religious cult and its leader Harrison who has ambitions for increasing his religious control over the area. Living amidst the threat of a fatal virus, which could take a whole horde of people at a time, the members of the cult look to the Septosect’s ideals as a way of life, hoping that a divine entity will spare them from their doomsday.
They are trapped by Harrison’s reminder that leaving the town would mean divine condemnation. Deception about the virus, fake news and religious fervour keep the community isolated, but the death of a young girl leads to suspicions over the motives of Harrison. Living amidst the virus makes life feel desperate for Greenville’s community members, who feel that each passing month is precious but futile. The cult members must choose to believe if the seven principles of the Septosect will lead them to the truth, or to their death.
The Ascension of Greenville is an interesting novella by Anna Prattle. It examines a cult who uses the threat of a deadly virus to keep their members under control. At first nothing seems out of the ordinary, but slowly, you come to realise that things are not what they seem, and that those who proport to want to keep the community safe are the very ones who are doing it harm.
Told by snapshots, the reader is offered glimpses into the Septosect’s world, and many questions are left unanswered. The reader is required to join the dots and understand the motivations of the different characters, to piece together something of an understanding of the state of play.
It is a very timely novella, playing as it does on the notion of control that a virus – or threat from a virus – brings. It deals with heavy themes and explores individual motivations and thoughts. I enjoyed the multiple perspectives with with some who were opportunistic, whilst others were just trying to survive.
There is no doubt that Anna can write. Although a short book, she set herself an ambitious task of writing in a number of different character’s voices, without much time to establish whose perspective you are hearing. By and large she pulls this off, making it an enjoyable read. In general her prose style is very accomplished, especially considering her age. I certainly wish I had the wherewithal to write something of this standard when I was completing my ALevels.
There is no sense of resolution in The Ascension of Greenville, which is, I think, deliberate. However, there is something about the novella which feels slightly incomplete. There is so much more to the story to be told that this feels like the skeleton on which to build a full-length novel around. What is there is very good and enjoyable – and of course there is an art in what is left unsaid. I do think each character’s story deserved a little more time dedicated to it. There needed to be more of a central pull to moved the plot along, and a less skips in time to demonstrate how the situation escalated. (It is hard not to give away spoilers, so bear with!). I enjoyed what was there a lot – I would have just liked it to be a full length novel!
Overall, I give it three and a half stars out of five. The Ascension of Greenville is well written, intriguing enough to pull me in, and I would like to read more from Anna. I just think this needed a bit more to tie it all together to make it a complete story.
Thanks to Entangled Publishing and Netgalley for the ARC copy in exchange for a fair review.This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you purchase something through one of these links, I’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you.
Honestly, when you pick up a book entitled Wrong Bed, Right Brother, you kind of deserve anything it throws at you. And throw it, it does. If you’re under the misapprehension that it’ll be a serious romance book then let me disillusion you quickly….
The premise is thus:
Amanda has had a crush on her co-worker, Luke, for as long as she can remember. She sort of thinks he’s interested but she’s not sure. And he’s about to move to the other side of the country…
Seizing her opportunity on a weekend away, she sneaks into his bedroom to make a move. It all seems to be going so well, until she realises – it’s not Luke! It’s his twin brother, Noah.
Of course it was a mistake, but why is their chemistry so hard to ignore?
I think that tells you all you need to know about what you’re letting yourself in for. I’d love to say it gets less ridiculous from that point in but… I’d be lying.
Still, I didn’t hate it. I went along for the ride. It was silly. The characters were underdeveloped, there wasn’t a great deal of what we might call realistic plot. But, it kept my mind off the way the world is falling apart for a couple of hours so, there is that.
I didn’t really warm to the characters very much. They annoyed me a bit (but not enough to stop reading the book), towards the end I didn’t really care whether they got together or not. Probably because I knew they would (not really a spoiler alert – you only read these books for the happy ever after, right?).
I would have liked the romance story to be a bit more developed. The drama seemed a bit strained – the whole concept of Noah moving to LA simply to be with his brother was seemed a little forced, but I’m not going to pull it apart completely because it did the job it needed to do well enough.
When I read it, I didn’t realise that it was part of a series. I don’t think that matters particularly to the enjoyment of the book, but does help you understand why some things are just never explained. It’s tricky to get the balance right when you write something that you want to work as a standalone piece and as part of series because you don’t want to repeat yourself too much. That being said, Wrong Bed, Right Brother errs a bit too far the other way and I think the reader does need a bit more backstory before your two protagonists end up against a barn wall. (That is just my opinion and perhaps I didn’t have an exciting enough youth). It’s never really explained why Amanda and Noah don’t like each other, but you’re expected to understand it’s a long standing feud. In that respect it gallops along too quickly to build up the necessary tension for the pay off to really be effective.
Overall, it was okay – a bit of fun, a quick read and nothing too serious. It did lack a depth in storytelling and characterisation, but honestly that’s not what you’d read this sort of book for anyway. You can predict the end from the first page (I mean, quite frankly from the title!), but there’s no harm to it. It’s not written in the most sophisticated way, but also not in a way which irritated me too much either.
On balance, I won’t re-read it, and I probably won’t seek out anything else by this author, however it kept me amused for a few hours and honestly, that’s all it was designed to do.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you purchase something through one of these links, I’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you.
I think there’s quite a lot of us that need something to occupy our minds from the never-ending anxiety-enducing doom and gloom from the news. There’s also going to be a lot of us stuck at home for quite a long time, without anything to do. I’ve been trying to think of something productive to do, or share, and as it would turn out, I seem to have very few useful skills.
However, there is one thing I know lots about, and I’m more than happy to chat about constantly… books.
In order to try and stop myself from checking Twitter, the News, Facebook, and other even less reliable sources for constant coronavirus updates, I have pulled together my list of books which help me escape a little, when the world seems terribly dreary.
I don’t know if anyone else is struggling a bit with concentration, but I know I certainly am, so I’ve chosen books that I find ‘easy’ to read. (Which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re easy books – but more that they’re easy to absorb yourself into. Some are, of course, cosy comfort reads.).
I’m babbling, so, with no further ado, and trying not to repeat myself too much… here goes!
A fairly broad category. I keep saying that I’m not particularly into fantasy, but then seem to read quite a lot of it.
I’ve blogged before about how much I love the His Dark Materials Trilogy, so I’ll try to keep this relatively brief. For me, the world that Pullman has created is the most vivid and cleverly constructed that I’ve ever read. I was completely absorbed in it, and if you’ve never read it before, you’re in for a treat.
There’s an excellent audiobook dramatisation too, which I’d thoroughly recommend. The books can be more challenging – I quite like to alternative between the audiobook and the novel.
In this dystopian world, everyone can hear each other’s thoughts. When Todd is forced to flee Prentisstown, his world is turned completely upside down…
I came across Patrick Ness’ work when I was doing some work experience with his publisher. I was gripped – I read The Knife of Never Letting Go on the train on my commute, and on at least one occasion started sobbing. It’s brilliant, gritty, and captivating. (Though possibly not the best to read if you’re actually feeling very anxious).
I’d recommend anything from Terry Pratchet’s Discworld. They’re just so deliciously silly. Mort, Thief of Time, The Truth and Moving Pictures are some of my favourites, but I don’t think I’ve yet been disappointed by anything from Pratchett that I’ve read.
The abridged versions read by Tony Robinson are an excellent option, if audio is more your thing.
In Good Omens, an angel and a demon team up to try and save the world from the apocalypse. Great, fantastic. Except… they’ve lost the Antichrist. Well, he’s bound to turn up eventually, isn’t he?
I enjoyed the TV series with David Tennant and Michael Sheen, but you really can’t beat the book. Some of the word play gets lost a little when it’s put on screen. So, if you’re starting to feel like the world really might be ending – this’ll cheer you right up.
It starts with Earth being blown up to make way for a hyperspace bypass, and gets increasingly more mad from then on – via Vogon poetry, two headed aliens and the restaurant at the end of the universe, to name but a few. Reassuringly, the actual Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comes with the words ‘Don’t Panic’ in large, friendly letters on the front cover. Something all of us could do with at the moment.
The novel format of Hitchhikers, I believe, came after the BBC Radio Play. Both are excellent, but if, like me, you’ve got a shortened coronavirus-induced attention span, I’d recommend getting a hold of the radio version first. It’s technically Sci-Fi, but it’s definitely comedy first.
The Comic Novel
Comic novels are my absolute favourite type of novel and they make up about 90% of what I read at any given moment. They are also absolutely perfect for if you’re stuck inside and what to be cheered up. Luckily for us bookworms, there are an awful lot of good ones about.
Bertie Wooster is a well-to-do English…well, idiot, who is constantly getting into scrapes that his man, Jeeves, has to extract him from. Whether it’s being henpicked by his fearsome aunts (Agatha, the one who eats broken bottles for breakfast, or Dahlia, a slightly less frightening proposition); finding himself engaged to females against his will; or trying to outwit Steggles to win big on the Great Sermon Handicap, Jeeves never lets his man down. It’s hard to capture the brilliance and madness of the PG Wodehouse novels in a few lines, so I’d simply say read them! They’re not long and the characters are great.
I’d actually recommend any of the Jeeves and Wooster novels, I did name my cats after their main characters after all. (Bertie and Jeeves say hello, and are wondering why they’re not the main focus of this blog. It’s only a matter of time, if I’m honest). I think Right Ho, Jeeves is a fantastic introduction if you’ve not read any of PG Wodehouse’s books before, but The Code of the Woosters is probably my absolute favourite. The Wodehousian metaphor is a thing of beauty. Do read.
One of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Lucky Jim follows the hapless Jim Dixon, a lecturer who has not made a good first impression on his faculty. His career is at the mercy of the officious Professor Welch, and the more he tries to impress., the worse the situation he gets himself in. It’s a farce in novel form.
Lucky Jim has been known to make me howl with laughter on more than one occasion. In particular, the description of a hangover (we’ve all been there), and a passage about a bus journey. Pure silliness. Best enjoyed with a warm cup of tea.
If you want to be reminded of a time when you could leave your house and travel – Scoop might be just the ticket! After a case of mistaken identity, William Boot, a completely inexperienced journalist, is sent to be the foreign correspondent at the Ishmaelia Civil War. Chaos ensues.
Sharp, biting, funny. It’s a great read – To a point, Lord Cooper.
Anything by Nancy Mitford is worth reading – Wigs on the Green is the one I know best because I wrote a chunk of dissertation on it. It was also out of print for a number of years due to its content (Nancy’s sisters, Unity and Diana were furious at the way she poked fun at Diana’s husband, Oswald Mosley) – which to my mind is a blooming good reason to read it.
Eugenia Malmains is one of the richest gals in England, mad as a box of frogs and an ardent supporter of Captain Jack and the Union Jackshirts. Noel and Jasper are in search of a rich heiress to save them the bother of working.
When they meet – the scene is set for farce…
My absolute weakness. I love a good romance story. Preferably one which is funny too. I won’t hear anyone tell me that they’re not good enough to be included on lists. I am thoroughly convinced that there is not much that a nice romance novel can’t solve (temporarily at least).
I’m going to recommend three books by Sarah Mason, because she is brilliant. They are all witty, have characters you actually care about, and are really well written. There are lines in all of them which have had me laughing out loud.
The Party Season: When Isabel Serranti, party planner extraordinaire, is asked to help plan a charity ball at the Monkwell country estate, she has mixed feelings. On the one hand, she grew up near there, and loves most of the members of the eccentric Monkwell family. On the other, Simon Monkwell, the oldest son, is her best friend turned bully and she never wants to see or hear of him again. But, determined to put the past behind her, Izzy decides to go for it, and it’s not long before she remembers why she loved the Monkwell estate so much.
Playing James:Holly Colshannon’s career as a journalist hasn’t exactly, er, hit its peak yet. So, when she is made the Crime Correspondent – the poisoned chalice of the Bristol Gazette, she’s determined to make the best of it. A fortunately timed conversation with the new Police PR officer, leads to Holly shadowing a detective for a new diary column. There are only a couple of downsides. For starters, Holly is exceptionally accident prone, and then there’s Detective James Sabine’s immense displeasure at having to take her around with him.
High Society: Clemmie Colshannon (sister to Holly), doesn’t really know where her life is going, when she ends up back at the family home. Luckily, there’s never a dull moment at the Colshannon residence – which can be the only explanation for how she gets embroiled in helping/hindering Holly solve the mystery of the disappearance of her fellow journalist, Emma. All is not as it seems…
When Sophy dreams up an imaginary boyfriend to get her mother off her back, she thinks she’ll have plenty of time to dump him before he is summoned to meet the family. That is until she receives an invite to her sister’s wedding, and a firm insistence that he also attends. She does what any rational woman would do in her situation – and hires an escort. What harm could it possibly do?
Don’t be put off by the terrible film they made, vaguely based on this, called The Wedding Date. Asking for trouble is funny, emotional, and just plain brilliant.
I’ve really enjoyed anything I’ve read by Melissa Nathan. Smart, contemporary books – yes they’re romantic, but they also have enough plot that it doesn’t feel like the women protagonists are helpless until they find a man to sort them out. Another author I discovered thanks to my love of charity bookshops, but I’m about to place orders to fill up the gaps because these are just so good!
For real cosy country feels, I’d recommend anything by Jill Mansell, or the earlier books by Katie Fforde. (I don’t know why, but I’m just not enjoying her more recent ones half so much). My rule of thumb -prior to coronavirus – was that if the copy you found in the charity shop was well thumbed, it was probably a good bet. It’s served me well so far.
Pongwiffy – a witch of very dirty habits – always seems to be getting into scraps that her beloved familiar (Hugo, the hamster) has to dig her out of. And there’s normally some goblins lurking about to cause trouble, and some meddling wizards who think they’re better than everyone else…
I may be approaching 30, but I will not make any excuses for the fact that I still have a soft spot for the books I loved as a child. I still find Pongwiffy hilarious, so if you want something that slips down as easily and as comfortingly as a warm cup of tea, I really can’t recommend this highly enough.
This is another series which is fantastic on Audiobook (and is indeed where I first discovered it!). A Charmed Life is book one, and a fantastic introduction to the Chrestomanci world of sorcerers, witches and other magical beings. They’re both gently written and exciting at the same time. There’s a lovely wit about them – and absolute hardingers of characters too.
I know they’re dreadful, but I also love them. Sue me. I really wanted to be in this club when I was younger. They all had cool names, like Claudia, Stacey, Kristy and Mary Anne. I think these were the first books that I read where I was aware it wasn’t set in England and America just seemed fantastically exotic. Those were the days.
Add a pinch of Jacqueline Wilson, Enid Blyton and, well JK Rowling, and you’ll have a lot of my childhood covered.
That should be enough to keep you occupied for a while! Luckily for us, lots of independent bookstores are still delivering – so I’d definitely recommend seeing if you can get your next book from there. Failing that, e-books are a blessing for when you have a sudden insatiable need to re-read a book from your past RIGHT NOW.
I’ve still got plenty more I can say about books so … I may follow up this with more recommendations or witterings. It’s hard to tell what this actually comes under. Hey ho.
If anyone has any recommendations for me, any cosy classics you love – do let me know! Also recommendations for independent book stores – please send me any links you have and I’ll gladly add them here.
In the meantime – stay safe, and at home. We’ll get through this, eventually.
It’s been a funny old time of late. There’s been a lot going on recently – it’s been the sort of time where a lesser person (okay, me) might curl up into a ball and stop functioning. But, for once, this time I haven’t.
And I think a large part of that is down to the fact I’ve been reading way more than I have for a long time.
I’m behind on reviews (I need to sit down and just blitz them all out, I have the notes all ready to go, I promise!), but recently I’ve enjoyed Invisible Women, Graham Norton’s A Keeper, the To All The Boys I Loved Before trilogy (honestly, judge away, they’re fantastic and I devoured them), countless articles and ahem, fanfiction, as well as some other books that are firmly in the ‘I gave them a go, but I won’t be rereading’ category.
And, in amongst this topsy turvey world, which seemed, at times, pretty dark, these have been what’s carried me through. (Alongside my friends and my endlessly patient fiance* and family).
Now things are a lot calmer – and should stay that way, I’m starting to think about what I want to read next.
There was a time that I wanted to set myself the challenge of the BBC’s Big Read. These days, however, it’s a little outdated – there’s a lot of popular books very of its time and there’s at least one Jeffrey Archer book on there which I don’t think I could bring myself to read. So, I did a bit of googling and found the Penguin list of 100 Must Read Classics. You can find the list here.
To flatter my ego, I’ve gone through and counted all the ones that I’ve read and can actually remember reading/the bulk of the plot. And frankly, considering I did an English Literature degree, and then Master’s degree, I really should have read more than, um, 34.
There are some (Catch22 and Catcher in the Rye, I’m looking at you) that I am pretty sure I’ve read, but I’ve not given myself the benefit of the doubt, so I plan on re-reading.
I’m not setting myself the challenge of reading the whole list, that’s a touch overambitious, plus there’s a few things on there I have no desire to touch with a barge pole. (I just don’t get Victorian literature…mmkay?). But I will give it a good stab and I’m going to make myself attack some of the books that I’m not so keen of the sound of.
I’ll also keep reading all the non-classics that I can lay my hands on. This list should, at the very least, save me scrolling through page after page on the Amazon kindle store trying to find something that sounds like it might be okay. (I specifically call out Amazon’s Kindle store because I still have not forgiven it for the amount of times I’ve been caught out and accidentally bought self-published books, thinking they’re normal ones. Editors exist for a reason, people.)
I’ve also really enjoyed some non-fiction recently – a phrase I never really thought I’d say – except maybe about history books. But there’s not a scrap of history on this list, no… I mentioned Invisible Women above – I’ve just bought Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office, started Bella Mackie’s Jog On, been recommended Love is Not Enough: A Smart Woman’s Guide To Money and then have How Brands Grow and Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete to get through on the recommendation of an exceptionally good Brand Marketing course I attended for work. It’s a lot of reading – and I’m back to my good/bad habit of being a book tart (picking up different books at different times, flitting between them and generally being a flirt).
Reading is my utter joy – It’s the reason that I set up this blog and it’s why I love writing reviews. It’s also the thing that I’ve got a bad habit of abandoning when everything is going tits up. (Please tell me I’m not the only one that’s such an nonce?). But recently, by putting reading back as my priority, I feel hundreds of times better. And it’s only taken me twenty-odd years to work this out.
Now, I’ll have to leave you here because I’m just about to receive a job lot of 42 vintage penguin books to work my way through, which Nick believes I have solely ordered for the purposes of table decorations at the wedding. Ahem. Poor, poor, naive, Nicholas.
*Wahay, he’s been upgraded. At, well, his request. You just wait until I start telling you all about the book themed wedding I’m planning.