Reviews, Scottish Reads

The Sound at the End

On a near-abandoned research base in an Arctic ice field, a skeleton crew works to ensure the centre doesn’t collapse amid treacherous storms. Officially, Trieste Grayling arrives in order to explore and film a sunken shipwreck for a documentary film; privately, she’s working through a complicated grief. Trieste soon realises she’s not the only one who was attracted to this intense isolation in order to escape her ghosts.

Each of the crew members harbour dark secrets: Mal, the ever-competent medic conducting mysterious therapy sessions, Sweetie, the reclusive engineer with scarred hands, Thorsteinn, the aloof diver tender, Avelina, the temperamental base manager whose stories of home don’t quite add up, Grace, an underwater welder and recovering addict, and Judd, the erratic former member of a ‘90s boy band. As they begin to reach breaking point, each one’s hidden ghosts finally comes into the light.

This audiobook came to me with high recommendations from multiple friends. I was very excited to listen to this as I do enjoy a creepy read. I thoroughly enjoyed this and gave it 4 stars.

The voice acting was amazing! As a Scottish person, I find it so exciting to hear familiar accents on audiobooks (as opposed to people putting on Scottish accents that are usually terrible!). I didn’t hear my own accent but that’s ok, I got the warm and fuzzies from having two familiar sounding voices. This was such a small thing but it increased my enjoyment a great deal.

This book was an excellent example of books that I enjoy in spite of hating most of the main characters. I couldn’t stand Trieste, she was the epitome of the annoying new colleague. After one week she’s insistent on finding everyone’s secrets and generally being super nosy. I chuckled when her colleagues were telling her to just go away and she said ‘I’ll come back later’, completely oblivious to her colleagues just wanting to be left alone. I couldn’t work with her. I hated Mal, the doctor. She was completely inappropriate and dangerous. They were the two worst characters. Everyone else was annoying but to a far lesser degree.

I think that this book was better because the characters were so awful! It worked. If they were nice and likeable, I’d have spent the book worrying about their fate instead of being keen to find out what happened next.

This was the perfect audiobook as it was a full cast production. There were also recordings and moments where the audio gave out or stuttered which helped to add to the disorientation.

I loved the setting of a remote research base in the arctic. Having the characters shut off from the rest of civilisation helped to make this quite the psychological thriller! And I was thrilled. The scenes with the dives gave me chills! In an environment where you can’t be sure of who to trust, going for a wee dive in the arctic didn’t seem like a smart move. The characters weren’t making clever decisions though and I enjoyed the slow falling apart.

I felt so full of doubt while reading this book, in a good way. I wasn’t sure if the characters were imagining things or if they were really happening. I think the setting of an isolated camp really enhanced this.

This book was so creepy and chilling and I was absolutely hooked! I highly recommend it! I love being able to pass the recommendation on.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

The Gracekeepers

As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives – offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

This book came to me with high recommendation and I absolutely loved it!

This book was told in dual narrative with North and Callanish having alternate chapters. The whole concept of a Gracekeeper was fascinating and it was really interesting reading about the various faiths in the world. The sections on the circus boat were just fun!

North’s backstory, the events that led to them being in the circus was really interesting and I love getting backstory for main characters, even just a teeny sentence will do, this really helped to make North feel like a well rounded character. Callanish’s backstory was a slower reveal but there were hints, I was happy to wait for it though. Knowing the history of both of the main characters really explained their actions and attitudes. There were some points where I didn’t agree with their decisions but knowing their pasts helped to explain why those choices were made and they made sense for the characters.

I absolutely adored the circus performers, there were so many characters but it was really easy to remember who was who-the characters were sort of grouped e.g. the clowns. Clowns terrify me in real life but in this book they were so funny and entertaining and not a red nose or big shoe in sight!

I absolutely adored The Bear. He was adorable and lovely and so gentle and protective.

The world building was excellent, I don’t think I’ve read many books set in a world that has become partially submerged. I really enjoyed the tension between the landlockers and the damplings which felt realistic. The author really described the environment so well, it was a world I’d be happy to read more about. I was really intrigued by Callanish’s home island and the contrast of the islanders’ beliefs.

I listened to this story via audiobook (on loan from my local library) and I listened to it in the various Starbucks of Aberdeen- as a side note, this book paired very well with a soy gingerbread latte because the festive drinks are back and I’m here for it! The author narrated the book which was a really nice touch. I really like when authors narrate their own novels and it’s always nice hearing a Scottish narration.

This book was gloriously whimsical and utterly heartwarming but also included important topics like belonging and family. This book had such strong found family vibes which is something that I’ve recently learned that I love! This was like a beautiful fairytale and I just loved it. I had extra love for this book because of the many, many recommendations that I’d received. Thanks friends, I loved it!

If you enjoy fantasy and whimsy and strong female leads, you may love this book too.