Slightly late, as always but here it is nonetheless. I managed to read plenty over the last month, mostly thanks to Audible, which I am somewhat addicted to.
So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Jon Ronson is a journalist who has spent three years travelling around and meeting people who have been publicly shamed, in this case via social media. Examples include those who have made poorly realised jokes on Twitter that have then gone viral, an author who falsified Bob Dylan quotes in a biography he wrote about the star or those who've made a mistake in the workplace (generally even in the last case though they end up vilified on Twitter).
Ronson makes the point that how we seek justice has changed, it's now become "democratised". We, as keyboard warriors have all the power and can contribute to ruining a life by a simple retweet. That might sound overdramatic but the cases in the book really make that point quite strongly. Reading the book made me very cautious about using Twitter. "Could that be misconstrued?" I frequently found myself asking before hitting send. This was one of those Audible books, read in Ronsons own voice, which to be honest was a bit irritatingly drawn out at times. It was however, also peppered with his own particular brand of humour, which I enjoyed and overall this was an interesting read.
The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
General good egg Sharon from Behind Green Eyes recommended this one and as I can't resist a creepy, supernatural thriller I very happily picked it up for a holiday read. Sarah and Angus have identical twin daughters but tragedy strikes when one of the girls dies in an accident. It's a year later and their surviving daughter starts acting strangely, uncharacteristically even. The family moves to the Hebrides for a fresh start but things begin unravelling when it dawns on them that their living daughter is behaving more like her twin sister. Now the couple not only have to face the possibility that they may have buried the wrong child but also that something more sinister may have been behind her death. This was a super creepy book and more than once I had actual shivers. I deducted a couple of stars from this on Goodreads at the time because I felt the author over used adjectives to describe Scotland and their new home and I thought that contributed to slowing the plot down a little bit. That aside though, this was a fairly captivating story and the ending while somewhat bleak, was original and unexpected.
The Two Of Us by Andy Jones
This was a kindle read for while I was on holidays and was one of those number-one-in-the-bestseller-list-but-possibly-because-it's-99p books. So naturally I was a bit cautious but happily, I was pleasantly surprised. When the book starts, we meet Fisher and Ivy who themselves have only just met nineteen days ago. In that time, they've fallen head over heels for each other. The book follows the trials and tribulations of an unconventional courtship over the next twelve months of their lives, told from Fisher's perspective. That latter detail is what makes it quite special actually, Fisher's voice is unique in the world of love stories and I can see how this book would appeal to both sexes because of that. It is slightly slow in places but I feel like that's more due to the mundane realities of life rather than a lull in the writing of Andy Jones in fairness.
Really, it is wonderfully, sensitively written, charming and honest with really likeable characters that you will want to root for. If you're looking for a good Summer read, this is the one!
The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes
I've had this on my to-read list for a while now and so I went for it when it was on special offer on Audible (I'm not being paid to use the word Audible by the way, although if you happen to be reading this Audible, I am more than happy to be recompensed with books. Call me).
Anywho, the book is narrated by a middle aged man called Tony Webster. The book begins with Tony reminiscing about his school years, where he and his clique of friends were somewhat arrogant teens, thinking they were intellectually above their fellow students. This becomes even more apparent to them with the addition of a new boy to their group, Adrian, a particularly precocious youth with a philosophical take on most historical events. After they go their separate ways to university, the friends have a falling out over a girl and Tony behaves appallingly to Adrian. A tragedy occurs and then we are back to the present day where Tony's actions at a younger age are once again brought to the fore and he must examine his behaviour and his life to date.
So this won the Booker prize back in 2011 and here's the thing with the Booker prize, it can be hit and miss (looking at you, Wolf Hall). It started out very promisingly for me and I was really interested in the schoolboy exploits (although there was a bit of a bang of Dead Poets Society from it) detailed in the first part of the book but part 2 really and truly dragged and overall, the book failed to affect me or move me emotionally. So while I can see why it is an award winner, it did nothing for me personally.
Salem's Lot by Stephen King
Here, you all know by now that I have a thing for Stephen King. Not him personally, dirtbirds. No, his unique writing style gets me every time and usually leaves me terrified, crying, laughing, entertained and sometimes, even a little bit nauseated. I had less emotions reading Salem's Lot. A few things with this one, it was written in the 70's but still holds up quite well. King mentions in the foreword that he was influenced by the depiction of small town Americana in the book Peyton Place, which I can attest to as I was coincidentally, trying to read both at the same time and had to put PP down. He also mentions that he grew up loving both the "trash" horror novels (his mothers description) and books like Dracula that were available to him, which definitely had an influence here. Set in a New England town that is slowly but surely being overpowered by vampires with only a small group of ragtag potential slayers (shout out to Buffy!) to defend it, it is classic King. This is his version of the vampire novel and it's not bad at all. In this world, the blood suckers are pure evil- they most definitely do not sparkle and they don't want to be your boyfriend (*cough, stalker, cough* Looking at you, Cullen). I was fearful for the characters more than once and certainly a little bit creeped out. It didn't however, move me the way his books normally do, so I'd say it's probably the most disappointing one yet. For him though, that's still pretty good.
Oh Dear Silvia by Dawn French
I've been a big fan of comedian Dawn French for years now and had meant to read this, her second work of fiction for some time. I finally got the chance when I found it on the bookshelves of the house we stayed in on holidays last month. The Sylvia in question is in a coma and is visited in each chapter by a slew of family and friends; her ex husband, hippy sister, estranged daughter, madcap housekeeper and deranged friend. They all know a different Sylvia and as the book progresses, we get to know the woman she really is and the very dark secret she's been hiding. I loved this book. I thought it was frankly masterful how French created a sense of a person that could then change completely just with small snippets of information and I felt myself warming to Sylvia with each chapter. I also LOVED her nurse, Wynnie. She gets her own chapters too where she cares for Sylvia the way nurses actually do in real life- all the small cares and attentions that people don't realise we do but that make a huge difference to the patient. Plus her character was fantastic- strong and funny but also warm and loving. So many great female characters in this actually- multi dimensional like real people! The only negatives I could say about this book were the chapters where Sylvias husband visited. I found those dragged as he mostly came to speak to her about gardening. Apart from that though this was an excellent read, I laughed (loudly) and cried and was so sad to finish it. Always the sign of a good book.
What did you read last month? Anything good?