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Sunday, 28 August 2016

Recently Read; June & July

The heat is really on now to hit my target of 80 books for this year so I did step it up a bit in the last couple of months but sure you know yourself, life gets in the way and having to earn a living means less time to actually read. Damn you, life-sustaining job!!
*spoilers ahead*

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood
Alex Marwood has made a big name for herself in the world of suspenseful thrillers in the last few years and this is her latest, released last January. The story takes us back ten years ago to the disappearance of three year old identical twin Coco, taken from her bed where she slept next to her sister Ruby, while her parents and their friends partied and ate dinner at a restaurant close by. If that's ringing any bells, it should because there are major similarities to the Madeline McCann case throughout the book. The author shifts the narrative from before Coco's disappearance to the night it happened, back to present day where Ruby is now a teenager and full of questions. She reconnects with her older sister Mila when their father dies and together, at his funeral, they face all of the people who were present the weekend Coco was taken, hoping to uncover the truth of what really happened. This is a brilliantly written thriller; even though I had my own theories about what happened to Coco, I found myself eagerly reading on as the truth was slowly revealed. There's also one final sting in the tale that I was really not expecting!
Fans of these sort of dark, twisty thrillers will love this book, as I did. 

On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King
By now it's probably pretty obvious that I love Stephen King's books. Aside from the brilliant plot, one of my favourite things about his novels is often the prologue where he usually recounts his influences for that particular story; often this is something he read or watched as a child. His wife Tabitha generally features somewhere in there too, which I always appreciate. It was only a matter of time then before I read On Writing, which is part memoir, part guide for aspiring writers. I'm not an aspiring writer but I still enjoyed this element of the book; much like Mr King, I'm a stickler for good grammar and spelling and you could do a lot worse than take advice from one of the most prolific and masterful writers around.
The memoir side of it is really fascinating; he talks about his childhood and the early years of his marriage when he and 'Tabby" lived in a trailer and worked several jobs to afford to look after their family. He discusses several of his books along the way, which for a fan was a real treat and he goes on to describe how he first realised he was an alcoholic and how he pulled himself out of that stage of his life. Lastly, he recounts the gruesome car accident that left him struggling to write or even think about writing, and how he overcame that too. I listened to this one on Audible as it was read by the man himself and I really enjoyed it.

The Bones Of You by Debbie Howells
This was on the Richard and Judy book club list for Spring or possibly Summer but either way, R & J made a Gob Bluth level of mistake with this one.
Kate is a middle aged mum of an 18 year old in a sleepy village in the UK. She's shocked to find out that a contemporary of her daughter; Rosie, has gone missing and instantly feels a sense of foreboding that something very bad has happened to her. This is in no way a spoiler because it says in the blurb that Rosie is found dead and foul play is suspected. Kate does the only thing she can, which is befriend the dead girl's mother, father and little sister and continue on to be an annoying and insensitive presence in their lives. She also does some amateur sleuthing but to be honest, I have little to no respect for Kate's detective abilities as it was obvious from the first chapter who the killer was. This book has been compared to both Gone Girl (no idea why, other than both are thrillers) and The Lovely Bones, which isn't really fair to either Gilian Flynn or Alice Sebold. Yeah I know, harsh but this was in my opinion,  poorly written; the dialogue was terrible and there was next to no character development. Although it started strongly, I felt the story veered off completely and I just couldn't care about any of the characters I'd skip this one.

Sliver by Ira Levin
I briefly joined Booktubeathon this year but didn't get around to completing most of the challenges, except for this one (read a book with a yellow cover) and read a book by a favourite author (On Writing). I've read most of Ira Levin's books at this stage (you might remember him from such works as; The Stepford Wives, The Boys From Brazil and Rosemary's Baby). His books were very popular thrillers back in the day and most have been turned into films, as was Sliver for some reason. I haven't seen the film, starring Sharon Stone and one of the many Baldwins but it looks as bad as the book was to read. This starts off well. Kay is shown around a nice looking apartment in Manhattan, which she decides to take. Later, after she's lived there for a short while, she starts dating a younger, charming man who also lives in the block. As it soon transpires, this fella owns the building and has been secretly watching all of the inhabitants illegally, via cameras that he's placed in all of their homes. There's also been a slew of suspicious deaths in the building that we're all clever enough to assume were down to this asshat, Pete. Anyway, Kay soon finds out what he's been up to and he shows her his own Big Brother style control room. She soon also becomes hooked on being a pervert and so on. This book also contains one of the worst lines of anything I've ever read;

she tongued him in the downpour

REALLY, Ira???
I'll say no more apart from the frankly RIDICULOUS ending that made me want to punch the book square in it's papery face. Don't bother with this one either but DO read A Kiss Before Dying, which was the first of Levin's books that I read and loved. 

What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey
This is one of the few books about Oprah that the woman herself has actually written. I also got this one on Audible to listen to Oprah's soothing voice (I even enjoy the Oprah-isms where her voice goes up for no good reason "I'm SOR-ryyy" etc) and overall I enjoyed this one. I guess it's almost a self help style book about what Oprah has learnt over the years of being Oprah. In fairness to her, she's not just a multi-millionaire, she's one tough cookie. She details the abuse she suffered as a child and mentions the pregnancy at age 14 that threatened to ruin her. How she eventually came to terms with this part of her life and how she's dealt with body image issues while becoming a huge success in her field of journalism is pretty inspiring and so I was happy to hear what she has to say about life in general. I will say that she does mention the words "what I know for sure" about a gazillion times and this is a relatively short book but enjoyable nonetheless.

A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman
This was one of my real-life book club choices and has been the most successful choice so far! This is no mean feat as we are an eclectic mix of women with strong opinions, just as it should be! Anyways, the Ove in question is an elderly widower very much set in his ways, with his own routines that he sticks to rigidly. He doesn't like any form of disorder in the Cul De Sac that he lives in and resents interfering from outsiders; those working on the council etc. He feels like life is no longer worth living since the loss of his wife but soon becomes caught up in the lives of his neighbours, all who need him as much as he needs them. Like most people who've read this book, I quickly fell for Ove and spent most of my time reading it laughing and crying simultaneously. It can be slow in places but it's well worth picking up.

The Invention Of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
This was last months book club choice and was also well-liked, just not as much as Ove!
Set in the early 1830's in the deep south, the novel begins with Sarah Grimkés 11th birthday where the ownership of a slave the same age as her, Handful (Hetty for short) is passed over to her. Sarah is against slavery, much to her family's chagrin and rallies against the concept of owning another human being. Sarah and Hetty become friends of sorts, but are always aware of their respective places in the world.
The chapters are alternatively narrated by Sarah and Hetty as they grow older and start to navigate the many difficulties of their lives. Sarah is determined to become a lawyer but is cruelly shot down by her father and brothers. Women at the time were barely educated and expected to only aim for marriage. They were not independent, being opinionated was frowned upon and basically went from their father's house to their husbands.
While Sarah really struggles with the limitations she faces, she clearly has it far better than Hetty, who is made to stay illiterate, is forced to watch her mother be beaten and abused and faces abuse and the constant risk of being sold to slave owners even crueler than her own. The book addresses one of the biggest issues of the time- the question of which should be fixed first; the need for women's independence or the emancipation of the slaves.
Sarah and her sister (who were actually real people by the way) felt that both could be accomplished at the same time and fought back against sexism and racism, often to the detriment of their own lives.
I really loved this book, in spite of its at times disturbing and upsetting descriptions but I thought both Hetty and Sarah's stories were really interesting and they were believable and likeable narrators. Fans of historical literature will love this one too!

I'm already on to about four other books but that's the lot for now!
Have you read any of these?
More importantly, what are you reading right now?!
To the comments!


  1. I really enjoyed the Stephen King one on audio too, he has a great voice! I might chance the Oprah one but I have to be in certain humour for Oprah! Agree with The Bones of You, very poorly written and a surprising choice for Richard and Judy, tbh.

    1. They normally pick way better written books than that, so odd!

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