Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Recently Read: January

Man, did I read some truly excellent books last month. I have a thing about the first book of the year that I read- it has to be good, otherwise I feel like it's a bad reading omen for the year. It's probably nonsense but it fills me with great joy when I read a brilliant book in the first few cold days of January!

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
And here it is, the excellent first read of 2018. This is what the 90's film of the same name, starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman was based on. I also loved that film and kind of jumped at the chance to read the book when it popped up on my Borrowbox (library ebook/audiobook app). Gillian and Sally have had an unusual upbringing. Their parents deaths left them orphans in the care of their two elderly, unconventional aunts. The other kids bullied them for being weird and the rumours of witchcraft followed them around everywhere they went. They're both desperate to escape this life and as soon as they're old enough they do just that- one of them runs away and lives a very wild life, while the other settles down and marries. It looks like they may never see each other again, until dark forces (and let's face it, a bit of magic) brings the sisters back together again. I really loved this book. The descriptions are beautiful; it's romantic and witty, dramatic and fantastical and it flows along wonderfully. Hoffman has a very unique style of writing that I haven't come across before. I've already checked out the sequel, The Rules of Magic from the library and I cannot wait to start it!

The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
I've mentioned before my love for feminist author Rebecca Solnit (HERE) and after buying Men Explain Things To Me while in Boston, I had to get The Mother Of All Questions when I saw it in a San Franciscan book store. This is actually the third in this series, so it looks like I'll need another stateside trip to get the second one and complete the tradition! This is a collection of essays with feminism at their core and with the central theme being "the mother of all questions", i.e if you have children, if you don't, why not and are you selfish for not having them? Questions Solnit and many women are all too familiar with. I really enjoyed this, I couldn't put it down and I found her discussions on misogynistic violence, women who refuse to be silenced, the gender binary, rape jokes and the fragile masculinity of some of the "great male authors" were incredibly insightful and well thought out. Several times I found myself reading a section aloud to Himself. Loved it. 

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
I read about this book last year and the premise; a mother with her son on a day trip to the zoo, forced to fight for their survival when they come under attack, left me so intrigued that I had to get it! I listened to this one, again on my Borrowbox app (honestly, save yisserselves a fortune and get a library card lads). It starts out pretty innocuously, Jane is in the play area of the park with her young son and becomes aware of how late it's getting. She starts to gather him and his toys up, hurrying hm along to the exists when she hears some loud noises, confused as it's too early in the year for fireworks. When she finally realises what it is- a terrorist group have taken over the zoo and are shooting everyone in sight, Jane's adrenaline kicks in and she has to use all her strength to keep her and her son safe, outwitting the killers. This was an interesting take on the thriller genre, considering most of what's around at the minute is very much your domestic noir, this was refreshingly different but at the same time, relevant to the society we live in where these sorts of attacks are becoming more and more commonplace, particularly in America. 

Little Deaths by Emma Flint
This was another Borrowbox read and this is not an ad for Borrowbox, I swear! Set in an oppressively tight-knit working class community in Brooklyn in 1965, Ruth Malone is a single mother of two, working as a cocktail waitress at night and seeing different men in her spare time. She wakes one day to discover that her two children are gone- missing from their beds. No one saw anything but because of Ruth's unconventional lifestyle for the time, all fingers immediately point to her. The police decide she did it and nothing can change their minds. Meanwhile, a young journalist becomes obsessed with the case and with the beautiful and tragic Ruth. Did Ruth kill her children or is she a victim of misogyny and the public court of opinion? I was astounded by this book- I felt at times like I couldn't read on but then I was so gripped by Ruth and her plight that I had to. It's really beautifully written and so evocative of the time. It made me feel angry and sad and devastated, all at the same time. I both highly recommend this book and advise caution; if you have children or you're of a particularly sensitive disposition lately, I would avoid!

Killman Creek by Rachel Caine
This is the sequel to Stillhouse Lake, a thriller I read last year and loved. This was provided for review, so thank you to NetGalley for that! Gwen Proctor is living a secret life. She used to be Gina Royal, wife and mother of two until her husband was revealed to be a prolific serial killer. She had to change her name and those of her children, bringing them on the run, moving at a minutes notice, if it looked like the internet trolls who stalked them had found their whereabouts. In the first book the family had managed to find peace at Stillhouse Lake; that is until the bodies of young women began to turn up nearby, murdered in the same gruesome method as Gwen's ex husband was known for. While that turned out to not be the work of Gwen's ex, he did escape his prison cell at the end of the first book and so now Killman Creek is about their survival again; can Gwen track him down and kill him before he finds her? I love Gwen's character; she's strong and resilient but human too. As her close knit support circle begins to dwindle she has only herself to rely on and she has to find the strength to keep going, even in the face of utter horror. It's unusual to find a female protagonist like this and I'm really hoping there'll be a third book!

Women & Power A Manifesto by Mary Beard
This was a super quick read- just two short essays from professor of classics and feminist Mary Beard. Sick of the online misogynist trolls, Beard decides to examine the origins of this behaviour and finds that it traces right back to Ancient Greece. Here, she dips in to the classics to compare the treatment of women in Homer's Odyssey and works or art to how Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and other prominent women are treated in society today. Beard also reflects on her own experiences of sexist abuse online, examining the power structure between men and women. I found this to be a really interesting read and focused on an area of feminism I hadn't concerned before. 

And that's the lot for the minute. I'll have February's books up soon but until then, have you read any of these? What are you reading right now?

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