Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Recently Read: October, November & December

Don't be put off by the amount of months there, I slowed down a bit towards the end of the year so there's not as many books here as I'd like, plus I will make a concerted effort to be more brief than usual! My plan for the year ahead is to read 70 books. I'm 9 in. I can do this! 

*book reading montage*

Nasty Women by Ink 404
This is a collection of essays written by women from different backgrounds, ethnicity's, sexual orientations, educations, etc. about being a woman in the 21st century when intolerance, misogyny and political turmoil seem to be on the rise. The name refers to the now infamous quote from Trump, referring to Hillary Clinton, which has become a badge of honour for some women in the states. I really enjoyed reading this, the different perspectives on a variety of topics kept it fresh and interesting and I kept wanting to read on to the next essay, regardless of how tired I was at the time!

The Other Girl by Erica Spindler
Miranda Rader is a detective and a good one at that. Her kidnapping and attempted rape as a teenager, left her determined to make something of herself and put her into a position of authority where she can help other women. No one believed her when she was a teenager, about her own attack or about the girl who was taken with her and who was never found. Miranda has for the most part put this behind her, that is until she and her partner are called to a murder scene where the victim had a newspaper clipping detailing Miranda's kidnapping. He has been brutally murdered and by his injuries, it looks like a woman could be the perpetrator. Then Miranda's prints are found at the scene and things start to look very bad for her indeed. This is a great little thriller that kept me guessing thanks to a few twists and turns and the odd red herring thrown in for good measure! I really liked Miranda's character and the love story/steamy sex scenes didn't do any harm either!

The Betrayals by Fiona Neill
This was a book club read and not well liked by any of us if I recall correctly. The story is told from several different perspectives, giving it an uneven, jumpy quality. None of them are reliable narrators by the way, so you spend the entire book wondering what really happened. Anyway, Rosie and Lisa used to be best friends. They shared everything, went on holidays together and their children were best friends too. That is until Lisa betrayed Rosie. After years of silence, Rosie receives a letter from Lisa, exposing long held secrets and asking for help. The letter will cause Rosie's family to unravel even further. Nothing really happens in this book. You're lead to believe the whole way through that there's going to be some dramatic reveal but there really isn't. It felt a bit dragged out to me and the content doesn't match how it was marketed- it looks like and the blurb reads like a domestic noir thriller (that are all the rage at the minute) but don't be fooled- it's not. It moves along at a snails pace. On the plus side, there is a very realistic portrayal of OCD in there that I haven't seen as well written in any other novel. Overall though, I'd avoid. 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
I featured this in my top 5 books of the year (HERE). It was another book club read but much more successful this time. Elena Richardson is a journalist and mother of four, living in an affluent suburb of Cleveland. She is wealthy, successful and respected in her town, which she thinks is down to playing by the rules, something she's prided herself on her entire life. That all gets shaken up when free-spirited artist Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl move to the area; Elena's four children immediately becoming obsessed with them both, which makes Elena uneasy and envious. A local adoption involving Elena's best friend turns into a vicious custody battle that makes enemies of Elena and Mia and Elena decides to use her journalistic skills to uncover secrets about Mia's former life in an effort to destroy her. 
I've had a few people say they started this (on my recommendation..eep!) but found it quite slow moving. It is a slow burner, for sure, but it's beautifully written and atmospheric. The characters feel like real, flawed humans and I could understand their motives, even when they did terrible things. If you're looking for a quick, easy read, this isn't it but stick with it, it's gratifying in the end. Promise!

Recipes For A Nervous Breakdown by Sophie White
This is part memoir, part self-help book, part recipe book. I enjoyed all the parts. Sophie White was a regular gal, living a regular life until she took a tablet at a festival which led to the worst trip of her life and a knock on effect of debilitating mental illness for the next few years. The book covers that time but also her recovery, how she met her husband, their travels together and how she became a chef. The recipes throughout coincide with these times in her life, along with "meals to eat when..." you're pregnant, hungover, in love etc. I loved this book. It gave me so many recipe ideas, beautiful food photos to look at, good life advice and overall an interesting life story to read. 

Under The Dome by Stephen King
This is your classic King; small town Americana full of good and bad people who must face an un-fightable force of evil in order to survive..if the bad guys don't kill all the good guys along the way first, that is. A clear barrier descends over a small town, landing directly on the town borders. Nothing can pass in or out without annihilation and it cannot be destroyed. The longer it's there, the worse the oxygen levels become and the more likely it is that the town's resident mini dictator/murderer will destroy all the townsfolk. This was so gripping and as with all King books you get completely engrossed and attached to the characters. So many times I got annoyed and could be heard exclaiming "WHY? WHY HIM?!" etc. It's long, so you really have to like your King to take this one on- it's not his best but that's a pretty high bar anyway. I enjoyed muchly. 

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
This is one of the bigger bestselling thrillers from last year. It seemed at one point like everyone was reading The Couple Next Door. Two couples are at a dinner party, one of the couples have a baby daughter who they've left unattended in their home next door, with the baby monitor on. They check on her every half an hour. When they at last leave the dinner party it's been an hour since they checked on her and to their horror, find she's not in her cot- she's been kidnapped. No one is beyond suspicion; the couple themselves, their neighbours, their family etc and the book is really just about figuring out who took her and why. There's a few twists and turns and overall it's a really quick and entertaining thriller, without a huge amount of substance. 

This Is Going To Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay
Adam Kay is a comedian that originally trained to be a doctor and got quite far too until a tragic event at work made him completely change careers. This is his account of being a junior doctor in the NHS; from the very bottom of the rung; med student and intern, right up to senior house officer and registrar. Health care professionals LOVE telling you all of their weirdest and most wonderful hospital stories. I should know, I'm a nurse and a midwife and I'm married to a doctor. We regularly try and out-do each other with our work stories (no names mentioned, obviously. All very confidential) because that's what doctors and nurses do to relieve the stress we feel from the responsibility our jobs demand from us.
Adam is no different here and for the most part this is a funny read. At the heart of it though, is an expose of just how hard junior doctors work. They miss family events, can't maintain a relationship, work 24 hour shifts, sleep at work instead of going home cause sometimes it's easier and that's all before you add in the abuse from the public and the constant fear that they may make a mistake due to sheer exhaustion. I really enjoyed reading this because it all rang so true for me. I've experienced a lot of what Adam mentions (although I still think most of my hospital stories are better) and I would highly recommend everyone reads this, health care professional or not. It's an eye opener for most people but also, it's really very entertaining. I laughed, I winced and I cried loud, gulpy sobs. 

Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Reni Eddo-Lodge originally wrote an essay with the same name, which garnered so much interest she was asked to expand on the topic and write a novel, and here it is. The first quarter of the book explores the origins of racism in the UK and what role it currently plays in modern Britain. Here, she discusses whitewashed feminism, the connection between class and race and her suggestions for how we can acknowledge and counter racism when it occurs. This is a huge issue right now with modern feminism branching off between intersectionality and those who well, don't understand the actual meaning of feminism I guess?! I enjoy reading and learning as much as I can about feminism and how I can practice intersectional feminism and be a more inclusive and supportive feminist while acknowledging my own privilege, and I found this was a really astute perspective that would be helpful to most feminists.

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
I mean, we all want to know the answer to that one, am I right?? Hillary taking the blame squarely for it herself in this book about her run and subsequent loss of the US presidency. Also to blame of course are misogyny, sexism, the Russians, those damn emails, the head of the FBI, a feeling amongst Americans that there needed to be a change in the status quo and the inexplicable popularity of Donald Trump. I'm not a blind follower of Clinton, I'm well aware of mistakes she has made throughout her 30 year career in politics (I still can't reconcile the fact that a woman with 30 years experience in the job lost to a male reality TV show host), which she also addresses in this book. She holds her hands up and admits to things she would not do the same if she had a second chance. But she also makes the valid point that male politicians regularly make huge errors of judgement that effect millions and their careers aren't tarnished forever more. For me, this book provided a lot of food for thought. I had been following the US election so I was interested anyway but I also think hearing from the first major female presidential nominee after her defeat is an interesting read! I listened to this on audible cause HRC reads it herself so it fees more authentic that way, even though she can be a little stiff sometimes in her delivery. There's a lot of political discussion in here- what she planned to do if she had won etc. that isn't particularly fascinating but overall I enjoyed it and felt like I learnt a lot more about her as a person- and she is an interesting woman. If you're interested in politics and feminism and how those two coincide then you'll enjoy this too. 

Mindhunter; Inside The FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas
This is the book that the recent Netflix series Mindhunter was based on. There's some minor changes between the two but it's the same basic gist. I feel like I learnt more about the life of John Douglas (the main character in the show) from reading this and there's definitely far much more detail on the crimes featured in the series in here, as well as plenty of crimes that aren't (season 2 anyone?). There's also a lot more information about profiling itself, which I find compelling. Overall, an insightful read that kept me captivated, once I got past the first few chapters (those were a little slow). If you like True Crime, this is a good'un. 

OK, I lied, I was not brief but it's hard not to gush about books! 
Tell me, have you read any of these? What are you currently reading?

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