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Monday, 9 June 2014

Recently Read | April & May

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
I read this in about two days. I loved it. Gillian Flynn knows how to write creepy suspense novels, that's for sure. I really liked Gone Girl, which divided opinion and I could see why. Sharp objects was her debut novel and my God, is it impressive. This is majorly dark, it reminded me a bit of True Detective actually. Camille is a journalist sent back to her hometown to report on the murder of a young girl and the disappearance of another. Unfortunately for Camille, her family and her past are all toxic to her and considering she has a history of self harm requiring psychiatric care, it's a very dangerous situation for her to be in. Added to that is of course the killer that's roaming around and you have a seriously brilliant crime/thriller. The characters in this are just so complex, it was an absolute pleasure to read, even though it was more than a little disturbing at times. If you like your books a bit more on the dark side then this is the one for you.

The One Plus One by JoJo Moyes
I loved 'Me Before You' and had high expectations for this one too but was sadly disappointed. Jess is a single mum to two kids; a mathematical genius daughter Tanzie and a bullied stepson, Nicky, who is struggling to keep going. Jess works two fairly menial jobs to afford to look after everyone while her ex husband has selfishly legged it off to his mums and offers no help. The inevitable romantic element comes in when Jess needs to get Tanzie to a maths contest in Scotland and a man who she works for (and hates) offers to help. This is fine, it's just not really one of those "I can't wait to see what happens next" books. It didn't capture my attention that much, although I did cry once near the end at an incident regarding the family dog. In general, this wasn't really my type of thing.

Death In The Clouds by Agatha Christie
I haven't read an Agatha Christie since I was much younger and because of that. there's something vaguely comforting about picking up one of her books with a cup of tea in hand. Because of my lapsed memory regarding AC, I had also forgotten how horribly racist she was (two of the main characters both supposed to be likeable have a light-hearted, frivolous conversation about how they "dislike Negroes". Urgh. Sure, it's "of it's time" but that doesn't mean I necessarily want to read it, you know? Death in the Clouds is a Poirot murder mystery set on board a plane from France to the UK. At first it appears one of the passengers has been killed by an errant bee but Poirot uses his grey cells to figure out that it was actually a poison-tipped dart. This, as always is only the start of the intrigue, there's plenty more red herrings and murders along the way. Not her best by a long shot (ha) but not completely terrible either.

Back Story by David Mitchell
I started reading this before Christmas but it's one of those books that I couldn't just fly through- it's actually better suited to reading intermittently. I really like David Mitchell, I always read his columns in the Observer and am a big Peep Show fan but something about this just moved a bit slower than his usual writing. The idea behind it is that Mitchell has injured his back and is advised by his doctor to walk a lot to heal it so the book follows him on his strolls around London where he points out various spots that have been relevant to his life with accompanying opinions on everything from politics to acting, and the occasional anecdote thrown in. Some parts are really entertaining and flow easily, others not so much. I loved the chapter about how he met his wife; his descriptions of love and marriage are beautiful and made me weep like a big sap. I think this would be better suited to an audio book actually, so if you can, get it that way!

One More Thing Stories And Other Stories by B.J. Novak
Novak, known for his role as Ryan the temp in The US Office, wrote a series of quirky and thought-provoking short stories and got all of his friends to read them out for the audio version of this book, which I happily bought. I really liked this one, some of the stories are just genius and had me thinking about them for days after I'd read them. Others were very witty and peppered with some running jokes. I loved hearing the familiar voices of Mindy Kaling, Katy Perry, Carey Mulligan, Lena Dunham, Rainn Wilson, Emma Thompson, Jason Schwartzman, Julianne Moore and Novak himself. 

Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter
I'd wanted to read this for a while, so I snapped it up when I saw it in the library. It centres on Renee and Flo, two teenage girls growing up in the mid-nineties on Guernsey Island who are both alone and lonely in their own ways, both in need of true friendship. As I'm sure you can guess, they end up together in spite of many obstacles in their path. I really enjoyed this, it felt like an authentic look at the lives of teenage girls; all the embarrassing and cringe-tastic moments included. I like O Porter's writing, it flows nicely and is quite humorous. I'm planning on reading the sequel, 'Goose' next to see how the girls got on after this one ends. 

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Wolves At The Gate. Issue no. 3
The last of my Buffy graphic novels from Christmas. Dracula makes a reappearance in this one (with reference to Xander as his manservant) and there's some cool action scenes set in Japan. There's also an unexpected Buffy/lesbian storyline. I've since tracked down the next few in the series in my library so you can be sure I'll be ALL over that.

Invincible Ultimate Collection. Volume 1
I got this for the hubster for Christmas, it has the first 13 editions in it so I thought it'd be a good introduction to the series. Invincible is the story of a teenage boy Mark Grayson who discovers that like his super hero father, Omni-man, he is now developing his own powers. He joins a group of other teenage superheroes and they set about doing good and saving the world etc. This is really witty, lots of in-jokes and perfect for superhero nerds like myself. 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl is a YA novel about twins Cath and Wren who decide not to share a room together when they start college. This is very much Wren's decision; she's the more outgoing, socially capable of the two whereas Cath is awkward around others and suffers from a certain amount of anxiety, something which she generally deals with through writing online "fan fiction" about popular character Simon Snow (basically Harry Potter by another name). The book follows her first year in college and how she deals with her dramatically changing life; meeting new people, family issues and coping with burgeoning romance while struggling with college work and maintaining her online fan fiction author persona. I just really enjoyed this book. I loved Cath's character and a certain amount of her anxieties resonated with me. For instance, she's afraid to go to the college canteen because she doesn't know the system; which line to queue in, where to sit, what happens if she makes a mistake at the counter etc. That just seemed like a very real anxiety to me. Also, the slow-growing love story is beautifully written and had me smiling away to myself like a loon. The only thing I didn't overly love about this was all the Simon Snow excerpts..I found them a bit tedious if I'm honest. They're easy enough to skip if they're not really your thing though. Like most YA books, this is more than suitable for an older audience and I'd definitely recommend this one.

The Stand by Stephen King
Reading this was a bit of a personal achievement for me, considering it's 1,153 pages long. Granted, I listened to it on audio so it probably took me longer than it would have anyway. One of my reading challenges for the year is to read more Stephen King and this was one that always comes up in people's favourites lists. 
This is an epic apocalyptic tale; a virus deigned to be a weapon of war is accidentally released at an army base in the US, quickly spreads and results in a massive death toll. Those who are left can be divided into good and evil, represented by two figureheads; the all-seeing Mother Abigail and the terrifying Dark Man. I will admit that I gave out on occasion at just how long this book was. My audio version was divided into 6 parts, each of which were 8 hours long. I felt to start with that it was classic King; a little bit self-indulgent and wondered at times were each very descriptive scene necessary but you know that's the beauty of his books. I feel like I got to know each character so well; they all got a full back story so any time anything happened to any of them it felt a bit like a punch to the stomach. I openly cried at several parts while out for walks. This is one I won't forget in a hurry and if you have the time and inclination for a book that is at times dark, creepy and disturbing but equally emotive, humorous and entertaining then I would definitely recommend it.

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh
Hailed by many as the read of the Summer, I was really looking forward to this one and also got it on Audible. It starts off really promisingly with wonderful descriptions of a sunny Majorca that left me lusting for a sun holiday. The protagonist, Jenn is in a stable but boring marriage and is enjoying her holiday with her husband until her 15 year old, deeply unpleasant stepdaughter Emma arrives with her cocky, attractive boyfriend in tow. Jenn immediately feels dowdy in comparison and jealous of her closeness to Nathan (the hot boyfriend). From there it basically devolves into a sub par mummy-porn with lots of frankly, unpleasant sex scenes. I could get over the fact that all of the characters are horrible people (I don't need to like any of the characters to enjoy a book, as long as the storyline is engaging. And that's the problem here for me; the storyline just wasn't strong enough. The fraught relationship between Jenn and Emma was interesting but again, there was just way too much Jenn/Nathan scenes for anyone else to get a look in. Overall, meh.

Have you read any of this lot? Thoughts?


  1. Think I may give Sharp Objects a read!!

  2. I loved sharp objects aswell, couldn't put it down! Her other one called dark places is a great read too! Love the blog! ;)

    1. I have Dark places as well, haven't read it yet but am really looking forward to it!

  3. I liked Gone Girl, so I'm sure at some stage I'll pick up Gillian Flynn's other novels. I loved Fan Girl as well, it's one of my favourite books of the year so far. And I just finished reading Goose, I liked it a lot more than Paper Aeroplanes!

    1. Excellent, I'll definitely give Goose a go so!

  4. Adored The Stand. Definitely one of those books I will never ever forget. It think the ending was a bit disappointing as you were so invested in all the characters, I just feel King left the ending as an afterthought. Cannot wait to read Mr. Mercedes now though!