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Tuesday 9 September 2014

Recently Read | August

My back is still banjaxed so I'm still on my reading roll. Last month I read this lot plus weekend book reviews HEREHEREHERE and HERE, in case you missed them. These were all either library finds, were in the Amazon Kindle sales (seriously, I'm talking a euro!), or were from NetGalley so it's been a frugal month book-wise! Here's everything else I read (bar a pre release of the new Marian Keyes, which I'm waiting a while to pop up the review for as it isn't out until November!):

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes
This is my third JoJo Moyes novel and I liked this more than The One Plus One although I liked it slightly less than Me Before You...I hope that's a helpful barometer! In this one we're told two stories; that of Sophie in France in 1916, trying to keep her family safe against the invasion of German officers while her artist husband fights at the front and the story of Liv, in modern times, still mourning the loss of her husband while she struggles with finances and being alone. What connects them both is a painting by Sophie's husband, depicting Sophie herself. The painting causes series troubles for Sophie with the German soldiers and again for Liv when she is faced with having to return it (it's now hers, given to her by her deceased husband) to the ancestors of Sophie who claim it was stolen and is a war crime. For Liv, the painting is all she really has left of her husband and so she fights this tooth and nail, although in doing so she may also lose everything else that she has. Depicting two beautiful love stories, spanning a century apart, this is a well told story that ties everything together nicely and overall is just a good, solid read that you may have trouble putting down. Definitely worth checking out. 

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Set in post first world war London, we follow around socialite Clarissa Dalloway for "a day in the life", where she makes the final plans for a party she's throwing that night. Throughout the day, we meet several different characters including Peter Walsh, an old former love interest. Through Peter we also meet a war veteran suffering from PTSD, hallucinations and suicidal ideations. The book culminates with Clarissa's party where most of the characters we've so far met are in attendance with an unfortunate outcome for the soldier. Like I said in my Goodreads review, I struggled a fair bit with this book, which I mostly put down to the actual style of writing used by Woolf. Anything written using a stream of consciousness and I lose the ability to concentrate, so much so that it took me forever to finish this because I had to keep putting it down to read something else instead. I just can't get along with all of that flitting in between the different characters thoughts, direct and indirect speech and actions at the rate that it does. This is similar in style to Ulysses in that respect, although somehow I still prefer Ulysses…I found it hard to like the character of Clarissa all that much and so I also struggled with listening to her many thoughts.

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell
Yeah I know, it's quite the disparity, having the YA version of Sex and The City next to Virginia Woolf but I needed something trashy to read and as I'm still loving all things Carrie related, I said I'd give this a go. It's actually fairly different to the TV series of the same name; it still follows Carrie when she's a teenager growing up in small town Castlebury, grappling with the loss of her mother and her rebellious teen sister but her love interest Sebastian is a scumbag in the book and nothing really major even happens in this- in the TV show there's a whole thing about her getting an internship in a magazine in New York. The most that happens in the book is that she's betrayed by her best friend, although all of her friends seem horrible at the best of times anyway. It ends with her arriving in the Big Apple and meeting a well known future character which makes me vaguely interested in reading the next one…but only if I get that for 99p also. Otherwise, I won't bother.

The Nightingale Girls & The Nightingale Sisters by Donna Douglas
The Nightingale Girls was actually sent to me by NetGalley to read in exchange for my honest review and the good news is that I loved it. I have a not so secret love for these sort of old school nursing stories; think Call the Midwife and you're on a similar track here. This is the first book in a five part series that follows three young student nurses from their first year of training in the prestigious Nightingale hospital in London in 1936. The three girls share a room together and they couldn't be any more different- Dora is a tough eastender from a poor background with an abusive stepfather who is determined to get away from that and make a success of herself. Helen is quiet and studious and avoids friendship with the rest of her class as she's under pressure from her overbearing mother to be a model student while Millie is from an aristocratic background and wants something more from her life other than parties and being dependant on a husband. All three struggle in their own ways with the pressures of being a student nurse in pre-war England but also with their own personal lives, their families and trying to find love. The characters are really well developed in this and I was so sucked in, I downloaded the second book- The Nightingale Sisters straight away and devoured that really quickly too! In the second book, the girl are in their second year of training and although they're becoming better at their jobs they still have a lot of the same personal struggles as well as the hardships they face on the wards; unpleasant duties, working long arduous hours and exams but mostly being treated poorly by the ward sisters who we learn more about in this book. Turns out they're not all bad; like most human beings they're multi dimensional and again, their characters are really well developed. While it touches on some serious topics it's also quite heartwarming; to me these are the ultimate comfort reads. Number three is coming up next..can't wait!

Summer's Child by Diane Chamberlain
Again, this was a 99p purchase on amazon and I thought it'd be a good Summer read what with the title and all. The story here is that 11 year old Daria finds an abandoned baby on the beach beside her house one morning. Amazingly, the newborn is still alive and because her family falls in love with her, they adopt her. Fast forward to 22 years later and the baby, Shelly, is now grown up and living with her two adoptive sisters Daria and Chloe, still in the beach house near where she was found. Shelly has grown into a sweet young woman who appears to have suffered some level of brain damage from the trauma of her birth and is incapable of leaving her hometown. She's determined though to find out who her birth mother was and so contacts TV presenter Rory Taylor, who used to live in her small seaside town but now presents a programme solving old mysteries in California. He agrees to help and returns to his old home with his son for the summer. From there we get treated to more than a few fairly drawn out red herrings, loads of secrets, a big mad storm and an accident, a bit of romance and a lot of nonsense. Nothing really happens in this for most of the book which became fairly frustrating after a while but even with that, this was just a grand easy read. If you're looking for a book that involves no concentration whatsoever (sometimes we all need one of those!) then this is for you!

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 8, Volume 3 by Joss Whedon et al
Ah Buffy, my one true TV love. If you read my book review posts then you'll know I'm trying to read more graphic novels this year and I'm loving the Buffy series. This is volume three and the last available to me in any of my nearby libraries. Boo. This one sees the return of lots of old Buffy characters; Harmony is back and is now a Vampire reality TV star, Riley shows up and Warren and Amy are still hanging around, trying to bring down the Buffster and the rest of the operation. Again, the drawings are perfect and the writing is as sharp and quick witted as ever. Must get my hands on more!!

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
I've wanted to read Maus for ages and am shamefully only getting around to it now. Art Spiegelman is an American cartoonist who interviewed his father in order to tell his story of his experiences as a Holocaust survivor. Spiegelman, using his fathers narration, paired it with his drawings depicting Jews as mice, Nazis as cats and pigs as non-Jewish Poles. Given the subject matter it is pretty heavy going in parts but the fact that it's broken up by flitting between times, i.e the Holocaust and 1970's New York (when the interviews are taking place) definitely helps to break up the story somewhat. The drawings are skilfully done and although it's both heartbreaking and deeply unsettling, it's also a brilliant piece of work. Plus it won the Pulitzer prize in 1992 so it's well worth a read.

Wolverine & Gambit: Victims by Jeff Loeb & Tim Sale
Himself picked this one up for me in the library as I'm a fan of anything X-Men and again, graphic novels. In this one, Wolverine and Gambit both find themselves mysteriously in London trying to solve a modern day Jack the Ripper, which they both find themselves being blamed for..but are they being set up? Well, yes. Obviously. And that's where this one falls down for me. It was an interesting premise but was predictable and not enough happened. Overall I felt they could have done a lot more with what they had.

And that's the lot for August! What have you read lately?


  1. I really must read a couple of Virginia Wolfe books.

  2. I always love your reviews, I've just finished a good one, and I'm looking for my next read, I think I might try another of JG's, I've heard good things about Looking for Alaska & Paper Towns. You still need to read The Bedwetter, I'm still constantly reaching for it when I need cheering up lol x

  3. I'm defitniey going to get the series of nursing books. Have you read 'Yes Sister,No Sister' by Jennifer Craig, I'm sure it's quite similar. X

  4. Some of Virginia Woolf's books sound so good but I can't take to her at all, 'The Waves' absolutely did my head in and I couldn't finish it. I made a total rookie mistake on Netgalley and requested too many, didn't think I'd get approved for half of them - but several of them came back the one day, needless to say I'm up to my eyeballs in ARCs now and it's starting to feel like a chore, book greed lesson learned!! Amazon have those Buffy comics in hardback bindings, sets or collections I think? As far as I can remember I don't think they are very expensive, might be a good one for the C-word list! That Jojo Moyes one is on my to-read list for ages, need to make time to read what I own! x

  5. Got Carrie Diaries ages ago and it was so boring that i couldn't finish it.

  6. I'm a big fan of Maus, it's a great story and I love the drawings.

    You're like my Mum, in the sense that there is ALWAYS books about nurses lying around the house! Usually non-fiction ones though

  7. Sorry to hear you struggled a bit with 'Mrs Dalloway'. It's weird, when you compared its writing style to 'Ulysses' I knew exactly what you meant yet I couldn't take to that book at all.