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Sunday, 8 January 2017

Recently Read; October & November

So yes, again, this is extremely late but sure look. No, that's actually it. I've no excuse. It's a new year and I've already started my reading list for 2017 but I read some great books towards the end of 2016 and it would be remiss of me to not review them. 
So here we are:

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent
As I've mentioned before, I read Liz's second book, Lying in Wait (released last year) before reading Unravelling Oliver and although I highly rate Lying in Wait, this one completely blew me away. The story begins with us learning that Oliver has brutally beaten his wife, Alice, who is now in a coma. As far as everyone was concerned, Oliver was a charismatic, charming man who found great success as a children's writer, with Alice illustrating his books. 
The book tells his life story; from his perspective but also from those who he has met along the way, leading up to the present day and what has caused his violent attack. I read this over a couple of days and like Lying In Wait, we are told from the get-go who the baddie is, we just don't know why. I find that to be a really clever writing technique- there's still that element of mystery but it feels fresh and exciting. None of the characters in this are particularly likeable but the storyline moves along at a good pace and there's enough intrigue in there to put an Eastenders script writer out of business!

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
This was one of my book club reads and we all loved it. 
Set in Cork, post the Celtic Tiger crash, the murder of a local scumbag ends up affecting the lives of five of the cities other strays and misfits: Maureen; home form London years after giving her son Jimmy up as a baby, with a grudge against the Catholic Church and the Ireland of old (and kind of new too), Jimmy himself; now a big-time gangster, his lackey Tony; an alcoholic who beats his son Ryan; a 15 year old in love with his girlfriend but constantly being trapped by life and Georgie; a teenage runaway and drug addict, forced into a life of prostitution. It sounds incredibly grim from that description but it's brilliantly written- some of the sentences made me stop just to fully appreciate the wording and there's a perfect mix of humour and tragedy in there too. Lisa has a sequel coming out in April, so if you've yet to read this masterpiece, I'd get cracking now!

I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts On Being A Woman by Nora Ephron  
I've loved Nora Ephron's work for years now (she wrote the screenplay for When Harry Met Sally, just as one example) but I've somehow never read any of her published writing, until I found this book in my online Library catalogue. I had read it within a couple of days because it was just so enjoyable. Her words flow perfectly and so many times I found myself laughing heartily and then reading out a passage to itself. This is a collection of essays about her life including one called "What I Wish I'd Known", which has some of the best life advice of all time.
I'll be on the hunt for Heartburn next, and then ALL of her other books. 

Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig
This was another online library ebook find. I had wanted to read this for a while, having heard of Matt Haig in relation to his fictional novels but also that this, a non-fiction book about depression was well worth a read also. It details Matt's own real life experiences in developing depression and from there, how he dealt with it and how he still deals with it to this day. I will say that I found parts hard to read. Unsurprisingly it can be a bit bleak because he never really shies away from the reality of his illness but he also gives some excellent advice on how to cope and lists some pretty stellar reasons to stay alive- as the title would suggest! Although it was difficult at times, this is a great read for anyone who currently suffers with depression or has in the past but also, for anyone really. At some point in everyones life, there's a good chance we may all have to deal with mental illness, so really I think this is a useful read for everyone.

Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice
This, along with Streetcar down below, were picks for our New Orleans trip and seriously, they were so appropriate. Obviously, Interview with The Vampire is set in New Orleans but that aside, it's also deeply atmospheric and was perfect for where we were staying and the time of year- we were there for Halloween. We also visited Anne Rice's old house, which was a cool addition to my reading of it. In case you haven't seen the Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt 90's movie, the film follows Louis as he tells his 200-yearlong life story to an astounded journalist. Beginning with his brother's death and from there his own transformation into a vampire at the hands of outrageous creature of the night, Lestat, to their finding and making a child vampire, right up to the current day (current day being the 1970's at the time of publishing). Although I knew what was going to happen, there are of course plenty of differing elements to the book and film, including a slightly changed ending so if you have seen it, worry not, it's still an enjoyable read. Plus I now want to read the rest of the series!

A Head Full Of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
This, as you can see from the cover was a Stephen King recommendation. As in, I read an article where he said this was a brilliant horror read, not that he phoned me up and was all "Chloe, it's your old pal Steve, check out Head Full of Ghosts". But you probably knew that anyway. Moving on, this was actually a really unusual mix of reality TV, poltergeist and somebody's thesis on Horror books and movies. So basically, I loved it. The Barrett family struggle to cope when their fourteen year old daughter Marjorie begins to show signs of schizophrenia. When they realise they can no longer afford her medical care, they turn to the Church, who have a very different take on what's wrong with Marjorie and how she should be helped. Namely, they think she's possessed and that she needs an exorcism. To help prevent the family from going under financially, they agree to allow a television crew into their home to film what goes on for a salacious TV show. Fifteen years later, Karen, a horror blogger re-watches the show and then blogs about it. Also at this time, a writer is interviewing Marjorie's younger sister Merry for a book, where we find out what she believes happened. This was a creepy read, at times scary but mostly it was just really gripping. I desperately wanted to know what would happen- how the family were going to get out of this and if Marjorie was really possessed. I also LOVED the end of the book that goes back over all of the pop culture references in the book; where they came from and how they were relevant. If you're a horror lover, this is the book for you!

Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie
Again, a Halloween read (unsurprisingly). This is a Miss Marple where a child is drowned in a bobbing-for-apples Halloween game after it transpires that she knew a little too much about a murder that she claimed had taken place years before. The unknown here was who was murdered, who was the killer and once that could be figured out, the murderer of the little girl would also be revealed. This wasn't a bad Christie but as it was one of her later novels, it suffered from the constant mention of how society had changed and how people were more likely to have mental illnesses etc. That's an interesting feel for the times it was written I guess, but it did feel a bit over emphasised. 
Still, not a bad themed read, if a little convoluted at times. 

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Once again, I've seen the Marlon Brando film adaptation so I knew the story but I really loved the writing here. Although it's in the format of a play, it's still a great read and flows along at a good pace. Blanche du Bois moves to New Orleans to live with her sister Stella and her boorish husband, Stanley. It's a hot, muggy Summer in New Orleans and tensions begin to rise between the three of them until frail and damaged Blanche begins to fall apart, helped along by Stanley. Obviously plays are meant to be experienced on stage but in this case, the written version is also superb.

So that's the lot for now. I'll be back soon with December and January's reads (once I've finished them!) Until then, have you read any of these?
What are you reading right now?
To the comments!


  1. I loved The Glorious Heresies! I'm looking forward to the follow up book too

  2. I must get that Liz Nugent book! I bought Good Me Bad Me at the weekend, hope it will be good!