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Sunday, 10 December 2017

(Not So) Recently Read; August & September

I know. It's December and I am very late with this but I promise I'll be better next year!*
By now I'm well on my way to reaching this years reading goal of 60 books read but for the last couple of months, I did step it up a gear. One of the things I'm trying to do at the minute is actually finish the books I've started. Sometimes I'll start a book, like it, but end up starting another and it gets forgotten about. I've also gotten back into audiobooks and I've kept up my library borrowing too. Use your library, folks! I can't say it enough!


Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine
I had a £10 voucher for Audible and spotted this, within the budget and went for it. Well, was that a good move on my part! I figured this would be your average thriller but it was way better than that! Gina Royal is a Midwestern housewife with two kids, a husband and a seeming normal and idyllic life. That's all shattered however when her husband is revealed to be an active serial killer and has been using their garage to torture and murder women. The book shifts from that reality to another- now known as Gwen, Gina and her two kids have had to change their names innumerable times and move from place to place when there's been any hint that someone might find out who they are. They're being hunted by Internet trolls who believe that Gina knew what her husband was doing and was even his accomplice. Now they're settled at Stillhouse Lake and all is going well until the body of a woman is found near their home, and it appears that she was murdered in a strikingly similar fashion to Gina's husband's victims. Gina/Gwen is such a great character. She's strong and fierce and the story is absolutely gripping from start to finish. The sequel is out soon which I cannot wait to read!

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter
Another great thriller and surprisingly, my first ever Karin Slaughter book! Samantha and Charlotte Quinn are estranged sisters. Charlotte, now known as Charlie still lives in their home town and works with her father, Rusty. He's known as the "lawyer for the damned" because he will represent anyone- drug dealers, murderers, rapists. Charlie is also a lawyer now with a failing marriage and several traumatic miscarriages in her past. She becomes embroiled in a school shooting in the town and immediately her father chooses to represent the shooter, a vulnerable young girl. Her dad too becomes a target for this choice, as he has before and Charlie is forced to contact her sister Sam to come home. Sam hasn't been home since they were teenagers when a violent incident changed all of their lives forever. It left her with many physical scars and Charlie with mental ones. Their past is about to get dragged up again in the worst possible way. This was a non-putdownable gripper of a thriller! I loved Charlie and Sam's characters and although the story was disturbing at times, it was really well written and atmospheric. If you like thrillers, you'll enjoy this. 

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
This was the second book from Paula Hawkins, after Girl On The Train was a big bestseller last year. I read that one too and didn't love it but I was in the minority there so I said I'd give this a go. Jules's estranged sister Nel has just killed herself and Jules now has to look after her niece.
There's loads of flashbacks to when Jules and Nel were teenagers and hated each other cause Nel was a terrible person. Nel's daughter also seems awful. There's a police investigation going on in the book and the female detective is the only vaguely interesting character, even though she doesn't get a backstory, at least not up to where I read anyway. If that all sounds incredibly vague it's cause I stopped reading it about halfway through and returned it. Because it was going nowhere and I didn't care about any of them.

Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit
I love Rebecca Solnit, whenever I see a new essay by her I get really excited; I really enjoy her style of writing. This is a collection of essays, kicking off with Men Explain Things To Me, which was how the term "mansplaining" came into use. All the essays have an element of feminist thinking to them so are really interesting if that's your thing too. I started this one ages ago and just dipped in and out of it whenever I felt like it- something I love about essay collections. I've two more of her books on my to-be-read shelf, waiting to go! Next years books are already looking good!

Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay
This goes into my favourite books of the whole year, maybe of all time. A collection of fictional stories, this was my first Roxanne Gay book but most certainly won't be my last. Every story has a woman as its protagonist and they're all full, rounded people with flaws and secrets, good and bad traits. I was crying by the end of the first story while others left me completely bereft and others, fuming with anger. I still think about some of the women's stories from time to time. This for me was one of those times when you come across something so new and so different that it floors you a little bit- I'm still not quite recovered. Trigger warning for rape/child abuse if you are thinking of reading it. 

Dear Ijeawle, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
I love Chimamanda! This is a list of suggestions for her friend on how to raise her newborn daughter in a feminist way. Some are obvious but others, I hadn't thought of. I'd be intrigued to see would she write the same or something similar for a baby boy? Well worth a (quick) read for anyone, regardless of your parent status!

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
It's been several years since I read a Jodi Picoult book and my lasting impression from then was that her novels tend to focus on ethical or moral dilemmas that forces the protagonists into an impossible situation, which in turn asks us to think what would we do ourselves in that position? Small Great Things is no different to that but while you could at times describe her writing as formulaic, I felt there was so much research and depth to this book that it really stood out from her other work. Ruth is a labour and delivery nurse (midwife to you and I ) working in a maternity hospital in Connecticut, where she's worked for over twenty years. On a regular day she takes over the care of a mother, her husband and their new baby but is horrified when they demand she be removed as their nurse- they're white supremacists and Ruth is black. Things go from bad to worse when the baby becomes unwell and laden down with grief, the couple take their wrath out on Ruth, bringing her to court for negligence.
The book examines racism in America and not just the extremely obvious situation that Ruth finds herself in but the everyday inequalities that Ruth and her sister must live through that us, and Ruth's lawyer in the book, as white people of privilege have no real concept of.  One of my main issues with this book is that it really feels throughout that it's been written for white people to learn about their privilege- its a book about rather than for people of colour. This comes across pretty heavy handedly at times, especially in her note at the end where she basically says...examine your privilege, all you middle class white people who are reading this. Her intention here seems to be coming from a good place but I feel a little uneasy about a white woman writing about racism from the perspective of a black woman..maybe that's just me. It is still an intriguing and well written story, if you can look past those issues, which isn't always easy. 

The Break by Marian Keyes
I got this on Audible as soon as it came out; if there's a new Marian Keyes out then you best believe I'll be reading it. In this case, listening to it. Amy and Hugh are a married couple with teenage daughters, living in Dublin. She think they're happily married until Hugh announces that he's off travelling the world for 6 months or longer and that she's not coming with him. He wants to go on A Break and he's planning on being with other women while he's at it. This means that Amy will now have to juggle a full time job, three teenagers (one of whom is a blossoming Youtube star), a father with dementia and a mother who is struggling with caring for him. Add to that the realisation that she has to go back into the world of dating after a fairly lengthy gap. Lads, I loved Amy. It was a joy to listen to her. She's loveable and strong and vulnerable all rolled up into a big realistic package. I looked forward to listening to this- when I had to make myself leave the house to go to Pilates I'd entice myself to go by remembering I had Amy to listen to on the way there and back. I know some have said that they felt it was slightly long in places; I see where they're coming from but honesty, I just really enjoyed all of Amy's trials and tribulations. A great read for sure. You'll also find it in my Book Gift Guide 2017, HERE

Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling, the Novel by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen
In case you were unaware, there is a whole "Aisling"movement on Facebook that came before this book. Aisling is your classic Irish country girl; she wears runners to work and carries her heels in a Brown Thomas bag, she brings her lunch with her too cause those Dublin prices are mental. She's against anything that could seem like "notions", enjoys a night out at home in the local disco like nothing else and she never wastes the opportunity to get up for a hotel breakfast, no matter how drunk she is. We all know an Aisling, is what the basic gist of the book is and you know, I do! I also know lots of the other characters in the book; Sadbh and Majella for sure, as well as Aisling's Mammy and Daddy. Aisling has been with her fella for a few years now and as everyone they know is getting married and settling down, she assumes the same thing is on the cards for them. Unfortunately, he has other ideas and so Aisling is forced to reevaluate her plans. She moves in with cool new housemates, up to the Big Smoke and starts seeing someone new..but is she being true to herself?
I loved this one too, it's a really fun, enjoyable read, although it did make me bawl at one stage. We passed this around in work and everyone who read it loved it (and knew an Aisling) so you've got lots of recommendations for this one!

Paper Girls Vol.2 by Brian K. Vaughan
This is the second in the series of graphic novels about four young girls on Halloween night in the 80's, doing their usual newspaper round and somehow finding themselves thrown into a post apocalyptic world full of creatures they must fight while at the same time trying to come to terms with time travel and meeting their future selves. If it sounds a bit weird, it's cause it is but it's so much nerdy sci-fi fun. It's also beautifully drawn and I love the colours, dialogue and general kick-assery. 

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The film version of The Princess Bride is one of my favourite films of all time. I'm seen it far too much and it was really about time I read the book. Himself bought this for me a few Christmas's ago but unfortunately this is one of those books I started reading and put down and forgot to go back to until recently. I'm annoyed that I didn't continue with it at the time because I absolutely loved this. So it's written by William Goldman but the book is actually his version of S. Morgenstern's original book...or so I was led to believe. I'll say no more but one important thing I will say is; read the epilogues!! If you think you've seen the film and you don't need to read the book, you're so wrong! There's loads of great extra bits in here missing from the film and it has all the same humour, adventure and romance as the movie does but in book format- which is almost better, I haven't decided yet! I also think this would be a great one to read to little'uns, just like in the film!

My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal
It's 1981, Leon is an 8 year old boy who loves The Dukes of Hazard and his newborn baby brother, Jake. We learn most things from his perspective, including all the conversations her overhears. Unfortunately for the family, Leon's mum has postnatal depression and can no longer look after him and his brother, so they're taken to stay with a lovely foster lady until they can be adopted. Almost straight away, a young couple start to visit Jake, with a view to adopting him, but not Leon. Because Leon is black and his baby brother is white. Now with an influx of anger and frustration in his life, Leon struggles to cope with all the changes that don't make sense to him. Thankfully there are some things that van still make him happy; getting a new bike and riding it really fast, learning how to grow a garden, as taught by a kind black man in the local allotment, the love of his foster mum and his plan to save enough money to go and rescue his baby brother...which may or may not go all that well. This was a difficult read. I felt so sad for Leon and his family. At times it was hard to keep reading as it felt like things were never really going to get better for him, especially if he grew up holding on to that anger. It's an interesting perspective to read from though and a dramatic time in history with the race riots in the UK as the background story in the book. 

The Child In time by Ian McEwan
I'm a big Ian McEwan fan but somehow had never read this one until it was recommended to me on Twitter. Stephen Lewis is a successful writer of children's books. His life is going well until the day he brings his three year old daughter Kate to the supermarket, where she is snatched without a trace. This massive trauma sets Stephen and his wife, Julie, on devastating paths, separate from each other. Stephen's life unravels, essentially. This book is devastating, I don't have children but I could so intensely feel his distress that it made it a very difficult read and several times, I wanted to just put the book down. I love McEwan's writing though, as I've mentioned, so I ploughed on. The ending is beautiful and did bring some solace but honestly, I'm not sure I can recommend this one!

The Butterfly Effect by Jon Ronson
This was an audio book produced exclusively for Audible. I'm not sure if you can actually get this in paper/Ebook format but it would seem unlikely as this is mostly interviews with people and Jon Ronson talking in his languid voice (which I love). Jon Ronson is a journalist, he has written a good few books now, exploring lots of unusual topics. This time he's looking at the butterfly effect that took place following the availability of free pornography online. A "butterfly effect" in case you're wondering, is the knock-on effect that can take place from even the smallest of actions, like the beating of a butterfly's wings. Here, Ronson interviews those involved in making porn available for free and those involved in the making of it and how porn is now produced following this turn of events. I found this absolutely fascinating and was glued to it. 

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
This is another one of those ones I started a couple of years ago and put down, intending to finish but never did...until now! I've read a few Hornby's and I think this was the first that really puts the reader into a man's brain, which is an unusual place for me to find myself! Rob and Laura have just broken up. He's decided he's cool with that; he can do all the things he couldn't do while in a relationship, like listening to his music and see new girls and generally act like Laura was never in his life. But that gets him thinking about his previous relationships and being the self-obsessed ass he is, he's compiled a list of his top 5 breakups, who he then has to contact and obsess over, all the while thinking about how he can get Laura back and if he really wants to be with someone at all?
This is a weird one for me, I've liked other Hornby books but Rob is quite difficult to relate to. I mean, he's not likeable at all. I know that's the point of his character but it doesn't make it a more enjoyable read by being aware of that. It's still a good read and parts did make me chuckle but the fact this is part of a genre called "dick-lit" (I'm not joking, look it up), maybe says it all.

And that's the lot!
I will of course eventually be back here with my October and November reads so stay tuned!
Have you read any of these?
Tell me what you're reading right now, I'm nosey like that!

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