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Monday 26 March 2018

Recently Read: February

Oh, I read some great books last month! You can follow me along on my goal to read 70 books this year, HERE on Goodreads. Let me know if you've read any of these and of course, what you're currently reading yourself!

Still Me by JoJo Moyes
I was one of those people that absolutely loved Me Before You; the story of Louisa Clarke, a young woman who's lost her way a bit and takes a job looking after Will, a former finance manager left paraplegic after a road traffic accident. SPOILER ALERT but they fall in love and Will eventually makes the heartbreaking decision to opt for euthanisation, in spite of the happiness Louisa brought to his life. I raced through it, fell a bit in love with Louisa and Will myself, and cried my eyes out at the end. The sequel to that, Me After You is about Louisa trying to pick up the pieces of her life after this tragedy and it, perhaps understandably, didn't live up to its predecessor. Still Me sees Louisa finally taking the jump Will would have wanted her to- she moves to New York, takes a job working for a wealthy family and tries to find herself again. This was a real return to form for this character- new friends, new romantic prospects, new career opportunities, new adventures with the same great personality she had in the first book. I really enjoyed this, it was nice walking in Louisa's shoes again and the story flowed along so well. I almost hope she doesn't write another one though, it's a good ending to a trilogy.

Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
I love Roxanne Gay's writing. I read Difficult Women last year and decided on the spot that she was now one of my favourite authors- searing, shocking, insightful, beautiful prose that stayed with me for a long time afterwards. Bad Feminist is a collection of essays organised under different headings; Gender and Sexuality, Race and Entertainment, and Politics, Gender and Race. Although it was only written a few years ago, parts of it feel a bit outdated already; mentions of Bill Cosby and not in a "he's a rapist" kind of way, for instance. Having said that, I thought it was really interesting and found myself wanting to keep reading on to the next essay. 

The Dry by Jane Harper
The Dry is a thriller set in the Australian countryside- think depressing, practically empty small-town, rather than community-friendly Home and Away. Aaron Falk is now a federal agent but he has to return home after his childhood friend Luke has been found dead, apparently by his own hands, along with his wife and two children. When they were teenagers, Luke gave Aaron an alibi after their friend was found dead but the townsfolk never believed it and so Aaron finds himself facing a lot of hostility on his return. He refuses to believe that Luke would have hurt his family, however and sets about finding their killer. This was a really good thriller. Yes, I guessed one of the bigger twists but getting to that point was still exciting and I loved the setting of the story- most thrillers out at the minute are set in America or the UK so this was refreshingly different. 

About Face- The Smart Woman's Guide To Beauty: Your Essential Skincare and Make-Up Bible for the Changing face of Beauty by Aisling McDermott and Laura Kennedy
When original Irish beauty blogger and all round ledge Aisling McDermott passed away recently, I felt it would be a fitting tribute to her to read the beauty bible she co-wrote with journalist Laura Kennedy. I took my time flicking through this one, there's separate sections for skincare (and subgroups within that), and then make-up broken down into foundations, eye make up etc etc. I mostly skipped the parts that weren't relevant to me; oily skin, mature skin, teenage skin etc. This is a lovely book for beauty lovers; full of gorgeous product photos and lots of great tips and product suggestions. 

The Witchfinder's Sister by Beth Underdown*
Set in Essex, England in 1645, Alice returns to her her childhood home widowed, pregnant and alone with no prospects and forced to live with her stern brother, Matthew. In her time away he's become wealthy and powerful and uses that influence to elevate himself to the position of chief witch hunter. Thanks to a lack of education and a fear and suspicion amongst the townspeople, Matthew becomes all-powerful and can torture and abuse any woman he decides is a witch, with complete immunity. Worse still, knowing how precarious her position is, he forces Alice to help him but she has other ideas and vows to escape his clutches. Can she stop him before he destroys them both and kills more and more women? I really enjoyed this book, it's so atmospheric and although it's disturbing at times, it's so well written, you'll be completely absorbed by it. Plus it's based on real people and real events and I personally find that time in history fascinating, especially after visiting Salem a couple of years ago. Oh and that ending! My jaw dropped! 

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
This was our book club choice this month but I flew through it in February in early nerdy preparation! Set in Nigeria in the 1980's, this was for sure a very different setting than books I've read previously. Yejide and Akin are happily married and have been in love since they met in college. Unlike other couples in their community, Yejide has her own business and a car, even though Akin has a good job in the bank. Also unlike other couples, Yejide is the only wife in their marriage, that is until it is decided by their families that Akin will marry another woman in the hopes that she can provide him with a child, something Yejide has not been able to do so far. This is a devastating blow for Yejide and she goes to desperate measures to keep Akin all to herself. This was a really interesting book and an insightful look into the way things were in Nigeria at that time. It also spoke to me (and my all female book club) about the expectations placed on women and the presumption of what their place in society is. It touched on so many topics; infertility, tradition, chronic illness, motherhood, love and family amongst many others. 

Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates*
This has been billed as one of the bigger thrillers for 2018 and to an extent, it didn't let me down. The book opens with a shocking scene- a young teenage girl tied to a tree, bloodied and broken, two of her male friends nearby, one holding the weapon used to torture her. Twenty something years later, their lives have changed more than they could ever have imagined. The three meet again in New York, with devastating consequences. I think while the book started out incredibly strongly, and I was really intrigued by what their futures would hold, I felt it waned slightly with a lot of talk of food blogging (which I mostly enjoyed...nom!) and the origin of a cement factory, which went on a bit longer than I would have liked. I really appreciated that we got to hear from more than one of the characters in flashback form, telling their version of the story years later and then also the conversations between the characters. It felt like we got a well rounded view of the events depicted in the book. All of those points of view converge later on but it wasn't the dramatic ending I expected. Personally, I had a very different idea of how the book was going; I thought the character of Hannah was doing an Amazing Amy on us at one point and honestly, I was totally there for that! In spite of all of the "read this if you love Gone Girl" book recommendations over the last few years, it really felt well-suited to this book because it had a similar Gilian Flynn vibe. That's probably my own fault for going off on a mental tangent though! Overall, it's slow paced but simmers with tension. I loved Hannah's character and would gladly have read more from her. 

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
Susan Ryland is an editor sitting down to read bestselling author Alan Conway's latest manuscript. She's worked with Conway for years and is fond of his reoccurring character, Atticus Pünd, a German detective post-war, finding himself solving murder mysteries in a sleepy English village. Susan states with a certain amount of doom that this book will change her life irrevocably, and then we get to read the book for ourselves, stopping just before the big reveal and bringing us back to the real world, where Susan is. She stops because the last chapter is missing and begins to suspect that the disturbing murder depicted in the book has a link to a real life crime. She then sets about solving the mystery herself. I'm a big Agatha Christie fan, so I really enjoyed the Atticus Pünd book and was actually a bit put out when I didn't get the solution to the mystery when I was expecting it! I also really enjoyed following Susan around on her quest for the truth. In general, this was a really good read; if you like murder mysteries, thrillers and whodunnits then this is for you!

Paper Girls Vol 3 by Brian K. Vaughan
This is obviously the third in this series- a beautifully drawn, super vibrant graphic novel series about four kick-ass teenage girls in 1980's America, battling against giant monsters, time travel and various past and future versions of themselves. It's very cool. 

And that's the lot for now! I'm currently reading some really good thrillers, I'll be back with more reviews soon!

* indicates books that were provided for review. This is not a paid for or sponsored post. All opinions are my own, as always!

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