It feels such a long time since I last wrote a monthly wrap-up post. I’ve had a funny month for reading – whilst I’ve managed to read a similar amount to previous months, it has felt stilted.
I’ve had days of no reading at all and then I’ve gone through sudden bursts of reading all day and all night until I couldn’t consume any more, until I physically couldn’t keep my eyes open. This month I’m hoping to read a bit more consistently and will be aiming for a manageable chunk each day! I’ve got LOTS of review books piling up for June releases, so my (rather ambitious?) aim is to read a book every other day in May. So far I’ve already ticked off two novels, hopefully I can achieve this.
How Much the Heart Can Hold (Sceptre) – 3/5
By Carys Bray, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Bernardine Evaristo, Grace McCleen, Donal Ryan, Nikesh Shukla, D. W. Wilson
This collection of short stories explores how love is not a singular concept. Each story is penned by a different author and looks at different types of love, from Agape (love for humanity) to Philautia (self-love). I adored the stories by Carys Bray and Nikesh Shuklah – they were real, brimming with humanity, they stuck with me and left me wanting to read more by these authors. Bray’s story in particular conveyed so much in so few pages, it even made me well up! However overall I felt that this collection of short stories was uneven and some of the other stories had too much magical realism in them for me, particularly as I prefer realist collections. Unfortunately on this occasion I preferred the concept of the collection rather than the process of reading it.
Ashes to Ashes by Paul Finch (Avon) – 3/5
Ashes to Ashes is book number six in DS Mark Heckenburg series and is a thrill-a-minute detective story packed full of gory action. We follow Heck from London to his hometown of Bradburn on his mission to catch the killer. I took part in the blog tour for Ashes to Ashes and you can read an extract of the book here.
Diary of an Oxygen Thief by Anonymous (NLVI Publishers) – 2/5
A story of a misogynistic sociopath, this book didn’t do anything for me. I got annoyed by the narrator’s incessant whining. It was a short book at only 143 pages but still felt like a slog to get through, which for me is never a good sign! As I said in my full review, I think this is a marmite book – you either love it or hate it.
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Faber & Faber) – 3/5
I don’t know where to start with this one. It’s epic, it’s lyrical, it’s expansive. Barry’s writing is beautiful and often made me pause to reread swathes of sections. It was full of suffering, wartime carnage and love; some of the dialogue, thoughts and feelings made my heart hurt. There were parts I sped through, however on top of this there were also parts which felt extended, never-ending and perhaps that was Barry’s intention – after all, we follow two soldiers and lovers into civil war that spans many, many years.
I honestly felt so conflicted when I finished this. I wanted to love it, but I just didn’t quite connect with the characters. I think I might have to reread this in the future when I’ve got more time to concentrate on it and absorb it. If you’re looking for something a bit different I’d recommend this as Barry’s writing style is like nothing I’ve read before – on top of that it won the Costa Prize and I know that many, many people have loved Days Without End.
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (Tinder Press) – 4/5
Effortless to read and brilliantly claustrophobic See What I Have Done is the fictional retelling of the alleged Lizzie Borden murders. This is an absolutely cracking debut and one that you should go out and buy asap! The lovely folk at Tinder Press are doing a huge marketing campaign around the book and I’m positive it will have great mainstream success. You can read more about the story here.
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain (Vintage) – 5/5
This was my favourite book of the month by far; the story sung to me. A tender tale about the complexities of friendship and overcoming circumstance, Gustav and Anton’s lives are at the heart of this book. Split into three parts, we journey through their friendship, their love and their lifelong commitment to one another. Set in a post WWII Switzerland, it starts in kindergarten when the two children meet, the narrative then shifts back in time to look at the relationship between Gustav’s parents and later it goes forward to them as two grown men. Tremain pens humanity and pain on the pages so exquisitely – so much so that her writing flawed me, with the last paragraph making me cry happy tears. This was my first foray into Tremain’s writing and I am so happy and excited that I have the rest of her books ahead of me to discover. I’d love to do a full review of this but I just don’t think I’ll be able to do it justice.
Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski (Orenda Books) – 4/5
I first heard about Six Stories through Twitter and I was immediately interested in reading it as the book was getting loads of great reviews from bloggers that I trust. First of all, this is such a unique concept for a crime novel; inspired by the podcast Serial, Six Stories takes historical crimes and dissects them through six individual ‘podcasts’ which are set out as chapters within the book. Wesolowski creates a haunting landscape at Scarclaw Fell and as we delve deeper into the crime committed we learn the part that each character played. The web grows larger and as readers we’re encouraged to make our own mind up about the fateful day that Tom Jeffries died. Six Stories is inventive, mysterious and full of horror. Also, Orenda Books publishes some absolute corkers, they always have stunning cover art – definitely one to check out if you’re on the hunt for a fantastic independent publisher.
Obsession by Amanda Robson (Avon) – 4/5
One evening, a wife asks her husband a question: who else would you go for, if you could? It is a simple question – a little game – that will destroy her life. Obsession is an explosive psychological thriller. I’ll be taking part in the blog tour for Obsession later this month, so I don’t want to give too much away here! Keep your eyes peeled for my post on 19th May!
As usual, I’d love to hear what you’ve read this month. Do you have any recommendations for me?