May Reads

Where has the month gone? I barely blinked and suddenly it is June! In April I set myself a challenge of reading a book every other day and whilst I didn’t do too badly, I didn’t do too good either. As is always the way, life kind of just got in the way.

In total I read 11 books over the course of May, which included two graphic novels.

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier (Time Warner Books) – 5/5
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Light-hearted, high-spirited and fun – this book is very different from Du Maurier’s most famous novel, Rebecca. I raced through this in a day and was captivated by the wonderful, mischievous Lady Dona St. Columb. Full of humour and action, Du Maurier paints such a vivid, vibrant scene that I was instantly transported to Navron House and the Cornish creek. The ending managed to surprise me too, as only Du Maurier could do – she executes the twists in her stories so well. This is the best book by Daphne Du Maurier that I’ve read so far.

One Hundred Shadows by Hwang Jungeun, translated by Jung Yewon (Tilted Axis Press) – 3/5
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This is a piece of translated Korean fiction, which I received in the March Moth Box (the service is run by Mercedes of Mercy’s Bookish Musings – her channel on YouTube is great). Set in a slum electronics market in central Seoul, a tentative relationship between Eungyo and Mujae forms and during this period we hear about people’s shadows rising above them, particularly when stress or depression creeps in. As the future of the market is threatened, the novel explores the economic downturn in Seoul as well as the effect it has on the lower-classes. It is full of fantasy, magical realism and lyricism, and whilst I’m not a fan of this style, I know other readers have praised these elements. Sadly, the ending also let it down for me, as it felt open-ended and inconclusive.

The Search by Howard Linskey (Penguin UK) – 4/5
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Set in Durham and centred around the case of missing Susan Verity, The Search is told from multiple perspectives – which I’m a huge fan of – as Detective Ian Bradshaw teams up with investigative journalists Helen Norton and Tom Carney to solve the 20-year-old, re-opened mystery. You can read my full post from the blog tour here. 

Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs (Jonathan Cape) – 5/5
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From the creator of The Snowman, Raymond Briggs, Ethel and Ernest is a heart-warming graphic novel that follows the life of his parents. There are loads of great, UK-specific historical and political references throughout, which show the impact both Labour and Conservative governments had on the country over time. All-in-all it is such a great cosy story, although it did make me blub at the end! If you read this and don’t find the end sad then you must have a heart made of ice.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Hamish Hamilton) – 4/5
ExitWestSet in an alternate reality that could be a not too distant future, Exit West is a exploration of the current refugee crisis taking place in the world, where people can flee civil war by stepping through black doors into a promising future. It tells the tale of Nadia and Saeed’s relationship, after they meet in a country on the brink of a savage war. I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a book to make you think about the turmoil the world is currently going through.

When The Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs (Penguin) – 3/5Wind BlowsI didn’t intend to read two graphic novels this month, but almost as soon as I’d reserved this at the library I received a call saying it was ready to be collected. Reading this was a different experience to Ethel and Ernest and whilst the art style is similar it definitely felt more experimental, with stark double-page spreads of a singular image. The story is macabre and sombre as the threat of nuclear war looms and consequently the affect this has on a couple. Briggs has a way of getting under your skin and into your brain.

The Wrong Knickers by Bryony Gordon (Headline) – 4/5
WrongknickersAfter reading quite a few heavy books I wanted to finish the month on something a bit cheerier. The Wrong Knickers is a hilarious, eye-opening and chaotic read which follows acclaimed journalist, Byrony Gordon, through her twenties. It had me laughing and cringing throughout. I wish I saved this for reading on a beach whilst on holiday.

The last four books I read were all nominated for the Bailey’s Prize for Fiction – I wanted to get through all of the shortlist, which I almost managed to do! Unfortunately, I didn’t quite get around to reading The Sport of Kings and as it was a chunky one I thought I’d give it a miss. The mini-reviews can be read in my Baileys wrap-up here.

Did you read anything good in May? Do you have any recommendations for books that should be on my radar?

April Reads

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

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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

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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

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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?

February Reads

My February wrap-up is a little later than planned as I wanted to get a couple of book reviews up before hitting publish on this post.

Last month I had a relatively good month for reading, finishing off seven novels and one audio book. Two of the books are upcoming releases and both not out until June, so I’ll be putting up full reviews in the next couple of weeks.

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Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes (SF Masterworks) – 4/5

“Charlie Gordon, IQ 68, is a floor sweeper, and the gentle butt of everyone’s jokes, until an experiment in the enhancement of human intelligence turns him into a genius.”

 I was a bit wary going into Flowers for Algernon, as it’s billed as science-fiction, which isn’t normally my cup of tea, but I’m glad I put those reservations aside as it transcends the genre. After an experiment Charlie’s IQ starts to soar beyond belief; Flowers for Algernon focuses on artificial and human intelligence, the nature of intelligence and the divisive nature of it. I really enjoyed how the book was written in periodic reports from Charlie’s point of view; as a reader we saw him grow, decline, love and suffer. Originally published in 1958, this feels like a modern story. I recommend reading this if you’re interested in stepping into science-fiction, but don’t want anything too ‘out there’.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven – Chris Cleave (Sceptre) – 5/5

A WWII novel like no other, Everyone Brave is Forgiven follows Mary, Hilda, Tom and Alastair as the bombs start falling in London. Focusing on home life during the war, this is full to the brim with love, humour, courage and friendship. My full review can be read here. Spoiler: I loved Everyone Brave is Forgiven and have recommended it to plenty of friends and family since finishing it. 

I See You – Gregg Hurwitz (Sphere) – 4/5 (a newer version of this novel has been published under The Crime Writer)

Having read, and loved, one of Hurwitz’s more recent novels – Orphan X – I went into this novel with high expectations. After a massive brain haemorrhage Drew Danner wakes up in hospital with no memory of the past 24 hours. With blood on his hands, he is accused of his ex-fiancée’s murder. Once discharged Danner makes it his mission to find out who framed him for murder. We follow Drew as he unearths the clues to the mystery. One thing that I found a little jarring at times is that I See You is a book within a book, with Danner writing his story as he tells it – it felt an unnecessary addition to what was otherwise a great, action-packed, thrilling read. Whilst the plot wasn’t particularly complex in places, I See You was still puzzling and was a fast-paced, enjoyable read with a sprinkling of dark humour thrown in.

The Museum of You – Carys Bray (Hutchinson) – 3/5

The Museum of You is a quaint novel about belonging and family. Clover grows up during the height of her father’s mourning and in the shadow of her dead mother, with more questions than can be answered. She wants to know her heritage, her background and more about her family, so decides to create her own museum at home; curating her parent’s belongings into a shrine for the Mother she never met. This was an endearing, cosy novel, looking at grief from both a parent and child’s perspective. I thought the premise was great but unfortunately, The Museum of You just didn’t keep me engaged – I didn’t connect with the characters and was left wanting more.

Closed Casket (New Hercule Poirot Mysteries #2) – Sophie Hannah (HarperCollins) – 4/5

In Closed Casket, the eponymous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot returns to solve another murder mystery; this time we’re at Lady Athelinda Playford’s estate in Clonakilty, County Cork. The Lady of the house gathers friends and family to inform them of a change to her will. Expecting uproar and her imminent murder Playford has also invited Poirot and Catchpool along for the ride, to keep her safe. When the evening takes an unexpected turn, Poirot steps in with his little grey cells to solve the gory, twisted murder.  The charactes, in true Christie fashion, are eccentric and unlikeable. I’d heartily recommend this if you’re a fan of murder mystery, but don’t expect Christie’s traditional Poirot as there are subtle differences, with Hannah breathing new life into the detective.   

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive – Tom Malmquist/ translated by Henning Koch (Sceptre) – 4/5

I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy from Sceptre. Originally published in Swedish, Henning Koch (author of The Dinner) has translated this stunning memoir. In Every Moment We Are Still Alive we hear of the horrifying moment in which Tom gains a daughter but loses his soul-mate, in a cruel twist of fate. I found this heart-breaking, tender and hypnotic – rich and raw, I couldn’t put this down. A full review of this will be up on the blog in March.

Planned UK release date: 01st June 2017

One Little Mistake – Emma Curtis (Black Swan) – 4.5/5

“You trusted your best friend…you shouldn’t have” – as soon as I saw the front cover I knew I was going to love One Little Mistake. This gripping, psychological novel follows Vicky and Amber’s ‘perfect’ friendship, until one day Vicky makes an irreparable mistake, which sends their lives tumbling apart. From the first page I was hooked with this domestic thriller, so much so that I finished it off in two sittings. The publishers kindly sent me an advanced copy for review, which I am in the process of writing up – it will hopefully go live next week.

Planned UK release date: 29th June 2017 (already available to purchase on eBook)

The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher (Blue Rider Press) – 3/5  

The Princess Diarist recounts what really happened behind the scenes of the first Star Wars movie, after Carrie Fisher discovered the journals she kept whilst filming. I listened to this one on audio book and I wish I’d read it instead. Narrated by Carrie Fisher herself there were a number of humorous parts, but I found it a little slow in places – I wasn’t invested in the stories and often felt my mind wandering instead of focusing on the narrative.

As usual, I’d love to hear from you. What did you read in February? Have you got any recommendations for me?  

 

January Reads

I kicked off the year with a pretty good month of reading. I worked my way through eight books which consisted of one poetry collection, two non-fictions, three novels and two crime thrillers.

Sorry my mini-reviews are a little late this month! Here goes…

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Rupture – Ragnar Jonasson (Orenda Books) – 4/5

I was kindly sent an advance copy of Rupture by the lovely Karen over at Orenda Books, which arrived the day before Christmas Eve.

Set in the town of Siglufjörður Rupture is chilling, dark and atmospheric. We follow the local policeman, Ari Thór, and his investigation into a suspicious death from the 1950s in the isolated fjord of Hedinsfjörður. The story unfurled slowly, was full of detail and really packed a punch – I don’t want to say too much as I implore you to read it and see what all the fuss is about. An absolute must read if you’re a fan of crime thrillers. I have to admit that I’d never read any of Jonasson’s work before, and with this being the fourth book in his Dark Iceland series I thought I might be a little bit lost, but in fact I found that Rupture worked fantastically as a stand-alone novel. To be honest, I enjoyed it so much that I’ve now added the other three books to my TBR pile.

Ragdoll – Daniel Cole (Trapeze) –  5/5

I won’t say anything about this one here, as I’m involved with the blog tour for Ragdoll and will be posting an in-depth review on Tuesday 21st February. Keep your eyes peeled!

Another Day in the Death of America – Gary Younge (Guardian Faber Publishing) – 5/5

I added this to my reading list for Non-Fiction November, then sadly never got around to reading it. In Another Day in the Death of America award-winning journalist Gary Younge tells the story of the children and teens killed by gun crime in a single 24 hour period, in America. Younge randomly chooses 23 November 2013 to track and chronicle the deaths of these ten young men.

Whilst I found it tragic in parts, it felt like a book I needed to read. It was so well written – insightful, intelligent and thoughtful. I find the issue of gun control and violence in the US petrifyingly scary and Younge’s account further opened my eyes to the complicated issues that are faced in the States, whilst also highlighting the vulnerability of the youth. Although difficult to read in places, I was engaged throughout and thoroughly recommend reading this one.

Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick (Touchstone) – 3/5  

This was a collection of autobiographical essays by Anna Kendrick, the actress and star of Pitch Perfect. I was really unfussed by these; they were quite self-indulgent and often not that funny. If you’re looking for a light hearted, humorous memoir I’d recommend either Amy Schumer’s or Sue Perkins’ instead as both of them are much better!

The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer (Harper Collins) – 3/5

 ‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

Whilst I enjoyed The Shock of the Fall, and it was an okay book, it didn’t wow me. It didn’t surprise or shock me and it felt a little lack lustre. I thought Filer’s portrait of mental illness and the health system was good, but perhaps a little too simplistic at times. Personally, I think this book could’ve been chopped in half and still told the story succinctly.

Gold from the Stone – Lemn Sissay (Canongate Books) – 4/5

My Mum got me this poetry collection for Christmas as I’ve been super keen to find more poetry that I enjoy. Lemn Sissay’s work is bold and personal, commenting on race, the government, social services, relationships and much, much more – it is filled with rage, humour, sadness and love.

After reading this collection I went on to watch countless YouTube videos of Lemn reading them – his performances breathed endless life into the words, so strong and powerful. My favourite from the collection was Invisible Kisses, it’s just breath-taking       .

And the hippos were boiled in their tanks – William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac (Penguin) – 2/5

After being involved in a crime one Summer, Kerouac and Burroughs decided to collaborate on a novel about the event they’d experienced. At the time, the two authors were undiscovered and yet to write anything of note – their original manuscript was rejected by publishers, left untouched for decades in a filing cabinet until it was published many years later. Kerouac and Burroughs narrate alternate chapters, piecing together a tale of bohemian New York during World War II. For me, this had so much promise, but in truth I found it clunky and static, with little to keep me interested. It took me months to read this, which is crazy as it is pretty short at a mere 214 pages. 

Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff (Windmill Books) – 4/5

A tale of love and lies, we follow newly married Lotto and Mathilde through their marriage; with two sides to every story, we hear both the male and female view of what their life is like as time passes by. Groff’s storytelling is sublime and her descriptions and plotline kept me hooked until the very last page. However, one thing I wasn’t overly struck on was Groff’s incorporation of Greek tragedy, but at the same time it wasn’t off-putting as it mirrored Lotto and Mathilde’s tragic tale.

December Reads

 

In December I read a total of five books and was on a race against time to finish my Good Reads challenge of 52 books. I’m happy to report that I managed to complete the challenge with just a couple of hours to spare!

Nomad – Alan Partridge (Orion Books) – 2/5

If you’re a die-hard Partridge fan, I’d recommend this to you as I’m sure you’d love it as it has all the weirdness and wit you’d expect. However, if you’re looking for a good book to read, then steer clear – in true Partridge fashion it’s a shambles in places and the plot is all over the place. Looking back I wish I’d listened to the audio book of this as I think it’d be much more enjoyable if it was read by the dulcet tones of Steve Coogan.

After The Crash – Michel Bussi (Orion Books) – 4/5

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Translated from French, Bussi’s debut novel has been subject to rave reviews the globe over. The book starts with a plane crash, where 168 of the 169 passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie? Throughout the book we follow the girl’s journey through a web of lies and secrets to discover who she really is. I loved the suspense that Bussi built – it was packed with twists and turns, which kept it gripping throughout.

Disclaimer – Renee Knight (Black Swan) – 3/5 

Imagine if the next book you picked up was all about you, your life and your secrets. Well, this is exactly what happens to Catherine, the lead character, in Disclaimer. The story unfolds as we learn more about what really happened on her holiday that fateful day. I picked this book up at a charity shop for 50p so didn’t have too high expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised. I was kept captive from the first page and found it gripping and tense in places. The twist didn’t shock me too much, but it still wasn’t expecting.

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (Bethany House Publishers) – 3/5

I’ve read this plenty of times before – this time I picked it up as I fancied something festive and seasonal just before Christmas. I won’t say too much about this one as I’m sure you’re all familiar with Dickens’ tale and the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge.

The Tidal Zone – Sarah Moss (Granta) – 4.5/5 

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Without a doubt this was my stand-out book of the month, and what a fantastic book it was to finish my year of reading on. The Tidal Zone is about the relationship between a father and his daughter, who collapses and stops breathing one day, and the foreboding sense of loss that follows. I loved how Moss’ writing captured the everyday details of life so perfectly, so beautifully. Throughout the novel there are parallel storylines and the paradox between the destruction of family life and the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral after the bombing worked so very well. The only reason I didn’t give this 5 stars is that I felt I knew too much about the book before I started it (because of countless fantastic reviews and booktube videos!), which affected my enjoyment – I think if I’d gone in blind it would have been a five star read for me. A full post will follow for this one.

October Reads

I had a bit of a slower month in October as I was on holiday and didn’t end up having as much time to read as I’d have liked. As usual, if you’ve read any of the below I’d love to hear what you thought.

The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R. Carey (Orbit) – 4/5

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I’m not usually a lover of sci-fi/ dystopian novels, but seeing as countless friends recommend The Girl With All The Gifts to me I thought I’d give it a go. Throughout, we follow Sergeant Ed Parks, teacher Helen Justine, hungry Melanie and scientist Caroline Caldwell as they deal with a funghal infection that has wiped out most of humanity. This was a thrilling read that really captured my imagination and attention. I was expecting a really predictable ending, and thought I knew the outcome, but instead I was met with a clever twist – if you’re looking for something a bit different from your usual zombie thriller, definitely give this a go. 

Spectacles – Sue Perkins (Penguin) – 4.5/5

I actually listened to this on audio book, but boy did I enjoy it – I think it was made even better because Sue Perkins narrated it herself. Spectacles had me both laughing and crying on my commute to work, it was everything I’d hoped it would be, funny and personal but also unexpectedly tender. Perkins embraces weird by the scruff of the neck and reminds us that it’s okay not to live a perfect life, in fact it’s probably better off that way. If you’re a lover of Bake Off, or are a fan of Sue, I highly recommend this one!

The Fish Ladder: A Journey Upstream – Katharine Norbury (Bloomsbury Paperbacks) – 4/5

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This was one of the books I’d won as part of the Wainwright Prize package, from Mercy’s Musings. The Fish Ladder follows Katharine’s journey, where she challenges herself to follow a river from the sea to its source – it’s much more than a physical journey and one also of self-discovery. I found this book touching and tender, and the way in which Norbury weaves nature into the narrative is beautiful.

His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet (Contraband) – 4.5/5

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When the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize was announced I knew I had to read His Bloody Project. I’m well aware you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but as soon as I saw this book in Waterstones I knew I had to give it a read – it is so beautifully published and it looked right up my street. This year it was great to see independent publishers, such as Saraband, on the shortlist. His Bloody Project is a story about a crime, rather than a crime story, if you’re expecting a who dunnit or murder mystery then you’ll likely be disappointed. Throughout, we follow Roderick Macrae who has committed a crime in his isolated Scottish hamlet – Macrae Burnet tells the story lyrically and keeps you captured to the very last page. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. 

Luckiest Girl Alice – Jessica Knoll (Simon and Schuster) – 3/5

This is your typical trashy ‘crime’ novel. Mid-month I was in a bit of a reading rut and this was the ideal book to speed through and get me out of it. We start off hearing about TifAni FaNelli’s perfect life, which quickly unravels as we learn about her dark past and a high-school event that changed her life. I wouldn’t rush to recommend this, but I did enjoy it for what it was; a quick and easy read.

#Girlboss – Sophia Amoruso (Portfolio) – 2/5

I was disappointed by this. I was expecting this to be part memoir, part business advice, but instead it just screamed of Amoruso’s huge ego. Don’t get me wrong, she’s got every right to be proud of the ‘empire’ she’s created, but to keep going on about the meteoric rise of it and millions she has made was not what I was expecting. When I posted a picture of this on Instagram I had other business book suggestions to read including Step Up Club and Lean In.

September Reads

The time has come to wrap up my September reads – last month I read seven books as I had a work trip abroad and had time to kill whilst travelling. I’ve tried not to write too much about each book as I’m keen to do in-depth reviews at a later date. If you’ve read any of these books I’d love to hear what you thought of them in the comments below.

Right, here goes:

The girl with the lower back tattoo – Amy Schumer (Gallery Books) – 4/5 

Being a fan of Amy Schumer, I had an inkling I was going to enjoy this and had visions of it been a laugh a minute, but boy was I wrong. Rather than being written as a traditional memoir, it was filled with essays on all different subjects, from real talk on money to abusive relationships. There was so many insightful and tender anecdotes, which in part broke my heart – the moment where she talks about her parents as “sad human people” hit me hard.

Hide & Seek – M.J. Arlidge (Penguin) – 3.5/5 

In January I picked up the first novel in the DI Helen Grace series, Eeeny Meeny, and since then I’ve been hooked reading them all in quick succession. M.J. Arlidge has a knack for writing fast-paced psychological thrillers that draw you in. Out of the six books in the series, this wasn’t one of my favourites, but good old DI Helen Grace still captured me and I raced through it in record time. I won’t say much more about Hide & Seek as I implore you to start from the beginning of the series, but don’t blame me if you can’t put them down!

Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh (Vintage) – 2/5 

With it being on the Man Booker Shortlist, I had high hopes for this novel. I’d also seen Simon’s, from Savidge Reads, review and was expecting to love this one. It started off well, I was engrossed for the first three-quarters and then it all came crashing down – Moshfegh completely lost me. The end was just too ridiculous and farfetched, it didn’t gel with the rest of the story and it got my back up. Whilst I was disappointed, I’ve got to say that Moshfegh’s characterisation of Eileen was great with her gawky, destitute nature – a true loner. Once I’d finished reading Eileen, I spotted this article on the Guardian, where she states this book started off as a joke as she just wanted to be well-recognised and win prizes – Ottessa Moshfegh interview: ‘Eileen started out as a joke – also I’m broke, also I want to be famous’. Sigh.

Mrs. Hemingway – Naomi Wood (Picador) – 4.5/5 

After seeing Mrs. Hemingway listed as one of ‘February’s best new books’ on Stylist I managed to hunt this down in my local charity shop – it was such a bargain at 70p. A fictionalised account of the four leading ladies in Hemingway’s life – Hadley, Fife, Martha and Mary – it flits from war-torn Paris to Cuba, where Hemingway spent a large portion of his life. The intricacies of female relationships and love have been touched upon so delicately with Wood’s evocative writing. I also loved Wood’s depiction of Hemingway’s dark, creative genius as well as the price that this cost him later on in life. For me, this was one of my September highlights and definitely one I’d recommend to friends – Wood’s narrative draws you in and captures you under a spell.

The North Water – Ian McGuire (Scribner) – 3/5

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This was another one from the Man Booker Prize Longlist. Set in 1859 on a whaling ship bound for the Arctic Circle, The North Water had all the promise of a victorian, noir thriller. I love boats and I love crime-thrillers, so thought this was a sure winner, but sadly it felt a little lacklustre. Whilst McGuire’s writing contrasts the brutal natural world, with haughty businessmen and corruption with vividness, I didn’t feel invested in the characters.

Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Harper Perennial) – 5/5

Half of a Yellow Sun jumps effortlessly between the early 1960s and late 1960s as Adichie throws you into the midst of the civil war between Nigeria and Biafra – something that she holds close to her heart as she lost two Grandfathers in it. This book is a stunning piece of historical fiction, and at its heart delves into the complexities of love, war and colonialism. Before reading this I didn’t know anything about the war, but I found myself fascinated with it and was intrigued to read on – I ended up devouring this book in a couple of evenings whilst I was away with work. In 2007, Adichie won the Orange Prize for Fiction for this novel and I can see why!

Turning Blue – Benjamin Myers (Moth Publishing) – 4.5/5 

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As soon as I finished Turning Blue, I questioned whether I liked it. After all, it was different from any other crime novel I’ve read in the past couple of years, and I read a lot of crime! But almost a month on, I can’t stop thinking about it and have in turn recommended it to a number of friends. Turning Blue’s story centres around a missing girl in a bleak Yorkshire community and Myers has such a beautiful talent for catapulting you into the dark, ragged nature of the isolated hamlet. Sleaze and corruption weave themselves throughout the graphic, gripping novel and there are some moments, with Stephen Rutter the pig farmer, which are so visceral and raw that I had to step away from the page. I’m going to do a full review of Turning Blue because as it stands I have too much to say.