May Reads

May was a fantastic month for reading, ticking off nine books across a number of genres – from sci-fi and YA, to literary fiction and murder mystery.

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Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie – 5*

A modern retelling of Antigone, Home Fire is a timely, relevant novel that I urge you to read. I knew relatively little of Antigone and it was only afterwards, that I started looking up the storyline that I saw the clever parallels with it between Home Fire. Shamsie has woven an intricate thread that unravels on the last page – a proper tour-de-force of an ending!

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michele McNamara – 4*

Published posthumously, this is the tale searching for The Golden State Killer – a man who committed a proliferation of murders and rapes across California in the 1970s and 80s. McNamara’s writing style is more crime-thriller than true crime, which absorbs you into the story. Full of meticulous detail and reports, this is such an interesting tale. Although be warned, it’s definitely creepy – I live in a single storey house and it left me feeling on edge.

Clean by Juno Dawson – 3*

A young adult novel, which definitely erred on the side of adult than teenage fiction. The story follows teen socialite Lexi into a rehab facility where she is treated for heroin addiction. It was a compelling and easy read – particularly given the heavy subject matter – but I felt it lacked diversity and depth, and was a little predictable in places. I wouldn’t rush to recommend this one.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – 4*

A cross between Agatha Christie, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and a real life game of Cluedo! I’m in awe of Turton’s plotting skills – it takes a real mastermind to be able to write and execute a story like this. A mind-bowing and unique concept.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – 3*

This one didn’t really hit the mark for me – I was expecting to be scared witless, but instead I was left a little defeated. Perhaps it was because I read it on a sunny May commute with lots of hubbub around me, rather than a candlelit winter night with storms raging outside.

Everything I know about love by Dolly Alderton – 3*

An ode to growing up, growing old and navigating all types of love. Enjoyable, laugh-out-loud and sad in places, but perhaps not the mind-blowingly good book I was hoping it would be.

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively – 3*

I think this was a case of right book, wrong time. It took me quite a while to get into the writing of Moon Tiger, which is saying something as it’s a relatively short book. It tells the story of Claudia who wants to write the history of the world whilst in hospital during her final days. There were bits that I thought were fantastic, but I don’t think I was really in the mood to read this at the time – I might revisit it in the future. 

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem – 4*

This was such an intelligent, complex and haunting sci-fi read. It reads as if it’s just been written, rather than 40 years ago. It’s vague in places, but the way Lem writes allows you to imagine the depths of Solaris – it focuses on alien life and the way humans communicate and understand it. It’s esoteric, leaving you with more questions than answers but well worth a read. Next up, I’m going to watch the films.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin – 5*

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If you knew the date of your death would you live your life differently? The Immortalists follow four siblings through their life. Chloe’s writing is immersive – the world she has constructed and the characters within it are just beautiful. I’ve seen mixed reviews of this one, but I couldn’t rate it highly enough. It will stick with me for a long time.

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April Reads

April was spent with a viral infection, so a lot of time was spent resting up / sleeping / generally feeling miserable, so this month I’m going all guns blazing to get back on track and up-to-speed with everything.

So, what did I end up reading in April?

I See You by Clare Mackintosh (Sphere) – 4/5

I’m a big fan of Mackintosh’s debut novel, I Let You Go so had high expectations for I See You. I don’t think it had the same level of shock, or cleverness, as her first but nonetheless this was a high-paced psychological thriller which ultimately leads you to question those around you.

Elmet by Fiona Mozley (JM Originals) – 3/5

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Examining those on the fringes of society, Elmet explores family, the way we use the land and what landscapes mean to us. It’s a slow burner of a book for sure, but Mozley’s prose is beautiful. It’s an earthy, visceral read, however I found it a little patchy in places and didn’t think the ‘twist’ in the book worked with the overall flow – perhaps it was meant to feel jarring. I’m keen to see what Mozley does next.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (Scribner) – 3/5

In the midst of WWII, we follow Anna who is ballsy and independent – she becomes the first female diver, something that was unheard of at the time. This novel has war, love, mobsters – intrigue and scandal. The characters were really well developed and the storyline evidently well researched as I could imagine myself on the dock with Anna. I did enjoy Manhattan Beach; however, it would have gone up a star or two if we heard more about Anna’s life and her Mother rather than the men that dominated her life.

When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy (Atlantic Books) – 5/5

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This is my stand out book for the month and definitely a contender to win the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It was raw, tender, poetic and playful. It tackled an incredibly sensitive subject matter – of domestic abuse – and spoke about it openly. I couldn’t stop reading this and devoured it in a single sitting.

 

March Reads

I would say ‘how has another month passed?’ but I seem to say the same thing every month, so I’ll save the spiel.

I had a real bumper month of reading and got stuck into some amazing books, so without further ado here’s an update

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – 4/5

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This one is nominated for the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction and is such a memorable read. Loneliness, depression and friendship are all explored through Eleanor’s wonderfully quirky and bereft character – Gail Honeyman has created such a complex, deep and believable character in Eleanor, one who is set in her ways until one small accident changes everything for her. There were bits of this book which weren’t perfect, however overall I absolutely loved it and would heartily recommend it to friends and family. 

An Unremarkable Body by Elisa Lodato – 4/5

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When Katharine is found dead at the foot of her stairs, it is the mystery of her life that consumes her daughter, Laura. The book highlights that although, as we discover from her autopsy, Katherine has an unremarkable body she’s had a life full of hidden secrets. This book is a trip down memory lane, Laura longs for her dead Mother as she tries to figure out if she ever really knew her at all.

The F Word by Lily Pebbles – 3/5

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A modern-day tale of female friendship and its complexities, written by YouTuber Lily Pebbles. This was an easy read, but felt more like one long journal entry, than a study on friendship and was a little repetitive in places. For me, it lacked real substance and I think  it is probably better suited for a younger audience.

These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper – 4/5

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An absolute powerhouse of a book. These Dividing Walls starts as a cosy look at the people behind four walls in Paris and ends up being an explosive look at race, politics, terrorism and relationships. I’m not going to say much about the topic, or what happens, as I implore you to read it. Fran Cooper’s second novel – The Two Houses – is out now and I’ve made sure I’ve requested it at my local library.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell – 4/5

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Denmark is officially the happiest nation on Earth. When Helen Russell is forced to move to rural Jutland, can she discover the secrets of their happiness? This book is split into months of the year, with the writer exploring one element of Danish life in each chapter – covering everything from traditions to the harsh Danish winters. This was such an enjoyable, cosy read which made me question what makes me happy in my life, but most of all it made me want to move to Denmark. Sign me up, when do I leave? 

We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard

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A lyrical, literary crime story. – a poetic ode to the sea. At times I struggled with the flow of this book – it has a certain lilt to it and a very distinctive voice rhythm and style. Unfortunately, on this occasion I just think it was the wrong timing for me to read this.

Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth – 4/5

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Described as a female version of Withnail and I, Animals is a raucous read from start to finish – it leaves you tired from Laura and Tyler’s high-octane escapades. However, underneath the drink, drugs and whirlwind lifestyles, it questions how we want our lives to pan-out, asking us when is the right time to grow up, as well as understanding what we might need to leave behind to achieve a happy life. A tale of female friendship, love and belonging.

Femmeuary Reads

I had such a great month of reading in February – I stuck to my pledge of only reading books by women, as part of Lauren and The Books’ Femmeuary (see this post if you have no idea what I’m on about). I managed to read five four star reads and one five star books – I’ve felt more motivated to read than I have in a long, long time. May this reading streak continue! 

How to be Human: The Manual by Ruby Wax (Penguin) – 4/5  

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This is a warm and witty look at mental health; accessible and informative it discusses twelve elements, from evolution to addiction. In tone and content, I found this quite similar to her previous books Sane New World and Mindfulness for the Frazzled, however I thought the structure of it was great and really enjoyed the discussions between the monk and the neuroscientist. At the end of each chapter, each topic is dissected, looking at how the mind works, mindfulness and more scientifically, the brain. If you’re looking for a light-hearted book at why we behave in certain ways, this one is for you.

The Road Home by Rose Tremain (Vintage) – 4/5

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A book about courage, belonging, determination, love and family. I was nervous going into The Road Home, as last year The Gustav Sonata by Tremain was one of my favourite books and I hoped that this would live up to expectations. I’m pleased to say it did – I absolutely loved it. Rose Tremain creates characters that are intricate and three-dimensional, ones that you care about and also ones that at times you hate. There was only one plot point that jarred with me – no spoilers here, but on reflection I can see why Rose Tremain included it, however the point in question seemed so out of character for the book’s main man (Lev) that I thought I was a little unnecessary.

Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand (Bloomsbury) – 4/5

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Sophia Duleep Singh was born into Indian royalty. Her father, Maharajah Duleep Singh, was heir to the Kingdom of the Sikhs, one of the greatest empires of the Indian subcontinent. My Mum got me this book for Christmas and I’d saved it to read to coincide with it being 100 years since (some) women got the vote and woman’s suffrage. At times this is quite dense, but never unenjoyable, to read – it is rich with description and character, so much so that you get a true flavour of what Sophia was like, her priorities and her lifestyle. I learnt so much from this book. Ultimately it is about a strong, independent and revolutionary female that I’d previously not heard of.

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray (Aster) – 4/5

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A fresh look at alcohol addiction and the joy sobriety can bring, as well as understanding why society has a negative view of staying sober. This was in no way condescending, or preachy, instead Catherine Gray provides information – and her story – and lets you make your own mind up. It tells the tale of her booze-fuelled twenties and how hitting rock bottom allowed her to start living her life again. It is a super quick, and enjoyable read, which definitely made me question my health and my alcohol consumption. 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (Blackfriars) – 4/5

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This novel opens with such a punchy first line – “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” after reading this, I was hooked and raced through this novel in two short sittings. Everything I Never Told You is about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio; it explores family dynamics, racial tension, and the pressures children can face from parents. Ultimately, it is about discovering who we, and our families, really are and why we behave the way we do. Ng’s writing is beautiful, filled with tension and tenderness – I’ve now got her second book, Little Fires Everywhere high-up on my TBR list.

The Unseen World by Liz Moore (Windmill Books) – 5/5

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Where do I start? This was, without doubt, my standout novel for the month. It follows Ada Sibelius, an intelligent young girl who has been raised by David, her brilliant, eccentric, socially inept single father, who directs a computer science lab. Set in multiple eras (1980s and 2009), early on in the novel Ada realises David is forgetting things – the book is her quest to discover her father’s past and piece together his life. It is emotional, quirky and intense – it won’t be for everything, but for me it was incredible. A full review will follow shortly, once I’ve managed to put how much I enjoyed it into words.

January Reads: Overcoming my reading slump

At the start of the year I vowed to get over my reading slump and back into my books. I know I’ve said it a lot, but the last part of the year felt really lacklustre with my reading – there was lots I wanted to read, but nothing that I could really muster the attention span for. BUT, I’m pleased to report that I AM BACK ON IT.

Before the new year rung in, I organised my books (helped of course by a new bookshelf…) and dug out a few new releases I wanted to read during January.

The Child Finder by Rene Denfield (W&N) – 3/5

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This was an easy, and enjoyable, crime read – it follows Naomi Cottle who finds missing children. When the police have given up their search and an investigation stalls, families call her. A little predictable in places, but it was a nice, easy book to start the year on.

The Confession by Jo Spain (Quercus) – 4/5

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This is an explosive psychological thriller; a real cat and mouse read that leaves you flitting between perspectives, characters and storylines. I was addicted from the first page – my full review, for the blog tour, can be read here.

Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit (Orion) – 3/5

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The premise of this book is better than the actual storyline – how far would you go for your family, to ensure their safety? It is definitely more of a slow-burning literary thriller, than a fast-paced fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants thriller. It left me wanting more and in truth, just a little disappointed.

After You by JoJo Moyes (Penguin) – 3/5

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I took this on holiday with me as I wanted a light-hearted, easy read. Having read Me Before You in one sitting about five years ago, I thought it was about time I got round to reading After You. This was a great holiday read, and I enjoyed it, but it definitely didn’t pack as much of a punch as the first in the series.

The Coroner’s Daughter by Andrew Hughes (Black Swan) – 3/5

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It took me a little while to get into this historical novel, but nonetheless it was a quirky, enjoyable read with a pithy, curious woman at its heart. This is a dark, gory tale about The Coroner of Dublin’s daughter and her inquisitive mind. It had a good amount of twists and turns to keep me interested, but it lacked a bit of oomph – I didn’t feel particularly invested in the characters.

August Summer Reads

One day I’ll actually get my monthly wrap-up written and published on time, but for now this will have to do (I promise to try harder next month, I promise!).

I always find I read fewer books during Summer due to me wanting to be outdoors – coupling that with being super busy at work and it being really hot outside I managed a pathetic total (compared to my usual reading tally!) of three books in August…Anyway, enough of the boring excuses!

Did You See Melody by Sophie Hannah (Hodder & Stoughton)

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I am a huge fan of Sophie Hannah, so was super excited to receive an advanced copy of her newest psychological thriller. This is such a compelling read, full of dark humour and twists – I highly recommend this for an easy Summer read. A full review is here.

Tin Man by Sarah Winman (Tinder Press)

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This hit me right in the heart – it has had marmite reviews on Good Reads,  however I think that’s because it has been so hyped up. For me, it lived up to that hype and I thought it was such a tender book – my full review is here.

Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole (Allison & Busby)
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Set in the 1950s, movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: she has inherited the estate of a woman she doesn’t know. What unfolds is a tale of friendship, love and family. I picked this up to read on a whim and was so pleasantly surprised – it was a cosy, happy read that left me feeling warm and fuzzy. One of the many things I enjoyed about Woman Enters Left was the format – it was split perspective, over two timeframes and was peppered with letters and diary entries.

Hopefully this month, thanks to the colder weather and autumnal vibes, I’ll manage to ramp up my reading again!

July Reads

Another month has passed, which means it’s time for another wrap-up! I must apologise in advance for my tardiness with this post – I had written half of it before 1st August, then it fell by the wayside, but it’s here now! Better late than never, right?

Once again, my reading hasn’t been great having only read six books – I’ve found it hard to have time to pick up books, having to prioritise other things (if you haven’t taken a look at this post, please do!).

Without further ado, last month I read…

Plum by Hollie McNish (Picador Poetry) – 5/5

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Plum is poet Hollie McNish’s newest collection and features both new and old poetry – her recent poems are interrupted by earlier writing from her formative years – voices that are raw, honest and also very, very funny. If you’re looking to get into poetry, this is a fantastic place to start – Hollie is warm, honest, funny, sarcastic and passionate. I could listen to her poetry over and over again (a personal fave of mine is Mathematics – I encourage you to go and have a watch on YouTube!)

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla (Unbound) – 5/5

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This is a collection of essays written by BAME authors, edited together by Nikesh Shukla. It explores what it means to be Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic in Britain today. The essays look at identity, culture, family and diversity; I found it enlightening, eye-opening, funny, heart-breaking and infuriating all in one. This is such an important read and one that everyone should pick up!

Them: Adventures with extremists by Jon Ronson (Picador) – 3/5

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It seems I was on a bit of a non-fiction roll this month! I’m a big fan of Jon Ronson’s books and my favourite of his is The Psychopath Test, however I wasn’t mad about Them: Adventures with Extremists. The book goes on a quest to explore extremism, from Islamic fundamentalists to Neo-Nazis. Originally written in 2001, this book is definitely still prevalent today; I found it fascinating in parts, but also a little boring in others.

Dying to Live by Michael Stanley (Orenda Books) – 4/5

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Dying to Live is the sixth book in the Detective Kubu series – I loved the setting of the book, the African landscape added a different dimension, making it stand out from so many British crime books, which can sometimes feel a bit samey! If you’re looking for a fairly light crime novel, which is a bit different, then I’d definitely recommend giving the Kubu books a go. My full blog tour post is here.

Our Memory Like Dust by Gavin Chait (Doubleday Books) – 2/5

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This one puzzled and perplexed me – my full review can be found here. Our Memory Like Dust wasn’t completely up my street, but I definitely think you’d enjoy it if you’re a fan of light sci-fi or dystopian fiction. Chait is a complex storyteller, using many themes, characters and contemporary issues to make a wider point about society – although I think some of these points went over my head…

The Marshking’s Daughter by Karen Dionne (Sphere) – 4/5

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Last of all, I picked up The Marshking’s Daughter to help get me out of my slump! I was hooked from the get-go; it is thrilling, suspenseful and action packed. The story is centred around a woman who was born into captivity after her Mother was abducted – I was wary that this might read like Room by Emma Donoghue. I shouldn’t have been worried as it was completely different. Dionne creates wonderful, atmospheric scenery which chills you to the core. After finishing The Marshking’s Daughter I was excited to pick up another thriller.

What did you read in July? Do you have any recommendations?