Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Recently Read; September & October

All of these were started in September/October but finished in the last few weeks if I'm honest. As you might recall (I'm not sure if I've mentioned it enough times actually…ahem) I was away for three weeks between the last two months and so I've only managed to read a paltry six books during that time. This is in spite of the fact that I brought books specifically to read in different parts of America.
Well you can imagine how well that turned out.
Best laid plans and all that. 

After You by JoJo Moyes
This is the somewhat eagerly awaited sequel to Me Before You. I say 'somewhat' as fans of the aforementioned book really didn't feel it needed a follow-on story. I loved it too and thought it was kind of perfect as a stand-alone novel but sure here we are. After You is about Louisa Clark, a young woman struggling to pull her life together after her paraplegic fiance (and one time employer) chose to end his own life, with her assistance. That happened in the last book.
Louisa is now estranged from her family who can't abide the part she played in the euthanasia. She lives alone in a sparse apartment, drinks far too much and works in a soul-destroying airport bar with zero prospects. After drinking one too many she has an accident that then completely changes her life again.
This has a romantic storyline in it but nothing as consuming as in Me Before You, which is what I think people have had trouble with. I actually did enjoy this book. I felt it provided a really good insight into grief and the process of grieving; a very human experience that often is neglected in popular literature. It was also nice to catch up with not only Louisa but her madcap family and the other very likeable characters form the first book. If you enjoyed Me Before You, I would read this but be aware that it is very different from it's predecessor but is still an enjoyable read.

Why Not Me? By Mindy Kaling
I loved Mindy Kaling's first memoir; Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? 
That was a tongue-in-cheek look at her childhood, college years, friendships and the beginning of her career- acting and writing for The Office. She wrote that almost in the style of her character on The Office, Kelly Kapoor or indeed Mindy Lahiri from The Mindy Project, which only added to the humour in my opinion.
Why Not Me? is written in a similar style and picks up from her career breakthrough onwards. She provides tips on how to be a celebrity alongside funny anecdotes and insightful commentary on body image. I have to say though that while I laughed and enjoyed it, there are parts of this that felt a lot like filler content and overall it just wasn't as good as her first book; it felt more rushed. If you're a fan of Mindy, you'll enjoy this, it's a light book and a quick read but don't expect much more than that. 

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This is obviously a complete cheat because this is an essay and I finished it within an hour but I'm including it because it was an interesting piece and I really like Chimamanda's style of writing. The essay is adapted from her TED talk of the same name and seeks to find an answer for what feminism means in today's world.
While she discusses the obvious examples of discrimination against women across the world she also talks about the more insidious behaviours that seek to control and degrade women, drawing on her own experiences in the US and in her native Nigeria.
It's really just a straightforward and intelligent essay on why you should be a feminist. Read it and you won't be able to provide an answer as to why you shouldn't.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King
I had intended to read this while we were in Maine, cause you know, it's Stephen King country but all the trekking about the place, eating lobster and drinking iced tea meant there was little hope of that happening. I did read it for Halloween though and what a perfectly spooky choice! Louis Creed is a doctor from Chicago. He's moving his wife, two kids and cat to Maine with him where he's taking up a new job in the University as head of medical services. They quickly become friends with an elderly couple who live across the road and they settle into their new home, a big old house with lots of land. Jud (the old man across the street) brings them to the "Pet Sematary" in the woods behind their home. He explains that the local children have always buried their pets there and this sparks a discussion about death with the Creed's five year old, Ellie. Rachel, Louis's wife has a major aversion to talking about this after the traumatising death of her sister when she was a child so she finds it all a bit too much. Things don't improve when a student dies horrifically on campus on Louis's first day at work. The real trouble starts when the dead student visits Louis in the middle of the night and brings him to the Pet Sematary...but is it a dream or is there something deeply sinister in the Pet Sematary? You best believe it's the latter. I'm a big King fan but even still, this is a really good horror- it gets seriously scary and there is a constant sense of dread. I was always waiting for the next shock and when I say shock, I mean; heart-pounding, hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck, queasy sensation in the pit of your stomach and immediate fear of the dark….and cats.
And yes, sometimes dead is better.

Breakfast At Tiffany's by Truman Capote
I do of course love the Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard 1961 film adaptation of the same name but the book is beautifully written and focuses much more on the tragic poignancy of Holly Golightly's character than the film does, which is actually a love story, unlike the book.
I bought and read this one in New York- the only book in my travelling plan that I actually succeeded in reading whilst there!
In case you haven't seen the film, Holly and an unnamed narrator (Holly nicknames him Fred because he reminds her of her younger brother) are both renting apartments in a brownstone in New York. "Fred" becomes fascinated by Holly's outrageous party girl lifestyle and gradually they become friends with Holly revealing selective details from her unusual life.
This is actually a novella with an additional three short stories, all of which I loved too. I'm annoyed I hadn't read it before because I devoured it, from cover to cover. Such a gorgeous read! Can't recommend this one enough.

The Thrill of it All by Joseph O' Connor
So, alongside my brilliant sister-in-law and our friends, we've set up a book club. This was the first book (chosen from an Irish Times list*) and lord was it the worst possible choice. It's a mock-memoir of the life of an Irish/English rock band; The Ships in the Night and follows their journey from their inception in the 80's, throughout their global domination and up to the present day where the band are now all middle aged and have had varying degrees of success in their solo careers. Although it's very well written, it's let down by how painfully slow it is and also the fact that very little really happens. There are some interesting characters, in particular lead singer Fran, a Vietnamese/Irish orphan with a terrible upbringing. When he meets Rob (our narrator) he's a natural performer with a flamboyant dress sense, musical brilliance and a super quick wit. I loved whenever he was around but even that couldn't save it. Joseph O' Connor is a fine writer but this just did nothing for me (nor anyone else in the book club as it transpired).

*Shakes fist at The Irish Times*

And that's that for the time being. Thankfully, I'm back on my reading buzz so there'll be plenty more next month!
What are you reading at the moment? Have you read any of these?


  1. I really, really enjoyed 'After You' a lot. I had similar feelings to you about it, thought it was a really realistic portrayal of grief and it was great to catch up with Lou again. I haven't read that King in years, will definitely pick it up again!

  2. Oh I love breakfast at tiffanys. I read it once a year. It just has so many resounding lines in it. Must give the feminist essay a read or else watch the ted talk. Thanks for sharing.

  3. read both Mindy book, just love her sense of humour! plus she's happy being single which makes me feel better about being single lol Breakfast at tiffanys is on my to read list, it's a must now! :)

  4. I should really reread Breakfast At Tiffany's again because it's been years since I read it and a lot probably went over my head (even though I knew there was a stark difference between book Holly and film Holly)