Sunday, 25 June 2017

Recently Read | April & May

As always, I'm at least a month behind with this but it's my predictable haphazardness that keeps bringing you back, right?
Anyway, I read lots of great books over the last few months, some of which were even on my Summer 2017 book suggestions list (read more about that HERE).
As an aside, this is the first book round up post in ages that's had so many male authors in it- which is weird because it's not something I specifically arrange that way, it just so happened that I read three male authors recently. I think there's just more female authors producing really high quality thrillers etc. lately, which can only be a good thing!

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
I had vaguely heard about this psychological thriller last year but didn't get around to picking it up, until I got it for 99p on Kindle a couple of months ago. Ted Severson's flight is delayed so while he waits, he chats up a beautiful woman, Lily, at the airport bar. A couple of martinis in, he reveals to her that he knows his wife is cheating on him and he half jokes that he should really kill her off. Lily, very seriously, suggests that he do just that, and that she can help him. 
I was obsessed with this book. 
I started reading it and straight away, got a kind of 70's, Ira Levin vibe from it, which is a big deal for me, as I love a lot of Ira's books*. It has of course drawn comparisons to Gone Girl, because any and every psychological thriller that has been released in the last four years has been given that somewhat dubious link ( I liked Gone Girl but I don't think it's always a fair comparison). There's many levels to this book; Lily is not your typical female protagonist, her back story is fully explored and is fascinating and yes, there are lots of unexpected twists and turns in here. I read it in two days and I couldn't put it down. 

*Stepford Wives, A Kiss Before Dying, Rosemary's Baby.

The Power by Naomi Alderman
This was a book club choice, my choice actually as I was going for a bit of a feminist dystopian theme (considering everyone has read Margaret Atwood & Louise O'Neill, this was a newer option, I felt). Himself got me this for Christmas and when I read the blurb in the back I actually exclaimed "OH! Oh wow!" several times, so excited was I at the concept, which is; young girls around the world wake up one day with a kind of electric power in their bodies that they can use to control and inflict pain on others (men in particular). They can teach older women how to wake up the power within them too and so, out of nowhere, the power balance between the sexes completely shifts. The book starts off really promisingly; we're introduced to a handful of characters that stay with us for the book: Roxy, a tough British teenager and the daughter of a gangster, Allie, a mixed race teenager who runs away from her foster home after years of abuse, Margot, a middle-aged woman who develops the power and also happens to be a mayor of an American city and Tunde, a young Nigerian man with ambitions of becoming a journalist who sees this power shift and it's unfolding impact as the break he needs. To start with, I enjoyed all of their back stories. I could appreciate the way in which the author used shocking scenarios of violence against men to highlight how patriarchal and misogynistic our society currently is but truthfully, that got old fast and violence for the sake of violence, particularly sexual violence, is never a pleasant read. In this case, I mostly felt like it wasn't wholly necessary either. There was also a huge emphasis on religion, which became very monotonous to read and overall I really felt like this was a brilliant concept that was unfortunately, poorly executed. 

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly
I read this while we were in Crete and it was a great beach read, being a quick paced psychological thriller that I didn't want to put down. I've read all of Erin Kelly's books and bar one, I've enjoyed all of them. In this one, we're introduced to what seems like a normal thirty-something year old married couple living in the UK. Kit is an eclipse enthusiast and travels to whereever one is anticipated. He's packing to go see one while Laura stays at home, pregnant with their twins. She's abnormally anxious about his departure, given that she has an element of agoraphobia due to an incident from their past. Years previously she witnessed a sexual assault and became a star witness in the case. This one incident brought two potentially dangerous people into their lives- the accused and the victim. But which one should they really be worried about and will Laura be safe on her own? I mean, of course she's not, that's the whole point but getting to her realisation of the truth via flashbacks results in an intricate but absorbing plot that teaches you not to take everything you read at face value.
*This was an ARC from Netgalley, thanks so much Netgalley!

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
This was another book club read and a good choice as there was plenty to discuss. Days Without End begins with a 17 year old Irish immigrant, Thomas McNulty, who having fled the Great Famine that killed his family, begins a new life in America. He finds a companion in another young lad, John Cole and together they take on jobs in a bar before signing up to the army together. At their tender age they find themselves brutally murdering Native Americans in The Indian Wars and later they also fight in The Civil War. Somehow and in spite of all the horrors they've inflicted and endured themselves, they seek to create a life together away from it all with a young Sioux girl they adopt. The story is narrated by Thomas and his own poor grasp of the English language makes it feel all the more authentic- it's like you've found a diary from the 1850's. The love story in the book is romantic and mundane in the way that everyday love is, which I thought was well done and again, afforded the story a feeling of authenticity. The description of the scenery was beautiful, in sharp contrast to that of the war scenes, which were bloody and gruesome. I'm not sure who I would specifically recommend this to. I can't say I enjoyed it but I also didn't not enjoy it. It was a very different style of book for me and I'm glad I read it because it was completely out of my comfort zone.  

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Again, a book club read but I had actually bought this book last year and had been meaning to read it since. Paul Kalanithi was a talented neurosurgeon who was near the end of his training when he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer. Having had a lifelong wish to write a book, he decided to put down onto paper his experiences of transitioning from being a health care professional to that of a patient, and a patient dealing with cancer at that. Paul had previously studied English and philosophy in college before he decided to retrain to be a doctor so his writing is quite beautiful; thoughtful and introspective. I identified so strongly with him for so much of this book, having been seriously unwell myself before and so it felt almost like reading my own thoughts at times, albeit far more eloquently put! The book ends with an afterword from his wife, which made me cry like a baby but I really feel like the lasting impact from this book should be from Paul himself. If I could, I would give this book to every health care professional I know. It's like a handbook for how to be a better doctor, nurse, midwife, care attendant, physio etc etc. Having said that, there's something in here for everyone; health care professional or not. I really loved it- it's definitely a book I'll return to in the future. 

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
I had read and loved Life After Life and so I had high hopes for this, not exactly a sequel but a look at another character's storyline. All of the focus in Life After Life is on Ursula, a character I loved and suffered through her various death scenes in the hopes that one of her lives would see everything going right for her. A God in Ruins follows her beloved brother Teddy's life. Teddy was an RAF bomber pilot and in later years, a husband and father. I'm sorry to say that I just didn't get on with this. I liked Teddy's character and enjoyed all of the WW2 flashbacks but I greatly struggled through the chapters about Teddy's daughter and grandchildren who were really the worst characters ever. I only got just over halfway through and gave up and I never do that! I kind of figured that unlike Ursula, I won't get the chance to relive this life so I may as well save myself the time and effort!

Bridget Jones's Baby; The Diaries by Helen Fielding
If like me you have read all of the Bridget Jones books, including the godawful Mad About The Boy, then you will want to pick this one up and use it as a palette cleanser for the aforementioned book. This is Bridget back to her best- funny, inappropriate, charming and just a little bit incapable. Good news is that both Mark D'Arcy and Daniel Cleaver are also back, as are all of Bridget's madcap friends and parents. This is one you can read in a day and is extremely light but sometimes that's just what you need!

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
I read this one on a five hour flight and could barely put it down; even for tea and an in-flight magazine, as I previously mentioned. I'm mentioning it again cause that's a big deal for me, OK?! The book begins with fifteen year old Lane Roanoke having to move to her wealthy grandparents sprawling country estate in Kansas following her mother's suicide. When Lane arrives, her cousin Allegra, also fifteen, conversationally tells her that 
"Roanoke girls don't last long here around here. In the end we either run or die". 
Cut forward to eleven years later and Lane has escaped to Los Angeles when she gets a call pulling her back; Allegra has gone missing. The book veers between flashbacks to that Summer when the girls were fifteen and to the present where Lane tries to figure out what happened to her cousin. This is an extremely atmospheric book; it's stiflingly hot, sticky and muggy. The town in Kansas where they live is vividly described and I felt like I was there throughout. It's also quite a dark and twisted story and I should give a trigger warning for incest and abuse- even that is sensitively handled and is never graphically described. It's almost like a YA novel within a thriller/mystery. I really loved it. It's hard to like the main protagonist at times but I still did and still worried for her the whole way through. This probably won't be for everyone but it felt very fresh and different to me and I would definitely recommend it. 

One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M McManus
This was an ARC from Netgalley, so thank you kindly for that! I had heard a bit about this one and then when I read the blurb and saw the cover, I had to request it. 
Five students are in detention. They themselves even comment on what a cliché "Breakfast Club" group they make; there's the A student, the jock, the homecoming princess, the bad boy delinquent and the misfit. One of them is going to die in detention that day but which one, who did it and why? This was a great read- fast paced and entertaining, a bit like a combination of the aforementioned Breakfast Club, with a bit of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars thrown in for good measure. Considering I liked all of those, this is an ideal read for me, although granted, that's not everyone's cup of tea! I still love teen drama, even though I'm in my thirties and I'm totally cool with that as it's pure escapism, as all good books/TV should be. 
I felt like all of the characters in this were well developed and made me want to root for them, even if I didn't always know the motivations for their actions. I also didn't guess the end, which makes me very happy with a book like this! This is another great Summer read- pop it in your beach bag and you'll find yourself glued to it by the pool with your Pīna Colada. 

That's all for now but obviously I'm already well into my June reads which will be up next month, along with July's. 
Tell me though, have you read any of these?
Do you have any of them on your Summer reading list?
And lastly, what are you reading right now?!
To the comments!


  1. Ah it's such a pity you couldn't get through A God in Ruins, it was one of my favourite books when I read it, it made me cry so much when I reached the end. I did find it tough to get into though and also didn't like certain characters (they were the worst!)

    I'm looking forward to reading One of Us Is Lying, I saw it on NetGalley and didn't request and I'm kicking myself for it!

  2. Thanks for the recs Chloe, just bought The Roanoke Girls, and the Kind Worth Killing. Looking forward to them both.