The first monthly round up of the year is here!! I love writing these posts so I hope you enjoy this one. All book covers will be added to the brand new shiny BOOKS 2016 page, so you can click on any cover to go to my more detailed review over on Goodreads.
This month, I read one (very) short story and 16 books.
The Rick O'Shea Book Club
This month, Rick kicked 2016 off with four choices. I read all four (I'm determined to step outside my comfort zone this year and try to read all book club picks)
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A story about WWII from two sides. We follow blind French woman Marie-Laure from her childhood in France right up to the present day, and learn of her incredible story of survival. We also see German orphan Warner Pfennig, from his early days at an orphanage to his deployment to fight for Germany in the war. Both stories are intertwined, chapters are short, and this was an amazing read.
The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber
Peter, a Preacher, leaves his wife Bea behind to travel to a distant planet and teach the local inhabitants about religion from the Bible (The Book of Strange New Things). Meanwhile, things on Earth aren't going well, there's increasing disaster and Bea sends word that something very bad might be happening. This was such a weird book, I didn't like Peter but I couldn't put it down.
The Bees by Laline Paull
Flora is a sanitation bee, the lowest class. She looks different to the other bees, that in itself is a crime. She is put to work on the nursery ward after a chance meeting, and eventually her luck gets her an audience with the Queen and permission to forage. I just couldn't get used to the fact that I was reading about bees - aside from that, Flora's good fortune was all dependent on chance encounters and lucky escapes rather than actual intelligence or talent, which annoyed me. The male bees were disgusting, as was their really odd fate... A very strange book.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
I bought this book last year when it was one of Richard & Judy's book club picks. I'm delighted that Rick chose it because it finally gave me the push to start it - and it was a great read. I found the first quarter a bit slow, but after that it really picked up. It's about an 18 year old girl, Nella Oortman, in Amsterdam in the late 1600s. She is married off to a wealthy merchant, Johannes Brandt. He presents her with a cabinet-style dolls house, a perfect replica of the one they live in. She employs a miniaturist to make furniture for the house, but as she begins to receive items that she hasn't requested, items nobody outside the house could know about, she begins to wonder whether or not the miniaturist is a prophet or engineering events.
The Richard and Judy Book Club
The Spring Books have been chosen, you can see them all on my BOOKS 2016 page. Of the 8, I managed to read 3.
The Bones of You by Debbie Howells
Rosie is 18, and she has been murdered. We hear from Rosie from beyond the grave as she looks back on her life and slowly reveals what happened. In the meantime, we follow Kate McKay, a woman who knew Rosie from allowing her to help with her horses. Kate is convinced that Rosie's parents know more than they're letting on, and that her sister Delphine, knows something. A twisty tale with horrible characters, this was a mediocre read for me.
In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
I saw Reese Witherspoon mention this on her instagram a few months ago and it was sitting on my Kindle ever since - whyyyy!!!! This is a brilliant book, it's about a hen party that takes place in a strange glass house in the woods. Leonora Shaw is invited, but she has no idea why - she hasn't seen the hen, Claire, in years. She agrees to go with another friend, but there's something very sinister going on, and one of the guests is in grave danger. I didn't love the ending but I really liked the setting and story otherwise.
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
A book about what would happen if one decision in our lives was different, or one small event never happened. An interesting premise but one that doesn't work on Kindle - I had to keep notes on each version (there are three) and some events were so similar that it became confusing, there were parties or meetings that took place in two versions and I found it hard to follow. I also wasn't bothered about any of the characters, I didn't like Jim and I thought Eva was settling. I know others enjoyed this much more than me, I just think it would work better in book form because having to refer to a notebook really interrupted how the story flowed for me.
Young Adult Series
I first heard about the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout on Aoife's YouTube channel (here). She mentioned the first book, so I downloaded it and was hooked.
Katy moves with her mother to a sleepy little town in West Virginia. She discovers that she lives next door to a big ride, but he's moody and grumpy and seems to hate Katy for no reason. Oh, and his name is Daemon. Oh, and he's an alien. This was standard YA fare - half the characters had green eyes and there was a lot of will-they-won't-they drama but it had just enough about the aliens to keep me reading.
The Department of Defence are now stepping up security after an incident in the first book. Something happened Katy during that event, and now she's not the same old Katy anymore. In this book, we get the Jacob Black of the series - Blake, a spanner in the works and a Hybrid (not a car, an alien/human). The gang discover a secret and are determined to find out if it's true.
Starting to get sick of this now, this book was mostly filler - nothing really happens. The event they planned at the end of book 2 still hasn't happened. On to book 4, then!
So something bad has happened, but Daemon is going to save the day. Unfortunately, I could no longer give a shite, because the lack of respect for human life in this book is shocking. People are killed left right and centre but it's no biggie, because - bad guys. Even if they're bad human guys. We get Daemon's POV here too but it's pretty much like a male version of Katy. WHY HAVE I WASTED FOUR BOOKS ON THIS SERIES OMG
No, I didn't read the fifth. No, I won't be reading it. Yes, I wikipedia'd it.
The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
I read this after a heavy read, just for something light and fluffy. Gia Montgomery needs a fill-in boyfriend after her real one dumps her just before her friends finally meet him. I use the term 'friends' loosely, because they're bitches, but she meets Hayden in a car park and he agrees to pose as Bradley, her ex. I found this really immature, full of mind games, but Gia did grow up over the course of the book and it passed a few hours.
Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
The best thriller I've read in a long time. (I know that Kate over at Bibliophile Book Club recommended it). Each chapter goes back and forth between 2003 and 2007. In 2003, Cathy Bailey met Lee Brightman, Mr. Perfect. As he becomes increasingly sinister, we know something's going to happen but Cathy doesn't, and it's incredibly tense and hard to read in parts. In 2007, Cathy is controlled by OCD and PTSD. She cannot leave her home without performing certain rituals, and she's paranoid that Lee will come after her when he's released from prison. As she begins to get her life back on track with the help of her neighbour, something happens. Highly recommended.
I want to read more non-fiction this year, so I got through 2 in January.
The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition by Anne Frank
I hadn't read this since school, and I'd forgotten a lot of it. In this definitive edition, previously unpublished chapters are included. I'm not sure if that was a good idea - it felt alien to read about some of the subjects Anne talked about, particularly those of a sexual nature (it got quite graphic, description wise). It's quite a boring book, to be fair - it's popular because of that, because it's such a normal snapshot of a normal girl caught up in something horrific. There isn't that much of an insight into the war, so I'd look elsewhere if you want that. As a historical piece of work, it's an essential read. I found it quite sad the way they kept planning for the future and kept hoping, I felt a sense of guilt that they were making plans and I knew what was coming. Uncomfortable.
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
Randall Munroe is apparently the creator of XKCD, I don't know what that is. This is full of interesting questions that Randall has received via his website over the years - it was wittier and warmer to read than some similar books I've read, he has a great sense of humour. This is just brilliant if you're into science or geekery - some of my favourite questions were "What would happen if you made a periodic table out of cube-shaped bricks, where each brick was made of the corresponding element?" and "If everyone on the planet stayed away from each other for a few weeks, wouldn't the common cold be wiped out?" A fun read.
Ponies by Kij Johnson
This is like if Louise O'Neill rewrote My Little Pony and then got Tina Fey to turn it into a film. It's Only Ever Yours meets Mean Girls meets.....well, a pack of mean little brats driven by consumerism and one little girl desperate to fit in. This still pops into my mind and it's literally two minutes long - you can read it for yourself here.
So that's it! January got off to a flying start, hopefully I can keep the momentum up and clear a lot off my TBR piles this year without adding too many more.
Are you reading anything at the minute? Would you recommend it?