Please excuse my recent absence - a combination of incredibly poor wifi, lack of inspiration, several handcrafted presents to make and a possibly insane decision to rewatch both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed from the beginning have all meant that blogging time has been non-existent lately. But much like Arnie and Eminem, I'm back (back again), and I'll be sticking around.
I've been reading at night in bed, mostly, but a weekend-long book binge at the start of the month meant that I got to add another 16 to my yearly total.
YA = Young Adult, A= Adult.
Library BooksAs is always the case with the library, I got excited, overborrowed, and several of them were returned before I got round to them - but here are the ones I finished:
Dare Me by Megan Abbot (YA)
Addy and her cheerleading squad are getting on just fine until the arrival of a new coach. Colette French immediately throws the girls into a strenuous routine, proving that cheering is more than shaking your pom-poms - the girls are exhausted. They're pushed to improve their physical appearance and stamina, but there are dark secrets here - ones that could destroy lives if revealed.
This is no Bring it On. This is hardcore, bitchy, girls stabbing each other in the back, secrets, lies, obsession - I think I gave it 2/5, it just didn't suck me in.
The Snowman (Harry Hole #7) by Jo Nesbo (A)
This is the first Jo Nesbo book I've picked up. It's also my first ever foray into the much loved genre of Scandinavian crime. A mother has disappeared, and there's a sinister snowman found at the scene. As Detective Harry Hole is put on the case, it happens again and again - and always when the first snow falls. It's up to Harry and his colleagues to find out who the Snowman is and stop him before he kills again.
This was well written, I had no issues with the story or plot, but it felt much, much longer than the 383 pages Goodreads says it is. I liked Harry Hole as a character and will read more.
Triptych (Will Trent #1) by Karin Slaughter (A)
I decided to go back to the start of the Will Trent series and read them all in order. In this first book of the series, Atlanta police detective Michael Ormewood is put on the case of a prostitute who has been violently murdered. Special Agent Will Trent from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is called in to lend a hand. Meanwhile, we get an arc about a man who spent time in prison for the murder of a young girl. His recent release makes him prime suspect #1.
When this starts to click, my god is it good. Karin Slaughter is a master of her craft, she just knows how to suck people in and grab them by the gut. Really well written, and thoroughly enjoyable - not perfect, but a solid 4/5.
The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick (YA) Published 2 June (Kindle) 9 June (Paperback)
I requested this on Netgalley. This is about teenager Timothy Mason, a High School dropout and recovering alcoholic. His friend Jason Garrett lets Tim stay in the family garage when Tim's father gives him a limit of a few months to turn his life around before he is cut off. Tim has history with Jason's sister Alice, who has issues of her own. When an old flame of Tim's turns up unannounced, it means complications for everyone.
This really dragged for me, I didn't find Alice or Tim particularly likeable and I wasn't rooting for them. I didn't like how dismissive Tim was of his "ex", nor did I like how judgemental he was about others. I just didn't enjoy it - but I'm in the minority going by Goodreads reviews so if you like Contemporary YA, give it a go.
AudiobooksWould you believe that at almost 33 years old I had never listened to an audiobook before? I took the plunge this month and found it a fantastic way of getting another book in over a few days while cooking or cleaning.
Spectacles by Sue Perkins (A)
If you're of a certain vintage you'll remember Sue from Naked Lunch, but she's obviously better known for her role on The Great British Bake Off. This is her autobiography, and the audiobook was read by Sue. She tells her story in a warm, friendly way - she's naturally very funny and makes even the most mundane experiences sound hilarious. Parts of it are also very touching. If you like her at all I'd highly recommend this and I'd recommend you listen to it as opposed to read it.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed (A)
Ye gads. This was supposed to be a story about a woman who had a couple of really bad experiences (a loss, a marriage breakdown) and found herself again while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone. Instead, it's a choppy, far-fetched tale of a woman doing a bit of hiking, a lot of bragging, and a lot of shagging. At one point I went off into another room to get something and my husband came in asking me why I was listening to porn in front of the kids. Seriously. The narrator grated on me and the book was just......it irritated me and I didn't like it, I also didn't think Cheryl "found herself" at all.
Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell (YA)
A short story written by Rowell for World Book Day. Elena is Star Wars obsessed - so much so that she's never even seen the prequels (it's okay I promise it makes sense). She joins a line outside the cinema for the showing of the newest movie, hoping for lots of instagram-worthy crowd shots, but instead is met by just two people - one of whom will teach her about acceptance and being true to yourself. This was alright, it was a quick read, a nice palate cleanser in between people chopping each other up.
Sweet Home by Carys Bray (A)
A collection of 17 short stories all based on the themes of parenting and/or family. This was a real surprise for me - gloriously odd and quirky in places, desperately sad and upsetting in others. This veers into very dark territory more than once, so it's not for the faint hearted, but it's well worth a read. Stand-outs include the fantasy "The Ice Baby", in which a man carves a baby from ice for his wife, "The Countdown", about a man worrying about his first child, and "Love: Terms and Conditions" about a woman who vows to not repeat the mistakes made by her parents. Highly recommended.
The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett (A)
TV/film writer/actor Alan Benentt tells the tale of the old lady who lived in his garden for 15 years in a series of ratty old vans during the 1970s/1980s. This is the short story of how they tolerated each other and of the delicious eccentricities of Miss Shephard. It's not some saccharin sweet tale - but it's witty and funny and an interesting look at one of those real characters we don't come across too often anymore.
I read a couple of other YA books in April, most had been sitting on my kindle for a very long time - I find it a great genre to get me out of a reading slump.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA)
Eleanor and Park are very different - she marches to the beat of her own drum, but her flaming red hair and "interesting" style hide a lot of insecurities. He has a happy home life, but does he really know who he is? This is set in the 80s against a backdrop of the best music, over one school year. I didn't love it - it was okay for me, I found Eleanor's home life very upsetting to read about - but I know that others adore the book and the couple. It's being made into a film, one I'd definitely watch.
Every Day by David Levithan (YA)
Every day, A wakes up in a different body. Sometimes a boy, sometimes a girl, always a different person and never more than 24 hours. A can't (or shouldn't) change or meddle, they are just a visitor - until A meets Rhiannon and feels an instant connection. Suddenly, everything A does is about Rhiannon - and if someone were to find out what's going on, A would be in serious danger.
Despite the insta love I enjoyed this, I liked that A was neither male or female, it was a great idea, and I'm a fan of body-switching things anyway. I didn't like that the angle of the Reverend wasn't fully explored, there seemed to be a story there that just dropped off. Overall a good read, there are prequels and sort-of sequels but I wouldn't bother with them. This was solid as a standalone.
Monster by C.J Skuse (YA)
Bathory is an exclusive Boarding School for girls. Not unlike Hogwarts, there are 4 houses in this big school full of secrets. Out in the middle of nowhere, Natasha (Nash) finds her battle to be Head Girl the least of her worries when her beloved brother Sebastian is reported missing. Add to that a mythical beast that may not be so mythical, some creepy rumours of murders, and a snowstorm that means some of the girls are stranded at Bathory, and you have an atmospheric teenage whodunnit with an element of dark humour that was really enjoyable in a kinda "Point Horror v2.0" way. I seriously laughed my arse off at the last name of the teacher, Slash fans will get it instantly. Great fun, recommended.
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn (YA)
David and Rachel are no strangers to working with each other - this is one in a number of books they've co-written ( see also: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, Naomi and Ely's No-Kiss List). Nick is playing with his band when his ex Tris walks in with another boy. To avoid looking like a loser in front of Tris, Nick turns to the nearest girl and asks her to be his girlfriend for the next five minutes. The girl turns out to be super cool Manic Pixie Dream Girl Norah. What ensues is a night of debauchery in Manhattan, with Nick and Norah learning about each other. I have written "boring as f*ck" in my notes for this one, and I can't remember much about it, except a feeling of utter boredom and annoyance at the use of slang.
Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here by Anna Breslaw (YA)
Scarlett is a proud member of the Lycanthrope High fandom - it's her favourite TV show and she is fully immersed in online forums devoted to it. When it is cancelled, Scarlett begins to write fan fiction but draws (a little too heavily) on those she knows in reality - her crush Gideon, his evil girlfriend Ashley, and her friend Avery. If anyone were to read Scarlett's online ramblings they'd find out exactly what she thought of those people but that's not likely to happen...........right? Scarlett's elderly neighbour Ruth is a brilliant character too, and it's nice to see the dynamic between the two generations.
This was witty (you can tell the author is well acquainted with the Whedonverse), warm, funny, and Scarlett was a really great main character. A fantastic debut and I'd happily recommend this to anyone looking for a new YA book to read.
In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward (A)
Rachel Jones and Sophie Jenkins were 8 years old when they were kidnapped. Rachel got away - Sophie didn't. Roll on to the present day when Rachel is now a family historian, still living in her home village of Bampton. Sophie's mother unexpectedly takes her own life - leading the local police to re-examine the original case. This was okay - it had a bit of a Happy Valley vibe but there were unnecessary elements (the nervous Groom) and we didn't need to be told repeatedly that Rachel, as a size 14, was heavy/thick/overweight/large etc. I could see this being a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, it's the type of book I'd recommend for a bit of midweek reading but it won't be one that will stay with you - I'd put it on the same shelf as The Bones of You by Debbie Howells or Beside Myself by Ann Morgan so if you enjoyed either of those, give this a go.
Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks (as Unknown) (A or YA)
This is a classic - the story of a teenager named Alice who goes to a party, takes drugs, and begins a downward spiral resulting in the destruction of her life. Originally marketed as a diary, a true story, this was later revealed to be the fictional work of Mormon Youth Counsellor Beatrice Sparks, who also fabricated other supposedly true stories. This is really boring to read - everything is great! great! great! and it's obviously not written by a teenager. This is it in two lines:
"Wheel of morality, turn turn turn, tell us the lesson that we should learn"
Don't ever try drugs, you will die.
I can imagine it was shocking at the time and it's worth a read even just to say you've read it - but it's beyond boring.
That's it! Hopefully you'll find something interesting to read, favourites this month were Sweet Home, Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here and Spectacles.
At this point I'd also like to give a shout out to a new Irish book blog started by Sara from Where is My Mind Gone? - it's called Not Another Book Blogger and you can find the blog here, the facebook here, and the instagram here. It's always a great thing to see more book blogs, especially Irish based ones - the online book community is huge and in general one of the nicer communities to be a part of.
As always, I'm a glutton for punishment and my TBR pile won't be big enough until it needs its own entry on the Register of Electors, so hit me with your recommendations in the comments.