Sunday, July 6, 2014

Books I read in May/June and Booktube-a-thon 2014


In my last book round-up, I covered everything I'd read from April up to Mid-May. In this post, I'll cover everything I read from mid-May to the end of June, and that should get me back on track so I can post a round-up once a month.

As usual, all images are either Goodreads or Amazon. If you want to join me on Goodreads and follow my reviews (I try to review every book I read) you can add me here.

The Wronged Sons by John Marrs
The Wronged Sons is a thriller about a man who walks out on his family, with the intention of committing suicide. His wife, Catherine, has to deal with the disappearance of Simon, slowly sinking to rock bottom and building herself back up again. 25 years later, Simon knocks on her front door. Where has he been? Why did he leave? Why is he back?! The book jumps back & forth to reveal a tragic, heartbreaking, (and at times hard to read) story about the long-term effects of a misunderstanding. I'd recommend this book to fans of Gillian Flynn or Alex Marwood.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller
I first read this as a teenager, but if it's possible I think it's even more relevant today. It's not a huge book, you could read it in a few hours, but it covers the mass hysteria and suspicion in a small community at the time of the Salem witch trials. The motivation behind some of the accusations was pure and simple - greed. It's a fascinating look at society - but please avoid the Winona Ryder/Daniel Day Lewis movie version. Muck.

Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn by Tilly Tennant
Holden Finn is the equivalent of Harry Styles - member of a popular boyband, idolised by thousands - including single Mum-of-teen-terror, Bonnie. Bonnie writes letters to Holden that she never sends - but what would happen if she got to meet him? This sounds like absolute drivel but I promise you, stick with it, it's not saccharin sweet or twee at all. It's possibly my favourite light-hearted read so far of 2014, perfect for a curl up on the couch. It's nice to find a romance novel that isn't full of cliches, and this was such a unique take on the genre.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I'd heard about this book several times but never bothered to pick it up. I definitely missed out - it's amazing, it completely sucked me in and made me cry. I read it without spoilers, so that's how I'm going to leave it.

The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
I read these one after another - I think I definitely would have lost interest had I had to wait for each subsequent one to be released. The series has inevitably drawn comparisons to The Hunger Games, but I enjoyed both series. Tris is really likeable and gutsy. The book from Four's point of view (the last one) changed my opinion of him a bit - he wasn't nearly as strong or admirable as I had first thought, but it made me like Tris even more. I don't think I'll bother with the movies, but it's a good series and it's one I'd recommend if you like a little dystopia with your ass-kicking.

Alice Peterson - Ten Years On
I thought I'd give some more romances a go after an overdose of Crime, Sci-Fi and Dystopia - I could have picked a better one, to be honest. It's not that it's particularly bad, it was just a bit predictable. The male character also wasn't particularly likeable, and the female character went through an enormous amount of emotional distress and upheaval without one mention of any kind of counselling or help. It smacked a little bit of "the love of a man cures all" kinda thing, which I don't like. There was one avenue that I thought was going to make for a brilliantly different book - but the author didn't follow it up at all, which I was disappointed about. It'd be grand if you were stuck on a bus or a train, but I wouldn't bother with it otherwise.

April's Fool by Blanche Marriott
Why is it when you pick one mediocre book, others seem to come out of the sky like flies? This book.............I'll write what I've written in my reading journal (which is this one, by the way - brilliant for keeping track of books). April works in the web divison of a big corporate firm. Michael is the boss, or soon will be. April is so insecure with the fact that she's not married that she takes a load of photos of Michael at an event and photoshops herself into them, turns it all into a big wedding album to show her friends, brings it to a restaurant where all friends coo over her wonderful new husband and her perfect life, when......*Eastenders dum-dum-dums*......April LEAVES the book in the restaurant, one of the waitresses recognises Mr. thingamibob, drops it off at his office, he gets all "Me Tarzan, you Bitch" and annoyed and stomps down to April's office banging his chest like a drum (okay not really) saying (direct quote) - "We'll see what Miss Curly Hair has to say about this" but when he sees how goooorgeous she is in real life, his willy starts bothering him so he doesn't say anything. And that, my friends, is where I decided life is too short, and deleted it.

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey
I came across this by pure chance while browsing Netgalley - it's not normally the kind of book I'd go for, but I was glad I did because it's right up there with my 2014 favourites so far. Melanie is a ten-year-old girl, who lives at a base with lots of other ten-year-olds somewhere in England (a very different England, half the country has been wiped out by some major catastrophic event). Miss Justineau teaches the children English literature - Greek Myths and Legends are Melanie's favourite. Melanie loves her teacher. The base is also home to scientist Caroline Caldwell, who keeps coming for some of the children. Those children don't come back. One day, she comes for Melanie. Read. It.

Gracefully Insane by Alex Beam
This is an account of the rise and fall of McLean Mental Hospital in Massachusetts. McLean was once home to "famous" residents like Sylvia Plath and Susanna Kaysen - Susanna's book Girl, Interrupted was written about her time at the hospital. It's an interesting premise, and there are some really good anecdotes, but for the most part it's a bit rambly, a bit disjointed and at times suffers from a personality disorder itself. Is it a story about the actual hospital, or a collection of patient accounts? It's a total mish-mash, and jumps around a lot. If you can put up with that, some waffle about Freud and some mind-numbingly boring financial stuff shoved in here and there, it's a nice insight into the place that was once the "dumping ground" for wealthy families to ditch an eccentric relative.

Little Hands Clapping by Dan Rhodes
This popped up as a Goodreads recommendation, and the cover caught my eye. If Tim Burton, Neil Gaiman and Jane Goldman all had a big hooley on Halloween night, this would be the result. Set in a Suicide Museum (the owner wanted to discourage people from committing suicide but is unaware that it's having the opposite effect) ran by a creepy old man who hates people and is only in the job because he gets free cake, the museum is a hotspot for troubled souls. The old man has an arrangement with the local Doctor ("he had moved to the city ten years later, bringing with him a black Labrador called Hans and a heart-stopping tale of tragedy") to "dispose" of any victims in a rather unique and sick way. Throw in a Chief Wiggum-esque cop who really wants his big break, a dog who inadvertently throws the whole can of worms open (or up, actually), a couple of intertwined tales of love and loss, and you end up with an amazing little book. I don't know how he managed it, but it left me with the warm and fuzzies at the end. Which is ludicrous, given the subject matter, but true. Dan Rhodes - to quote Britney - you're on my radar.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
The first of a projected trilogy, Mr. Mercedes is Stephen King's first old-school cop thriller. There's still a healthy dose of King in there, but this isn't a horror. Detective William Hodges has taken retirement and is toying with the idea of putting a gun in his mouth, until a letter comes through the door from the "Mercedes Killer" - a criminal Hodges wasn't able to nail down before retiring. Hodges takes it upon himself to catch this guy once and for all - and it makes for an epic thriller, one I couldn't put down. I loved the Lethal Weapon-style comradery (I refuse to use the word 'banter') between Hodges and Jerome, and I grew to like Holly by the end. I pictured Holly as the actress Mary Lynn Rajskub, in case anyone's wondering. Doubtful, but I thought I'd pop that in there anyway.

Can Anybody Help Me? by Sinéad Crowley
Sinéad is RTE's Arts Correspondant, and this is her debut novel. Yvonne is a young Mum, recently having moved to Ireland because of her husband's demanding job. Bored and a bit lonely, she joins a parenting forum and chats to other Mums. When a young mother turns up dead, Yvonne is certain that she knows the woman from the forum. Can she convince Detective Sergeant Claire Boyle that the dead woman is her pal, and will she do it before someone else becomes a victim? A cautionary tale about how much information you can share online without even realising it - and one of the main reasons you'll not be seeing any more baba pictures on my blog or twitter. There are lots of weirdos out there, and not all of them are technophobic oddballs. They're among us right now, fellow oversharers. The *only* thing I didn't like about this - and it's minor - is the line on the cover that tells us there's a "shocker of a twist". I spent half the book trying to predict the twist, and I irritated myself. Apart from that, I'm looking forward to more of Sinéad's work.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
This is only my second foray into Sedaris' work, and while I didn't enjoy it as much as Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, it did still make me laugh. A lot. As the title suggests, this book focuses on tales related to conversation or speech. Particular highlights include trying to learn French after living in France for a while: "I went from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. 'Is them the thoughts of cows?' I'd ask the butcher, pointing to the calves' brains on display in the front window." If you listen to this on an audiobook, you'll get a kick out of his Billie Holliday impression - it's uncanny, and very, very funny.

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
I don't have much luck with prize-winning books. Which is why I'm really glad I only found out after I'd read it, that this was a winner at the 2013 Costa Book Awards. The digital edition I had was the one with the special font changes, and that really adds something to the story. The story itself is a very frank, honest, and at times tragic, account of a man's descent into mental illness after a horrible accident. I couldn't put this one down at all, it will stay with me for a long time. Another favourite of 2014 so far.

The Haunting of Harriet by Jennifer Button
This was.....meh. Harriet is a ghost, which is pretty evident by the title and the first few pages, yet Harriet doesn't know it - I call BS, because a family moved into her house and didn't speak to her, so there's no way she couldn't have known. That's not even the story - Liz (the new owner along with her blah husband Edward) starts acting strangely and gets all freaked out about some old boathouse. Harriet tells the story of what went on in times past.......and lo and behold, it almost happens all over again. This book went on far too long, it was really muddled, and it was a bit of a chore to finish. I found Harriet's parents much more interesting than dreary Liz & Edward, and I wish that we'd had more tales of her mother instead of the blunt ending to that part of the story. At times the language was overly flowery too, it reminded me of the episode of Friends where Joey changed every single word in his letter using a thesaurus.  I'm on the lookout for a really good ghost fiction book, so if you have any recommendations in that genre, please do let me know.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Like a lot of people, I'd never heard of Gillian Flynn before Gone Girl, which I enjoyed. This, in my humble opinion, is a far superior book. Newspaper reporter Camille Preaker (who I was certain was a man for the first few pages) is sent to her hometown to cover the story of a missing child. The previous summer, a child was murdered - is there a serial killer at large, or is it a copycat? Camille's hometown holds a lot of painful memories for her, memories that have contributed to years of self-harm and subsequent rehabilitation. As she gets closer to finding out the truth about what's happening in the town, is she putting her own health and life at risk? She also has to deal with a bratty, jealous, troublesome stepsister and a mother who makes no secret of the fact that she doesn't want Camille home. At times difficult to read, but a brilliant, heart-pounding thriller.

And breathe. I know that these book posts make me look like I do nothing but sit on my arse all day reading, but I promise I do actually cook, clean and look after the children! I read quick, I don't watch a lot of TV anymore, and I squish in a few chapters at any opportunity when I'm in full-on reading mode.

Booktube-a-thon 2014 is almost here!
For fellow readers, there's something very exciting coming up. I missed the Booktube-a-thon last year because I was very pregnant and very flustered, but I'm looking forward to participating this year (Chloe and Breige have some great posts about last years). It runs from July 14th-21st. For those who don't know, it's a week-long intensive reading marathon organised by Booktuber Ariel Bissett.  There will be challenges, daily goals, videos and other cool stuff - keep an eye on the official Booktube-a-thon twitter for details, they should be revealed over the next day or two.

I'm nearly afraid to ask, because with the addition of a Kindle Fire to my collection of gadgets, I now have two devices full of books to read in addition to a pile on top of the wardrobe - but any recommendations for me? Especially anything ghosty! If you're doing booktube-a-thon please let me know so I can add your link when I post about what I'm reading for it.


  1. Ooh, I must dig out my copy of 'The Crucible' and give it a re-read.

    I'm glad you got to read 'Never Let Me Go' spoiler free. I adore that book and was afraid that once the film (which is nowhere near as good as the book, btw. Excellent cast, there were just too many changes for my liking.) was released spoiler free reading of the novel would be next to impossible.

    1. I'm terrible at keeping up with films so I hadn't heard much about Never Let Me Go, I loved it! The Crucible is a great read.

  2. I cant believe how many books you got through- puts me to shame! I loved sharp objects, hopelessly devoted to holden finn, me talk pretty one day and never let me go. Still haven't read the divergent series but I'm really enjoying the girl with all the gifts so thanks again of the suggestion! x

    1. Sometimes I feel really embarrassed putting these posts up, I genuinely just read quite quickly! I'm glad you're enjoying it, it was a surprise standout for me this year :)

  3. Ya, I agree with you RE: Divergent trilogy. I read them spaced out and while I loved the first book, I just felt let down by last book. I think if I had read them together I would have felt a bit better about the series overall.

    In terms of recommendations, I just started 'White Rabbit' by K.A. Laity. I picked it from NetGalley as it's a story about a retired detective and I've been enjoying detective books recently. I'm only 16% in but I'm liking it so far and there's a possible ghosty element to it (Detective is now a psychic, he inherited the business from his aunt. Not sure yet if he actually is psychic, I doubt it, but there is a dead person who's cropping up as a ghost so I'm interested in seeing how this goes!). It's a short book too, under 200 pages.

    1. I might check that one out, thank you! Yeah the last book was a bit of a stretch from the first - really liked Tris all the way through though.


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