Thursday, October 2, 2014

Books I Read in September


Septembers books were mostly the results of a huge Netgalley binge - I won't be doing that again in a hurry, it's much nicer to pick and choose books at my own leisure. I ended up with a list of stuff to review and felt like it was a chore. Not fun! In future, I'll only be requesting things that I really, really want to read.

The total amount read in September was 13 - 11 of those were within the first two weeks, then I completely lost my reading mojo and only read two in the last fortnight.

I'll start with the Netgalley approvals, firstly the two I read for Rick O'Shea's Book Club:

Martin Amis: The Zone of Interest
This story is set in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. It's told from the point of view of three people in the camp - Paul Doll (Camp Commandant) thinks of the entire Holocaust as an inconvenience; Szmul (a Jewish prisoner), works to dispose the "pieces", or bodies, and knows his days are numbered. Thomsen (a Nazi Civil Servant) is obsessed with Doll's wife and tries to woo her while simultaneously driving Doll mad. I didn't enoy this book. The majority of it went over my head and I found it hard to follow. I still couldn't put it down - it was weirdly enthralling - but I wouldn't read it again, nor would I seek Amis out in the future. I didn't like his style of writing at all and the whole thing had a Monty Python/Allo Allo feel to it, whether intentional or not.

Emily St. John Mandel - Station Eleven
If you had told me that I'd end up loving a book about a post-apocalyptic Travelling Symphony who perform Shakespeare for survivers of the Georgia Flu, I'd have laughed you out of it. This is an amazing little book - it begins with actor Arthur Leander dying on stage during a production of King Lear, then goes forward 15 years into the future after 90% of the population has been wiped out by the disease. The book links 5 people connected to Arthur in some way and goes back & forth over their lives. One of my favourites of the year!

Sarah Belle - Miss Spelled
On the night of Lou and Aiden's one year Anniversary, Aiden proposes. All is going well until someone from Lou's past shows up with the potential to destroy her happiness - so she turns to a spell from an Internet Witch to try and erase him from her past. Only....she erases a whole lot more, and now Aiden is engaged to someone else and has no clue who she is. Can she put it right? I enjoyed this, it was a cute read.

Jill Steeples - Hopelessly Devoted To You
Ruby is engaged to Finn, but is afraid to tell him that she wants to call the wedding off. When she finally plucks up the courage, he storms out and falls down the stairs. When he wakes from a coma, he seems like a completely different person - even his accent has changed. He can't remember Ruby breaking up with him, but with this "New Finn", does she want to break up? I didn't like this book - it had a deal-breaker for me - Ruby repeatedly says no to sex and Finn responds with:  "It'll be fine, we'll be quick. god, you are so beautiful, Ruby. How the hell am I supposed to resist you?" and does it anyway. The repeated references to his new accent making him sound like Hugh Jackman smacked of fanfic.

Brenda Novak - A Matter of Grave Concern
Aldersgate School of Medicine, London, 1830. Abigail Hale hires "The London Supply Company" - Grave Robbers to the rest of us - to supply her with a corpse to enable the students of the medical school to practice. Outspoken, arrogant Max Wilder crosses Abigail and doesn't expect her to stand up to him - but what is he hiding? As Abigail and Max get closer, secrets are revealed that could threaten all their lives. This was a bit more Mills & Boon than I would have liked, but it was enjoyable even if some parts were a bit twee and predictable.

Celeste Ng - Everything I Never Told You
Set in 1977, this is the story of a family dealing with terrible grief and sadness after they discover their oldest daughter Lydia has died under mysterious circumstances. It follows the lives of Marilyn and James, and we see how they deal with prejudice over James' race (Chinese) and how Marilyn gives up on her dream of being a doctor to raise a family, pushing her dream on to Lydia. Parts of it are achingly sad, but it's a really good read and beautifully written.

Emma Taylor - Anastasia
Cinderella. With lesbians. This took just under an hour to read, and I did enjoy it - there was a hell of a lot packed into such a small book! A curse, a ball, a fatal sickness, a spirit in a tree - it was a fun read.

Fiona Valpy - The French For Christmas
Evie has had a tough year. She has lost her baby, and her marriage has fallen apart. When she gets the opportunity to go to France and spend Christmas alone in her friend's holiday cottage, she decides to go. She brings her Grandmother's cookbook and learns to ive and love again with the help of new friends and good food. This was alright - it had too many food analogies for me ("his accent was as chewy as a slice of tarte tatin") and the insta-love was unconvincing. It lacked Christmas atmosphere, but France came off really well.

Jimmy Wayne - Walk To Beautiful
This is the true story of Jimmy Wayne. Jimmy grew up in care after his parents left him. He vowed that if he made it in the music business, that he would give back - he's a popular Country Music star now, so he's going to walk from a foster home in Nashville to a foster home in Phoenix (1700 miles). This is Jimmy's life story - and it's an amazing, inspirational one. It stayed with me for a long time after reading it.

Next up are two books that I've owned for a while but hadn't read:

Scott Lobdell, Paul Lee & Fabian Nicieza - Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Slayer, Interrupted 
This is a comic that I got in a big order of used books online a few years ago. I came across it while looking for Halloween reads - there are two stories in it, the first one "Dawn and the Happy Bear" features a young Dawn Summers receiving the gift of a cursed teddy bear mistakenly meant for Buffy. The second, "Slayer, Interrupted" is reminiscent of the actual episode "Normal Again" but not as good. Dawn finds Buffy's diary and outs her to their parents as a Slayer. She is committed to a mental institution where there are strange goings-on. We get a fleeting glance at a pre-Buffy Willow, and a look at Giles coming face-to-face with his Ripper self.

Shirley Jackson - We Have Always Lived in the Castle
This is narrated by 18 year old Mary Katherine (Merricat) Blackwood, who lives with her sister Constance and old Uncle Julian in a big house secluded from the rest of the town. The rest of Merricat's family fell foul of a terrible poisoning incident - for which Constance was charged but acquitted. The townsfolk dislike the Blackwoods intensely, and the girls receive few visitors - until one day, cousin Charles shows up looking for information on the family fortune. When Charles sees how the girls live, he decides that it's time for a few changes - but Merricat won't take that lying down... brilliant book, I'm sorry I didn't read it years earlier!

I bought two books in September (well.....not including boot sale ones.....):

Louise O'Neill - Only Ever Yours
Freida is an "eve" - one of a number of girls created for men. Women are not born anymore, they are created and programmed. Every year, from the school they inhabit, ten will be chosen as companions to bear children. Others will become concubines - their only role is to pleasure men. The remainder are stripped of their vanity and remain in the school as chastities, helpers to the upcoming batches of eves. The eves are obsessed with their looks, their weight, their appearance in general - when one starts to put on weight she is immediately ostracised. They are in constant competition with each other and will stop at nothing to make sure they get the position they want. Intelligence is punished. Asking questions is punished. Termination date is 40. The girls names don't even have capital letters, they aren't that important. This book was absolutely fantastic, I think it should be compulsory reading for teenagers.

Donna Tartt - The Goldfinch
I don't have much luck with award winning books, so lord knows why I decided that I was going to tackle this - when kindle estimated that it would take over 12 hours to read, I almost had a spontaneous poo. The Goldfinch in question is a painting, stolen from an art gallery by 13 year old Theo Decker after he is instructed to take it by a dying man. The gallery has been bombed, and Theo's mother, center of his universe, is dead. What follows is the story of Theo's life, and how the painting brings him in contact with many different people. I really liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. I know that some people feel the ending was long-winded, but to be honest, I was after reading over 700 pages, I was just glad to SEE the ending. I would recommend it - it's not a life-changer or anything, but it was a good read.

So - that's it for this month. My favourites were Station Eleven, We Have Always Lived in the Castle,  and Only Ever Yours.

I decided that for October, I'm only going to read books that fit in with a Halloween/Scary/Spooky theme, so I've been scouring Goodreads lists and Youtube videos for inspiration. Here's hoping that the mojo I lost after The Goldfinch will make a reappearance soon!

If you want to read my Goodreads reviews of all the books above, go to the "Books 2014" tab at the top of the page and click the individual book covers to go to the reviews.

Sticking with the Halloween theme for a second, what's your favourite spooky book?