Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Books I Read in May


I did really well during the first half of May, then it all went to pot. I think I lost the will to read after getting through one of my book club choices - more about that in a minute - I managed to finish 12, and despite vowing not to pick any more books up, I requested more from Netgalley and borrowed from the library. If anyone has a couple of hours going spare, send 'em my way...

Book Club

There were two choices this month for the Rick O'Shea book club - The Glorious Heresies  by Lisa McInerney (I'm reading that at the minute) and this:

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
I've seen so many glowing reviews of this "thriller" - I thought it was absolute shite. It was the type of book that a young Tom Cruise would have written aged 15 as a screenplay with himself in the lead. It was too long, there were two separate storylines that didn't connect at all, and the brilliantly intelligent wonderful marvellous (according to him, anyway) Pilgrim relied on coincidence and luck to solve a crime. I hated it, and didn't find it thrilling at all.


One thing I wanted to do in 2015 was read more books that have been turned into movies. I love seeing the differences and reading the original storylines. With that in mind, I read three.

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
Walter and Joanna Everhart move to a new town, where Joanna notices that the women are all like clones of each other - vapid, obsessed with pleasing their husbands, with no personalities of their own. Walter soon gets involved in the local Men's Association much to Joanna's horror, but by the time she realises something is very wrong, it could be too late. I liked this, I'm familiar with the movie but not the book, so the book was a little more reliant on imagination than the visuals used in the movie. I'd have loved some more insight into why the men did what they did.

The D.U.F.F by Kody Keplinger
I had this on my kindle for a while, but it was Paula's review that prompted me to read it. Written when the author was 17, this is the story of 17 year old Bianca, who is told she is the "DUFF" (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) of her peer group by "man whore" Wesley. Bianca and Wesley end up shagging a bit, there's an alcoholic and some bad parenting thrown in to the mix, and more shagging, but overall this was hard to review because there wasn't much of a plot. I've been told that the movie version is different, and I like Mae Whitman, so I'll give it a go - but I wouldn't recommend the book.

EDIT: I watched the movie after typing this post up and it was MUCH better than the book. Bianca and Wesley were more likeable, the storyline was completely different, and it was really witty. Plus, Allison Janney. One of the very rare times that I've preferred the movie to the book!

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
The "Me" of the title is Greg, a 17 year old student who knows this is a book, he has written it. Earl is his slightly unhinged friend who likes to make movies with him. The Dying Girl is their classmate Rachel, who used to be Greg's friend, and who is dying with cancer. Greg's mother forces him to be a good friend to Rachel, so he and Earl decide to make her a movie - The Worst Movie Ever Made. This was everything I look for in a YA book - clever, witty, funny, touching, but not twee and no insta-love. I really liked it.


Normal by Graeme Cameron
Have you ever read a story about a serial killer who kidnaps women, keeps them in his basement, kills other women, and rooted for him not to get caught? Me neither - up until this book. A few chapters in, it became apparent that this was no ordinary thriller, it has a darkly comic element to it which is hard to achieve given the subject matter, but parts of it made me laugh out loud (I felt really bad for laughing) - a very clever thriller.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Alice has a fall in the gym and takes a knock to the head. She is happily married, expecting her first baby (nicknamed "the sultana"), and is 29 years old. Only - she isn't. It's 2008, not 1998. "The Sultana" is now a moody, sullen nine-year-old and has two siblings. Alice's beloved husband isn't speaking to her. Something's funny with her sister, and she has absolutely no idea what has happened over the past ten years. Could it be the best thing that has ever happened to her? Loved this, very enjoyable read, but could be triggering for anyone who has experienced a miscarriage, as there's another person's story told here too and it gets very emotional.

Wonder by RJ Palacio
Wonder is the story of August (Augie), who was born with a severe facial deformity. Home-schooled up to the age of ten, it's time for Augie to join children his own age at school. Told from several points of view, this is heartwarming and a lesson in how to treat others and how your behaviour can affect others. I passed this on to my 10 year old and he devoured it, this should be compulsory reading in schools.


Beautiful Ever After by Katie Piper
Katie's second book, focusing on her move away from home after her recovery from her acid attack. I picked this up by accident - I thought it was her first book, but I'm glad I got this one instead, because it was addictive reading, I wanted Katie to find happiness so badly, I cried at some of the stories about her feeling lonely and trying to find someone to spend her life with. Those of you who follow Katie on social media will know how this ends - but it's a very worthwhile read.

Books to Review

Together Apart by Natalie Martin
Adam and Sarah are blissfully happy - until Adam proposes to Sarah and she says no. What follows is the revelation that Sarah has a deep, dark secret in her past that she is afraid Adam will find out. Written from both Sarah and Adam's points of view, with some of Sarah's old diaries thrown in, this was okay. I found bits of it very disturbing, and the overall "big secret" to be in bad taste, but I suppose things like this do happen - I didn't like either of the main characters, I did feel sorry for Sarah, but I wondered why she had never revealed her secret before. I was granted a request to read this via Netgalley.


I read three other books on kindle during May:

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce
I read the prequel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry last month, so I was eager to read Queenie's side of the story while she waited for her old friend Harold Fry to walk from one end of the country to the other in order to "save" her from dying of cancer by giving her something to look forward to. While I did enjoy it, I thought the route taken was a little disappointing given the lack of a romantic element in the first book. I couldn't say I liked Queenie all that much - but I loved the present-day setting of the nursing home and all the great characters there. There is a twist near the end that made me want to fling this out the nearest window, but apart from that it was enjoyable and Rachel Joyce is an excellent storyteller.

The Lie by C.L. Taylor
The tale of a girls' holiday gone wrong - reminiscent of The Beach or  Brokedown Palace, this is about a group of four friends who go on a holiday to Nepal. Something horrific happens and only two return - Emma and Al. Five years later, Emma is now living under an assumed name and working at an animal sanctuary. Nobody knows about her past, not even her boyfriend. But someone does - and they're going to awfully great lengths to get Emma's attention... this flits back and forth between the present day and the holiday. I really, really enjoyed the parts set in Nepal, but the present-day stuff fell flat for me. While I could deal with parts that were far-fetched, some of it just reached ridiculous heights. As I said in my Goodreads review, if Simon Cowell himself had appeared in front of Emma with a knife I wouldn't have batted an eyelid. The conclusion was rushed and not explained well, but it was still a page-turner and I'd recommend it if you're looking for a thriller that will keep you reading.

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Nick and Dara are sisters with less than a year in age between them. One night, there's a car accident that tears the girls apart. Something is bubbling under the surface, what came between the girls? What caused the accident? This is a thriller, but a very Point-Horror one. Not necessarily a bad thing, but this premise has been done so many times that I guessed the twist just after halfway. Lauren Oliver is a very skilled writer, and I adored the setting of the amusement park - but it's just not a new concept anymore and therefore was a bit predictable. Still very much worth a read, but don't expect anything groundbreaking.

And that's it! Spot anything you like? Read anything great lately?