Friday, August 7, 2015

Books I Read in July


I did well at the beginning of the month and then Snapchat really took off so my reading went to the dogs towards the middle and end of July. I was still reading at night but not as much, plus I was doing some cross stitch projects and devouring Grey's Anatomy.

The total for July was 15, which is surprising, because I didn't think I read that many. Some of those were just a few hours long though, so it's not as massive as you might think.

I've been trying to cut down the amount of ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) on my Netgalley shelf for ages - some of these have been approved since last October and were just sitting there. I made a real effort to try and get the shelf cleared - then requested a load more, oops....anyway, ten of my reads this month were ones I got from Netgalley.

Buzz Books 2015 Young Adult Fall/Winter by Publishers Lunch
I love these compilations. They come out twice a year in both YA and Adult format, and they bring previews of several upcoming releases from both prominent and new authors. This one had 20 extracts, favourites included Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon and Dumplin' by Julie Murphy, both of which I have yet to read in full. I did request a few full books and was approved, but it's also a great way to figure out what to avoid - handy for someone like me who tends to buy into hype when it comes to books. And makeup. And candles. And pretty much everything. 

Buzz Books 2015 Adult Fall/Winter by Publishers Lunch
This is the adult version, and has 33 decent extracts. Tender by Belinda McKeon is included, as well as the new one from Mitch Albom, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto. The Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg's debut Bream Gives Me Hiccups was a surprising favourite here, it's a Sedaris-esque satirical look at social situations. You'll also find some upcoming novels by Patrick Ness, Geraldine Brooks and Alice Hoffman. It covers 14 fiction, 10 debut fiction, and 10 non-fiction books including Dick Van Dyke's latest book on ageing. I ended up with 13 of the 33 either requested or pre-ordered in full. Oops. 

One by Sarah Crossan
This is a YA (young adult) novel about conjoined twin sisters Tippi and Grace. They have been homeschooled for 14 years, but now must enter mainstream High School after the funding for homeschooling has run out. "Normal is the Holy Grail and only those without it know its value". I enjoyed this, but I felt it was a little over hyped. It's written in poetic verse, making it a quick read - this wasn't at all off-putting but I just found it hard to connect with the characters. I am very much in the minority though, so do give it a go. The writing is beautiful.

Are you Still There? by Sarah Lynn Scheerger
I read a preview of this in one of the Buzz Books collections and thought it looked good. It's another YA, about a very ordinary High School student named Gabi who helps to run a teen helpline after a student plants a bomb in the school. We also get the POV of the bomber, or "The Stranger" here - I was totally wrong about who the bomber was. This is very cheesy, but I did enjoy it because it reminded me of the Point Horror books I loved as a teenager. Give it a miss if that's not your thing.

Are You Watching Me? by Sinéad Crowley
This is the second novel from Sinéad. We revisit Detective Claire Boyle, first seen in last year's Can Anybody Help Me?. She is now Mum to a small baby, and her marriage is strained due to the pressure of being new parents with job commitments. This book focuses on twentysomething Liz McClafferky, the reluctant public face of Tír na nÓg, a refuge of sorts for elderly men who have no other source of interaction in the community. As one of the men is found dead and a link to the centre is discovered, Liz has to come to terms with her past and Claire has to figure out how to have it all. I enjoyed this, not as much as the author's first book, but as "the difficult second novel" it was a worthwhile read.

This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
This was another Buzz Books extract that I ended up requesting. The protagonist, Lucille, is 17 and left in charge of her 9 year old sister Wren after their mother goes AWOL. Their Dad is in residential care after having a mental health incident a few months earlier. Lucille is trying to keep on top of things and deal with the prospect that her mother might not come back, so now is definitely not the time to fall in love. This was sweet, it sounds a bit shite from my synopsis but the writing was sharp, the characters were likeable, and it wasn't a sweety-teeny-googly eyed romantic book. Really enjoyed this, the teenagers didn't make the best decisions at times, but if you can't make a few mistakes when you're a teenager, when can you? It was just different enough to be very enjoyable, and the ending was brave.

The Lost Child by Ann Troup
Elaine's mother has died, so Elaine has returned to the town her mother grew up in to scatter her ashes. While she's there, she befriends a tearaway teenager named Brodie. Brodie's sister disappeared 30 years ago when she was three, and Elaine becomes involved in Brodie's attempt to find out what happened to her. If you've read any kind of thrillers or mysteries at all you'll spot "the twist" a mile off, as I did. That's one of the perils of reading a lot so it wasn't necessarily off-putting, but the writing was a little Joey-Tribbiani-with-thesaurus. Fifteen words where one would do. Not bad by any means, just snooze when you've seen it done a million times and done a lot better.

Edgewater by Courtney Sheinmel
This had a real We Were Liars vibe off it (not the same plot, though). Rich family secrets, strange goings-on, and cover-ups. Lorrie Hollander is attending a prestigious equestrian program for advanced riders when she is removed immediately and sent home because her Aunt hasn't paid her fees. Lorrie goes home to sort it out - and realises that things at home are much worse than she could ever have thought. Enter rich boy love interest and a shit-ton of family secrets and you have one slick, well-written novel about everything going to pot behind a glossy exterior. Really enjoyed this.

My So-Called (Love) Life by A.L. Michael
Books like this are like chewing gum - not particularly satisfying, but sometimes you just bloody want chewing gum. The main character's name is Tigerlily, which was off-putting, but essentially this is a feel-good story about a woman who makes positive changes in her life after her fiancée left her a few days before her wedding. Ollie, the love interest here was a total ride, and while I didn't really like Tigerlily, I appreciated her determination and desire to grab life by the balls after wasting time with someone who didn't appreciate her as she was. Perfect fluff for a rainy afternoon.

Where Secrets Sleep by Marta Perry
Have you ever read Amish fiction? Me neither! This was set in Dutch Pennsylvania, in a part Amish community and centred around Allison, who has inherited a converted mansion from her recently deceased Grandmother. The mansion is home to several small businesses and shops, including an Amish quiltmaker named Sarah, with whom she strikes up a friendship. There's also a handsome single Dad carpenter named Jamie and a bit of small-town rivalry thrown in. This was okay - it was like one of those Lifetime movies I'd get sucked in to if I were doing nothing of a Sunday, but it ran a little long for me. Still, it was okay.

Rick O'Shea Book Club
This month, the two book club picks were Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Harvest by Jim Crace. Both are on the shortlist for the 2015 IMPAC Dublin Literary Awards. I bought Harvest for the Kindle but I didn't get to it, I had Americanah in paperback so I read that. 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Ifemelu, a lifestyle blogger who moved to America to study and who is now returning to Nigeria. The book is written in 6 parts, some of those are told from the POV of Ifemelu's High School sweetheart Obinze, a young man who had planned to follow Ifemelu to America but ran into some problems. I just really, really enjoyed Adichie's writing and how it flowed, even though I didn't particularly like Ifemelu or Obinze as people. The writing is powerful and it taught me a lot about Nigerian culture and racism. 


Summer at Shell Cottage by Lucy Diamond
This is the holiday read of 2015 for me. It's easy to read, the characters are well developed, and the story flows well. It's the story of several different female generations from the same family, and how they cope with various issues in their lives. Olivia is recently widowed and a little bit lost after discovering her husband was hiding something from her. Freya, a GP, has made a mistake at work and fear that her job will be on the line. Harriet, Olivia's daughter in law, feels like she doesn't really belong in the family, and finds out something about her husband - does keeping secrets run in the family? Throw in a teenage girl with a secret (and potentially dangerous) relationship and wrap it all up in Shell Cottage - "The generous-sized cottage, painted a soft barley colour, with a thatched roof and a poppy-scarlet front door, above which a scallop shell had been carved into the stone lintel. Behind the house you could see a flower-filled garden, which looked very much as if it might lead straight onto sand dunes and then a pale, curving beach in the distance." - and you have an incredibly enjoyable summer read. Really, really liked this. 

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault
I picked this up in the recent Kindle sale, it's quite a short book and took around an hour to read. Bilodo is a 27 year old postman who has no real human interaction apart from his work colleagues. He is alone, but he's not lonely - he has taken to steaming people's letters open before delivering them and has become obsessed with an ongoing correspondance between a man in his local town, and a woman, Ségoléne, in Gibraltar. When tragedy strikes and the man is killed, Bilodo decides to continue the correspondance in his place........the whole thing takes a very odd turn here, although it's set in Montreal, it's very Asian and reads more like a Japanese novel. Really quirky and the ending left my mouth hanging open! I'm glad I got it.

The Baby by Lisa Drakeford
I saw someone talk about this on youtube - possibly Amber - but it looked interesting. A young girl gives birth on the bathroom floor at her friend's 17th birthday party, and the girl has to deal with the repurcussions along with the baby's father and their three other friends. Every person involved gets a chapter, and though it had a completely unnecessary "twist", I did enjoy it. 


It's Not What You Think by Chris Evans
All I really know about Chris Evans is that he presented The Big Breakfast and TFI Friday on Channel 4 when I was younger. I watched both, but never really gave Chris much thought. With the recent TFI Friday special, I spotted this on sale for £0.99 on kindle and decided to give it a go. It's one of the most enjoyable autobiographies I've read, it covers the period from Chris' childhood right up to the early 00s when he purchased Virgin radio from Richard Branson. Every chapter starts with a Top Ten list, the number one being the topic for that chapter. The chapters are between 1 and 5 minutes long. Chris is easy to read - he's warm, funny, and acknowledges when he has been a bit of an arse. He's respectful of ex wives and partners, and comes across as a genuinely nice person. I downloaded the follow-up to this immediately after finishing, I really like his writing style. 

So, there you go. If I can cut back on the Snapchat and come out of Booktubeathon 2015 alive, hopefully August will be a good reading month too!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Booktube-a-thon 2015 - Information & TBR!


You may remember me talking about Booktube-a-thon last year, but if not, here's a quick synopsis. Booktube-a-thon is a week long readathon, hosted by Ariel Bissett and a host of other booktubers. It's a week of challenges, quizzes, reading sprints, and general bookish fun. You don't have to be a booktuber or book blogger to join in, anyone of any age can take part, it's all about challenging yourself to read more and having some fun along the way. This year, it begins at the stroke of midnight TONIGHT your time, wherever you are in the world. That's August 3rd, and it ends at the stroke of midnight your time on August 9th, next Sunday night.

Find out more:

Official Booktube-a-thon Youtube Channel
Official Booktube-a-thon Twitter
Official Booktube-a-thon Instagram

My Booktube-a-thon posts from last year are here.

This year, Ariel has set a whole new host of challenges! Here they are:

I've been putting my TBR pile together for a few days now, and here are my choices. You don't have to pick a different book for every challenge, you can double up - for example, if you have a book you really want to read that has blue on the cover? That's challenges 6 AND 1 completed.

  • A book with blue on the cover: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • A book by an author who shares the first letter of your last name: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (think it's about time, don't you?)
  • Someone else's favourite book: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (Margaret from Bleach House Library's favourite book)
  • The last book you acquired: Memoirs of a Fruitcake by Chris Evans
  • Finish a book without letting go of it: Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret by Judy Blume (should be able to do this in one sitting when the kids are in bed)
  • A book you really want to read: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johann Harstad
  • A seventh book: The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
If you're taking part in Booktube-a-thon 2015 please let me know! I know that Chloe, Breige, Paula and possibly Róisín are taking part so do keep an eye on their blogs too. My 10 year old is going to try some of the challenges too, I love seeing children read so I'll let him write his own little review next week on how he got on. 

Let's do this!!