Thursday, 10 May 2018

What I Read in April + Blogger's Book Nook!

what i read in april 2018 books ibooks philippa gregory jill mansel

In April I wrote a ridiculously long post about the books I'd read over the previous four months, but don't panic - this is going to be much shorter. April was the start of me really trying to get back into blogging, so I didn't spend as much time reading as I'd have liked. I'm now 7 books behind my Goodreads schedule though so I do need to pick it up...!

Again, I did read and review a book for a blog tour - if you'd like to read more about The Wrong Man you can see my post here!

what i read in april 2018 take me out fiona gibson

Take Mum Out - Fiona Gibson

Don't take this the wrong way, I would never want to disparage the hard work and effort that goes into writing any book - but it's true to say that some are a bit lighter in tone than others. For the last few months, I've found myself buried under a pile of dark, dramatic novels, and while I love them, this felt like a month to spend on easier, more fun reads.

Take Mum Out is definitely a great candidate for a bit more of a chilled book. Alice is the mother of two teenage boys, works in a school office and also has her own business making meringues. She doesn't have time for romance as well, right? Her three best friends disagree, and each set her up on a blind date, encouraging her to put love back on her priority list. Who will she choose?

Let's be frank here, we all know where these kind of books are headed. I certainly wasn't expecting dramatic twists or sinister characters - I got the likeable, charming story I'd anticipated. Sometimes the main characters in 'women's literature' (I feel like saying chick lit is a bit rude?) can be irritating cliches: the martyrs who harp on about their selfless acts of putting others first, the ones desperately searching for Mr Right, the ones who don't listen to anyone's advice and then wonder why it all goes pear-shaped. Alice isn't like that; she is a fully-formed, three-dimensional character who knows what she wants and won't take any shit. I absolutely loved that she wasn't pining away for anyone; it was hugely refreshing for the main character in what is essentially a romantic story to consider a relationship as a bonus to an already good life, rather than as something necessary to complete her.

This book also was a lot funnier than I'd expected. Although I'm not a mother, never mind a single one, I felt like I could really recognise a lot of the situations she faces in her family life. I also enjoyed that, at times, things that could easily have been written as depressing and negative were always treated in a light-hearted and humorous way. There was no typical 'single mother whinging' which I really appreciated.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. The plot is hardly groundbreaking but it's also not as predictable as you might expect. Alice is a great, likeable character and I loved getting to read her take on the predicaments she faced.

what i read in april 2018 the red queen philippa gregory

The Red Queen - Philippa Gregory

As I mentioned in the April reading round-up, I'm re-reading all my Philippa Gregory books at the moment, as she's my favourite author and I'll take any excuse frankly. 

The Red Queen is part of Gregory's Cousins' War series, charting the progression of the Wars of the Roses from the perspective of six of the most important women involved. The Red Queen focuses on Margaret Beaufort of the House of Lancaster. She was married to 24-year-old Edmund Tudor when she was just 12, and at 13 she gave birth to her only child - Henry Tudor. The novel charts the peaks and troughs of her family's prospects, and Margaret's determination to fulfil what she believes is God's plan - putting her son on the throne of England (spoiler alert: he becomes Henry VII).

The history of this time period is really interesting to me, and while this is historical fiction and can therefore take a few liberties with the facts, I find it so engaging and compelling. I love the concept of telling the story of historical events from the perspective of women, too - it's easy for history to overlook the input and impact of these characters.

This book is intriguing to me because I've seen a lot of people say they didn't like it because of Margaret's temperament, and I can kind of get it. It's always going to be a risky move to read a book completely narrated by someone you don't like. Margaret is unbearable. Honestly, she's the worst. She is sneaky, cunning and manipulative, a hypocrite who is always plotting and betraying people in order to get what she believes she is due. At the same time, I couldn't help but respect her. The concept of a woman in the 1400s going after what she wants, despite the setbacks she (and the entire Lancaster side) took was quite admirable. She is resilient, patient and hard-headed, and she absolutely never gives up.

I definitely think it's worth reading the other books in the series, as they intertwine and you get to see each character from numerous perspectives (perhaps not great for Margaret as she ends up looking even more of a nightmare). The series really highlights how these women were both highly influential and important to history, yet held back by their gender and lack of power. They are really good reads, and while this is probably my least favourite that I've read so far, I still love Gregory's way with words.

what i read in april 2018 the one you really want jill mansel

The One You Really Want - Jill Mansel

Nancy finds out that her husband has been cheating on her when she is confronted with a lawnmower for her Christmas present, rather than the jewellery she'd been expecting. After a showdown in the local pub, she leaves him in Scotland and goes to stay with her best friend Carmen in her super-expensive London flat. Carmen is grateful for the company, as living alone in her sprawling pad hasn't been much fun since her rock star husband Spike passed away. Before long, Nancy and Carmen are joined by Spike's brother Rennie and Nancy's mother Rose, and the four must navigate through their new lifestyles. Nancy meets the boy-next-door, Connor, and sparks fly - but she is also greeted by his girlfriend. Meanwhile, Carmen is tentatively taking her first steps back into the dating world after losing Spike, but is her choice as perfect as he seems?

This is another classic 'easy read' book. It was completely predictable and I knew what would happen from the moment Nancy moved into the flat. I didn't mind that though, as there is something quite charming and cosy about the writing style. This is the perfect, inoffensive read for when you just want to chill out and relax. 

The only thing that did end up grating on me was just quite how 2-dimensional some of the characters were. I don't think I could define Nancy or Carmen's personalities whatsoever. They were basically just 'Woman 1' and 'Woman 2' who had different experiences but no real defining characteristics. Weirdly, it was the supporting cast who made more of an impact. 

This book doesn't really stand out from the crowd for me, but it wasn't terrible either. I probably wouldn't read more of Mansel's work unless I heard really good things.

Blogger's Book Nook

You may remember me mentioning the book group Abbey and Tabitha run on Facebook - you can join the group here. This month, their theme is historical fiction, and seeing as it's pretty much my favourite genre I thought I'd have my say!

Q1) If you could time travel either to the past or the future, which would you pick and why?
I'd definitely go to the past! I feel a bit anxious just thinking about the future and I wouldn't want to know how we've wrecked the planet. I'd love to go back to - surprise - the Tudor era and have a little spy on Henry VIII and his wives. Anne Boleyn fascinates me, so I'd love to have been a lady in waiting to her or something!

Q2) Historical novels aren’t always accurate in their details - is this something that bothers you? Why / why not?
Honestly, no. It's called fiction for a reason! As long as they don't completely fabricate entire events or change the timeline too much, I don't really mind. I feel like historical fiction is a great way to be introduced to certain events and characters, and can be a great gateway to your own historical research. I actually quite like the reimagining of certain details or conversations - when we don't know exactly what happened there's no right or wrong and it can be interesting to see what other people think could have occurred. 

Q3) Is there one specific historical era that especially interests you? What novels set in that time would you recommend?
As will be absolutely no surprise to you, I'm a big fan of the Wars of the Roses and subsequent Tudor period. I really enjoy the Cousins' War series (and of course The Other Boleyn Girl!) by Philippa Gregory and I've heard really good things about Alison Weir's books.

Q4) Which historical figure (fictional or real!) would you most like to have dinner with?
Obviously, I'd love to chat to Anne Boleyn, but I think I'd really like to talk to Thomas Cromwell. He was so involved with Anne's downfall that I think it'd be so interesting to find out whether he actually believed the charges against her, or whether he fabricated them to appease Henry VIII (although I think I know the answer...). OH, or maybe Richard III - to find out whether he did kill those princes in the tower!

Q5) Do you find historical fiction an appealing genre? Why / why not?
I do! I have always been into history, particularly relating to the monarchy, and I spend a stupid amount of time at castles and palaces. Historical Fiction is a much less laborious way to read about what life may have been like than to pick up a non-fiction book. It doesn't even have to be that old though, some of my favourite books like All The Light We Cannot See and The Book Thief are set in World War II. A period setting definitely interests me as it's a way of experiencing a completely different reality.

What have you read recently? Any recommendations?

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