Thursday, 6 September 2018

What I Read In August.

I mentioned in an earlier post that this summer I didn't pick up a single book. After my 'What I Read In April' post, I just spent most of my time outdoors rather than engrossed in a book (one blog tour aside!). Once the good weather - and my husband - disappeared in August (this makes it sound like he left me, he was just working) I was back on the reading bandwagon hardcore. So what did I get through?

Again, I did a couple of blog tours this month so I won't be including those, but you can check out full reviews for Martinis and MemoriesEntrapped and Finding Felix if you're interested.

Salem Falls - Jodi Picoult

Jack St. Bride is newly released from prison after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a student. Arriving in the sleepy town of Salem Falls, Jack starts putting down roots when he falls in love with his new boss, Addie. But then history repeats itself and another girl accuses Jack. The town is torn - is there really ever smoke without fire? 

I personally really enjoyed this, it's a slow-build which gives you lots of time to get to know the characters, and Picoult's writing is really beautiful. There are a few twists and turns, a couple of which I saw coming, but overall this is a really thought-provoking novel that will have you second-guessing everything.

My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult

When your child is ill, you will do anything to help them feel better. That's why Sara and Brian have a third child, Anna - to create a genetic match for their two-year-old Kate who is dying from leukaemia. But Anna is now a teenager and she is tired of undergoing medical procedures to save Kate. So she sues her parents for the rights to her body - even though it could cost her family everything.

I know some people hate Jodi Picoult but I loved this book. It's an ethical dilemma that tears their family apart and has the reader constantly reflecting on how unfair life can be. I think, despite the fact I hated Sara and don't think she loves her kids equally, that the agony the parents are going through is written beautifully and I found this book engaging and heartbreaking.

In a Dark, Dark Wood - Ruth Ware

Nora hasn't seen Clare in ten years, so she's surprised when an invite to her hen do arrives in her inbox. Curious, she accepts, joining a group of strangers in a remote house in the woods. From the start, she's on edge - the modern glass house makes her feel like she's being observed, the guests are tense, and she still doesn't know why she's there. Something is about to go wrong - but what, and to who?

I really enjoyed this, I'm a big fan of books with flashbacks. It was fast-paced and felt quite sinister. I thought it was a clever plot that kept me turning the pages long after I should have fallen asleep.

Defending Jacob - William Landay

Andy is the assistant district attorney in a quiet, fairly peaceful town, so the murder of a boy his son's age is fairly shocking to him. Not nearly as shocking as the fact that his son, Jacob, is charged with the crime. 

I quite liked the concept of this, as I can't imagine many things more awful for a parent than wondering if your child is capable of murder. However, I did start to lose a bit of focus in the early part of the second half. The ending of this more than made up for that interlude, however, and I sat staring into thin air for a good few minutes. I like that you aren't fed the 'who/what/why' in this, there's a lot of scope for the reader to make their own conclusions.

More Than This - Patrick Ness

After reading A Monster Calls I was keen to pick up another Patrick Ness book. This one was very different but kind of blew me away - it's probably the most complex and philosophical young adult book I've read. It's one I'll have to be annoyingly vague about because I think you should go into this not knowing much, but what I will say is this: Seth dies. He drowns as waves crash his body against rocks. 

But then he wakes up. Alone. In a place that he used to know but is completely different. Where is Seth? What is happening? And is there more to this life than he'd ever imagined?

Beautiful You - Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck Palahnuik is one of those authors I hear people raving about, but had never picked up any of his books. This was probably not the one to start with.

Beautiful You starts with a graphic rape scene - probably should have been my first warning. It then flashes back to Penny Harrigan, working in a Manhattan law firm with no real career prospects, love life or much going for her. Then she meets billionaire software designer C. Linus Maxwell, who immediately takes an interest in her. Within days he's using her as a test dummy for his range of 'Beautiful You' sex aids. But is there a sinister explanation for his quest to find the perfect toys?

I get that Palahniuk is supposed to be all satirical and wry, but this just was so mind-bogglingly off-pitch that I couldn't cope. He's trying to push the limits but the constant graphic descriptions of orgasms just end up boring. I tried really hard to find the funny in this book but it was just cold, smutty nonsense that ended up becoming full-blown ridiculous towards the end. Might be a while before I try another Palahniuk book.

The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Daniel's father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books on his 11th birthday, encouraging him to pull one book from the huge library. Daniel loves his book, The Shadow of the Wind, and is desperate to find more work by the author, Julian Carax. He soon finds out that someone is collecting and destroying Carax's books, and his might be the last surviving novel. Soon, Daniel is involved in a quest to protect the book and find out the truth about Julian Carax - discovering a whole host of secrets along the way.

I absolutely loved this. It's a long, winding story that all pieces together perfectly. It is funny, sad, at times chilling, and every emotion in between. The writing is gorgeous, even having been translated from the original Spanish. I really loved this, it was so unusual, with so much to discover. One of my new favourites.

Godblind - Anna Stephens

I read this whole novel, trying desperately to remember which names were on which sides and I'll be honest with you - I was furious when I realised that there were another two books before there's any sort of conclusion. Basically, there are two sets of people who worship two different Gods, and then a war breaks out. 

There's a lot of fighting, swearing and some weird stuff with Dom, a seer who is being manipulated by the Gods on both sides. It's an alright fantasy novel with a story that is quite interesting if you can remember who is who. I just don't know that I'll ever make it through two more volumes of it. 

The Wives - Lauren Weisberger

This was a short, easy, lighthearted read that was great for after some of the slightly creepier books this month. Written by the author of The Devil Wears Prada, I kind of knew the level of women's fiction I was in for. In fact, the main character in this is Emily, the other assistant in TDWP. Now working as an image consultant, she's being ditched by her most high-profile clients and is in the suburbs visiting her friend Miriam, once a high-flying lawyer but is now a stay-at-home mother. Miriam introduces her to Karolina, a model and wife of senator and potential presidential candidate, Graham. But when Karolina is arrested for a DUI despite not being drunk, and her husband doesn't rush to her aid, it becomes clear how much these three women need each other.

This is exactly as you'd expect, if I'm honest. Some 'sassy' ladies, far too much emphasis on being thin and beautiful, and some slightly odd shoe-horning in of characters we may remember from TDWP. However it was lighthearted and silly enough that I didn't feel massively bothered by the clear stereotyping of wealthy women, I just let it do its job as a fluffy kind of book. 

Everything is Lies - Helen Callaghan

Sophia works in London and is constantly being harassed by her mother to come back to their quiet family home. After delaying her while on a night out, Sophie goes home the next day to find her mother dead and her father close to it. The police are convinced this is a murder-suicide, but Sophie knows her mother isn't capable of this. Instead, she has to delve deep into her mother's past, unearthing secrets she could never have imagined.
I loved this. I went into this knowing nothing about it and I had no idea where the story was going. I didn't work any of it out in advance which is quite unlike me, and I found this so refreshingly original and clever. If you like psychological thrillers, you'll love this!

So there we go - sorry this was so long, but I couldn't seem to stop reading in August! Quite a varied mix of stories which is always good. Have you read any of these? What did you make of them?

What was the best book you read in August?

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