Saturday, 12 January 2019

What I've Read Recently.

It's been a while since I did a post about what I've read, and boy oh boy have I found a couple of books I loved since then. As always with me, this might be a long one (I'll try my best to keep it short!) but there are so many good books in here that I promise it's worth it!

As always, I've read a few books for blog tours since August, so here are the links to my full reviews on The Body on the Shore by Nick Louth, Love at the Northern Lights by Darcie Boleyn, Dead End by Rachel Lynch, Dreaming of Christmas by T.A. Williams, and Cornish Village School - Second Chances by Kitty Wilson.

Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

I wanted to read more of the classics, so I tried this out. In a nutshell, the three Dashwood sisters are forced to move from the estate they live on, Norland Park, after it is passed to their older half-brother following their father's death. They move to a cottage on land belonging to Sir John Middleton, where they meet the local society. Relationships form, with love and romance in the air, but betrayals and heartbreak are never far off. 

I liked this and found it an enjoyable read but it's one of those classic novels where you spend a lot of time wishing the characters would just communicate with each other. Also, without ruining the endings - I wanted more for the Dashwoods! It's not a story that will really stick with me, as the plotline can run slightly thin, but it's an interesting introduction to the classic literature style.
Riot Days - Maria Alyokhina

Maria Alyokhina was imprisoned in Russia in 2012 for her political activism as part of the group Pussy Riot. This book is a memoir following her trial and time in prison. The writing style has been described as 'hallucinatory' and I think that's so accurate. Not everyone is going to like this; it's a real mish-mash, a fragmented and at times surreal diary format. It's very unique, which I think added to the frenetic air and feeling of unrelenting powerlessness that she experiences. This is a fascinating account that I raced through, and it will interest anyone interested in feminism, politics and criminal justice.


This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor - Adam Kay

Everyone and their mother loves this book and I'm right there with them. Another work of non-fiction, this consists of hilarious, heartwarming tales from Adam Kay's time as a junior doctor. Alongside the laugh-out-loud moments, though, Adam details poignant, heartbreaking moments and the struggle of working in an underfunded and overworked institution like the NHS. This book moved me - both to laughter and then suddenly to tears. I loved every page.

The Woods - Harlan Coben

A good old fashioned crime thriller. It's been 20 years since Paul Copeland's sister Camille went into the woods at a summer camp with three others. None of the four returned - two were murdered, and two went missing. It's believed she's the victim of a serial killer, but her body has never been found. Now working as the county prosecutor, Paul is shocked to hear that the other missing victim has been found, only recently deceased. If he has survived the past twenty years, is it possible Camille is still alive somewhere too?

This book had a fairly engaging storyline and I definitely enjoyed reading it, but I've given it three stars as it didn't feel like anything very special. There was nothing new about the plot or the writing, and if I'm honest I found the ending a little bit convoluted and patchy. But definitely not the worst book I've ever read!


147 Things - Jim Chapman

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with YouTubers, particularly ones who clearly have never had any urge to write a book until they were cut a cheque. I know that sounds a bit snobby but I always find it sad that there are extremely talented authors out there who are getting rejection letters because they don't have a seven-figure audience. The joys of capitalism.

Anyway, this is a real hodge-podge of a book. It's a non-fiction book packed full with random facts on a variety of topics such as relationships, human anatomy, animals and myths. I don't really remember anything he touched on so I wouldn't call this the most memorable book ever, but it kept me amused as I read it. Overall though I did find this lacked real structure and felt much more like him trying to reach a word count by cramming things in than a book he'd had his heart set on writing.

Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen

Another Austen book, but this one felt like had a much more interesting plotline. Catherine Morland arrives in Bath for the season and is soon swept up in a world of new friends, potential suitors and high society. There is hijinx aplenty, and misunderstandings galore. Things only get more complicated when she visits her friend Eleanor's country home, Northanger Abbey, and lets her love of Gothic fiction influence her reason. She's soon seeing mysteries and secrets hidden behind every door but is oblivious to the real-life intrigues in her circle of acquaintances.

I found this a really funny, very engaging book. Classical literature can be a bit dense and hard work to read, but this is like a dream. Catherine is hilarious, and the way this book pokes fun at Gothic novels is genius. Austen's writing is witty and charming, and this is by far my favourite of her books that I've read.

Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier

I feel like I want to squeal a bit even just thinking about this book. The unnamed heroine of the novel is working as a lady's maid in Monte Carlo when she meets Maxim de Winter. The two sneak off together throughout their stay, and he proposes to her within days of their meeting. When they arrive back at his home, Manderley, she is struck by how firmly the shadow of his late first wife, Rebecca, hangs over the place - and how she may never be able to live up to her legacy. But things that seem perfect may not always be, and the second Mrs de Winter is about to face a force that may destroy her marriage completely.

I LOVED this book. It's mysterious and dark and tense and nervewracking and just perfect. I loved that the main character is never named as if to show her own feeling of inadequacy - even in a book about her, it's Rebecca who gets to be the title. The descriptions within this book and the style of writing made the hairs prickle on my neck (if you don't hate Mrs Danvers within seconds there's something wrong with you), and the slow, creeping feeling of dread meant that despite the disturbing vibes this gives off, it is totally believable and realistic. I almost feel sad that I'll never get to read this for the first time ever again.

The Girls - Emma Cline

I'd heard a lot about this book and as a true crime fan, it didn't take me long to decide to buy it - as soon as the man in Waterstones told me there was "a touch of the Manson family" about it I was sold. In 1960s California, Evie meets a group of girls in a park. She is lonely and awkward, while they are careless and free. Evie becomes obsessed with the girls, particularly the dark, mysterious Suzanne, and before long she is hanging out at a commune with the group, desperate to be accepted by the mesmerizing older girl and the charismatic but changeable Russell. As Evie falls deeper into the cult, she is unaware of the life-changing events that are about to occur.

I know so many people loved this book but I just thought it was 'okay'. The prose and descriptive language is a major part of this book, but it often tipped over into being overwritten and flowery, annoying me more than engaging me. There also wasn't enough depth to the book for me. Apart from Evie's infatuation with Suzanne, there wasn't enough explanation. Why did Russell do what he did? How did the events affect Evie? It felt more like a newspaper report of the Manson murders but with different names. I didn't hate this book, I just wanted more.

The Constant Princess - Philippa Gregory

I love Philippa Gregory's historical fiction - always have, always will. The Constant Princess tells the story of Katherine of Aragon, beginning with her life as an Infanta in Spain, through her marriage to Arthur Tudor, and then her battle to take her place as the Queen of England by marrying his younger brother, Henry VIII. This is such a well-written book and I loved getting to read a fully-fleshed out portrayal of the woman who spent over 20 years as Henry's wife but is often overlooked in favour of the woman who replaced her. This book portrays her as a tenacious, single-minded woman who had to fight for herself and her place constantly, and is a hugely enjoyable read that will have you rooting for her every step of the way.

So that eclectic mix is what I've been enjoying over the last few months, and with a Goodreads goal of 60 books this year, there are plenty more to come! 

What have you been reading lately? Do you have any recommendations for me?

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