Some Advance Reader Copies (eARCs) via Netgalley included. They will be marked with an *
I read more books than I review individually on the blog, so I thought I’d do a round up at the end of each month. Starting, obviously enough, with my January reads.
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
I’ve already written a full review of The Versions of Us so I won’t go in to too much detail. It’s an enjoyable and well written story about fate and love. If the moment two people meet never actually happens will their paths cross further down the line?
This central question is used to weave three alternate narratives for Eva and Jim. This is definitely a book to read in the physical form. I read it on my Kindle and found not being able to being able to flick back and forth, when I needed reminding of which timeline I was in, incredibly frustrating.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
It is 17th century Amsterdam and 18 year-old Nella Oortman has just married Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant trader. This isn’t exactly a love match and Nella doesn’t really know what to expect from her new life.
When Johannes presents Nella with a cabinet sized replica of their home, she hires a miniaturist to help furnish it. But all is not as it seems and items that Nella hasn’t ordered soon begin to arrive. These items are incredibly accurate and Nella wonders who is this person and what hold to they have over the Brandt household.
The Miniaturist was weird one for me; the setting is interesting, the characters are intriguing and surprisingly diverse yet I found myself struggling to get into it despite by initial high hopes.
The first third of the book bored me and I contemplated giving up, I stuck with it and while it improved I struggled to believe the changes in Nella’s character and attitudes would happen in such a short space of time.
The ‘magical’ elements surrounding the miniaturist weren’t developed enough and I was left wondering if it was really necessary.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
I’ve already written a full review of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I liked it but I didn’t find it as engaging as Susan Cain’s TED Talk about the power of introverts.
The writing was denser than I would have liked and it made processing the information difficult.
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Describing a book about World War 2 as glorious may sound strange, but that’s what All The Light We Cannot See is. A beautifully written story that is as haunting, powerful and heartbreaking as you expect a tale about war to be.
What makes it special is that it’s told from both sides of the war, which isn’t something I’ve come across before. Anthony Doerr manages to make you feel for both Marie-Laure, a blind girl who has to flee Nazi occupied Paris with her father and Werner, an orphan whose ability to build and fix radios gains him a place in a Hitler Youth academy.
I don’t have the words to do this book justice, other than to say go read it now.
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Franny Banks moved to New York to be an actress. But not just any actress, she wants to perform on Broadway. There is six months left on her self-imposed three year deadline and things aren’t quite going to plan.
She is working more shifts as a waitress than she would like, but she needs the money. She’s attending acting classes and a lot is riding on an upcoming showcase. Can Franny make her dreams come true?
I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that my excitement about reading Someday, Someday, Maybe stems from my love of Lauren Graham as an actress. I wanted to love Graham’s writing as much as I love her acting but it wasn’t quite to be.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s well written. The story just didn’t captivate me as much as I hoped it would. There were whole passages where I found myself muttering “yeah, we get the point can we move on now?” and the ending was so abrupt it left me staring at my Kindle, wondering if my copy was missing a chapter.
Yuki Chan in Bronte Country by Mick Jackson*
Yuki Chan in Bronte Country* is a strange book. That’s the only way I can describe it.
Yuki Chan needs to explore Haworth, West Yorkshire. It’s the last place her mother visited before her death. Yuki’s trip ends up being unexpected and, at times, bizarre much like her mother’s time there.
There are elements of this book which are charming. There are moments when it’s funny. The mystery that Yuki is trying to solve is at times engaging. Most of the time I was scratching my head and wondering what the hell was going on. That thought continued even after I’d finished reading it.
Like I said, Yuki Chan in Bronte Country* is a strange book, strange but enjoyable.
Rebound by Aga Lesiewicz*
Anna Wright may have recently broken up with her boyfriend, but life is going well. And then it’s not. An incident that occurs while she’s out jogging on the Heath one day changes her life forever.
The opening chapter had me hooked. Rebound* looked like a thriller unlike any I have read, but it quickly became clear that I was wrong. What I assumed was going to be the crux of the plot was nothing more than a fleeting thought to Anna.
This is a kitchen sink novel; everything has been thrown into the mix. It is one thing after another and no one is above suspicion.
As for the ending; I guessed some of it and the rest just left me baffled. I understood it; it was all a bit too coincidental though.
Rebound* is fast paced. It’s erotic. It should be an enjoyable read, yet I found it frustrating.
A Cure for Madness by Jodi McIsaac*
Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you, right?
Following her parents’ murder, Clare Campbell has to return to her hometown. Not only is there a funeral to plan, but there is also her brother Wes to look after. Wes has schizophrenia and Clare is now his legal guardian.
But all is not well with the residents of Clarkeston, Maine, an alarming number of them are presenting with the symptoms of schizophrenia. But it’s not schizophrenia. It’s a contagious pathogen. When the government steps in, one agent takes a particular interest in Wes. Could he be the key to finding a cure for the pathogen?
Clare is faced with a terrifying decision: protect her brother or save the world.
A Cure for Madness* is enjoyable, but it’s far from perfect. The ending is…I don’t want to give too much away, but too many loose ends were tied up for my liking.
Clare’s backstory could have been dealt with better. I think the intention is to make readers feel compassion for Clare, but it’s handled in a way that makes it feel more like an unnecessary add-on.
Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser*
16 year old Percy James sets off into a blizzard to find her mother, Carletta. Carletta has addiction problems and Percy’s search leads her to Shelton Porter’s cabin.
Carletta isn’t there, but Percy does find Shelton and his girlfriend so strung out on drugs that they’re unaware of the baby crying elsewhere in the house. The baby clearly hasn’t been looked after in a while, so Percy does the only thing she can think of. She takes the baby with her.
Now she must get the baby to safety as well as finding her mother. She’s going to need help because as some point Shelton is going to sober up and come looking for the baby.
Sweetgirl* is atmospheric, tense and full of dark humour. Be prepared for the adrenaline fuelled ride it will take you on.
The Secrets of Lizzie Borden by Brandy Purdy*
Did Lizzie Borden kill her father and stepmother? Lizzie stood trial and was acquitted, but even to this day many people think the justice system got it wrong. Much has been written, both fiction and non-fiction, about what may or may not happened on that fateful day.
What drew me to The Secrets of Lizzie Borden*, Brandy Purdy’s fictionalised account of the crime and its aftermath, is that it’s told from the point of view of Lizzie herself. This isn’t something I had come across in other stuff I’ve read about the Borden case.
Unfortunately I didn’t like the tone Purdy struck. It felt like a collection of various mythologies surrounding Lizzie amalgamated into one. There was nothing new here apart from seeing it all through Lizzie’s eyes and that didn’t make it as engaging as it should have.
My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
My Life on the Road is a disjointed book; part travel memoir and part history of the 1970s feminist movement. It’s not a bad book and some of Steinem’s prose is beautifully understated. It does feel like a collection of writing that Steinem has worked on over the years about different things bound together in one volume though, which isn’t what I was expecting.
I saw someone else say that the chapters almost read like short stories and I understand what they meant. But, even then, I’m not sure they work as an overall collection.
All the Rage by Courtney Summers*
I’ve already written a full review of All the Rage*, it’s one of the most important pieces of fiction I have read that deals with consent, rape culture, victim blaming and ultimately what happens when an entire town turns a blind eye. It’s a powerful look at serious issues affecting the lives of young girls and women. Go read it and make sure every teenager you know reads it as well.