May Reads

Some Advance Reader Copies (eARCs and ARCs), via, Netgalley, publishers and authors, included. They will be marked with an * You can read my full disclosure policy here.

May was a busy month reading wise; with mystery/thrillers being the genre that features the most.

Reading challenge wise; I’m 20 books ahead of schedule, so even if my rate of reading slows down I should still reach my target of 75 books for the year.

May Reads

The Real Book Thief by Ingrid Black

Ingrid Black is the pseudonym of, crime-writing duo, Eilis O’Hanlon and Ian McConnell. In October 2015 they discovered their novels had been plagiarised and the stolen versions were riding high on the Amazon best sellers list.

The Real Book Thief tells the story of how O’Hanlon and McConnell went about tracking down Joanne Clancy and proving to Amazon that Clancy’s Tear Drop was actually Ingrid Black’s The Dead.

While contact is made with Joanne Clancy, who she really is in never fully solved which leaves me with more questions than answers. Is she one person or multiple people? Does “she” really live in Ireland? Are any of her other books plagiarised?

O’Hanlon and McConnell seem far more understanding and forgiving than I ever could be. I understand why they didn’t go down the legal route. The costs are prohibitive. But it still feels like “Joanne Clancy” got away with it, even though they were caught and confessed.

Little Bones by Sam Blake*

Sam Blake’s debut novel is a crime thriller, which grabs hold of you from the beginning and doesn’t let go. I’m looking forward to returning to the world of Detective Garda Cathy Connolly already.

At the scene of a break in Cathy discovers the bones of a baby hidden in the hem of a wedding dress. The dress belongs to Zoe Grant’s mother; the mother she hasn’t seen from since she was a young child. The case is complicated further when Zoe’s grandmother and head of the Grant Valentine department store empire is found dead. Just how deep do the secrets of the Grant family run?

Set in Ireland and England, Sam Blake (the pen name of literary scout Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, founder of the Inkwell Group and  weaves multiple narratives from Ireland’s dark past into an entertaining and compelling novel that holds the reader’s attention throughout.

The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

I have a mixed relationship with Science Fiction, mainly because when I see the words Science Fiction my brain immediately goes, “Oh no, not another book about space.” I know, I know; sci-fi is about so much more than space, but it’s a mental block I can’t fully shake.

The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet was a joy to read though. It’s full of brilliant and diverse characters and how they interact with each other. Space is just the backdrop. It’s a bit like Firefly in that way and I love Firefly!

We follow the crew of the Wayfarer, a spaceship that makes worm-holes. We are introduced to them through the eyes of Rosemary, a Martian who joins the ship to take on an administrative role. That’s all I’m telling you, because the best thing about this book is watching the interactions between species. Becky Chambers does a brilliant job of exploring the complexities surrounding race, gender and sexuality.

The Atomic Weight Of Love by Elizabeth J. Church*

Meridian (Meri) Wallace is an ambitious young woman. She has been obsessed with birds ever since childhood and is determined to get her PhD and become an ornithologist. When she falls in love with her physics professor, Alden Whetstone, life takes a different turn.

When Whetstone is recruited to Los Alamos, New Mexico, to take part in a mysterious wartime project, Meri reluctantly agrees to defer her education and join her husband.

More than a coming of age story, The Atomic Weight of Love* explores the changing role(s) of women since the 1940s. At times heartbreaking, frustrating and downright infuriating Church writes sensitively about marriage and figuring out how exactly you want to define yourself.

May Reads

In The Clearing by Robert Dugoni*

In The Clearing is the third book in Robert Dugoni’s Detective Tracy Crosswhite series. I’ve had mixed opinions about the series so far, yet something drew me back to the world that Dugoni has created.

Tracy Crosswhite’s past means she has an investment in taking on unsolved crimes. When a friend and former classmate from the police academy asks Tracy to revisit a case involving the suspicious suicide of a Native American high school girl almost forty years ago, Tracy agrees.

While following up on the evidence the investigating deputy collected at the time, Tracy makes one small town face up to a memory they would rather forget. Are some things best left in the past? Can Tracy find out the truth and give the girl’s family the justice and closure they deserve?

My biggest issue with My Sister’s Grave* and Her Final Breath* was the pacing, I’m pleased to say that has greatly improved with In The Clearing*. The writing is tight and the action well paced.

I’m still not a fan of Dan but I can’t have everything the way I want it, right? Tracy and Dan’s relationship feels unnecessary and I’m even more convinced that Dan is hiding something. I’m unsure whether that is Dugoni’s intention.

Despite its flaws, it is an enjoyable read.

Different Class by Joanne Harris*

Roy Straitley doesn’t particularly like change. In his time has Latin master at St. Oswald’s Grammar he has seen it all, or so he thinks. Each class has its fair share of clowns, rebels, underdogs and ‘Brodie’ boys, who hold a special place in a teacher’s heart even though they don’t play favourites. And then there are the boys who refuse to fit the mould, the troublemaker. A true troublemaker is rare. A troublemaker capable of things that still haunt his teacher after 20 years is even rarer.

Told by two narrators; Roy Straitley in 2005 and an unnamed student in 1981, Different Class* is dark, twisty, menacing and often times claustrophobic.

Different Class* is a standalone novel, but it features some characters from both Gentleman and Players and Blueeyed Boy. Different Class* takes place a year after Gentleman and Players and four years before the events of Blueeyed Boy. I wasn’t familiar with Gentleman and Players or Blueeyed Boy, but I’m looking forward to seeing what they have in store especially if it means spending more time with Roy Straitley. He’s a character I won’t forget about any time soon.

Different Class* is a slow burning, yet character driven psychological thriller that will leave you with your heart in your mouth on more than one occasion. Joanne Harris skilfully controls a plot full of complex characters and sinister events. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Pain-Free Life: My Journey To Wellness by Andrea Hayes

Sometimes a book comes into your life at exactly the right time and changes the way you see things. Pain-Free Life: My Journey To Wellness is one such book for me.

Andrea Hayes is an Irish broadcaster and producer who has been living with chronic pain for over 20 years. During this time Hayes has faced misdiagnosis and failed procedures as well as the despair and unanswered questions that come with dealing with a medical system that doesn’t always believe what patients tell them about their chronic pain.

The diagnosis of Chiari Malformation 1, a rare neurological disorder, in late 2013 set Hayes on a path to wellness and becoming an empowered and informed patient.

While my own chronic pain is more recent and has a different cause than Hayes’, there is a lot of overlap when living with an invisible illness. Not always looking how society thinks a sick person should look is something most people who have chronic illnesses have to deal with.

Exploring complimentary therapies isn’t for me, but other aspects of Hayes’ journey like keeping a pain diary, learning how to pace yourself and looking at the language we use to discuss pain all struck a chord with me.

Pain-Free Life: My Journey To Wellness is a thought-provoking read that I’d recommend not only to people living with chronic pain, but also to anyone who better want to understand what living with chronic pain is like.

May Reads

Maestra by L.S. Hilton

When I heard Maestra described as Gone Girl meets Fifty Shades of Grey with a side of The Talented Mr. Ripley, my first thought was that it was trying to be all things to all people. It would be the book of the decade, never mind the year, if L.S. Hilton could pull this off.

Judith Rashleigh is an assistant at a London auction house. She is also a hostess in a champagne bar. A discovery at the auction house puts her job in jeopardy. A trip to France with her friend and a client from the bar doesn’t quite go to plan and Judith ends up going on the run. When opportunity arises to get one over on her boss at the auction house Judith can’t resist and she doesn’t seem to care who gets in her way.

There is the kernel of a good story, but Hilton doesn’t manage to pull off the Gone Girl/Fifty Shades of Grey/The Talented Mr. Ripley hybrid; though with regards to Fifty Shades of Grey that’s a compliment as the sex in Maestra isn’t badly written. I’m not sure the plot is coherent enough to sustain the sex scenes, but they aren’t badly written. And contrary to the book’s tagline, there is nothing shocking about Maestra.

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard*

I’ve already reviewed Distress Signals*, so I won’t go into too much detail. Catherine Ryan Howard’s debut is confident and full of tension. A must read for fans of crime fiction.

Last To Die by Arlene Hunt*

Jessie Conway, a special ed teacher, finds herself thrust into the spotlight when she intervenes during a shooting at Rockville High. Not all of the attention is positive. Darla Levine is a local reporter who will stop at nothing to get an exclusive interview with Jessie.

Jessie’s heroics have also caught the attention of Caleb Switch. Switch is a serial killer who likes to hunt his victims down. He enjoys the chase and likes his victims to be a challenge to him. Can Jessie evade Switch’s capture?

Previously published as The ChosenArlene Hunt’s Last To Die* is a fast paced and well written thriller that doesn’t disappoint.

May Reads

Gullible Travels by Hazel Katherine Larkin*

What do you do when your past is a place you no longer want to visit and your future is uncertain?

In Gullible Travels*, Hazel Katherine Larkin details her time in Asia, two abusive marriages, her longing to have children and her determination to survive. Interspersed throughout the narrative are a number of flashbacks which describe the abuse Larkin experienced at the hands of her family. Larkin’s writing is candid without being self-pitying.

Gullible Travels* is a memoir about the lasting and far-reaching consequences of childhood sexual abuse. This is not an easy read, subject wise, but its very existence is evidence of Hazel Katherine Larkin’s strength and courage.

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica*

Quinn is concerned. Her flatmate, Esther, has disappeared and the discovery of a letter addressed to “My Dearest” leaves Quinn with more questions than answers. Who is Esther really? Where did she go? Is she safe? Is Quinn safe?

Alex is drawn to a mysterious young woman who arrives in his small town. The closer Alex gets to Pearl, the more he feels things he has never felt before. But what is Pearl hiding?

Each chapter alternates between Quinn and Alex with both stories exploring how well it’s possible to really know a person. As Quinn searches for Esther and Alex falls deeper under Pearl’s spell, readers are taken on a journey filled with mystery. Just when you think you’ve guessed how the stories connect something else happens that makes you re-think everything.

Don’t You Cry* is a psychological thriller that messes with your head as you try to piece together the clues to figure out what the hell is going on and just who, if anyone, is in danger. Mary Kubica’s writing is tight and the story is fast paced.

There are elements of Don’t You Cry* that will involve a suspension of disbelief on the reader’s part, but the novel is entertaining enough to overcome this. Fans of psychological suspense won’t be disappointed.

Exhaustion: A History by Anna Katharina Schaffner*

Exhaustion: A History* is an incredibly dense look at how exhaustion through the ages. Fatigue and trying to figure out the causes of fatigue isn’t a modern day phenomenon.

This is a fascinating and frustrating book. From classical antiquity to the present day Exhaustion* explores the medical, cultural and spiritual thinking around fatigue and how to alleviate it. It’s hard work though, on multiple occasions I needed to re-read entire passages in order to understand them. For the most part exhaustion is viewed as a symptom of something else, namely depression and its precursors. I would’ve liked more focus on fatigue as an issue in its own right.

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