Mid Month Mini-Reviews – March

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Hello bookworms!

Due to the success of my last post, I’m going to keep going with a few more mini-reviews. Look, I even made a graphic! I had no idea how fun these things were to write so I think they might become a monthly feature. Woo hoo! No more trying to drag out interesting comments about dull 2.5 star books.

Today, I’m focusing on clearing out some of my NetGalley backlog, Marie Kondo style. That “older than three months” tab does not spark joy.

 

Golden State by Ben H. Winters

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I quite liked this book – it was proper old-fashioned science fiction along the lines of Philip K. Dick and reminded me very much of Minority Report. The story centered around Lazlo Ratesic, a citizen of the Golden State and member of the Speculative Service whose job it was to enforce the Objectively So: the criminal offense of lying. The upholding of the truth requires Lazlo’s special sixth sense combined with the constant surveillance of all Golden State citizens but absolute power corrupts absolutely and when he stumbles across previously unknown truths, his reality unravels.

I really enjoyed the Big Brother overtones within the novel and it was interesting to read from the point of view of the enforcers, not the average dissenting citizen. The world building was great, very cohesive for such a bold idea and held together well. I enjoyed the questions that the book raised around morality – is it possible to be completely honest all of the time? Is freedom always such a good thing or should we appreciate the use of CCTV etc. as a protectionist measure? However, as the book went on it became a bit absurd, then a lot absurd, then descended into an ending that came so far out of left field that it could have belonged to another novel entirely. Still, I enjoyed the majority of the book very much so I gave it:

Three and a half “is honesty always the best policy?” out of five.

 

Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett

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I have to say that I really, really tried with this book but unfortunately I had to DNF it at 60% (see, I told you I gave it a good go). It’s well written but, frankly, dull. Cass is  a singer-songwriter re-launching her career after years of shying away from the public and the book flips between her life now and her back story. I initially enjoyed reading about Cass’ early life and relationship with her family but as the book progressed I felt like the action was sorely missing. Cass has a horrible relationship with her jealous boyfriend (another member of the band) but this point is so laboured and the endless chapters about yet another gig, yet another argument, yet another London flat were so repetitive and dull that I lost interest.

I feel like there’s a good story within the novel but to stretch it out over 400 pages was too much for me. When my Kindle estimated that it would still take over three hours for me to finish I made the decision that life was too short and gave up on it.

Two “MY GOD WHEN WILL IT END” out of five.

 

Notes to Self by Emilie Pine

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This book is a collection of personal essays focusing on a number of taboo subjects – the alcohol addiction of Emilie Pine’s father, her own problems with fertility, the loss of children, of miscarriage, of regret and death and guilt. Whilst the book is brutally honest, it’s just… a lot. That doesn’t make it bad exactly but it does make it a difficult read. Everything is laid bare in quite a matter-of-fact way and whilst I was glad that Pine never wallowed in self-pity it was the lack of personal reflection that left me feeling a little cold. I struggled to get a handle on who she was and her lack of empathy for others or consideration of the wider issues that impacted upon her life meant that in turn I struggled to empathise with her.

Whilst I wouldn’t say that this book was enjoyable, it was a powerful read containing beautifully written prose. I appreciated the honesty of the author in tackling such difficult subjects but I struggled to connect emotionally.

Three “check your privilege” out of five

 

So, have you read any of these books? Is 60% a ridiculously long way into a book before DNFing it? Let me know in the comments!

 

Mid-Month Mini Reviews!

Hello bookworms!

pile of covered books
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I seem to have created somewhat of a backlog of books to review recently and rather than drown in their vortex I’ve decided I’m going to try a few mini-reviews! This is something I’ve never done before and as someone who does like to waffle on a bit I’m not sure how well they’re going to turn out… but I’m giving them a go anyway.

This month, I’m focusing on three books that I’ve read for the 2019 Read Harder Challenge for Book Riot. They are:

#4 Read a Humour Book

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen

I wasn’t really looking forwards to this book – to be honest, I thought it would be frothy crap – but I was pleasantly surprised at much I enjoyed it. Aisling is a small town, sensible girl-next-door; the kind of woman with a french manicure, comfortable ballet flats and a swipe of brown mascara. She’s the dependable friend who plans the itinerary, books the tickets and packs a cardigan in her handbag “in case it turns chilly later”. Aisling has her whole life mapped out (steady job, marriage, kids, house, pension, retirement plot) but when her boyfriend refuses to fit in she shocks everyone by ditching him and building a new life for herself – one that’s totally off plan.

I loved seeing the character of Aisling develop and even though at times she was utterly clueless she always remained resolutely herself. I loved how Irish the text was too – the slightly unfamiliar words and cadence added a real authenticity to the characters.  The book reminded me a bit of Bridget Jones’ Diary – it had all the same humour and warmth and it was really good fun.

Four “what on earth are presses?” out of five.

 

#14 Read a cozy mystery

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The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Stevens and Siobhan Dowd

This was more of a middle grade mystery than a cozy mystery (which I hate with a passion) so again, I cheated a bit – whatcha gonna do? I really enjoyed this book with diverse representation, an autistic mc and some Mums who actually did stuff (even if that was getting arrested and disappearing for a large chunk of the book). The story follows Ted, a twelve year old boy with Aspergers who has to solve the mystery of a missing painting taken from The Guggenheim Museum on the day that he happens to be visiting. I loved how Ted (along with his sister and cousin) worked methodically through their list of suspects, piecing together information and drawing logical conclusions to arrive at the correct answer.

This book is a sequel to The London Eye Mystery (which I now really want to read) but worked fine as a stand-alone. It must have been really difficult for Robin Stevens to take Siobhan Dowd’s idea and turn it into a full novel but I thought she did a great job.

Four “how did I not see that?” out of five

 

#16 Read a historical romance by an author of colour

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The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

So I thought that OMG What a Complete Aisling was out of my comfort zone but The Governess Affair REALLY wasn’t something that I would ever pick up out of choice (hence why I cheated a tiny bit and chose a novella for this category). The story is somewhat predictable – an uptight, no-time-for-romance, I’ve-been-damaged-by-my-upbringing type falls in love with a headstrong woman and the usual enemies-to-lovers storyline plays out. Despite much eye-rolling from me the writing was actually very good and as a novella I quite enjoyed dipping into it for a bit of escapism. In fact, the only thing that I didn’t enjoy was the description of the tea that they drank. From a hip flask. Urgh. It reminded me of the time that I saw an American couple tip the milk into the teapot before pouring *shudders*. Sort it out Americans!

Three “that sounds like cold tea and a spam sandwich” out of five

 

So, how do you like the mini-review format? Have you read any of these books? Are you doing Read Harder 2019? Let me know in the comments!

 

TL;DR September Review

Hello Bookworms!

Finally, it seems like the weather has turned and I can get back to my usual attire of slouchy jumpers, boots and cute scarves. Hurrah!

September was our holiday month and we had a lovely trip to Devon with my parents. I’d actually forgotten what it’s like to spend long periods of time with them and to be honest there were times when I could have killed my mum for her incessant talking but overall we all had a great time.

Views across the edge of Dartmoor:

We went round Powderham Castle (very interestng, brilliant estate shop), visited lots of quaint villages and did a boat tour round Dawlish where we met this cheeky fellow:

Another highlight of the trip was a visit to Greenway, the home of Agatha Christie, where I got to sit in the chair that she edited her manuscripts in and generally nose around at her families collection of antiques. If you’re ever in South Devon I’d highly recommend a day out there, especially as it’s so remote and has beautiful views of the River Dart. 

As such, we’ve been massively lax about DIY although we have had the damp patches in the living room plaster looked at. It turns out it’s something to do with the salts in the new brickwork which the new plaster has drawn out and are now attracting moisture from the air. In some ways this is good news (no structural issues) but it’s still going to cost us a load of money to sort out. Luckily, the owner of the house next door is a director of a damp proofing company so they’ve revised their original quote (we had them round before we found this out) to make it a bit cheaper. So, until the plaster work is sorted out we can’t do that much (oh no! Poor us 😜).

I managed to contract some weird virus thing mid September which knocked me out for a whole week (and was followed by the worst migraine I’ve ever had) so I’ve had a really quiet month blogging wise. I wrote a couple of discussion posts about Weird and Wonderful Books I Wouldn’t Have Read Without the Read Harder Challenge and one called Confession Time where I talked about my bookish confessions. I also took part in the Calendar Girls meme where I chose Big Little Lies for my favourite book set in a school.

I wrote four book reviews in September, again surprising myself at the consistently high ratings. They were:

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank: Bloody hell, this book was not what I expected AT ALL and it affected me in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. Still can’t stop thinking about it. 🌟Five out of five🌟

The Kite Runner Graphic Novel by Khaled Hosseini: I’d read the book when it first came out and I can honestly say that the graphic novel surpassed my expectations. I loved how it retained everything of the original whilst adding an extra dimension. Four and a half out of five. 

1Q84 Book Three by Haruki Murakami: Ah, the final instalment of this incredible trilogy where we get to find out…precisely nothing. Every single question was left unanswered and yet I still loved it. Four and a half out of five. 

The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt: This was such a cute, classic kids fantasy tale. A great middle grade read that deserves to be better known in English speaking markets. Four out of five

So that’s September wrapped up! I’d also just like to say thank you to you all for following my blog – there’s now over 300 of you and whilst I don’t put much stock in blogging stats it’s lovely to think that my little corner of the internet is growing 😀.

So, how was your September? Have you read any of the books I read last month? Are you a Calendar Girl? Are you taking part in the Read Harder Challenge? Follow the links or let me know in the comments!