August Reading Round-up

Whaddya mean it’s 3 days late? Phst nonsense..nope..*Sticks fingers in ears* La La La La Can’t hear you!

Ahem…

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Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Not due out until early 2020. Dear Edward tells the story of a 12 year old who is the only survivor of a plane crash that kills 191 people including his whole family. The book juxtaposes two time periods: the last 6 hours of the ill-fated flight and it’s passengers; and the following four years as Edward tries to come to terms with the disaster and find a way forward through his shock, survivor’s guilt and PTSD.

It’s a tragedy with no real narrative surprises but such beautiful insight into the good and bad elements of humanity that it proves compelling and heartbreaking in equal measure. It looks at the significance of mental health and examines how much harder emotional scars are to heal than physical ones and the importance of empathy and kindness in the building of relationships. This is going to be a must read for book clubs.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

JoJo Moyes has produced another readable and captivating story with The Giver of Stars, due out in October 2019. It follows the story of the 5 women who make up the Horseback Library between in the late 30s/early 40s and in doing so they find their independence, confidence and friendships that will last forever.

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Inspired by a real Horseback Library (but with fictional librarians) it’s a heartwarming, optimistic and empowering story who’s galloping pace and engaging characters manage to completely eclipse any moments of cheese and tweeness. AND it celebrates the heroism and natural subervisiveness of librarians. It’s going to be a crowdpleaser.

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Peter Grant is at it again, trying to make sense of the mystical world of River Gods and Fey and malicious poltergeists running riot around London. In Lies Sleeping, Grant and Nightingale close in on Chorley as he nears completion of his long term and devastating plan, and have to consider making a tenuous alliance with the most dangerous partner yet in order to ensure mutual survival.

The Breakneck pace and crime novel writing style belie the complex world building and story arc that means that, despite having read every other Peter Grant novel, I STILL have to revise the ongoing story arc on Wikipedia to remind myself of the historic and dimensional jumps and whether Leslie May is currently a friend or foe. I love these books, and there’s nothing else out there like them (Please ignore the comments that this is Harry Potter for adults, while I love Harry Potter this is much darker, gorier and grittier…and Peter has is a lot smarter), but be warned, you can’t just jump in in the middle of the series or you really will be lost. Go back and enjoy them from the start.

Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body by Sara Pascoe ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sara Pascoe is one of my favourite comedians, so I expected the breathless irreverent humour present in this, what I wasn’t expecting was to learn so much about my own

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body.

In Animal, Sara has done research into what is known about the female body and how it responds to situations, and details what she has discovered, while dotting throughout some rather funny and touching anecdotes that demonstrate her newly discovered understanding of her psychology and physiology. If you are a woman, it is likely you will know a good portion of what is contained in here, but there’s always more to learn, and it makes an interesting and more identifiable take on the autobiography genre – one which while making you laugh – acts as an autobiography for the reader and their own body as well.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones ⭐⭐⭐

Ooft this was a tough one. The quality of the writing; the nuance and delicacy with which Jones tackles the havoc wrecked on the lives of the characters, and the adept handling of the complex feelings involved are all beyond excellent, and allowed me to read this book in less than a day. I sympathised and felt for the characters and felt rage at the horrific injustices done to them and the repercussions. But I didn’t like them. The levels of misogyny in Roy and Celestial’s father were stomach churning, and at times terrifying – even the way that Roy thinks and speaks of Celestial before the tragic night that rips them apart are framed in ownership and viewing her as a trophy – seeing her as a tick box accomplishment. Celestial was more likeable, and in an impossible position, but displayed moments of selfishness that it was hard to empathise with, mostly involving in-laws and parents. Ironically, in creating such well-drawn characters, such fully-formed people with the good and the bad, Jones has created characters that are fairly unlikeable

The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young ⭐⭐⭐

As a child found washed up on the beach, Tova found a home among the Svell, a private clan who fear and ostracise Tova for her gift of reading the future in the Runes, yet use her skills to guide their major decisions. When the Chieftain who provided her with at least a fragile protection takes offense at an unfortunate reading, Tova finds her position is even more brittle, but having been told for her whole life that she is a cursed Tova has nowhere else to turn. But once again her gift as a truth tongue sets in motion a series of events that might just lead her home.

This had all the elements of a book I should have loved, and it was good. But I didn’t find myself as emotionally invested as I had hoped. The characters are interesting but felt two dimensional and predictable which stopped them being compelling. Tova had very little agency, and even when she made a life-changing decision it felt as though she did so as a pawn of fate rather than a heroine in her own right. With everything seemingly pre-destined and controlled by the Spinners it removed any sense of jeopardy or intrigue. Very readable, but pretty forgettable.

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Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan ⭐⭐⭐

I’ve jumped around with this series a little, given I only just read the first novel in the Lady Trent Memoirs series last month, but I was excited to get my hands on the newest release, which is a spin off from those memoirs. Following the academic writings of Lady Trent on her findings on Dragons, this spin off focuses on the efforts of Lady Trent’s Granddaughter, Audrey, as she attempts to make an academic name for herself and step out from her famous Grandmother’s shadow. Audrey is commissioned to translate stone tablets which may hold the key to lasting peace between Scirling and draconian society, but political manoeuvrings and secret plans might be using her as a pawn.

Because I haven’t covered the whole series yet, I found a lot of the information in this one took so long to unfurl (Draconeans clearly appear much later in the Lady Trent series, but here knowledge of this half human half dragon race is assumed) that it probably had a significant impact on my enjoyment. But structured through journal and newspaper extracts as well as letters, this is a book whose structure is more compelling than the narrative it tells. Suspicions are raised early that all is not as it seems, but the reader can quite easily see the schemes afoot so long before Audrey herself figures them out that the story feels grindingly so until about three quarters of the way through when the action suddenly kicks in. A decent enough read, but not a standalone spin off and does drag for a while.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder ⭐

So a little glimpse of my haphazard review process: I keep a list of what I read in a word document so that I can remember and add to it or write reviews whenever I get a chance through the month. I never do – it’s always a last minute panic accompanied by “Shit, Shit, Shit, why am I doing this again?”

This month as I looked through my list to put them in some semblance of preferential order, but when I came to The Pisces I couldn’t even remember what it was about – just that I hated it. I had to go and look up the synopsis again at which point I shuddered and realised it’s not that it’s a forgettable book, I’d just blocked it from my memory for self-preservation.

The Pisces is described in the blurb as “whip-smart, neurotically funny, sexy and above all, fearless.” It’s none of these things. Lucy is horrible. Not in her anxieties or fears or neurosis which I think everyone can identify with, but in her selfish behaviour and actions. The Dog dies FFS because she’s too busy off shagging people who frankly aren’t worth anyone’s time. She lost any inkling of sympathy or redeemability from me instantly. And “sexy” could not be further from the truth. The sex is awful, and fairly skin crawling, as are all her love interests. There’s no one to root for in this book, except the dog. And he dies due to neglect. Therefore this is a tragedy. Go to Ao3 if you’re looking for sexy fiction, cause this ain’t it.

Pick of the Month: Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Dud of the Month: The Pisces by Melissa Broder

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