Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Monday, 17 September 2018

Reading round-up August 2018


Reading round-up - August 2018 

I thought I'd be able to get back to posting more regularly but it's been ages again unfortunately. As I've not written any full reviews I thought I'd share a taste of what was a very good reading month for me in August. There was a lovely variety in what I read, everything was enjoyable,  and it was great to read such a quantity as well. I wish I could manage this every month but sadly that doesn't happen. I've read little in September so far, although the one novel I've finished thus far - A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne - was absolutely brilliant and I'd highly recommend it. I read some lovely illustrated children's books, a graphic novel, crime fiction, and a selection of other fiction - historical and contemporary, even some poetry. Additionally there was a compelling memoir, and a very welcome and supportive book on surviving the modern world. Some mostly brief thoughts on them.


The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau - Graeme Macrae Burnet has become a new favourite author since, earlier this year, I read his brilliant novel His Bloody Project, whilst  on holiday up in Scotland. I've since read his other two novels and thoroughly enjoyed both. 

Notes on a Nervous Planet - Matt Haig's book Reasons to Stay Alive (my review is here) was a wonderfully supportive and sympathetic read which I found an awful lot of strength from and this is another book which takes an honest look at the pressures of the modern world and the struggles we may have with it and gives support and hope in coping.

The Case of the Missing Hippo (Fabio the World's Greatest Flamingo Detective 1) - This book is fabulous fun and a very enjoyable read, what a clever imagination.

I Am, I Am, I Am I love Maggie O'Farrell's novels, and really enjoyed this series of 'brushes with death', if enjoyed is the right word. I enjoyed her writing once again, though these many close scrapes are at times frightening, she has come through so much. 

You Sad Feminist - I heard about this poet on Jean's - Bookish Thoughts - book tube channel and thought it sounded up my street, and then I watched a video of the author  Megan Beech reading some of her poetry aloud and was very impressed, as I was when I read this collection. 

The Yark - A children's book I found whilst browsing in Foyles, it caught my eye, translated from French and published in New Zealand, it's a story I enjoyed though be warned it certainly has a dark edge to it. 

The Book Case - Lots to love in this and I will look out for more. Some fab characters especially Daphne. I liked the illustrations a lot. A fair bit of action and adventure to the story.

The Poet's Dog - This is a lovely story that says so much about love/friendship and kindness in so few words. And the main character and narrator is a dog. Perfect.

Stay Where You Are and then LeaveI loved this story from beginning to end, it was moving and very well told. I was sad to leave the characters behind and am wondering what happened to them all next.

Rooftoppers - This was a magical read! I had a tear in my eye at the end. Not sure how I missed this before. 

All We Shall Know'We merged over time into one person, I think, and it's easy to be cruel to oneself.'

I've previously read one book by this author, The Spinning Heart, which I absolutely loved, so I did go into this new book with high expectations I suppose, and I wasn't disappointed. Whilst I think overall I still would say I loved The Spinning Heart most, I absolutely loved reading Donal Ryan's beautiful, lyrical writing again here in All We Shall Know, with his often acutely painful but so on the nose observations about people and about relationships of love and youth and promise gone so bitter and so wrong. I just feel he has a brilliant grasp on people and on what makes people's hearts soar with joy and what absolutely tears people apart in themselves and from each other. I think his writing is at times a class apart and sometimes I stop and reread a sentence or passage numerous times in awe of it. 

Here he tells the story of a woman named Melody Shee, who we learn straight away is pregnant and the father is not her husband Pat but Martin, a young traveller boy. She is in a very dark place in her mind as the novel begins, and we learn of the darkness that haunts her from her past, from schooldays and from her marriage gone sour. The only brightness on the landscape is a new friendship that blossoms between Melody and Mary, a traveller living on the same site as Martin, and to some extent the time Melody spends with her father. This book gave me an insight into a community that I know very little about. The author depicts the way memories of past transgressions haunt us and can come back to taunt us. The tension and atmosphere grows as the weeks of her pregnancy progress. The whole of the passage about marriage vows that is about a page long is amazing. Superb, writing which is both beautiful and so insightful, and amazing how he does this in 150 or 200 pages, and I've already bought two more by this author to look forward to.


Standard Deviation - I really enjoyed this debut novel. I do like a good story of everyday family life set in the present day, and Katherine Heiny has crafted just such a tale here, a really readable story centred predominantly around just a few characters - Graham, his wife Audra, his first wife Elspeth and Graham and Audra's son Matthew. The author has a pacy writing style, and she writes with great humour at times, and makes some very sharp and true observations on modern life, love, marriage, parenting, there's some lovely characterisation. There's also some real sadness, sometimes coming as quite a surprise. Though in some ways it feels as though Graham is the main character, Audra is such a presence that it does feel like she is the most memorable character in the book, and at times I thought Audra was brilliant, though I do think she would also drive me a little mad at times too if I encountered her in the real world. Sometimes I thought, oh she's not really going to say that is she, and then she does, oh my goodness! The development of young Matthew's character was nicely done, his talent for origami. There's some witty and at times acerbic commentary and judgements, often from Graham, on the personalities and behaviours of those he meets, and sometimes you can't help feeling you might have thought the same thing, however unkind, and other times it makes you stop and think about how we judge others based sometimes on very little. It made me think about how we view our relationships. And although there were very sad moments, it really did make me laugh at times. I'd definitely read more by this author. 

The Pavee and the Buffer Girl - I enjoyed this moving graphic novel about outsiders finding each other. 

An American Marriage - A compelling tale and one that makes you think about whose side, if anyone's, you are on. 

Snap - I really enjoyed this, a compelling page turner, some witty lines and enjoyable characterisation, recommended. One of my favourite reads from a few years ago is Belinda Bauer's novel Rubbernecker (my review is here).


Have you read any of these? What was your favourite read over the summer? 


New releases

I'm hoping this autumn will bring more good reads and there are several I'm really excited about over reading the coming weeks, including Lethal White by Robert Galbraith, Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak, Transcription by Kate Atkinson, Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty, The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton, to name a few. 

Is there a new release you are looking forward to?

2 comments:

  1. A while since I visited, life has such an awful habit of getting in the way. Anyway, an interesting selection. Thank you for August's round-up.

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