Although I didn’t read more in March and April than I did in January and February, it felt like I was reading more often.
As I was writing this list I realised that I’m not reading as many thrillers as I used to as I’m expanding the genres I read. I’ve realised that, while I still love a good thriller, many of them follow the same kind of tropes and are quite predictable. I like a book where I don’t know what’s going to happen, and one that makes me feel things. What I have realise though is that I don’t think classics are really for me. I was going to try to read one a month but I don’t see that happening. In these last couple of months I’ve read one I loved and one I DNF.
If anyone has any recommendations for good books then please send them my way. You can find my bookstagram here.
Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healy
Rating: 4 stars
This book follows an elderly woman, Maud who is slowly succumbing to dementia, who is convinced her best friend, Emma, is missing. It flips between her life now living alone , being visited by carers and her daughter and granddaughter, and her life as a teenager when her older sister disappeared without a trace, leaving behind a dodgy antique dealer boyfriend and a disgruntled lodger. It begins as a murder mystery but transforms into so much more than that.
This book is lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was (unintentionally?) funny and heartbreakingly sad at the same time. The author has clearly spent some time with someone in the grips of dementia – or has done her research well – as it was such an accurate portrayal. I also think it was such a clever idea to tell the story from Maud’s POV as she is the ultimate unreliable narrator (for the most heart-breaking of reasons), and it leaves us confused and trying to piece together the clues. The end leaves us hanging and, while I don’t like not knowing ‘whodunnit’, I realise that is the entire point of the book – no matter how frustrating that is.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Genre: Classic Literature
Rating: 4 stars
This classic novella follows Dr Jekyll who, in a quest to figure himself out, inadvertently creates a monster. His friend and lawyer, Mr Utterson, attempts to investigate the link between his friend, the good natured Dr Jekyll, with the strange and evil Mr Hyde.
I love how this novella shows the good and bad of human nature, and how nobody is all good or all evil but rather a mixture of both. The psychologist in me kept thinking of the fight between the ID and the Ego and how life is a constant battle of keeping the two living in harmony. It is clear that Dr Jekyll loved the ‘Mr Hyde’ side of himself but his reputation and ever disintegrating conscience stood in the way of his complete descent into evil – until it didn’t. Although it is easy to see why this story has come to be seen as a commentary on mental illness (and is now linked to dissociative identity disorder) I think it is more of a commentary on every day people and humanity. A very quick read and now one of my favourite classics.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Rating: 5 Stars
An autobiography following Michelle Robinson – a poor black woman growing up in the South Side of Chicago – as she makes a name for herself and ends up becoming America’s first black first lady. It follows her life as a child going from poor comprehensive to private education, Harvard law school, getting and quitting her dream job as a lawyer, making waves in the charity sector, meeting her best friend and husband, Barack, their lives as he rises to prominence in the field of politics, and their personal family lives as they navigate living in the Whitehouse with creating a stable environment for their daughters.
I really liked Michelle when she was first lady but I didn’t know much about her. This autobiography was interesting and her personality shone through. She just seems like such a lovely woman who really cares about people. I love how honest she was throughout – especially about her dislike of politics and how she really didn’t want Barack to even enter its world, let alone run for president (she could have easily portrayed herself as the always supportive wife but chose honesty instead). I’m in awe of her ability to juggle her everyday life and I’m still trying to work out how she got so many things done in a day. I’m also in awe of how many important topics she manages to touch upon in just 426 pages; growing up working class, feminism, being black in a white world, being a woman in a man’s world, love, motherhood, politics and devotion to her family. After reading this book I feel like I know Michelle a lot more than I did and I love her even more. Becoming will make you laugh, it will make you gasp, it will make you cry, and it will inspire you to make something of yourself.
Circe by Madeleine Miller
Rating: 3.5 stars
Circe, born to the mighty god Helios, is a strange child and never really fitted in with her family. She develops a fascination with mortals but grows up outcast by gods and mortals alike. When she learns of her secret power – witchcraft – it threatens the gods, who exile her to the island of Aiaia. She lives alone, except for her lions, pigs and the occasional nymph sent to serve her as punishment, on the island for hundreds of years until the mortal prince Odysseus pays her a visit. For him, Circe decides to risk everything.
As a child I loved Greek Myth thanks to a book I picked up in a gift shop somewhere in Cyprus, so I knew I had to read this. It took me a while to get into it, but I was enjoying it by the second half. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I loved it though. Circe tells her story from childhood to the big moment in her life (I won’t spoil it for people who don’t know her story) so it can seem like a lot has been packed into a mere 300 or so pages. It also didn’t really have the enchanting, mesmerising feeling so many others had spoken of, and there has been some creative licence used to veer slightly off from the actual story of Circe in Greek Myth. Never-the-less it is an enjoyable book, one which I think people who are familiar with Greek Myth and those who aren’t will enjoy in equal measure.
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Rating: 3.5 Stars
40 something year old Susan Green’s life is perfectly ordered: own flat, job that lets her use logic, and a friends with benefits situation that suits her just fine. Then her mother dies, leaving her childhood home to her irresponsible brother, Edward, and she finds out she is pregnant. The novel follows Susan as she learns to let go of her rigid routine and embrace the unexpected.
I couldn’t get into this book at first as Susan just came off as rude and condescending. I realise she mostly likely has ASD but, as this was never explicitly mentioned, I just couldn’t get past the rudeness. I also thought that, once Susan had begun to change her outlook, events ran too smoothly to be believable; her colleagues who did not like her, transitioned from that to throwing her a party, and the way a character suddenly developed feelings for another felt very unrealistic (even if they turned out to be a great couple). Susan gave me Eleanor Oliphant vibes as the books are very similar, however, I preferred EO as the changes to Eleanor’s mindset seemed to happen more gradually and felt more realistic. That being said, overall I enjoyed The Cactus. I think it’s a feel good story which I think we could all do with right now.
Vox by Christina Dacher
Genre: Dystopian fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Set in America where the government, one day, decreed that all women wil be limited to 100 words spoken per day – and would be fitted with a tracker which elicits electric shocks if they go over the limit. It follows one woman who, despite living with an activist who saw it coming while at university together, does not believe it would happen. Not to her and not in her America. But once it does she will do what she can to save her young daughter from growing up without words.
I thought this book was a bit meh, which is a shame as I was really looking forward to reading it. It started off really strong and I was hooked. I read the first 25% or so with anger and a creeping sense of this could happen in the world today. But they it became too bogged down in the science of brain disorders and it lost me. The ending also felt a little bit to rushed and everything wrapped up a little too neatly for it to be believable. If you want to read a good novel about a dystopian world in which women are controlled, I recommend The Power by Naomi Alderman.
In At The Deep End by Kate Davies
Genre: Contemporary fiction, romance, LGBT+ fiction
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Julia is in a dead end job which she hates, having given up on her passion of dancing. She also hasn’t had sex in three years and the sound of her flatmate and her fiancé doing it every night is bringing her down. Julia sets out to find herself a man, only to realise that her sex life has been so lacking because she doesn’t fancy men at all. And so begins Julia’s lesbian sexual awakening, featuring trendy warehouse parties, BDSM clubs, polyamory and an abusive lover who takes her to Paris only to leave her in their bedroom to go and have sex with her French girlfriend in the next room. It has been described as ‘the next Bridget Jones’ and ‘unforgettably frank, funny and incredibly racy.’
I loved this book from the moment I started reading! It’s funny, relatable, racy and uncomfortable to read in parts. Julia gets well and truly thrown into the deep end of the stereotypical queer scene on her quest to explore her sexuality, but ends up in some tough situations. I’ve read some reviews that say the book doesn’t acknowledge that the relationship between Julia and Sam is abusive, but it does. I think that Kate Davies did a great job at portraying an abusive relationship from the POV of someone who is in it, who is becoming increasingly aware that something is not right. Writing about the abuse doesn’t take away from the humour or raunchiness of this book either, as it is just one aspect of Julia’s life. In At The Deep End is like the lesbian Fifty Shades of Grey if Fifty Shades was well written and didn’t glamorise abuse! I think every woman should read this book – queer or not.
Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Alison is a barrister, and lives with her husband and their young daughter. She has just been given her first murder case to defend – a young woman who has been charged with murdering her husband by stabbing him repeatedly while he slept. Alison is also drinking too much and is having an affair with a colleague – and someone is sending her anonymous texts claiming to know about the affair which could destroy her life.
As far as thrillers go, Blood Orange was okay – I just didn’t really know what the central plot was supposed to be. Was it the murder trial? Julia’s affair? Julia and Carl’s rocky marriage? How Julia’s marriage is showing similarities to the marriage of the murderer she’s defending? It just kept jumping from one thing to another and I felt like there was too much going on. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style as it relied on using short, punchy sentences to convey tension but it was just annoying. There weren’t enough twists for it to be a thriller either and when you read a lot of thrillers, all of the reveals become really obvious. I think I would have liked this a lot more if it was marketed as a dark romance novel which focused on a terrible marriage full of jealous, lies and deceit.
Emma by Jane Austen
Genre: Classic Literature
Rating: 1 Star
Emma Woodhouse is a beautiful, spoilt, vain socialite who spends her life trying to matchmake within her little sleepy village. Sometimes this leads to upset and devastation.
I got to about 30% of this book and had to put it down. All Emma does is brag about how superior she is to everyone around her, whinge about people she doesn’t like, and complain when someone challenges her. I’m not sure how a book about such a self-involved, unlikeable character became a classic. I could understand if there was some plot driving it forward but absolutely nothing happens.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!
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