Stumbling through life, one day at a time

What I Read In November

This month has been, to put it politely, a total sh*tshow in terms of my mental health. It’s resulted in me having to take some time out to try and recover. This month I have read half the amount of books I read in the whole of last year, because I’ve been able to make time to do the things I enjoy and that I know make me feel better. Books solve everything! I’ve even started a Bookstagram to continue my rekindled love of reading

Here’s what I read in November (and what I thought of them):

The Prison Doctor

****

The Prison Doctor is a diary-style work of non-fiction by a doctor who has spent the last 15 years working in some of Britain’s toughest and most notorious prisons. She started out as a village gp then became jaded by her profession when the NHS had an overhaul and began to focus more on money making. She quit and found work in a young offender’s prison, hoping her caring, empathetic nature would be able to make more of a difference to an entirely new set of patients. The book follows Dr Brown’s journey from her naivety when starting out to her current role as resident gp at the women’s prison, HMP Bronzefield.

I work in services with many people similar to the types of people Brown worked with in the young offender’s, and I have heard some of the same harrowing stories, so it wasn’t as shocking as the hype around this book has made out. However, it’s definitely eye-opening – and more so, I imagine, to someone entirely new to this world. It had me crying in the first chapter. This book is also invaluable to me as someone who is one day (hopefully) going to be working as a prison psychologist. Overall, I think this book is heart-breaking and fascinating and it’s a must read for everyone (especially those who cry “prison is too easy” at every available opportunity).

The Woman In The Window

*** 1/2

Anna lives in a big house with nobody but her lodger. Her husband and daughter no longer live with her after something happened during a trip last year. That trip was also one of the last times Anna left her house. She keeps herself busy by photographing the neighbours as they come and go and making up stories of their lives. When the Russell family move in over the road, Anna is excited to have new people to focus on – until she sees something terrible happen and nobody believes her. Did she make it all up or is something more sinister going on over the road?

I loved this book. Was it cliched? Yes (but so are 99% of all thrillers ever written). There were so many twists and turns in this book that I read about half of it with my mouth gaping open in disbelief. This book does cover a lot of mental illness and doesn’t quite get it right every time, but it’s interesting to see how mental illness effects people’s perceptions about someone, and how it hinders them in many ways. I didn’t really warm to Anna but I felt very sorry for her. I really wanted things to work out for her, but I’m so glad the author didn’t do that horrible thing of miraculously curing the protagonist of their illness at the end. I thought it made it feel more believable. I also loved how it was told from Anna’s POV so that we the reader were just as confused and frustrated as she was.

The Familiars

*****

Fleetwood Shuttleworth, mistress of Gawthorpe, is seventeen and pregnant for the fourth time. She does not currently have a living child and worries her husband is growing impatient. One day, when out hunting, Fleetwood meets a mysterious woman called Alice Gray trespassing on her land. Fleetwood and Alice come from opposite ends of the class system but Fleetwood’s difficult pregnancy and Alice’s involvement with a notorious local family accused of witchcraft sees the two’s women’s lives become closely entwined. The story follows their friendship and the things they must do to save each other before the climax at the Pendle Witch Trials.

I’m not going to lie, I bought this book purely because I fell in love with the cover. However, it is my favourite read of 2019 so far. It’s not a book I usually end up reading but I absolutely loved it and ended up gripped from the beginning. It was full of baddass, independent women, strong female friendships and emotional twists. As it is based loosely on the Pendle Witch trials and the local area, it was fascinating to learn more about a time in history I don’t know a lot about.

Dracula

***

Estate Agent, Jonathan Harker, leaves his young bride to be, Mina, and sets off for Transylvania to sell an old English building to a wealthy Count. What follows is an unsettling and frightening month as Dracula’s prisoner. Once he manages to escape – just – and make his way back home, he, Mina, and friends set out to stop Dracula and his kind taking over their homeland (but not before encountering some tragedies along the way).

This has been on my tbr for as long as I can remember ( I think I bought it in my first weekend in Nottingham) but it wasn’t until I went to Budapest last month that I gathered the inspiration to read it. I knew it was completely different to how it’s been portrayed over the years, but I’m not sure I was expecting the kind of book it really is. The bits with Count Dracula in it (or at least where his presence is implied) is darkly creepy and atmospheric. The rest of the novel is just okay. As the novel is set in a series of diary entries from multiple characters, I struggled to understand the relevance of certain entries/characters at times. They all linked in at the end but I definitely think the novel could have been a lot shorter than it is. That being said, out of all the ‘classics’ I’ve ever read (which, admittedly is not that many), it is by far my favourite.

Our Stop

*** 1/2

Nadia should get the 7:30 train every morning, except she doesn’t. She is chaotic, clumsy and definitely not a morning person. She spends a lot of time drinking wine with her best friend Emma and pouring over the ‘missed connections’ in the paper. Daniel gets the 7:30 train every morning without fail. He has been unable to sleep properly every since his dad died. One day he leaves a note for Nadia in the missed connections which reads: To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime? And so begins a story of near misses and almost romance.

This book would be the perfect holiday read! It isn’t the huge cliché that I always imagine romance books to be (although, I think the author is wishful thinking sometimes with the way she portrays her male characters). There’s a lot going on in this book: feminism, men calling out their friends, soul-searching, political messages and queer relationships. It can make it feel unrealistic at times yet often it really adds to the story. Instead of a woman being whisked off to some exotic island or meeting a billionaire, Our Stop is relatable and gives the reader something to fantasise about on their daily commute.

The Taking Of Annie Thorne

*****

In 1992, eight year old Annie Thorne went missing from her bed in an old mining village in North Nottinghamshire. 48 hours later she came back. But she wasn’t the same Annie who went missing. Flash forward to the present day and her brother, Joe, is determined to find out what really happened – and get revenge. What follows is a tale of lies, deceit and death as the past comes back to haunt the people of the village.

I loved this book. I read The Chalk Man towards the start of this year and, while I enjoyed it, there were parts which left me a bit bored. Where The Chalk Man has the feeling of a debut, The Taking of Annie Thorne is polished and it is clear CJ Tudor has settled into her writing groove. This book was creepy, gripping and laugh-out-loud funny in parts (or maybe I just have a dark sense of humour?). The added paranormal element was a nice, creepy bonus too and did not make the book feel far-fetched or unrealistic. A must read for any fan of thrillers – it’s easy to see why Tudor is being described as a British Stephen King!

Have you read any of the books on this list? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

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