June Book Haul

Right, this will be my first book haul post and am quite excited about it. I get new books in one form or another all the time and often they just get consigned to the enormous to-be-read pile or the forever expanding Kindle queue and forgotten about. So doing this is a helpful reminder of all the books I’ve got waiting for me and also it’s always a great way sharing new authors and giving ideas about what to read next. I’ve watched lots of book haul videos on Booktube so not sure how this will translate to traditional blog but we’ll give it a go. Anyway, enjoy!

The following books are ones that I’ve requested from publishers for review .

Moonglow

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

This is the new novel from the writer of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Wonder Boys and seems to be a strange mixture of fiction and biography. As I understand from the publisher’s blurb, after Chabon’s first book was published in 1989 he visited his grandfather who was dying and decided to tell him lots of stories and this novel is sort of based on those. Not sure what it will be like, I haven’t read any Chabon yet despite having a couple but it sounds like it will be interesting so I will let you know. Can’t remember when it’s out but soon!

 

 

Closed Casket

Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah

I am super super excited about this! It’s out in September (6th, I think) right before my birthday so was going to be hinting heavily but then the publisher (I want to say Harper) granted me a copy. Woohoo! Obviously I will still buy a copy because they look so nice on my shelf.  I love Agatha Christie and Poirot and while I’m not always keen on Sophie Hannah’s novels I did really enjoy The Monogram Murders. The Christie estate have up until last year resisted calls for writers to continue the stories of Poirot and Marple but I think they’ve chosen well in Sophie Hannah who has proved to be quite faithful to Christie’s style.

The Apostle Killer

The Apostle Killer by Richard Beard

Don’t know too much about this. It’s by the same writer of Acts of the Assassins which I also have but haven’t read yet – you’ll probably hear me say this a lot because my acquisition rate to read rate is quite appalling, it’s something I’m always trying to improve. –  Anyway, this is what the publisher says:

“Set in a hazy Middle East that seems at once ancient and modern, The Apostle Killer features Gallio, an aging, hardboiled investigator who has one last chance to save his career: He’s got to prove Christ’s resurrection was a hoax.”

Sounds quite intriguing. I’m always interested in stories that mingle history, mystery and theology. That one is out in September I think.

The Muse

The Muse by Jessie Burton

Firstly, the cover. Isn’t it just absolutely gorgeous?! So beautiful. I could look at it all day. Definitely one to get in hard copy as well. I have actually read this one already and loved it. I will try and get a review done asap. Burton has stuck with historical fiction (Her first novel was The Miniaturist which you can find the review of here) but has shifted to a dual time frame structure with a mystery involving a long lost painting that connects them. One is set in 1967 London where young aspiring writer Odelle, who came over from Trinidad five years previously, gets a new job at prestigious art gallery the Skelton Institute and meets Lawrie Scott who has been left a mysterious painting by his recently dead mother. The second goes back to Spain in 1936 where secret artist Olive Schloss and her parents have rented a villa in the countryside near Malaga and become entangled with local artist Isaac Robles and his sister Teresa and the political strife that leads up to the Spanish Civil War.

Keep You Close

 

Keep You Close by Lucie Whitehouse

Don’t know too much about this except it involves mystery and murder. Published by Bloomsbury they say:

They said it was a tragic accident.
She knows better…

Sounds good to me! Shall let you know, it’s out in August.

 

 

The Fire Child

The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne

Now, I requested this from the publisher and I’m not really sure why. I read The Ice Twins a while ago after see it everywhere on Twitter and to be honest I thought it was naff. You can see read my review here. So not really sure what possessed me. All I can say is that I really like the genre and don’t like to count people out, after all even the greatest writers have a rotten egg occasionally.

 

 

The Museum of You

The Museum Of You by Carys Bray

This is a book I’ve heard a lot about on Booktube. A lot of my favourite vloggers have raved about it so was very pleased to get a copy and I think this will be my next read. It is the story of Clover who has been brought up by her single father after the death of her mother. She wants to know more about her mother but doesn’t want to upset her dad so creates this ‘museum’ of her mother in the spare room in order to find the answers to her questions. This sounds like it will be an emotional read but probably quite lovely too.

Vinegar Girl

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

OK, so this was the last ARC I was given in June but by no means the least. Anne Tyler carries some hefty literature weight and this has been widely anticipated for a while. It’s part of the Shakespeare reimagined series that started with Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time and Howard Jacobson’s Shylock is My Name. This one updates the play The Taming of the Shrew. I think I’ve read one review that wasn’t particularly complimentary but I’m looking forward to reading it and seeing what I think myself. Also that cover is so lovely. I would have it on my shelf just for that reason alone.

Yes Please

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

This book I bought after wanting it for a while. Anyone who has seen Amy Poehler in anything will know she’s a very funny lady so I can see myself chuckling away at these essays at the desk at work.

So that is the books that I can remember acquiring throughout the month of June. If I remember any more I’ll update this post, there will be more. There’s always more! Let me know what you think, if you’ve read any of them already or are excited about any of them.

 

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Fool Me Once

Fool Me OnceHa! This is my first Harlan Coben novel and I don’t really know what to think to be honest. It was everything I hate about a novel and everything I loved at the same time just done very badly. If I had to pick one word to describe it it would be cliché with a big fat C. Like I said, I haven’t read any of Coben’s books before but I did see the superb Michael Haneke adaptation of Tell No One a while ago and thought it was brilliant. This was in the same sort of oeuvre and in fact it was a little too similar if you ask me. If they are all like this then I can see why Coben’s novels are so popular, the ever expanding mystery branching off into a hundred directions with copious amounts of red herrings and shady characters who turn out not to be shady, culminating in an ingenious twist which is good if you didn’t see it coming. Which in this case I sadly did. And it wasn’t ingenious.

Maya is an ex military woman who’s husband has just been murdered except that one day she sees him on a nanny-nam seemingly alive and well. So what the hell’s going on? There are lots of plot threads that get tangled up along the way involving a sister who was also murdered, a military operation that gets messy and ends up being in a wikileaksesque scandal, big pharma corruption, overbearing rich and privileged family-in-law etc etc. and most of it so convoluted that when the big twist sort of just happens it’s all just a bit flat. I had an inkling earlier on – which is always gratifying to know that you’re right – but the way it was revealed was just meh and actually didn’t make a whole lot of sense. The characters are cardboard cut-outs and the dialogue was hilarious in parts such as when Maya made any reference to her military career it was invariably prefixed with “when I was serving my country”. And the epilogue, Jesus Christ, cringe worthy might be too kind a description. It was a bit like the epilogue in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; so many years in the future, a touching family scene yada yada yada except this was even shitter and didn’t have wizards.

So would I read another of Coben’s novels? I think I would but only because I really like this genre and he has such a good reputation that his other umpteen books can’t be this bad. This was a bit schlocky overall but had enough mystery and suspense to keep me going to the end even if when I got there it was fairly disappointing. Plus I’ve just realised that the publisher as well as giving me an advanced copy of this novel have given me a copy of his book Missing You from last year. So finger crossed this was just a blip.

Thanks to Random House UK, Cornerstone for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Miniaturist

MiniaturistThis has been in my to-be-read pile (read: mountain) for quite a while being very kindly given a copy by the publishers for advanced review and to my shame had not got round to it until now. Also with the monumental shitstorm that’s been created from the EU referendum and the UK’s impending exit, it felt good to read a story set in Europe. Like I was giving a little two fingers all to those who’ve chosen to reject the ways Europe enriches our lives. To reach out a bit beyond our small island in some small way.

The Miniaturist tells the story of eighteen year old Nella Oortman during the 17th century who has recently married the successful and wealthy trader Johannes Brandt and has moved to live with him and his sister in Amsterdam. She quickly realises things are not what she hoped they would be, the marital bliss she anticipated failing to materialise. Johannes while not being unkind spends more away than at home – the reasons for this are not entirely unpredictable – and his dogs gain more attention and affection from him than Nella does while Marin his pious and foreboding sister seems to do everything possible to make Nella feel unwelcome. After Johannes gives her the wedding gift of a cabinet-sized replica of their home Nella engages the services of a mysterious miniaturist to furnish it who seems to have unnatural insight into Nella’s life and those around her.

Well I have to say I wasn’t immediately hooked by this, the prologue was a bit awkward and seemed to make no sense but once I got over that hump it all flowed much better and by the end, the beginning did actually fit. I seem to remember it was very hyped up around the time of its publication, with Waterstones I think making it its book of the year and while I did enjoy it to a certain extent I couldn’t say that I thought it was exceptional. The thing that kept me reading was wanting to find out who the miniaturist was and how she seemed to have an almost prophetic insight into Nella’s life. How did she know so much about Nella and the people in her life? How did she know what was going to happen? Why was she doing it? Who even was she? None of these questions are really answered which was extremely frustrating particularly as ‘The Miniaturist’ is supposedly the story. That it also strayed into melodrama territory on occasion for me lessened some of the themes that Jessie Burton tries to capture – women’s position in society, racial politics, sexual politics etc. – themes that others have done better such as Sarah Waters to whom Burton has been compared to. I don’t think the characters are especially well drawn either. Nella comes across as annoyingly naïve, Marin a pious holier than thou hypocrite and Johannes a bit of an idiot. I did like Cornelia who was a bit sassy and a refreshing voice against the others. Mostly I just didn’t find them believable and couldn’t understand the motivations for some of their behaviour.

That said, for all that I think this book falls short of deserving the hype that it’s been given, I do think that Burton is very good at creating rich descriptions that enable you to perfectly imagine the Amsterdam of the 17th Century and not having read anything about that part of the world before I was interested in its history and people. So while I’ve not been entirely enamoured by this I suspect this has largely been due to content rather than style and I would certainly be interested in reading whatever Burton comes up with next.

NB: Thanks to Picador Pan Macmillan for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

A Little Life

A Little LifeI was so glad when the winner of the Bailey’s prize was revealed and it was not Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life because NOBODY SHOULD READ THIS BOOK. EVER. Ok maybe I’m being too harsh but seriously it was not a good experience for me. Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a dark tale and don’t think all novels should have nice happy endings but Jesus Christ this was grim. And not just a little bit grim but relentlessly so. There was one point about a third of the way in when I seriously considered not finishing it – which I very rarely do, and if I hadn’t been reading on a tablet I may have thrown it at the wall – but decided I should finish it because of some ingrained desire to find out what happened in the end. And besides it couldn’t all be this depressing could it? But no, the entirety of the 700 odd page book was one bleak event after another. Even when something vaguely happy occurred it was quickly followed up by a visit from the misery train.

A Little Life is essentially a tale of the friendship between four men that spans their lives from college to middle age. All of them are wildly successful in their respective fields – Jude is a lawyer, Willem an actor, Malcolm an architect and JB an artist – and end up with objectively wonderful lives.  It soon becomes obvious that Jude is the main focus of the story as the others drift to the background to varying extents. Jude has had an exceptionally awful childhood full of suffering and abuse and understandably he has a very skewed view of himself. Physical, mental, sexual, emotional, pretty any type of abuse you can think of have been thrown at this guy so naturally he’s ended up believing he is undeserving of friendship and love and has taken to self harming as a means of coping. But it’s only over the course of the 700 pages we are drip fed the full extent of Jude’s history as it is revealed through flashbacks and in his reluctant confessions to the people around him. And to be honest it got to the point where it all felt a little bit ridiculous. The point at which I almost gave up was during a particularly gruesome section when Jude embarks on an adult relationship with a man who turns out to be a truly nasty and unpleasant man. Yanagihara herself has said that she wanted everything to be exaggerated and it does feel a bit like she just sat down and made a list of all the awful things that could happen to a person and chucked them in there. So much so that by the 700 pages are up it all just feels a bit artificial and all she’s done is ended up trivialising all the suffering that Jude goes through. And actually for all that I felt incredible sympathy for Jude and the abuse that he suffered I didn’t really warm to him at all, in fact I was endlessly frustrated by him. Granted I don’t know very much about what it’s like to suffer such horrific abuse and I imagine his behaviour is realistic in a lot ways but his determination not to share any of what had happened with any of the people around him, even the couple who adopted him at the age of thirty (a weird plot point) really really irritated the hell out of me. And probably more so the fact that no one seemed to care. Again and again they have to deal with the consequences of Jude’s self destructive behaviour and no one thinks to ask why he’s doing these things?! Now for me, any relationship is a balance, it’s give and take. Yet for all that these people pour on him unconditional love and friendship he gives nothing and they seem to largely be fine with that. To me even the most selfless of people would become increasingly embittered by someone’s determination to harm themselves to the extent that Jude does despite their care and attention.

And did I mention that it’s OVER 700 PAGES LONG. Perhaps the editors were on strike that week because it is in dire need of an edit. I’m not averse to a hefty tome when the story deserves it. Here sadly it did not. Or when it’s well written, a lot of the dialogue seemed trite and clichéd and none of the characters are particularly well drawn. It was really hard to place in terms of its time as well. There are few hints as to when it takes place e.g. landmarks, technologies which I assume was deliberate but unsure as to what end.

It’s obvious that this book has divided critics but I’m at a loss as to why this book has become so well regarded in some quarters. It’s won loads of awards and has been nominated for numerous others. But for the life of me I can’t understand why. Perhaps it’s because it is so extreme, people don’t really know what to make of it. I don’t know, I’m no literary expert of course. Maybe I just don’t get it. That’s probably be it. I’ll admit that there were times when I was moved by it and the end had me in bits. I challenge anyone to remain untouched by its inevitable conclusion However, on the whole I found it overly gratuitous in its misery and an incredibly exhausting experience that only makes me dislike it the more I think about it. You have been warned! I’d be very interested to know if anyone has an alternative experience.

Oooh before I forget I would like to thank Pan Macmillan for the advanced review copy that they kindly gave me in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl on the Train

Girl TrainWith so many 5 star reviews and being one of the biggest sellers last year, I began to doubt myself or wonder whether I read the same thing as everyone else. I wouldn’t say that it was badly written as such and actually I quite liked the way it flip flopped around in time and was told from different points of view. So my dislike of this is really more to do with the story and the characters. For a start off the twist was so blisteringly obvious when it came it ended up being just a bit meh, for want of a better word.  The characters too were just so very annoying and the way women were represented – usually by their existence in relation to men and as slightly mad- I found quite insulting. The main character Rachel is an unhinged alcoholic with no common sense whatsoever who doesn’t inspire an ounce of sympathy for her plight. Boy does she talk about Gin and Tonic a lot. Similarly, Anna is just the stereotypical home wrecker and Megan a sex crazed fiend. However, I would say the men aren’t written any better, probably worse in fact, and are simply just dull. B O R I N G, boring. People who have likened this to Gone Girl are not wrong and I didn’t really like that either for many of the same reasons as this.  I should probably have learnt not to listen to hype by now. I did like the film adaptation though so maybe this will make a better film than a book in the right hands.  The question is can I actually bring myself to immerse myself in this nightmare of a melodrama once again?

The Ice Twins

IceAs a big crime/thriller fan I get lots of emails and tweets advertising books and I fell for this one hook, line and sinker. I really like the cover as well which shouldn’t make a difference but I’m a sucker for a swanky cover. I wouldn’t say that I hated this or I regret reading it but I’m slightly cross with myself for being drawn into the hype though to be fair, the initial premise was quite intriguing and there are a lot of 5 star reviews on here. So it goes that a year before the beginning of the story one of a pair of twins dies leaving a grief stricken family who are embarking on a life changing move to an isolated and desolate island in the Hebrides. But then things get creepy when the remaining twin Kirstie suddenly claims that she’s Lydia, so who actually died? Did they get it wrong? So far so good. But then it just goes down hill. The writing in my (extremely) humble opinion isn’t especially good with lots of repetition. Practically every chapter seemed to have some reference to how identical and beautiful the twins were and the same descriptions of scenery over and over again. It didn’t help that both the mother and father were completely unlikeable and by the end I didn’t really care about what happened to them. I was reminded of Gone Girl towards the middle in terms of the the type of ‘him versus her’ kind of scenario. And really, why would you move your grieving child to an island in the middle of nowhere where they don’t know anyone and the house you live in is barely habitable not to mention downright dangerous to get to a large proportion of the time? So overall, not a good read for me and it’s probably not good that it reminded me very much of the Point Horror books I used to devour as a teenager…

Prime Suspect

Prime SuspectI was given this as a Christmas gift otherwise I’m not sure I would have chosen this myself having seen the TV show years ago. I’m glad I did read it though I can’t say I loved it. It was quite an easy read with short chapters and uncomplicated language (quite clearly written for television). I enjoyed that it was a few years old and La Plante invokes the era well so we have ‘coppers’ – mostly male – swearing and smoking in the office and being outwardly hostile towards Tennyson simply because she is a woman. On the opposite side to that I wasn’t that keen on the way that Tennyson is portrayed as a tough as old boots sort of woman who is generally quite unpleasant in an apparent attempt to fit into the old boys club. However, I liked the story. It wasn’t predictable in my opinion and I would certainly read more of La Plante’s novels – she obviously knows how keep an audience’s attention – though not necessarily those with Tennyson.

 

 

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