READING RECPAP: WHAT I READ IN APRIL & MAY

Hello again. Hope lockdown life is treating everyone as well as it can. I know I haven’t been blogging much recently but honestly the current climate has just been getting me down and I’ve just buried my head in work and study for the past two months. However, one positive thing to come out of isolation is that I’ve rekindled my love of reading, so I thought I would share what I’ve been reading over the past two months with some mini book reviews.

When I was younger I was a huge bookworm and was never without a book in my hand – I attended my secondary schools book club, adored english literature at GCSE and A Level and shared this passion with my nanna who is also an avid reader. Since attending university, this love of reading fizzled out as all I had time for was reading endless journal articles and textbooks.

After a recommendation from a friend, I downloaded the ‘GoodReads’ app and set myself a 2020 reading challenge of 12 books this year. I thought one a month is manageable and will help ease me back into being a regular reader. I didn’t realise how much I had missed reading and since the start of April have finished 9 books and am currently half way through my tenth!

I also treated myself to a Kindle Paperwhite as a reward for finishing my first year of my masters degree. I never thought I would like reading from a screen as I was always a physical book kind of gal but the Kindle has changed my  life and I actually prefer it to reading ‘actual books’ now! It’s also a great investment as there are always books for 99p on available in the kindle store and it means I’ve saving money and paper as I go along.

Here goes a little overview of these books with a my favourite quote from the novel, a brief synopsis and my thoughts about them.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

“Unconditional love is an undisciplined love and, as we all have seen, undisciplined love is disastrous.” 

Gone Girl is a fast-paced and dark thriller about what happens when Nick Dunne’s ‘amazing’ wife Amy Dunne goes missing on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary.

I genuinely loved this book. It kept me hooked right from the start and there was always an interesting event or twist at the end of each chapter. I enjoyed the dual narrative and the twist half way through which I did not see coming. I felt that the whole story was extremely clever and unpredictable – when I thought I knew where I was going I really didn’t. I loved how dark and thrilling the entire story was and it stands as one of my favourite thrillers I’ve read (this is probably my favourite genre). I do think that the ending was a little far fetched but, as a whole, the book was gripping and unpredictable from start to finish and gets a solid 4.5/5 stars from me.

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay 

“The NHS is something special, and the alternative is horrifying” 

This book is comprised of a series of diary entries from Adam Kay during his time as a junior doctor from 2004 to 2010. It is a first hand account of his experiences on the front line working for the NHS.

This is not the type of book I would usually go for but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely pursue literature in this genre from now on. I found it laugh out loud funny at times and painfully sad at others. In the current climate it was even more impactful and really shed light on what a fantastic but over stretched resource the NHS is. A truly fascinating and humbling insight into the lives of frontline workers that warrants no less than a 5 star review.

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing 

“You didn’t fall in love with him because he was a monster, did you?” “Now she shrugs. Smiles. How would I know?” 

This book follows the story of a husband and wife and the drastic and horrific measures they go to keep their marriage alive.

*Spoilers Alert*

I had such high hopes for this book given how much I love this genre and the hype surrounding it. However, I was greatly disappointed. I found the entire book difficult to get though, the storyline and characters unrealistic and almost cringey at times. The second half of the book peaked my interest more than the first but was also a clumsy and mediocre version of ‘Gone Girl.’

However, for me it is the ending that really sinks this book. The dialogue between the children and the parents in the climactic scene was stagnant and the entire scenario completely unbelievable – why were they so quick to suddenly believe their dad? how was Jenna suddenly capable of stabbing her hyper disciplined and aware (and psychotic) mother? I cannot give this book more that 1.5/5 stars.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides 

“I believe the same is true for most people who go into mental health. We are drawn to this profession because we are damaged—we study psychology to heal ourselves.” 

This story is told from the viewpoint of criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber as he works with his patient Alicia Berenson who shoots her husband five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

I think the fact that I devoured this book in just over 24 hours speaks volumes for how superbly written and gripping it is from start to finish. Numerous people recommended this book and I was intrigued to see how the psychology in the book would translate given that I am currently completing my MSc Clinical Psychology. The whole book was fascinating and truly thrilling.

However, I guessed the big twist about half way through. I am notorious for deciphering the plot of television shows and films but I didn’t think this would translate to books. Especially given the emphasis placed on the twist in this novel as a selling point. I genuinely thought it was really obvious  from quite early on. Despite guessing, I did doubt myself throughout and the twist was still very impactful and superbly written, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit jealous of those who read to the end completely oblivious. This would have been a 5 star review had I gotten the full wow moment and not managed to guess. For this reason I give this book 4.5/5.

The Chain by Adrain Mckinty 

“The Chain is a cruel method of exploiting the most important human emotion – the capacity for love.”

The Chain is a novel with a horrifying premise – your child is kidnapped and the only way to get them back is to kidnap another child within 24 hours. Your child will be released when the next victim’s parents kidnap another child and so on.

*Spoilers Alert*

The premise for the book is haunting but so original and I was so excited to get started. I loved the first half of the book and found this genuinely gripping. I find it so interesting how I was rooting for Rachel so hard but despised the woman who took Kylie despite knowing that she was only doing it because she had to – the same as Rachel. I think Rachel was a fantastic, badass character and I was rooting for her throughout the whole novel. It was written in a way that made me believe that this could truly happen in real life which added another layer of thrill/horror/unsettlement.

However, the second half of the book slowly diminished my enthusiasm. I felt the whole twisted twins plot was cliche and took away from the mastery and premise for The Chain. I found it far more haunting to think that this organisation existed forever and would keep existing forever. I felt that the second part of the book was also far more predictable than the first. I guessed that the female twin would appear close to Rachel at some point and when Ginger was introduced it was obvious straight away. Overall, I did enjoy this novel and would still recommend it as a solid read with a truly originally story (for the first half anyway). For that reason I would give this book a 3.5/5 stars.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle 

“I am constantly trying to learn the rules, only to realize that the people who win don’t seem to follow any”

This was my bookclub’s May pick which follows what happens when Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan has a vivid dream where she lives in a different apartment, with a different man. She wakes but and carries on with her life until four an a half years later when the man from her long ago dream appears in her life.

After reading back to back thrillers, this was a refreshing and much needed change of pace. From the start I didn’t want to put this book down and was instantly invested in the characters and how the story would unfold for them. I read the whole thing in 24 hours. I really thought I knew what I was getting myself into with this book and expected a predictable bit of indulgent romance. However, this novel is not that and is so much more. Yes certain aspects of the storyline are a tad cliche, but  other than that this book took me on an unexpected journey.

I am SO glad that the ending was the way it was. Not only was it clever and well written, but it felt real. The whole book really pulled on my heart strings and, albeit somewhat dramatic at times, gave me all the feels. Overall, I loved this novel and was thoroughly impressed. On top of an already original and emotional story, this book brought to life themes of self discovery, the power of friendship and the uncertainty of life which lends itself to 4.5/5 stars from me.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

“I knew how much power I had and he would have preferred I either not know it or not use it.”

This book is fiction but presents itself as the telling of a real life story through interviews with members of the band ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’ who recount the tales of their rise to fame in the 1970s.

Wow! Wow! Wow! I have fallen head over heels for this book and urge everyone to read this immediately. This is my favourite book I have read in a very long time. A genius concept and truly original storytelling that completely suspended my disbelief and had me constantly reminding myself that this is not a real story about a real band. The author has created an abundance of three dimensional, truly interesting characters that compelled me from the very start.

This book inspired me, broke my heart and opened my eyes in one fell swoop. There were so many topics exquisitely explored in the book. Everything from music, sex, addiction, grief, abuse, feminism, self-discovery to love, family, friendship, motherhood, sacrifice you name it, it was covered. All of the avenues explored in this book captured the complexity of each theme. It was also beautifully written. I have never wanted to highlight so many passages and quotes from a book before. It pains me that there’s isn’t an option for more than 5 stars for this unique, captivating and truly original book.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid 

“What a gratifying reflex of being good at your job, and even better was the delightful good fortune of having a job you wanted to be good at.”

This book depicts the chain of events that follows protagonist Emira’s experience when she is apprehended in the supermarket and accused of kidnapping the white child from a privileged family that she is babysitting.

I’m not really sure what to say about this one. I really did enjoy it and found it an easy read but I felt like it wasn’t about what I thought it would be. I expected a powerful novel that explored racism, discrimination, privilege, stereotypes etc in a really complex and moving way. However, I felt that it was quite forced and redundant in its exploration and, aside from a few notable avenues like the incident in the store and exploring the fetishism of black women, the story was veered more toward Emira finding herself and the Ms Chamberlain drama.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it because I did. I really enjoyed Emira’s character and I fell in love with Briar and the way they were written allowed me to create a fully realised image of them in my head. I guess overall I just felt like this book missed the mark for me. I would give this book maximum 3.5/5 stars overall.

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce 

“She and I have both let our husbands tell us how to feel bad about ourselves, carrying all the guilt for failures that belong to them too.”

Blood Orange is a domestic thriller which follows protagonist Alison as she attempts to regain control of her life when she is given her first murder trial to defend. However, someone knows about her secrets and this is something not quite right about what is going on in her life.

I feel that my expectations were very high due to the hype surrounding this book but they were not at all met. I wasn’t gripped by this book but I also didn’t think it was awful. The writing was good and I have not hated a character in a book like I hated Carl in a long time. However, I found the plot really predictable and guessed pretty much everything that happened. I felt that the last part of the book really picked up but that the ending was also really rushed. Overall, the pay off was decent and I’m glad I persevered to the end.

The main reason I am still giving this book 3/5 stars is because I genuinely think the author did a great job of portraying the tactics and dynamics of domestic abuse. I work as a domestic abuse specialist and I thought that it was encouraging to see a piece of literature tackle domestic abuse well – highlighting the control, manipulation, narcissism from perpetrators and the impact this has on victims.

I am currently reading ‘I See You’ by Clare Mackintosh and am about 45% of the way through so this will feature in next months reading recap.

I hope you enjoyed this lengthy review post and if you made it this far, comment below your books suggestions.

Meg xo

 

 

 

 

 

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