Monday, 27 October 2014

What I Read In September

Well that was QUITE a September I had there. I moved house early in the month so spent most of it packing, moving boxes around, unpacking, and going to bed early. The great thing about my new place is that I now get to commute (said no one, ever!) and this means a solid hour of sitting on a train, reading a book, every single day. HEAVEN! Also, my new home is at the end of a line so I get a lovely wee seat every morning. This reader couldn't be happier!

October on the other had has been madly busy, hence the delay in this post, but you'll get to hear all about that in a few days time.

Inadvertently, I read two almost identical books back to back in September. Liane Moriarty's Little Lies (audiobook) and Mark Lawson's The Deaths (Kindle) are both about a murder, you know this from the start, but you don't know who has died, or how. Both feature an array of characters, most unlikable and irritating. Both are about secrets, lies, wealth, and parenting. And deaths. On paper, they're the same thing, but in reality they're pretty different and were equally enjoyable.

Little Lies - Liane Moriarty (Audiobook) 8/10

Six months after Jane moves to a small coastal town in Australia, there's a death at the school trivia night. The story begins the week of her arrival, is told from the perspective of Jane and a cast of school mums including Madeline (bonkers) and Celeste (beautiful) and Renata (a snob), their partners, their kids and their teachers.

A misunderstanding between the five year olds on the first day of school sparks a playground war between the parents that has the parents bitching and back-stabbing until the fateful trivia night that leaves one parent dead.

I loved this book from start to finish and was kept guessing the whole way through. Nobody comes out clean here, and I felt my allegiances shifting throughout.

The narrator of Little Lies does a great job of covering a huge range of character's voices but I think credit is due to Moriarty for capturing so many different, and realistic, characteristics in this book. I felt like I could picture each person so clearly so it was easier to keep track of who was who, not always easy in a book with 20+ characters.

The Deaths - Mark Lawson (Kindle) 8/10

The Deaths is not set in Australia, but instead in a posh village somewhere near Milton Keynes. Four wealthy families are so close that they are nauseatingly referred to as "The Eight". Their kids go to school together, they holiday together, the men get the train to their high-flying jobs in London together. Couldn't be closer.

Except there's been some deaths and, like Little Lies, this story starts a year earlier as we meet the families and get to know their secrets and troubles and watch their lives unravel as we turn the pages. There are money problems, infidelity, redundancies, and when their dreams lives are threatened, the unthinkable happens.

I found The Deaths to be an enjoyable scathing commentary on the pitfalls of wealth, success, and the age of having-it-all. Again, I was left guessing right until the end and never quite sure who to trust.

I think that because I read these in completely different formats, I got a lot more enjoyment from them. I recommend both Little Lies, and The Deaths, but perhaps not back to back unless you're picking up the audiobook of one.

If You Find Me - Emily Murdoch (Paperback) 9/10

After reading two books with sprawling casts of characters, it was a welcome change to read something that focused on one person's story.

If You Find Me is the story of Carey, a fifteen year old girl who lives in the woods with her mum and her little sister Jenessa, who never speaks. After their mum fails to return from a trip into town, Carey must protect her sister from unwelcome visitors who are determined to take the girls away.

I loved the narrative style of this book. Carey's voice felt so authentic and moving as she figures out how to grow up fast and keep her sister safe, while also navigating her own teenage years.

This is YA at it's absolute best, a book that I'd recommend to any adult reader.

Bad Feminist - Roxane Gay (Paperback) 8/10

I've followed Roxane Gay on Twitter for a year or so now and I feel like I've learned more about feminism, race, and cultural criticism from her writing than anyone else.

Bad Feminist is a collection of her essays, some of which I'd read before, lots of which I hadn't, where she explores some of the key themes around race, sexism, media, and sexuality.

Gay's is a distinct voice in this world, never afraid to admit her own shortcomings, while continually championing the rights of other women. She says "feminism is a choice, and if a woman does not want to be a feminist, that is her right, but it is still my responsibility to fight for her rights." I don't think I'll ever see feminism described more fittingly than that.

Her writing is thought provoking, but there are some funny pieces in here too. Her essay about the Scrabble championships had me in stitches and I was so charmed by her retelling of her early years as a professor that I wanted to ditch everything and enroll in her class.

The Wicked Girls - Alex Marwood (Paperback) 7/10

For a while I decided I wanted to avoid books about violence against women. I felt I'd read more than enough books using rape, vicious abuse, and gory murders as a plot device, but recently I felt like I wanted to read a good thriller again.

The Wicked Girls fit the bill as it's fast paced and intriguing, but not so overloaded with violence that it became unbearable.

Meeting for the first time as children, Jade and Bel make a tragic mistake, and find themselves charged with murder. Twenty-five years later, with new lives and new identities, they meet again after a spate of attacks on tourists lure journalist Kirsty to the seaside town where Amber lives.

The most interesting themes in this book were the portrayal of the mob culture our media stirs up, and the exploration over whether justice can ever truly be served. I went from loathing the characters to feeling completely sorry for them and if you're looking for a gripping crime novel to get you through some winter evenings, this should do the job nicely. Still about murder though, so best avoided if you've had enough of that.

DASSIT! Let me know on Twitter what you've been reading, you know I love a recommendation or three. Until next time (literally in a few days) xx