From the archives – June

As I gaze at the virtual tower of to-be-read books precariously piled up in my Kindle, threatening to virtually tumble if I don’t keep a virtual eye on them, I found myself wondering: what was I reading this time last year? So, I decided to take a little stroll through my imaginary book palace, and revisit the books that punctuated my June 2016.

Feel free to join me. Just mind you don’t bump your head through this door and watch your step as we go down these slightly dark and steep stairs (I really must get electric lamps installed down here, but candlelight is just so pretty).

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I finished reading The Last of Us by Rob Ewing at the end of May 2016 and was delighted when Rob Ewing got in contact with me to thank me for my review. He then agreed to let me interview him. I still have fond feelings towards this book. If you haven’t read it, do it.

 

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Hot off the back of The Last of Us, I burned my way through My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal. Oh, my goodness. It made me cry, and I still mentally hug Leon every time I think of him.

 

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I started reading The Big Picture by Sean Carroll. A brilliant popular science book that explains not just how quantum physics applies to daily life, but how understanding how even the smallest parts of the universe work can inform your philosophy and understanding of life, the universe and everything.

 

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In June 2016, I started working on a theatre production of 1984 by George Orwell. So, I downloaded the audiobook to remind myself of the book so I could compare it to the theatre production. I had originally read 1984 at the age of 13 or 14. Now, in my 30s, I was struck by how bleak it was – I hadn’t remembered it being that bleak. The theatre production was even bleaker. And exactly 101 minutes long.

 

 

So, that’s the tour of the June 2016 archives. Feel free to make yourself a cup of tea, find a comfy chair, and rifle through a few books. Hopefully, you’ll leave with a few suggestions for your own to-be-read list.

Let me know what’s on your list for this month – I’m always after suggestions for my own!

Book review: When I Wake Up by Jessica Jarlvi

cover110929-mediumWhen I Wake Up by Jessica Jarlvi
Publication date:  01 June 2017
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thrillers
Length*:  5 hours 21 mins
(*based on the time it took me to read this title)
Published by:  Aria Fiction
Available at:  Amazon.co.ukGoodreads
My rating: 2 out of 5

Description

A breathtaking, heart-pounding, dark debut, sure to delight fans of The Girl on the Train and Before I Go To Sleep.
‘Why won’t Mummy wake up?’
When Anna, a much-loved teacher and mother of two, is left savagely beaten and in a coma, a police investigation is launched. News of the attack sends shock waves through her family and their small Swedish community. Anna seems to have had no enemies, so who wanted her dead?
As loved-ones wait anxiously by her bedside, her husband Erik is determined to get to the bottom of the attack, and soon begins uncovering his wife’s secret life, and a small town riven with desire, betrayal and jealousy.
As the list of suspects grows longer, it soon becomes clear that only one person can reveal the truth, and she’s lying silent in a hospital bed…

My Thoughts

I think I must be getting picky in my old age, getting harder to please. I loved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I thought Gone Girl was stunning, and Before I Go To Sleep was a delicious treat. So, I was intrigued when I read the premise for this book, eagerly digging into it. However, it turns out this is really not my kind of book. The premise is fantastic, but I found the pace of the novel difficult, feeling as though there were moments that I knew I was meant to find tense and didn’t. I ultimately finished the book more out of a sense of loyalty to the process of seeing the book through rather than being gripped.
I was hoping for a mind-blowing ending that, for me, never happened. For me, if you are going to have multiple suspects in a whodunit, and then tell the story from each of their points of view, as well as giving all of them sufficient motive, there needs to be a clue that it could have been them when the point of view of the narration is focused on them. The one who actually ‘dunnit’ is shown, even in their own point of view, to have been hurt by the accident, and filled with concern for Anna’s well-being. The only sign that they are a fallen angel is a one night stand, and they show regret and a want to recommit themselves to their spouse in light of their guilt. That this person, who doesn’t show a hint of violent tendency or desire for 90% of the book, only shows a violent streak at the end, confirming themselves as the attacker, is disappointing and feels like the never before mentioned candlestick holder that condemns the villains of old murder-mystery stories. Especially as all the other suspects are shown to have violent/seriously dodgy streaks.
So, all in all, I found it to be a disappointing read – sadly, not my kind of book.
Thank you to Aria and Netgalley for supplying me with an advance ebook of this story in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Night Brother by Rosie Garland

cover102770-mediumThe Night Brother by Rosie Garland

Publication date:
  01 June 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length*:  6 hours 17 mins
(*based on the time it took me to read this title)

Published by:  The Borough Press, HarperFiction, HarperCollins UK
Available at:  Amazon.co.ukGoodreads

My rating: 3 out of 5

 

 

 


Description

From the author of The Palace of Curiosities and Vixen comes a dazzling and provocative new novel of adventure, mystery and belonging. The Night Brother shifts tantalisingly between day and night, exploring questions of identity, sexual equality and how well we know ourselves. Perfect for fans of Angela Carter, Sarah Waters, Erin Morgenstern.

Rich are the delights of late nineteenth-century Manchester for young siblings Edie and Gnome. They bicker, banter, shout and scream their way through the city’s streets, embracing its charms and dangers. But as the pair mature, it is Gnome who revels in the night-time, while Edie is confined to the day. She wakes exhausted each morning, unable to quell a sickening sense of unease, and confused at living a half-life.

Reaching the cusp of adulthood, Edie’s confusion turns to resentment and she is determined to distance herself from Gnome once and for all. But can she ever be free from someone who knows her better than she knows herself?

Exploring the furthest limits of sexual and gender fluidity, this is a story about the vital importance of being honest with yourself. Every part of yourself. After all, no-one likes to be kept in the dark.

My Thoughts

When I started reading this book, I really wasn’t sure what to make of it. The language constantly nagged at me, and it took me some time to work out why it felt familiar even as it felt strange: it’s almost the language of fairytales. Until the mention of the Suffragette movement, I couldn’t place the time that the story takes place in and, because of the fairytale feel that comes from the style of language, I wasn’t sure that the story is set in a ‘real’ historical time. The geographical setting is real, and I found myself feeling a connection with the book as parts of Manchester that I know and love (from the couple of years I spent living there) were named and described as their Victorian versions.

It is a striking book: while it is historical fiction, it deals with extremely contemporary themes of gender, sexuality, and identity. The story skilfully questions what it is that defines us as individuals to others, and to ourselves. Through the struggles of Gnome and Edie, it shows how gender and sexuality cannot be defined as binary options, but rather two points on an analogue scale which a person can appear anywhere on. It cleverly illustrates how when the different facets of our personalities are forced to fit into socially acceptable boxes, and we are compelled to fit ourselves in them, it is harmful. We are better off accepting our different sides, seeking to find a way to live with our contradictions peacefully. If we can only be brave enough to share the fullness of the people we truly are with another whom we can trust, fear can be replaced with acceptance.

Rosie Garland’s approach to these questions of gender, sexuality, and identity is inventive and original. Rather than tackle these questions through Sci-Fi or YA fiction (which seem the most obvious genres for these themes), she has skilfully used Historical Fiction to demonstrate that these themes and philosophical questions that we think of as modern concerns are timeless – they have been around for as long as the concept of ‘socially acceptable’ has existed.

The historical setting of the story takes a backseat to the story itself, so if you’re after a historical novel that will closely follow renowned events, or teach you something about events during the Victorian era, you might not get what you are after. You will get a book which is easy and enjoyable to read, with an original plot, and an unexpected outcome. A good book for the daily commute or winding down before bed, it’ll take you out of your own world for a bit and dump you, unapologetically, into the middle of possibly the most dysfunctional family you can imagine.

Thank you to The Borough Press and Netgalley for supplying me with an advance ebook of this story in exchange for an honest review.