2022 Review Of Books - 7/12
I'm amazed I've read as much as I have this month. Work (the paid stuff) absolutely exploded and after a two year break it was a bit of a shock to the system. Much as I was determined to maintain some kind of work-life balance (something I've not been very good at in the past), at times it hasn't felt like I've had a spare minute, so it's been quite nice to look back and reflect that I did find some time to read and listen to audiobooks in amongst the working. I've also been very lucky to have read some truly superb books this month and choosing just one as my book of the month has definitely been a challenge. Some of my reading has been books I asked to review, some has been very much spontaneous and others have been things that have been on my TBR pile for upwards of two years. I am slowly making headway through it, but I'm finding it increasingly difficult to avoid adding more to replace the ones I've read, so I'm planning to read as much as I can next month while I relax in various spots around the UK. I have resigned myself to never fully clearing the TBR list - I think when everyone knows you love books, it's inevitable that there will always be something waiting for you to pick it up, but it would be nice to know that the books on it are at least recent additions, rather than things I've been trying to read for years.
Books read this month: 13
Annual total: 83
Loki, A Bad God's Guide To Being Good – Louie Stowell (bought the audiobook for my son because I’d planned to buy him the book when he was older anyway and Ben Willbond was doing the narration. Listened to it myself before he even came home from school and absolutely loved it. I mean, the narration was brilliant – it’s Ben Willbond, of course it was – but the book itself was even better than I’d expected it to be. It perfectly captured the disdain I imagine a god would feel if he suddenly found himself stranded in a primary school. However, it also genuinely made me laugh out loud at some of the descriptions, particularly when Loki started trying to be good. It’s utterly timeless in that anyone who’s ever been to primary school will completely relate to it, but it’s also absolutely of its time when it comes to the perils of social media.)
Femina – Janina Ramirez (what can I say about this book that I didn’t already say in my full review of it – found here. I resented the time I had to spend away from it and kept stopping to tell people things I’d learned from it, alongside recommending it to pretty much everyone I know!)
Madame de Pompadour – Nancy Mitford (not the first biography I’ve read about Jeanne Antoinette Poisson and this was far from an unbiased one – I don’t usually know much about the biographer themselves so it was interesting to see how her own life and experiences had coloured her view of the subject of the book – but fascinating none the less. The more I read about the mistress of Louis XV, the more I want to find out about her. I think what I liked about this particular one was that it seemed to focus on her as a person, more than on her as simply the King’s mistress. She was a remarkable woman who deserves more than to be seen as simply an appendage to a ruler.)
The Salt Path - Raynor Winn (have been meaning to read this ever since we started doing bits of the South West Coast path ourselves. It's a bitter-sweet real life story but a very entertaining read. The way they became homeless though, seems tremendously unfair.)
Murder On The Home Front - Molly Lefebure (true life tales of a pathologist's secretary during WW2. Some of the views expressed are distinctly of their time, but on the whole, this is a fascinating insight into the darker side of death during the war - whilst some of their cases are as a result of war time, many are simply murder, sometimes committed under the cover of bombing raids.)
The Librarian – Salley Vickers (read it in almost one sitting while 6yo was at a cricket tournament. Gentle read on the surface, but perfectly captured the grittiness of small town life, and the unfairness of the class society, particularly in the 1950s. There was no happy ending for everyone, but it felt all the more real for that, as though it was a slice of life carved out and delivered without the pretty covering of fiction.)
Ferney – James Long (described as a bit like a better version of The Time Traveller’s Wife which I would kind of agree with. I was also pleased to discover that there is a sequel as I felt there was definite potential to explore Ferney and Gally’s story a bit more. It’s a book that raises so many questions – not just about reincarnation, but also about the nature of love and relationships in general.)
Eggshells – Catriona Lalley (one from the ‘recommend something a bit different’ list. I didn’t particularly warm to the main character in the way that I have done to other ‘quirky’ characters in books of this ilk. I think the overwhelming feeling was pity and the sense that other people needed to take more account of this woman because she clearly wasn’t able to function adequately in a society that wasn’t sensitive to her needs. It also made me question how I would have reacted to meeting her, which gave me a lot to think about.)
Shooting Martha – David Thewlis (audiobook. Picked initially because of the author but thought it sounded vaguely interesting. The two narrators were superb, which no doubt helped, but I was also incredibly impressed with the complexity of the plot and the skill displayed in the writing. As well as being a superb actor, David Thewlis is also a very talented writer and I was captivated throughout. None of the characters are ‘likeable’ as such, they all have huge character flaws, but in spite of that I found myself cheering Betty on and hoping Jack found some peace of mind. The behaviour they display is definitely outside the bounds of what would be considered normal, but for all that, it was utterly and completely believable that they would react in that way to the situations they found themselves in. A compelling read.)
The Post Office Shop – K.T. Dady (latest in the Pepper Bay series. Full review to come on 7th August)
Far From True - Linwood Barclay (2nd in the Promise Falls trilogy. It's been a while since I read the first one, so it took me a little while to get back into the story, but it kept me hooked from start to finish and I read it in two sittings, driving to the bottom of Cornwall and back on a day trip. One of my favourite authors , but I would say this is definitely a series where you need to read them both in order and one after the other, otherwise the connections can become confusing.
The Twenty Three - Linwood Barclay (final Promise Falls book. Would probably make little sense if you hadn't read the first two, however, I read this in one evening because it was so tense. Barclay's books are an example of where thriller writers can make connections across multiple different books, which are otherwise not connected, and make it work exceptionally well!)
The Birds and Other Stories - Daphne du Maurier (I was left feeling slightly unsatisfied by the ending of several of these short stories, including The Birds, the film of which was far more menacing than the story. By far my favourite of the lot was The Old Apple Tree.)
Book of the month?
It was really hard to choose this month, as I thoroughly enjoyed the vast majority of the books I've read over the last few weeks. In the end I narrowed it down to a choice between two, but couldn't decide between them, so I'm putting them both up. Loki made me genuinely laugh out loud and a good narrator always lifts an already excellent book to another level. (For me to pre-order both the audio and the physical copy of the sequel, it must have been good!) It also makes me really excited because not only did I enjoy it, it's made my 6yo enthusiastic about reading/listening to books and the fact that he randomly quotes bits of it to me just fills me with joy. However, I couldn't ignore Femina because that's the book I've been recommending to all my adult friends and the one that I've been quoting random facts from. Plus, it's quite unusual for me to be so captivated by a non-fiction book to the same extent as I would be by fiction ones. So, this month it's two for the price of one!