There are currently sixteen pictures of books in my Google Drive folder, which is how I organise my upcoming blog posts. If I blog one per week it will therefore take me sixteen weeks to complete the posts, but I also have other books on my TBR list so by that point I’ll still be behind and then it will just keep spiralling on forever.
So I’m going to smush a few together in a post for today, and only save a couple for their own special featured posts.
It’s Always The Husband by Michele Campbell
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book before that laid out the main suspects on the front page.
“It’s always the husband – unless it’s the best friend…” pretty much sums up the entire plot.
The book opens with two unnamed characters standing on a bridge. One of them is trying to convince the other to jump off.
We then rewind back through time and meet Aubrey, Kate and Jenny, who have been best frenemies since college. The book switches between past and present, tracing their lives and relationships. Their feelings are certainly strong – love, jealousy, friendship, hatred, envy, joy – but are they strong enough to lead to murder?
I was intrigued by the way the cover gave you the two main suspects, and I hoped there would be some kind of big twist in which it ended up not being the husband or the best friend. Was I disappointed? Not exactly; the book was interesting enough to keep me entertained while I slumped across a chair for a couple of hours, but it wasn’t twisty enough to be fascinating and if I’d had to put it down and go off to do something else I wouldn’t have found that difficult.
The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
I read The Lovely Bones because everyone raved about it, and although I thought it was alright, I didn’t really get it. It was fine, but it wasn’t the kind of book I’d jump up and down and yell about.
The Almost Moon is similar, although I thought the way the character’s complex feelings towards her mother unfolded was well done. Helen obviously loved her mother, but also found her frustrating and difficult – something almost all of us can probably relate to. The opening sentence tells us that Helen has just murdered her mother, which provides a nice chilly shock right at the very beginning and makes it feel like you just have to keep reading. It is also evident from the first sentence that this will be a book that contains humour – dark humour, but humour all the same. I like a bit of dark humour.
So why didn’t I love this book as much as I perhaps should have?
I don’t know, probably the writing style. The storyline was fairly compelling and I did enjoy learning about Helen’s feelings towards her mother and how complex they were, but at the same time she wasn’t exactly a sympathetic protagonist herself, so it was difficult to get drawn in. She was also supremely stupid immediately following the killing; never having murdered anyone, I can’t say how I’d act if I did so, but Helen started on a course of action that was so ridiculous that it was hard to sympathise with her.
I did quite enjoy the book though, and I wouldn’t tell you not to read it if you’d already picked it off a shelf, but there are better, more intelligent psychological thrillers out there, so maybe leave this one for a rainy day.
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
Oh dear. I seem to just be writing about books I didn’t really enjoy. I’m going to have to write something nice in a minute to even the post out, before you decide I’m just a grumpy arse who doesn’t like books.
But before I start being more positive, I shall review Elmet, which was shit.
I picked it up for several reasons. First, the title, Elmet. It refers to the historic name for a part of Britain, and that gave me hope that it would be interesting. It’s the kind of title that takes thought and research, so I erroneously decided the book would probably also be thoughtful.
Secondly, the blurb.
Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned menacing and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them in the woods with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted.
Cathy was more like their father: fierce and full of simmering anger. Daniel was more like their mother: gentle and kind. Sometimes, their father disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home, he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.
Brutal and beautiful in equal measure, Elmet is a compelling portrayal of a family living on the fringes of contemporary society, as well as a gripping exploration of the disturbing actions people are capable of when pushed to their limits.
– borrowed from Amazon
Incidentally, if I’d seen the cover that’s featured on the Amazon page, that would have been another reason for me to buy it. But I didn’t, so the third and final reason was because it’d been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and I usually quite like some of those choices.
I had high hopes for this one, because it sounded like a combination of some of my favourite themes: the wilds of nature; a difficult childhood; a fractured family; a backdrop of violence.
But I didn’t care about any of it. It was written in such a way that nothing really struck me, or stuck with me, or made me think at all. It should have been harsh, beautiful, difficult, violent, tender; instead it was… blank. I hope it didn’t win.
Edge of Darkness by Karen Rose
Alright, let’s get a bit more positive before you all just stop reading.
If you’ve read Karen Rose’s books before, you won’t be surprised when I say this is very much written in her classic style. I like how several of the characters appear throughout different books, but how each one can also be read as a standalone novel.
Rose’s books do tend to be a bit ’emotional porn’ – lots of crying and being strong and feeling weak and people needing hugs – but the storylines are interesting enough and the characters lovable enough to make them worth reading anyway.
Edge of Darkness focuses on the stories of Adam, a homicide detective struggling with PTSD, and Meredith, a social worker who is in love with Adam but hasn’t seen him for a year.
One day Meredith is in a café with one of the young people she’s looking after when a gunman fires at her. Who could possibly want to kill Meredith? Does it have something to do with her job, or was she just an unfortunate random target?
As the killer continues hunting them down everywhere they go, Meredith and Adam realise that there’s more to this than they originally guessed. Gradually they get closer to solving the case, and they also grow closer to each other, a romance blossoming alongside all the bloodshed.
If you like Karen Rose’s books, you’ll enjoy this one; if you don’t, you won’t. If you haven’t read them before, give it a go – you’ll either be a fan for life or decide it’s not for you, but it’s worth trying it out to see.
Whisky Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer
Leila Majnoun is in an airport when she’s approached by a secretive cabal who want her to join their resistance. Uninterested, she stands up to leave, then realises they’ve made it impossible for her to get away. Annoyed and more than a little scared, she agrees to go to Dublin with them to find out what they’re offering, mainly because she doesn’t have much choice.
Meanwhile, Leo and Mark are trying to live their lives and each failing in their own ways. They were friends in college but they’ve since lost touch; Leo is now a trustafarian with a booze habit, and Mark is an internationally best-selling self-help author who’s stolen at least a couple of ideas from Leo’s anonymous blog.
The ideas Leo posts online are far-fetched conspiracy theories, but like so many of these things, bits of them hit fairly close to the mark. And when Leila’s new friends succeed in recruiting her, the three of them are drawn together in a confusing yet sometimes darkly funny novel that ends all too soon.
I really hope there’s a sequel to this, because I felt it was slow to get started but by the time I got to the end I had that feeling of ‘Oh no! There aren’t enough pages left for all the story that needs to happen!’
It was, in summary, quite a fun book even if it didn’t grip me from the first page. Shafer is obviously a fan of words, too; I noted down quite a few pretty ones that were scattered throughout the text. At some point I’m going to post a list of my favourite words, but for now I’m still building it. There were several from this book that made it onto the list.
If you start reading it and you’re not sold within the first few pages, keep going. The only reason I did was because I was in the bath and couldn’t be bothered to stand up, but I’m glad I stuck with it.
My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
I find Sophie Kinsella’s books a bit hit and miss; I wasn’t a huge fan of the Shopaholic series, although I read a lot of them in hospital waiting rooms as a teenager. I thought Finding Audrey was beautiful.
I enjoyed My Not So Perfect Life more than Shopaholic etc, but it doesn’t have the extra depth that made Finding Audrey such a good read.
Katie lives in a tiny studio flat in London. She’s desperate to make it in the corporate world, but she has the boss from hell and a bunch of colleagues who barely even recognise her. Meanwhile her best friend is an ocean away, and from her Instagram posts it’s obvious that she’s having a whale of a time in New York while Katie schleps around London trying to convince herself leaving home was a good idea.
Then everything comes crashing down and Katie, now jobless, has to move back to Somerset. Her father and stepmother are in the process of converting the family farm into a glamping destination for wannabe bohos, so Katie steps up to lend a hand. Only temporarily, of course. But without any new job prospects opening up in London, she’s at a loss about what to do next and how to get back out of Somerset.
Just when Katie thinks she can’t get any lower, the Boss From Hell arrives to glamp at her family’s farm. Katie is horrified – but could this be precisely the opportunity she needs?
My Not So Perfect Life is a fun, quick read, and will be relatable if you’re someone who looks at other people’s Instagram posts and feels inadequate about your own life. (If you do feel like that I encourage you to look at my Instagram, which is full of things like my living room covered in manky dust sheets, and bits of my house falling off.)
It is, I suppose, classic Kinsella, and for that reason I quite liked it; however I’m hoping she brings out something along the lines of Finding Audrey again soon.
What have you read recently? Leave me some reading list suggestions in the comments!