Most of my novel reading is crime / psychological thrillers, with a hefty dose of chick lit, plus what I guess you’d call drama / literature thrown in. However I think it’s good to read a range of books, including some from outside your comfort zone. I also try to vary my books by country and continent, making sure to read things that are outside of my own personal experience.
Sometimes this works really well and I find new books to love. Sometimes it works less well and I find myself trying very hard to like a book that just doesn’t speak to me.
Recently I have read the five books below, only two of which are what I’d call typical scar reads. And the other three? Two were OK, and one I didn’t even finish. So here we go: this is what I thought of them all.
Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner
This is the kind of book I’d typically read, and I read it on the plane home from Rhode Island. On the plane there I’d read Look For Me by the same author and liked it, so Right Behind You was… um… right behind it.
Sharlah knows what monsters look like, because she has first-hand experience of them. A few years ago her brother beat their father to death with a baseball bat, and now she’s estranged from her family and is about to be adopted by a retired FBI profiler and his partner. Luckily, they too understand that the world is filled with monsters, and most of them are human.
Then two people are murdered at a local gas station, and Sharlah’s brother is the primary suspect. But as the investigation gets under way, it quickly becomes evident that he might not be working alone… or perhaps he’s not the culprit at all?
Right Behind You will be relatable to anyone who’s lived with the spectre of a monster in their lives, and its twists and turns will thrill any reader of crime fiction.
Carol by Patricia Highsmith
I guess you’d call Carol a classic work of literature, but it’s not the kind of book I generally read. I read The Talented Mr. Ripley when I was in high school, but I wasn’t a huge fan of Highsmith’s writing style then and it turns out that hasn’t changed.
However, my friend loaned it to me and told me the first few pages were highly relatable if you’ve worked in advertising and hated every minute of it, and she was right. The soul desolation Therese describes as she goes to work every day, does her job and goes home, is exactly what I felt for about two years when the company I used to work for turned into a full-on advertising agency. It took me a while to get my act together and leave, but I’m glad I did.
Carol follows the story of the aforementioned Therese, who works in a store but dreams of being a set designer. Then Carol comes into her life, and Therese discovers a level of attraction she hadn’t known was possible. As her engagement to her fiancé Richard teeters on the brink, Therese must decide whether she wants to pursue this newfound intrigue, and at what cost.
The Mum Who’d Had Enough by Fiona Gibson
Again not really my usual style, but there wasn’t much choice in the shop and I’d recently enjoyed Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims, so I thought I’d give it a go.
Nate and Sinead Turner are doing alright. They’ve been together almost two decades, and everything ticks along nicely with the house, their son, their lives… until one day Nate wakes up to find a note from Sinead. She’s gone, so apparently things weren’t so fine after all.
Sinead has left behind a list of all Nate’s shortcomings, so he decides to get working on it in an attempt to win her back.
I didn’t dislike this book, as such, but I couldn’t really get into it because the characters were the kinds of people I wouldn’t want to hang out with in real life. For one thing, making a list of your partner’s shortcomings and leaving it for them to find is a shitty thing to do, as evidenced by Ross & Rachel, the original troubled couple who should never have ended up together.
And then Nate not only doesn’t seem especially annoyed about this, but also decides to go along with it and make changes in his life. Now if these were all things he’d genuinely been doing wrong, that would be one thing. But it’s stuff like “I hate your record collection,” so he sells it.
What the actual fuck.
If someone came into my life and told me they hated my book collection, I would throw them out, because that is the only sane response. It’s one thing to work on yourself, but quite another for a person to expect you to ditch your hobbies and fundamentally change as a person.
So, while this was a quick and easy light read, it was also a bit annoying. But if you’re looking for something brainless for the beach, you’ve got it here.
These Bones Will Rise Again by Panashe Chigumadzi
I reeeaaallllyyyy wanted to like this book. The blurb I received from the publisher said:
A leading writer of Zimbabwe’s born-free generation reflects on the November 2017 ousting of Robert Mugabe, radically reframing the history of Zimbabwe to include the perspectives of workers, women and urban movements.
In November 2017 the people of Zimbabwe took to the streets in an unprecedented alliance with the military. Their goal [was] to restore the legacy of Chimurenga, the liberation struggle, and wrest their country back from over thirty years of Robert Mugabe’s rule.
In an essay that combines bold reportage, memoir and critical analysis, Zimbabwean novelist and journalist Panashe Chigumadzi reflects on the coup that was not a coup, the telling of history and manipulation of time and the ancestral spirits of two women: her own grandmother and Mbuya Nehanda, the grandmother of the nation. Chigumadzi successfully nests the intimate charge of her poignant personal story in the sweeping historical account and mythology of Zimbabwe.
How could I not like that? It had everything: history, authenticity, family ties… and yet I just couldn’t read it. I tried several times, and each time I put it down and thought, Maybe I’m just not in the mood. I’ll try again later. But later came, and I tried again, and I couldn’t get more than a few pages further.
I’m not sure exactly why, but it had something to do with the writing style; I found my brain zoning out whenever I read more than a couple of paragraphs. Other people will enjoy it, I’m sure, it’s just not the right book for me.
Little Girl Gone by Alexandra Burt
A return to form with this one, Little Girl Gone tells the story of a mother whose daughter disappears in suspicious circumstances. When Estelle wakes up in a hospital room with amnesia, everyone suspects that she’s killed her own child, then tried to kill herself because of the guilt.
Estelle doesn’t want to believe herself capable of doing such a thing, but she has been finding it hard to be a new mother, and some of the intrusive thoughts that have entered her brain since her daughter’s birth haven’t been far off what actually happened.
Could she have killed her baby?
There’s a bit of a trend at the moment for ‘did the parent do it?’ thrillers, and I quite like them, except that most have a twist in which it turns out they didn’t, which is statistically unlikely. Does this one have that twist? You’ll have to read it to find out. It’s definitely worth reading if you want a light but creepy psychological thriller to read in the bath or on the train (I did a little bit of both).
What have you read recently? Do you try to read outside of your comfort zone sometimes?