Back again for a round up of what I’ve been reading recently…All on the Kindle in July.
I have just given the spare room and our bedroom a good bottoming, as they say (my mum’s coming to stay!), so I took all the books off the shelves to give them a good dust and a rearrange. I filled two big bags full to give to our friend Richard, who has friends on a narrow boat in the Port at Roanne. There is, I believe, an English-language library in the Captainairie, so from time to time I donate books. It is about to grow by about 50 books! These are books I didn’t enjoy, won’t read again, or which are so unappealing I’m not sure why I ever acquired them in the first place! However, I came across a crop of about 20 books which I wouldn’t mind reading again, so August and September may well be a couple of months of re-reading books. I’ve already started one which I don’t remember at all, but am thoroughly enjoying.
Anyway, in July I read…
The Redbreast: A Harry Hole thriller by Jo Nesbo.(Trans: Don Bartlett)
GoodReads summary says: 1944: Daniel, a soldier, legendary among the Norwegians fighting the advance of Bolshevism on the Russian front, is killed. Two years later, a wounded soldier wakes up in a Vienna hospital. He becomes involved with a young nurse, the consequences of which will ripple forward to the turn of the next century.
1999: Harry Hole, alone again after having caused an embarrassment in the line of duty, has been promoted to inspector and is lumbered with surveillance duties. He is assigned the task of monitoring neo-Nazi activities; fairly mundane until a report of a rare and unusual gun being fired sparks his interest. Ellen Gjelten, his partner, makes a startling discovery. Then a former soldier is found with his throat cut. In a quest that takes him to South Africa and Vienna, Harry finds himself perpetually one step behind the killer. He will be both winner and loser by the novel’s nail-biting conclusion.
Although this was the 3rd in the series, and I haven’t read the others, I didn’t feel I was missing any vital back stories. However, I didn’t fully engage with the characters, which may have been as a result of coming to their stories later in the sequence. I enjoyed the book, but did finds it a little confusing, but I am ready to admit that this may well be because I do read quickly and don’t always concentrate as fully as I might. Mr FD claims this is why I can happily re-read books: I actually read a different story each time as I read a different set of words! Certainly not bad, and I’d be happy to read another in the series.
The One plus One by Jojo Moyes
From “Good Reads”: One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. One irresistible love story from the New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You
Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your maths whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose holiday home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Maths Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages… maybe ever.
I had read, and really enjoyed, “The Girl You Left Behind” by the same author, so was looking forward to this. It’s not often I spend more than £1.50 on a Kindle bok, so spending £3.99 was a big step! It was okay. I romped through it, and – to be fair – found myself picking it up at odd moments when I might usually have picked up my laptop to browse, but it didn’t have much depth to it. I also found the story completely unbelievable, which, while in itself isn’t a problem, meant that I got a bit too annoyed at people doing things that seemed out-of-character.
While I found this a bit disappointing, I would be happy to read another by the same author – which I will, as I came across one in the cupboard and it’s now on my “Re-read” shelf!
The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marion Keyes
Good Reads tells us: Stella Sweeney is back in Dublin. After living the dream in New York for a year – touring her self-help book, appearing on talk shows all over the USA and living it up in her 10-room duplex on the Upper West Side – she’s back to normality with a bang. And she’s got writer’s block.
Stella wants a clean break as she didn’t exactly leave New York on a high. Why is she back in Ireland so soon? Who is it who keeps calling? Stella wants to get back to being the woman she used to be. But can she? And should she?
I think the kindest thing I can say about this book is “Meh”. I thought Marian Keyes was supposed to be a witty, funny writer. This was basically tedious. The structure was confusing, the main protagonist unappealing and unbelievable, the secondary characters extremely unappealing, unattractive and unbelievable. And I wasn’t too sure I liked the writing style which struck me as being arch and smacked of trying-too-hard. I’m not sure I’ll be reading another by this author.
My Husband’s Wife by Amanda Prowse
Back to “Good Reads”:
Once a week, Rosie Tipcott counts her blessings.
She goes to sit on her favourite bench on the north Devon cliffs, and thanks her lucky stars for her wonderful husband, her mischievous young daughters, and her neat little house by the sea. She vows to dedicate every waking hour to making her family happy.
But then her husband unexpectedly leaves her for another woman and takes the children. Now she must ask the question: what is left in her life? Can Rosie find the strength to rebuild herself? More importantly, does she even want to?
One reviewer wrote: “This is a FANTASTIC book, but don’t go into it expecting a light and fluffy chick lit romance. It’s a deeply emotive and pretty dark look at a woman’s descent into despair and eventual breakdown and it’s NOT easy to watch. It’s about family and friends and never really knowing what goes on in other people’s minds and how fickle and feckless some folk can be. It is enlivened by the girls who are wonderfully refreshing and their antics brought many a smile to my face. They are completely innocently caught up in the backwash of this breakdown of a marriage and I was saddened by their involvement.”
I wouldn’t go as far as saying “fantastic”. It was okay. Rosie, the main character, was a bit annoying, as I feel the author wanted us to really like her, so she was painted in glowing colours; I felt I was being told “See, Rosie copes with even this. Don’t you admire her for it?” (I also found her name very irritating, but that’s not her fault!) I don’t have children, so I can’t comment on how true-to-family-life the domestic scenes were, but again, I thought the children were characterised in a twee, “aren’t they amusing” way which just made me want to slap them.
The ending pissed me off too. So, no. Not fantastic. Again, not another author I’ll be seeking out.
In the Light of What we See by Sarah Painter
With thanks (again!) to “Good Reads”: Brighton, 1938: Grace Kemp is pushed away by the family she has shamed. Rejected and afraid, she begins a new life as a nurse. But danger stalks the hospital too, and she’ll need to be on her guard to avoid falling into familiar traps. And then there are the things she sees…Strange portents that have a way of becoming real.
Eighty years later, Mina Morgan is brought to the same hospital after a near-fatal car crash. She is in terrible pain but recalls nothing. She’s not even sure whom to trust. Mina too sees things that others cannot, but now, in hospital, her visions are clearer than ever…
Two women, separated by decades, are drawn together by a shared space and a common need to salvage their lives.
I enjoyed this book the most out of the four non-crime-thrillers I read this month, but it wasn’t great. The two stories, that of Grace and that of Mina, were both relatively interesting – although I found Mina’s more gripping, as there wasn’t a huge amount of tension and suspense in Grace’s. It was basically the trials of a student nurse in 1938, with a bit of a story thrown in. But I didn’t feel that there was a satisfactory explaination for why there was a connection between Mina and Grace. I felt a bit “and that’s it?” at the end.
From the five, I’d recommend “The Redbreast” most of all, but from the others, this final one is the best of a fairly mediocre bunch.
I have just started “The Outcast” by Sadie Jones
This is a re-read of a book I can barely remember. Already it surpasses the last four books in terms of story, characterisation, and writing alone. This one really has been picked up at every opportunity. It is, so far, a story of loss, of family rifts, of tragedy – I am hoping for a redemptive ending. I fear it may not happen.