The Month In Books: August 2017

It’s great to be finally back in the swing of things (sort of) post baby and I actually managed to read enough books to justify a Month In Books post! I realise that most of these are fairly dark in nature, often with a bit of death and paranormal goings on thrown in for luck, which means that this list is probably more appropriate to an October pickings, but ho hum… And whilst they might not be summer beach reads, most of these books are good for being curled up under a blanket with whilst it’s gloomy outside – perfect if you’re looking for something for the next couple of months yourself.

 

The Shadowy Horses – Susanna Kearsley      ****

15715406I’d read Kearsley’s first paranormal time slip novel “The Winter Sea” back in February and enjoyed it. This is better. The novel follows archaeologist Verity Grey as she gets drawn into investigating the vanishing of the Ninth Legion in the Scottish Borders, guided by the mysterious appearances of a ghostly Roman sentinel. Kearsley manages to create a really engaging plot, which for all the spooky elements, is more plausible than that of “The Winter Sea”. The characters are interesting, there’s a dash of romance and plenty of wild landscapes to keep the locationists happy. A really enjoyable read – especially if you’ve binged out on “Outlander” and need something else to whet your appetite before Season 3 starts later this month.

 

Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward     *****

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I received a copy of this book as my very first ARC (blogging milestone, made me very excited!) and I didn’t even realise until last week when I checked into Netgalley to have a look around. I’m gutted that I left it sat there for so long as it’s one of my favourite books I’ve read this year. The novel is a beautifully poetic Southern Gothic that grabs you right from the opening with a very strong sense of voice and character. The descriptions are visceral, the magic realism flawlessly woven in and the changes in character narration never jar. Everyone should read this novel. Read my full review here.

 

The Edinburgh Dead – Brian Ruckley     ***

9737151I came across this novel in Waterstone’s on Princes Street in Edinburgh this summer whilst I was looking for something to complement Kaite Walsh’s “Wages of Sin” (another cracking read btw). What sets out as a Victorian style murder mystery quickly escalates into something more sinister. Plenty of famous Edinburgh scoundrels make their appearances in this ghostly, grave robbing tale – Burke and Hare, Robert Knox and Major Thomas Weir all seek to confound our intrepid investigator. This is an enjoyable novel but not anything particularly special. It would be a good pick for a long train journey or a quick filler between more heavy literary fiction tomes.

 

Plantation – Dorothea Benton Frank     **

65401I am afraid I didn’t manage to finish this novel – it just really wasn’t my thing at all. With the arrival of bubs and a massive TBR I just can’t spend time wading through books that I’m not enjoying. This appeared to be a fairly classic style beach read – light and frothy, dealing with family drama and plenty of slightly awkwardly written romance thrown in. I was hoping for something that would give me a good sense of place for a Great Reads in Great Places post in South Carolina and regrettably this is not it.

 

 

The House Between Tides – Sarah Maine    ****

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This was a ‘cover love’ pick – I just adored the moody and atmospheric artwork. From the blurb and the isolated misty house on the front, I thought that this was going to be creepier than it turned out to be. I had an idea in my head that it was going to be more of a “The Woman In Black” style Gothic novel, and whilst it wasn’t that at all, I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a very well written story that really captures the landscapes and characters of the Outer Hebrides. Read my full review here.

 

 

The Witchfinder’s Sister  – Beth Underdown     ****

31377300This book follows the witch hunts of East Anglia from the point of view of Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins’ widowed sister Alice. There is very little historical fact known about the man, although detailed records of his interrogations and the resulting executions do exist. Underdown succeeds in bringing to life a dark period in British history and creates a good sense of creeping fear as we realise what Hopkins is up to and see how his sister is gradually dragged further and further into his madness. Read my full review here.

 

 

Sealskin – Su Bristow     *****

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I loved, loved, loved this book. I’ve been on a bit of a magical realism bent of late and this was perfect. Bristow brings to life the traditional Scots / Norse legends of the Selkie women – seals who shed their skins and transform into women, and explores the impact of a stranger on a small island community. This was the first Orenda published book I’d read and if it’s an indicator of the quality and style of their authors I’ll be picking up more. Read my full review here.

The Month in Books: February 2017

I’ve been up against it this month – I started my TBR list quite late, and it’s a short month. I know… excuses excuses! Still, I’ve got six books to feedback to you on and there’s a little bit of something for everyone…

AmericanahChimamanda Ngozi Adichie        *****

imgresI loved this. The book follows Ifemelu and Obinze, childhood sweethearts, who try to pursue new lives away from their home in Lagos, Nigeria. For me, this was a perfect coming together of author and reader in terms of timing, I felt it really spoke to me. It was great to see it up all around the subway too and I voted  for it as part of #OneBookNY. The characterisation was really sensitive and I thought the descriptions and emotions were astutely drawn. The novel itself is quite slow paced but that didn’t matter; I felt like it was just unfolding gradually as the characters adapted to their new lives. A totally relevant read given the current political climate in the US. See full post.

The Thin ManDashiell Hammett       ***

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A classic murder mystery. I liked the pithy style and slick art deco settings – but was distracted by everyone getting drunk all the time! It’s hard to really rate it though when you’ve been raised on Wodehouse. It’s a classy book but felt more like style over substance.

 

Hanging MarySusan Higginbotham     ***

25620676I love historical fiction but found this quite slow. The novel tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination by John Wilkes Booth from the point of view of Mary Surratt, a co-conspirator who became the first woman to be hanged by the United States, and her lodger, Nora. I must admit I didn’t really bond with the characters which made it hard to care about the outcome and whilst it really picked up pace in the second half, it was a little late by then. The settings are carefully researched and it’s great to have important historical events told by a female protagonist – although this does often mean that key action has to be missed and it is hard to maintain the level of tension when the really exciting bits happen ‘off-stage’ as it were. Unfortunately I also found the historical tone of the first person not entirely convincing, but his might just be me – I get a real bee in my bonnet about first person narration that doesn’t ring true!

Girl At WarSara Nović     *****

imgresThis was a brilliant book. Set during and after the Balkans war in the 1990s, it follows a young Croatian girl, Ana Jurić, who’s life has been shaped by the break up of Yugoslavia; an era and location that I haven’t seen many books about. It deals with the impact of war in an uncompromising manner combined with beautiful, poetic writing. The structure of the book is cleverly done, revealing Ana’s attempts at getting to grips with her past gradually and drawing you in. I was genuinely shocked and emotional at times reading this, despite the almost detached tone. This is another book that is great to read if you’re looking for something that is politically relevant in terms of international relations, the role of the UN peacekeepers, genocide and asylum. It’s also really interesting as Nović is a deaf author – the book is beautifully observed.

The Winter SeaSusanna Kearsley       ***

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This was a recommendation from another book blogger – A Wee Reader (check her out here) and I’m so pleased I took it up. I really enjoyed this despite some shortcomings. See full review.

 

 

 

Fever 1793 Laurie Halse Anderson       ***

781110This is a historical YA book that’s really well researched but I didn’t love it. Set during the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793, it’s the classic coming-of-age story of Mattie Cook. It will appeal more to girls than boys I suspect – there’s lots about mother – daughter relationships and society’s expectations of women… the need to be a ‘good’ girl. With my teacher hat on it could open some interesting discussions with younger readers, there’s lots of Mattie’s inner monologue that seeks to put her down and how she moves past that, learning self reliance and dealing with loss. I also hated the front cover design – it looks like someone has coloured it in with a neon yellow highlighter…. Full review to come as part of a Great Read Great Place post in Philadelphia.

My March TBR list is still under construction so let me know if you think there’s something I should add 🙂