I’ve found that recently I’m reading books faster than I can review them (I’m currently 19 books ahead of schedule on my Goodreads Challenge!) so rather than trying to review them all, I’m going to do the odd full length review, alongside monthly wrap up posts with mini reviews. This first post is a bumper edition with two months worth. Enjoy!
The Hive by Gill Hornby
I don’t know much about playground politics for mums, but I can’t help but think that the nightmare of forced participation that Hornby hangs her debut novel on hits the nail on the head. Unfortunately I found the main character a bit unlikeable so didn’t love it, but it was funny and I can imagine that if you’re a mum you might relate to it and enjoy it more than I did. I did really love one of the characters, Georgie. I think this quote sums her up pretty well: “I’ve been on my best behaviour all day, I’ll have you know. You cannot imagine the rot I have been forced to listen to. God, it’s exhausting always being so polite.”
The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin
If you’re a fan of New Orleans history (or American Horror Story: Coven), you might be familiar with the true story of the Axeman who stalked the city murdering people seemingly at random and who was never caught. This is the fictionalised story of the investigation following three people on the trail of the Axeman. There’s Detective Lieutenant Michael Talbot who is desperate to protect his career and his family, Luca d’Andrea, a corrupt DI just out of prison and in debt to the mob, and finally Ida Davis, a receptionist in a private detective firm who is determined to crack this case and prove herself. I really enjoyed this and although there was a lot of characters, each of the their stories felt as if it was adding something different. The context of 1919 New Orleans was also very well realised. Definitely one to read if you’re a thriller fan.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2015 is a war time epic following two young people who meet only very briefly effect each other’s lives irrevocably. Marie-Laure is blinded from a young age and forced to evacuate the small Parisian neighbourhood she has memorised for an unknown town with her beloved and devoted father and a priceless diamond in tow. From a German mining town, Hans is drafted into Hitler Youth for his skill with radios, but is he struggles to reconcile his love of electronics and using his talent with the reality of the how it is being utilised. All the Light We Cannot See is a beautifully lyrical and moving book. The language is rich and descriptive and paints a detailed picture of life for both of the deeply compelling characters. Really recommend this one too. As soon as I finished it I popped in the post to my mum knowing she would love it also.
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about Elizabeth is Missing, but I really loved it, it’s probably my favourite from this selection. Maud has dementia. She can’t remember much, but she does know that her friend Elizabeth is missing. However, for some reason no one is taking her seriously or helping, so she must find her on her own. Clearly, Maud is an unreliable narrator, and I think this is what people didn’t like about it, but it is so, so well done. Healey gives, what I believe to be, an accurate insight into a mind affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. Maud is muddled, but remembers details from 60 years ago as if they happened yesterday, she snaps back into awareness of the current day as quickly as she left and is self aware enough to see the wearing of patience on the faces of her loved ones. The mystery plot line is strong enough, but for me, the real hook was Maud’s struggle with her own mind.
The Gospel According to Drew Barrymore by Pippa Wright
The original child star, Drew Barrymore has gone from the undisputed queen of the rom-com (The Wedding Singer, Never Been Kissed) to the champion of the gal-pal movie (Whip It, Miss You Already), so appropriate that this book is based around friendship, love and growing up. Esther’s best friend from childhood, Laura, has always connected with Drew, believing her life to have been guided by her idol in some way. When Laura goes AWOL from her seemingly happy life in California, Esther is forced to leave her newborn baby to track her down. The reveal isn’t that exciting, but the story does show that it’s easy to take friendships for granted and assume you know someone as well as anyone can after 20 years. Truth be told, I wouldn’t really recommend this one, unless you’re looking for a fluffy, quick read, or if you are a massive Drew fan who’ll appreciate the references.
The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
Lastly, this is one I was really looking forward to but found to be so disappointing. Coralie is the web-fingered daughter of a Coney Island freak-show owner. When she comes of age she joins his Museum of Extraordinary Things as a real life mermaid, destined to spend her life in a tank she finds freedom when she swims in the Hudson river at night. Eddie Cohen is a photographer and a loner but skilled at tracking down others. He is employed to find a missing girl which brings him into contact with Coralie and an unlikely relationship blossoms. This novel was utterly ruined by a bizarre structure. One chapter would be narrated by Coralie, the next would be her chapter in third person, then a chapter narrated by Eddie followed by a third person chapter and so on. The first person chapters start as being from childhood, but then catch up with the other chapters at some point… it’s just very confusing and unnecessary. I also found Eddie to be deeply uninteresting and dreaded his two chapters coming up. Coralie was a better character and there were some snippets of Coney Island history which had the potential to be interesting, but overall, I would avoid this one unfortunately.
Hmm seems like missing women is a bit of a theme in my recent reads! What have you been reading recently? Please leave me some recommendations.