October has been a good month on the old reading front. I read seven books – pretty good going I would say. A mixed bag but a few gems. Here are some speedy review for your enjoyment.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Hmm, might be controversial, but I didn’t love it. It felt like a very sanitised account of life in 1960’s Mississippi. I’ve not seen the film yet but I might use it for a “I Read the F*#@ing Books” post so expect a fuller review at some point. Needless to say, it didn’t live up to the hype for me.
The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale
This is a historical fiction set in 1752, London, where young Agnes Trussel has ran away from her rural home hiding an illegitimate pregnancy and having stolen from an elderly neighbour. She is taken in by a firework maker and she quickly shows skill in this area. However, she must keep her secrets hidden at all costs, no matter how impossible that may seem. This book was pretty average. I found it really slow so I struggled to get into it. Also, the characters are not terribly consistent. Agnes is frustratingly dim sometimes, but then very quick at learning in the firework workshop so it doesn’t really add up. I’m not a huge reader of this type of genre so I feel like others might take more from it than I did. It’s not terrible, it just didn’t light a spark for me.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
So this is another one of those books I read without realising it was just the start of a series. Sigh. 16-year-old Jacob loved his grandfather’s stories about a children’s home he lived in during the war with all kinds of “peculiar” children – the levitating girl, the invisible boy, the super strong, the fire conjurers – you name it. Jacob took the stories with a pinch of salt but when his grandfather dies in mysterious circumstances, something happens to Jacob to force his to confront his grandfather’s past and find out what really happened at that home.
The main hook of this book is that it is filled with real vintage photographs that are delightfully macabre or just plain odd. Due to this, I was expecting a bit of a gothic fiction, but this actually borders more on the sci-fi side of things. Think X-Men. I do read more YA than I probably should and for the most part it’s fine, this though is young-YA. Kind of juvenile. Again, disappointing.
Asking for It by Louise O’Neill
A YA book that I really did like was this, the second novel from O’Neill. Emma is the queen bee of her school – smart, pretty, popular, she has it all going for her. Until one night at a party she gets completely wasted, waking up the following day with no recollection of the night. Soon though, her world cave in when she sees the photos online. Photos of her unconscious, being raped by multiple men – the same ones she thought were her friends.
This is described on the blurb, but the actual event doesn’t happen until around one third of the way into the book, so you get to know the characters pretty well beforehand. The genius move by O’Neill is that Emma is completely and utterly dreadful. She is far from the “perfect victim” mould. Instead, she’s a jealous, spiteful, insecure, arrogant, lying… for wont of a better word…bitch. She’s not even a good friend. She steals from her mates, she puts them down, she ignores their problems. BUT none of this matters when Emma goes through her ordeal. No one deserves that.
Although difficult to read, this book is great and so important in the issues that it raises about consent, victim blaming and rape culture. The kind of thing you read and then think “damn, every 14 year old should be made to read this”.
Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow
I never thought I would enjoy a free-verse novel (see above photo to understand what that is if you don’t know) but this was incredible. It’s about three werewolf packs in modern LA vying for power. Stuck in the middle is dog-catcher Anthony who is unknowingly in love with a wolf who’s pack has just imploded putting them all at risk.
This is an achingly cool book. The poetic form does not restrict the plot at all, it’s quick and to the point. The wolves world is brutal, hierarchical and violent but at the heart of the book is the romance between Anthony and the unnamed wolf which is drawn with real tenderness. Definitely take a chance on this one, even if you don’t think you would get on with a verse novel.
The Small Hand by Susan Hill
Susan Hill is one of the most well-known ghost story writers in the UK so I thought this beautiful little book would be a perfect Halloween read. It’s the story of Adam Snow, an antique book dealer who stumble across an abandoned house on his way to a client. He is inexplicably drawn to the house and as he explores it he feels a small child’s hand gripping his, although he is completely alone. He finds himself unable to shake the memory of this, missing the child’s hand until the presence returns, and this time doesn’t seem to be as friendly.
As you can expect, this is a really spooky, enjoyable read. The mystery surrounding the small hand is intriguing and the reveal is satisfying.
A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood
Finally, another scary read. Following the death of her soldier husband, Cass moves her young child Ben to a small rural village she knew when she was little thinking the sense of community would be exactly what they need. Although Ben settles in quickly, Cass can’t help but feel that there is something off about the place. Some of the locals aren’t as friendly as she hoped and some… well some a little too friendly. As a snow storm cuts the village off from the rest of the world she starts to lose control of her life and Ben and she must get to the bottom of what is going on before she loses them both for good.
At times, this was genuinely scary! I would liken it to The Omen meets Rosemary’s Baby. I was disappointed by the ending, but the lead up to it makes up for it so I would still recommend this.
What have you read recently? Please leave me any recommendations in the comments, I’m always looking to add to my TBR pile.