Recent Reads

I love reading other people’s book reviews, especially when I’m considering how to spend my precious Audible credit every month. The thing is, I’m just fairly slow at getting through books myself so I never seem to have enough for a post of my own. So I’ve been saving up the books I’ve read for the past couple of months, and here they are. I can finally join up with Steph and Jana‘s Show Us Your Books linkup!
So here are the books I’ve read recently(ish). Those I’ve listened to will be marked (audio). Hopefully fairly self explanatory. Right! Let’s do this.

August’s Recent Reads

Because I am a Girl
14
Beach Music
Easterleigh Hall at War
Easterleigh Hall
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden
The Last Summer
Pictures of Lily




Share book reviews and ratings with Rachel, and even join a book club on Goodreads.


The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden, Jonas Jonasson *** ¦¦ This is a follow up piece from an author who wrote The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, which I’m told was excellent (I haven’t read it yet). The story is about a girl who was born in the slums of Soweto and ends up in possession of a nuclear bomb in Sweden, and how she tries to bring this to the attention of the authorities without getting into trouble. It’s such a convoluted narrative that I can’t really describe it here, but in essence it’s a carefully crafted tale which takes the ‘unlikely coincidence’ premise to the extreme. The fact that most of these coincidences are unfortunate can make things feel a little frustrating as you wait for the inevitable conclusion to arrive, eventually. The style of writing is a very dry humour which is fun to read, but can grate after a while. I think this book would have been excellent had it been a good deal shorter.

Because I am a Girl, Tim Butcher ** ¦¦ This is an anthology of pieces written by seven writers in order to fundraise and promote the work of Plan, a charity which seeks to protect children’s, and particularly girls’, rights globally. Good premise, strangely executed. It’s a difficult collection of writing to read, dealing with all sorts of distressing subjects like sexual abuse and FGM, but takes a strange turn halfway through where one of the pieces is heavily critical of the work Plan does. It’s a strange choice for inclusion, but the following piece is an even stranger rebuttal from Plan themselves. It feels like a slanging match has been published, which is uncomfortable, and an odd way to promote your charity. Anyway, I was left feeling upset by some of these stories, but with no clear idea of what I could do to help. The obvious answer would be to donate to Plan, except for the fact that the effectiveness of Plan being called into question makes me slightly reluctant to do so. Not sure about this one.
Beach Music, Pat Conroy *** (audio) ¦ This 592 page epic (aka nearly 27 hours of spoken word… eesh) is, I’m told, a classic of American writing. I did enjoy it, and I can see how the sweeping story is evocative and it truly is a world you can feel immersed in. By the end, I felt like I knew the characters really well and I liked how all the loose ends tied up neatly. This is a really good book, and it’s excellently written. It was just a bit much for me at that particular place and time. I think I’d have preferred to read this one, as I could get through it a bit quicker. 27 hours is a long time…
14, Peter Clines ***** (audio) ¦¦ I had no idea what to make of this from beginning to end. I think this was an Audible recommendation and I thought hey, why not. The story starts out low-key, with an average guy who rents an apartment in LA. Things quickly start getting interesting, as he notices strange things about his apartment and, in fact, his whole building. Then you gradually get to know his neighbours, who seem like a strange bunch. Mysteries abound, and I was gripped throughout. Things get stranger and stranger, and by the end it’s a rampant tale of absurdity that’s just brilliant. I’m glad I had no expectations of this because that made the end result even better. I highly recommend giving this a go – but be prepared to suspend disbelief the whole way through. Realistic, this ain’t.
Pictures of Lily, Paige Toon ** ¦¦ I think I got this free through Apple somehow, but it was sat on my phone for ages waiting for me to read it. When I found myself stuck somewhere with no reading material, I thought I’d give this a shot. It was fine. A harmless chick-lit tale, which I enjoyed, but mostly because it’s set in Australia – my spiritual home – and there are cute animals in it. This isn’t highbrow literature. But you know, sometimes that’s just what you need.
Easterleigh Hall, Margaret Graham **** (audio) ¦¦ I picked this as the premise sounded interesting, and I was after a lighter listen after the epic Beach Music and the bonkers 14. This turned out to be a really enjoyable, authentic and well researched story from the point of view of Evie, a girl from a mining family who enters domestic service just before the Great War. It charts the daily struggles of life in the kitchens of a grand British country estate, and how this changes due to the suffragette movement, the political climate, strikes and the economy. I mainly liked this because it incorporated a lot of contemporary history, which was done well (and accurately), and the central character of Evie was strong enough to invest in but flawed enough to be believable. People who aren’t familiar with Geordie accents or phrases may struggle a little with this one, but as I grew up watching Byker Grove I managed just fine.
Easterleigh Hall At War, Margaret Graham **** (audio) ¦¦ This book picks up from where the first left off, at the outbreak of the Great War. Once again it follows the lives of Evie and her family and friends as they navigate the changing times. This contained a lot of details about the war, life in the trenches, and what it was like for those left back at home. The house Evie works in is turned into a hospital for recovering troops, and there’s plenty of opportunity to illustrate the devastation wrought by the war. Again, I liked the sensible look at this period in time as well as the well-written characters. It’s almost as much a history book as it is a novel, which I really enjoyed. The only down side was I didn’t like what the author did with the character of Simon, which I felt was out of kilter with his portrayal in the first book. Also, there were some quite big time jumps in the narrative which was a bit bemusing at times, although generally well dealt with.
The Last Summer, Judith Kinghorn ** (audio) ¦¦ This book is beautifully written, very evocative, and is in the first person so can be utterly visceral at times. I so wanted to love this book, because I’d enjoyed Easterleigh Hall so much and this book is set at a similar time. The Last Summer is from the perspective of the other side of the green baize door, namely Clarissa, the daughter of the family who inhabit this particular grand country estate. It’s a classic star-crossed lovers story, with Clarissa falling in love at sixteen with an Unsuitable Boy. The book then follows them not-getting-together for the next sixteen years, meanwhile the war rages and the world is irreversibly changed. My issue with this book was with Clarissa herself. She was just so annoying and the choices she made so incomprehensible that I couldn’t get behind the book. If I can’t empathise or even understand the character and why they behave the way they do, I’m not going to enjoy the narrative, however well written. I logged onto Goodreads to find out if anyone else found her as odorous as I did, and found this review. It sums up exactly how I feel about this book so to save repetition, I’ll refer you there and add a hearty amen.

Speaking of Goodreads, does anyone want to be friends?? If so, you can find and add me here. I currently have 4 whole friends, which is nothing if not a little tragic. I need some more people to pinch book ideas from!

And that’s it for August. Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

-Rachel

Life According to Steph

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15 Comments

  1. 10th August 2015 / 22:01

    oh, the cover for the last summer looks so good! what a bummer the book did not live up to the cover.
    i read the 100 year old man book and honestly the style sounds very similar. i was not a fan of it lol so i won’t be checking that one out.

    • 10th August 2015 / 22:56

      I know! And oddly similar to the Easterleigh Hall ones too. I so wished I could have loved it because it was written so well, but the main character… Just no. I’d recommend the Easterleigh Hall ones though!
      I think the styles of the 100 year old man and the Swedish king ones are very similar, from what I’ve heard. A bit of an acquired taste, I think!

  2. 11th August 2015 / 16:34

    Beach Music is one of my favorite books of all time. I cannot imagine it as an audio book. So much dialogue.

    • 12th August 2015 / 08:28

      Yes, there was a lot of dialogue! It was an excellent book, it was just too much as an audiobook. I think if I’d have read it, it would have been 5 stars. Funny how the medium affected my enjoyment so much.

    • 12th August 2015 / 08:30

      Yes it wasn’t the best as an audiobook. I mean, it was well read and everything, but it was just a lot to get through. Definitely better as a book, I feel.

  3. 11th August 2015 / 19:18

    The 100 Year Old Man bored me so much at so many points and the plot that you described from The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden sounds like he took a subplot from the 100 Year Old Man and turned it into a novel with a different character. That makes me irrationally angry.

    I’ve never read Beach Music. I’m reading a 700+ page behemoth right now and cannot imagine it as an audio book. That’s a lot of listening!

    • 12th August 2015 / 08:31

      I can see how that would make you angry. It’s put me right off reading the 100 Year Old Man too! I would really recommend Beach Music, but definitely as a real book. Don’t go for the audiobook if you ever want to do anything with your life ever again.

  4. 11th August 2015 / 22:17

    14 sounds amazing in a strange way! Love strangeness. I liked The 100 Year Old Man since
    it was like a long Seinfeld episode with events connecting with one another. However, I started The Room by him and don’t like it. Maybe his other books are just too weird.

    • 12th August 2015 / 08:34

      It really was amazing! It had me hooked, and also going “huh?!?” at regular intervals. But in a good way. The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden was definitely clever, but it just all went on for far too long and I got cross with it by the end. I didn’t even enjoy the final denouement because I was so fed up!

  5. 12th August 2015 / 01:03

    Whew! The audiobook for Beach Music sounds like a doozy! It’s a book I’ve always meant to read it, so I’ll probably check out the book instead.

    • 12th August 2015 / 08:34

      It really was! Yes I’d highly recommend going for the book over the audiobook. I think the book would be an excellent read, and maybe one day I’ll go back and do it justice. But 27 hours of anything is just too much!

  6. 12th August 2015 / 02:00

    The Peter Clines book sounds really interesting; unrealistic is usually not my style, but it still sounds interesting.

    • 12th August 2015 / 08:35

      It was great, I’d really recommend it. It just kept getting stranger and stranger and when you think ok, this is the final strange bit, it just takes off into another universe. Brilliant, as long as you expect the unexpected!

  7. 16th August 2015 / 23:52

    14 sounds really intriguing, interested in the suspending belief though.

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