Monday, 4 January 2016

Recent Reads #5

The end of term was approaching. The threat of essays was looming. My train journeys were subsumed by academic articles: urban mayors, gentrification, why DO we treat objects as people...

But then I got a Kindle, and my whole life changed. My bookshelf, full of importable hardbacks, was replaced by a 6" screen device, full of 99p books, ready to read to my heart's content. So that's exactly what I've been doing, and I'm on a winning streak with some unexpectedly wonderful books. 

Can You Have It All? - Nicola Horlick
Ok, so I actually read this pre-Kindle - but it was one of the most compelling, un-put-down-able books I've ever read. Given to me by my Nan, as a story of someone's life who was turned upside down, just as mine was, by a relative being diagnosed with necrotising fascitis, it was overwhelmingly relatable in a very chilling way. One woman's tale, woven with stories of her marriage, family and career, which asks the important question: "can you have it all?" - is the marriage ever perfect? What do you do when your child faces life-threatening disease? Can you manage your high-powered career alongside a challenging family life? It's a distressing, empowering and honest read - written like a novel, but made even more powerful by the realisation that this is a real woman living a real life. I found the journey through her life exhausting, physically and mentally, and I was only sat reading about it on the train. If there's one book to make you appreciate your own life and the people in it, it's this one. 
4.5 / 5

The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion 
I was a bit late to the party with this one, after having had it recommended to me by lots of people over several years. But I finally got round to it, and I'm glad I did. The Rosie Project tells the story of one man's quest for a wife using a formulaic questionnaire; but it takes a very different turn when Don, our protagonist, meets Rosie - everything he is not looking for in a woman - and helps her with a very different project. It's a tale of love, tenacity and science, blended into a light-hearted and lovable concoction. The only thing I really struggled with was that the novel's set in Australia, but nothing about it felt Australian to me - I couldn't help but imagine the companions working in a London university, walking down the streets of Fitzrovia, and hitting up bars in Soho. Otherwise, Simsion creates interesting, unusual characters who carry us into and a through a fast-paced, well developed plot. An ideal train or beach read. 
4 / 5

Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes - Denise Grover Swank
I downloaded this book on a whim, on a Kindle free book, '12 days of Christmas' whim. It's nice to read a book without any preconceptions sometimes, and that's exactly what this was. Whilst uncertain about it at first, I fairly quickly became absorbed by Rose's life: her visions, her abusive mother and her strange upbringing. Something about it felt almost post-apocalyptic, but I think that's just the disjointedness associated with reading about someone's life which is so distanced from 'normality'. The author does a brilliant job of writing what is, essentially, a crime novel without making it too gory, too jumpy and with a plot not entirely focused around the police force. Rose is a clever character who I took an instant liking to: naïve and perceptive at the same time...and ambitious, writing a list of twenty-eight and a half wishes to complete before she dies. Little does she know that she's being watched, hunted and she might have to achieve her wishes a little more quickly than she'd anticipated, fighting baddies on the way. I loved the fast-moving plot, and a mystery which kept me gripped and constantly changing my mind about what I thought would happen at the end. Full of twists and turns, likeable yet unsettling characters, and well-written. An excellent mystery. 
4.5 / 5


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