July Reflections

They say better late than never and hopefully that’s true. I’ve being meaning to sit down and share my thoughts with you on the wonderful books that I read in July and yet I keep getting side-tracked by a book that I’m currently reading and can’t put down. But enough of that for now, firstly it’s time to re-cap on July’s reading.

I began the month by reading Every Last One by Anna Quindlen, a book that on it’s on I did love, however pitted against the other brilliant books that I read in July somehow became overshadowed and paled in comparison. Every Last One, the story of a mother whose world becomes shattered and turned upside down when her family is hit by tragedy, is a compelling and intriguing story. Whilst it may not have been the best book that I read in July it is certainly worth a read.

Next up I chose a darker and more gothic novel in the form of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. I first discovered Waters at the end of the year but I quickly fell in love with her writing style and talent for story telling. The Little Stranger was no disappointment, gripping from the first page, I couldn’t put this novel down. From the haunted feel of Hundred’s Hall to the complex decline of its residents. This is an intelligent and entertaining novel that you wont easily forget.

From ghosts to fantasy the next book I chose to read was Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. I chose this book for my book group in July and didn’t regret my choice. Whilst not everyone loved the book most did and I was happy to find a group of people with whom I could pick apart this rich and complex work. Northern Lights still ranks as one of my all time favourite books and for anyone put off by the fact that the book was originally a children’s story, fear not this book has just as much to offer an adult audience.

After immersing myself in so much fiction I decided to choose a more factual novel for my next book. This came in the form of Born To Run by Christopher Mcdougall and although I’m yet to share my thoughts on this book it’s enough to say that I was blown away by this story and was shocked to find myself so drawn into a story that essentially centres around running.

Lastly I began How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran. I’m currently only half way through this book but Moran gives you so much to think about and muse over that I don’t want to rush a moment of it. Needless to say this is the book that has recently stole so much of my attention and had me up late into the night pouring over Moran’s witty and perceptive take on life and women. I can’t wait to share my thoughts with you when I’ve finished this book.

So that was July for me, ghosts, running, feminism, family tragedy and children’s fiction. It was certainly an eclectic month to say the least. As usual I don’t have any solid plans for August, other than reading Warm Bodies, a zombie novel, for my book group.

So what about everyone else? What have you all being reading this month? Anything amazing? And what do you have planned for August?

Advertisements

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

They say never judge a book by it’s cover and it’s true. Amidst the temptation to categorise one book as ‘trashy’ or another as a ‘literary classic’ lies the trap of either setting yourself up for serious disappointment, or missing out on a truly great book.

I nearly fell prey to my own hasty judgements when I disregarded ‘Every Last One’ last summer. It appeared on Richard and Judy’s summer list and I was quick to type cast it as chic lit, or a throwaway mystery. How wrong I was! Recently I decided to give the book ago and was pleasantly shocked to discover that my misconceptions were just that and I’d judged the book all wrong. 

On paper Mary Beth has it all, a loving husband, two twin sons and a vibrant and outgoing teenage daughter. But when cracks begin to appear in the fissure of her family life, Mary Beth feels the solid ground beneath her feet start to shake.

Her son Max has being acting strangely and even his siblings and teachers fear for his increasingly introverted behaviour. Side tracked by doing all she can to help Max, Mary Beth seems almost to miss the even stranger problems that have entered her daughters life. Ruby has just broke up with her first serious boyfriend, Kieran, and no matter what she does he can’t accept her decision, refusing to leave her alone.

Mary Beth is determined to protect and nurture those she loves, to do anything to make sure they don’t come to harm. But in a shocking and completely unpredictable twist midway through the book Quindlen turns Mary’s world upside down and proves that even the most earnest and fierce of loves is sometimes not enough.

I wont spoil the book for first time readers, but I truly was thrown by what occurred and couldn’t have predicted it. Perhaps this teamed with the emotional journey that Mary takes, might explain why I was so personally moved and touched by the novel.

We all tell ourselves, do we not, that if we love strongly enough we can protect our loved ones? If we pay enough attention and do all of the right things surely we will see harm when it comes? But what if like Mary you made a small mistake years ago, which inconsequential though it may seem, may in fact have set a chain reaction of tragic events?

This is certainly what Mary Beth must consider in the aftermath of her family tragedy. And yet despite the severity of what does occur this is no dramatic ‘firework show’ of a book. I had presumed that this was just another mystery novel, but how wrong I was.

Quindlen take a shocking event and masterfully entwine’s it with what is a very human story. There is something intimate in the way she allows us to slowly become a part of Mary Beth’s world and therefore a part of the terrible fate she suffers. And yet a feeling of optimism uplifts this book and we like Mary Beth learn never to give up hope even when there is only the faintest sense of it.

Mary Beth has lost everything, or has she? Maybe there is always something worth fighting for and we should never stop loving, never stop caring or protecting. By the end of the novel I, like Mary Beth could begin to see a light in the end of a dark tunnel and I admired the way Qunidlen had led me to really appreciate the true strength love.

I’d really recommend this book. It has that perfect balance between a plot that has you hooked and a message at its heart that stays with you. That was my first Quindlen book but wont be my last. Any recommendations please?

Richard and Judy’s Summer Reads – The Eight chosen Gems

I have to say that every year I feel slightly indebted to Richard and Judy for their wonderful summer book club and the brilliant recommendations it throws up. It’s a great source for reading material, my bookshelves have been a little heavier each year since.

So the announcement of this years 8 chosen titles for the summer reads 2011 was greeted with excitement for this blogger, and here they are;

When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman – I feel like I see and hear about this book everywhere at the moment. So it’s arrival on the R&J Summer read list is yet another sign that perhaps I really should read this book. I have to admit that until now I hadn’t even read up on the book so it’s content was a little mysterious to me. Why haven’t I at least read up on it? Well my TBR list is getting higher than me so I’m trying to restrain myself from adding too much. This book is clearly going to become even more topical though so I think it’s time to give it a go.  It certainly promises to be a thrilling read.

 

The Death Instinct by the wonderful Jed Rubenfeld is also on the list. I read his novel The interpretation of murder, also recommended by R&J years ago and loved the masterful plot line; I found it both compelling and ingeniously original. If it’s anything like an interpretation of murder then surely I’m in for a treat?

 

The Confessions of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn. I think this might have to be my first read from the R&J  Summer Reads collection, I can’t tell you how much it sounds like my idea of book perfection. 12-year-old Katherine goes to live in the duchess of Norfolk’s home and sparks fly, drama ensuing. Being a huge fan of books set in the past with grand homes packed full of secrets is my idea of book heaven. Fingers crossed this lives up to my now very high expectations.

The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons – I haven’t read too much about this book yet but reading up on it on Richard and Judy’s site I’m certainly interested. It’s a war book and I’ve read, like I’m sure all avid readers have, many of those. So I hope it’s an original and unique plotline as the synopsis certainly promises to be.

 

The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller – Another author new to me, and another book set around the time of the war. Well two years on but still the theme will be there. Reading a very interesting description of this book I must confess to be being highly interested. I think this will have to be my second book choice from this years 8. The book includes suicide, war poets and secrets unravelled; sounds to me like the ingredients for some perfect summer reading.

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly – The more I read about Richard and Judy’s selected summer reads the more I remember why I always love their recommendations so much. Another book promising secrets, mysteries and complex relationships. These are the elements of books I always devour so The Poison Tree looks like another book sure to enthrall.

The Summer Of The Bear by Bella Pollen – Is it just me or is the title of this book oddly intriguing? It is for me anyway, perhaps that’s because it doesn’t give very much away and sounds so very original? After a little investigative reading on this book I’m still very intrigued. Father Nicky Fleming passes away leaving behind a devastated family who must learn to survive without him. But with Nicky’s promise that he would always return, is he really gone for good? I got goose pimples just reading about it, lets hope the actual book has the same effect.

And lastly Every Last One by Anna Quindlen – I’ll be totally candid with you all and admit that off all the books on this years list this is probably the one I’m least excited about. That’s not to say that the plotline doesn’t intrigue. The book is a about a seemingly perfect family who appear to have it all, but then events occur and things fall apart and secrets promise to come out of the surface.  I’ll certainly be giving it ago but maybe not straight away…maybe I’ll totally kick myself for this later?

So there you go, that’s what Richard and Judy recommend and that’s my thoughts. So what about you? Have you read any of these titles? Do you intend too? Do any really grip you? What do you think of the Richard and Judy Summer reads? I’d love to hear your thoughts.