My reading for 2019 so far has been incredible and the past couple of months have possibly been some of the best ever. In March and April combined I read 19 books, most of which received at least four stars. Maybe I’m too generous with my ratings, maybe I’m just good at choosing my books. However, unless there are bigger issues affecting my enjoyment, I’ll probably give a high rating. Just give me solid character development and an engrossing story and I’ll be happy. Reading is simply a joy.
The weather has been gorgeous these last couple of weeks. To make the most of it, I’ve been reading while soaking up the sun instead of wasting away hours watching TV. It’s incredible how much time you can dedicate towards reading or other hobbies simply by reducing screen time!
I discovered a few new favourites over the two Spring months and I’m also now halfway through my Goodreads goal which I’m pretty chuffed about. What’s more, I’m still reaching for a diversity of genres; the past couple of months saw everything from dark historical fantasy to a witty memoir. To keep this post from being pages of reviews long, I’ve condensed my initial reviews into smaller chunks. So, without further ado, here’s my March and April reading wrap-up!
Breath-taking. This is the most impressive, hard-hitting debut I have ever read. I’m not exaggerating when I say I could not put this book down.
Don’t you just love discovering one of those books that pull you in from the get-go? After just a few chapters I knew I’d fall in love with the entire cast of characters and was sat on the edge of my seat through every tense moment of it. A quick warning: this is a dark, brutal, gruesome and occasionally uncomfortable book. It’s a dark adult fantasy through and through. There are scenes which explore the corruption of power, the lust for vengeance and the darkest depths of humanity. What’s more, it paints a portrait of racial atrocities, drug dependence, sexism, rape and genocide. Just be prepared.
The change the protagonist, Rin undergoes is remarkable. She’s determined to prove herself as more than a teenage war orphan with adoptive parents who deal opium for a living. Nothing is handed to her on a plate and she works damn hard to proceed in Sinegard and then beyond. This was one of the most well-written developments of a heroine or any character in that case I’ve ever read.
I’m so excited about this series and I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the trilogy. It’s a perfect blend of fantasy, literature, history, and culture and I couldn’t recommend it more.
This was a charming, imaginative love story about two 20-somethings strapped for cash in London, navigating the demands of a job, rent and relationships, who meet under the most peculiar of arrangements. The Flatshare features likeable characters, publishing industry jokes, and a touching exploration of the impact of emotionally abusive relationships. O’Leary’s writing was so charismatic and readable that I risked a car nearly knocking me over when attempting the art of reading-while-walking. It was worth it.
This British rom-com was such a joy to read and is the perfect book to get cosy with. You can find the full review on my blog here!
The Great Alone follows the life of the Allbrights, a family of three who arrive in the harsh wilderness of 1970s Alaska in hope of a fresh start. They must work laboriously night and day to survive the extreme Alaskan winter, but we soon learn that for 13-year-old Leni and her mother, Cora, there are dangers far closer to home.
This survival story is an emotional family saga about courage, the power of love and friendship, and an unshakable bond between parent and child. Racing through the pages, my mind was running with all sorts of emotions. The Great Alone is at once a thought-provoking and captivating read with charming characters who contribute to Leni’s improbable survival and salvation. It was heart-breaking while also full of such love and kindness, ending on a satisfying bittersweet note which I know I’ll still be thinking about for years to come.
Elizabeth Letts re-imagines the magical story behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. We emerge into the hustle and bustle of the 1930’s Hollywood film set where a young Judy Garland is badgered and pressured by the production team and her mother. With alternating timelines, the narrative switches to the late 1800s. We follow Maud’s upbringing as the rebellious daughter of a leading suffragette, and the prairie years of her and Frank’s early days when they lived among the people who would inspire his masterpiece.
Letts has created a beautiful tribute to the man behind Oz, the man who invented a wonderland where children can escape to. This novel is sprinkled with fascinating stories and insights into the lives of the Baum family and those on the set of the iconic film. I know the magic of its pages will stay with me long after having read this. You can read the full review on my blog here.
This novel left me baffled, speechless and, at times, disgusted. Atwood has created a clever piece of fiction which I know I’ll be thinking about for a long time.
Oryx and Crake imagines an imminent future ravaged by scientific innovations, from genetically altered pigs with human DNA to headless, legless chickens which make fast-food more ‘efficient.’ The story follows Snowman (formerly Jimmy), who, in the wake of a viral global apocalypse, is, as far as he knows, the only human being who has survived. His only companions are the Crakers, a genetically modified group of humanoids who are physically flawless and creations of Jimmy’s old, half-mad scientist friend Crake. Through Snowman’s recollections, we learn of how this ecological disaster came to pass.
I’m both petrified and amazed by the limitless extent of Atwood’s imagination. Her vision of the future is mournful, bleak and infernal. How does she render this world more terrifying? It’s plausible. As with all dystopian literature, Atwood has portrayed a bad dream of our present time, and she does it well.
How have I only just read this novel? Pullman’s extraordinary storytelling swept me away to a fascinating world so similar yet so different to our own. The plot takes some unexpected directions; what starts as a simple rescue missions stems out into a story exploring powers of science and religion. Now I’m just left wanting a daemon to have my own unbreakable bond with and I’m itching to learn what lies beyond the mysterious northern lights. That cliffhanger!
This is a story about not one, but a married power couple of serial killers. The entirety of the story unfolds through the husband’s eyes, your everyday family man. I found that I was stuck at a crossroads while experiencing the story from the serial killer’s perspective, between both being repulsed and routing for him. This was a fast, addictive psychological thriller that will keep you turning the pages.
The full review is on my blog here.
Although described as a great love story, one word which better encapsulates the entire essence of this Brontë classic is passion. What we have is an exploration of the results of passionate, destructive love and the vengeance, betrayal and jealousy that comes with it. There is no pleasure of a happily ever after ending. The raw emotions are palpable, the writing it meticulous, the setting is symbolic of the wild, unconventional nature of these individuals. Every character in Wuthering Heights is dreadful. And yet, I wouldn’t change a thing.
This is a beautiful, heart-wrenching story about a teenager who spends her summer in idyllic Hawaii struggling to navigate the loss of her sister, her mother abandoning her, and the absence of music in her life. This was a tear-jerking, hard-hitting, but ultimately, awe-inspiring read which highlights the importance of seeking help and letting others in.
This was my first Schwab novel, and who wouldn’t be intrigued by the idea of 4 Londons having their own unique characteristics in a world full of dark magic? These four worlds are complex – the contrasting manners in which civilians live, the diverse, illustrious magic system, the languages, the Royals – and Schwab writes with such skill that she made the book come alive. I can’t wait to see what she does next with this magically complex world.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows (291 pages) ★★★★
I know the epistolary format of the novel isn’t for everyone, but I thought the various letters and exchanges in this book were so compelling. Following Juliet’s footsteps, I too want to set sail for Guernsey and be a part of their charming Literary Society. This is a true love letter to literature and despite the predictable and abrupt ending, this was a charming, sweet, easy read.
Rebecca is a tale of romantic suspense in which the newlywed Mrs de Winter realises that she has become the shadow of her husband’s late wife – the beautiful Rebecca – in their eerie home, Manderley. Du Maurier’s writing was faultless and after the intricate scene setting, there is an abundance of twists and turns. Although Rebecca is dead, her presence lingers making this a truly atmospheric Gothic novel. For a classic, I found this so readable and spent hours lost to du Maurier’s unnerving storytelling.
I don’t often read books about sports, never mind a fictional one. So, it’s safe to say I was a little lost at times. There’s a huge cast of complex characters, each with their own hidden motives and backstories. We watch the bunch of misfits get drunk, take drunk and cause mayhem and I’m intrigued to learn more about the roots of certain relationships and watch some secrets unveil. The plot wasn’t anything to write home about. Nonetheless, I feel as if this short first book is a gateway to a series with strong potential.
This is unlike anything else I have ever read, and I loved every minute of it. The eponymous Lanny is a child who is all imagination and his eccentricities are what conjure a mysterious ancient spirit called Dead Papa Toothwort. This figment of village lore acts as our guide while we listen to snatches of talk that curl in italics across the page. From dog walks to mini breaks, from Jenny’s lasagne to Peggy’s street gossip. Toothwort savours each of these snippets of residents’ lives and feeds off them. However, their preoccupations don’t excite Toothwort. His favourite taste is Lanny’s voice. He sees him as a kindred spirit.
Porter has interwoven folklore with the 21st century, mixed magic with the mundane and ultimately created a beautifully written tale which showcases incredible imagination.
The experiences Westover describes over the course of her upbringing are horrific and the mental and physical abuse she endured was difficult to listen to. However, her passion for education radiates in this memoir. From working in a junkyard to becoming Dr Tara Westover, her determination is incredible. Her writing style was also so eloquent that it read like fiction. She clearly has a talent for storytelling and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy every book she writes if she were to move onto fiction. Although this was at times bleak and sad, Educated is an incredibly inspiring and uplifting memoir.
Although I already adored Dolly from listening to her podcasts, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to connect with her. I’m just now embarking on the journey into my twenties, I never went to boarding school and my love life isn’t exactly anything to write home about. However, this was such a heart-warming memoir so full of hope which had me both laughing out loud and tearing up. This is a beautiful love-letter to female friendship and the importance of self-love.
Italian food, evening strolls on the beach, soaking up the sun by the pool, it sounds like a dream. Elio embellishes his musings with beautiful, sometimes pretentious prose. However, beyond the writing and inspiring ideas, it didn’t work for me. I love books with strong character development and solid storytelling, but this lacked both.
Unfortunately, this book’s narration felt distant and cold and I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. I didn’t once feel immersed in Stella’s word, and rather, I felt like I was merely reading a long string of wretched events. What’s more, the darkness of the storyline was relentless. Yes, this is set in War-time Italy, but there wasn’t even a hint of happiness. Eventually, I was simply skimming the pages.
This was a relatively easy read, yet I eventually lost interest. While Part 1 featured various character perspectives and intrigue, the latter parts were less introspective. The lengthy bleak descriptions dovetail the novel into a generic wartime story and the former captivating prose woven throughout was nowhere to be seen. The descriptions lend well to the scene setting, however, the characters were devoid of any unique personality.
Have you read any of these books? What are you planning on reading in May?
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Thanks for reading!
*Sent for free via Netgalley