Book Reviews: May

books may june
I’ve been going a little bit more quickly with books recently, so decided to do a monthly update rather than two monthly this time round. It’s funny how things like that work – a few months ago, I only read a couple of books in a month (and got behind on my Goodreads challenge!), but this month I’ve been reading loads and am nearly caught up on it again. Sometimes you just get a bit stuck on a book, and since I don’t like to not finish a book, it can take me a few more days than usual to get through it. In the past I would have put a book down and left it if I wasn’t getting on with it, but now for some reason I try to power through and finish it, even if it’s one I don’t like at all. I often find that the ending causes me to change my mind about a book a bit and like it a bit more if so. I’m also including links to where you can buy these books on Amazon this month – in the interests of transparency, these are affiliate links, but I thought it might be useful. Some will not yet be available as they are advance copies provided by Net Galley. But on with this month’s reviews!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – 7/10 (Kindle version)

I read this book when I was school, but didn’t particularly take much interest in it then. It wasn’t then a period in history that I was particularly bothered about and though I successfully answered exam questions and wrote essays on it, it didn’t make a big impression. When the film came out, I kind of wanted to see it to see what all the fuss was about, but didn’t bother, so when I saw it was one on our plane to Florida, I decided to give it a go. I actually watched it in two parts, half on the way to Florida, half on the way back, but I really enjoyed it – it was eclectic, interesting and made more of an impression on me, so I thought I’d give the book another go. And after seeing the film, I found it really made a difference and I enjoyed reading it this time. The first time round, I think I was about 15 when I read it and seemed to mix up a few characters, but it made a lot more sense now.

Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little – 9/10

This was the first book I’ve really enjoyed reading in a while. Jane Jenkins, an “It Girl” accused of murdering her mother, is let out of prison after the discovery that the evidence against her was flawed, but this doesn’t stop the masses hating her. As soon as she’s released, she changes everything about her appearance and disappears to find out what really happened to her mother and whether it really was her that killed her. She heads off to small town Adelaide, following a very precarious lead from something she only just remembers, but it seems that she’s heading in the right direction, and of course, as happens in all these books, the mystery only deepens from there. I came across this book on Net Galley and read that it had comparisons to Gillian Flynn (whose books Gone Girl and Dark Places I reviewed here and Sharp Objects here), so seeing as she’s one of my current favourite authors, I couldn’t say no. I agree that there are comparisons to be made in the books, but it’s definitely not a copy at all and is a fantastic story in its own right – the tone and protagonist strongly reminded me of Sharp Objects especially, which I would say I preferred to Dark Places but am in the minority there! All in all, a brilliant read that I would definitely recommend – it had all my favourite elements and a strong female lead that you’re never sure whether to trust. I’m looking forward to reading more from the author in future. The book is not yet available to buy as it was an advance copy via Net Galley, but will be published on the 14th August in the UK, and the 31st July in the US (I believe); the link on the book will allow you to pre-order it.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North – 6.5/10 (Kindle version)

The synopsis of this book reminded me a little bit of a couple of others I’ve read recently (Life After Life and Then And Always, both reviewed here), where lives are repeated, but was slightly different again. In this one, Harry August is born into the same life time and time again, but is aware of this and knows there are others too, then in his eleventh life, a little girl appears, one of his kind, and tells him that the world is ending and he has to help to fix it. It took a long time for the book to actually reach this point, despite it being mentioned right at the start. We go through several lives with Harry where he makes different decisions and does different things each time. To be honest, it did drag a little bit for me, and actually in places strangely reminded me of The Hundred Year Old Man Who Jumped Out a Window and Disappeared – I think the comparison was mostly with parts of history that I didn’t know much about and wasn’t particularly interested in. Once the story picked up though, it was interesting and moved more quickly, but this wasn’t until around 30% or so. It did have a good ending that left me thinking, but I did have issues with this book that were those sort of “time travel” paradoxes that really can’t be solved and made me frustrated at points, but that’s more to do with my brain not getting on with the subject than the book itself! Looking at reviews, I seem to be in the minority in not raving about this book, but I think the problem was that I found Harry to be a fairly disinteresting character in general, perhaps because he forms very few meaningful relationships throughout most of the book, but then again, I suppose you probably couldn’t do that when you know that life will end and you’ll just start it all over again, so not exactly a flaw with the book, but it explains why I didn’t connect with it as well as others did perhaps.

Tease by Amanda Maciel – 7.5/10 (Kindle version)

Another Net Galley read, I wanted to go for something quite easy to get through and read, and when I feel like that, I turn to YA books. This one didn’t sound a terribly light subject but an interesting premise, being about a girl who has been bullied to the point of suicide but coming across from the perspective of the girl, Sara, who bullied her. Sara is on trial, meeting a lawyer and therapist as well as having to go to summer school because of the time she has missed as well as being hounded by the media for what she has done. But the problem is that she doesn’t see that she has done anything wrong. It was really intriguing because you see the other side of the story and can actually understand how she doesn’t feel she has caused this, but looking objectively at the things she says and does, you can. I could actually go on forever about this, because the way that she acts is so typical of teenagers at high school in my eyes – what they say doesn’t seem wrong because “everyone is doing it”, but in the end, of course it is wrong. There was a lot of “slut-shaming” going on in the book which I found really horrible – it’s a thing that I’ve seen a lot of at schools (where I went, where I taught, in films etc.), and to quote from Mean Girls, it makes it okay for guys to say it. I have younger relatives and friends of the family who I know will have to go through this stage at school, and it’s really terrifying – I don’t know how people come out the other side of it unscathed! I think this is a great addition to the literature of the subject of bullying, coming from the other side and showing just how easy it is for what you say or do to affect someone. I want to recommend it for younger readers, probably teenagers 14+, but I’m hoping the subject matter wouldn’t be too much for them (to be honest, with what they say on Facebook to each other nowadays, I honestly don’t think it would be!), but there is some slightly explicit content occasionally and the subject of suicide is not one to be taken lightly either.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey – 8.5/10 (Kindle version)

This was another book that I really enjoyed reading this month and came from Net Galley. It’s hard to describe without ruining some of the plot, and I actually had it ruined for me by reading the reviews, so if you do happen to come across one of those, don’t be swayed by what you read because the subject may put you off, but it’s not like that at all (cryptic, I know, but it is really good and not what you expect!). It’s another dystopian near future book that I love so much, but I can’t say a lot more. Melanie is a little girl in a situation different to anything we know. In the opening chapters she describes her life inside her cell with no windows and only a locked door where every morning she is strapped to a chair with restraints, wheeled to a classroom where she spends the day learning from variously skilled (good to bad) teachers, then wheeled back again, and given a chemical shower only at the weekends. This is the only life she knows, and she loves learning about the world around her, but knows nothing of it aside from what she is told in these lessons. Her favourite teacher is Miss Justineau who seems to care more about the children than any of the others and actually makes the lessons fun. Of course, there must be something more to it, and that is revealed shortly afterwards (but would give everything away!). She does leave this imprisoned world and goes into a world that is nothing like we know it any more. It really makes you think at the end of this book – who are really the monsters in this situation? I’d definitely recommend it if you like anything dystopian, sci-fi, fantasty, and if you highlight the following white area (there are spoilers, so don’t highlight if you don’t want to know!): zombies, but not as we expect or know them. But a very good read overall, and a pretty good month for books (although this one was technically read in June!).

1 Comment

  1. May 22, 2015 / 3:56 pm

    How funny I was the same with Great Gatsby, read it at school and didn’t really care for it but have read it since and really appreciated it a lot more

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