The ending of the Show Us Your Books link up meant I completely forgot to review the books I read in June. Luckily there were only two – followed by five in July – so I can just shove two months into one post.
The Hidden Cottage by Erica James. Mia Channing seems to have the perfect life. A beautiful home, a happy marriage, a job she loves and three grown-up children to whom she’s devoted. But appearances can be deceptive. When the family gathers for her son’s 30th birthday, he brings with him his latest girlfriend who, they are surprised to learn, has a nine-year-old daughter. Then, before the birthday cake has even been cut, Mia’s youngest daughter Daisy seizes the opportunity to drop a bombshell. It’s an evening that marks a turning point in all their lives, when old resentments and regrets surface and the carefully ordered world Mia has created begins to unravel. This was fine. Kind of predictable and the writing style annoyed me at times but it was a fairly easy read for its length. I loved nine-year-old Madison but found some of the other characters a bit underdeveloped. I think there were too many of them. 2.5 stars. Also, is it just me or does The Hidden Cottage sound like the title of a Famous Five book?
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood. For Susan Green, messy emotions simply don’t fit into the equation of her perfectly ordered life. She is in complete control at all times, with a flat that is ideal for one, a job that suits her passion for logic, and an “interpersonal arrangement” that provides cultural and other, more intimate, benefits. But suddenly confronted with the loss of her mother and the news that she is about to become a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is realised. She is losing control. When she learns that her mother’s will inexplicably favours her immature and irresponsible brother, Edward, Susan is determined that she must do something about it. But as her due date draws near and her family problems become increasingly difficult to ignore, Susan finds help and self-discovery in the most unlikely of places. I actually kind of liked the story in this book and wanted to know what happened at the end, but the main character completely ruined it for me. I assume she’s supposed to be a damaged person who struggles to connect with “normal” people a la Eleanor Oliphant but actually she’s insufferable and honestly just plain mean. Unlike Eleanor it felt like she knew perfectly well she was being mean no matter how much she tried to pass it off as being direct/honest. The romance is ridiculous – it goes from barely even friends to “I’m totally in love with you and want to help you raise your baby” in about 2 pages. I actually liked Rob as a character, just the romance made no sense! 2.5 stars.
So, that was June. A slightly disappointing month… And zero out of two books were by BIPOC/BAME authors. On to July…
Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins. When the eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford College Master vanishes in the middle of the night, police turn to the Scottish nanny, Dee, for answers. As Dee looks back over her time in the Master’s Lodging – an eerie and ancient house – a picture of a high achieving but dysfunctional family emerges: Nick, the fiercely intelligent and powerful father; his beautiful Danish wife Mariah, pregnant with their child; and the lost little girl, Felicity, almost mute, seeing ghosts, still grieving her dead mother. But is Dee telling the whole story? Is her growing friendship with the eccentric house historian, Linklater, any cause for concern? And most of all, why was Felicity silent? Some things didn’t make sense and I found the ending predictable but overall I really enjoyed this book. It’s very suspenseful. I especially liked the character of Linklater and the descriptions of Oxford’s old cemeteries. 4 stars.
Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. Do I really need to write a synopsis for this one? Does anyone not know what it is? Allie Brosh’s second graphic novel in which she again tells stores from her own life including tales from her childhood, the adventures of her very bad animals and merciless dissection of her own character flaws. She also talks about the awful experiences that resulted in this book being delayed for so long. I found parts of the book hilarious – especially the stories about her childhood – while others were heart breaking. It seems so unfair that so many bad things have happened to one person while others seem to live a completely charmed life. Not all the stories resonated with me and I didn’t love it as much as Hyperbole and a Half but I still really, really liked it. 4 stars.
City of the Lost by Kelly Armstong (Rockton #1). Casey Duncan is a homicide detective with a secret: when she was in college, she killed a man. She was never caught, but he was the grandson of a mobster and she knows that someday her crime will catch up to her. Casey’s best friend, Diana, is on the run from a violent, abusive ex-husband. When Diana’s husband finds her, and Casey herself is attacked shortly after, Casey knows it’s time for the two of them to disappear again. Diana has heard of a town especially for people like her, a town that takes in people on the run who want to shed their old lives. You must apply to live in Rockton, and if you’re accepted it means walking away from your old life entirely, and living off the grid in the wilds of Canada. No cell phones, no Internet, no mail, no computers, very little electricity, and no way of getting in or out without the town council’s approval. As a murderer, Casey isn’t a good candidate, but she has something they want: She’s a homicide detective, and Rockton has just had its first real murder. She and Diana are in. However, soon after arriving, Casey realises that the identity of a murderer isn’t the only secret Rockton is hiding… and she starts to wonder if she and Diana might actually be in even more danger in Rockton than they were in their old lives. This is a very different kind of police procedural – the setting alone changes things and makes for a very suspenseful atmosphere. And there were at least two twists that I was not expecting. I will definitely be continuing this series. 4 stars.
The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa. Rintaro Natsuki loves Natsuki Books, his grandfather’s tiny second-hand bookshop on the edge of town. It’s the perfect refuge for a teenage boy who tends to be somewhat of a recluse. When his grandfather dies suddenly, Rintaro is left devastated and alone. It seems he will have to close the shop. Then, a talking tabby cat called Tiger appears and asks Rintaro for help. The cat needs a book lover to embark on three magical adventures to save books from people have imprisoned, mistreated and betrayed them. Finally, there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt alone… This is definitely one for book lovers! It’s very quotable and reads almost like a love letter to the power of books/reading. It’s utterly bizarre in the way only Japanese fiction can be and I feel like I didn’t understand all of it but I did enjoy it. It’s also a very quick read – I finished the entire thing in one day, during two of my daughter’s naps. 4 stars,
The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross (The Laundry Files #1). Bob Howard is a low-level techie working for a super-secret government agency. While his colleagues are out saving the world, Bob’s under a desk restoring lost data. His world was dull and safe – but then he went and got Noticed. Now, Bob is up to his neck in spycraft, parallel universes, dimension-hopping terrorists, monstrous elder gods and the end of the world. Only one thing is certain: it will take more than a full system reboot to sort this mess out… This book is based on the premise that “magic” and parallel universes, demons, etc. exist in our world, but it’s not actually magic… it’s all based on maths and computing. I did actually mostly enjoy the storyk, but the unfortunately the maths parts went completely over my head, which meant it took me ages to finish and spoiled it a bit for me. I would never have bought this book (it was a gift years ago) and don’t intend to continue the series, but it’s not actually bad. Just really not right for me! 3 stars.
In July I read 5 books, one of which was by a BAME/BIPOC author.
We’re now over a week into August and I’ve yet to finish a single book, so we’ll see whether it’s even necessary for me to try and remember to post next month! In the meantime let me know if you’ve read anything good recently.