Sunday, 3 September 2017

Summer Reading

3rd September 2017

6 weeks off work was absolutely blissful; I started my first full time job a year ago and it was stressful to say the least. However, I made some amazing friends, learnt a lot about myself, and built up my confidence, which means I can look back at the last year with a smile and forget all the stress and strain that came with it.

When it came to the week before end of term, I began to think what I wanted to do with my summer holidays. Sure, I could have gone on holiday, travelled a bit, had a different adventure every day, which, don't get me wrong, sounds wonderful and is exactly what I'd love to have done. But I also wanted to relax and recharge my batteries ready for a new academic year.

I set myself a reading challenge on Goodreads to read 30 books by the end of the year. At the start of the summer holidays, I'd read 8 books. 8/30 is good, but considering I only had 6 months left of the year I knew I could do better. I own nearly 400 books and majority of them I have yet to read so I decided to make the most of my 6 weeks off and read.

These are the books I read:

  • How To Be A Woman 
  • The Rescue
  • Spellbook of the Lost and Found
  • The Couple Next Door
  • One of Us is Lying
  • Who Runs The World?
  • The Soldier's Wife/The Collaborator
  • The Kommandant's Girl
  • The Diplomat's Wife
  • Wives of War


How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

A lighthearted autobiography/rant by Caitlin Moran. This book had me in absolute stitches for so many reasons, but what really made me fall in love with this book is how accurate it was to questions I have/had or things I had/have been through. For me, there's nothing more calming or reassuring than someone saying they've been through what you have or they've thought / asked the same things as you because it shows you're not the only one. Moran deals with many questions us females may ask, and answers many of the questions about beauty expectations with two middle fingers and a curt f*** you. Moran highlights how ridiculous these beauty and societal expectations are and how we don't have to conform to them. A fantastic feminist book, and one I wish I'd read when I was younger.

The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks

I'm not much of a romantic but I do have a soft spot for Nicholas Sparks novels. I know what some of you are thinking: "oh all his books are the same!", well yes, you are right in the sense of it's about two people who fall in love and struggle through their relationship. But that's what love is. You do struggle, you do fight, you do question everything. It's a big decision to keep someone in your life, to allow yourself to become vulnerable enough for someone to get to know you. And the way Sparks writes the books makes the prospect of finding love just that little bit less frightening. The characters he's created are relatable, real, and, well, human. They make all the same mistakes and choices any other person would make under the circumstances, and they make the best out of bad situations. The plot is beautifully tragic, and having a child with learning difficulties as a main aspect of that plot highlights a taboo subject in society. I adored this book, and highly recommend it for any Nicholas Sparks fan.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Okay, I'm pretty sure this is a young adult fiction book, but it's brilliantly written. What seems like a tame, adolescent plot gets weaved into a glorious mystery, full of twists and turns. While it was difficult at first to keep up with the characters, as there are a lot of characters, they were well thought out, each with their own fears, worries, and hopes that were clear whenever they spoke. I really enjoyed this book, it reminded me of Jaqueline Wilson's novels, which I loved so much when I was a teenager.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

I read this book in a day - I couldn't put it down! While it had a bit of a slow start, there were enough twists and turns to keep a reader interested. The characters were well thought out and complicated, they were so well written it was difficult to know who was the protagonist as all the characters believed the story was about them. I don't want to say anything else as I want you to be surprised!
Recommend this book to those who are a fan of thrillers!

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

I must admit when I started reading this I did worry it was going to be The Breakfast Club but with murder. However, the more I read the more I fell in love with the characters. McManus must be praised for her ability to not only show the sense of hopelessness the suspected characters feel but also make us feel as well. There were a lot of twists throughout the novel, many were unpredictable, and the reveal of the killer was utterly surprising. Thoroughly enjoyed this novel; what a fabulous read! 

                                                               Who Runs The World? by Virginia Bergin

The premise of it sounds interesting "a world without men, where women have adapted themselves to survival without men", but the execution was terrible. It was confusing, badly written, with 2D characters, and little to no explanation for how things are the way they are. Many questions I had about the book were written off as being "secrets" within the government/National Representatives, but it felt like lazy writing, like Bergin couldn't be bothered to include/create actual reasons for these questions. But what annoyed me the most was how anti-feminist the novel is, especially how the women aren't taught much about men, apart from "Men's Week" which River claims few people actually care about, and it seems as though Bergin is making women out to be men haters as they aren't interested in learning about men. The case in today's society is some (but not all) men couldn't care less about women's rights/ International Women's Day/learning about women's roles in history, etc (we all know what feminism is about and how awesome women are and how neglected we are), and it is a fundamental issue in society that we are trying to reverse, why has Bergin decided to flip it so women are hating on men? That's not feminism! Add insult to injury by this message being taught to the females of the book as well as being repeated throughout the novel was that men are rapists, and murderers.  That's NOT feminist. That's man-hating. The plot was linear, and it felt rushed; one minute we were in the woods, then we were at River's house, then at an airplane hanger, then on a train. It was jumpy, and hard to keep up with, especially hard to maintain interest. Overall I was disappointed in this novel, for it's lack of feminism, imagination, plot, and interesting characters.

The Soldier's Wife / The Collaborator by Margaret Leroy

What a beautifully tragic love story.
I read this book in just over a day as I couldn't put it down; I loved every aspect of this novel, which is a rarity. The characters were admirable and interesting, each one I felt was real. Leroy captured many aspects of WW2, from love, to betrayal, to fear, to difficult choices, to carrying on, to making do with what you had. I really felt I was living in the War with Vivienne and her family, I felt the things she felt, I saw what she saw, it was as if I was her. The imagery was beautiful, and I could picture the island perfectly in my mind. If you were to hand me some paper and a pencil I am convinced I could draw you a map.
What I really loved was how Leroy spoke from both perspectives; from Vivienne's side of the War (Britain) to Gunther's side of the war (Nazi Germany). She highlights the difficulty of both sides of the War, especially during the final part of the novel where Leroy writes through one of her characters German soldiers were not always aware of everything that was happening in their country. This shows part of the true tragedy of the War, Germans were labelled as horrific people when in fact Germans were not always aware of how bad things actually were.
I adored this novel, and I cannot wait to read more of Leroy's work.

The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff

I really enjoyed this book! It was the perfect balance of tension and romance, even if it was romantic in a way it shouldn't have been.

Jenoff writes in a way that had me rooting for 'Anna' to confess her true feelings for Kommandant and for them to be together, even though I shouldn't have been rooting for them. I felt it was much easier, though, to empathise and enjoy the developing feelings between these two, than it was to develop the same empathise and enjoyment for Emma and Jacob's relationship. This meant it was easy for the reader to understand exactly how Emma/Anna felt, and the frustration she is going through, as I felt frustrated rooting for a Jew/Nazi relationship when I should have been rooting for Emma to find a way back to Jacob.
The twists in the novel were sporadic and unpredictable, and the way Jenoff describes the scenery allowed me to easily paint a picture of Krakòw in my mind, having never been there before. The tension of Anna sneaking around was almost too much to bare, I was terrified of what would happen if she were to be caught.
The ending was sad, as in Kommandant's death - yes, for someone who was working under a regime that swore to kill Jews, it is beyond understandable of his frustration and heartbreak he cannot be with the woman he loves because of his regime. I wonder if Emma has been honest with him in the first place, or much earlier on, maybe they would have escaped together and been able to have their love affair play out properly?
I did root for Anna/Emma and the Kommandant, as he truly did love her and she did love him, but the tragedy of the Nazi regime meant this was not a love story that would ever work out.

The Diplomat's Wife by Pam Jenoff

Oh my god, what a book!! If you're interested in historical fiction full of plot twists and a beautiful romance thread then this is the book for you. As the sequel to The Kommandant's Girl you must read that first as there are many references to characters from that novel which wouldn't have the same impact if you have no read TKG.
This book is full of unpredictable twists and turns, I had no idea things would turn out the way they did. I preferred this to TKG, as it had more action, the stakes were higher, and the plot twists were strong and plausible enough to allow me to finish the book in 5 hours!
Such a phenomenal novel, one of the best books of its genre I have read.

Wives of War by Soraya M. Lane

I adored this novel! What a beautiful story about friendship and love; the chemistry between the three women was wonderful. It was such a breath of fresh air to read a novel where the female characters are cheering each other up and cheering them on. These women are friendship goals! It also tells the story of how love changes as you grow up, and how you change as a person as life goes on and you get hit with various challenges.
This novel is everything you want in a 1940s romance; you can fully immerse yourself in the horrors these nurses saw and the struggle they went through to help the soldiers and bring our boys home. The detail was incredible, I really felt as though I was there with Scarlet, Lucy, and Ellie.
What a wonderful novel!

10 books I read this summer; I definitely could have read more, but I went on a fair few day trips, and I was working on my novel (eek!) which took up a lot of the holiday.

I'm currently reading The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff; I'm already three chapters in and I adore it.

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. I have never read any of these books but they look really interesting. Especially 'How to be a woman'!

    Abigail |