April started as a slow reading month and then I had a week’s holiday and before I knew it had read a total of ten books taking me to 39 books for the year so far.
1. Academy Street – Mary Costello
This book caught my attention as it had won quite a few awards and I read some great reviews. For me it was undeserving. Yes the writing was good but I found it the most depressing book I have read all year. The main character in the book is so repressed and unable to share her feelings that she never really lives. From the start to the finish I got so frustrated with her inability not just to show her emotions but also to stand up for herself. A lesson certainly not to live life like this but not a book I enjoyed and in fact it probably accounted for my slow start to the month as I didn’t rush to read this one.
2. Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson
Didn’t really have much luck with reading at the start of this month as this book was in a similar vein. It’s about a family from Hungary who live on top of one another in a small flat in London. The two main characters being a mother and her teenage daughter. The husband and father whose relatives they live with left shortly after his daughter is born. It’s really a story about the relationships between the mother and daughter and growing up as a teenager. But again I found that I wanted to kick both main characters and tell them to get a grip on life and not be walked over like they were. So didn’t like this book either.
3. The Twilight Time by Karen Campbell
I have read her newer books so thought I would read her crime novels and this is the first one. I didn’t enjoy this as much as the two books I have read previously but that said it was a good crime novel and the setting around the Charing Cross area of Glasgow is one that is well known to me so I could picture it all clearly. Clever plot too which I didn’t see the ending for but yet again I hated the main character in this book too.
4. Return to 4 Winds by Elizabeth Gifford
Loved her previous book which was set on Harris so was keen to read another in a different location to see if it was the location I was biased to or I did indeed like her writing. This was a clever book which on paper looked as if it was about a family similar to the Harriet Evans book that I read in March. But it was so much more flitting between the past and the present and I really enjoyed it and for the first time this month quite liked the characters in this book too and didn’t want to give them a kick up the backside and tell them to get on with things. And it was a very clever ending.
5. Son-in-law by Charity Norman
I loved her book “After the Fall” which was set in New Zealand and leaves you reeling and wondering how you would cope in the circumstance. This book is set in York and again is about families and how nothing is always as straight forward as what people first believe. The son-in-law in question is about to come out of prison for killing his wife the mother of three children who now live with her parents. Seems simple enough he’s the baddie but is he? Found myself in a rollercoaster with this family seeing things from all points of view and realising that it is just not as simple as you first think. My favourite book of the month.
6. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
This was my book club book didn’t actually make it to book club but the adage I’d bought it so I will read it rang true. As a non-fiction book knew if I didn’t read it straight away it wouldn’t get read. I have heard mixed reviews for this book some seem to love it some to hate it. Personally I was indifferent. Read the book fairly quickly. Helen Macdonald writes about the grief of losing her father and how that prompted her to buy a Gos Hawk and train it which then send her on an adventure. For me it was ok wouldn’t rave about it but not huge things to criticise either. I simply didn’t love it or loath it instead was fairly in different.
7. Set me Free by Daniela Sacerdotsi
Read a few of her books which are set in a Brigadoon type of Glen but in the current century. It sounds so wonderful you want to live there yourself. It’s chick lit no doubt about it but I have enjoyed all of her books. At the time of reading this book had the need to take myself out of my current world and this fitted the picture and gave me what I wanted an escape from day to day thoughts.
8. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
This has just come out as a film and I wanted to read the actual book first before watching the film. Written by Irene Nemirovsky during the early part of the 2WW in France where she lived in the German occupation. She wrote it on a series of notebooks which were found by her daughter. Sadly she was sent to Auschwitz and died there as she had a loose Jewish connection. (just wrote that and yet again reflecting how mad that actual sentence is why should that matter?). As a history addict in a past life I found the book fascinating as it was an actual written account of someone who was there. She also creates very funny characters and obviously understands humans our strengths and our weaknesses. I think the book would have benefited from editing and it’s really two different books in one but that was not to be as the author was gassed for the crazy fact she was Jewish. I will now watch the film but glad that I have read the book first.
9. Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPatlin
I have a bad habit when I have a hair appointment of going into WH Smith and getting sucked into one of their buy one book get another half price and if it’s a Richard and Judy list (yes corny I know but most of their books are really good) I tend to fall for that too. This book was on my wish list so I bought it and read it in 24 hours.
It’s about a women who is facing death after fighting terminal cancer who wants to live particularly for the sake of her teenage daughter. She’s not on her own as surrounding her is her larger than life mother, her father, sister and brother and other family members including of course the daughter. It’s not an easy read and when I was reading it I had just lost a family member to cancer and was watching a similar family go through the utter desperate grief that this family did. That said I admire the author for tackling it with the mixture of empathy, compassion and humour that she does. For me who sometimes needs to let go of my emotions more this helped me cry some much needed emotions out whilst also realising that the fears that the dying women had I have too. Not the easiest of reads but a book that I think I needed to read at a time I needed to read it.
10. One Small Act of Kindness by Lucy Dillon
Again this would be in the much maligned but let’s be honest what is wrong with it chick lit category? And I loved it. It’s about a couple who move to a rural town to take over the family business after the death of the man’s father. They have a vision of turning the hotel into a boutique hotel transforming it from the dowdy place it is. The widow fights back and then added to the mix is a women who is knocked down outside the hotel and loses her memory.
The author captures many issues facing us today including death, illness, debt and other challenges. It was an enjoyable read which made me chuckle on more than one occasion and also gave me food for thought that in life giving is better than receiving and learning from mistakes makes you the better person.