It has been a WHILE since I sat down on here to write. I've been doing a tonne of reading over the past few months, mostly because it's summer and I don't want to do much expect laze around with a book in my hand. Naturally now that we're half way through August though the rainy/Autumny weather seems to have kicked in.
The past few months have been pretty varied in terms of genre, with fantasy, thrillers, chick lit, YA fiction, literary fiction and even a couple of classics thrown into the mix. It's been good to experiment around and try lots of different things, and if I'm honest, I think I'm now absolutely obsessed with thrillers again?? Hello Steph's reading circa 2015.
First up is The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes novels are a very comforting read that I find helpful to go to when I'm in a bit of a reading slump, or feeling a bit low generally. The book is made up of a collection of short stories (as with all the Holmes novels), and we finally get to meet Moriarty in this, as well as reading Sherlock's last case. For a 'classic', this is easy to get into and understand, but isn't overly gripping.
Next is the biggest book in this wrap up: A Storm of Swords Part Two: Blood and Gold by George R. R. Martin. This is where the series really starts to heat up. Part one of this book (which is published separately because otherwise the book would come to over 1200 pages) sets a lot of the scenes and does most of the leg work in preparing for this. If you've seen the show, this book is the one with the Red and Purple weddings in. If not, in this book tensions increase between the Lannisters and the Starks (as well as within each faction). Not only is a violent bloody war happening, but behind the scenes, more and more deaths are occurring through underhanded methods.
The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp by Sarra Manning is next, and this was my most disappointing read of June. This came out of a book subscription box, and everything I've read from the box before has been absolutely stellar, so I had high hopes and this totally missed them. A modern retelling of Vanity Fair, this book starts off with Becky Sharp almost winning Big Brother. Desperate to be rich and famous, she will do anything to bag herself a wealthy man. The book has a whole host of highs and lows for Becky, but she was such an unlikable character that I just found myself not caring if she hit trouble, and it made the book lose all of its drama. I haven't read Vanity Fair, so that may have coloured my opinion of the book, but I'm honestly not sure how much better that could make it.
And finally for June we have Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. This is the third book I've read by the author, and each one so far has been pretty good but this didn't quite match up to the others. Beth and Jennifer are close friends working together in the same office. When the IT guy, Lincoln, is asked to check out any emails that get flagged by their IT system for containing non-work related conversations, he really ought to flag theirs. But he gets drawn in by Beth's personality and ends up reading as many of the women's emails as possible. Soon Lincoln realises he's in love with Beth, but he doesn't know how to approach this. In all honesty, I found this book INCREDIBLY creepy, and I think it sends out a rubbish message to the teens it is aimed at. Lincoln uses the information he finds out about Beth from the emails to woo her in the best way he can, and there's not really much fallout when he's exposed as having read them. The writing basically saved this from having zero stars.
My first read for July was my work book club book for August, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. I've heard a lot of hype around this, as well as Normal People, but I wasn't sure what to expect. The book is about Frances and Bobbi, two college students who used to be lovers, becoming friends with a married couple, Nick and Melissa. Every relationship in the book could be described as a friendship, but each one is so very different. Conversations are also at the core of it, with speech, internal monologue, emails and texts being used, but Rooney chooses not to differentiate the types of conversation. So, there are no speech marks in the book or separation of emails/texts from the main narrative. It was a clever book, and although the plot wasn't the most gripping, it's the first book I've ever read that explicitly discusses endometriosis, and I think that's so important.
Next was The Hunting of the Last Dragon by Sherryl Jordan. This has been sat on my shelf for about 8 or 9 years now. Jordan wrote some of my favourite books from when I was 13/14 and I've been too nervous to read this one in case it ruined my perception of the others. Spoiler alert: it has. Jude, the main character, is a medieval-esque peasant whose family is killed by a dragon. He rescues a Chinese woman called Jing-Wei from a freak show, and is 'so kind' that he takes her out of her cage and even gives her some water. As the pair bond, he begins to realise that Jing-Wei isn't some kind of monster but an actual human being (albeit one that he doesn't trust at all because of her background). They ultimately go off to hunt a dragon together. I really couldn't get on board with how Jing-Wei was described, or the positive light that was shone on Jude for being some sort of 'hero' for putting up with her otherness throughout the book. There were so many things that could have been done to rescue this, and I'm just not sure why the publishers didn't change it for the better.
After that read, I wanted to go back to something that I knew couldn't disappoint, and Shakespeare's a pretty dead cert for that. I thought As You Like It was one of his plays I hadn't read before, but when I started reading I realised this wasn't the case. One of the comedies, this play tells the story of Rosalind and Orlando's unlikely love. Her father is exiled by her uncle, and when he elects to exile her too, her cousin (his daughter) flees the town with her. Away in a forest, Rosalind dresses as a man to protect them, and when Orlando meets her she decides to play a game with him whereby he pretends she is Rosalind so that he can practice wooing her. There are of course a whole selection of intertwining plot strands, but this is the main one. I enjoyed reading it, but it did cement in my mind the fact that I'm much more a fan of his tragedies.
Keep You Close (*gifted) by Karen Cleveland was kindly sent to me to read over a weekend as part of an Instagram readalong challenge. Steph Maddox, an FBI agent, is told that her son's keeping a big secret - one big enough that the FBI are investigating it. She's convinced Zach can't be part of a white nationalist group, but after finding a gun in his room she begins to question how well she knows her son. The book takes you on a journey of deciphering whether Zach really is what everyone thinks he is (a person conspiring against his country), or whether someone from Steph's past cases has come up against her. I loved this book, and would have given it 5 stars if it wasn't for the last 5 pages. The ending was so rushed, and so clearly set up for a sequel. I understand that cliffhangers can be fab, but honestly none of the book's questions were answered, and you've got to give us something, you know?
My final read of this wrap up is Someone We Know (*gifted) by Shari Lapena. Another thriller about a mother and son, this novel is based in a close-knit suburban community in the US. When Olivia finds text messages incriminating her son as a burglar, she sends anonymous letters to the neighbours whose houses she knew he broke into in an attempt to remove some of her guilt. Unfortunately a woman from one of those houses is murdered, and whilst the evidence at first points to the husband, Olivia's concerned that her son's prints are all over the house. I think Lapena does thrillers incredibly well. She's very good at having a very obvious main suspect (i.e. the husband in this case), and then placing sort of subtle hints that it might be another character. Just when you think you're really clever and have sussed it out she makes you realise that you've been looking in the wrong place the whole time.
What have you been reading recently?
*Some of the books in this have been gifted to talk about on Instagram, but I was not obliged to discuss them on here*