I feel like I’m starting to catch up on myself. We’re doing good. Speeding through. Like a book snail! I’m amazed at other readers who devour books in a day. Or a few days. How?! I want to know. Don’t you sleep? Eat? Are you neglecting your kids? Be honest now!
It’s still taking me two to three weeks to read a book, and I would love to improve on that. I’ve been so ill over the past few weeks that I haven’t been able to read at all, I usually just try to fall into a sleep to block out all the yuckiness, so hopefully, as I start to feel better, I’ll step up the power reading. I have so many books to get through. Here are the four I’ve managed to read since June.
The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies
I’d seen this book in various bookstores and it popped out at me as something I would love to read. Its cover reminded me of Memoirs of a Geisha. I really enjoyed reading it – it offered pure escapism to a world I knew nothing about – 1930s Ceylon – the country we know today at Sri Lanka. The book is beautifully written, it felt very traditional and reminded me of the historical fiction books I used to read when I was a teenager. Jefferies pieces together an exotic and interesting time, a time when women ran houses and filled their days with domestic planning. The pace was good, it was slow moving to reflect the days that the main character would have spent – the dramas were spaced well, but it never felt boring or slow. I loved the romantic element, I could feel the love between man and wife and our main character Gwendolyn’s care as a parent. This book even came to Glastonbury with me and while the other ravers were off doing bold things well into the night, I was back in the tent, reading by torch light to this baby. (Rock n roll Lit Chick!) As a writer, I obverved Jefferiies constant relfection on nature, to set the scene, the scents and bring alive the exotic. I recently featured Dinah in my How I Write series and you can learn more about how she goes about researchign her books. I’m looking to reading her other works and it’s easy to see why this was a Richard and Judy book Club pick.
The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan
I was sent this book by Penguin Random House for review. I’d heard a bit about it as it had been received well in literary circles, but I had no idea what to expect. Well, I was pleasantly surprised! The cover didn’t give much away, except that it was set in Prairie Land – I thought initially it might have been set in Australia, but it’s based in scorching Texas and has a really authentic American vibe. I loved the style of the book, the underlying current of crime among innocence, of family secrets, of a past that everyone’s trying to forget, except for the youngest character in the book, who is trying to understand and uncover what everyone else knows. When the truth does come out, it’s quite shocking to read – you’re led to believe that the real story could be dark, but it still hit me when it did. And that was the question I asked myself as I read – if one of your family members committed a serious crime, would you stand by them? And how far would you go? I enjoyed the characters Ronan creates – they felt real, with all their flaws and she manages to have you question your own self and sense of ethics. Should you really feel sorry for a criminal? Do you feel sorry for him? Or are you as bad as him? I felt every burn of the blistering heat in this book, it helped me to remember that there are nice, warm places on earth outside or rainy Ireland, and you might not necessarily want to live there. Life is tough in Prairie Land.
Little Bones by Sam Blake
I attended the launch of Little Bones back in May and had a great night in a secret bar and then onto a not so secret nightclub. (Not as bad as Coppers, but nearly!) The book has been sitting on my shelf for weeks, so I was delighted to be able to get stuck in. The crime book is set in Ireland and opens with a very intriguing premise of a detective finding the bones of a baby in the hem of a wedding dress. The book follows the detective Cathy Connolly and a cast of characters from Zoe, whose house the bones are found in, to her grandmother and her cagey friend, to a criminal on the run from the US to Ireland to a little old lady losing her mind in London. The book cleverly brings all the characters together and you do find out the whole story by the end of the book. I don’t generally read crime – or even watch it on TV, but I got through this book in no time and was certainly sasitfied by the end! It ends on a cliffhanger, lining up nicely for book two.
Red Dirt by EM Reapy
Ok, there may be a little bit of gushy book love now. Here are some words to describe how I felt when I was reading this literary wonder. “Wow. Wow. Jesus I wish I wrote this. Wow.” I’m glad I didn’t read this book until after my long conversation with Elizabeth over a 7up in a Dublin pub, because I would have been a little starstruck and probably not able to talk to her without, I dunno, giggling. It may depend on the type of book you love, but for me, this is my tall, dark and handsome type. The story follows three Irish people down under as they make their precarious way through city and outback life, struggling to deal with their issues that follow them all the way from Ireland to down under. The book reflects the best and worst of Irish people, their idiosyncrasies, their intonations, their problems with alcohol and mental health and the way they act in Australia and how the local population accept them (or don’t). If you’ve spent any time in Austraila you will indenify and love this. If you haven’t you’ll be brought into a world Hunter S Thompson would be proud of. I’m still thinking about the characters and what happened to them after reading. A true sign of a great book. Pick of the year.
Have you read any of the these books and would you agree with my opinions on them? I’d love to hear from you and your own book recommendations too.