Books

2021 Popsugar reading challenge update: March – June

I’ve really found my mojo with reading again and I’ve come across some absolute corkers in the last three months. So time for another update!

One of Us is Next – Karen M. McManus – ★★★☆☆

A book set in a restaurant

“I don’t understand why the world insists on stuffing kids into boxes we never asked for, and then gets mad when we won’t stay there.” 

One of Us is Lying was a fantastic poolside whodunnit – I read it on holiday in Menorca in one sitting. This one was kind of meh, I think because it was a bit samey and was more of a side story continuation. 

The thing I think is really good in these books are the characters. They’re weirdly likeable. I love Maeve (as ever), Knox, Phoebe and Luis in particular – they just feel so real and I love their interactions. 

Buuuuut the whole thing was wildly far fetched. It was a good interim read but other than seeing the character relationships develop from the first one, it didn’t wow me. 

If you want something light and easy then go for it, but don’t expect as many twists and turns and turmoil as the first plot.

Madame Burova – Ruth Hogan – ★★★★★

A book featuring three generations (grandparent, parent, child)

Madame Burova was a woman who knew where the bodies were buried. She had spent a lifetime keeping other people’s secrets and her silence had come at a price. Some revelations – forbidden affairs and minor indiscretions – had been easy enough to bear. Like feathers on the wind. But others, dark and disturbing, had pricked her conscience and been a burden on her soul. She had seen the lovers and the liars, the angels and the devils, the dreamers and the fools. Her cards had unmasked them all and her cards never lied. Madame Burova knew the killer, the victim and the murder weapon.”

This book gave me the feeling of holding a warm mug of tea on a freezing cold day. 

It kept me guessing, made me laugh, broke my heart… the characters were wonderful and I felt totally invested in them. 

I’m a big fan of Ruth Hogan’s work, and this fourth novel definitely didn’t disappoint.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue– V.E. Schwab – ★★★★★

A dark academia book

“And no matter how desperate or dire, never pray to the gods that answer after dark.”

Wow. 

This has been on my radar for a while but as it’s quite a chunk, I’ve been waiting for the right moment. And I am NOT disappointed. 

Addie LaRue. I never want her story to end and yet I don’t want to know too much. The narrative switches seamlessly between then and now, between Adeline and Addie… it’s beautiful. 

The darkness is my favourite kind of villain – very Andrew Scott as Moriarty (if there’s ever a film version he would play it VERY well); quietly confident, treacherously volatile and deliciously dislikeable. 

And Henry. Oh Henry. My heart bleeds for Henry. 

Love. 

Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo – ★★★☆☆ (3.5)

A book found on a Black Lives Matter reading list

“Hazel said novels was better value than poetry books because they had more words in them, poetry books was a rip-off

(Winsome doesn’t think Hazel should be in their reading group)”

I’ve had to think about this one for a while before I wrote my review because I really didn’t know how to place it. 

It’s a good book. The syntax, the structure, the stories are all beautiful. What’s there is beautiful.

I really enjoyed the episodic form – almost a collection of short stories. I really liked a couple of the characters (Dominique’s story was my favourite I would say, closely followed by Hatti). 

The syntax and sentences and layout on the page are all really interesting. The lack of punctuation took me a while to get into but once I was in, it felt really beautiful and allowed for some beautiful writing. 

But…

There’s just not enough. I didn’t really find myself caring about the people because I feel like I only got to understand them on a very surface level. It didn’t give me much insight into them and I missed that because there were some characters I really wanted to gobble up, but they were so 2 dimensional that I couldn’t. 

The reveal of the epilogue was predictable. I’m not holding that against it, because it was a nice enough plot point. But it didn’t really add anything for me. It felt a bit overdone. I was annoyed that one ‘mystery’ went totally unanswered but the one I worked out for myself was explained very overtly. 

I really wanted to love this book. I really wanted it to teach me something, to tell me stories I didn’t know, to invite me in to the world. But honestly, i think there’s too much spread thinly rather than a few stories told really beautifully. 

I wouldn’t say don’t read it. I enjoyed it. But I didn’t love it.

Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens – ★★★★★

A book everybody seems to have read

“Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.” 

Holy smokes. 

I haven’t read a story that’s captivated me this much in a long time. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this book when I’m not reading it… I had to get back to it if I put it down. 

The richness of the language, the descriptions of nature, the depth of Kya. I can’t quite believe this is a debut. It’s absolutely stunning and I am so glad I *finally* read it.

Kya reminded me of a Catherine Earnshaw – wild and of the marshes and untamed. But there’s an innocence there, like seeing the world through the eyes of Mowgli. I adore her. I adored everything.

Haven’t They Grown – Sophie Hannah – ★★☆☆☆

Your favourite prompt from a past Popsugar challenge: A book with a three word title

“Not for the first time in our twenty-three-year marriage, I wonder how two people can live happily side by side and sleep in the same bed every night – two people who would probably die for each other if necessary – and yet see the world in such profoundly different ways.” 

The premise for this sounded great. It is great. But the writing just didn’t work for me. It felt repetitive and I didn’t like how Beth spelled everything out like she was explaining the plot to you. 

It all just felt a bit absurd, the reveal wasn’t satisfying, the ending was a bit blah and there was a bit of a random story at the school that didn’t really feel like it had a place/was given enough attention to feel important as a plot point. 

I don’t know. It wasn’t a bad read, i finished because I was interested enough to know how it ended but it was all a bit silly…

Big Little Lies -Liane Moriarty – ★★★★★

A book with an oxymoron in the title

“It was just so very surprising that the good-looking, worried man who had just offered her a cup of tea, and was right now working at his computer down the hallway, and who would come running if she called him, and who loved her with all of his strange heart, would in all probability one day kill her.”

Deliciously good! 

It’s my first time reading Liane Moriarty and I’ve not been left disappointed. I knew people raved about this book and obviously HBO picked it up (not watched because I try and read the book first!), but sometimes these kind of books are overhyped. 

But this was brilliant. I loved the chopping between narrative and ‘interview’, the flash forward in the first chapter then leading up to that point. All the characters had their own merits and I did NOT see the twist coming at the end! Which is rare for me as I usually spoil it for myself. 

Brilliant.

Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams – ★★★★★

A book beginning with Q, X or Z

“I can’t wake up and not be a black woman, Janet. I can’t walk into a room and not be a black woman, Janet. On the bus, on the Tube, at work, in the cafeteria. Loud, brash, sassy, angry, mouthy, confrontational, bitchy.”

I really enjoyed this! 

I didn’t expect to like Queenie as much as I did, but I really found a soft spot for her. She is super endearing. Having said that I found her EXTREMELY frustrating in the same beat. She’s self-sabotaging and quite self involved but you CANNOT help but like her. Probably why her corgis love her so. 

Kyazike is amazing. Loved everything about her, from her exploits to her unwavering support for Queenie. One of the most realistic characters I’ve read in a while. 

I can’t put my finger on what it is about this book but it feels NEW. Like a really fresh perspective. It bring BLM to the forefront in a different way and is hugely character focused while still reinforcing the reasons why BLM matters as a movement. 

For a book so heavy, it also felt quite light. I’ve read some heavy reads recently which felt like a bit of a slog. This does a brilliant job of exploring important conversations and social action without losing the story or sense of time, place and character within. 

I just wish Queenie would make better choices. I’m not usually one to ask for sequels either but I’d love to find out how Queenie gets on – I’ll miss her!

Hostage – Clare Mackintosh – ★★★★★

A locked room mystery

Don’t run, you’ll fall. Past the park, up the hill. Wait for the green man, not yet, not yet … Now! Cat in the window. Like a statue. Just the tiniest tip of his tail moving. Twitch, twitch, twitch. Another road to cross. No green man, and no lollipop lady – she should be here … Look both ways. Not yet, not yet … Now! Don’t run, you’ll fall. Postbox, then lamp-post, then bus stop, then bench. Big school – not my school, not yet.

Bookshop, then empty shop, then the ’state agent where they sell houses. Now the butcher’s shop, birds hanging from their necks in the window. My eyes squeezed shut so I don’t have to see theirs staring back. Dead. All dead.

I’m still waiting for Clare Mackintosh to write something that isn’t flawless. 

Brilliant. Loved the pace, the characters, the twisty turns, the unexpected. 

Beautiful – my second fave behind her debut!

Serpentine – Philip Pullman – ★★★★★

A book in a different format to one you would usually read

“You know, it isn’t really surprising that there are things about ourselves that still remain a mystery to us,” he said. “Maybe we should be comforted that the knowledge is there, even if it’s withheld for a while.” 

I lap up anything to do with Lyra.

15 books in and I’m really impressed with the standard of books I’ve picked up this year! I am about 4 books behind schedule but plan to get to where I need to be by the next update (in September!) as it’s over the summer I read the most books.

I’d love some recommendations though, so if anyone has read anything good recently, let me know!

You can follow me on Goodreads at the bottom of the page too!

C♡ 

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