2021 Popsugar reading challenge update: June – September

Time for another update!

Daisy Jones and the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid – ★★★★★

A book about art or an artist

I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse. I am not a muse. I am the somebody. End of fucking story.

I LOVED this. It’s truly unique and the format worked so well. I don’t get on with audiobooks, but this is one a might have to listen to because if it’s that good on the page, I feel like it’s going to be amplified by the audio version. 

It’s fun, heartbreaking, gritty, extroverted, and full of atmosphere. I’ll update this review once I listen to the audio version as well!

Wrecker – Noel O’Reilly – ★☆☆☆☆

A book set somewhere you’d like to visit in 2021

A dead wreck it was, all hands drowned.

I really wanted to like this. It’s been on my shelf for ages and it’s really intrigued me but I’d not yet picked it up. 

The opening is fantastic and it has one of the most beautiful hardback covers I’ve ever seen.

But other than that I don’t have much to say. 

The prose is really difficult to read and follow, I didn’t like a single character and the main ‘mystery’ plotline is wrapped up in about 3 lines of dialogue and is only really referred to when the author wants to give Mary a reason to swoon. 

The prose is written from Mary’s POV which means it’s all written in her voice which isn’t easy to follow. I needed some respite somewhere. 

Mary, Loveday, Betsy, Gideon, Mrs Stone, Miss Vyvyan, Grace, Martha, Pentecost, Johnenry… I did not like a single one. Not in a ‘flawed but likeable’ way. In a ‘god I wish they’d shut up’ way. The only characters who come close to being likeable are Mamm, Tegen, Nancy and Cissie Olds. But they’re barely in it other than to feed Mary’s ego. 

I won’t even talk about the Porthmororven Cannibal. 

Other than one of the characters being called ‘Rebecca’, I really don’t know where the Du Maurier comparison on the cover comes from. I also don’t understand why there isn’t more about wrecking considering it’s called Wrecker. 

The one star is for the cover and the opening and the fact that the author managed to finish writing a novel, which is a feat in itself.

Sunset – Jessie Cave- ★★★★★

A book published in 2021

Weird things I’ve done in the last eight months: Severely burnt my tongue on microwaved lasagne and got so angry that I threw it out the window. It landed on top of a bus stop and was eaten by pigeons for days and days.

This is a fantastic reflection on grief from the wonderful Jessie Cave. 

While it’s fiction, you can feel Jessie’s own grief, her own relationship with her sister and her signature comedy style pops up throughout the novel. It’s a heavy read in places, but these lighter moments peppered throughout compel you to keep reading. 

Despite the fact she is such a self-sabotaging person, you can’t help but like Ruth. She has a warmth about her that, although hidden, radiates our when she recalls memories of her sister. Hannah is almost a direct opposite of Ruth on the surface but the two have an unchallengeable bond. 

It’s a beautiful mix of retrospect and devastation. I am in awe of Jessie’s writing and strength. 

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton – ★★☆☆☆

A book by an author who shares your star sign

“I’d prefer to rise in love , she thinks – lifting up to the clouds , not plunging to the earth. She pictures herself , weightless and adored , delirious in ecstasy.” 

Honestly the fact it’s taken me over 2 weeks to finish says a lot. 

I saw loads of hype and people recommending this and it’s been sat on my shelf for a while and sadly it could have stayed there and I don’t think I’d be bothered. 

Good things; Peebo the parakeet. Cornelia is quite a hoot. Rezeki and Dhana. 

Not so good things; The prose was clunky and used too many out of place metaphors. I found the language jarring at points. It was clearly well researched but seems to have been at the expense of any sort of discernible plot or style. The big shocker at the end was predictable. There’s not really any answers given – it’s all a bit vague. The ending is unsatisfying. The characters are unsatisfying. The mystery is unsatisfying. The whole thing is unsatisfying. 

I like to think I’m a reasonably intelligent person. But I just didn’t get this. At all. 

It had the promise of a really good modern day Bronte-esque novel but sadly it looks like Bertha Mason will need to wait a while before she meets her match.

2 stars because of the dogs and the bird. And it really is very well researched…

How to Kill Your Family – Bella Mackie – ★★★★★

A genre hybrid

“Men often do that, spreading out their legs on the Tube as though they have an innate need to fill any space that isn’t filled, walking down the middle of the narrow pavement and being almost surprised when they career into you, nudging too close in a coffee shop queue as though you’ll give way. They don’t even notice what they’re doing. They are important, their needs are important. You are not as important. You are not important at all. Unless you’re attractive to them. Then your space will be occupied in other ways. Men will stand in front of you and block your path to get your attention. They will slow their car down so that you feel uncomfortable as you walk down the street. They will hover over you in bars, touching your arm, grabbing your hand. If you’re lucky, it’ll just be your hand.”

First off, I am going to say this book is truly unique. The voice and style throughout is really very accomplished for a first time fiction writer and the concept is fantastic so massive well done to Bella Mackie for smashing it out the park! 

The main character’s narrative switches between past and present seamlessly, talking us through her plans and taking the reader along the journey. Grace is intensely dislikeable in a lot of ways, but you can’t help but want to know more. 

There’s points she shows her ‘benevolent’ side (which really isn’t that benevolent at all…), but the revenge plot really disguises some very intense darkness (Janine is a perfect example)

It wasn’t perfect – there were a few things that jarred for me; there were too many pop culture references in there, which took me out of the narrative slightly – it felt like they were jammed in to feel relevant, but I think a few choice ones would have been better; the ending (while a great twist) left me a little unsatisfied; I would have liked to have had more a hint of the reunion between Grace and Jimmy. 

That being said, I can’t give this book any less than 5 stars. It was a truly fantastic read and a really unique voice among the crowd. Loved it.

Small Pleasures – Clare Chambers – ★★★★☆

A book with something broken on the cover

“She had observed before that when people said ‘so and so doesn’t like me’, the dislike was usually in the other direction.” 

This book really confused me. It was really slow to get going but when it did pick up pace I enjoyed it. I’m not sure I liked the main character, Jean – she moaned a lot but didn’t seem to do much about it. But at the same time I felt really emotionally invested in her pursuit of happiness. 

I liked the way Margaret was written – great observations of childhood, and I didn’t see the end coming (weirdly) which took me by surprise. 

All round I’d say 3.5, but it’s the higher end of 3.5 (is there such a thing) so I’ll go 4.

Ghosts – Dolly Alderton – ★★★★☆

A book that has the same title as a song

“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.”

This was a really enjoyable read. I liked the characters – particular love for Lola – and loved the portrayal of dementia and the father-daughter relationship between Nina and Bill. As ever the observations about life really made me laugh, particularly the hen do – Dolly Alderton’s style is just so relatable and easy to click with. Really enjoyed it.

22 books in and still picking up some corkers, but behind on the challenge still!

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

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


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