What I’ve been reading… June 2020

Too many books and not enough time this month!

‘The Lingering’ by S. J. I. Holliday

This is the second of two books that I won in a competition earlier this year, and it was another goody.

The Lingering has elements of the paranormal, medical and psychological about it. I normally avoid anything with ghosts like the plague, but I’m a sucker for gory medical details, especially medical ones, so I was immediately pulled into this tale of a commune which had set up in an old mental asylum.

When Jack and Ali arrive to join the commune, they make waves and, a little predictably, it soon becomes apparent that they have dark secrets that they are running away from. The character of Ali is interesting, although Jack doesn’t get the same amount of space in the novel and is more one-dimensional. Other members of the commune are also presented as interesting at first, but then fail to be developed enough to sustain our interest; I found that the cast of the commune merged into one another when I was reading – had the novel been longer, it would have been nice to ‘get to know’ each of these in a little more detail.

The book was turned into a film last year, and it would be interesting to see whether any of the sub-plots and characters are developed in greater detail. I can certainly see the case for copious amounts of flashbacks from Ali and Jack’s backstory and the dark history of the building.

‘Dirty Little Secrets’ by Jo Spain

This is a great page-turner, and if we’re ever able to go on a beach holiday again, would make a fabulous holiday read.

It’s a domestic mystery which sits firmly within the ‘Desperate Housewives’ genre – the premise is a death in a gated community, and everyone has a secret.

It won’t trouble you intellectually but will keep you entertained, and I enjoyed it.

‘Where We Belong’ by Anstey Harris

What a lovely, gentle read this was!

Cate Morris and her son, Leo, are coping with homelessness and grief after the death of Leo’s father, Richard. In desperation, they decide to make use of a clause in Richard’s will, stating that Leo will always be able to like in his ancestral home, ‘Hatters’.

And so we are introduced to ‘Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World’, its collection of stuffed animals, and its custodian, the frosty Araminta.

This is a story about friendship, loss and mistakes. The characters are warm, if a little lacking in depth, and there is a little bit of ongoing mystery to drive the plot.

‘Before I Go To Sleep’ by S.J. Watson

I think that I’m possibly the last person to read this thriller. I took part in one of those pyramid book-buying schemes on Facebook a few years ago, and this has been sitting on my bookshelf ever since.

Christine suffers from a severe case of amnesia which means that she wakes up each morning with no knowledge of who she is, no recognition of her husband, condition or past as an adult. There was an awful lot of pseudo-psychology, and the psychologist would be struck off on several counts, but I’m willing to see past that for a good read.

‘Doctor Zhivago’ by Boris Pasternek

I went through chemotherapy in 2003, and whilst recovering between treatments, I felt like my brain had gone to mush. I was so tired, that all I wanted to do was lie on the sofa and watch TV. My mum lent me one of her favourite films of all time – Doctor Zhivago. I cried so hard watching the film – not because I got so emotionally gripped by the story line, but because I couldn’t get my head around a single feature of the plot. When this was selected as a group read in my Good Reads book group, I groaned, but was determined to give it another go.

It turns out that it wasn’t the chemotherapy at all – it’s just a bloody confusing story.Doctor Yury Zhivago is a poet, philosopher and medical doctor. This epic tale shows the effects of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, against the love of Yury for Lara, the wife of a revolutionary. He writes his poems whilst protecting the vulnerable from the brutality and harshness of the Bolsheviks.

One of these days, I’ll remember that I don’t generally like Russian literature, no matter how much everyone else does. I can’t cope with everyone having a whole list of different names, and having deep and meaningful conversations about everything. I’m aware that many readers cite this as one of the most romantic stories in literature, but for me, the romance was lost in the philosophical debate.

‘Two Can Keep A Secret’ by Karen M. McManus

The girls in my Year 8 English class were obsessed with ‘One of Use Is Lying’ a few years ago – a book which I also thoroughly enjoyed. This is a darker, but still equally-enjoyable page-turner.

When her mum goes into rehab, Ellery and her brother are sent to stay with their grandmother in Echo Ridge. The town is filled with mystery – one of them being the death of Ellery’s aunt and the disappearance of other girls.

Everyone in Echo Ridge has a secret, and Ellery soon teams up with Malcolm, who is keen to get some answers. There are twists and turns up until the last page and I’ll be recommending this to pupils once we’re back at school after the summer.

‘Just One Damned Thing After Another’ by Jodi Taylor

I really enjoyed the chatty, sarcastic style of the first in the ‘Chronicles of St Mary’s books’, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll be reading more of them in the future.

This book is about time travel of the most British variety. We are introduced to Maxwell, a historian on interview at the St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, and follow her as she rises through the ranks in a rather eventful style.

The reader is encouraged not to take this novel too seriously. It’s witty, sarcastic, and not particularly concerned with historic inaccuracies and a logic outcome, but if you abandon any snobbery and see this is rather an amusing romp through time, you’ll be just fine.

‘The Invisible Guardian’ by Dolores Redondo

I got given this book by a friend who was having a clear out before moving house. She gave me quite a few thrillers, which I’ve been happily making my way through over the last year or so, but I found this one to be a bit different.

The book boasts of being a ‘#1 International Bestseller’ and a ‘tautly written and gripping psychological thriller’, so it sounded worth a try.

On the plus side, it was interesting to learn about the traditions and myths of the Basque Country, something that I don’t know a great deal about.

The negatives for me where that it was rather slow-paced, packed with coincidences, and I didn’t particularly like the main character, who I found to be a bit too complicated and contradictory.

On my TBR pile for next month…

  • ‘Invisible Girl’ by Lisa Jewell
  • ‘Hidden Figures’ by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • ‘Harrow Lake’ by Kat Ellis
  • ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernardine Evaristo
  • ‘The Great Godden’ by Meg Rosoff

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