YeeHaw! The Round-Up: August 2014

This month has been a bit of a topsy turvy month when it comes to reading. I had a few off days when my new meds were making me all kinds of dizzy but I have managed to overcome that somewhat and managed to get through a fair wallop of books. One good thing that happened this month is that I reached book 100. Whoop whoop. I only have nine more to read to beat last year’s total books read.

Here are the books I read in August:

Duff by Kody Keplinger

The Atlas of Us by Tracy Buchanan

Paper Swans by Jessica Thompson

Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington

What Might Have Been by Matt Dunn

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth by ACH Smith and Brian Froud

A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas

One Kick by Chelsea Cain

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Necrophilia Variations by Supervert

The Mysterious Affair at Castway House by Stephanie Lam

Boy21 by Matthew Quick (Review to be posted 02.09.14)

My review pile from NetGalley for September is a little astronomical (oxymoron alert). I know – without a shadow of a doubt that – that I will not get through all of them. The reasons for this are three fold. Firstly, I start back at work tomorrow after being off for six months. I am medically fit to work. This is seriously going to cut into my reading time. Boo hiss. Secondly, my Grandaddy is coming to Liverpool for a visit this week. Yay! I haven’t seen him since October and you know what with nearly dying this year I kinda want to spend some time with him. Lastly, it is my birthday month. This shouldn’t cut into my reading time per se, however, a new influx of birthday books will make it difficult to choose which ones to read next even though I know I should be sticking to my NetGalley review pile.

Here are all the books due for review in September.

The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus   Pub 02.09.14

Walt Before Mickey by Timothy S Susanin   Pub 02.09.14

These Days Are Ours by Michelle Haimoff   Pub 04.09.14

Joni Mitchell by Malka Marom   Pub 09.09.14

Playing with Matches by Suri Rosen   Pub 09.09.14

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel   Pub 10.09.14

Love Me or Leave Me by Claudia Carroll   Pub 11.09.14

Delicious! By Ruth Reichl   Pub 11.09.14

My Other Ex by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger   Pub 15.09.14

Roots of the Revival by Ronald D Cohen, Rachel Clare Donaldson   Pub 15.09.14

Flirting with French by William Alexander   Pub 16.09.14

I Looked for the One My Heart Loves by Dominique Marny   Pub 16.09.14

Wildlife by Fiona Wood   Pub 16.09.14

It Must Have Been the Mistletoe by Judy Astley   Pub 25.09.14

Michael Jackson’s Dangerous by Susan Fast   Pub 25.09.14

The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani   Pub 25.09.14

The Poet’s Wife by Rebecca Stonehill   Pub 26.09.14

An American Duchess by Sharon Page   Pub 30.09.14

Mademoiselle by Rhonda K Garelick   Pub 30.09.14

The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott   Pub 30.09.14

Some books that I happened to purchase (I know, least it’s not drugs ok?) or won as prizes in August that I would like to read include:

The Virgins by Pamela Erens

Going Vintage by Lyndsey Leavitt

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Love Like the Movies by Victorial Van Tiem

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me by Hilary Winston

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

Candy Girl by Diablo Cody

The List by Joanna Bolouri

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

On top of this, I am trying to break down my 100 book challenge. So I have selected four books which I will try to read. Here they are:

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nikolas Butler.

So I think we can safely say, before it even gets going, that I am going to fail in completing this month’s challenge. I will give it a whirl though. I am also going to try and clear my NetGalley backlog and let’s see if I can get my review percentage rate up to 30% (I am currently dwindling in the low twenties.)

So I hope you all have a good month. Check back on here tomorrow for this week’s TBR pile.

Much bookish love,

Lisa x

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Review: The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House by Stephanie Lam

Synopsis

When Rosie spends the summer of 1965 renting a room at Castaway house she begins to discover that the house – and its occupants – are not all that they seem. It is with the arrival of the mysterious Dockie, a man who appears to have a connection to the property but no living memory of what that is, that the mystery begins to unravel.

Review

The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House has a little bit of everything; mystery, romance, drama, social and political change. There is something that hooks your interest on each page. The balance of the two time periods is fluid but doesn’t leave you breathless or confused. Mostly, it is the characters that draw you in. In particular, Robert and Rosie, both of whom are the underdogs of the narrative.

Rosie, struggling with her sexuality and a secret that she would rather keep in the past almost echoes the character of Robert Carver. Robert’s secret is his undying love for his cousin’s wife; a love that has landed him in hot water. Both of their stories are tragic and desperate, lost in a time when their wants are not considered socially acceptable.

What Lam has done with this book is create a well thought out, thorough mystery that does have you wanting to turn the next page. Her florid style has crafted an image of two time periods that are both so very vivid and colourful. Her skill lies in the description. The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House played out like a movie in my mind. For a first time novelist, this is an excellent achievement.

Personally, for me, the one thing I didn’t fully appreciate is the neatness of the story. The lack of loose ends seemed to clean for me but then that is the purpose of mystery writing – to not leave the reader asking questions. Lam accomplishes this and I cannot fault her for that. It is just a personal preference in the stories that I read that things are not too neat and tidy. However, people who are frequent readers of mystery dramas (of which I am not) will appreciate Lam’s attention to detail.

The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House by Stephanie Lam is available now.

the mysterioous affair at castaway house

Review: Necrophilia Variations by Supervert

Synopsis

“Why would anyone want to have sex with a corpse? Because it’s there. Because it’s different. Because you can. Because you’re curious. Because you don’t know until you try.”

The basic theme of Necrophilia Variations is that of necrophilia. Like Ronseal, this book does what it says on the packet. It is a collection of short chapter-esque stories that sometimes interlink all focussing on the taboo topic of sex with the dead.

Review

Honestly, I found this book all a bit stupid. It was like it tried to be shocking but then decided to that the best way to be shocking was to normalise the act of sex with cadavers and then become blasé, to throw the term and the action round. It almost tried too hard and lost momentum when the shock value wore off. I am not sure if this is because I approached the book expecting to be blown away by its forbidden subject matter and therefore was just numb to the often repetitive descriptions but it just didn’t live up to the promise that it could have held.

Admittedly, I did find the discussion in one of the later chapters rather amusing when the ectoplasm of a ghost was likened to spiritual lubricant – ‘sperm from the after world’. That was quite entertaining but overall the book just didn’t do it for me…which I suppose is a good thing given that the major theme within its pages is necrophilia. Quite frankly, it is two hundred pages of my life that I am never getting back.

Necrophilia Variations by Supervert is available now.

necrophilia variations

Review: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Synopsis

After finishing college, Piper Kerman started having adventures. She took off with her lover Nora, she jumped off cliffs, basically started living a reckless existence. Piper Kerman had little regard for the conventional rules when she was young and having fun. This unfortunately led to a one time drug money trafficking situation which came back to haunt her nearly ten years after the event.

Piper Kerman was incarcerated for 15 months. It was during those fifteen months (and with the help and love of her fellow inmates) that Kerman really began to truly understand what it means to live.

Review

I have to admit, my sole reason for reading this book is that I am desperate to watch the television series and since I have a weird OCD rule about not watching films or TV shows based on books before reading them, Orange is the New Black did get boosted up the TBR pile. Also, my aunty Susie was pretty insistent that I read and watch so she had someone to discuss the series with.

I think, like most people, I went into this book believing one thing about prisoners. People in the big house are bad. They have committed a crime and now they are doing time as a punishment. What I didn’t expect was the level of empathy and warmth I felt towards Kerman and her fellow inmates. Sure, the story was told with the perspective of a prisoner so it was unlikely that Kerman would be unnecessarily demonise her prison colleagues, however, what did become apparent is that, like Kerman herself, a lot of the women she shared prison life with were just victims of their own circumstance. Furthermore, they were the victims of a judicial system that doesn’t rehabilitate inmates to the best level.

However, Kerman does not bemoan her station in life; she doesn’t wallow in self pity and expect everyone to feel sorry for her. She knows the part she played in her incarceration and she owns it with honesty, balls and quite frankly a level of integrity that we should all aspire to have.

What Kerman manages to do so very excellently within Orange is the New Black is to raise awareness of the prison system in America, highlighting its very obvious flaws whilst respectfully understanding that she did commit a crime and acknowledging that she should pay for her sins. Hopefully the work that Piper Kerman has done since then – with this book amongst other things – will help to garner future reform for prisoners in the future.

Now, how do I download series one from NetFlix?

For more information on Piper Kerman please visit www.piperkerman.com

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman is available now.

Orange cover

Review: One Kick by Chelsea Cain

Synopsis

If you were to look carefully around Kick Lannigan’s home you would find some unusual things secreted; shrunken stars, knives and guns. Not the norm for a 21 year old. However, Kick is not your normal young adult. As a child, Kick was abducted and lived with her kidnappers for over four years before being returned home to her parents. Over ten years later and Kick hasn’t forgotten, she keeps herself safe in case anything like this should happen again.

Review

The concept of Stockholm Syndrome has always been a fascinating one to me and Chelsea Cain somewhat touches upon it in her novel One Kick. How can you expect a child to adjust to being back in the arms of their legal parents when all they have known is the “care” of their kidnappers? It is a mind blowing concept and one that Cain has handled extremely well. Whilst Stockholm Syndrome plays its part in the narrative the focus is on how Kick – as an adult – handles the daily comings and goings of her life.

Things become trickier for her when she is asked to help assist a rogue bounty hunter, James Bishop in two amber alert cases for missing children. Kick’s past could be the key to finding the missing children but whether Kick can go back to her past without falling apart is another matter altogether.

Whilst I cannot claim to know what tactics the FBI might use in a case such as this I feel I can safely assume that a level of suspended belief is needed to accept that they would call on a former victim for help, however, I genuinely did not question this whilst reading One Kick. The storyline ran smoothly and consistently and left little room for questioning. The characters were well thought out. Besides Kick, the bounty hunter James Bishop was presented as mysterious as possible and you always felt like you wanted to know more about him but Cain has cleverly held back on the details creating the perfect opportunity to serialise the book.

One Kick by Chelsea Cain is available now.

One Kick Cover

My Weekly TBR Pile – 25.08.2014 – 31.08.14

Oh and another week has passed people. This happens to be my last week off work. Having been off for six whole months I think it is about time to get back into the swing of things, however, I am saddened that my reading time will be greatly diminished. Essentially that means I am never getting my NetGalley percentage any higher. Oh if only I had a job that would pay me to read all the lib-long day. That would be sweet.

Anywho, this past week I got through nearly all of my TBR pile. I am still working my way through Tony Fletcher’s Boy About Town. It is a good book but not a sit down narrative that makes you want to read on and on. It is more of a book that you dip into.

The books that I did complete this week include:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas

One Kick by Chelsea Cain (review to be posted 26.08.14)

I would like to have read more but ah, what are you gonna do?

Today I started reading my 99th book of the year. Yes, I am one off the big 100. Here is the list of this week’s books that need to be read.

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman (Currently reading so I can indulge in the TV series and have copious conversations with my aunty who is desperate to talk about it.)

It Had to be You by Ellie Adams

The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House by Stephanie Lamb (This was on last week’s TBR list but I didn’t get through it, boo hiss)

And if I am really lucky with my time I will try and read

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

In other book related news, today a great thing happened. It is one of those rare occasions when all the stars are aligned. Today I perused my Amazon wish list and one of the books that I had on it was reduced by 100%. It was free baby! I love it when that happens.

Anywho, I hope you all have a great book week.

Ooh and if you have a chance this week make sure you check out the blogs of some very awesome people – Matt Phil Carver, Rachel Dewhurst and Clare over at A Book and Tea.

Review: Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas

Synopsis

Annie Howarth seems to have it all; loving husband, beautiful daughter and a house to be proud of but Annie also has a dirty not so secret past. She was once involved with a man accused of murder. And when her former lover, Tom Greenwood, is released from his 10 year prison sentence, Annie’s past comes back to haunt her.

Review

Firstly, I have to say that this book is extremely well written. Louise Douglas has captured a moment in history – the miner’s strike in Yorkshire during the 1980s with haunting accuracy. Her descriptions of the moors are both evocative and atmospheric. She cleverly toils with the thin line that separates right from wrong. Her overall style cannot be faulted.

However, I found that I could not empathise with her protagonist. Understandably, Annie Howarth was a victim of the actions of those around her; from her lover Tom Greenaway and how his actions led her to be left alone to the oppressive and overbearing nature of her policeman husband who smothered her. And whilst this character was layered with many complexities such as where her loyalties should lie – with her policeman husband during the miner’s riots, with her working class family who were striking or with Tom, the love of her life who she believes was wrongly accused all those years ago – I personally found it difficult to feel any sympathy for her situation.

As I have said, that is not to say that this isn’t a good, intriguing mystery that is written very well it just didn’t enthuse a love of character that I was expecting from Louise Douglas.

Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas is available now.

louise douglas your beautiful lies

 

Review: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Synopsis

The Song girls have always been close. After the death of their mother Margot, Lara Jean and Kitty have had to work together to be strong; not only for each other but for their father too. So when Margot flies 4000 miles away to study in St Andrews University in Scotland, middle child Lara Jean finds that the majority of the responsibility falls heavy upon her shoulders.

It is difficult enough being the responsible one but Lara Jean has to deal with her burgeoning feelings for her sister’s ex-boyfriend Josh; a boy who she once loved but stopped herself from thinking about due to Margot liking him too. However, when a box of love letters that Lara Jean has written somehow get sent to all the boys that she has had feelings for before her whole world is turned upside down.

Review

Initially I wasn’t really feeling this book. I felt that it was paced at warp speed and the short scenes felt a bit choppy to me. However, I think this could have been because of the sweeping narrative of the book that I had previously read was still playing in my mind. This is not a fault of Jenny Han’s but just because it was such a sudden shift. I needed t readjust.

As I got further into the story I actually began to see the pacing as one of the books main attributes. Life is like that when you are young and in love. Everything goes fast, one drama after another that lose significance as the weeks go on. It was actually a clever stylistic trick employed by the writer.

As for the Song girls, they were so easy to like and what I thought was so special about Lara Jean is that she was the balance between the two surrounding sisters. She had the heart of Margot and the playfulness of Kitty and it was s lovely to see her develop and take on the role as older sister as opposed to middle child.

What was also rather lovely about the story is that it didn’t make grand sweeping gestures. It was the simple things that were important such as the little notes passed back and forth between Lara Jean and Peter or how they slowly got to know one another. Lara Jean came across as a young insecure teenager. She wasn’t whiney or gauche which you can sometimes find in YA fiction. She was still growing and developing.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was a sweet innocent book that has the ability to remind us just what it is like to be in the first throws of teenage lust; a gloriously wretched feeling. Jenny Han has done herself proud.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han is available now.

*             Special thanks to Sophia at Scholastic for sending me a copy for review.

to all the boys Ive loved before

Review: A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray *SPOILERS*

Synopsis

The Bradley family are devout Mormons. Their faith is unquestionable as they conduct their lives by the teachings of the church. Ian Bradley is not only the head of the family but is the Bishop in his local area; his wife Claire regularly sees the church put before his family but that is the way of the religion. God comes first. However, when the unthinkable happens within the Bradley family everyone’s faith is put to the test.

Review

Reading about religion will forever be an eye opener especially in modern society when for most religion has been reduced to special occasions and faith is not practised as much as it once was. In A Song For Issy Bradley, Carys Bray presents a story of fervent faith within the modern family and has focused on the Mormon religion which in itself is a fascinating topic but when structured around a fictional text very much becomes the foundation for its characters.

Bray handled the difficult subject of child death with dignity and heart. Her narrative is beautiful as she undresses the emotions that Claire was feels through the loss of a child. It is heartbreaking to read but absolutely necessary to see her crumble under the sheer pain and how her grief snowballs on to the rest of the family.

The familial roles significantly change yet the traditional roles that are expected within the religion remain i.e. the eldest child (and daughter) Zippy takes on the housekeeping responsibilities because it as expected. Ian tries to hold it all together as not only his wife falls apart but as he deals with his own grief and tries to remain faithful to his religious beliefs that everything happens for a greater purpose. His son Al, who has always been a loose cannon continues to misbehave and tries to mask his grief with humour and youngest son Jacob sticks fervently to his belief that his younger sister will be returned to him.

A Song For Issy Bradley is beautiful. There is no other word for it. Bray shines through as a new voice to look out for.

A Song For Issy Bradley by Carys Bray is available now.

a song for issy bradley

My Weekly TBR Pile – 18.08.14

Last week was a good reading week. I got through quite a few books – finally the dizziness has subsided so reading has become more frequent and easier.

This week I read:

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth by ACH Smith and Brian Froud

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

A Song For Issy Bradley by Carys Bray (Review to be posted tomorrow)

And I started reading Boy About Town by Tony Fletcher which I will continue reading this week.

I was sent a copy of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. It was sent for review from the wonderful people at Scholastic so that will definitely be getting read this week. I will also read the following books.

The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House by Stephanie Lam

Your Beautiful Lies by Louie Douglas

One Kick by Chelsea Cain

I hope I can get through them all. I will get my NetGally percentage up and my reading list down.

Hope you have a good reading week.

L x