Monday, 17 August 2015

August Reads: Part One

The first two weeks in August were spent in Iceland and Canada, and as is my usual habit, I tried to read as many books as possible set in, or about, some of the places I visited. First up, three books set at least partly in Quebec.

1. Speaking In Bones* is the latest crime novel featuring forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan. Far less ludicrous than some of the recent in the series (on which the TV series Bones is based), I enjoyed this as an easy read which, refreshingly, relied on more than horrific violence against women for the plot (after reading the, admittedly brilliant but horribly graphic, new Karin Slaughter novel last month I've been put off this plot trope). In Speaking In Bones, Tempe is approached by an amateur web sleuth who thinks she's found a clue linking the disappearance of a teenager to some bones found locally. The solution, needless to say, is far more complicated than it at first seems.

2. Last Night In Montreal was St John Mandel's - author of the brilliant Station Eleven - first novel, and it explores some similar themes: travelling, performance, escape. Following Lilia, who is abducted by her father at the age of seven and has subsequently spent twenty years on the road. For some of that time, she is pursued by a PI, whose daughter who meet in Montreal, where she is either trying to help or hinder Eli, Lilia's most recent boyfriend, in tracking her down. Sound complicated? It's not, with Mandel demonstrating a keen understanding of what makes people tick, and particularly of how damage inflicted in childhood can reverberate for years to come

3. After reading the last Gamache novel in July, and finding it a bit lacking, The Nature Of The Beast* was a welcome return to form. When a young neighbour of Gamache's, known for his tall tales, runs into the village bistro shouting about a giant gun hidden in the woods, no-one gives much credence to his story. Things change, however, when the boy is involved in an accident.

4. The Readers Of Broken Wheel Recommend* was utterly predictable and packed with cliche, but I loved it regardless. Sara from Sweden has been a penpal to elderly Amy in Broken Wheel, Ohio, for a while now. But when Sara arrives on a long-anticipated trip to visit her friend and finds, instead, Amy's funeral in full swing, she must turn to the one thing that brought the friends together in the first place - books - to make the most of her time in Broken Wheel. This is clearly written by a book lover, not a bibliophile: someone who is as passionate about the Bridget Jones books as she is about Dickens and Austen, and I loved it for that. Despite the predictable plot, if you love books then I'm sure you'll enjoy this.

5. While in Iceland I re-read Names For The Sea, author and academic Sarah Moss's account of her family's year living in Reykjavik. I loved this on first read and loved it even more this time around; it was just perfect to read her witty, incisive stories of Icelanders and Icelandic culture whilst in the country.

6. In Love Letters To The Dead, teenager Laurel is starting high school and dealing with her grief over losing beloved older sister May earlier in the year. Taking the form of a series of letters written from Laurel to dead celebrities, such as Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland and Amelia Earhart, the author captures the teenage voice perfectly and, as some terrible secrets unfold on the page, the reader comes to understand the truth behind May's death. The cover contains a quote from the author's friend, Stephen Chbosky, and if you liked The Perks Of Being A Wallflower I'm pretty confident you'll find lots to enjoy here, too.

7. & 8. I read The Storied Life Of A.J Fikry and This Is Not A Love Story for Alex's A Blogging Good Read series, so I'll save my lengthier reviews for her blog. What I will say is that I enjoyed the former, despite it being fairly predictable and light, and found the latter infuriatingly hit-and-miss. Some of the aspects of the story - particularly the character of Theo and the stuff about Jewish culture and religion in Amsterdam - were great, but it was inconsistent and I never really cared about the second main character, Kitty, nor with what was set up as the central mystery of the book.

*These books were kindly provided by the publishers, via Net Galley, 
in exchange for an honest review.