What have you read this week?

weekly reading and book haul wrap up

Read

the moth book reviewMy favourite read of this week was The Moth: 50 Extraordinary True Stories edited by Catherine Burns.  I mentioned this book in my non-fiction recommendations post and it seems this was all the prodding I needed to pick it.

The Moth is a live storytelling event that takes place across America where anyone can pitch to tell their true, first-hand story.  Kind of like a poetry reading, but for true stories.  I’d never heard of The Moth before picking this book up, but now it is on my bucket list to attend one of these events in person.  There is also a podcast which I have just subscribed to but am yet to listen to.

Anyway, back to the book.  The stories in this collection are told by a wide range of people.  I found each one to be engaging, interesting and very readable.  The stories are all very different to each other, but all are moving – several brought tears to my eyes.  In what has been a confusing and worrying couple of weeks, this book restored my faith in the goodness of human beings and secured a place on my favourites shelf.  You can read more about The Moth here.

broken monsters book reviewThe other book I finished this week was totally different and scared the crap out of me.  Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes is a thriller/murder/police story with an eery and very creepy twist.  It is atmospheric and so well written.  This is the second book by Lauren Beukes that I’ve read (the first was The Shining Girls, which was one of my top reads of 2013) and she is well on her way to becoming one of my favourite authors. I won’t lie, I’m a little bit biased as she is South African and it always makes me happy when SA authors make the big time!  I’d definitely recommend this book if you like your crime with a whacky twist!

Acquired

how much the heart can hold book reviewThis week I received one book from the publisher for review, and it is a beauty.  I have a bit of an odd fixation with anatomical hearts, and the cover of this book is just the most gorgeous thing I have ever seen.  How Much the Heart Can Hold is a collection of seven stories by seven authors (only one of whom I’ve read before), all focusing on love; but not the usual romantic kind of love.  The stories each tell of a different kind of love and I can’t wait to delve into them and find out more.  Published by Sceptre on 3 November, the book is tied to a short story competition ending in February 2017.

Earlier in the week I happened to be hanging around waiting for my daughter to complete her driving theory test (she passed!) and stumbled upon a Waterstones.  As we all know, it is impossible to leave a Waterstones book shop empty handed, so I treated myself to four books – I’m just a sucker for their buy one get one half price offer!  I bought:

Have you read any of these books?  I’d love to her your thoughts!  What was the best book you read this week?

Review: A Lovely Way to Burn by Louise Welsh

lovely way to burn

This book sounded right up my alley – pandemic wipes out the city of London, everyones dying AND there’s a murder.  Yes.

Turns out this is a quick, easy read with nothing too taxing for the brain to handle – and just what I was in the mood for, but nothing mind-blowing.  The tension promises to build and sizzle, but ultimately it just fizzles.  The descriptions of London falling apart in the wake of ‘the sweats’ are interesting and scarily believable – it really feels like this is a thing that could happen, people.  But much of it was just a bit too convenient to be truly exciting.  This won’t scratch your apocalyptic itch but it may just hit the spot if you’re looking for an easy mysterious read.  The first of a trilogy, and as I have the second book already, I may as well continue and see how it goes … when the mood strikes.  3 stars.

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Review: The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

girl in the red coat

Now here’s a book that took me by surprise.  This is an unusual take on the whole ‘missing child’ mini-genre that is so popular these days.  It took a little while to get into, but once I was gripped I did not want to put this book down.

Kate Hamer uses the dual narrative with great success here – two contrasting voices both so well characterised.  The young girl comes as across as very true and realistic; a determined and unique young girl, full of innocent hope.  In stark contrast, her mother is desperately struggling to hold herself together, and keep the hope of finding her daughter alive.  At times the writing is so vividly descriptive, Hamer puts you right in the scene – the festival scene particularly resonates here.  And at times the writing is so poignantly touching and heartbreaking it will bring tears to your eyes.

Intelligently written, this is an unusual story about an unusual girl and although it was not quite the tensely gripping psychological thriller I was expecting, it was intriguing and captivating nonetheless.  4 stars.

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Review: Death of a Prima Donna by Brina Svit

death of a prima donna

The next stop on my Global Reading challenge was Slovenia.  I had some trouble finding an author whose work had been translated into English, but eventually discovered Brina Svit, a a journalist, screenwriter and film director who has written three novels.  Death of a Prima Donna is her second novel to be translated into English, the first being Con Brio.

Now, I confess to having some prejudice against this book before I even began.  The title just kind of makes me shiver and roll my eyes – I have no desire to read about prima donnas in the colloquial sense of the word.  But it turns out that the prima donna in this book is actually a famous (fictional) opera singer, so I guess she is a prima donna in the true sense of the word.  Anyway, whatever.

I really don’t like giving bad reviews but there’s no point in being dishonest.  Unfortunately, I thought this book was pretty awful.  The characters were extremely unlikable and, more importantly, very irritating – a neurotic, crazy, beautiful superstar, a crazy stalker superfan … ugh.  I had no sympathy for any of them and couldn’t have cared less what happened to them.  The timeline is confusing, with annoying allusions to things the reader will learn later (pet hate alert), it is quite repetitive and to be honest, I couldn’t tell you now what the mystery of the prima donna’s death was, or even how she died!

Not all books will appeal to everyone, and this one is just not my cup of tea.  It is definitely someone’s cup of tea, as this has quite good ratings on Goodreads, and Brina Svit is clearly an accomplished and well thought of author, so what do I know?!  Just not for me I’m afraid.  2 stars.

If you have any recommendations for Slovenian authors whose works have been translated into English, or any other translated works for that matter, please let me know in the comments!

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Review: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

signs preceding

Translated by Lisa Dillman

I have to admit, booktube made me buy this one.  A couple of months ago, just about every booktuber I follow (a blog post about which will be coming soon …) had read this book, and the vast majority of them were raving about it.  And second confession … I adore this cover.  So with those two things combined, I had no hope of resisting buying this book.

Maybe I’m just not clever enough, because unfortunately I just didn’t get it.  I mean, it’s an engaging story, and the writing/translating is interesting. The main character has some struggles to overcome (I guess that’s putting it mildly!) and I did feel for her.  Herrera creates a vivid picture of the grim life of Mexican immigrants crossing the border into the USA, and he sure knows how to write a beautiful sentence.  But the whole way through this (very short!) book, I felt like I was missing something … it was almost there but I just couldn’t grab it, and this saddens me because I think I have missed something great.  Perhaps this is one for the ‘re-read’ shelf as I think I would get a lot more out of it on a second read.

All this is not to say I hated the book – I didn’t.  I enjoyed the story, the characters were well drawn and the writing almost poetic.  The translator’s note at the end of the book was very interesting and insightful, and it is clear that Lisa Dillman was diligent in her translation, and did a wonderful job.  An author to watch, I think.  3 stars.

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Review: Forensics by Val McDermid

forensics

This book had been on my radar for some time, but it was bumped up the list while we were watching Making a Murderer on Netflix.  I am fascinated by all things crime related, and if I could live my life again I would definitely pursue a career in forensics of some kind, probably forensic psychology.

Although I’m a fan of crime fiction, I’ve actually never read a novel by Val McDermid, which does seem a bit weird and something I will remedy soon!  However, I’d heard good things about this non-fiction title and decided to jump in.  I was not disappointed.

McDermid’s writing style is conversational and informative without being lecture-y.  The science is interspersed with fascinating examples of real crimes, crime scenes, autopsies and criminals, but my absolute favourite thing about this book (apart from the blowflies dotted randomly throughout the pages!) is that most of the examples she uses are from UK crimes, many of which were familiar to me and all the more intriguing for it.  As you would expect, some bits are gruesome, and some of it is downright scary, but it is such fun to read and will arm with lots of interesting facts to gross out your dinner party guests!  I highly recommend this if you have even a passing interest in true crime.  4 stars.

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