This month I finally finished the mammoth task of redecorating my living room, a chore which had been ongoing since… well, so far in the past that I can’t even remember when we started. July? June, maybe? A fireplace was removed, ceilings were plastered, walls were painted multiple times, a new floor was laid, doors were hacked down, light fittings were replaced and many frustrated tears were shed.
With all the upheaval, my home office was transformed into a furniture storage facility and wasn’t the most relaxing habitat to settle down and write in. I did manage to create a handful of short stories and, by some miracle, managed to finish draft 3 of my novel and plan for NaNoWriMo, but when I didn’t have a paintbrush or hammer or planks of wood in my hands, all I really wanted to do was curl up with a book. So I did. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag of genres this month but that’s exactly how I like it.
Before You Go, Clare Swatman
This book is both heartbreaking and heartwarming and I was swept up in the tale completely. My heart ached for protagonist Zoe as she worked through the grief of losing her husband, and it reminded me that the love of a partner is not something to be taken for granted. When I first started reading Before You Go, I wasn’t convinced that it would be my cup of tea; I expected lots of mushy stuff with little action. However, the story soon becomes magical as you realise that Zoe has a very real opportunity to change the course of her history. I can’t say too much more without spoiling, but if you love the catharsis of tear-inducing novels, this is for you.
Incubation, Laura DiSilverio
This YA read takes place in a dystopian America which has been dramatically changed by outbreaks of avian flu. Protagonist Everly Jax is a 16-year-old scientist who has grown up in a Kube – a government-controlled environment which is designed to raise children into adults who will best serve the country as it struggles to overcome disaster.
I don’t read huge amounts of YA literature so do take my comparisons with a pinch of salt, but I found Everly a refreshing change from many other dystopian YA protagonists who tend to despise their government, hate the regimes controlling them and feel endlessly sorry for themselves. Everly may not be strictly obedient to her superiors – that’s what makes her interesting – but she appreciates the importance of the work they do, and the work she is destined to do as a scientist.
She faces several moral dilemmas along the way and it was interesting to see her balance her loyalty to her friends with her compulsion to do what she believes is right for civilisation on a larger scale. I found some of the supporting characters – particularly Halla – a little one-dimensional, and the romance element wasn’t my cup of tea, but all in all Incubation was an enjoyable read with an interesting premise.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
I’m only around 9 years too late to the party on this one, but we all read at our own pace, eh? I have mixed feelings about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and a lot of thoughts. I very nearly gave up on it at least twice because I found the first third of the book monotonously dull. Larsson includes so much backstory and complex family history – and in such a dry, lifeless tone – that I found myself struggling to process so much information and stay interested in the mystery at hand. I felt that Larsson did little to showcase the personality of his characters in the early chapters, which meant that I wasn’t compelled to actually care about the masses of backstory I had to wade through.
Simply out of sheer stubbornness I stuck with this book and was relieved to find that the story did pick up, particularly when the two protagonists, Blomkvist and Salander, finally crossed paths and began working together. The mystery of Harriet Vanger’s disappearance was intriguing, and the descriptions of grisly rape and murder scenes suitably repulsive and shocking, but I wasn’t as blown away by the book as I hoped I might be. Salander was a likeable heroine, but I found myself – spoiler ahead – frustrated about the fact that while she was strong enough to not be broken by rape, violence and persistent societal ostracization, it was falling in love with a man that hit her hardest. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes as the book came to its close; Salander’s falling in love simply made her character less believable.
Overall, the first in the Millennium series was somewhat of a disappointment to me. I felt it could do to lose a hundred pages or so to become a more succinct, gripping and powerful novel. Would I read the others? Probably not. Part of me is intrigued to learn what Salander gets up to next, but sadly I found Larsson’s writing style too flat and tedious to compel me to read more.
Meet Baby Morgan, Lacey London
After the intensity of Larsson, I needed something lighter – enter Meet Baby Morgan which, I discovered while half-way through the novel, is book 5 of a longer series focusing on Clara Andrews. Luckily, I didn’t feel as though I needed to read the prequels in order to get to know Clara and understand her circumstances. She’s a new mum with who struggles to adjust to motherhood and a slower pace of life in the country. Fallings out with friends, cute baby talk and eccentric in-laws made this a fun, light and cosy read.
I must admit that I’m unsure if I want to read more about Clara, but I am eager to read London’s Anxiety Girl series which I have heard many good things about. Her writing style is fresh, funny and engaging – she’ll certainly be a writer I turn to when I’m looking for a peaceful read.
The House, Simon Lelic
Within the earliest pages of Simon Lelic’s The House, we’re assured that it is not a ghost story. Indeed, it isn’t ghosts who wreak havoc on protagonists Jack and Syd’s lives – it is real people. And that makes the story significantly more terrifying.
I could rave about this book for hours, but it’s so hard to describe why without giving away sneaky spoilers. Jack and Syd are a young couple who recently purchased a house which came full to the rafters with its previous owner’s junk. Something about the house just doesn’t quite feel right, and from the moment they move in, the couple’s relationship begins to unravel.
I loved the back and forth of Jack and Syd’s first person perspectives, and thought Lelic did a fantastic job of showcasing their differing personalities by creating totally unique narrative styles for each. Suspense is established from the very start, but it builds and builds with each chapter until you feel as frantic as the protagonists to make sense of the mystery. And then, oh man, just as you think that everything is golden, then comes along a plot twist that hits you like a tonne of bricks.
Read it. Read it now.
It, Stephen King
I was desperate to finish It in time for Halloween but, alas, there are only so many hours in a day and sadly a big chunk of them require work and sleep. Plus, it’s a bloody big book. So far, I love it. I’ll let you know all about it in my November Reads.