Wednesday, 8 November 2017

 

What I Read in October 2017 – Wrap Up & Mini Reviews

After September's incredible selection of reads, in October when I was looking at my TBR I found it harder to decide on what to pick up next and some books I did end up choosing still didn't grab me quite as much. I did read a variety of genres to mix things up, which helped a little bit to get excited about my chosen reads again. My two absolute favourites in October were the excellent Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman and non-fiction title Why the Dutch Are Different by Ben Coates.



Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart (Hot Key Books)

This was another great twisty thriller from the author of We Were Liars. Rather than start at the beginning of the story of protagonist Jule, we jump in at a pivotal moment almost at the very end of the journey, and each chapter in turn goes further back in time to uncover mysteries and mind-blowing revelations. I was completely gripped from the moment I opened the book at chapter 18 and I was hooked until the very end (or beginning?). The story was exceptionally good and telling it in reverse order really added to its appeal. The only thing I would say is that when we finally return to the past I found that it finished too soon as I still had SO many questions left. I would love a sequel to the story as I think there are many more layers to Jule yet to be uncovered, especially around her early childhood, and I for one would love to learn more! 4 stars. Get your copy here.


Undercover Princess by Connie Glynn (Penguin)

I didn't know anything about Undercover Princess when I picked it up, but the blurb made it seem like Enid Blyton meets The Princess Diaries and I was well into that. And looking back, I wasn't far off. It truly had the charm of the old boarding school books I grew up with, etiquette lessons like in The Princess Diaries but also a heavy dose of action, making this book unique among its royal precedents. Protagonists Lottie Pumpkin and Ellie Wolf were like day and night, and yet their connection was instant and strong, and I loved seeing their friendship unfold. Throwing Jamie into the mix created an interesting dynamic, and while I would've liked to have seen more of Lottie's childhood best friend Ollie, I'm hoping we get to learn a lot more about him in future installments. The only thing that felt slightly off about this read was he ages of the characters being 14/15 as their actions and maturity made them seem quite a bit older. Despite this though, I was properly hooked by this tale of princesses, Partizans and Portmans. Their fascinating dynamics opened an entirely new and interesting world, not yet explored in MG/YA fiction, and I'm excited to see where it'll go next. 4 stars. Get your copy here.




The Muse by Jessie Burton (Picador)

Ever since laying eyes on the gorgeous cover for The Muse before it was even published I was keen to read it, but with an ever growing pile of books to review I didn't end up picking this one up. Luckily for me, my flat mate found a copy at our local book exchange, thinking it was something I would enjoy – and she was absolutely right. I didn't know anything about the story before picking it up, but with this dual time frame narrative Jessie Burton has created another historic read that while focusing on purely fictional characters, in its detail feels incredible realistic (so much so that I Googled the artist at the heart of the tale but alas, he is not a real person). The story of the artist and the people touched by the work along the way is both harrowing and thought provoking, and the way the two timelines are entwined, set again the backdrop of both the lead up to the second world war and the 1960s, was as inspired as it was fascinating. 4 stars. Get your copy here.


Christmas at the Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan (Sphere)

I missed being back on Mount Polbearne with Polly, Huckle and Neil the Puffin. Reading about their lives on the charming island and their friends Kerensa and Reuben's outlandish Christmas festivities certainly got me in the festive mood. Every scene Neil was in was a sheer joy, and I really loved Reuben especially in this book especially as well, despite his self-centered, privileged outlook on life. However, while looking like a sweet and bubbly novel from the cover, there are some serious topics discussed within this novel that I feel were kind of brushed away towards the end to create a happily ever after ending for both Polly and Huckle, and Kerensa and Reuben. There would still be some implications to the journeys they went on in this book and it's a shame these weren't dealt with more realistically. Despite this though I did enjoy the novel overall. I mean, with Polly's gorgeous bakes running throughout, Neil being mischievous, Huckle being gorgeous, Reuben being hilarious, and Christmas in the air, how can this book not be a seasonal delight? 3.5 stars. Get your copy here.


Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva (Allison & Busby)

This novel tells the story of Charles Dickens writing his famous festive tale. Author Samantha Silva wonderfully captures the simultaneously dreary and charming atmosphere of Dickens' London and imagination within this semi-historical novel, incorporating plenty of references to pivotal points in A Christmas Carol that supposedly inspired characters and storylines. They weren't subtle, but they were heaps of fun to come across. While I thoroughly enjoyed seeing A Christmas Carol slowly take shape within Dickens' imagination, I found the way his life, family and friends were depicted a tad too convenient to move the storyline along, rather than feeling based on true events. They were mostly one-dimensional and the inevitable ending did not ring true – merely there to mirror Scrooge's journey in A Christmas Carol. I did enjoy this book, mostly for the beautiful depiction of Dickens' London; the foggy dark streets of London and the jolly Christmas cheer, but by trying to emulate the origin story so closely, it lost some of its magic along the way. Read my full review here. 3 stars. Get your copy here.




Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (Bloomsbury)

Before reading this book I knew very little about the Norse mythologies which have risen in popularity due to the successful Marvel comic books and associated blockbuster films. I am now familiar with Thor, Loki, Odin and Sif, but beyond their world-saving / destroying antics I was still pretty clueless, and I was interested in learning more. Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology came at the perfect time (and I'm sure the publishers were very aware they'd be able to ride on Marvel's success with this). Detailing some of the most well-preserved tales from the Norse gods, we start at the beginning of time and the creation of worlds, and go all the way to the end when Ragnarok destroys it all. Along the way we get to know various pivotal characters from Norse myths, the impact they have on the world, the way they die... True to mythical form there are bizarre relationships, feuds and monsters – and I loved it. I hope Neil Gaiman will take a crack at uncovering more lost Nordic myths because if they're all as fascinating as the ones already included in this book then we'd be in for a real treat! 4.5 stars. Purchase here.


Why the Dutch Are Different by Ben Coates (Nicholas Brealey Publishing)

This book is well-researched, highly informative and (mostly) non-judgmental. Even though it discusses my county, my culture and my people, it was still very enlightening to me and I picked up a thing or two I wasn't aware of yet. Mostly though, it opened my eyes to some things that are normal to me that may not be so to an outsider. From the emergency alarms that sound across the country the first Monday of the month just to test them, through to the Dutch no-nonsense way of being honest with other people that can be perceived as rude. Why the Dutch Are Different is highly informative while also being hugely entertaining. Ben Coates has a flair with his writing that makes it easy to digest a ton of facts at high speed while also transporting his reader to different places and even times. I highly recommend this book for people to understand the Dutch and our culture more, and for Dutch people to gain perspective of how they and their country are perceived in the world. 4.5 stars. Purchase here.




Have you read any of the above books? And what have you read in October? Let me know in the comments below!


🎵 Listening to: Wheatus – Teenage Dirtbag
🔹 Mood: Distracted



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