random book reviews

As I mentioned in one of my diary posts, way back in the mists of time, I recently re-joined my local library, after a Kindle-led absence of many years.

At first I was really excited about this, because Books! That are free! Then I remembered that people in our area seem to only read crime novels and family sagas, neither of which particularly float my boat, so those are pretty much all the libraries around here stock. GAH.

(I mean, I’m assuming they don’t float my boat. I know I’m not all that keen on crime novels, but I’m not sure I even know what a ‘family saga’ is, other than the obvious fact that they presumably revolve around, well, families, I suppose. All of the ones in the local library – and there are a LOT of them – seem to feature pictures of harried looking women, clutching shawls around themselves while standing in a dockyard, or next to a mine, or something, presumably waiting for their husband to come home, so they can pick coal out of his ears and feed him a bowl of gruel or something. Honestly, things are depressing enough right now without all of that bleakness, so I think I’ll pass…)

Anyway, I’m used to carefully selecting books on Amazon through a lengthy process involving looking up authors I know I like, going to the ‘Other shoppers also bought…” section, and then working my way meticulously through the reviews, before choosing the ‘Send a sample to my Kindle’ option, and only THEN choosing to make that all-important £4.99 investment IF I like it. I buy shoes, on the other hand, by looking at them, liking them, checking they’re available in my size, and then hitting ‘ADD TO BASKET’ before I can even think twice. I’ve no idea why I’m so picky when it comes to books, then, but I do know that, faced with all of the books in alphabetical order, and NO REVIEWS (Obviously I could have just Googled them, but I was about to throw up at the time, so…), I reverted to my usual “Judging a Book By Its Cover” technique.

Here’s what I got…

library books

Lisa Jewell – I Found You

Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite authors, so I was really excited to find one of the few books of hers that I haven’t already read. It didn’t disappoint, either: it’s a dual-time novel set in both the present day and the early 90s, and it revolves around a man who finds himself on a beach in an English seaside resort, with no idea who he is or how he got there. I’m always quite fascinated (and also terrified) by tales of memory loss, and I also enjoyed the mystery element of finding out his story, so I really enjoyed this, and would highly recommend it. Unlike…

Ross Armstrong –  The Watcher

I really liked the sound of this book, which seemed a bit ‘Rear Window’-esque, with the main protagonist being a bird watcher who spends her time watching the building opposite hers – ostensibly looking for birds, but really spying on her neighbours. Unfortunately, though, I’ve never been the type to force myself to finish a book I’m just not that into, and I really struggled to get into this one, mostly because I found the main character quite hard to like or understand.

Now, I DON’T generally have to like a character to want to know more about them, so this wouldn’t normally have been a sticking point, but, I don’t know, I just couldn’t get interested in this one, who seemed to make odd, random decisions, which made very little sense to me. For instance, early in the book, there was a whole bit where she was all, “I’m not a doctor, but I pretend to be one sometimes, right down to carrying a doctor’s bag and making house calls on my neighbours, purely because I get better broadband if people think I’m a doctor.” (This wasn’t essential to the plot, by the way – or, at least, I don’t THINK it was – it was just a kind of odd aside, which was presumably meant to show us a bit about the character, but which just left me feeling anxious about the poor people she’d been “diagnosing”, even when the plot had long-since moved on.)

In this book’s defence, I was feeling particularly ill when I read it, and should probably have picked something a bit less bleak: it seems to get good reviews on Amazon, so I’m guessing it’s just me who really couldn’t get into it!

Sophie Kinsella – Shopaholic to the Stars

I loved the first Shopaholic book, and somewhat embarrassingly, found myself really relating to the main character, Becky Bloomwood, who is a woman blessed/cursed with the ability to justify just about any purchase. I found the first couple of novels in the series pretty funny and entertaining, but honestly, the more I read, the more I want to just slap Becky up the side of the head and tell her to get a grip. In this latest instalment, she’s relocated to LA, where she’s as shopping-obsessed as ever -the problem is that, instead of being entertaining, she now just seems painfully self-absorbed, and so idiotic at times that it’s hard to imagine how she would actually function as an adult. Harsh, I know, but I think the character has just become caricature at this point, which is a shame, because I did love these books a few years ago.

With that said, I will almost certainly read the next one, too. Well, I have to know what happens next, don’t I?

Sarah Waters – The Paying Guests 

Now we’re talking! Sarah Waters is another author I love (The Little Stranger is my favourite of hers…), and The Paying Guests had been on my ‘to read’ list for a while. This is set in post-war London, where Frances Wray and her mother are forced to take in lodgers in order to pay the bills. It’s a real step down for the eminently middle-class Wrays, but Frances quickly finds herself fascinated by the much more modern Barbers – and particularly with the vivacious Lillian. I won’t say too much more, for fear of spoilers, but this was a wonderful study of the time, and of the characters involved, and although it did start to drag a bit towards the end, that could, once again, have been more down to my general state of mind at the time, than the book itself.

JoJo Moyes – Me Before You

I’m possibly one of the last people in the world to read this book: I’d actually deliberately avoided it, because I knew it was a weepy, and I’ve never been much of a fan of getting to know and love certain characters, just to have my heart broken by them. That’s exactly what happens here, so if you don’t want want to spend your afternoon sobbing, it’s probably not for you – it is, however, a wonderful read, and something really quite different from the usual run of romance novels, so I’d say its reputation is well deserved.

JoJo Moyes – Me After You

This, you will totally unsurprised to learn, is the sequel to Me Before You. I was glad to find there was one, because I was curious to know what happened to the main characters after the events of the first book, but I actually found this one much less interesting – partly because I read it directly after Me Before You  and I was still a bit miffed about That Thing That Happens in the First Book, but also because it was just a bit meandering, really, without the same strong plot to drive it all forward. So, worth reading if you read the first book and desperately want to know what became of the characters afterwards, but don’t expect the same kind of quality from it.

Liane Moriarty – Three Wishes

I LOVE Liane Moriarty, so was really happy to find two of her books in the local library – and two I hadn’t already read, into the bargain! Three Wishes follows a set of adult triplets through about a year of their lives: it’s very character-driven, so the plot isn’t particularly dramatic, but Liane Moriarty has such a talent for creating believable, interesting characters, that I’d probably love anything she wrote – with this being no exception.

Liane Moriarty – Truly, Madly, Guilty

This book is actually a good example of what I was saying above, about characters not always having to be likeable in order to be compelling. I didn’t like all of the characters in this novel, but I DID want to know what happened to them, which kept me reading right until the end. The book kicks off with an un-defined event, which has apparently changed the lives of a group of friends/neighbours: we have to wait to find out what this event was, and how it came about, so it’s one of those books that keeps you guessing – exactly the way I like ’em!

What have you read lately?

22 Comments
  1. What have I been reading? Well, I started with Poe, then moved on
    to the Brontës and Jane Austen and now I’m in the middle of reading Dostoes… I’ve been reading Percy Jackson. Don’t judge me.
    In my defense, I was planning on reading all these classic English novels, but college has been so hard and stressful I don’t think I possibly could. The Percy Jackson books are easy to read, entertaining, interesting and downright hilarious. Granted, the first saga is meant for 12-year-olds but I don’t really care

  2. I too love Lisa Jewell and raced through I Found You a few months ago. I HATED Shopaholic to the Stars – maybe I’m just getting old as I loved the shopaholic books when they first came out but now I cannot stand BB. I hated this so much I’m definitely not going to read any new books in that series. Bah. It just felt like she hasn’t grown up at all as the series has progressed, as much as she was a loveable airhead before, it’s just not loveable any more. In fact I think there is one set in Vegas after this one?

    I’ve also had the Paying Guests on my kindle wishlist for a long long time, it’s dropping in price at the moment so I might finally take the plunge.

    Oh I also struggled through After You as well, I rarely don’t finish books but this one almost broke that trend. It just seemed so pointless…. I sound like a right grump today don’t I!

    1. Haha, I totally agree about After You and Shopaholic – After You felt a bit like the publisher had just thought, “Let’s capitalise on the success of the movie by rushing out another book,” but there wasn’t much of a story to tell, so, yeah, a bit pointless. And Shopaholic is a hate read for me now – I can’t seem to stop myself, but I think I’m mostly just reading it to roll my eyes: she’s just SO irritating, with basically zero character development over the however many years I’ve “known” her!

  3. Thanks for a much appreciated reading list! I looove Jojo Moyes and Liane Moriarty and am making my way through all of their books. I haven’t read Sarah Waters and Lisa Jewell, but now I’ve got to check them out. I’ve promised myself that I can’t buy any new books before I’ve read at least 20 of the maaany I’ve alraedy got, but I broke that promise only two days ago when I bought the second installment in the triology about Miss Peregine’s peculiar children by Ransom Riggs. If you like Isabelle Allende and the Harry Potter books, these are for you. Very hard to put down!

  4. The Paying Guests is on my summer TBR list since it has been on my shelf for ages. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it- I love The Little Stranger too!

  5. Me After You – I am annoyed I read this book. Me Before You was so good and then this book was terrible. I found the main character annoying from start to finish, whereas I’d quite liked her before. It kind of ruined the first book for me!! The Paying Guests – I enjoyed this one and I was glad because I actually really didn’t like The Little Stranger and I thought this one was more of a return to form for her. I’m currently reading the new book by Madeleine Miller, Circe, the follow up to The Song of Achilles, because I managed to get my hands on proofs (it’s out next year) from work. The Song of Achilles is my favourite book of the last few years, so if you haven’t read that yet I strongly recommend it (not just because sales from the book help pay my wage 😉 )! Totally different to anything else I’d ever read.

  6. Thanks for another book post, I always really enjoy them! Just wanted to let you and other Shopahollies (Not going to happen? No? Ok then.) know, yes there is one after this one, set in Vegas, called “Shopaholic to the Rescue” and I found it the most entertaining since… the one about her wedding? Give it a try! Spoiler: She stops shopping?!

  7. I absolutely loved The Little Stranger too! And I love the Shopaholic series, even though it’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t normally read. Agree about the last few books going downhill though.

  8. Thanks! I needed some new ideas as to what to read next. I don’t know Lisa Jewell and I think I haven’t read anything by Liane Moriarty, so I’ll definitely give them a try! I really enjoy Jojo Moyes books, though I haven’t read Me After You. The Girl You Left behind (if you read it you must read the short story in Paris which is kind of a prequel) is one of my favourite books ever! I also liked The one plus one and The last Letter from your Lover and I read some less known books by her, The Ship of Brides and Night Music which I both really enjoyed, too. Ok I think I’ll go buy another book right now:)

  9. I just finished shopaholic to the rescue (the next one) and I both hated it and liked it. It seemed to bring back a bit of what I loved about the earlier books.

    Currently I’m working my way through Sarah Addison Allen’s books. I highly recommend Garden Spells. It’s easily in my top 10 favorite books. And I’m currently reading first frost. I’ve been in s slump lately and I hate it, so I’m gonna work myself out of that today.

  10. I struggled to get into the Shopaholic books because I just couldn’t relate to her and got annoyed with how bad her spending habits were lol x

    LuxeStyle

  11. I love it when you post book comments! You have steered me to some awesome reads. About the need for free books with a more wide selection than in your local library, the Ontario Govt has subscribed to Overdrive, a huge collection of ebooks and audiobooks available to all public libraries in the province. You might want to see if there is a similar service in Scotland

    1. There is, but the last time I looked, the selection was pretty dire, unfortunately – will have to have another look and see if it’s improved any!

  12. Thanks so much for these recommendations, I love to read and am always looking for something to absorb! One author who I absolutely love is Vikas Swaarup – who authored Slumdog Millionaire — which is WAAAAAAY better than the movie (which I really really loved, so I was surprised that the book topped it.) . He also wrote another one, Six Suspects, which was really great. The reason I like him so much is that he is a really great creative writer but his stories and the characters are just downright FUN while being set in India. I haven’t read that many books which are set in India and for some reason, I had them pre-pegged as being very depressing. On the contrary, his books illustrate that the country is as colourful as his characters. I did a little search and just discovered that he has a third book out — the Accidental Apprentice — and I am hoping to dive into it fairly soon. Anyway, if you ever get a chance to read any of his work, I would love to know what you think!

  13. I have enjoyed your recommendations, so will take up the new ones. I’ve just read Ken Follett’s “Eye of the needle” and while it’s not like yours I did enjoy this WWII spy novel with murders and espionage

    1. The Ken Follett was Raymond’s addition when I bought the Kindle for him, but he prefers books so I acquired it. It was the only one left in my library and I had read all my books at least twice

  14. I used to love Sophie Kinsella shopaholic books but they all seem to be a bit silly and to far fetched now, it feels like maybe the character has run its course now and the author has run out of plausible storylines for Becky. Have you read any of her other books not just the shopaholic series if so what did you think of them

      1. Have you ever read any of the books Sophie Kinsella writes under her real name of Madeleine Wickham, they are so very different from the Shopaholic books, it might be worth trying them if you haven’t already read them.

  15. Not keen on the Shopaholic books myself, though loved The Paying Guest. Thanks for the jojo Moyes recommendations as I’ve heard so much about her yet have never read her. I also wonder if you are the model on the cover of my book, The Artist’s Muse, out 25/8? She has the most beautiful long red hair. Intrigued. On amazon and google books if you care to check. Thank you if it is. Nice cover. Kerry Postle

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