August books

86. The Truth About Julia – Anna Schaffner
Story – This book really tells the story of two women. Julia, who planted a bomb in London that killed twenty-four people, and Clare, the woman who is commissioned to write a biography of her. At the beginning of the book though, they are both in prison – so what has occurred in Clare’s life to bring her to that point?
Thoughts – This book was very well written and a lovely character piece. As a reader I got to know Clare quite well as she told the linked stories of her emotional spiral downwards and her investigation of Julia. The concept was interesting and I wanted to keep reading to find out how it ended. However, I can’t say I really enjoyed it that much. It just didn’t really grab me, and it didn’t give me the answers that I wanted. Which was the point, I suppose, but meh.

85. You Will Know Me – Megan Abbot
Story – The life of the Knox family revolves around one thing – daughter Devon and her gymnastics career that is on track for the Olympics. For parents Katie and Eric, and younger brother Drew, nothing is allowed to come between Devon and the dreams of success they have for her. But weeks before a crucial meet, a shocking death shatters the safe and contained world of the gym, and Katie watches me horror as everything she has tried to build with her family threatens to fall.
Thoughts – This book was quite disturbing really. And not just the who-killed-him part of it, but the whole set up of the elite gymnast training. I cannot imagine dedicating that much of my life to a child’s potential sport career, especially since it obviously comes at a detriment to other siblings and the family as a whole. In this story the family had two mortgages and chronic money worries because of the cost of Devon’s gymnastics training and competing. Her brother spends half his life hanging out in the bleachers of the gym because Devon is practising, so he doesn’t really get to have any interests of his own. I don’t know, maybe because I’ve been watching Dance Moms lately (which is all kinds of crazy) but I really picked up on it and was bothered by it here. As for the plot, I worked out who it was fairly early on but was still keen to read on and find out how that would come to light and what the repercussions would be. It was an interesting book – not necessarily brilliant but one that I would talk about with someone else who had read it, because there would be a few things worth discussing.

84. No Biking in the House Without a Helmet – Melissa Fay Greene
Story – This is the story of the Samuel family, who started out pretty ordinarily with a mom and a dad who had four kids, two boys and two girls. But unlike most families it didn’t stop there, and the Samuels added to their family by adoption until they had nine kids altogether.
Thoughts – I like reading about families, and kids, and adoption stories, and this book didn’t disappoint. Melissa hit just the right note in her writing, and her stories were funny and poignant and sweet and amazing in turn. I love the way their family grew, and I love the way she and her husband whole heartedly accepted these older children as theirs, at the same time really respecting the families and cultures they had come from. I was also really impressed with their dedication to finding and connecting with the birth families of all of their children – being given that sense of history and belonging must have been so good for their children. This was definitely one that I’m glad I read.

83. The English Boys – Julia Thomas
Story – Daniel and his best friend Hugh are both rising British actors when they meet Tamsen. Daniel falls in love with her, but before he can confess his feelings to Tamsen she and Hugh get together, falling in love and planning a wedding. But on the day of the wedding, in the very halls of Westminster Abbey, Tamsen is killed before she can walk down the aisle and suspicion falls on the family and friends who knew her best.
Thoughts – This book was just somewhat boring. It was very well written and I enjoyed that, the characterisation was strong. It just felt very odd to have a murder mystery story that had basically no real sense of suspense or tension about it, even though we didn’t find out until right near the end who did it.

82. Saturday Requiem – Nicci French
Story – This is apparently the 6th novel about Frieda Klein, a psychotherapist. In this story she is asked to asses Hannah Docherty, a woman who has been in psychiatric prison since being convicted of brutally murdering her parents and younger brother when she was eighteen.
Thoughts – Reading random crime/suspense books that are part of a series is always a bit of a doubtful proposition, but I’ve read books by Nicci French before and have enjoyed them, so I thought I’d give this one a try. Unfortunately it DID matter that I haven’t read the other ones, because there was actually masses in this book that related back to previous happenings and that I just couldn’t follow. While the parts of the story relating to Hannah and that crime were excellent, I probably wouldn’t read other books in the series out of order.

81. Gemini – Sonya Mukherjee
Story – Clara and Hailey are seventeen year old conjoined twins who have lived their whole lives in a small town, protected from the scrutiny and judgement of the outside world. But they’re getting older now, and the future lies before them, filled with a million different possibilities, and it’s up to Hailey and Clara to discover their dreams and figure out how to be their own person instead of two halves of a whole.
Thoughts – I enjoyed this. It was interesting, and Clara and Hailey were great characters dealing with very typical young adults problems and issues, all the while being in a really unique position. And actually, that’s the one thing that I had a hard time with when reading this book – the absolute unlikeliness of these unseparated conjoined twins! I mean, conjoined twins are so rare, and then the chances of them being joined in the particular way Clara and Hailey were, never having had separation attempted…well, it was hard to suspend disbelief and accept Hailey and Clara! But then, I think that’s probably more of a statement on me needing to use my imagination than the actual book.

80. Mummy’s Favourite – Sarah Flint
Story – DC Charlie Stafford is assigned to investigate a missing persons case where a mother and her son have disappeared, leaving behind a disgruntled husband and another son. In the woods, a woman awakes and finds herself in a hole in the ground. It is like being buried alive, but there is enough light for her to see that she shares her grave with her child, who has been brutally murdered.
Thoughts – I didn’t like this book. The crime was too much for me – he kills the kid, then makes the mother lie in the coffin beside their rotting, decomposing body until she starves to death? What the hell?!?! And yet in contrast to the absolute vileness of the crime, the writing of the police characters seemed absurdly light-hearted. It really just didn’t gel for me at all. This is the first book in a series, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing to read the next one.

79. The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena
Story – Anne and Marco only went to a dinner party. It was next door, on the other side of the adjoining wall, and they’d take the baby monitor. Surely they’d hear if baby Cora woke? They would check on her every half hour anyway…what could happen? But the unimaginable does happen, and now baby Cora is missing.
Thoughts – This was a good, solid mystery. I enjoyed the pacing of it, the reveal of deeper character traits and the hints and clues. I did guess the perpetrator, but it was still a good read.

78. Emma’s Secret – Steena Holmes
Story – Megan was devastated when her daughter Emma was kidnapped, and overjoyed with her return. But while Emma was gone she lived with a couple she believed were her grandparents, a couple she loved very much, and her reintegration into her family is not going as smoothly as Megan would wish.
Thoughts – This book was really not great. The characters were just so bland, and utterly failed to connect me emotionally to the story at all. I have actually read another book by this author and felt the same way about that one – she’s writing about these really highly emotionally charged situations, and yet I don’t really give a toss about her characters or what happens to them in the end. It was boring more than anything else, so I don’t think I’ll be in any hurry to read more of this author’s work. (Including the book prior to this one, since this is apparently actually the sequel).

77. Darkness on the Edge of Town – Brian Keene
Story – Walden is an ordinary small town where nothing much happens…until the day the darkness comes and swallows up the rest of the world. Then there is only Walden, with darkness surrounding it and the darkness of the human inhabitants growing inside.
Thoughts – This book wasn’t bad. It was an interesting concept, and the execution was okay. Very much a Stephen King kind of vibe, with the way the townspeople started falling apart with the menace and/or evil of the darkness. However it didn’t have any kind of resolution! I don’t know if it’s planned to have a sequel, or if the non-ending WAS the ending, but it would stop me really recommending it to anyone.

76. 100 Days of Cake – Shari Goldhagan 
Story – Molly Byrne is a teenager, working hard to live a life while suffering with depression. She has to deal with a sister she used to be close to but now hardly ever speaks to, a best friend who is determined to save the world, a job at a store called Fishtopia where her crush Alex keeps asking her out (although she turns him down every time) and a mother who thinks she can cure her by baking a cake a day for a hundred days.
Thoughts – This book made cake sound really unappealing. It also drove me berserk with all these characters who behaved so inappropriately and ridiculously! First – Molly’s mum. 100 cakes? Really? Not telling her daughter the truth about her dad, while telling the other daughter and making it her burden? No. Elle, the friend – she was like Dawn Schafer on steroids in her obnoxiousness about the environment. I also hated the way she was always slamming girls who dressed up. Alex – he was okay, but I couldn’t understand why he kept asking Molly out when she continually rejected him. I can’t imagine a guy who would do that. Molly’s therapist – okay, this character and the storyline there just ruined the whole book for me. Therapist/patient relationships are completely inappropriate in any circumstances, but when the patient is an underage girl? And when you watch movies with her and drive her home alone? And go to her Fishtopia party? And then get drunk and kiss her and maybe seem kind of rapey so that she knees you in the balls and runs away? Like, it just goes BEYOND inappropriate, and nothing happened to him at all, so…nope. Basically I am completely uncomfortable with this particular situation being written in this way in a book intended for young adults.