July books

75. Found by Water – Katherine Hayton
Story – Christine is a victim advocate, a former psychiatrist who works alongside the police to help people whose lives have been touched by crime. Rena comes to her as a woman who has just woken up from a coma following an accident, and is now claiming that her daughter is missing.
Thoughts – This was really good. The author’s style appeals to me, the pacing is neither too quick or too slow, and the threads of the crime are revealed cleverly and well. I really wasn’t expecting this crime to unfold the way it did, and it was great to read a crime novel where you don’t really see where it’s going. My only criticism was maybe too many peripheral characters that were all linked to the crime, but had their own secrets – I found that more confusing than anything else. But aside from that, really enjoyable.

74. Falling – Elisha Cooper
Story – Elisha Cooper is a children’s book author/illustrator, and this is the true story of finding out his daughter had cancer, and the years of treatment and waiting that followed.
Thoughts – Well, it’s a little awkward to say that you didn’t like a book about a poor child with cancer, but I didn’t. I guess I just didn’t get the point? I mean Zoe was diagnosed, operated on, completed chemo and had clear scans by about 20% of the way through the book. So there was then 80% of the book where they just lived life and waited for scans every three months. After three years of clear scans, her long term prognosis looked very good, and then the story ended. I didn’t particularly enjoy his ramblings about life – I was more interested in how the cancer diagnosis and treatment would have been handled by everyone in the family, and how it impacted their relationships, which wasn’t really addressed. As always with a biography though, I’m really glad that it all worked out well for them and hope that Zoe’s life continues to be cancer free.

73. Breathe and Release – Katherine Hayton
Story – Elisabet wakes in hospital, with no memory of who she is and how she got there. Her husband arrives and she is released in to his care, but living with him and the daughter she doesn’t remember is not always pleasant, and Elisabet starts to think that perhaps there are secrets she isn’t supposed to remember.
Thoughts – This was really good. I picked it up because of the creepy cover (dolls, ugh) but I guess for some reason I wasn’t expecting much from it (perhaps my run of bad books?) and so it kind of caught me by surprise when I was so into it. But the pacing was excellent – there was enough happening to keep you interested, and the gradual reveals of secrets and memories were done well. It wasn’t a straightforward case where I saw the twists coming a mile away, and I really liked that I wasn’t sure where it was going. It’s the first book I’ve read by this author but I think I have another and I might look it out after reading this.

72. Last to Die – Arlene Hunt
Story– Jessie is a teacher faced with the worst kind of nightmare – two gun wielding killers walking the halls, and yet she doesn’t fall apart. She does the extraordinary and fights to disarm one of the killers, shooting the other in the process. To the town, Jessie is a hero. But a tenacious investigative reporter puts Jessie even more in the spotlight, and from there someone else takes note. A man who likes hunting, but only a particular kind of prey.
Thoughts – This was such a weird book, because it was the most non-suspenseful thriller ever. I mean, right from the beginning you knew exactly who the bad guy was and what he was going to do. I kept thinking there had to be some kind of twist or something, but no…it really was just as predictable as it seemed after chapter one.

71. By Chance Alone – Max Eisen
Story – A holocaust memoir from a man who was fifteen when he and his family were deported from their home in Czechoslovakia to Auschwitz. While the rest of his family were quickly selected for death, Max survived. One day out on work detail he received a head injury serious enough that he was taken to the Auschwitz hospital. In a move that no doubt saved Max’s life, the doctor there not only took care of him, but on his recovery gave him a job in the hospital, cleaning and assisting the doctors.
Thoughts – Holocaust memoirs are endlessly fascinating to me. I am still shocked every single time at how evil people can be, and how brave other people can be in the face of such horror. They are things that should never be forgotten. We need to remember what hatred can set in motion and what price there can be for indifference and apathy.

70. Cheer Up Love – Susan Calman
Story – A personal story of depression by a Scottish comedian.
Thoughts – I really do seem to have a thing about reading books by comedians that I have otherwise never heard of. I was glad I did with this one though. It was a friendly, funny book about Susan’s own experiences of depression which she has characterised as The Crab of Hate.

69. Tenderness – Robert Cormier
Story – Eighteen year old Eric has just been released from juvenile prison after killing his mother and stepfather at age fifteen. Now he is looking for ‘tenderness’, a tenderness he has only ever found through killing girls. But on his search Eric meets Lori, a teenager with longings of her own.
Thoughts – I read a lot of Robert Cormier’s other books when I was a teenager (The Chocolate War, Fade, After the First Death etc) and he really does write brilliantly. It’s very simple and yet very evocative of time and place, and his character development is excellent. This one was a little more strange, but had the same lovely writing and underlying sense of unease.

68. I Want My Epidural Back – Karen Alpert
Story – A book about parenting, and motherhood.
Thoughts – I have no idea who Karen Alpert is or why she had a parenting book published. I was hoping for something kind of amusing, but this just didn’t do it for me at all. She just seemed far to vitriolic about children in general, so it came across not as that kind of fed-up, exasperated fondness that most mums I know feel but more as a kind of ungenerous irritation. Plus, she swore too much. And don’t assume my kid is an asshole just because you think yours is.

67. The Fallout – Tamar Cohen
Story – Hannah and Josh, Dan and Sasha. It’s a cosy couple foursome, with their two daughters Lily and September to complete the picture. Until Dan confides to Josh that he’s been having an affair, and he’s leaving Sasha. This story deals with the fallout from that, as secrets and lies threaten to destroy both families.
Thoughts – I was with this book right up until the end. I mean, the characters weren’t very likeable, but they were well written and the story was interesting. I have to admit that I usually struggle with books like this because I don’t know why people wouldn’t just TALK to each other, since they are married and all, but I was able to mostly put it aside with this book. But then the ending just seemed to come out of nowhere and raise more questions than it answered. It was way too abrupt and left me with a negative feel for the book, even though it wasn’t that bad.

66. The Problem with Forever – Jennifer L Armentrout
Story – Mallory spent her first twelve years in abusive foster situations, where keeping silent and her foster brother Rider were the only things that could keep her safe. Since she was removed from the home at the age of twelve, Mallory hasn’t seen or heard from Rider. She was adopted, learned how to use her voice again, and now she’s ready to try high school. What she isn’t ready for is Rider, walking into her classroom and back in to her life.
Thoughts – Mallory is the most lovesick teen since Bella Swan. She spent so much time gazing at Rider while her heart skipped and danced and twirled and her brain switched off. I kept expecting her to rhapsodise about his delicious scent and topaz eyes. Yeah, this one might be fun for an uncritical teen who wants a white knight to gallop in and rescue her, but I’m a grown up and it didn’t do it for me at all.
And I know she was supposed to have issues with her speech and all, but the endless “writing…of her….speech with huge….ellipses in it” drove me INSANE.

65. Girls on Fire – Robin Wasserman
Story – Hannah is plain and boring and safe. Until the day Lacey shows up and becomes her friend, renames her Dex and changes everything.
Thoughts – And straight back to disappointing books. The characters were horrible, did terrible things, and there was no justice and no redemption for anyone. Ultimately, depressing and morose.
Why am I choosing reading material so badly????

64. True Letters from a Fictional Life – Kenneth Logan
Story – James seems like he’s got it all going on. He’s a star soccer player, popular, good looking, and sort-of boyfriend to the pretty Theresa. But inside, James isn’t nearly as together as he wants people to think, and so while he hides his true self he writes letters that he never intends to post.
Thoughts – Finally, something good! I really liked this one. I had expected that it would include more of James’ letters but I didn’t really notice their absence because I enjoyed the general characterisation of James so much. This was a coming out story, and I think it dealt with it really well – there was so much honesty in the reactions of his parents and brothers and friends. I really enjoyed the positivity of a lot of this story, particularly when it was writing about James’ interactions with his friends and his brothers. I know some people have an awful time coming out to their friends and families, but I think it’s good to have a book like this around too, where it’s not all doom and gloom, but where people can be surprised or confused by the truth but still be there for their friend/child/sibling.

63. Silence is Goldfish – Annabel Pitcher
Story – Tess makes a discovery about her dad, and in shock and rage she stops talking. But sometimes silence can say a lot, and when you’re quiet you become a listener.
Thoughts – I am really having a bad run of books here!
This book was just so disappointing. I’ve read a couple of other books by Annabel Pitcher (Ketchup Clouds and My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece) and really loved them, so I was excited to give this one a try. It was just weird, honestly. Tess was supposed to be fifteen but acted about twelve – I understood her upset about what she discovered, but I thought the way she carried on was pushing the bounds of credibility. And the whole goldfish thing, talking to her…I don’t know. I’m really hoping that whatever I read next is better!