June books

62. Relativity – Antonia Hayes
Story – Twelve year old Ethan, a child gifted with an exceptional aptitude for maths and physics, lives with his mother Claire, a former ballerina. Claire is a strong, protective mother but Ethan has become increasingly curious about the father he knows nothing about. Mark, his father, has been living across the country for many years, but with his own father dying he returns to Sydney and gets in contact with Claire and Ethan. But secrets from the past are forcing their way into the light, and nothing of these relationships are quite what they seem.
Thoughts – This book was okay. Ethan was a great character but I admit, I do not share his fascination with physics and the science in the book didn’t do much to interest me. Claire and Mark and their relationship was interesting enough, and the whole issue of what happened in the past and the effect it was still having on them all was definitely what kept me interested in the story. In the end, I just really failed to make an emotional connection with the characters and the story, so while I can see where other people might love it, it’s not one I’d be coming back to.

61. The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green – Joshua Braff
Story – A coming of age story about a shy Jewish kid named Jacob Green, and his dysfunctional family.
Thoughts – This book was so boring and depressing, I can’t believe it had so many positive reviews. Maybe I’m just not male enough or Jewish enough to really connect with it? But basically the whole story was about Jacob’s relationship with his narcissistic, emotionally abusive father and quite frankly there was not enough strength, humour or hope (as in…there was none at all) to put up with reading about it.

60. My Husband Next Door – Catherine Alliot
Story – Once upon a time, Ella had it all. A wonderful marriage with a successful painter, a fun life in London, two little kids. Now the two little ones are obnoxious teenagers, and Ella lives in a ramshackle farmhouse with her estranged husband living in a converted granary across the yard.
Thoughts – Well, after the last book being a chick lit fail, I thought I’d try again, but this book didn’t hit the mark either. Ella was okay, but her children were horrible, the husband seemed like a monumental pain in the ass, her love interest (whose name was Ludo, of all things!) had no appeal…really, I just couldn’t bring myself to care terribly much about any of it.

59. The Second Wife – Elizabeth Buchan
Story – Minty is the second wife, after her affair with her husband led to a surprise pregnancy with twins and the end of his marriage. Things as a second wife and the second family after the sainted first wife and the now adult children are not exactly perfect, and that’s before her husband dies.
Thoughts – I didn’t really know what this book was about, but based on the cover (which had some flowers scattered about, a nice font and a couple of illustrated women who appeared to be dancing) I thought it might be a fairly light hearted, easy chick-lit read and so I opened it. I did not realise the marriage would be miserable, the husband would then die, and that the dancing women on the front were actually, on closer inspection, hitting each other with handbags and flowers. Seriously? Bad choice here! I don’t know, the book might have been better if I hadn’t gone in to it with expectations it failed to meet, but really it was pretty bland and forgettable.

58. The Last of Us – Rob Ewing
Story – On a remote Scottish island, six children are the only ones left after a terrible pandemic. The sensible oldest, Elizabeth, leads them on ‘shopping’ expeditions, and makes up rules and routines to keep them safe in their uncertain new world. But children still quarrel, and as the insulin for the youngest member of their group runs out the cracks begin to show.
Thoughts – This was an interesting book. It was written from the point of view of one of the children, Rona, which was both a strength and a weakness. She was brought vividly to life and her simplistic, childish view of their situation was heartbreaking. At the same time, I was curious for more details about the pandemic and the children’s survival up to this point. It was probably a stronger narrative for being told from the perspective of one of the children, but I still wanted to know about how the pandemic had spread and how the island had ended up with everyone but six children dead! Overall a really sad and thought provoking book that I’m glad I read.

57. The Sound of Gravel – Ruth Wariner
Story – This was the biography of a woman named Ruth, who was the child of a second wife to a leader of a polygamist cult. It told the story of Ruth’s life from about the age of five to the age of fifteen, when she and her siblings escaped.
Thoughts – This was really sad. The cult was an off-shoot of the Mormon church, separated because of their beliefs around polygamy. Ruth’s father had been one of the founding members but died when Ruth was a baby, so she grew up with her stepfather. The cult was based in Mexico, but the family often travelled and lived in the states for work. It was depressing to read about such poverty and know that children are still growing up like this. I had really ambivalent feelings about the mother in this book too. She failed as a mother on a couple of really big issues, but at the same time I just think she was a woman with too many babies who had too many problems, and she had not enough choices or opportunities.

56. Highly Illogical Behaviour – John Corey Whaley
Story – Solomon Reed has not left his house in over three years, after a very public breakdown at school. Lisa Praytor witnessed this meltdown, and when acceptance to her preferred college course requires an essay about “My Experience with Mental Illness” Lisa decides that ‘fixing’ Solomon is her key to realising her ambition. With her boyfriend Clark in tow, Lisa steps into Solomon’s world, determined to make a difference.
Thoughts – I really enjoyed this book. Solomon was a great character and I thought the treatment of his agoraphobia and anxiety was done well. I loved his friendship with Clark. My biggest problem with the book was Lisa- right from the start her motivations had me against her, and she didn’t seem to grow enough throughout the book to redeem herself. I would definitely check out any other books by this author.

55. I Can Barely Take Care of Myself – Jen Kirkman
54. I Know What I’m Doing – Jen Kirkman
Story – Jen Kirkman is a comedian, and these are both books about her life, talking about her career, her friends and family, her marriage and divorce, and her intention to remain childfree.
Thoughts – I don’t know why I picked up these books, since it’s not as though I’m very up with comedians, or with being childfree for that matter. But I always do find people living opposite lives to me interesting, and this was no exception. Jen writes well, and although some of her thoughts on being childfree seemed a little overly strident, I can understand why it’s a sensitive subject for her.

53. Anybody Out There? – Marian Keyes
Story – Anna, the fourth of the Walsh sisters, has The Best Job in the World and a full and busy life in New York. Why then is she back home in Ireland, injured, and what is she running away from?
Thoughts – I think Anna is my favourite of the Walsh sisters. She’s more subdued than her sisters, but has a streak of kind of ditzy comedy that really appeals. Her relationship with Aidan in this book is just gorgeous to read about, and he’s definitely one of my favourite Marian Keyes’ love interests. The story is sad without being depressing, and definitely a recommend book.