The Book Whisperer’s Month in Review: April 2017

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April has been a real mixed month for me. I have been spoiled with some utterly fantastic books and started some I couldn’t even finish. I completed 7 books and out of that seven, I adored 5 of them so much that I am going to struggle to put them in order.

So, I am starting with a joint first purely for the fact that I loved these 2 books so much but they were completely different from one antoher and I loved them for totally different reasons:

 

Joint 1st

 

Let Me Tell You About A Man I Knew by Susan Fletcher

This book was a joy to read from start to finish. Susan Fletcher can write. I mean, REALLY write. If you love beautiful storytelling and pitch-perfect prose, you need to read this book. I cannot recommend highly enough.

 

Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker 

Such a great book – mystery, humour, humanity, the whole works. And included one of my favourite ever characters in a book – 17-year-old-wannabe-gangster Manny. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!!

 

Honestly, I do not know why either of these books is not being more widely read. They are both fantastic and highly, highly recommended.

 

3rd

sweetpea

 

Sweetpea by C J Skuse

This book is dark, it’s crude, it’s shameless, it’s but it’s utterly and absolutely freaking hilarious! Sweetpea is a serial killer but I guarantee you’ll fall in love with her. A riot of a read and highly recommended.

 

Joint 4th

In any other month, either of these books could have romped home in first place. I’ve just been so spoiled this month and it’s actually a travesty that two fantastic books look like they’re so far down my list.

 

The Last Piece of my Heart by Paige Toon

Set in Cornwall and Thailand, this feel-good, romantic book is pure escapism. Big thumbs up.

Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

Review to follow but utterly gripping as always. If you’re already a Bolton fan, this is up to her usual high standards, if you’ve never read any of her books, what are you waiting for?

 

6th 

bricks

The Bricks That Built The Houses by Kate Tempest

So here’s the thing: while I hated parts of it, and early on could quite happily have put it to one side for later (or never), I ended up racing through this book and really quite enjoying it. I was invested, I wanted to know what was coming next, and I started to look forward to picking it up. Whatever your view on the topics in the book, it’s certainly a good one to read in a book group!

 

7th

quicksand

 

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

Quicksand, for me, lacked suspense or tension: there were no surprises, twists, red herrings and no reason to keep reading on. And yet I did. Because surely an award-winning book must redeem itself, right? Wrong. I read all the way to the end and wasn’t even rewarded for my slog. That said, it is getting lots of rave reviews so definitely one to make your own mind up about.

 

Verdict:

An outstanding month for books (which makes me slightly worried that I will have a run of duff ones now).

I could honestly recommend any of the books on my list for this month. The first 5 because they were all brilliant, and the latter two because I’m curious to hear what others think about them and despite them not necessarily being my cup of tea, I can certainly see why others would love them. Something for everyone.

Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know what you think.

 

Review: Sweetpea by C J Skuse

sweetpeaWhat I thought:

WARNING: THIS BOOK IS A RIOT! IT WILL HAVE YOU LAUGHING OUT LOUD, SHOCK YOU AND MAKE YOU UNABLE TO PUT THE DAMN THING DOWN.

As soon as reviews started appearing on my Twitter feed about this book, I knew I had to have it. It sounded hilarious and although I have learned to be a little dubious about books that are marketed as “a cross between x and x”, in this case, it is totally warranted. Bridget Jones really does meet Dexter, and what a joyous combination they are!

Rhiannon, aka Sweetpea, writes about her life in a diary. She moans about her boyfriend, her weight, her friends who do nothing but talk about weddings and babies, her dull job and the array of off characters she has to work with. That all sounds rather normal, right? Well yes, except that Rhiannon always starts her diary entries with a list of people she would like to kill:

“People who chat at the cashier in the supermarket, even though there’s a queue behind them – I’m all for being pleasant when you’re packing your bag, but when the card’s been pulled out or the change has been given, kindly fuck off. Don’t linger and talk about your kid’s Easter play or your operation. AND DON’T THANK ME FOR WAITING. I DIDN’T HAVE A CHOICE!”

The above quotation is one of the milder comments from this book. There is dark humour and then there is black-as-coal humour and this definitely falls into the latter. Even I, who can F and blind with the best of them and am not easily offended, let out a slow whistle on the odd occasion. This book is dark, it’s crude, it’s shameless, it’s but it’s utterly and absolutely freaking hilarious!

Rhiannon is a psychopath and a serial killer. She spends her life reminding herself of “The Act” – how she has learned to be normal around other people so as not to raise suspicion – when in fact most of the time she is reminiscing about one of her kills or plotting her next one. But yet, despite this, I loved Rhiannon. Loved her! She is a riot of sarcasm, profanity and grumbles about much of the same things that annoy the rest of us (or is that just me?).

“1. Cold callers – I swear a circle of Dante’s Inferno is missing some inhabitants.

2. Those self-righteous people who brag about not throwing anything away for an entire year – how do you recycle your fanny rags? Seriously?

3. Whoever sits in my office chair when I’m not there and adjusts the height.”

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“Bought an iced bun on the way to lunch but it turned out to be a depressingly bad iced bun. You would think there’s no such thing – it’s just a bun and icing, right?

WRONG.

For a start it was stale and there was a live fruit fly stuck to one end. And if that wasn’t enough, half of my icing was stuck on the bun next to it in the window and the bitch with the tongs never even scraped it off and put it back on mine. So rude.”

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And then there are gems like this:

“Believe it or not, this is not the most awkward I’ve ever been around Jim and Elaine. I had food poisoning once at their house one Christmas – I was up all night in their bathroom, Jackson Pollocking the ceramic and letting off excruciatingly loud farts. At one point Jim came in and asked me if I wanted a cup of tea. My mouth tried to answer but my arsehole beat him to it.”

I don’t normally do star ratings on my blog but as I am required to on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, I initially thought I would give this a 4-star rating, purely based on my opinion that Sweetpea ended with a whimper rather than a bang and left me wanting. However, having thought about it, I am still going to go with 5 stars, as apart from that I loved every minute of reading this book.

Verdict:

Sexually explicit, graphic, stabby, and not for the feint of heart. Utterly brilliant!!!

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I received a copy of this book via HQ and Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Have you met Sweetpea yet? Dare you????

Review: Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker

tall oaksWhat I thought:

When two bloggers recommend the same book within the space of a couple of days (and heartily!) my interest is usually piqued enough to check it out. Tall Oaks was that book. A bargain on Kindle; I downloaded, read the first page to see what the fuss was about, and kept on reading… and reading…

This isn’t your average crime novel. And while I am a massive fan of crime (probably my favourite genre) I am also a massive fan of books that make me laugh out loud. This book did both. It also contains one of my favourite ever characters – Manny, a 17-year-old wannabe gangster who is utterly hilarious and had me shaking with laughter on many an occasion. I defy you not to fall in love with Manny and his potty-mouth and hair-brained ideas and I defy you not to howl with laughter at Roger and the swimming pool scene! Genius.

So, to the plot. Three-year-old Harry Monroe is taken from his bedroom one stormy night and the book deal with the fallout of this and the impact it has on his mother Jessica and the other residents of Tall Oaks. The cast of characters is so brilliantly drawn that I felt I knew them all personally. All their quirks, flaws and insecurities were laid bare and I loved them all the more for it. The thread that runs through the book is Harry’s disappearance, but the real star of the show is Tall Oaks itself. There is humanity in this town is palpable and despite the stifling heat of that summer and the suspicion and media circus, I loved this place. I miss Manny et al now I’ve left them. Not everything is as it seems, not all people are who they say they are, and there is an almighty twist that brings Tall Oaks to its mighty conclusion.

Verdict:

Honestly, I don’t know why this book isn’t better known and I’m going to do my damnedest to shout about it from the rooftops now and get people reading it. Honestly, it is such a great book – mystery, humour, humanity, the whole works. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!!

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Have you read this book yet? Have I persuaded you to read it if not? I’d love to hear what you think.

 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

In three words:

Beautiful, funny, heart-breaking

What I thought:

Many years ago I read a book called The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes and I loved it. Why then has it taken me this long to pick another of her books up? If I loved Ship of Brides then I ADORED this!

Me Before You stars a young, eccentricly dressed young woman called Lou Clark who has lost her job at the local cafe and has to make a choice about her next job betweenworking in a chicken factory or being a carer to a disabled man. At the time, neither seem appealing but Lou opts for the role of carer which is where she meets Will Trayor. Will is in his mid thirties and up until his accident he was a high-flying, adrenaline-junkie, career-minded business man with a great appartment in London and a gorgeous girlfriend. Since the accident which left Will quadriplegic, he is now living with, and being cared for by, his parents and hating every second of it. The first meeting between Lou and Will is anything but comfortable and Lou begins to wonder what she has let herself in for. Before long though, Lou has decided to try to make Will’s life a happy one again and show him that it might just be worth living afterall.

What is amazing about this book is that despite dealing with a serious subject matter such as the right to die, Me Beofre You is infused with humour and comic relief that had me howling at parts. Believe me, the humour is needed and Will is one of the funniest characters I have read for a while. Moyes never sugar-coats Will’s condition and this and his sarcastic sense of humour are what makes him so human

Now a warning: Do not read this book in public! I am not kidding when I say that I sobbed my way through the last 50 or so pages, and from reading other reviews I am not alone. You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by this book.

Verdict: Highly, highly recommended. I was so invested in this small cast of characters that I felt as though I had lost friends when I finished this book. The growing friendship between Lou and Will is one of the most touching and heart-breaking I have ever read and I found myself willing them on at every turn of the page:  I still find myself thinking about them now.

 

  Have you read this book or anything else by Jojo Moyes? What did you think?

 

Day 34 – A book I wish I had written

Coulda, shoulda, woulda…

To be honest, I never actually get to the end of a book and I wish I had written it; if I did then I should have been an author. What I do do at the end of a great book is close it in awe and admiration and respect for an author that can conjour up a world so real that I have actually been there, lived through what the characters have lived and been gutted to leave them behind at the end. If I were to name books that had that effect on me I would include favourites such as The Secret History, The Magus and The Hunger Games as those are books I truly envy the author their imaginations. However, I am going to chose abook that I absolutely loved, lived and laughed through and that book is….

Behind The Scenes At The Museum by Kate Atkinson. Atkinson is probably better known for her Case Histories series books with Jackson Brodie (Started Early, Took My Dog was the latest) but BTSATM is one of her stand-alone books and I remember reading it on holiday in Morocco: I fell in love almost from the first line of the book and it never let me go from then on. Not only was it laugh-out-loud funny in many places (and I love funny books!) but it was also quirky, magnetic, nostalgic and emotional. If I had written a book I would love it to be something like this one.

 

  Do you ever finish a book and wish you’d written it yourself?

 

Day 25 – A favourite chicklit book

It’s party time!

I do love to read chicklit from time to time – it’s my my way of comforting and soothing the soul or refreshing the palate between heavier reads. Shopping, handbags, office romances, holidays in the sun, I’m not fussy so long as it cheers me up and leaves me with a smile on my face.

I have spoken before about my favourite authors in this genre and Sophie Kinsella and Katie Fforde are my top two but I also really enjoy Jane Fallon, Paige Toon, Jane Green and Adele Parks to name a few more. The book I have chosen to go with, though, is by Christina Jones who is an author I haven’t mentioned on my blog before. Not only did I absolutely adore this book, but it’s also called Happy Birthday (and afterall this is my birthday challenge :)).

Happy Birthday host a wonderfully quirky cast an quaint English villages with funny names. The story centres on Phoebe, a list-making, highly-oragnised, horoscope reading hairdresser who turned up for her immaculately planned wedding to discover that the groom hasn’t. As Phoebe tries to come to terms with what’s happened and carry on alone, she has to put up with the return of Rocky, her noisy, bad-tempered neighbour as well. Then she meets Essie, a glamorous pensioner who dabbles in something called Happy Birthday magic and that’s when things take a turn…

Happy Birthday  is a wonderful, magical read. I adored all the characters and there is such humour and comedy moments that I laughed out loud in places. Loved, loved, loved it.

  Do you like chicklit books? Which books or authors would you recommend?

 

Day 13 – A book that made me laugh out loud

LOL!

I love to laugh! In fact I am told that I am always laughing or giggling at something (I’m not aware I do it sometimes but it beats being miserable, doesn’t it?) I love to laugh at TV programmes, funny people crack me up and I do love to read books that make me giggle too, especially ones that make me belly laugh!

There are lots of books that have made me chuckle but for this challenge I just had to go with David Nicholl’s Starter For Ten. I remember reading this so clearly: we were staying in a remote cottage in Scotland for a week, in 2003, with no TV and just a pile of books. From the very first page I was howling with laughter! All the references to the glorious 80’s (Kate Bush, Grandad shirts, DM’s, leotard tops, Newky Brown, being drunk every night and hungover every morning) were such a wonderful trip down memory lane for me but it was the non-stop humour that had me falling about. Starter For Ten follows Brian Jackson to university in the late 80’s as he falls in love, gets drunk and stars on the iconic TV programme ‘University Challenge’ (which I still watch just to see people with names like Horatio Menzies-Poncenby). It is clever, nostalgic and hillarious!

By complete coincidence, my Dad started to read this only last week and I received a text message from my Mum saying “Your dad is reading Starter for Ten and he is embarassing me! He keeps laughing out loud and can’t stop. He’s only read 2 chapters. Everywhere we sit there is an explosion of uncontrollable laughter!”

 

 

 

  Which books have had you rolling around in hysterics?