March already down, one quarter of the year is over! Let’s see what I managed to read during March.
The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel
Set in Edinburgh at the height of the Jack the Ripper murders, Inspector Frey has been sent from London to investigate a puzzling murder. A violinist has been found slashed open with black magic symbols on the walls. The doors however are locked and both keys were inside the room with the violinist. And the maid swears she heard more than one person playing inside the room the night of the murder. As Inspector Frey investigates with local Detective McGray, more strange deaths begin to occur and they have to quickly solve this mystery.
I’m really glad I picked this from NetGalley to read. I’ve been getting back into crime fiction over the last year or so and this one sounded right up my alley. I was expecting to guess the twist but I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t! I loved how the whole culprit and story unfurled by the end of the book, I thought it was clever. I loved the atmosphere of the book and most the characters. Frey the narrator did grate on me at times, especially his constant hating on Scotland purely because he was English. Though Frey and McGray are opposites and it’s nice to have the contrast of characters. This is well worth picking up and giving a go.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
The whole world and their mother have heard about this book, so if you haven’t then you must be living under a rock or something! Set in Amsterdam in 17th century, eighteen year old Nella arrives at her new husband’s house, the successful merchant trader Johannes Brandt. Nella is excited for this whole new world, only to find her husband is too busy and distant, leaving Nella spending time with Johannes’ sister, the cold and strange Marin. Johannes buys Nella an exact miniature replica of their house, partly as an act of kindness, partly so she would have something to distract her. Nella decides to contact a miniaturist to help her furnish the house, but things take a strange turn after that, with the miniaturist sending more than Nella asks for and opening her eyes to the secrets within the household. I really liked this book, the setting reminded me of the setting of Girl with a Pearl Earring and made me realise how much I liked the atmosphere in that book. I enjoyed how the character of Nella grows and becomes more sure of herself. I also liked Marin, who really isn’t who she seems to be and complex. The book was a small bit slow to get into but once it had hooked me, I just wanted to read and read. Is it worth the hype? Yes, I think it is, I didn’t think it was 100% perfect but it’s definitely worth picking up.
The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
17 year old Bianca is at a party with her friends when the hottest guy in school (and known man whore) Wesley starts to chat with her, telling her he’s doing so because she’s the DUFF of her group of friends & that doing so will increase his chancing of hooking up with her friends. When Bianca asks what DUFF means and is told ‘Designated Ugly Fat Friend’, she throws her coke over Wesley and storms off. Wesley persists on calling her Duffy every time he sees her after this and despite it winding Bianca up, she just can’t help herself one day and kisses Wesley. Bianca and Wesley start to hook up in secret, partly because Bianca is having a really tough time at home and partly because Wesley is secretly very lonely. When things start to go bad between Bianca and her friends, she turns to Wesley, discovering that he’s not as bad as she thought he was and that she is secretly falling for him. But will he ever like her, the DUFF? I’d heard good things about this book on YouTube so when I saw it on NetGalley, I started reading it straight away and it took me less than a day to do so. I’m a fan of YA and I liked how this isn’t as sugar coated as some YA can be. Bianca is a strong character on the outside but is as venerable as the rest of us on the inside. This book contains sex scenes and they are sex scenes, not like some YA that leads with a kiss and then just has you fill in the blanks of what happens. Maybe it’s because Keplinger was a teenager when she wrote this that makes it feel like a refreshing and true to life YA novel? I’m looking forward to watching the film but from the trailers the book seems like it’s slightly different, which is a bit disappointing but hey, that’s Hollywood!
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Ronson is a favourite author of mine and this book was top of my 2015 Book Releases post. And it didn’t disappoint. The book follows the whole notion of public shaming and how the internet has made this worse. Gone are the days of just the people in your town, maybe at worst country, knowing if you made a simple mistake. It only takes a minute for the whole world to hear about it now, thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Not to mention the notion of ‘today’s news, tomorrow’s chip paper’ is out the window, now that most people Google potential employees and potential dating partners. Ronson interviews a few people who went viral thanks to shaming and how they coped with the big change in their lives. This article here has a few links to some of the cases. The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that I wanted it to be longer!
Faithful Place by Tana French
This is the third book in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series and this one follows Frank Mackey, who we were briefly introduced to in The Likeness, a detective in the Undercover unit. Frank is due to run away to England with his girlfriend Rosie Daly one night and so he waited for her. When she doesn’t turn up and he finds a note saying she was leaving, 19 year old Frank assumes she has left without him and so he leaves Faithful Place too. He has not returned in 22 years and has no plans to return either. Until he gets a call one day from his sister, saying Rosie’s suitcase has turned up in an old abandoned house on Faithful Place. Frank gets sucked back into his old world in The Liberties, the world he never wanted to face again, to try and get answers to what happened to Rosie. Tana French is slowly becoming a favourite of mine! And the only reason I say slowly is because I want to savour her books and read them with gaps between so I don’t run out quickly. What I loved most about this book is how French effortlessly captures the nuances of life of The Liberties, the Irish family and what it was like to be alive in the 80s (not that I know myself really!). I found myself rooting for Mackey, against some of his horrible family members (but also rooting for the nicer family members too). I can imagine Frank’s frustrations as a child growing up in that household as well as his utter reluctance to return and open up an old wound. That’s what I like about French, the crime side of her novels are great but it’s more than just a crime novel. If you haven’t started reading French, then JUST PICK UP A BOOK ALREADY!
Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
This was originally my pick for the Fem-tellectual Book of the Month, the theme being a ‘sassy girl’. I thought ‘kick ass assassin, how much sassy can you get?!’, though when I read The DUFF, I knew I already had that covered. I decided to pick up Throne of Glass anyway, as it was something I had been wanting to read for a while now. Celaena Sardothien has been toiling away in the Endovier, a slavery salt mines, where she must carry out her life sentence. Her crime? Best trained assassin in all the land. She gets an offer one day, her freedom if she enters as fighter for the prince in a to-the-death tournament of champions. Providing that she wins, of course. Nothing means more to Celaena than freedom so she says yes and so she travels to the Glass Castle to train and compete. I liked this world, it does feel like there’s a bit of world building which takes time and slows down the plot a bit but it’s worth it. Celaena is the kick ass strong character you expect her to be but there are softer spots too and I enjoyed seeing those. Considering this book has many more books in the series, it’s clear what the outcome is going to be but it didn’t stop me enjoying the book anyway. I enjoyed seeing Celaena building up different relationships, especially with Nehemia. My only problem with the book is that I have no idea how to pronounce some of the character’s names!
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This book has been on my radar FOREVER! Ok, since it came out at least. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Adichie’s writing and I finally got around to listening to this on audiobook, perfect for my commute to work. Ifemelu and Obinze are childhood sweethearts who attended university together in Nigeria. Due to constant striking in the university, Ifemelu moves to America to finish her degree. She agrees with Obinze that he will join her eventually. When Obinze is declined a visa several times, the couple drift apart and go their seperate ways. The book begins with Ifemelu preparing to return to Nigeria after over a decade of living in America. She is nervous about the prospect of meeting Obinze again. Will she have the courage to do so after all these years? This book is examines the intricacies of race, especially the differences of being black and raised in America and being black and coming to live in America from another country. One thing that struck me something Ifemelu said ‘I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America’. The thing that resonated most with me in the book was how it can feel moving from one country to another. I know moving from Ireland to England is not a massive leap, nothing like in the book, but I still think people feel the same thing, whether the move is across a small sea or the other side of the world. Ifemelu becomes depressed and frustrated when she cannot get a job in America when she first moves over and some of those scenes felt so familiar to my own experience, the crushing sadness and the loneliness. I loved Adichie’s use of language in the book, simple words used to describe things like someone’s voice ‘curdling’ and another person’s face always being so serious, relaxing only during soccer matches at the weekend and ‘congealing’ back into the seriousness again after. My only problem with the book is I felt it was a bit too long and drawn out. There were parts were I was starting to get bored and just wanted the story to hurry up and stop building up. But if you can overcome this then it’s worth picking up.
Number of books read- 7
Ratio fiction to non-fiction- 6:1
Male to Female authors- 5:2
Number of eBooks- 4 (Strings of Murder, The Miniaturist, The DUFF, Throne of Glass)
Number of audiobooks- 1 (Americanah)
Number of books borrowed from library- 3 (Americanah, Throne of Glass, Faithful Place)
Reading Resolutions- Try more audiobooks; Read more diversely
Fem-tellectual Book Club January Theme ‘Pretty Sassy Ladies; A Book With a Sassy Protagonist- The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
Reading Challenge Completed
A book written by someone under 30- Throne of Glass
A book set in another country- Americanah
A book that became a movie- The DUFF
A book a friend recommended- Faithful Place
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit- The Miniaturist
A book you can finish in one day- The Strings of Murder
A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet- So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
Low on non-fiction this month but we’ll see where April takes us. I’m already reading the second book in the Throne of Glass series, just need to pick it up again as I neglected it to finish Americanah properly. Not sure what else I’m going to read yet, except the Fem-Tellectual Book, with the theme of a book by a business lady. Any suggestions of things you’ve enjoyed recently, leave them below please!