April was probably my favourite reading month of the year so far, so I apologise in advance if this monthly reading review is particularly gushing. It’s such a joy to read books that excite me and if I can even pass on half of my enthusiasm for some of these books to you, then I think I’m doing okay.
By the end of April, I had read 30 books so far in 2016. I set myself the challenge of reaching 85 for the year, and while at this stage I am ahead of schedule it would be nice to see ten books in the May review.
An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire. I’d been waiting to read this book for what feels like forever, and Maguire certainly didn’t disappoint me. It’s books like these that make me proud to be working in the Australian bookselling and publishing industry. Australian writing is, without question, brilliant and this book tackles the urgent issue of domestic violence and gender inequality with a nearly incomprehensible level of grace and sensitivity. While my main issue with this book was that the ending fell flat, getting to the ending was a thoroughly unsettling ride and I devoured this book in a single afternoon. If you give even half a toss about the issues modern women face both in the workplace and at home, get yourself a copy of An Isolated Incident. Or borrow mine!
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. I’ve always had a soft spot for Caitlin Moran, so I’m somewhat ashamed to say that this was the first book of hers that I have read. How to be a Woman is pretty excellent, and you don’t need to agree with all of Moran’s views to gain a tremendous amount from reading this book. I certainly didn’t agree with everything, but I found myself nodding my head in agreement with most of the book. The writing in this book is intelligent, witty, and absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. In fact, I did actually LOL in public a few times while reading this book. Her views on feminism are widely accessible in this book and it will go a long way (and already has, given it was published five years ago) to shaping how young women readers see the world, but some of her generalisations and expressions to me where irksome, so take her advice with a grain of salt.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. This book. THIS BOOK. Seriously. Prior to reading Me Before You I had unfortunately had the ending spoiled for me, but it didn’t make the process of reading this book any less traumatic and devastating. It’s hard to discuss this book without giving the ending away, and with the film released in the next few weeks it seems unwise to say much at all beyond this: read the book, see the film, read the book first if you can, and unequivocally have tissues on hand for both.
Precious Things by Kelly Doust. It took me a while to get into this book, a struggle I have with most historical fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy historical fiction (and it’s worth noting here that Precious Things is probably a 70:30 split between present and past) but I always find it harder to immediately immerse myself in the author’s world when it’s not also the world I currently inhabit. This may be why I also tend to stay away from fantasy, mostly? Anyway, Doust’s debut novel is a fun and mysterious read, with a centuries-old coronet at its centre. Beyond the vintage pieces and auction house drama, the novel looks at family relationships and, more importantly, the precious relationships that we often take for granted.
The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson. I’ve had a bit of a falling out with contemporary YA recently, largely because any that I’ve read have made me feel painfully old and out of touch. I appreciate that I’m not the target market for many of these stories, but to me truly brilliant YA novels can be enjoyed at any age. You know what? I adored The Unexpected Everything. It ticked so many boxes for me, and rather than making me feel my age it made me feel nostalgic, heart-warmed, and hopeful. It reminded me of the magic of truly clicking with a potential partner, and Matson’s description of all the ‘firsts’ protagonist Andie experiences through the novel made me consider the lack of spark and thrill in my life. Not in a depressing way, but in an encouraging way that says ‘hey, you remember this? You remember how good it can be? Go find it again’. I loved that so much, and for lack of a better word, this book was unexpectedly excellent.
Before The Fall by Noah Hawley. In 2014 I was completely obsessed with FX’s Fargo. The first season with Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton was exceptional television, and when I found out that the creator and writer Noah Hawley had written a novel, I knew I absolutely had to read it. It’s no surprise to learn that the film rights for Before The Fall have already been picked up, and with Hawley set to write the screenplay, both the book and the film could be absolutely huge. Before The Fall tells the story of a plane crash. The chapters alternate between the present and the past, as air crash investigators try to understand how a private plane carrying important and influential people suddenly dropped from the sky. Was it chance that caused the crash, or was something far more sinister at play? You’ll have to read it to find out.
Black by Fleur Ferris. My second YA novel of April was as unexpected as the first. While I am a fan of Fleur Ferris and her writing style, I didn’t know what to expect with Black. I read this book in afternoon and genuinely had no idea how the book was going to end. The story focusses on Ebony ‘Black’ Marshall and the inexplicable way that those closest to her die. Three of her best friends have died in horrific tragedies, and Black keeps to herself because it’s safer that way. When a new boy at school starts to get to know Black, their association triggers a series of events that will help Black finally understand why she causes death wherever she goes. But will she pay the ultimate price for the truth? Black will be published later this year, and if you can get your hands on an early copy I suggest that you do.
Who’s That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane. A few of my colleagues are obsessed with Mhairi (pronounced Vah-ree, for those interested) McFarlane and Who’s That Girl? sounded excellent, so I gave it a try, and (my gosh) I’m so glad that I did. This book packed a punch that I really wasn’t expecting. When Edie Thompson is caught in a compromising situation with her colleague at *ahem* his wedding, she is labelled a homewrecker and a slut, and the man gets off without much blame. Awful, right? So Edie is shamed into taking some work away from the office to let it all blow over. What she finds away from the city is stronger friendships, a man who may be able to restore her faith in his gender, and most importantly an opportunity to heal old family wounds. I laughed during this book, I thanked my friends and family for being wonderful, I swooned over the early stages of a new romance, and I even shed a couple of tears. If this is the future of chick-lit, it’s in very safe hands.