Thanks to my new job, which I adore, I now spend between two and three hours commuting each day. Time at home, and subsequently reading time at home, is now reduced, so I’m making the most of it while getting to and from work. Ergo, from the minute I get on the bus to the minute I get off, I read. It’s a great plan–I read 10 (!!!) books in November.
This light, beautiful, and easy to read novel starts with a proposal at the top of the Eiffel Tower. The story follows the lives of the newly engaged couple after the proposal, as well as the lives of others, including their parents and friends. I hadn’t read a Cathy Kelly novel in many years and I’d forgotten how good she is at drawing you in to the world her characters live in. This won’t be the best book you read all year, but if you like good writing and a strong, character-driven story, this will be a perfect summer read.
This isn’t a book I would usually read–I tend to steer clear of war romances, primarily because I cry at the drop of a hat. Still, I was fortunately enough to meet Fiona and thought it best to read her book. I’m glad I did. Nightingale is the story of WWI nurse Claire Nightingale and her relationship with Australian Light Horseman Jamie Wren. While at first I was sceptical about the intensity of their connection after such short time together, the story that follows is gripping and mesmerising. Fiona is a fantastic author and Nightingale is detailed and thoroughly researched. If you can overcome the plausibility of their intense romance, this is a satisfying read. Warning: bring the tissues.
This is easily one of my favourite books of 2014. If you enjoyed Gone Girl or Before I Go To Sleep, pick this book up and devour it. Colin Thatcher was only supposed to abduct Mia Dennett, daughter of a a prominent Chicago judge, and take her to a meeting point. Instead, he takes Mia to a rural cabin in Minnesota and changes both their lives forever. The Good Girl is expertly told in ‘before’ and ‘after’ sections, with each chapter providing just enough information to keep readers guessing and moving forward. Unlike Gone Girl, which had a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion, The Good Girl will keep you happy until the very last word. Highly recommended.
I so very much wanted to like this book more than I did, especially since it’s just been announced as the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards best humour book. I watch the occasional Parks and Recreation episode and agree that no one else could have played Regina George’s mother better in Mean Girls, but I don’t really have an interest in Amy’s pre-Hollywood life as an emerging improv comedian. Maybe if I was a bigger fan of improv comedy acts, these chapters would be more appealing. Amy is a funny and likeable narrator and the book is filled with little snippets of wit and wisdom; also, her later chapters about P&R, her personal life, and her children are immensely likeable.
I started this book in 2013 and lost the book while moving in early 2014. I moved again in 2014 and, happily, found it. Beneath the Skin is told in three parts: one section for each lady who falls victim to a taunting and malicious stalker. Three women with nothing in common, except the increasingly threatening letters that taunt and harass them. This book was disconcerting and made me check that my doors and windows were locked more than once. French hones in on deep psychological fears about safety and security to create a deeply unsettling novel. It’s not for the faint-hearted or for the easily trusting.
This is another novel where the pages practically turn themselves. Cecilia Fitzpatrick accidentally finds a letter from her husband that is only to be opened in the event of his death. Little does Cecilia know, the contents of the letter will irrevocably change not only her life, but the lives of others around her as well. The central theme of the novel is the ambiguity of morality. It asks us whether doing the morally ‘right’ thing is always best, and suggests that sometimes it can do more harm than good. The characters and their complexities, though somewhat overwhelming at first, will stay with you long after the book is finished. It’s compelling and thought-provoking and a truly excellent read.
As a fan of contemporary retellings of classic stories, I was particularly intrigued by Abbott’s modern twist on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The story spans only a handful of days and focuses on a small group of teenage girls whose lives are thrown into utter chaos when two of them are hospitalised under mysterious circumstances. As the school community becomes increasingly hysterical, numerous sources are blamed, but the real cause of the outbreak is darker and more sinister than anyone could comprehend. It’s the haunting coming-of-age story no parent would ever want to be part of, and The Fever packs a serious punch.
Here’s a world I never thought I’d enter–new adult. I met C.J. at a work dinner and was drawn to her Summer series. Set in Australia in the early 1990s, this series will strike a nostalgic chord with anyone like me who grew up with Impulse deodorant sprays and long sprawling pre-social media and smart phone summers. This first instalment follows the summer romance of Tess McGee and Toby Morrison. Tess and her friends Ellie and Adam agreed to work weekends at the Onslow Hotel on the summer break, but Tess didn’t intend on falling for one of the hottest guys in town. It’s an easy, satisfying read, just a little bit sexy, and absolutely perfect for summer romance fans.
This is another book I read for work; though, as a fan of previous Women of Letters books, I’m sure I would have read it eventually. I’m happy that I got to it sooner rather than later. Filled with many moving and insightful letters, the standouts for me here are the sections that feature correspondence between two people. The letters between Rhys Muldoon and Kram made my eyes water, and the snippets of literary romance between Michael Williams and Michelle Bennett made me smile (and cry). It’s a rare and beautiful gift to be given an insight into other people’s lives, and witnessing it through letter-writing makes it even more intimate and special.
I was thrilled to return to Onslow and see what had changed in the three years that had passed since The Boys of Summer. This time, the iconic Onslow Hotel is under threat and 19-year old Amy Henderson, all grown up and no longer the scowling teenager from the previous book, decides to save her father’s business. All my favourite characters returned and it was fun to look a little deeper at characters who weren’t the focus in book one. C.J. again perfectly captures the spirit of summer and young love, and further enamoured me with the girls and boys of Onslow. Seriously, I want to be their friend, and it’s testament to C.J.’s writing that I almost feel like I am.