January Review

January 2015 was a huge month. I read 8 books and really, really enjoyed 6 of them. I think a 75% success rate is pretty high, honestly. I’ve set myself a goal to read 80 books in 2015, and 8 per month is a good way to make sure I reach that goal.


22847270Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover Swank

I really struggled with this book. Initially I was excited by the premise, but as I made my way through the book, the author’s writing style drove me to the brink of despair. You want to like the protagonist Rose, but she’s constructed as a clumsy, idealistic, and ultimately unlikable character: her mother is murdered, she’s being framed for it, and her main priority is sleeping with her sexy neighbour. It’s sold as romantic suspense, but it’s clear the author has never written crime/mystery before. There are more in the series, but I won’t be continuing.


The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

I’m now halfway through Liane’s books and I’m limiting myself to one (at most) per month, to hang onto their newness for just a little longer (read: I love her). This novel tells the story of hypnotherapist Ellen and her new boyfriend Patrick. The thrill of their new relationship is slightly eroded by Patrick’s ex-girlfriend Saskia, who compulsively stalks Patrick, his son Jack, and now Ellen. Told from both Ellen and Saskia’s perspective, this is a brilliant and thought-provoking novel about the things we do in the name of love. Relationships are never black and white, and this perfectly balanced novel touches on the lengths we sometimes go to when holding on to something wonderful.


All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

I’m not going to lie: you’ll need tissues for this book. Theodore Finch and Violet Markey both find themselves on the ledge of the school’s bell tower, contemplating the consequences should they choose to jump. Miraculously they both come down unharmed, but the events of that day push them together and allow a strong, life-saving bond to grow between them. In Violet, Finch finds a reason to keep going, and in Finch, Violet finds a way to make sense of the past tragedy hanging over her. Their lives intersect and intertwine in this beautiful and moving YA novel. Niven’s prose is stunning and she challenges readers to find their own bright place, even in the darkest moments.


The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

There’s so much to like about Hawkins’s debut novel. The novel is broken up into Morning and Evening sections, much like the daily journeys regular commuters take. Rachel takes the same train to and from the city each day. On her journey, she focuses on one particular house and its occupants: ‘Jess’ and ‘Jason’. She observes their lives as she tries to repair her own, but one day she sees too much. Unable to stay removed, Rachel involves herself in the investigation and opens up old wounds from her past that could have devastating consequences. It’s a wicked thriller that, beyond a not-too-subtle hint roughly 85% of the way through, is one of the creepiest stories I’ve read in a while. Highly recommended for fans of Gone Girl and Before I Go To Sleep.


23984348Useful by Debra Oswald

Debra Oswald is the head writer and co-creator of Offspring and she has penned a witty, darkly funny, and uplifting story about human imperfections and making useful contributions to society. Sullivan Moss is so useless he can’t even kill himself properly and, when he wakes in hospital after his failed suicide attempt, he decides to do the most useful thing he can do with his body: donate an organ. In his quest to become a useful member of society, he meets people who are also seeking redemption. He forges new bonds, fixes broken relationships, and learns that there is more to life than the day-to-day living of it. A brilliant novel that shouldn’t be missed.


Clade by James Bradley

This dystopian, ‘geological fiction’ novel packs a punch. It covers themes including (but not limited to) a deadly global virus, extreme weather events, refugees, and the collapse of bee colonies. It spans approximately 60 years and is told in ten chapters, with each chapter moving forward in large chunks of time. It follows the lives of one family as they face endless challenges and adversity in the wake of a shifting global climate. This isn’t a typical dystopian, though. There’s no single crisis with a beginning, middle, and end. This is a dystopian that dares to predict a future beyond a crisis, and looks at the lives of those left behind. It’s timely, poignant, and cautiously optimistic.


Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, best friends and sisters, but a car accident tore them apart. Now, months later, Nick moves home to the house where her mother and Dara live and she tries to repair the damage. She gets work at the local amusement park with her childhood friend, and life is almost normal again. Almost, and then Dara disappears. I struggled with this book. It’s the first Lauren Oliver novel I’ve read from start to finish, and for 80% of the novel, I was on board. I liked it. Then it tried to be something it wasn’t. It tried to be too clever and it lost me completely. I don’t want to say more for fear of ruining it, but this definitely was not my cup of tea.


We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

If there was an asteroid coming towards earth that had a 66% chance of wiping out our planet, what would you do with the time left? What would you do differently if you knew your days could be numbered? Would you be proud of what your life has amounted to? These are the questions Wallach asks in his debut YA novel. The story focusses on four high school seniors and their friends and family, from the weeks leading up to the discovery of the asteroid and the weeks that follow the announcement that there is a two in three chance the planet is going to be obliterated. It’s clunky in stages, but it’s a wonderful premise that’s almost brilliantly executed. Almost.

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