My girls ask me what my favourite hobby is and I say reading. They tell me reading is not a hobby but skateboarding would be OK. I imagine that prospect and wonder if there is a book about it: Mammy goes skateboarding and how wrong it went.
For now, I read.
Fellow readers will wonder how I have managed nineteen novels with two kids and a full time job and I will be honest. I actually have read twice that amount. Something has to give however and that is my blogging, time to exercise and other personal stuff. Ah well. Do something you love they said…
Looking for recommendations?
The one from the cinema…
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
It is set in a fascinating world of extreme wealth, prejudices and expectations. I loved the setting. Plot is not as strong perhaps so read it for spectacular how the other half lives moments and a fantastic opening chapter.
The one I take my hat off to…
Eligible By Curtis Sittenfeld
Modern takes on Austen classics are hit and miss but this one was a clear win for me. The members of the Bennet family are modified in what is far more than a piece of fan fiction but a good story in its own right told with style and bringing home old friends.
The other fan fiction type one…
The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp by Sarah Manning
I think you cannot go wrong with characters that juxtapose so violently as Becky Sharpe and Amelia Sedley and this modification of Vanity Fair was an enjoyable read. I wasn’t sure to begin with use of a reality show at the outset, but it wasn’t the main focus. Good fun for Becky Sharpe fans.
The one that depressed me…
Normal People by Sally Rooney.
I love an Irish writer. Recently however, I find every Irish writer writer either hits the gloomiest notes or the complete opposite, comedy to the extreme, almost ridiculous. This story stayed with me. Characters are very well drawn here however it made me feel blue. It could be just me but I couldn’t find the hope.
The one I got from Mammy for Christmas…
The Importance of Being Aisling by Emer MacLysaght and Sarah Breen
Following on from the first novel by these funny ladies, I looked forward to a sequel. These are easily read and light hearted books taking a tongue in cheek look at the life of a country girl living in Dublin. Certain moments are so on the ball in the first book that I enjoyed it thoroughly. Aisling buying ‘shumpers’ from Dunnes to get you through work, Aisling knowing every Weight Watchers point in every piece of food in the shop and having great ability to drink when required are all requisites of being a young woman in Ireland. A parodic look at Irish life, I recommended the first book but felt the second didn’t keep the pace for me. Since writing, Mammy gave me the third book for Christmas 2019. I thoroughly enjoyed the escape from our current tough reality this Christmas and will let Aisling back in. My mother is reading them too.
The one that made me think…
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
An unusual way of telling a story, this novel combines the realism of a nation in fear with some fictitious elements such as portal travelling. The country is never identified in the novel although it could be one of several real places. I recommend it for a short, thought provoking and unique story.
The one I truly loved reading and is a bit of a cheat not being a fictional novel…
The Diary of Two Nobodies by Mary Kileen and Giles Wood
I chewed through this book like a teething puppy in a slipper factory. Written in autobiographical style, told through dual narrators, this book is by wife and husband pairing, Mary and Giles of Gogglebox fame. Between Mary’s constant attempts to uunderstand humanity (her husband’s baffling activities mainly), her bald honesty and Giles’ self- depracating anecdotes (sprinkled with moments of what seems like an extreme myopia to life skills), I was enchanted. Their home (sketched and labelled in the text by artist Giles) is one of quirks that could only belong to these two people. Their keen self awareness is obvious- they know themselves extremely well- but then, just like every other couple on the planet, find their mate incredibly bewildering on occasion as if they had never met. I need more and more of these two telling their tales on each other.
The one that’s very Lady Mary…
Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
A book for a Downton fan! I think a series is being made of this period novel. If so, I am first up to watch it. It’s like Austen mixed with Thackeray for the modern age. Thoroughly enjoyed it. I want more and crave the series.
The bit of folly…
Party Girls Die in Pearls and Debutante Divorcee by Plum Sykes
Any one called Plum must have had an Oxford education- and if not, someone who named them surely had. Another blogger recommended Party Girls Die in Pearls. I did enjoy the whodunnit element of this story. The stereotypical Oxford is portrayed here with the setting and culture of the college being more of a character than any other. It felt like Poirot in parody. Following that, I thought another book by Sykes would be worth a shot. Oh dear. Debutante Divorcee had the same ridiculousness in the plot but it didn’t hold any intrigue to keep the story interesting. I found I really didn’t enjoy the portrayal of women here. My last Sykes, for now anyway.
⭐⭐ (Party girls) ⭐ (Debutante)
The sad, Irish one…
Almost Love by Louise O’Neill
This is a compelling narrative in a modern, Irish setting. Modern Dublin, people in their twenties figuring out their identity and a dark passage in the life of an Irish girl from the country. It is like reading one of the Aisling novels without the jokes and with an extra dollop of harsh reality. Bereaved in childhood, Sarah falls into dysfunctional relationships and ultimately destroys the ones that are supportive. Ultimately, the plot the documents Sarah’s time period between graduation and feeling settled, a relatable narrative for many Irish readers born in the late twentieth century. Worth reading, but like Normal People, it made me feel depressed.
The one that made me itchy…
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
I was frankly irritated by this book. It has all the triggers to make to read on- a hook, intrigue and thrill. You want to continue it and it is a quick read. So why did it annoy me? Is it worthy of its must read status? Yes in the same way that Gone Girl was but unlike Gone Girl, the ending is a bigger let down than a dry chocolate brownie. I couldn’t get past the antagonist’s motive. It just did not sit with me. Trying too hard to be twisty and ultimately failing.
The angsty one…
Loking for Alaska by John Greene
I have slowly but surely made my way through all the Greene novels despite feeling two decades too old for them. As I now am finding is a typical Greene plot, we have an uncertain male looking for his niche in the world suddonly cast out to sea by the engima of an unreachable girl. It is a poignant tale that stands alone even if I have read about this guy several times now in his other novels- An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns. However, I am not criticising this repetitive character portrayal but identifying it as the Greene trademark. I will keep reading these moving books. That is a compliment!
The other YA one…
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Having loved the nineties My So Called Life feeling of Eleanor and Park, I bought Fangirl in gleeful anticipation of more Rowell magic. It did not have the same bite of the first read, but it was still very enjoyable. Having read Looking for Alaska in the same fortnight, my head was filled with college campus life in the American style. Having read a lot of fan fiction in this last pile of books, it was fitting to get into the world of a successful fan fiction writer trying to find her identity as a college girl whilst dealing the pain of a beloved twin sister breaking away the bond.
The difficult second book…
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Water is the theme, the theme is water. There is no getting away from the setting here as the river running through has its own personality as the silent killer, the Boo Radley of the text without the poignant end scene. I found the plot rambling largely due to my own annoyance at it. It is not a bad book. It just wasn’t really for me.
The periodical comedy…
Dancing with the Tsars and Schmit Happens by Ross O’Carroll Kelly
Either you love this parodic saga of Southside Dubliner and ex- rugby player Ross or you don’t. It is rude, lewd and finds my funny bone without ever trying too hard. I have been reading these for years and I will not be stopping my role in keeping this lucrative recurrent book deal afloat.
The historical fiction one…
Little by Edward Carey
It is a tale told in a morbid way, macabre and grey in colour. Based on many true events, Carey tells the tale of Madame Taussaud and where it all began. It is a fascinating tale. I enjoyed every page.
The one I bought in Prague…
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
I was away and in a beautiful Czech bookstore during a wintry January when I bought this. I couldn’t resist a purchase where I was despite being limited language wise. A hygge book as only Kinsella can write, it suited my needs perfectly at the time. You cannot go to far wrong with Kinsella for comfort. There is a poignancy in the plot that Kinsella cleverly counteracts in her witty style.
The one that had me in tears for victims of the past…
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
I was enjoying this book from the outset and never suspected the emotional journey it eventually would took me on. Anything that brings me to a historical setting is usually my friend to read and this novel was just that. It moves in time from a present day America to a past life in a war torn Russia where terrible choices must be made and tragedy is a daily event. I highly recommend it- with a warning for those of us who feel too strongly.
The romantic one…
One Day in December by Josie Silver
The age old story of a couple that may or may not make it- it reminded me of One Day. A guy and a girl who keep missing their moment and how life changes regardless of your immovable emotions. I enjoyed reading this.
Since these readings, I have read many, many more. The books help with a needed escape. For now, I will write about those and reality can wait.