As I mentioned in one of my diary posts, way back in the mists of time, I recently re-joined my local library, after a Kindle-led absence of many years.
At first I was really excited about this, because Books! That are free! Then I remembered that people in our area seem to only read crime novels and family sagas, neither of which particularly float my boat, so those are pretty much all the libraries around here stock. GAH.
(I mean, I’m assuming they don’t float my boat. I know I’m not all that keen on crime novels, but I’m not sure I even know what a ‘family saga’ is, other than the obvious fact that they presumably revolve around, well, families, I suppose. All of the ones in the local library – and there are a LOT of them – seem to feature pictures of harried looking women, clutching shawls around themselves while standing in a dockyard, or next to a mine, or something, presumably waiting for their husband to come home, so they can pick coal out of his ears and feed him a bowl of gruel or something. Honestly, things are depressing enough right now without all of that bleakness, so I think I’ll pass…)
Anyway, I’m used to carefully selecting books on Amazon through a lengthy process involving looking up authors I know I like, going to the ‘Other shoppers also bought…” section, and then working my way meticulously through the reviews, before choosing the ‘Send a sample to my Kindle’ option, and only THEN choosing to make that all-important £4.99 investment IF I like it. I buy shoes, on the other hand, by looking at them, liking them, checking they’re available in my size, and then hitting ‘ADD TO BASKET’ before I can even think twice. I’ve no idea why I’m so picky when it comes to books, then, but I do know that, faced with all of the books in alphabetical order, and NO REVIEWS (Obviously I could have just Googled them, but I was about to throw up at the time, so…), I reverted to my usual “Judging a Book By Its Cover” technique.
Here’s what I got…
Lisa Jewell – I Found You
Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite authors, so I was really excited to find one of the few books of hers that I haven’t already read. It didn’t disappoint, either: it’s a dual-time novel set in both the present day and the early 90s, and it revolves around a man who finds himself on a beach in an English seaside resort, with no idea who he is or how he got there. I’m always quite fascinated (and also terrified) by tales of memory loss, and I also enjoyed the mystery element of finding out his story, so I really enjoyed this, and would highly recommend it. Unlike…
Ross Armstrong – The Watcher
I really liked the sound of this book, which seemed a bit ‘Rear Window’-esque, with the main protagonist being a bird watcher who spends her time watching the building opposite hers – ostensibly looking for birds, but really spying on her neighbours. Unfortunately, though, I’ve never been the type to force myself to finish a book I’m just not that into, and I really struggled to get into this one, mostly because I found the main character quite hard to like or understand.
Now, I DON’T generally have to like a character to want to know more about them, so this wouldn’t normally have been a sticking point, but, I don’t know, I just couldn’t get interested in this one, who seemed to make odd, random decisions, which made very little sense to me. For instance, early in the book, there was a whole bit where she was all, “I’m not a doctor, but I pretend to be one sometimes, right down to carrying a doctor’s bag and making house calls on my neighbours, purely because I get better broadband if people think I’m a doctor.” (This wasn’t essential to the plot, by the way – or, at least, I don’t THINK it was – it was just a kind of odd aside, which was presumably meant to show us a bit about the character, but which just left me feeling anxious about the poor people she’d been “diagnosing”, even when the plot had long-since moved on.)
In this book’s defence, I was feeling particularly ill when I read it, and should probably have picked something a bit less bleak: it seems to get good reviews on Amazon, so I’m guessing it’s just me who really couldn’t get into it!
Sophie Kinsella – Shopaholic to the Stars
I loved the first Shopaholic book, and somewhat embarrassingly, found myself really relating to the main character, Becky Bloomwood, who is a woman blessed/cursed with the ability to justify just about any purchase. I found the first couple of novels in the series pretty funny and entertaining, but honestly, the more I read, the more I want to just slap Becky up the side of the head and tell her to get a grip. In this latest instalment, she’s relocated to LA, where she’s as shopping-obsessed as ever -the problem is that, instead of being entertaining, she now just seems painfully self-absorbed, and so idiotic at times that it’s hard to imagine how she would actually function as an adult. Harsh, I know, but I think the character has just become caricature at this point, which is a shame, because I did love these books a few years ago.
With that said, I will almost certainly read the next one, too. Well, I have to know what happens next, don’t I?
Sarah Waters – The Paying Guests
Now we’re talking! Sarah Waters is another author I love (The Little Stranger is my favourite of hers…), and The Paying Guests had been on my ‘to read’ list for a while. This is set in post-war London, where Frances Wray and her mother are forced to take in lodgers in order to pay the bills. It’s a real step down for the eminently middle-class Wrays, but Frances quickly finds herself fascinated by the much more modern Barbers – and particularly with the vivacious Lillian. I won’t say too much more, for fear of spoilers, but this was a wonderful study of the time, and of the characters involved, and although it did start to drag a bit towards the end, that could, once again, have been more down to my general state of mind at the time, than the book itself.
JoJo Moyes – Me Before You
I’m possibly one of the last people in the world to read this book: I’d actually deliberately avoided it, because I knew it was a weepy, and I’ve never been much of a fan of getting to know and love certain characters, just to have my heart broken by them. That’s exactly what happens here, so if you don’t want want to spend your afternoon sobbing, it’s probably not for you – it is, however, a wonderful read, and something really quite different from the usual run of romance novels, so I’d say its reputation is well deserved.
JoJo Moyes – Me After You
This, you will totally unsurprised to learn, is the sequel to Me Before You. I was glad to find there was one, because I was curious to know what happened to the main characters after the events of the first book, but I actually found this one much less interesting – partly because I read it directly after Me Before You and I was still a bit miffed about That Thing That Happens in the First Book, but also because it was just a bit meandering, really, without the same strong plot to drive it all forward. So, worth reading if you read the first book and desperately want to know what became of the characters afterwards, but don’t expect the same kind of quality from it.
Liane Moriarty – Three Wishes
I LOVE Liane Moriarty, so was really happy to find two of her books in the local library – and two I hadn’t already read, into the bargain! Three Wishes follows a set of adult triplets through about a year of their lives: it’s very character-driven, so the plot isn’t particularly dramatic, but Liane Moriarty has such a talent for creating believable, interesting characters, that I’d probably love anything she wrote – with this being no exception.
Liane Moriarty – Truly, Madly, Guilty
This book is actually a good example of what I was saying above, about characters not always having to be likeable in order to be compelling. I didn’t like all of the characters in this novel, but I DID want to know what happened to them, which kept me reading right until the end. The book kicks off with an un-defined event, which has apparently changed the lives of a group of friends/neighbours: we have to wait to find out what this event was, and how it came about, so it’s one of those books that keeps you guessing – exactly the way I like ’em!