I’m sure I say this at the start of every month, but I can’t believe it’s October! I am glad though, as the hot weather this year just about killed me off! I’m happy to be settling back into my winter woollies and boots, and curling up with a hot drink and a good book in the evenings.
This month has been a strange and busy one; I’ve been to two baby showers, a wedding, and on a trip back home. It’s also been all systems go at work, as we get back into the academic year. Obviously, being the glutton for punishment that I am, I decided to wait until it’s getting busy at work to start my time-consuming Christmas craft project – my lips are sealed for now, but if all goes well, I’ll show you, as it will be bookish!
Anyway, on to the book stuff!
Books I read this month
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Themes: stereotyping, murder mystery, whodunnit, high school, cyber bullying, society
Mini review: This was a book I picked up from Waterstones because it was in the 3 for 2 offer, and I thought “eh, sounds interesting enough, throw it on the pile” (not literally, I never throw books – what if they get scuffed?! :O! )
What I wasn’t expecting was this fast-paced page turner, which held my interest the whole way through, and had me constantly guessing. It’s a murder mystery that preys on the fears around your deepest secrets being revealed, and what lengths you’d go to to stop it happening. It also plays on our internal prejudices; if a guy shows up dead, would you suspect the kid with a criminal record or the one on the fast track to an Ivy League university? It’s a great book which has been widely heralded as a cross between The Breakfast Club and Pretty Little Liars, and I couldn’t agree more. Check out my full review here for more details!
The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker
Themes: murder, crime, psychopathy, playing God, vigilantism, right vs wrong
Mini review: I was excited for this book as it was recommended to me by the ever lovely Maraia over at Buecher Monster, and I wasn’t disappointed! The book follows Detective Sam Porter, who has been plagued for years by the elusive 4MK, or Four Monkey Killer. The murderer got his name from the lesser known of the mythical wise monkeys from Japan – we’ve all heard of Mizaru (speak no evil), Kikazaru (hear no evil), and Iwazaru (speak no evil), but did you know about Shizaru (do no evil)? 4MK does, and uses this code to select victims and bring home a message to those he feels don’t live by this code.
He’s similar to Dexter of the Jeff Lindsay series/TV show in the way he lives by a strict code to select victims, but with one key difference; he spreads his message by taking the wrongdoer’s loved ones to punish as opposed to taking the wrongdoer themselves. In that way. he’s a scarier, more ruthless brother to Dexter – he doesn’t mind killing innocents to make his point, since his intention is to make his target suffer through a life knowing their crimes brought a slow and painful end to a loved one.
We see the story pan out through Sam’s eyes and those of his colleagues, but interspersed with this is the bit that really drew me in; excerpts of 4MK’s diary. 4MK has set up a cat and mouse game for Detective Porter, and it begins with a bus crash that puts the diary right into his hands. Sam reads the diary whilst working the case, and we get to see 4MK’s disturbing childhood, and why he’s so fixated on following the code of the four monkeys. It’s a psychological thriller that at points will make you recoil, but ultimately keep frantically reading, trying to reach the end and find out if Sam and 4MK ever meet.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Themes: family, mental health, isolation, ambition, society, mystery
Mini review: I’d had my eye on Where’d You Go, Bernadette for a while, and I won’t lie – it was mainly because I loved the cover. For that reason, I hadn’t bitten the bullet and bought it as I wasn’t sure I’d like it. Then, I won a giveaway by the amazing Tuddi, and I decided it was fate that it included credit at the Book Depository, so I snapped this baby up. It’s not the usual type of book I’d pick up, but I can honestly say I’m glad I did. I really couldn’t put it down, and the only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars was because I thought the ending was a little weaker than the rest of the book, but still not bad by any means.
Anyway, enough babble; onto the book. Where’d You Go, Bernadette follows the life of esteemed architect Bernadette Fox through the eyes of her daughter, Bee. Bernadette has become reclusive since moving to Seattle following the unexpected demolition of the 20 Mile House, the project that shaped her as an architect, led her meteoric rise to recognition in the design world, and won her a MacArthur Genius grant.
Bernadette uses a virtual assistant from India to run her most basic errands so she doesn’t have to leave the house, and has a trailer in the back garden to hide in when even her family is too much to handle. The only time Bernadette leaves the house, really, is with her daughter. Much of this is dropping her at school; a school with a very involved parent community much like the stereotypical mean popular kids in high school, who are relentlessly negative towards Bernadette for her lack of participation.
Told through a series of emails and letters from or involving Bernadette, the story unfolds through admissions from the title character and her virtual assistant, her husband Elgie and psychiatrists, the school Bee attends, Bernadette’s nemeses, Audrey and Soo-Lin, and more, pieced together by commentary from Bee. Through Bee’s eyes, we see Bernadette as a vibrant, loving and funny mother, juxtaposed with Bernadette’s own email admissions that show her withdrawing more and more from the world and everyone in it. In the meantime, her husband is desperate to get the old Bernadette back, but his good intentions overface Bernadette, who, during a sudden intervention, disappears from their bathroom into thin air with no explanation. Add to this the possible involvement of a criminal organisation (won’t elaborate, don’t want to give spoilers!) and the unravelling of lies from the bullying parents at Bee’s school, and suddenly everyone is desperate to find the “broken” Bernadette.
It’s a story of love between a mother and daughter, but it’s more than that. It’s not soppy and lovey-dovey in the slightest; it’s sharp, witty and unlike any book I’ve ever read. It explores mental health, bullying in adulthood, family life, and what to do when everything you’ve worked for is suddenly pulled from under you. It’s a mystery with a twist, and a big heart too.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
Themes: sexual assault, bullying, trauma, relationships, massacre, notoriety
Mini review: I have real mixed emotions about this book. I thought I was going to love it, but I didn’t.
The story follows TifAni FaNelli (whose name irritated me from the off and put me off picking up the book for aaages), the survivor of several traumatic experiences through high school, as she plans her perfect wedding and films a documentary about her life.
TifAni (now known as “Ani”, pronounced “ahhh-nee”) is perhaps the most unlikeable character I’ve come across in a while. She’s cynical, mean, and a real game-player. I do understand why she might be like this; without giving spoilers, the experiences she had in high school could definitely make her wary of other people and determined to set the gameplay in her favour at all times. However, I do feel there’s a way to do this without coming across as cold-hearted and uncaring, with more concern for how she appears to the outside world than how she actually is to the people she’s supposed to love.
I couldn’t relate to Ani at all. In some parts, she was less prickly and showed a slightly softer side, but then the walls would come up and it was back to the game-player she always was. She spends most of her time making bitchy comments about other women, and picking fault with the trophy fiancé she trapped for herself (who, incidentally, is also completely unlikeable).
There were a lot of random threads that were of no use to the overall plot line, and a lot of potentially good ideas that were briefly raised and then left unfulfilled. There just didn’t seem to be a solid plot that I could grasp, and on top of that, it was marketed as the next Gone Girl, which it couldn’t be further from.
Amy Dunne from Gone Girl was an arsehole, yes, but she was clever and preyed on your insecurities and your habits to get under your skin. As much as you hated her, you understood her. She was multi-layered, complex, and touched on just enough that you could relate to her, without seeming relatable overall. She was cold and complex. Ani, on the other hand, tried to be these things, but came across as a whiny, bitchy, wannabe New York socialite. I hated her, but I didn’t hate Amy, even though she’s probably done worse.
When Ani’s traumatic experiences are finally all revealed (they’re very slowly teased and brought into focus throughout the book), and she gets some form of justice, I didn’t feel happy for her. I just didn’t care. Obviously I was glad that the bad parties had been served their well-deserved comeuppance, but Ani was somewhat like a bitchy bad dream I’d been trying to shake throughout the book, and for that reason, it didn’t have the impact it should.
They’re making this into a movie, so I’m hoping that perhaps Ani is more likeable on screen, and that the story is a little faster and, well, better! However, I won’t be rushing to the cinema to see it.
Books I bought this month
Are you proud? There’s only two! I might actually get through my crippling TBR pile at this rate!
Advanced Reader Copies I received this month
- It’s All in Your Head by Keith Blanchard
- Still Can’t Do My Daughter’s Hair by William Evans
- Peace is the Mission by T. Douglas Tarenyika
- Xarox by Louis Smith
Bookish goodies I got this month
I have been amazingly lucky this month – I only bought the Funko Pop and paid for half the Flick the Wick box, as I won lots of giveaways and was gifted lots of stuff this month! Thanks so much, everyone!
- Prisoner of Azkaban Hermione Funko Pop
- The Shire and North of the Wall candles (you can see this one in my picture above) from Booky Candles
- Life is Good mug with books, candles, and tea on, plus bookmarks from Booky Candles
- September’s Magician’s London box from Flick the Wick (I adored this; will be reviewing soon!)
- Brew of Motunui, Killian and Elias teas from A Court of Candles (use my code TSUNDOKU for 15% off!)
- Bookmarks from loads of cool shops from Tuddi!
- A Thief At Sea candle from Two Candle Thieves