Wednesday 23 August 2017

Book Club Books #3 2017

I know, I know, I'm so creative with the titles of these posts. I spend months reading, sifting, and sorting, then hours writing reviews,  and then, when I have sufficiently trimmed down to my seven favourites, I post the cream of the crop, and the post is creatively titled "Book Club Books #3 2017".

But, it does reveal what this is in very few words.

It's all my favourite reads from the last few months, in one convenient place, so that you can come here when you visit your local bookstore shopping for book club/library for borrowing purposes. Or maybe they'll stay at the back of your mind for the next time you're in a a bargain book shop, or visiting a friend and raiding her book shelf.

What is certain is that you need to get yourself these books and read them. You won't be sorry. 

In this post, you'll get a taste for each of these  - I've done a short paragraph on what to expect from each. If you like the tasting, click the cover, you'll link to my review, and then you can decide.

Have fun - I love drafting these posts, and I hope you find something to read.

 If you haven't yet discovered Fiona Melrose - SA born, world resident brilliant writer - you really need to.

Writer of Midwinter (a story of a farming family set in Suffolk, featuring a fox), her latest, Johannesburg is a treat.

It starts on the December day that Mandela died, and it tells so many SA stories by hovering over the leafy green burbs of this bustling beautiful city.

It is "modelled" on Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, but don't let that put you off, unless you're a baff, in which case it won't. I haven't read that, but it didn't spoil my enjoyment of this.

I'm probably going to come back to this one again - it's short, and densely packed with the Jozi sights, sounds and feels, but especially the people that make this city special. 

The Hate U Give (THUG) is the book every one is talking about.

This is referred to as Angie Thomas' searing debut, and that it most certainly is.

Starr Carter is a young black girl, raised in a poor neighbourhood, attending a fancy school where privilege abounds. These two worlds collide when she is involved in a horrific incident, featuring her friend, the cops and racism.

But it is the way that Angie Thomas writes this that makes it reach into your heart, and play those heartstrings with the most beautiful haunting melody, you'll never want it to end.

It also takes a while - this is a long worthwhile book. It's also YA, but as my daughters keep telling me, it's the only genre we should read, anyway.

What would these posts be without one of my favourite crime writers? Karin Slaughter. But if you haven't read Karin Slaughter before, remember that she lives up to her name in every novel - gore abounds, and these are not for the squeamish.

The Good Daughter is not a Will Trent (aah, yes I also miss him). But it is a stand alone, so you can just dive in without worrying about the series build up and reading them in order.

Charlie and Sam are the daughters here, and they're both from good stock. Mom was a genius, and a slave driver, and Dad is a defense attorney - Rusty Quinn from Pikeville. You get the picture.

The other thing that Slaughter is good at is writing daughters. She gets all the relationships down perfectly. 

And in this one, the plot races through the woods, downtown past the sheriff's office, in and out of the courts and reaches a well crafted, very satisfying conclusion. I loved every minute.

Lisa Jewell is another favourite author.

Her books are less gory - in fact her earlier ones usually don't even have a murder, or a body. One even features a hoarder!

Then She Was Gone starts with a broken family, in ruins after Ellie, who was fifteen, disappeared. This is a while later, but the damaged wrecks are still floating in the water. Ellie's Mom, Laurel, will never really give up hope until she knows what actually happened.

But she is trying to move on. And meet people. And she does - Floyd. He's nice. And has a daughter that looks like Ellie.

Lisa herself says this is her "darkest" book to date. It is, but it's really good too.

 With Anita Shreve, you're in good hands.

She's written a LOT. Remember 'The Pilot's Wife'? That's her.

The Stars Are Fire is set in Maine in 1947. Grace is married to Gene, and she stays at home with her two children, while he is out doing real work. But it's not so bad for Grace, with Rosie as a neighbour. Besides, they have all the mod cons - like washing machines (!).

This is a truly lovely book. The writing is exceptional, the women are strong and brave, and the circumstances devastating.

It's a story of loss, pain, and heartbreak, followed by healing, restoration and moving on.

One of my all time favourites.

What a surprise The Nix was. The astute among you will notice that this is the only book on the list written by a man. What can I say? It really wasn't deliberate.

Another debut, Nathan Hill took something like seven years to write this. And it shows.

This is a story that has been thought about, thrashed through, and then thought about again. And then rewritten.

It's better for it. And it is very funny too.

But I really struggle to say what it's about. Mainly Samuel Andresen-Anderson, a college professor, and player of Elfscape (an online game) who has a mother he doesn't know. Until she gets arrested, and he gets asked to write something in her defense.

Lots of clever, witty, intense writing, great characters, and a plot that deftly draws from the times - the 60s, 70s and 80s and even more recent, this book has a bit of everything - history and even Nordic folklore.

The Precious One was less of a surprise - since a good friend recommended it. 

Told by two daughters - Taisy, whose own father she describes as a 'breathtaking jerk' and the much younger Willow, who was doted upon by her father, and given everything she ever needed for success. Just a pity this same man is Taisy's father too.

Featuring family, this book has lots of masked and revealed pain, some people influenced by bad choices, and some love and acceptance too.

What I loved most about this book, apart from Taisy and Willow, was its core of optimism - a warm apple pie in the middle of quite a tangled mess of volatile discussions around the dinner table. I'll be looking for more from this author.

There you go. I hope all the links work, and that you find something good to read.

Here are the books that nearly made it onto the list.


My last round of recommendations.

Books of 2017

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