The Reading List – January

book reviewsOne of my new years resolutions was to read more (I don’t know why I’m such a radical, I just is). I’m going to work my way through all those books that have been sitting there unread on my shelvesfor a shamefully long time. So there might be a few more book recommendations around here, they might not be brand new but I promise they’ll only be absolute corkers.

I managed to do three *cough* two and a half *cough* over Christmas:

The Farm – Tom Rob Smith (2015)
Daniel thinks his mum and dad have happily relocated to his mothers’ homeland, Sweden, to enjoy their retirement until one day he gets a phone call. His Dad tells Daniel that his mum isn’t well, she’s been imagining ‘terrible things’ and has been committed to an asylum for treatment. As he rushes to the airport his mum phones to tell Daniel his father is not to be trusted; she’s not mad and she’s on her way to Heathrow now to tell him the whole story.

When her plane lands, we largely hear the story unfold from his mothers’ point of view. Daniel is told of a horrifying crime and conspiracy involving his own father and must try to figure out what the real story is whilst getting to grips with whether or not he really knows his parents at all. I don’t want to say any more as my special gift is totally ruining a really good story but, written without chapters, The Farm is a pretty intense read and one I felt compelled to devour as quickly as possible just to find out who was telling the truth! That up there ^^ that’s The Farm, so unputdownable I read it whilst walking through the woods, Betty was disgusted.

As the first book I’ve picked up in months it was addictive, easy to read and quite unique. A solid four out of five stars I reckon. Loses a star because some of the characterisation is a bit thin and it does feel rushed at the end but overall a ruddy good read.

book reviewThe Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood (1986)
So, in the interests of staying spoiler free – from the book cover:

In the world of the near future, who will control women’s bodies?

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.

Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now….

‘Offred’ (literally ‘belonging to Fred’ ick) is fertile and as such has been forcibly separated from her husband and daughter to fulfil her role as baby making machine in the dystopian hell hole that is Gilead. Nuclear fallout means that many women can no longer reproduce and so Offred’s womb is a valuable commodity. She could refuse but she would be hanged or sent out into the nuclear wasteland to forage. The story is non-linear, told both now as Offred lives it and through regular flashbacks to the ‘time before’. It doesn’t take long to get used to the jumping about, it’s completely absorbing. Not allowed to socialise, communicate or even read in her new world, Offred finds little ways to resist and rebel against the totalitarian regime (which is based on the absolute worst bits of the Old Testament).

One of my all-time favourite novels, The Handmaid’s Tale is one I’ve read time and time again and which always leaves me with the heebie jeebies.  It was fascinating to read a work of pure fiction written in 1986, in the context of the current weirdness over the pond and all that entails for women’s rights (and indeed the rights of anyone not white, republican, middle class or male).

It’s so hard to write about a book you adore and to remain objective so if you haven’t yet read it, The Handmaid’s Tale is phenomenal. Five out of five, whenever you ask me.

Blueeyedboy – Joanne Harris (2011)
Yes, she of Chocolat fame. And no, this is not a thing like that.

Once there was a widow with three sons, and their names were Black, Brown and Blue. Black was the eldest; moody and aggressive. Brown was the middle child, timid and dull. But Blue was his mother’s favourite. And he was a murderer.

Blueyedboy is a dark and intricately plotted tale of a poisonously dysfunctional family, a blind child prodigy and a serial murderer who is not who he seems. Told through posts on badguysrock.com, this is a thriller that makes creative use of all the disguise, deception and mind games that are offered by playing out one’s life online.

I’m about half way through this so far but I’m loving it. It’s another with a gloriously unreliable narrator BB (a running theme in what I read over Christmas!) He lives with his mother and spends a lot of his life online writing murderous fiction. The whole book is written through BBs online and journal entries. So far I don’t quite know how much of what he writes is fiction, how much is fantasy and how much is him talking about the stuff he’s actually done, maybe I’ll never know and maybe I like that.  I’ve got no idea where this is going but I’d recommend it for the sheer inventiveness of the story telling. Can’t give it a score yet, the ending might be naff.

Let me know if you’ve read anything good lately? I can’t buy it til I’ve finished the hundred or so neglected books at home but it’s always good to have a list!

Never Stick To What You Know
Wonderful Wednesday Forty Seven
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  • The Farm sounds pretty gripping, I’ll have to put it on my (extremelyyyy long) to read list.

    If you like detective/mystery novels, I’ve read two of Susan Hill’s Simon Serrailler series and enjoyed them a lot – she uses lots of interweaving stories that seem totally random but then all is slowly revealed. Kind of reminds me of the ITV series Unforgotten which has just returned if you watched that last year? Actually the sixth book was a lot like that with a cold case too… I found the way the romance elements were written were a bit annoying but the rest was great to just switch off and get lost in.

    Also this year I read Louisa Young’s series of books so far, dealing with WWI/the aftermath/pre-WWII (My Dear I Wanted to Tell You/The Heroes Welcome/Devotion). it’s such a visceral and relatable and amazingly written take on that time, I was totally blown away and just want to recommend them to everyone!

    Juliet 🙂 x

  • I’m looking for some new and different books to read this year as I failed, rather spectacularly, last year on the books front. I used to be such a bookworm but over the past couple of years I’ve found myself in a bit of a reading rut, so I need to try something new, and these will be a good place to start, so thank you for the recommendations Michelle! – Tasha

  • Yes! More book recommendations! I’ve had a rubbish time with books lately so am definitely on the lookout for some actual good ones to add to my reading list. The Handmades Tail sounds right up my street. Thanks for sharing! S x

  • Seriously, it’s fab! It flicks about in time a bit but easy to follow, definitely have a go and stick with it!
    M x

  • I’m about 3/4 of the way through the Handmaid’s Tale and it is just phenomenal … although also terrifying. Here’s hoping the world doesn’t turn that way!

    C xx
    CurvyGirlThin.com

  • Jenny

    Michelle you have inspired me to look at my new bookshelf of books and I selected this memoir. I blame you for the ‘snot and trane’, which started to flow from page 2 😭😉 ps Your little book of hyggee misses you. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5165fcfa4e6d95dc93014b0b23e259c1c23f6382085353a1acbb5e9324567a96.jpg

  • Cat

    Haha ‘read more’ is one of my must-dos this year too. I love the sound of Blueeyedboy – tantalisingly dark and I’ve read and enjoyed a few of Joanne Harris’ books now. Will add it to the list. I’m reading a book called ‘White Truffles in Winter’ at the moment, based on the life of Escoffier so all the food descriptions are fantastic – not one to read on an empty stomach! C xx

  • Definitely adding these to my read list. I’m determined to read a great variety of books, I always end up reading murder mysteries or sci-fi. Cheers for the suggestions 🙂

    Honestly Aine

  • Kel

    The only one I’ve read of these is The Handmaiden’s Tale, and that was admittedly years ago but I remember it being a corker – the other two sound really interesting though, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for them!

  • Oooooh Michelle I’m going to write these down on my to-read list this year! The list is ever growing, one of my goals this year is to also read more. There’s something very soothing about being taken off into a different world. I’m just finishing Bridget Jones Mad About The Boy. It has had me laughing out loud from the first page. It’s a wonderfully easy read that is really quite addictive.
    I hope you and your four legged friends are well.
    Peta xx

    http://www.pe-ta.com

  • Amy

    Love The Handmaid’s Tale – if I could have written one book, it would be that! I’m looking forward to the TV adaptation coming out in a couple of months.

  • I keep seeing The Handmaid’s Tale popping up all over the interwebs, but I’m not too sure if it is the book for me. Maybe if I see it going cheap on Kindle, I might pick it up, but I have a long old list of books to read in 2017 and if I add any more it will never end!

  • The Handmaid’s Tale was one of my favourite books of last year—love me some dystopian world type books, though was burned by the first Atwood novel I read (The Edible Woman) which I totally was not into. Looking forward to seeing the TV adaptation for this!

  • The Farm sounds brilliant. Do you know The Handmaid’s Tale is being filmed? I saw something about it recently, and that combined with this post makes me want to read it again right this minute x

  • oooo I’ll definitely have to try these. I’ve become such a bookworm since my mum gave me her hand me down kindle and am slowly making my way through her trashy novels on there! So The Handmaid’s Tale sounds far more gritty! Gosh it sounds horrific! But in a ‘can’t put the book down’ sort of horrific way! Thanks for sharing!
    Betty x
    Ps, I recently read a book called Fat Chance by Nick Hornby and it was laugh out loud funny if you’re on the look out for a feel-good, easy read!

    The Betty Stamp

  • Em

    My mum’s bringing me the Atwood that she has just read but on your suggestions i’ll add this one to my ‘to read’ list. I too am going to be working my way through the unread books on our shelves. Well, the unread books that don’t belong to jim. He reads thing like the whole game of thrones series. (I started and gave up after half a chapter and i read a lot. Also chemo brain has just meant i googled ‘series dragons snow’ because they were the only words i could think of to describe it 😉 )

  • The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the best books I read last year. Fascinatng story, horrifying if you think about it in detail, and stays with you long after closing the page. I can’t wait for the TV adaptation!
    I have just finished reading the hilarious My Dad Wrote A Porno. There is a podcast to accompany it, and they are both utterly hilarious. So cringe, so fun, definitely worth checking out!