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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