It’s that time of the month again, when I share with you everything I read last month in the hope that one of them will catch your eye and become your new favourite read.
What with my brother and niece being home from Australia for most of July and it being peak Love Island season, my reading opportunities were limited. I surprised myself that I managed to get through five books in total. Read mainly while enjoying early morning sunshine out the back with a cup of coffee. The very best time to read.
As for the books, they are a mixed bag. Where the Crawdads Sing is my book of the month. I adored it and almost let out a sob when I finished it. Rebecca is this month's classic read and what a read it is. An American Marriage is a powerful story and an insight into race, class and a deeply unfair criminal justice system. The Body Lies is a thriller that deals with violence against women in a very real and frightening way. And Cari Mora is Thomas Harris' new book and while I didn't enjoy it, I think most Harris fans will want to decide that for themselves. And in a new addition to my book posts, I'm going to start including audio books, starting with The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson. Having listened to it, I can confirm that I give a fuck about far less than I did before.
Keep scrolling for August's Reading List and as usual, let me know your thoughts on any of these books. Or if you have any must-read recommendations, send them this way.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
This is my book of the month. Kya is a young girl who is abandoned by her family and raises herself in a shack in the North Carolina marshes. Along the way she befriends a young boy from the nearby town who shares her love of nature and the marshes. He brings her books and teaches her how to read. She also becomes friends with a local trader and his wife who look out for her. She is known as the ‘marsh girl’ in the local town and looked on with suspicion. When a local boy shows an interest in her, they begin spending time together. The book follows her life from child to teenager to adult and as it progresses, a new plot line unfolds when a local man is found dead in the marshes and suspicion falls on Kya. I'm being a little cagey about the plot as I don't want to give too much away but I can one hundred percent confirm that this book is gripping and impossible to put down.
The start of the book is very much about nature and the environment. It’s about Kya’s resilience and how she masters her circumstances. This perfectly sets the scene and creates the atmosphere for the rest of the book. This book is my top recommendation this month. Get yourself downloading, borrowing or to the book store ASAP.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
This book has been on my TBR list for ages. It tells the story of the wrongful conviction of a young African-American man and the effects it has on him and those closest to him. There is no doubt that this is a beautifully written novel that explores not just a corrupt criminal justice system, but also what it means to commit to a marriage through bad times and good, grief, the human relationships. Without giving too much away, the storyline centres on Celestial and Roy, a newly married couple living in Atlanta. On a trip back to Lousianna to visit Roy’s parents, Roy is wrongfully arrested and convicted of a horrendous crime and sentenced to twelve years in prison. Life happens while Roy is in prison. People and relationships change. After five years, Roy is deemed wrongfully convicted and released. We see how Roy and those closest to him deal with not only his imprisonment but his return to the outside world.
The book confronts issues around race, inequality and a corrupt criminal justice system. It took me a little while to get into but once I did I couldn't put it down. This is well worth a read and is an ideal book club choice.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
The main character of this book who remains nameless throughout meets Maxim de Winter while working as a lady's companion in the South of France. He is a handsome widower who quickly proposes marriage. Maxim brings his new wife home to England and his ancestral family home Manderley. When the new Mrs de Winter arrives in Manderley, she very quickly realises that the memory of the first Mrs de Winter, Rebecca is still very much present. This is thanks in the main Manderley's housekeeper Mrs. Danvers. Comparisons are regularly drawn between Rebecca and the new Mrs. de Winter. Rebecca is remembered as beautiful, charming and popular with everyone. The new Mrs de Winter is young, shy and struggling to find her feet, unsure as to whether her new husband loves her. Rebecca is a classic for good reason. Written in 1938, it has withstood the test of time. This may be one of my favourite books and I'd recommend you get your hands on it as soon as possible.
The Body Lies by Jo Baker
A female writer is the victim of a random daytime assault in her London neighbourhood. Desparate for change, she takes a job at a university in rural England, taking her young son with her and leaving her husband behind in London, seeing him only at weekends. She teaches creative writing and finds herself building friendships with her colleagues and students. When she starts to recognise herself as one of the main characters in extracts submitted by one of her students, the plot begins to unfold.
I really felt for the main character when she realises that she is going to be a victim of violence and is powerless to prevent it. It made be think how often this is the case for real life victims of assault and abuse. The author's portrayal of violence towards women is shockingly vivid and at times, makes for very uneasy and challenging reading. This book is a mix of literary fiction and thriller and while I didn't love it, it is a timely read.
Cari Mora by Thomas Harris
So of course I was excited to read the much anticipated new release from the man who brought us the terrifying Hannibal Lecter. I was really hoping that we would be treated to a new and equally terrifying monster who would meet his match in an equally complex character as Clarice Starling is. Let me tell you that doesn't happen.
Cari Mora is a form FARC child soldier who grew up in Colombia and now lives in Miami working as a housekeeper in a shoreside mansion formerly owned by Pablo Escobar. Escobar's gold is believed to be stashed in a bobby-trapped safe underneath the home. One of Escobar's former associates is selling the location and means to break into the safe to the highest bidder. Hans Peter Schneider is the monster. Unlike Hannibel Lector I never took him seriously as a villian. He was almost cartoon like and very unbelievable.
I read the book very quickly and while I wasn’t bored by it, I wasn’t entertained by it either. The characters lack depth and the violence and grotesque crimes seem a little ridiculous and are never terrifying. Hans Peter Schneider is no Hannibel Lector and Cari Mora is no Clarice Starling. The most interesting part of this book was the insight into the lives of immigrants in Miami and flashback to Cari’s life as a child soldier with FARC in Columbia. I won't recommend this book, but fans of Thomas Harris' earlier works will probably want to read it and make up their own minds.
PS: I bought this book for €2.50 in a charity shop so remember to check out their book sections as there's often a deal to be got.
Audio Book Time
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson
I didn't need to listen to this book to realise that I give a fuck about way too many things. And while I'm not sure how long the feeling will last, I can confirm that having listened to this book, I give a fuck about far less. At one point, he talks about what if you had a limited amount of fucks to give each day. How would you decide to use them. This is genius. One day, I set myself a limit of five fucks to give. First test... a woman at the checkout was taking an age to count out all the change from her purse to pay for her groceries and I started to get a little annoyed. I remembered the book and asked myself if I wanted one of my five fucks a day to be about this and decided I definitely didn't. Cue immediate zen.
In a world where moral indignation is everywhere and tiny infractions cause outrage, it's important to check ourselves. Otherwise we may well become distracted from real societal problems and spend our time giving a fuck that the local coffee shop ran out of croissants.