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. Every month I start by trying to convince you all that this month is the best month for reading. During the summer, I’m all about poolside reading time, and now it’s Autumn, I’m all about a return to routine and this being the prime opportunity to introduce a little reading time to that routine.
As for this month’s books, well this is a mixed bag if ever there was one. Lanny is my book of the month. Great writing is a beautiful thing and this is one of the best books I’ve read this year. The Other Woman is not a memorable read but I found it entertaining and it kept me reading late into the night. Whisper Network is set against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement and while I like the issues it addresses, I wasn’t a fan of the plotline. The Room by the Lake is billed as a suspense thriller, but to be honest I felt neither suspense nor thrilled while reading it. Filter This is a fictional novel set against the backdrop of the Irish Instagram and influencer scene. It’s hilarious and delivers sharp insights into the world of #SponCon and influencing. If you know, you know. On the audiobook side, I listened to My Sister, the Serial Killer and The Silk Roads. The first is set in Lagos, Nigeria. I really enjoyed the story that centres around two sisters and their relationship. A definite recommendation. The second is very much a niche recommendation. If you want a complete overview of world history, well this is the audiobook for you.
Keep scrolling for September'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.
Lanny by Max Porter
This is one of those books that you’ll remember well after you finish reading it. And it’s my pick of this month’s books. The story is told through different story telling techniques and through various characters. This takes a little getting used to but bear with it. One of the story tellers is a mythological dark figure called Dead Papa Toothwort. He has lived in the village for ever and so is able to tell the story in a magical way that a regular character can’t. He pulls in phrases and quotes that he overhears in the village in a fragmented but very effective way.
The book is set in a village outside London and centres around a young child called Lanny. We aren’t told his age and while he is still very much a child, he is of an age that he is beginning to tune into adult behaviour. I don’t want to give any of the plot line away and it’s quite hard to describe this book in a way that will do it justice. It’s a book about the people who live in the village. About Mad Pete, about Peggy, the village gossip about Lanny and his crime writer mother and city worker father. It’s about Dead Papa Toothworth and all he overhears in the village.
Lanny is a strange but beautiful book. It’s about imagination, friendship, youth and old-age. It’s about love and kindness, about being different, and the people who live in a small village and how they live and love. Lanny has been longlisted for this year’s Booker Prize. And I have a feeling that this might be the winner.
I loved this book. I started reading it one bedtime, fell asleep reading it and woke up early the next morning and finished it. Great writing is a beautiful thing and Lanny is a wonderful book. Download, borrow or buy it ASAP.
Whisper Network by Chandler Baker
I’m in two minds when it comes to this book. On one hand I like that it addresses many situations and challenges relevant to the #MeToo movement. On the other hand, I found the plotline boring and the characters uninspiring, with the exception of Rosalita.
The book features Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita. They have all worked in the same company for years. After the sudden death of the company CEO, their boss, Ames, looks like he is in line for the top job. Each of the four women have had different relationships and experiences with Ames. Over the years, whispers have surrounded Ames’ behaviour, but nothing has come to light. However, with the emergence of the #MeToo movement, will all this change? And what consequences will arise from standing up to this behaviour? I like that these issues are being addressed in fiction and I’m sure much of the behaviour described will be familiar to many women. While I think it’s good to read fiction covering this subject matter, this book wasn’t a favourite for me.
The Other Woman by Sandie Jones
Ok. This book frustrated me a little because I wanted to scream at the main character so many times. But having said that I still enjoyed it. Also, I read it in a few sittings which is always a good sign. It’s fast-paced and very easy to read.
Emily meets Adam and an almost too-good-to-be-true romance develops. The ‘other woman’ referred to in the title isn’t a rival girlfriend or mistress, but rather Emily’s future mother-in-law, Pammie. Pammie is determined to put a stop to Emily marrying her son and it seems will do whatever is necessary. Cue plotting, manipulation and lots of scheming. At times, I was so frustrated with Emily and how she walks right into Pammie’s traps. I also really disliked Adam and how he treated Emily. Let’s just say Emily puts up with a lot in the name of love. But then again, who hasn’t at some point. This book falls firmly in the category of domestic suspense novel and I overdosed on these about two years ago. Many are highly readable and entertaining while at the same time being frustrating and irritating. While this definitely won’t be making any of my top TBR lists, it was entertaining and a good read if you are after some light suspense.
The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdon
I don’t remember buying this book, but with a return train journey ahead of me I grabbed a random book from my pile and off I went. The main character, Caitlin moves from London to New York trying to leave her problems behind her. She is a stranger in the city and knowing no one she meets Jake, a handsome army veteran. He invites her to his family’s lakeside cabin up-state to meet his parents. When they arrive, Caitlin soon realises things aren’t what they seem, and that Jake is actually a member of an off-the-grid community living communally in a remote cabin. Caitlin is the group’s latest recruit. At first Caitlin is drawn to the community’s extreme exercise and diet regimes. Lonely and disillusioned, she longs to belong and wonders if this is the fresh start that she has been looking for. However, very quickly Caitlin realises that the community has more sinister elements than she first thought. The book attempts to capture suspense and a sense of unease in the reader. However, I’m not sure it achieves this. The book explores a person’s need to belong and the abuse and manipulation that they can withstand from other people in order to achieve this. There are dark and sinister elements to the book. But overall, I didn’t find it convincing or absorbing. I never really felt on edge or uneasy reading it – two feelings I want to have when reading this type of thriller.
Filter This by Sophie White
If you are a regular user of Instagram and follow some of the big, and not so big influencers, I’m going to hazard a guess and say that you will very much enjoy this read. Full of sharp observations on the influencer scene, it made me laugh and cringe in equal measure.
The book centres on two fictional influencers. Ireland’s biggest influencer Shelly Devine who shares her life and the lives of her husband and young daughter in immaculately curated feeds. She is the queen of #sponcon and is much sought-after for brand work. We quickly realise that her highly curated life isn’t all it seems. The other star of this book is Ali Jones, an up and coming instagrammer, desperate to reach the 10,000+ followers and obtain the precious “swipe-up” function. (Honestly, if you are not on Instagram, don’t even ask! Who would have thought a simple “swipe-up” would be so sought-after.) The book explores the lengths that Instgrammers will go to in order to stay “on-brand” and grow their follower count. I won’t give the plot away, but I’m sure Instagram fans will not be surprised by some of the shenanigans described in the book.
Filter This is a fun and entertaining read that goes some way to exposing the reality behind highly curated social media feeds. It’s very current and well written and a recommendation for anyone that’s an Instagram fan. If you aren’t on Instagram, this probably isn’t for you.
Filter This was gifted to me by Hachette Books Ireland.
Audio Book Time
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Like Lanny, this book is long listed for the 2019 Booker prize. Koreda and Ayoola are sisters living in Lagos, Nigeria with their mother. Their father who played a very dominant role in their lives has died prematurely. Ayoola is the younger sister. She is beautiful and gets plenty of male attention. Koreda is the head nurse at St. Peter’s Hospital. They are two very different people. Irritated and angered by each other, but also dependent on each other.
The book opens with Ayoola calling on Koreda to clean up her mess. She has murdered her latest boyfriend in his flat. We learn later in the book that this isn’t the first time Ayoola has killed. Koreda helps her dispose of his body without arousing suspicion. Shortly after the murder, Ayoola turns her eye to a doctor working with Koreda and with whom Koreda is secretly in love. While Koreda loves Tade, Ayoola’s affection for him is casual. Fearing that Tade may suffer the same fate as Ayoola’s other love interests, Koreda trys to steer Ayoola away from Tade and convince Tade that Ayoola isn’t for him. Through all of this, Koreda is desperate for someone to confide in and ends up telling everything to Muhtar Yautai, a comatose patient in her care. When Muhtar unexpectantly wakes from his coma, Koreda discovers that he remembers everything she told him, and a strange friendship develops between them.
This isn’t so much a murder thriller, as it is a story of the rivalry, bonds and love that exist between two sisters. While Korede should be bitter and angry about having to clean up her sister’s crimes, she will not let her sister down. I really enjoyed this book, although I think I would have preferred to have read it than listened to it. I’m beginning to think that non-fiction lends itself better to audiobooks than fiction.
The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan
The first thing to say is that this is a very niche audiobook recommendation. But bear with me. I downloaded The Silk Roads on Audible expecting to listen to it over time and when I was in need of a hit of history. It’s 24 hours and 14 minutes long. But two weeks later I had listened to it from start to finish and loved all 1,454 minutes of it.
The Silk Roads is a non-fiction book written by Peter Frankopan who is an academic at Oxford University. I loved history at school, but the curriculum was all about European history. It ignored Asian history and you would be forgiven for thinking that Europe and Asia existed side by side for centuries without any interaction. This of course is not the case and The Silk Roads attempts to tell a complete world history showing how civilisation began in the East, the links that developed between East and West and how those links influenced world politics, trade and culture. It also tries to refocus the listeners’ world view away from thinking that the West is the home of progress and all things good to a more global view of world politics. This is especially important right now, at a time when Asia and China are taking centre stage in the world order. If you love history like me, The Silk Roads is a great listen. Even if you are not interested in listening to the entire book start to finish, just skip through to the episodes of history that most interest you. A timely listen right now in light of a rapidly changing world order.