Recent reads roundup - part 1
I've been a bit lax with my book reviews lately, but it's not because I haven't been reading. In fact, it's because I've been so engrossed in so many books that I haven't taken the time to write reviews of each one. Rather than posting 13 different book reviews, I thought I would give you two grand roundups of my recent reads. Hopefully these blogs help you find a great new book to get stuck into! I will publish Part 2 later this week.
Each of the titles below links to where you can buy the book on Amazon (US).
This book has been getting a lot of attention lately since the film came out and won a host of awards, and rightly so. Inspired after she read the horrible real-life story of Josef Fritzl, Donoghue wrote a novel that views the world through the eyes of a six-year-old boy who's spent his entire life locked in a single room shed with his mother. When she finally admits to him that the world extends beyond the four walls in which they're trapped, he has to conquer his fear of the unknown in order to help her escape. This book is everything I love about good literature. A heart-clenching story, told in a beautifully unique voice, with plenty of suspense to keep you going. I'd highly recommend it.
Many of my regular readers know that my second novel is about the American justice system -- specifically where it goes wrong and people are wrongly convicted of crimes they didn't commit. Just Mercy is written by an attorney who specializes in that work, helping wrongly convicted or unjustly sentenced prisoners prove their innocence or receive fairer sentences. Until I read this book, I had no idea just how skewed our justice system is towards middle- and upper-class individuals, especially white individuals in those class systems. This book lays out the facts with passion, wisdom, and incredible heart. I loved it.
The Rosie Project & The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
Okay, let's talk about how much I love a good unique voice when I read a book. Graeme Simsion nails it with his two books starring Don Tillman, a superior geneticist and not at all normal human who's just looking for a life partner like the rest of us. Unlike the rest of us, though, he's come up with a scientific survey to help eliminate unsuitable women before he even meets them. He enlists the help of one of his two friends to find women who are willing to take the survey, but things go wrong when the friend doesn't stick to Don's preferences.
Enter Rosie, who doesn't fulfill any of the requirements, but nevertheless makes him want to get closer to her. But Don has some personality quirks of his own that he's never really considered the woman would have to get over in order to be with him, and thus Rosie is taking on a project of her own. Both of these books are laugh-out-loud funny, intelligent, sweet, and wonderfully told. I liked The Rosie Project the best, but they're both well worth the read.
This book made a splash in the Australian fiction scene a few years ago when debut author Hannah Kent was reportedly given an advance somewhere around the $1 million mark. And after reading it, I can see why. While exploring the ethics of the death penalty is nothing new in the literary world (I'm doing it myself), Kent takes it to a whole new level by bringing the reader to 19th century Iceland and the last person to ever face execution before capital punishment was abolished in that country. It's a stunning book, filled with the misty Iceland landscape, almost puritanical culture, and plenty of questions surrounding the guilty verdict laid down on Agnes Magnusdottir.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrad (audio book)
I had long been intending to read this book, and in the end chose to get the audio book to listen to on my flight from Australia to the US for Christmas. It's narrated by the late great Edward Herrmann, and I have to say, it's just about unbelievable that someone could survive all that Louis Zamperini and his pilot Russell Allen Phillips went through in World War II. From a plane crash into the ocean, to surviving for 47 days on a life raft before ultimately being captured by the Japanese and then living for years in some of the worst prisoner of war conditions ever recorded, this book will leave you flabbergasted and completely blown away at what someone is capable of enduring if they don't lose heart.
I read and reviewed Fox's debut novel, Hades, last year. Given how much I enjoyed it, picking up her second book, Eden, was a no-brainer. I was even more impressed than I was with the first. Eden and her police partner Frank are called to investigate the disappearance of three girls all connected to the same hippie farm/commune out in the middle of nowhere Australia. Going undercover, Eden has to set aside her confident, cunning persona in order to convince the people on the farm that she's just a normal runaway looking for escape. But given how much she enjoys torturing bad people, that could prove difficult. Fantastic writing, addictive plot -- this is everything you want in a crime thriller.
I, like almost every other human being who reads, heard non-stop mentions and praise of Hawkins's suspense novel that was one of the most-sold books in 2015. So naturally, I had to find out what all the hype was about. Alcoholic and recently divorced Rachel rides the train to and from London each day, enviously watching a young couple in one of the apartments she passes by. When she notices one day that the woman is missing, Rachel becomes convinced that she's been murdered and has to convince the police she knows who did it. It's a great concept and there are times when Hawkins really pulls it off. However, I figured out the "twist" long before I probably should have, and overall felt like the book lacked as much intensity as many others in the same genre that get a lot less attention.
Check back later this week for Part 2 of my Recent Reads Roundup.