Reading Challenge 2020 – February
“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”
How is it already March?! I do have a good excuse for being so useless with blogging lately though. On 26th of January I gave birth to a baby girl, Evelyn Jane, and unsurprisingly, she has taken up most of my time, and adjusting to life as a family of four has obviously taken priority. However, I have been able to do some reading (managing to balance a book over a feeding baby!) and I’m proud of how I’m managing to keep up with my reading challenge! I’ve also been listening to a lot of audiobooks – though does anyone else find you have to concentrate so much more when you’re listening to books?!
Here’s what I’ve been reading lately…
Such A Fun Age (Kiley Reid) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Emira is a young black woman who works as a babysitter for a white family. Helping out during an emergency, Emira is in a supermarket late at night with three-year-old Briar, the child in her care, and is stopped by security, accused of kidnap. Her employer, Alix, is used to getting what she wants and resolves to make the situation right, but what are her reasons for doing so?
A story of race, class, privilege and motherhood, the book was driven by the plot rather than the characters, though the relationship between Emira and Briar was by far my favourite thing about the story – I thought Briar’s character was written beautifully, and I loved their dynamic. I found Alix quite frustrating to read, almost cringe-y at times. She is a woman used to getting her own way and struggles when Emira doesn’t want to take her advice, and crosses several boundaries doing what she believes is best for Emira.
I felt a little flat at the ending unfortunately, I think it felt a bit rushed, and without spoiling the end, there was one relationship I wish could have been maintained.
Such A Fun Age is a really good read, I read it in a couple of days. I think it manages to keep a good balance between light-hearted while dealing with tough issues. This is Kiley Reid’s debut novel, and she is definitely a writer I want to read more from. I found the dialogue a bit much at times, but overall I thought the pacing and plot was brilliant.
Found (Erin Kinsley) ⭐⭐
Narrated by Lucy Paterson
When 11 year old Evan vanishes without trace, his parents are plunged into their worst nightmare.
Especially as the police, under massive pressure, have no answers. But months later Evan is unexpectedly found, frightened and refusing to speak. His loving family realise life will never be the same again.
DI Naylor knows that unless those who took Evan are caught, other children are in danger. And with Evan silent, she must race against time to find those responsible…
This book had really impressive reviews, and I think it’s well written, but the actual plot just fell flat for me. It didn’t really feel like a thriller – a lot happened in the first few chapters, then it kind of just ambled along, until the end when it picked up.
A lot of the story was about Evan and his family rather than his abduction, which was fine, but not what I was expecting. I loved the relationship between Evan and his grandparents, that was definitely my favourite part of the story. The way the family dealt with the abduction was very well done, and I thought it was written in a very sensitive way.
I found myself getting a bit frustrated at the police investigation part of the story. It all felt a bit messy and disjointed, and I couldn’t really take it seriously. There was a lot about the personal lives of the police officers, which could have added more depth to the book, but I didn’t feel like any of the personal stories made any difference, and I just didn’t really care about them unfortunately. There were too many characters with little or no development.
I felt like this book was more of a family story rather than a thriller – a family learning to adjust and come to terms with a terrible event that happened, I think I would have enjoyed it more if it focussed on that rather than trying to cover everything.
The Silent Ones (K.L. Slater) ⭐⭐⭐
Narrated by Lucy Price-Lewis
When ten-year-old cousins Maddy and Brianna are arrested for a terrible crime, Maddy’s mother Juliet cannot believe it. How could her bright, joyful daughter be capable of such a thing?
As the small village community recoils in horror, the pressure of the tragedy blows Juliet and her sister’s lives apart. And things get even worse when their daughters retreat into a self-imposed silence. Can anyone reach Maddy and discover the truth before her fate is sealed?
Juliet is crushed. Nothing will ever be the same for her darling girl. But she knows that to find out what really happened that day, she and her sister must unlock the secrets of their own terrible past, a past they swore never to speak about again…
I’ve read a few K.L. Slater books and have really enjoyed them, they do tend to follow a very similar format (which isn’t a bad thing!) but I don’t think The Silent Ones is as good as some of K.L. Slater’s other books.
Aside from the opening chapter, it felt like it took a long time for the story to get going. Ultimately it didn’t feel like it was really about the girls at all, they became more of a sub-plot, and it quickly became a little too far-fetched for me, with a very convenient ending. It was definitely more of a domestic story rather than a gripping thriller – it was well written and the pace was good, but it wasn’t a standout book for me. I did enjoy Lucy Price-Lewis’ narration, she has a really calming voice!
The Daughter in Law (Nina Manning) ⭐⭐⭐
No one is good enough for her son…
As a single mother, Annie has an especially close relationship with her son, Ben. They have always been together. Just the two of them.
So, when Ben brings home his mysterious beautiful new wife, Daisy, immediately Annie doesn’t trust her. Who is this woman who has taken her son away from her? And what is she hiding?
I was intrigued by this story after reading the synopsis, I do enjoy domestic thrillers, and this held my attention for the most part. The story mainly alternates between Annie and Daisy’s POV, though there are some chapters by a mysterious ‘Grace’, and although I had an idea where she fitted into the story, it did keep me guessing.
There is a lot about pregnancy and I found myself getting a bit bored in the middle when the days with Annie and Daisy got really repetitive. There were a few bits in the story such as Annie’s sleepwalking which I felt had been added in to increase tension, but really just felt a bit over the top. I liked the relationship between Daisy and her best friend, Eve, but aside from that, I struggled to care much about any of the characters, except perhaps Jenny, who is a character in Grace’s chapters, and I would have liked to have known more about her. I thought Ben in particular was a really under-developed character.
I think it was fairly well written, and a good debut novel. Unfortunately, I found the ending fairly ridiculous and far-fetched. I think if you don’t read many thrillers you’d enjoy this, but with so many incredible thrillers available to read, this one just didn’t really stand out for me.
A Spark of Light (Jodi Picoult) ⭐⭐⭐
A lone gunman takes the women and doctors at a controversial abortion clinic hostage. Nobody has ended up there by choice.
As the tense negotiation for their release unfolds, hour by crucial hour, back in time through the day that brought the hostages and their captor to this moment, every certainty is questioned, every judgement thrown into sharp relief.
Because matters of life and death look very different when you, or the ones you love, are staring down the barrel of a gun…
A Spark of Light was February’s book for Beth’s Book Club. I’ve read a few Jodi Picoult books, and while they definitely all follow a very dependable format and style, they are usually extremely readable and gripping. A Spark of Light however, was not.
My main issue with the book is the fact it is told in reverse, each section telling what happened an hour earlier. I found this really, really difficult to follow and found myself flicking back through the book to check who was who, which was another issue as there were just way too many characters – I think around 10 main characters?! It was too many backstories to cram in, and too many people to care about. I liked the points where the connections between the characters, however small, were revealed, it added an extra layer to the story, but it wasn’t enough to make me feel engaged with any particular character.
Ultimately I do think it all tied together nicely, and I think the storyline itself was good, and I think it was a really interesting subject to tackle, I just think the execution of the story was what let it down.
What have you been reading lately?