Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Book Review: What I've Been Reading Recently

I've been sitting here for around ten minutes trying to think of a more interesting way to say, 'this is a post about books I've read' but words are failing me so I'm just going to dive right in.

Here's what I've been reading recently:

Book Review: What I've Been Reading Recently

Origin by Dan Brown - Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever”. The evening’s host is his friend and former student, Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old tech magnate whose dazzling inventions and audacious predictions have made him a controversial figure around the world. This evening is to be no exception: he claims he will reveal an astonishing scientific breakthrough to challenge the fundamentals of human existence.

But Langdon and several hundred other guests are left reeling when the meticulously orchestrated evening is blown apart before Kirsch’s precious discovery can be revealed. With his life under threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape, along with the museum’s director, Ambra Vidal. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

I'll admit, I love a Dan Brown novel. They're controversial, full of mind-boggling details and supported by a gripping storyline - his latest release is no exception. The book explores the idea of where life came from and where it is ultimately heading in a startling, yet thought-provoking revelation. I don't want to spoil the surprise so I highly recommend reading it for yourself but the ending gave me goosebumps and if it doesn't give you food for thought, I don't know what else will. 

The Muse by Jessie Burton - On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Having struggled to find her place in the city since she arrived from Trinidad five years ago, she has been offered a job as a typist under the tutelage of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn't know she had, she remains a mystery - no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery.

The truth about the painting lies in 1936 and a large house in rural Spain, where Olive Schloss, the daughter of a renowned art dealer, is harbouring ambitions of her own. Into this fragile paradise come artist and revolutionary Isaac Robles and his half-sister Teresa, who immediately insinuate themselves into the Schloss family, with explosive and devastating consequences.

It took me a couple of attempts at The Muse to really get into it, as it's a bit of a slow burner, but I'm glad I persevered. Despite the story line being fairly predictable, with most of the twists and turns expected rather than surprising, I still really enjoyed it. It flits between two different tales, one of a young Trinidadian woman living in London and the story of the Schloss family living in Spain, weaving a web between the two. Full of detail and vivid descriptions, The Muse is well worth a read. 

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins - In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help. Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind. But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped. And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool...

From the author of The Girl On The Train, Into The Water is another psychological thriller from Paula Hawkins. Unlike its predecessor, Into The Water doesn't flow, (if you'll pardon the pun) as well as The Girl On The Train, and the sheer number of characters that take turns in sharing their order of events, makes for a complex and sometimes confusing read. I did have to circle back a few times to remind myself who was who and to make sure I was keeping up. That being said, I was compelled to keep reading and I did enjoy the story as a whole. If you're looking for an easy read or a book to dip in and out of, this probably won't be for you. I feel like to get the most out of this book, you need to commit to tackling it in a few sittings. 

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley - Two brothers. One mute, the other his lifelong protector. Year after year, their family visits the same sacred shrine on a desolate strip of coastline known as the Loney, in desperate hope of a cure. In the long hours of waiting, the boys are left alone. And they cannot resist the causeway revealed with every turn of the treacherous tide, the old house they glimpse at its end. Many years on, Hanny is a grown man no longer in need of his brother's care. But then the child's body is found. And the Loney always gives up its secrets, in the end.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I think that the author did an exceptional job of building suspense and creating and eerie and atmospheric read. I was completely gripped from start to finish; however I did get the feeling that the story was left incomplete. I feel like part of that was intentional, a piece of the mystery but I found that the ending was weird and there were too many loose ends left to tie up. In spite of that, I think this book is worth reading for the sheer brilliance of Hurley's use of language - the descriptions and the way he really manages to set the scene are a pleasure to read. 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi - At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father. What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away? 

Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all.

The cover of this book describes it as 'Powerful and poignant' and I feel that this entirely sums up Paul Kalanithi's memoir. It is, at times, a difficult read, but also an inspiring and honest one. There's some really interesting insight into the challenging life of a medical student/doctor, which is probably more relevant now than it ever has been. If you're looking for an emotionally-charged, insightful book, then I suggest picking this up. 

The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison - Todd and Jodie have been together for more than twenty years. They are both aware their world is in crisis, though neither is willing to admit it. Todd is living a dual existence, while Jodie is living in denial. But she also likes to settle scores. When it becomes clear their affluent Chicago lifestyle could disintegrate at any moment, Jodie knows everything is at stake. It's only now she will discover just how much she's truly capable of.

If you're a fan of Gillian Flynn's psychological thriller Gone Girl, you'll get on really well with this book. It has a very similar narrative; albeit not as complex. Silent Wife delves into the relationship between Todd and Jodie, unraveling their secrets and giving a sombre insight into their marriage. It's a real page turner and even though the ending is somewhat predictable, it's still a very compelling read.

Book Review: What I've Been Reading Recently

Let me know if you've read any of these books and what you thought of them. Also, please make sure to leave me your suggestions for any books you've read and loved recently as I am always all ears for a good book recommendation. 

Thanks for reading.


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