20 Books of Summer

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Every single Summer I fantasise about lying in a beautiful park reading beneath a huge shady tree to my heart’s content. This more or less never happens but maybe this will be the year.

Since I’m enforcing a No Shopping ban upon myself for the next two months (have I mentioned that?), I’ll be looking for thrifty ways to entertain myself until August and this might just be it.

Thanks to Cathy of 746 Books for the idea, I am totally in. 20 books is an awful lot and they’re supposed to be done between 1 June and 5 September but I will try my damnedest to stick to the plan. For the record, that’s 20 books in three months or 7 books a month for 3 months (give or take)!

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Image via Unsplash

I’ve been a bit lame about my choices and simply picked from the ‘To Read’ side of my bookcase. Turns out there was a lot of good stuff chilling there. I’ve been buying books and then forgetting about them a lot. Which is frankly criminal and must stop.

Here are my 20 books:

  1. In a Dark Dark Wood – Ruth Ware. I love crime and this ticks that box nicely. I’m also drawn to the fading friendship element, something I understand all to well. Let’s hope this really is the ‘Crime Novel of the Year’.

  2. The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter. “Fairy tales reimagined for feminist times” – what’s not to like about that? Taking inspiration from some of my favourite fairy tales, including the sinister as all fuck Bluebeard, this is right up my street. I cannot wait.

  3. Capital – John Lanchester. This tale was recently turned into a BBC series which I didn’t see but it caught my attention anyway. Plus, both my brother and mother recommended it. The residents of a London street all receive the same mysterious note through their doors: We Want What You Have. But who sent it and what does it mean?

  4. Killer Next Door – Alex Marwood. I read The Wicked Girls, also by Marwood and enjoyed it, even though it’s very odd. I don’t even know what this one is about but I suspect that there’s a clue in the title.

  5. The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton. This has been on my shelf for so long and I’m not sure why I haven’t yet picked it up. Sometimes I struggle with period pieces but this comes highly praised, so we’ll see, won’t we?

  6. The Sisters – Claire Douglas. The tale of twin sisters, one dead and one alive following a tragic accident. I’m drawn to this because I find the whole twin thing naturally unsettling and how can I resist a deeply hidden family secret?

  7. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks. I know it’s pretty bad that I haven’t read this one yet, given that it’s a bit of an oddball classic, but there we are. Glynn read it a few years back and raves about it so this is another one I can’t wait to dig into.

  8. Feed: The Newsflesh Trilogy: Book 1 – Mira Grant. Zombie infection, two bloggers and a conspiracy theory, I’m into this concept and have had this waiting for me for over a year. Glad to be getting to it, finally.

  9. Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen. This is heralded as Austen’s Gothic parody and draws my interest because it promises lots of twists and turns, mystery and decrepit old castles. Count me in, boi.

  10. The Hourglass Factory – Lucy Ribchester. This was recommended to me by my friend Helga. Set in 1912 against the backdrop of the Suffragette movement, Journalist Frankie is sent to interview a trapeze artist and becomes obsessed. Mystery and suspense entail – and I’m fully here for it.

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    Image via Unsplash
  11. The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith. I’ve already read the second Cormoran Strike novel, The Silkworm because I was given it and honestly, I really enjoyed myself. So I’m going back to the first. I think I might have a thing for Strike, ngl.

  12. Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey. Dementia scares the living shit out of me so I think this will be a hard read, even though it’s won heaps of awards and will be great. It tells the story of Maud, who’s very forgetful. Yet, despite this fact she knows one thing: her friend Elizabeth is missing and somewhere deep inside her mind is the secret to an age old mystery. Oooooh.

  13. Clown Girl – Monica Drake. I read somewhere that Kristen Wiig is attached to the film version of this novel and that can only mean one thing: I’m going to dig it. The heroine is Nita, a clown in the midst of a crisis as she navigates poverty, clown fetishism and heart ache.

  14. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler. You’ve gotta love a fucked up family and it sounds like Rosemary’s can give mine and yours a run for their money.

  15. The Road – Cormac McCarthy. I asked Tom at work what his favourite book was and he said this. I haven’t seen the film adaptation so all I know is that the story contains cannibalism. I loved No Country for Old Men though so I’m hopeful I’ll enjoy this.

  16. My Friend Leonard – James Frey. The follow on from A Million Little Pieces (which I’ve previously reviewed here), this focuses on the paternal relationship between James and former rehab buddy, Leonard. Leonard leads something of a criminal lifestyle – how will that impact James’ quest to rebuild his life?

  17. Filth – Irvine Welsh. Another familiar story, as we’ve reviewed the film adaptation previously for the collab. However, I love Irvine Welsh (even though his language can be difficult to get into) and I’m intrigued to see what the book adds to my life. Probably quite a lot. The story of DS Bruce Robinson is peppered with sex, drugs, violence and anything else you can think of (not that you utter perv!) but at the core is a heartbreak that explains (almost) everything.

  18. Me Before You – Jojo Moyes. Just about to be a film starring Emilia Clarke, this has been all over the place for a long time. I don’t know how I’ll enjoy it as I’m not a huuuge chick lit fan but I’m still curious. In short, everything changes when Lou Clark meets Will Traynor. A bit of popcorn never ever hurt anyone, right?

  19. Luckiest Girl Alive – Jessica Knoll. I’m expecting this to be a difficult read given that Knoll has revealed she was gang raped during her teens. Not only that but she suffered horrific bullying afterwards. So to have written a work of fiction based on her own life experience seems incredibly brave to me. Dreading it but also keen to know what it’s like.

  20. A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara. I’ve wanted to read Yanagihara’s ALL for ages, as Twitter seems to have been awash with appreciators. Then I saw it on Mum’s nightstand, so I’ve nabbed it for myself (relax ma, I bought my own copy). Amazon describes this as “an immensely powerful and heartbreaking novel of brotherly love and the limits of human endurance.” Which sounds pretty intense. I might treat myself to this as my last book.

    So that’s what I’ll be doing for the foreseeable future. I reserve the right to change my mind about any of these books and replace them, although I’m not allowed to buy any new ones, so it will have to be a gift or a lend!

    Anyone else up for joining me? ❤

    UPDATE: My dear friend Lightle has signed up for a 10 book challenge and I’m stoked as shit for it!

Tried To Make Me Go To Rehab: A Million Little Pieces Review

I’m only a decade behind the hype on this quite hefty rehabilitation story by James Frey. Which might be a good thing.

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Several years after it was first published, its author came under fire for embellishing much of what happened within. Originally presented as a memoir, once this exaggeration came to light, James Frey became Public Enemy #1. Oprah had him on and everything, making him apologise to The World for his ethical misdemeanors.

Since I was aware of the controversy and everybody and their mum was going on about it, it was easy to shrug and let it slip by. But I saw it in The British Heart Foundation for £1.25 the other week and I figured now might be the time.

I am glad I picked it up. The copy I have contains a Foreword by Frey, apologising again for letting people down. I think it sounds sincere but I also think, what is the actual big deal?

I mean, yes I get that people have been through similar themselves, and to embellish what is already horrible and traumatic seems unnecessary but this is also a book. A book written for other people and a certain amount of artistic licence has be to be granted, non?

millionSo I’m not all that fussed about the faux bits. Bring it on, Frey, I say! Or I would of, had I met him at the exact moment I had picked this up and started it.

We begin with James waking up on a plane to Chicago, with a bloody face and next to no memory. We don’t know how he got here, all we know is that his parents are there to pick him up at the airport and without ceremony, they drop him on the doorstep of an unnamed Drug Rehabilitation Centre. They don’t actually dump him that callously, they walk him in and hand him over, but you see how easy it is to embellish for effect?

James is only 23 but he has already been an alcoholic – and more recently a crack head – for ten long years. He has fallen down a flight of stairs, lost his four front teeth and broken his nose; prompting swift action by his friends. Or the friends he still has.

I’ll let you dig in for yourselves, if you haven’t already, but James begins with the reticence you would expect. And boy, is this book orally fixated! There is a lot of vomit, a lot of blood and a particularly wincey dental scene, straight out of my own nightmares.

A sizable corner of the internet has criticised that it is so graphic but I don’t mind at all. Frey writes in an unstructured, hazy manner that suits this disgusting detail. It also make you feel like you are right there with him, rubbing his back and telling him it will all be okay, even though you might not believe it.

As with most books of this ilk, the real heart lies in the characterisation; in James and in the people he encounters along the way. Great humour is found in Leonard, James’ slightly sinister ‘father figure’, great tenderness in Miles, James’ gentle Federal Court Judge roommate and the lovely loving Lily with the troubled past. You want them all better, no matter what they have done and who they have hurt in their pasts.

I won’t tell you that James makes it or that there is a complete transformation at the end but I will say that you want him to. Or I did. I like James, I find him amusing and I agree with quite a lot he says, about religion in particular.

Luckily for me, Frey followed up Pieces with My Friend Leonard so I can keep some of my favourites going for a little longer. Perhaps not straight away though. I might need something fluffy next.

Book details:

  • Title: A Million Little Pieces
  • Publisher: John Murray; New Ed edition (10 May 2004)
  • ISBN-10: 0719561027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719561023
  • Bought paperback (secondhand)