Another month has been and gone, and what better time to start a new segment on my blog.
After spending several years having to read for the sake of education, this summer has been a great opportunity for me to remember what it’s like to read for fun. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy most of what I was reading when I was at university, but there was always the feeling that I had to be analysing every word on every page so that I could learn from the author’s writing.
I’ve enjoyed reading a book solely for the purpose of being transported to another world whenever I want.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share with you all the books that I’ve been reading recently. My plan is to write a post on the first of every month that talks about the different books I’ve read in the last 30 or so days. All of the posts will be titled Monthly Book Club and will offer a brief synopsis of the novels as well as my opinions on the stories and overall mark out of 10.
Here are my reads from September…
The Grownup (Gillian Flynn)
I’ve been a fan of Gillian Flynn’s ever since I read Gone Girl 2 years ago.
Although I’ve yet to read them, I have Flynn’s other 2 novels – Sharp Objects and Dark Places – waiting for me on my bookcase alongside her more recent release, the short story The Grownup.
I decided to read this on a whim after seeing it in the crime/thriller section of my local Waterstones. Outside of my degree I’ve never really sat down to read a short story so in a way this was a first for me, but it was most definitely a good one.
Gripping from start to finish, The Grownup follows a young woman looking to make ends meet by faking it as a psychic for downtrodden woman. When she meets Susan Burke, a wife and stepmother struggling to adapt to life in her new home, the protagonist finds herself embroiled in a disturbing series of events that leaves the reader questioning what is real and what is a lie.
I was definitely won over by Flynn’s short story. The twists near the end really had me hooked, and they left me sitting there for several minutes after I’d finished the book questioning what had actually just happened. Although I am one for closure in my stories, I know from reading Gone Girl that this isn’t something that Flynn likes to do and I admire that. In a way I suppose it reflects a more realistic take on the story, and leaving it up to the readers to interpret often allows people to imagine it ending the way they want it to, rather than simply being told point blank how it concludes.
All in all I found this book a pleasure to read. The character was great (especially for subverting the norms of the mainstream), the story intense and enthralling, and the overall flow of the writing on point. It’s definitely made me want to read Flynn’s other books as soon as possible!
I give Gillian Flynn’s The Grownup an 8/10
Follow Me (Angela Clarke)
Follow Me is one of the books that I picked up at the Noirwich Crime Writing festival, and after hearing Angela Clarke herself talk about the book I couldn’t wait to sit down and read it.
Billed as the first book in Clarke’s ‘Social Media Mysteries’ series, Follow Me sees aspiring journalist Freddie Venton become involved in a serial murder investigation after trying to find a big story to write about. Much to the chagrin of DCI Moast and his team, Freddie is employed on the force as a Social Media Advisor and attempts to help the police solve the case of the Hashtag Murderer, a man who boasts about his killings on Twitter. With her ex best friend working alongside her as the sergeant on the case, Freddie’s personal live threatens to put the investigation in jeopardy and force her to face the greatest danger of all.
I read this book in a day, which is pretty much a rarity for me. Every chapter seemed to end on a perfect cliffhanger so as to keep the reader’s intrigue sustained and hungry for more answers.
Admittedly I found the start a little slow to get into, which quite frankly is a downside attributed to most novels really, but once the action picked up there was no stopping Clarke’s narrative. I was particularly impressed by how well this stands out as a modern novel, both in its references and in the method of the Hashtag Murderer’s killings. Social media is a constant in everyone’s lives, and Clarke brilliantly exposed the potential dark side of the internet with this novel. I eagerly await the release of ‘Watch Me’ next year, the second book in the ‘Social Media Mysteries’ series that revolves around Snapchat.
This book is a definite must-have for any fans of crime and mystery fiction, especially those of you looking for something fresh and exciting. Clarke’s characters are great, her writing on-point and the narrative a never-ending rollercoaster ride of drama.
I give Angela Clarke’s Follow Me a 8/10
The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)
I’ve been wanting to read The Girl on the Train ever since it came out but I only recently got my hands on it.
Advertised as the new Gone Girl, the novel was a hit around the world which resulted in the production of a cinematic adaptation of the book. It was actually the upcoming release of the film that prompted me to finally pick up the novel and start reading it, because I refuse to watch something without having first read the book.
At long last I was finally going to see what all the fuss was about.
The Girl on the Train is written in first-person from the perspective of three women – Anna, Megan and the protagonist Rachel. The book jumps between perspectives as we learn about the lives of these three women in both the lead up to Megan’s disappearance and the aftermath of it. With big gaps in Rachel’s memory from the night of the disappearance, the reader slowly discovers the truth of that night in time with the protagonist as the tension slowly builds up to a tense and shocking climax.
I loved this book just as much as I’d hoped I would. I struggled to put it down, particularly towards the final 60/70 pages, and the entirety of the novel was so cleverly structured to create the perfect development of narrative and suspense.
However, there are a few things I want to point out that I felt could have been improved. They’re nothing major, but there’s no reason to be dishonest here.
For one the ending could have been extended a little. I remember finishing a chapter and looking to see that there were just 10 pages left, despite the drama being in full swing at the time. Although the story was wrapped up nicely, I felt that there could have been a little more added in to the aftermath of the big scene to give a little more closure to the story.
My other concern was related to
Despite this, I still feel that Hawkin’s novel is sensationally strong. The narrative was gripping and the characters really came to life in the story, although some of their actions were a little questionable in terms of realism. The mystery was present throughout and lent itself nicely to the dramatic storytelling (though I will admit that I’d had a strong inkling about who the killer was a number of chapters before it was revealed).
Overall it was a standout thriller that fills an empty spot in British writing that I only hope other competent authors will contribute to in the near future.
I give Paula Hawkins The Girl on the Train a 7/10