The Year in Books: August

As has often happened this year, I have no particular book in mind to read in August - I have a lot of crocheting projects that have deadlines coming up so they're going to be taking up time on the commute.  I'm sure I'll find something to read, though. Just nothing is particularly taking my fancy at the moment.

My book for July was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

I loved it.  Absolutely loved it.  At over 800 pages, it's a rather fat book and normally I choose to take smaller books on the commute to work - but I was enjoying this so much that it came with me even though it meant I could barely shut my bag!  Theo is 11 years old when a bomb goes off in a museum he and his mum are visiting; Theo is one of the few people who survives.  Estranged from his dad, Theo is taken in by the wealthy family of one of his friends, and the story then follows Theo as he grows up, moves around the country, gets himself into all manner of situations and eventually explains how he ends up in Amsterdam which is where the novel starts.  Throughout the story is this painting called 'The Goldfinch' - and is the cause of a lot of the trouble.  The book is beautifully written - many sections were incredibly long and intricately detailed, which in other books would annoy me and have me skipping pages, but this book was just so well written, I didn't mind.  The final section, however, could have done with being a bit shorter - my patience had worn a bit thin by that point and I didn't think the actual ending was as good as I was expecting.  I'll happily recommend The Goldfinch, though - it's definitely a book I'll remember, just like The Secret History, her first book, which I read over a decade ago.

I love Caitlin Moran, I've seen her speak and I loved How To Be A Woman.  So I had high hopes for How To Build A Girl and thankfully I wasn't disappointed.  A lot of the music references were lost on me but I loved the story of teenager Johanna who spectacularly embarrasses herself on TV, reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde and starts writing reviews for a music magazine.  If you like Caitlin Moran, you'll like this book.  If you don't like Caitlin Moran then this book is not for you!

Back in April I read Burnt Paper Sky but can only write about it now due to restrictions from the publisher.  It was the definition of a 'page-turner' (or whatever the Kindle equivalent is).  Rachel is out in the woods with her eight year old son Ben, when she lets him go out of her sight for a second and then can't find him.  What follows is a police drama as the public, the police, the family try to find Ben whilst realising that as time moves on, their chance of finding him alive and well is ever-decreasing.  Now, as I always read the ends of books first, I knew what the outcome of this book was.  There are so many twists in this book though that it kept my attention even when I knew that the police were focusing on the wrong person - why were they focusing on this person?!  There were quite a few interesting points made about the roles the media and public play in massive events like this - how was the mother portrayed in the press? What about the family? Why did she let Ben run on ahead in the woods? Isn't she a dreadful mother?  Why is the detective seeing a therapist?  If a member of the public writes something on an online forum or blog, what impact if any could/does this have on an active investigation?  Lots of questions and a very well-told story.

The Parrots* by Alexandra Shulman was annoying.  I read it on the train on the way to a conference and I just got more annoyed by the mile.  The Tennison family is rich (very rich) in terms of money, and social status, and social connections, as well as in love (ahhhh).  Then two children of an influential Italian family come and stay.  I had very little sympathy for any of the characters, they all annoyed me and I couldn't relate to any of it at all.  Next!

One* by Sarah Crossan was short but good and made up for the other books I read whilst travelling for this conference!  It was written in free verse, which took a few pages to get into, but having read it, I can't imagine it being written in a different way.  Tippi and Grace are teenage twins joined from the pelvis down.  Due to their deteriorating health they are asked whether they want to be separated.  Interesting questions raised about identity and the place of medical interventions.  A book which I think will stay with me.

The House of Hidden Mothers* by Meera Syal will not stay with me.  I've always liked Meera Syal's acting but her writing, although I can see it's good, doesn't really do anything for me.  Shyama is in her forties and falls in love with a much younger man - together they have problems conceiving and their story becomes intertwined with that of Mala living in India.  Possibly a book I just read at the wrong time - some books are like that.

The Museum of Things Left Behind* by Seni Glaister is set in the fictional tiny European country Vallerosa.  The postman sees there is a letter from Buckingham Palace and takes it immediately to the President (as you do) - it turns out a member of the Royal Family wants to visit so the government has lots to plan to make sure the country is displayed at its best.  There are a few misunderstandings along the way and the President does his best, but sometimes gets rather caught up in things when he should be prioritising something else.  I love the title of this book, but not much more.

This Is Where It Ends* by Marieke Nijkamp was excellent.  It's a new term at Opportunity High School and the principal is giving a speech to all the students.  When it ends, they realise they're locked in the auditorium and someone starts shooting.  One of the better YA books I've read in a while, fast-paced and with characters I was willing to get out alive.

Once again, a varied month and a satisfying dent in my NetGalley books!

Joining in with Laura.

*Thanks to the publishers via NetGalley for giving me a copy of this book in return for a review.  All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own.


  1. I like Caitlin Moran's columns, but did not like this book. So much so that it's in the unfinished book pile (which is pretty large at the minute, so maybe it's me). I was really excited about reading it, but it just isn't gripping me.

    1. Funnily enough, when I was reading it I thought you'd like it, then thought you wouldn't - I seem to remember you felt similarly about How To Be A Woman?

  2. Excellent reviews as always! And I'm yet again impressed with how many you can read in a month. Glad you liked This Is How It Ends! Looking forward to reading that one then.

    Now then, what's this about you reading the ends of books first?! Explain lol. :)

    1. I've always done it - when I'm about a third of the way through (so likely to have met most of the key characters) I read the end. I hate surprises and just like to know what's going to happen. I sometimes read the end of chapters as well if someone is in hospital/about to have an affair, that sort of thing.

  3. You read the end of books first?! I just wouldn't bother reading them if I knew the ending haha! I keep meaning to get The Goldfinch from the library, must add it to my list. Caitlin Moran was not for me though - I started her last book but when she went on about names to call her lady parts I was like 'nope, I'm out'. I'm not much of a prude but I don't need to think about that! :)

    1. Yep, always read the end of a book way before I get there! Something I've always done. I just like knowing what's going to happen.


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