What I read last summer

Hello! As you might have heard if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (if you’re NOT following me on these platforms you definitely should be, as long as you can put up with me retweeting Bake Off related stuff or trying to get to grips with Instagram Stories!), I needed to fill the gaping hole in my blog left by The Great British Bake Off ending last week (you can read my thoughts on the final here!)

So, how do you fill the void? Well, I’ll (try to) fill this particular absence by talking about another thing I love: books!

There are so many amazing book bloggers out there, and so many amazing books to talk about, I just thought I’d join in!

Summer is long gone, replaced with cold dark nights under blankets, sipping hot chocolate (other hot drinks are available) until you’re pretty sure it’s in your bloodstream! Of course, as well as enjoying trips to Spain and doing limited uni work, my summer was spent reading (you know, actual books I don’t have to read for uni- they still exist!).

So I thought I’d go back to summer and talk about (some of) the books I read:

“I’ve Got Your Number” by Sophie Kinsella

I’ve not read any Sophie Kinsella, but I’ve heard a lot about her books over the years. This wasn’t a book I was particularly planning to read and, I’ll be honest, I’d never even heard of it! Of course, a beach day (and a snoop around the apartment where I was staying in Spain) led me to this book and, honestly, I was surprised.

As much as studying English at uni has opened my eyes to new genres and authors I otherwise wouldn’t have read, there’s nothing I love more than a cheesy, girly read and Kinsella’s “I’ve Got Your Number” definitely delivered.

Blurb:

Poppy Wyatt is about to marry Magnus Tavish but, in one afternoon, her happily ever after starts to crumble.

Not only has Poppy lost her engagement ring (the ring that’s been in Magnus’s family for three generations) but her phone has also been stolen. When she finds a phone in the bin, and takes it into her possession, she thinks the problem’s solved.

Not quite. See, the phone’s owner, Sam Roxton, wants his phone back and is less than appreciative of Poppy reading his private emails and messages. What follows is a series of unpredictable (and enjoyably funny) events as Sam and Poppy get increasingly involved in each other’s phones…and each other’s lives.

Review:

This book tells us the story of Poppy Wyatt, starting in a hotel with our protagonist hunting down her engagement ring (a family heirloom, which has belonged in her fiancé Magnus’ family for three generations) and, simultaneously, losing her phone in the chaos. She finds another phone and things get really interesting.

What I loved about this book straight off the bat was Poppy, Kinsella has managed to create a character who is so likeable, so relatable but also original (I loved how Poppy navigated her way through the novel with footnotes, it was nice to see this not used in an essay for once). To be fair, all of the characters were extremely well crafted and, in some ways, I identified/felt for all of them. Kinsella took me through the stress of wedding planning (which, at least for now, I haven’t experienced) and the equally (if not more) stressful occurrence of losing your phone (I felt for Poppy, considering I lose my phone at least once a day!). The book was also well-paced and there were plenty of funny moments, too!

The only thing I will say, and I don’t know if this is a bad thing or not, the book was predictable. A lot of these Chic-Lit books are the same, very ‘Will they-won’t they’ the whole way through. There wasn’t really an element of surprise in the ending, but I was surprised by the development with Magnus. As exciting as it was to see romances move on and develop, I wasn’t as excited as I thought I’d be by the end.

Of course, it was still incredibly enjoyable and I devoured it very quickly, soaking up the sun at the beach.

“Genuine Fraud” by E. Lockhart

I’d come across E.Lockhart before, after reading (and half-liking half-disliking) “We Were Liars”, so I more or less knew what to expect. It was a confusing, intriguing novel, perfect for sun soaked days.

Blurb:

Runaway heiress Imogen is also an orphan, a cook and a cheat.

Jule is a socialite, a fighter and an athlete.

The story of an intense friendship, a disappearance, a murder.

The story of a girl who refuses to be who people want them to be.

A girl who refuses to be who she once was.

Review

Everyone loves a bit of mystery, right? Well, there’s plenty of that in “Genuine Fraud”…About as many twists and turns as a bowl of curly fries (so, in short, a lot!), it’s the kind of book you’ll keep reading on.

There were plenty of glamorous locations in this book, a beautiful heroine and enough intrigue you’ll feel like you’re playing a game of Cluedo.

Of course, here comes the not so good part. Whilst I can’t criticise Lockhart’s clever writing, and the ability to keep readers hooked, I didn’t really know what I was hooked on. I thought it was one of those books that I’d struggle getting the gist of then I’d get straight to the point but, honestly, I didn’t find the point.

That being said, I’m a sucker for captivating characters and lovely locations and this book had that…I just wish it was easier to follow.

“The Rosie Project” Book 2, “The Rosie Effect”, by Graeme Simsion

I’d been wanting to read “The Rosie Effect”, the sequel to Simsion’s 2013 book “The Rosie Project”, for a while. Luckily, I came across it at my Auntie’s house over the summer and happily started reading.

I think after how enjoyable I found “The Rosie Project”, I expected the same enjoyment out of its sequel. I got some enjoyment out of it, but it by no means lived up to its predecessor.

Blurb:

Don Tillman and Rosie are back. The “Wife Project” is complete, with Don and Rosie happily married and living in New York. Of course, things aren’t always 100% for Don and he’s about to face a new challenge: Rosie is pregnant.

So begins Don’s new project, learning about fatherhood whilst saving his business, saving his friend’s marriage and saving himself from problems with the law.

Review:

I read “The Rosie Project”, Simsion’s 2013 debut novel and the first in the series, a while back and- let’s just say- I loved it. So, as soon as I knew there was a sequel, I jumped on it like sugar-high kids on a bouncy castle!

What I loved about the first book was still there, Don was the same methodical, lovable nerd who graced the first book. Just with a new obstacle to overcome, so a new Project to undertake: fatherhood.

The quirks I’d grown to love in the first book were there: Don precisely scheduling every activity, his humour but also his vulnerability. I loved how he attempted to cope with this new development, as it showed he was sensitive but also led to some of the really funny moments in the book. I also loved the new characters in the book, particularly the rockstar character he meets (though his name escapes me!).

Of course, like any other book, there were problems. “The Rosie Project” felt so Rosie-filled but its sequel wasn’t. Rosie spent most of the novel getting lost in her PhD, going to scans or just not really being there. I loved her character in the first book but I struggled to like her in the second.

That being said, “The Rosie Effect” was still throughly enjoyable: funny, sweet and a bit sad. It was a bit like a Disney sequel, I wanted this book, I was happy that this book was written but- in the end- I sort of wish Simsion had left “The Rosie Project” to one book.

“The Keeper of Lost Things” by Ruth Hogan

I’d seen this book dotted around for a while and it was the kind of book I see in a bookshop, don’t buy but reaffirm that I will come back to it in the future. With uni, time to read books that aren’t ‘academic’ or ‘on the reading list’ is short and- even when I do get the time to read for pleasure- I often find myself reducing books to ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ rather than just enjoying them (CURSE YOU ENGLISH DEGREE!).

Thankfully, my Auntie bought me this book over the summer and- taking a break from uni work- I gave it a read. This was one of those books that people hyped about and, honestly, I think it lived up to it.

Blurb:

Anthony Peardew is the “Keeper of Lost Things”. Forty years ago, he lost a keepsake belonging to his wife, Therese, and she died unexpectedly on that day.

Reeling from her loss, Anthony begins to collect lost things and writes about them. Now at his end, he worries about returning the lost things to their owners and so- in his will- he passes his secret mission on to Laura, his assistant.

So begins a new life for divorced Laura in Anthony’s sprawling mansion, full of new friendships, a second chance of love and plenty of lost things.

Review:

“The Keeper of Lost Things” was the first book in a while I’ve not been able to put down. Instantly I was hooked by the narrative, jumping from Anthony to Laura, to a story about one of the lost things, to the past and the story of Eunice and Bomber.

The characters led this book, from kind Anthony to worrisome Laura, I was captivated by each of them and I couldn’t help but want to know what happened to them all.

Another thing I loved was Hogan’s style of writing. Not only was it sad, thoughtful and humorous, but I loved the way she weaved stories of different characters into her narrative in a way that didn’t prove confusing or annoying like it would in other books.

Now, onto what I wasn’t a fan of. To be fair, when I picked my brain to write this post, I couldn’t think of any problems. The only thing I guess I didn’t like with this book was the sub-plot with Therese. The fact that she was a restless ghost, causing trouble around the house, didn’t really add much to the plot and (after a while) it got a bit tiresome.

Of course, the minor problems with this book shouldn’t overlook the fact that- on a whole- it was one of the best books I’ve read in a while. It was funny, sad and sensitive and touched on something we all know about: how it feels to lose something. What makes ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ so beautiful is its idea that there is life after loss and there is always the potential that lost things can be found.

“Finding Audrey” by Sophie Kinsella

There’s a funny story behind this one. As I mentioned before, I’d picked up another of her books on holiday and gave it a read. Then I started to read this one and, halfway through reading, I could’ve sworn this author was familiar!

This was another one of those books that the book reviewing and reading community raves about so, naturally, I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Blurb:

Audrey can’t leave the house, she can’t even take off her dark glasses inside the house.

Then Linus, her brother’s friend and gaming partner, finds his way into her life. With funny notes and that orange-slice smile, Linus starts bringing Audrey out of her comfort zone: outside (Starbucks is a great place to start, right?)

With Linus at her side, the outside world doesn’t feel so scary anymore.

Review:

I hadn’t read a YA book in so long so, against the heavy literary classics I’d been reading, “Finding Audrey” was a welcome relief.

I liked how Kinsella dealt with the topic of mental health, as Audrey suffers from social anxiety and depression. It wasn’t the whole “manic pixie dream girl” narrative authors love plonking into YA these days, it was actually sensitive, not always easy and real.

Plus, I liked the whole angle of the video camera. At one point in the book, Audrey’s therapist urges her to record her surroundings and her life. I thought this produced something both nice and funny throughout the book, as the family felt very real.

In terms of what I didn’t like, there’s a few things. I didn’t like the fact that I felt as though questions felt unanswered: what had caused Audrey’s mental health to get so bad? What happened at school? Of course, it’s been a long time since I read it so these questions might be answered but- from memory- I remember finishing it and scratching my head over certain plot points. Also, I was annoyed with Audrey’s mother, I felt like she wasn’t really much apart from an overbearing parent addicted to The Daily Mail and assuming she knows what’s best for her children. Another thing that sort of annoyed me was Frank, Audrey’s brother. I liked his character, I really did, but I felt like his gaming addiction took up too much of the story and I learnt more about that than I did about his character.

Despite the few problems I had with it, I really liked ‘Finding Audrey’. It was sensitive in its handling and discussion surrounding mental illness, most of the characters were developed and I enjoyed reading about them. It deserved all the hype it got and, having read something else (completely different) by Kinsella, it affirmed that she’s a writer to watch.

I’ll let you into a little secret. I’d read more books than this over summer (I had two holidays and, admittedly, went a bit book crazy to compensate for no uni work!) but, just so I don’t hurt anyone’s eyes, I thought I’d leave it there.

So, what do you think? Have you read any of these books before, what did you think of them? Are there any books you recommend to read over the summer or, alternatively, are there any books you recommend for now?