#JanuaryJoy: Read something new

This morning Gemma is taking the reins with one of my favourite posts of the month, sharing her recent reads and reviewing them for your pleasure. Don’t forget to tell us if you agree with her appraisals or if you can recommend something she has missed…

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

Tightly plotted, laugh out loud funny at times and with some of the most tightly written characters I’ve ever come across in detective fiction, The Cuckoo’s Calling is a treat of a book.  Especially good for those who are familiar with London, who’ll recognise places and people loosely yet distinctly referenced in her fictional locations.  About a private detective with the flat-out-fabulous name of Cormorant Strike who is hired by the brother of a famous model who’s just committed suicide (or has she?) The Cuckoo’s Calling has all the elements of a classic gumshoe detective story, but is somehow still incredibly fresh and engaging.  One of my favourites of 2013.

The Girl With All The Gifts – M R Carey

Now firstly, I have to declare my bias about this book.  I have recently changed jobs and now work in PR for Little, Brown, the publishers of The Girl With All The Gifts.  HOWEVER.  I didn’t have the job when I read this book, and I would still recommend every last thrilling page of this unique, moving novel.  Despite a strong sci-fi element which might put some FFers off, please take my word as an incurable book worm and give this book a go, if only for the strong female characters and moments of bleak but beautiful prose along with big questions about what makes us human.  (I could go on and on and ON about this but am erring on the side of ‘least said’, because there are a couple of big twists in this tale and I really don’t want to give them away.  But please leave a comment if you’d like to know more or if you’ve read it!)

The Last Letter from your Lover – JoJo Moyes

Me before you – an earlier Jojo Moyes title, had me in absolute floods. We’re talking ‘oh god where are the chocolate biscuits and oh my wasn’t mascara a mistake today’ floods, so I was looking forward to The Last Letter from your Lover.  Added to Moyes’ genuiune ability to make you feel for her characters was the fact that The Last Letter From Your Lover was set in two different time periods and I couldn’t stop reading it, especially when it became clear how the two different stories overlapped.  Did I love it as much as Me Before You?   Not quite.  But it’s still worth a read.  Here’s the online description:

When journalist Ellie looks through her newspaper’s archives for a story, she doesn’t think she’ll find anything of interest. Instead she discovers a letter from 1960, written by a man asking his lover to leave her husband – and Ellie is caught up in the intrigue of a past love affair. Despite, or perhaps because of her own romantic entanglements with a married man.

In 1960, Jennifer wakes up in hospital after a car accident. She can’t remember anything – her husband, her friends, who she used to be. And then, when she returns home, she uncovers a hidden letter, and begins to remember the lover she was willing to risk everything for.

The Emergence of Judy Taylor Angela Jackson

In a first for my reviews here at FF towers, I have a confession to make.  Despite the review in Grazia saying ‘The Emergence of Judy Taylor is a heart-wrenching yet dryly funny tale of relationships and second chances’, despite reading and hearing great things about this book, it, well, left me totally cold.  I found Angela Taylor’s prose hard to get into and I didn’t really like any of the characters.  The eponymous Judy Taylor has become dissatisfied with her life married to Oliver, living near her parents and brother, in the same English town she grew up in, and the novel charts her decision to leave it all behind to go and live in ‘vibrant Edinburgh’.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Edinburgh isn’t vibrant, (as I’m sure I’ve said many times, I flipping LOVE Scotland and Edinburgh is one of my favourite places.)  it’s just that for me, moving from a village to Edinburgh isn’t all that out of the ordinary, and there I think is the crux of my problem with this book.  At its core, it’s about a woman thinking ‘there’s got to be more to life’ but I think most people could imagine for themselves the situations Judy finds herself in in her new life, and I also found the storyline with Oliver afterwards quite unrealistic.

Mad About The Boy – Helen Fielding
In contrast to the review above – I wasn’t expecting to like the latest Bridget Jones outing as much as I did. The book has certainly had some less than positive feedback about, for example, its opening (Mark Darcy has been killed off) Bridget’s lifestyle (she’s now closer to fifty than thirty and a mum of two) and its plot arc (I’d heard: a bit cobbled together, rushed at the end, and predictable.) with the above in mind (some I agree with to an extent) I still found Mad About the Boy funny and sharp on the social commentary. I wasn’t the right generation for the first two Bridget books, and have found more in them in later re-reads now that I’m close to thirty, so in that respect I’m not qualified to say whether Mad About The Boy is an accurate portrayal of mid-life motherhood or not. If you’re expecting a literary, thought provoking read, I doubt Bridget Jones would be your first pick anyway. But for flashes of brilliance, like the pitfalls of making friends on Twitter, Helen Fielding is on form. My only gripe is, what happened to Shazza??

As always, let us know in the comments what you’re reading.  Anything that should be on my radar?

Love, Gemma C-S.

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27 thoughts on “#JanuaryJoy: Read something new

  1. Well, Gemma, you have definitely inspired me to read two of those books: the Jojo Moyles one and the Cuckoo’s Calling. I’ve heard The Girl… is quite scary, so not for me, but perhaps the new Bridget Jones after your review.

    There is one book I’ve read recently that would be a great book for this column, actually. Tweet me if you want details.

    • I definitely want details Esme! drop me a line or write up a blurb yourself a la the last bookclub we did with reader recommendations x

  2. Shazza is in Silicon Valley. I’m re-reading mad about the boy at the minute (having gobbled it down already when it first came out but then finding it again on my IPad when stuck on the tube). I really like it….I don’t read Helen Fielding for decent plots or well developed characters so no criticisms on that score here, I read it because I find them light and fuss free which this one is. My only comment would be that it does jump from year to year and diary period to diary period. It’s easy to follow but quite irritating.

    I have the Robert Galbraith book to read but haven’t got started. I find Jojo Moyes quite sad but a bit samey I.e. historic and current story running simultaneously.

    I can’t remember if we reviewed it here already but one of the best books I’ve read recently is SJ Watson Before I go to Sleep. It’s gripping.

    • I know she’s in Silicone Valley – I just missed her – I thought it was a shame she wasn’t in it more. I agree on Before I Go To Sleep, and I can’t wait for the film with Nicole Kidman as the main character and Colin Firth as her husband.

      • Oh I didn’t realise they had cast Colin Firth as her husband. When I read your thing initially, I actually thought you’d typed Colin Farrell and I thought he’d be really good typecast i.e. a bit mean and moody which would fit quite well. I hope Colin Firth plays him with a bit of backbone rather than as an unfortunate sappy character from the beginning.

  3. I’ve just downloaded The Cuckoo’s Calling so am now really excited to read it! I think I was one of the minority of people who really loved The Casual Vacancy, I just really enjoy JKs characters and storytelling.
    The last 2 books I read have been Girl With All The Gifts and Mad About The Boy. I was really disappointed with Bridget. I thought it was as well written as the first 2 (and I love that they’re all based on an Austen – P&P, persuasion, and now S&S) but I just found it really, really sad – which I’m sure isn’t what she was aiming for – even the happy ending.
    Girl With All The Gifts really is brilliant. I found it quite stressful to read but that’s a mark of how gripping the writing is.

    • Well then I’m in that minority too… I loved The Casual Vacancy! I thought it was a very well told story and I really found myself invested in the characters.

      I’ve currently got The Goldfinch as my commuting audiobook (it’s very long! but am really getting into it) and The Girl with All the Gifts as my bedtime reading book.

  4. I loved the Cuckoo’s Calling. One of my favourite books recently was The Rosie Project. A completely different book to my usual reads but very entertaining. I’m reading the goldfinch at the moment, again a great story but very hard going!

  5. The Girl With All The Gifts sounds like my kind of thing. Will get on it (once I’ve finished reading the stack by my bed, thank-you Christmas book fairies!)

    Best thing I’ve read recently is the Goldfinch, although I’m about to read Stoner by John Williams which I keep hearing rave reviews for.

    Am I the only person who has to REALLY think before I do the comment maths?


  6. The Goldfinch is awesome Penny, enjoy it! I want to read it again and I only read it in October! In fact, any Donna Tartt is a fantastic recommendation. She’s an excellent writer.

    I enjoyed Stoner but found it quite frustrating and manly. The writing in Stoner sometimes seems too focused around what William Stoner ‘does’ rather than how he feels or why he does things, which I found quite alienating in places, especially when it comes to big life decisions in which I sometimes couldn’t quite see why he makes the choices he makes.

    Would recommend The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton – I found it easier to get into than The Luminaries but both are equally well crafted novels.

  7. Thanks very much for the recommendations. I’ve had Mad About A Boy on my kindle for a few weeks but every time I try and read it I find myself wandering off and being distracted by something else.

    I’ve just finished reading The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, after being a bit obsessed with flowers after my wedding and really enjoyed it. It’s a good story but you also get to find put a bit about flowers and being a florist along the way.

  8. Thank you for reminding me about Bridget – I loved them. They came out when I was in my late twenties single & living in London & they were perfect for me.
    I’m in a bit of a twentieth century read at the moment. The Shooting Party set in Edwardian England & supposedly the novel Downton was based on. Also Persephone’s latest re publish The Squire by Enid Bagnold about a mother in the days leading up to & after the birth of her baby.

  9. I’ve got a pile of books by my bed to read, plus The Goldfinch to read on Kindle, but I really want to read The Girl… after reading the previews on Facebook.
    I’m currently reading ‘Happily Ever After’ by Harriet Evans, an impulse grab at the library that’s decent, easy reading chick-lit. Needed it since the last 2 books I read were crime ones set in Glasgow, gave me nightmares!
    I love having a ton of books to read and am trying to switch off the crap telly a bit more and make time for it.

  10. Every time a book topic comes up I have to mention my favourite recent book: the hundred year old man who climbed out the window and ran away. Just such a delightful escapist story. Highly recommended.
    I though Bridget was okay, but where as in the first too books I associated with her, now I just think she’s a bit pathetic and as someone said the whole thing feels quite sad.
    Really fancy reading the cuckoos calling after this review. Think that will be my next download. Thanks

    • If you loved the hundred year old man book (and I’m yet to meet someone that didn’t) then you’ll probably really enjoy The Universe VS Alex Woods and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Both excellent reads!

      • Me. I didn’t like it. I found it weird and hard to follow. Infact, I never finished it and I felt too embarassed to go back to my book group after that.

  11. “Vibrant Edinburgh.” *snort*

    The best things I’ve read recently have been by Rainbow Rowell. They’re kind of modern, funny, not-lame love stories – they’re good, I promise! I’ve read one of her YA books (Eleanor & Park) and one for adults (attachments) and was completely drawn into both.

    Inspired by Bex’s recent discovery of Pride and Prejudice, I read Persuasion for the first time the other day (literally read it all in a day) and loved it. Can’t beat a bit of Austen.

  12. I just finished “the last letter from your lover”, I did enjoy it but again not as much as “me before you”. I’ll definitely be looking for “The Cuckoo’s calling” and the new Bridget Jones in my library. I always have to wait until the initial buzz of a new book is over so I can get new books on order in our wee village library, but it’s worth the wait to not buy it and support our wee library. Great reviews and some ideas for some new reads.

  13. Yay, book post!! I’m another one who loved The Casual Vacancy and will definitely read The Cuckoo’s Calling. I’ve got Mad about the boy downloaded and ready to go on my Kindle but must admit I am SO upset about Mark Darcy being killed off I’m not sure I will enjoy it as much!! I’ve also got The Goldfinch and Universe Vs Alex Woods lined up ready but I can’t concentrate on anything else until I’ve finished the Rivers of London books (Amanda if you’re reading I’m blaming you for this new obsession!) -just starting Moon over Soho and totally gripped already.

  14. I loved the Casual Vacancy. Loved it!!

    I’m in the middle of The Goldfinch now and I’m obsessed. I’m completely immersed. The prose is amazing, her descriptions have bewitched me. I haven’t felt this way about a book since I read A Million Little Pieces.


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