Books, Musings

My Year In Books – 2021 (part 2)

It’s been a bit quiet over here of late. There’s not much to report, but there will be new coffee talk soon, so stick around for that.

I have been reading, though. Quite the variety these past couple of months.

Here’s my latest lineup, and if you missed the previous instalment head over to My Life In Books – 2021 (part 1).

Book cover for Midnight Sun. There is a start black background with a cut slice of bright red pomegranate in the centre. Title and author text is in white.

The One I Used To Relive My Youth

Midnight Sun – Stephenie Meyer

Yes I caved in to temptations and read the new companion to the Twilight Saga. As told by Edward Cullen.

I read all the previous books before it was cool, when the paperbacks weren’t even a thing, let alone the films. By the time I got to Eclipse things had gone a little crazy and I had to hunt it down, with Waterstones selling me their staff room copy.

Midnight Sun is Edwards Cullens version of Twilight, the first book in the saga.

If you don’t know Twilight (where have you been), it’s a tale of teen love between vulnerable human and invincible vampire.

“My life was an unending, unchanging midnight. It must, by necessity, always be midnight for me. So how was it possible that the sun was rising now, in the middle of my midnight?”

Edward is absolutely, hopelessly in love with Bella Swan, the most accident prone and fragile human on earth. But he also, very much so, wants to drink her blood.

Much of the dialog is Edward battling with himself about how and if he is going to kill Bella. Running scenarios through his mind.

““And so the lion fell in love with the lamb…,” I whispered.”

I listened to this one as an audiobook, all the others I’ve read, and I’ve obviously seen the films since (just a few times…), but there was something about the narrators voice on this that wasn’t right. It wasn’t the Edward in my head, from book or film. He didn’t sound so charming, alluring.

Although the content and story was still very teen (it originally started as ‘young adult’ fiction), I feel the language and prose in Midnight Sun has evolved. Matured even. This could be the authors writing developing, but I feel it is likely intentional. Edward is a vampire and so from a different decade, century even, than Bella. In Twilight we were getting the language and perspective of a 2000’s teen girl. Here we are being told the same story but from an ageless, worldly, educated, articulate and charismatic vampire.

““I can’t sleep,” I murmured, answering her question more fully. She was silent for a moment. “At all?” she asked. “Never,” I breathed. As I met her penetrating gaze, read the surprise and the sympathy there, I abruptly yearned for sleep. Not for oblivion, as I had before, not to escape boredom, but because I wanted to dream. Maybe if I could be unconscious, if I could dream, I could live for a few hours in a world where she and I could be together. She dreamed of me. I wanted to dream of her.”

Although I did enjoy Edwards version of things (I’ve always been #TeamEdward, and still am). Don’t read this expecting a big twist. The plot is exactly that of Twilight. There wasn’t the same spark as when it was all new to me (maybe because I’m older too), the tension didn’t build in the same way.

I’ve always had a fascination with vampires, nothing beating Anne Rice and The Vampire Lestat. As well as being mysterious, charismatic and romantic, they have capabilities that are the total opposite to me. Strength, invincibility and freedom. I am basically Bella and then some.

Book cover for The Hunting Party. A bright yellow background with a black silhouette of a stags head in the centre. Title text is dark red and black.

The One That Reminded Me Of 90’s Movies

The Hunting Party – Lucy Foley

The Hunting Party was a book club read. I hadn’t actually heard of it before, but knew as soon as it was selected that it would be my thing.

A group of 30 somethings who have been friends since university meet up for their annual New Years getaway. It’s tradition. They’ve all progressed in life, though. Careers, partners and families have caused them to drift apart, not really knowing each other as well as they think.

“I suppose we all carry around different versions of ourselves.”

This years trip, organised by Emma, is to a remote hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands.

The book opens with the discovery of a body and we are then taken back over the previous few days as the mystery unfolds. The difference in this story being that we don’t know who the victim or the assailant is.

With chapters narrated mostly by the females in the group, it makes for an interesting viewpoint. The connection and interaction in female friendships can be quite complex.

Adding to the mystery and tension, the holiday makers become snowed in and cut off from everyone except two tourists staying in another lodge, and the two staff members running the resort. Even the police cannot get to them.

There was nowhere to hide and no other distractions.

“Remove all of the distractions, and here, in the silence and the solitude, the demons they have kept at bay catch up with them.”

The Hunting Party was a great escape, it’s the kind of thing I’d usually watch as a film. I like a good twisted thriller. The style felt part Agatha Christie crossed with 90’s style horror. Both of which I have a fondness for. It really took me back.

“Some people, given just the right amount of pressure, taken out of their usual, comfortable environments, don’t need much encouragement at all to become monsters. And sometimes you just get a strong sense about people, and you can’t explain it; you simply know it, in some deeper part of yourself.”

Book cover for Just My Luck. A close up of water in a swimming pool with female legs paddling at the top right corner. Title text is in red with the author name in white. These are placed over the blue water.

The One With The Twist

Just My Luck – Adele Parks

I enjoyed this next book club read more than I expected, it was an easy read and I really got sucked along with the story, the opinions, the drama.

Most of us have dreamed or imagined what it would be like to win the lottery, all the things we would do with the money. How it would be the start of our happily ever after.

Or would it?

“Everyone wants something they don’t have. A few hundred years ago it was food and a long life. Now it’s Insta likes and others peoples husbands.”

Three couples, lifelong friends, have been part of a syndicate for 15 years. Never winning much more than the odd tenner, until one Saturday all their numbers come up and they’ve won almost 18 million pounds.

Just a week before Lexi bought the ticket, a rift had formed between the couples, leaving Lexi and Jake adamant that the others had left the syndicate and the prize fund was theirs.

The Pearsons and Heathcotes think otherwise.

“In a world where things are fleeting and unstable, where news is received in 140 characters and national treasures only expect to be flavour of the month for a week, longevity is coveted. A fifteen-year friendship means something. Or at least, it is supposed to.”

Running alongside this is the story of Toma, who tragically lost his family due to substandard housing. Working for Citizens Advice, Lexi is trying to help Toma get justice.

Filled with lies and betrayal, this book explores what it means to have money, they lengths people will go to get it, and the power it can hold.

“When we won the lottery I thought being rich meant I’d be indulged, protected. I guess it can mean that, but it can also mean I’m exploited, threatened.”

Having a story told from multiple perspectives is something I enjoy in a book, and this one did it well. I felt for Lexi when reading her parts, and think I’d be similar in my reaction to becoming rich. Hoping to be unchanged.

I love how the narration lures you in, gives you clues to what’s coming, swapping perspective and often leaving you hanging. And then, wham, it’s there.

I will just say one more thing. Plot twist alert! You know after your first ever viewing of ‘The Sixth Sense’ (mine was in the cinema) you need to watch it all again with new eyes?! Well…

Book cover for Love After Love. A stylized image or a beach and raised cabin in warm pinks and greens cover the page. The title text is very large in white and is placed over the image.

The One That Gets All The Senses Going

Love After Love – Ingrid Persaud

This is one of the few books I’ve managed to find recently as an audiobook on the Libby app, so I thought why not, as it would give me chance to do some crafting while I listened. Well, I didn’t do much crafting. I was, though, really glad I chose the audiobook version because the use of Trinidadian dialect really added to the listening experience.

A narrative exploring family and love in all its multilayered forms, told from the perspectives of three main characters. Miss Betty, adoring Mother who wants the best for her son Solo, and will go to any lengths to protect him. Solo, struggling to come to terms with the past while finding who he is meant to be. And family friend Mr Chetan, with secrets of his own he is the rock and mentor to this family and the book.

The use of time throughout the book allowed me to see the characters form and develop, gaining a fondness for them all. In particular Mr Chetan.

Laced with a strong theme of denial, we follow this makeshift family as all the focal characters come to terms with their past and who they are.

Although there is a warm community feel to living in Trinidad, there is also the sense of intrusion and judgement as everybody wants to know each other’s business.

I enjoyed the descriptive prose. That, along with the dialect and narrator accent, created an atmosphere and sense of place that I could imagine and almost feel. There was a lot of food involved, it being an important part of the culture. Used as a passage for love, a thank you, a sorry, a forgiveness. As it often is for everyone I think.

I’ve recently realised that I am a 4 star rater. It takes a lot for me to give 5, and things have to be pretty poor for a 3. I gave this 4.

You can check out all my ratings and reading list on Goodreads.

A Little Life book cover. The background is white. The title text is very large filling the page and is like a cutout, with the imagery being inside the letters. Glimpses of walks, apartments building and outside staircases.

The One That Gave Me Mixed Feelings

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

I’d heard this book mentioned a lot, and it had also been recommended to me. So I thought it’s about time I get round to it.

Firstly, A Little Life is not little at all. As in subject matter or volume. Aren’t I glad to have a Kindle, it must be one lump of a book!

Although I wasn’t weighed down by its size, I was certainly weighed down by its contents.

It’s hard to summarise the story here, just in a few words. I don’t feel like I would do it justice, but also I am still getting my head around it myself. So excuse the multiple quotes here to give you a feel for the book.

Spanning decades but with no particular time reference we follow the lives of four friends, with Jude’s being the centre storyline.

“And then I went to college, and I met people who, for whatever reason, decided to be my friends, and they taught me—everything, really. They made me, and make me, into someone better than I really am.”

As far as I can remember this is the only book I have ever read in instalments. I took a break a couple of times, the previous two books in between. Partly because of the sheer vastness, but also because it just seemed to go on. It’s depressing, like there is no break from its intensity and trauma.

“…he was worried because to be alive was to worry. Life was scary; it was unknowable. Even Malcolm’s money wouldn’t immunize him completely. Life would happen to him, and he would have to try to answer it, just like the rest of them. They all—Malcolm with his houses, Willem with his girlfriends, JB with his paints, he with his razors—sought comfort, something that was theirs alone, something to hold off the terrifying largeness, the impossibility, of the world, of the relentlessness of its minutes, its hours, its days.”

By the second half I’d settled in to the story, it seemed to get more focus. Even though the subject itself was rather unsettling. Much of it making me rage. Having a disability myself, it made me angry at the way Jude was at times treated, but also how he thought of himself.

“But even all these years later, I still can’t think of myself as disabled.”

“For the months he was in a wheelchair, those suits were a way of reassuring his clients that he was competent and, simultaneously, of reassuring himself that he belonged with the others, that he could at least dress the way they did.”

The structure felt a bit like a series, where you get really wrapped up in the story, the characters. There is so much dialogue, just everyday stuffs. It brought them to life. When you start thinking about a character and you haven’t even been reading, that’s a good sign.

I liked how you got chapters of varying perspectives. It showed how we all portray life differently, the misunderstandings entwined with life, and that we never truly know what each other are going through.

The sense of friendship runs deep. We are born into a family, but it’s the one that we make for ourselves that matters.

“And anyway, how was a friendship any more codependent than a relationship? Why was it admirable when you were twenty-seven but creepy when you were thirty-seven? Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified. Friendship was witnessing another’s slow drip of miseries, and long bouts of boredom, and occasional triumphs. It was feeling honored by the privilege of getting to be present for another person’s most dismal moments, and knowing that you could be dismal around him in return.”

Oh, and I want Malcolm to design and build me an accessible house. A tiny version too.

The Hollows book cover. A black and white photo between never ending trees filles the page. The title text is also shaded black and white, with the author’s name bright green.

The One Where I Get My Thrills

The Hollows – Mark Edwards

After my previous read I knew I just had to find something easy, something chilled. A Mark Edwards thriller is often my go to at times like this.

Thriller might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you want to relax, but I’m the person that watches serial killer documentaries to unwind.

Divorced, failing journalist Tom, heads to America once a year to spend time with his teenage daughter Frankie. Who’s Mum moved her back there after the separation.

Wanting to reconnect with Frankie, and spend some quality Dad-Daughter time together he decided to book them a cabin at Hollow Falls. A remote holiday resort set deep within the woods.

(After the past 18 months, I could really do with a week in the wilderness. Or so I thought until I started reading this.)

It’s not until Tom is chatting to David and Connie in the cabin next door, that he learns Hollow Falls is the site of a horrific ritualistic murder that happened twenty years ago. One which is still unsolved.

The cabins are filled with quirky characters, including many ‘Dark Tourists’ fascinated with crime and here to visit the murder scene.

When strange things begin to happen, the journalist in Tom wants to delve deeper. Are the eerie surrounds and tales from the past playing with his imagination, has the killer returned, or is there something else going on?

“I had an uneasy feeling that I couldn’t quite explain. Too many weird little things going wrong.”

Tom and Frankie’s perspectives are woven with short chapters from a mysterious narrator, twenty years ago, as we slowly uncover the truth.

The forest setting in this fast paced thriller sets the perfect backdrop, making it easy to visualise the characters and atmosphere. It could quite easily be a film.

It’s also the kind of book where you don’t want to accidentally glance at the end of a page before you’ve read it!

What have you been reading lately? Do you have any recommendations that I could add to my list?

An image to pin. Title text ‘My Year In Books - 2021 (part 2) is in grey text on cream background at the bottom half of image. The top is a photo with a tea cup central and open books around it.

22 thoughts on “My Year In Books – 2021 (part 2)”

  1. my reading has been on and off this year. and I do not know why. I’m still stuck on the princes diaries series and its going a bit meh for me. so I’ve decided to finally get done with it this week and move on to something which gives me a much-needed escape which this series failed to do.
    “a little life” is also on my TBR. but am weighting to become old enough to be able to take it all in. because I’ve from many people including you that its a hard read.
    my adult self would be really angry at me for adding so many hard reads to my TBR this year lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never seen or read Twilight, but it certainly seems popular. Stephenie had a good idea with doing a version from one of the characters, I can see that being appealing for Twilight fans.

    The Hunting Party definitely sounds like a film, doesn’t it? There are a lot of horrors and thrillers using a similar premise so perhaps that’s why it seems so familiar. I’d like to give that a read, too.

    You read Yanagihara’s A Little Life! I think it’s well worth a read if you have the time to dedicate to a meatier book, and the brain cells to invest in the deeper subject matter. It’s the sort of thing you need to be in the right frame of mind for I think, but I really liked it. I think that’s the one where I cried at the end. My first time crying at a book. Maybe my wires are going faulty.

    I feel like I’ve seen that cover for The Hollows before, yet I’ve never read Mark Edwards. I like the sound of this. So it’s set in America after he moves back there, right? I’ll add it to my TBR. Thanks for the review.

    “…but I’m the person that watches serial killer documentaries to unwind” – are you sure we’re not related? 🤓

    Great selection of reads, Gemma!

    I read a decent one recently but totally can’t remember what it was or even who wrote it. My memory is appalling these days. I’m currently reading a hefty James Patterson one, “The Coast-To-Coast Murders”. It’s a little confusing but then you realise it’s one big mind fuck and eventually you love it. Or at least, I think I do. I hope the ending doesn’t disappoint. Do you like Patterson novels? They do vary a bit depending on who he collaborates with. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yey I’m glad it’s not just me that is fascinated by the serial killer!

      You’ve never read or watched Twilight? Where have you been?! We are of a similar age too. It might be a little late for you now… I’m not sure I’d have the same fondness for it reading it new at the age I am now. But if you do give it a go let me know your thoughts!

      Oh yes I definitely have to be in the right frame of mind for A Little Life. I’m still digesting it even now, but I’m glad I read it.

      Mark Edwards is great for easy read thrillers. The Hollows is set in Maine America. The guy is British but visiting his half American daughter that the mother moved back there after the divorce.

      I’ve never read a Patterson. I feel I should add one to my list!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed this and interested especially in the Adele Parks! I have read a few of the others and enjoyed a different perspective too. It’s been a major time for reading for both of us! New Lucy Foley due soon too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You for sure have been reading a lot. I need to make more time to do some more reading, as the bulk of my reading at present consists of blog posts and I just do not have more time in my day to read books, (sad face). I RT’d

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There are a couple of different types of travel books: fun and light, and those that take a more probing look at a place. “Wild Coast” by English Attorney and incredible travel writer John Gimlette looks at the northeast corner of South America – three countries controlled by everyone from the Danish to the French…one of the most uninhabited places on earth…fascinating. Or, try “Down Under” by Bill Bryson, his fascinating trip to Australia…any of Bryson’s books are fascinating and hilarious!

        Liked by 1 person

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