Big Sky (Jackson Brodie Book 5) – Kate Atkinson – 17.07.20

I enjoyed this next installment in the Jackson Brodie private investigator whodunnit series (although I wished I’d re-read some of the previous ones because I’d forgotten lots of his backstory and relationships etc). Set in the seedy world of human trafficking and historical child abuse rings the plot was interesting, the characters well rounded and the ending was satisfying.

The Constant Rabbit – Jasper FForde – 09.07.20

I had recently re-read (actually listened to) Shades of Grey, which is fabulous, and so was really looking forward to this book. In many ways it’s similar to Shades of Grey, in that it’s satirical and political while still being humorous and light. Set in an alternate version of England, where in the 1960s an unknown event happened which caused a small number of animals to become anthropomorphised (ie, took on more human characteristics such and size, sentience and language). In the fifty or sixty odd years since then, the few rabbits had multiplied greatly and were causing issues similar to racism and anti-immigrant feeling which we suffer from in our reality (breeding like rabbits, taking our jobs, you can’t tell them apart, and so on). The main character is torn between his job working for a government rabbit control enforcement agency (due to his rare ability to tell individual rabbits apart from each other) and his friendship with a female rabbit whom he had known since they were students together. He is drawn into fighting with the rabbit resistance and there is danger and excitement. I found the ending a little depressing, although thought provoking and kind of understandable.

The Bedlam Stacks – Natasha Pulley – (AUDIOBOOK) – 04.07.20

It took me quite a long time to get invested in this audiobook. I’d had high hopes because of loving The Watchmaker of Filigree Street so much, but this is a very different book. The first part, where our main character is introduced – a young man whose once landed family are down on their luck in 19th century England didn’t grip me, and it wasn’t until he travelled to Peru, sent by the India office to smuggle back Quinine trees, that it started to interest me. The characters of the landscape and the people of Peru were fascinating, especially the enigmatic Peruvian priest, Raphael. As the plot progressed, and the supernatural and magical realism elements took more of a centre stage, I was hooked and I enjoyed the book more and more as it went along. I especially liked the cameo appearance of the Watchmaker from the Filigree street book!

The Fox’s Curse (Crow Investigations Book 3) – Sarah Painter – 30.06.20 AND The Pearl King (Crow Investigations Book 4) – Sarah Painter – 02.07.20

I had pre-ordered The Pearl King because I love this supernatural series about a young woman born into one of the ‘magical families’ of London who had tried to separate herself from the family’s influence, but finds herself more and more drawn in. The Pearl King follows on seamlessly from the cliffhanger ending of The Fox’s Curse, but because it’s a wee while since I read The Fox’s Curse, I had no clue what was going on, so went and re-read it before going back to The Pearl King. I enjoyed reading both books very much – Lydia (the main character) is a private investigator, who lives with a ghost, is dating a police officer and is under pressure to take up the reins of leadership of The Crow family – a mafia-like controlling criminal magical family with tenuous allegiances/rivalries with the other main families: The Silvers, The Foxes and The Pearls. The first three books in the series were fairly light-hearted, but The Pearl King takes on a darker note as Lydia is forced to show her mettle due to the pressures that surround her. It’s gripping, still funny at times and a satisfying and compelling read.

The Familiars – Stacey Halls (AUDIOBOOK) – 26.06.20

This novel is set in the early seventeenth century in Lancashire and mixes fiction with true events surrounding the Pendle Witch trials. I liked it okay. Nothing about the story annoyed me, and I was mildly interested in the characters, although I found it a bit pedestrian and unsurprising. I liked the narrator’s nice northern accent.

The Motion of the Body through Space – Lionel Shriver – 23.06.20

This book follows a married couple in their sixties over a couple of years. The wife had spent her life quietly dedicated to exercise – running, cycling, swimming and doing aerobics on her own working around her career and family. Due to crippling arthritis, she had to stop, and this is when her naturally slim but not particularly active husband decides to take up running – first aiming for a marathon, and then a triathlon MetalMan event. Their previously happy marriage is pushed to its limits as the husband gets more obsessed and consumed by his new passion and the wife comes to terms with losing hers. I found the book funny, but a bit close to the bone and I almost wanted to give up because the acrimonious bickering between the couple was making me feel stressed and unhappy. There’s something compelling about it though, and I persevered, until eventually staying up far too late yesterday night reading the final third of the book in one sitting as the excitement racked up with the drama of the MetalMan event and I actually liked the ending and found it reassuring and uplifting.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires (AUDIOBOOK) – Grady Hendrix – 23.06.20

This is my second book by Grady Hendrix and it’s set in the same town as My Best Friend’s Exorcism, but this time the protagonists are adult women who are members of a book club. Strange things start to happen and one member realises that a new man in town is hiding a sinister secret. She has to battle with her family and friends and eventually with a vampire to save her children and the whole town from this evil. Again, like My Best Friend’s Exorcism, the book has great characterisation and the plot unfolds slowly with building menace. I think I enjoyed this one better of the two, and the narrator was less annoying.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism: A Novel (AUDIOBOOK) – Grady Hendrix – 17.06.20

I was googling what audiobooks are recommended , and a book by Grady Hendrix came up on a couple of lists so I checked it out on Amazon. Turns out it was kind of a sequel (or at least companion book) to this one, so I bought them both and listened to this one first. It’s set in the 1980s in one of the Southern American states (I spent a year in California in 1985, so it was quite fun remembering the American cultural stuff that was about then) and is about a group of high school girls whose lives are thrown into turmoil when one of them becomes possessed by a demon. I thought the story was very well told (although I found the narrator’s voice a bit screechy and annoying) with lots of characterisation and slow building menace and I enjoyed listening to it.

Little Fires Everywhere (BOOKGROUP) – Celeste Ng – 17.06.20

I watched the Amazon Prime TV series based on this book after I’d bought the book, but before I read it, which I really enjoyed. Paul and I watched the series together and found it provoked a lot of discussion about racism, classism, mother daughter relationships and other stuff, and I told the ladies in my book group about it during our Covid 19 zoom book group chat and we decided to read the book as our next book group read. Then I read the book. It’s funny because usually (especially for a film adaptation) the book delves deeper into the story than the film, but in this case, the book was a fairly short read compared with the ten hour long episode series and the show actually had quite a bit more content than the book. I’m hoping that the book group ladies (none of whom saw the tv show) like the book – for me it was a bit weird reading it so soon after seeing the programme.

Himself – Jess Kidd (Audiobook) – 15.06.20

Another lovely Jess Kidd audiobook with a gorgeous Irish narrator. Like other Jess Kidd books there’s magical realism as the main character Mahony (with emphasis on Ma and the middle consonant sounding like you’re clearing your throat) constantly seeing and being able to communicate with dead people. He recieves a letter with a clue to the mystery of what happened to his young mother who ‘abandoned’ him to an orphanage shortly after his birth and he returns to the small Irish town where she lived to try to uncover the truth. Some of the town’s folk try to help him, but many close ranks and try to intimidate him out of town. I loved the book.