Books mentioned and mini-reviews:
Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I listened to the audiobook of this which was just fabulous! I have heard so much hype for this novel about the rise and fall and break-up of a band in the sixties, and it totally lived up to it. It’s essentially about how the addition of singer-songwriter Daisy Jones to the already-successful band The Six elevates them to new heights of creativity and fame, but also creates tensions and exposes tensions already there within the band, and how the pressure of touring and the rock and roll lifestyle brings it all crashing down.
The audiobook is a full cast recording and that works really well for the way that this story is told, in snippets from every member of the band, as if they are being interviewed for this book – all the characters have different voices and convey emotion in their own way. As they take it in turns to speak and tell their side of the story, there’s a lot of unreliable narrators and people remembering things differently, interpreting things differently or even perhaps not telling the truth. This leaves it up to you to decide what you think the true story is: whether someone’s lying to make themselves look better or just remembers it differently. It’s psychologically fascinating, emotionally powerful, and a great read!
The Earl I Ruined by Scarlett Peckham
This is a Regency romance novel that I bought on a whim one day after Sarra Manning posted about it on Twitter. There were some elements of the romance that weren’t to my taste but overall I thought it was really enjoyable. It’s about a woman who has inadvertently destroyed the reputation of a good man and so decides to save his reputation she must marry him. He says they can’t actually get married so she pretends like she meant to it to be a fake engagement all along…It’s a fun story with a bold heroine.
Outsiders edited by Alice Slater
This was my favourite book of the month, and my most anticipated! I was really excited to read this because I loved the theme of the anthology, outsiders – people who don’t fit in, who live outside the norm, who have something about them that’s extraordinary or different. I contributed to the crowdfunding campaign from 3 of Cups Press and I was really excited for this to arrive. I ended up reading it for my short story book club and we loved it. The stories are very varied and they’re all quite short short stories as well, which I really appreciated because I’ve been trying to write more short stories of that length myself, because that’s the length that they have to be to be entered into competitions and submitted to most magazines. I would strongly recommend you pick this up and support a small publisher.
Buy: 3 of Cups Press
Best of Women’s Short Stories 1-3 (audiobooks)
This is a series of audio short story anthologies featuring stories from classic authors like Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, Katherine Mansfield, and Louisa M Alcott, and I found it to be a very mixed bag! When they said women’s short stories I imagined and expected it feature only women authors, but actually there were quite a few stories by men with women main characters which I thought was a bit odd – I find it very patronizing to create a book of short stories aimed at women rather than a book of short stories by women authors!
That said, the first story in the first volume, Ladies in Lavender, was by a man (William J. Locke), and I really liked it! I overall preferred the first volume, which included two stories I’ve read before, Marriage a la Mode by Katherine Mansfield, and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, to the other two. That said, it still wasn’t that good, including some very dated twee stories about children which I object to being included in a “Women’s Short Stories” series! At least make them about adult women, come on!
The second anthology included The Watsons, billed as a Jane Austen “short story”, another baffling choice as it is not actually a short story but a novel that she never finished, so it just stops without a proper ending. However I did like A Pair of Silk Stockings by Kate Chopin, another Katherine Mansfield story called Bliss and The Legacy by Virginia Woolf.
The third anthology was another weird mixed bag – I liked the Louisa M. Alcott short story, Perilous Play, but my favourite was another piece by her, Happy Women, which isn’t actually a story but is more of an essay about how women can be unmarried and still have great, fulfilling lives. Although I liked it, I was baffled by its inclusion as it’s not a short story!
The Truth About Lies by Tracy Darnton
This is a YA novel about a girl who remembers everything – she has a photographic memory but also remembers scenes, events, everything that’s ever happened to her. She was the object of fascination/experimentation for a psychiatry professor from a very young age and, fed up of it and suspicious of her benefactor’s motives, she has run away and gone to hide in a boarding school under an assumed identity hoping that eventually she’ll be able to escape to the US. But her past catches up with her and she begins to realize that maybe things aren’t all as they seem and maybe her memory isn’t all it seems. It’s a very interesting story, playing with themes of memory and identity and medical ethics.
Stella and Siena by Helen Eve
Stella is a sort of YA Great Expectations retelling , about (E)Stella, a girl at a really fancy posh boarding school trying to live up to the dream of her sister Siena’s potential. Siena died three years ago and Stella stepped into her shoes, almost instantly becoming the queen bee, building a group of loyal supplicants around her. To punish one of her friends who has messed up, Stella replaces her with new girl Caitlin, who’s come from the US. At first, Caitlin isn’t so sure about her place in the group, but later on decides she wants to rule it and they end up in a bit of a mean girl battle – if you like those kind of stories then this is probably one for you!
I found it a little bit predictable (inevitable for a retelling) though I did enjoy it, but I preferred the prequel Siena (a true prequel – it was published after Stella). Even though I knew what was going to happen, I found it more interesting because it really went into the family dynamics between Stella, Siena and their youngest sister Syrena. Although the plot is similar to that of Stella – Siena’s former friend Romy comes back from France and disrupts the school’s social order – the tension between Siena and Romy was more interesting to me. I think both books present a really interesting exploration of expectations, messed up families and ambition and shallowness.
Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot by Horatio Clare
This is a story about a parent’s depression from the point of view of a child. Aubrey is a brave and bold little boy whose dad has depression. Aubrey personifies or monsterifies his father’s depression, calling it the Terrible Yoot and with the help of some talking animals he sets out on a quest to save his dad. I thought it was handled really really well. You should be warned that it does tackle some of the darker aspects of depression at one point his dad considers harming himself and there is an attempt later on, but it’s very interesting to see adult depression explored in a children’s book.