The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It’s been exactly a month since I last uploaded a post on this blog, and I can’t entirely blame my new job as it’s not full-time! With that being said, I’ve found time over the past few weeks to read quite a few books and, in order to try and catch up, I’ll be writing brief reviews of some of them in this post – who knows, with the amount I read, this may become a regular feature when I can’t make time for writing my usual lengthy posts. I’ll review these books in no particular order (despite the picture) – all blurbs are from Goodreads.

The Good

A Man Called Ove

At first sight, Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots – neighbours who can’t reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d’etat that ousted him as Chairman of the Residents’ Association. He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets.

But isn’t it rare, these days, to find such old-fashioned clarity of belief and deed? Such unswerving conviction about what the world should be, and a lifelong dedication to making it just so?

In the end, you will see, there is something about Ove that is quite irresistible…

The word-of-mouth bestseller causing a sensation across Europe, Fredrik Backman’s heartwarming debut is a funny, moving, uplifting tale of love and community that will leave you with a spring in your step – and less ready to judge on first impressions a man you might one day wish to have as your dearest friend.

This was an unexpected book for me in many ways, the first of which was that I found this copy in a charity shop, decided not to buy it as I was trying to be good, returned a couple of weeks later and it was still there. Clearly it was meant to be – I bought it and I am so glad I did. I had heard of this book before and I loved the premise, but I didn’t expect to love the book as much as I did. I thought it would be a quick, lighthearted read to fit between longer and (so I thought) more complicated books but, although this book was lighthearted and had a heartwarming story overall, it was a lot darker than I expected. I loved it for that, and I look forward to reading more of Backman’s work.

The Rapture

Dilys is a devoted member of a terribly English cult: The Panacea Society, populated almost entirely by virtuous single ladies.

When she strikes up a friendship with Grace, a new recruit, God finally seems to be smiling upon her. The friends become closer as they wait for the Lord to return to their very own Garden of Eden, and Dilys feels she has found the right path at last.

But Dilys is wary of their leader’s zealotry and suspicious of those who would seem to influence her for their own ends. As her feelings for Grace bud and bloom, the Society around her begins to crumble. Faith is supplanted by doubt as both women come to question what is true and fear what is real.

Another unexpected book, in that I didn’t realise until I started reading that not only was this book set in the 1920s but it was also inspired by real events, and a real society! Although initially surprised (and admittedly a little disappointed as I’d been hoping for a creepy modern cult book – serves me right for buying the book based on the blurb alone!) I was quickly drawn into the world of the society. The writing was stylish without being overly stylised and helped to give a real flavour of the period, while the relationship between Dilys and Grace was believable and beautifully realised. A very unusual and entertaining book, and an assured debut.

The Bad

Middle England

The country is changing and, up and down the land, cracks are appearing – within families and between generations. In the Midlands Benjamin Trotter is trying to help his aged father navigate a Britain that seems to have forgotten he exists, whilst in London his friend Doug doesn’t understand why his teenage daughter is eternally enraged. Meanwhile, newlyweds Sophie and Ian can find nothing to agree on except the fact that their marriage is on the rocks . . .

I wouldn’t say this book was bad necessarily, but it wasn’t as good as I expected. It was billed as a comedy but I found very little to laugh about, not simply for the political turmoil unfolding but also since I ended up caring little for any of the characters. They all irritated me in one way or another, although perhaps that’s the point? Too often this book felt like it was simply retelling events such as the London 2012 Olympics or the Brexit referendum, rather than exploring the characters’ involvement in and reactions to them. Long story short, I expected more than I got with this book, and although it was engaging and well written enough that I read all the way to the end, I wouldn’t pick up another book by Coe in a hurry.

The Ugly (despite the pretty cover)

The Incendiaries

Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet in their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn’t tell anyone she blames herself for her mother’s recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe.

Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is drawn into a secretive cult founded by a charismatic former student with an enigmatic past. When the group commits a violent act in the name of faith, Will finds himself struggling to confront a new version of the fanaticism he’s worked so hard to escape. Haunting and intense, The Incendiaries is a fractured love story that explores what can befall those who lose what they love most.

This book. Oh boy, where to start with this book? This book irritated me beyond belief. It promised a story about fanaticism and a secretive cult at a prestigious university. That ticks lots of my boxes, and I worry about what that says about me. But this isn’t about me, this is about how this book set up expectations and promptly dashed them. Firstly, it was bogged down by its writing – being pretentious and not using speech marks while you instead use overly flowery descriptions and archaic words just to seem smart? Not cool. The pretentiousness of the writing style overshadowed the story – not that there was much of that in the end. Forget a secretive cult and instead prepare yourself for long, pointless walks and a boring, angst-ridden ‘romance’ between our two protagonists. An incredibly disappointing book – thank goodness it was the shortest of the lot!

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