Monday, 10 June 2019

Recently Read Fiction + Currently Reading | June 10th


Throughout the month of May I had a self imposed reading challenge - to work through my unread middle grade books throughout the month - and whilst I really enjoyed the majority of the books I read (two titles being highly anticipated ones for the year), I have been happy to return to a regular reading pattern... A regular reading pattern being pretty much reading whatever I feel like!
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I ended 'Middle Grade May' on the 29th of the month, and promptly devoured a whole fictional adult novel the following day, reading The Lost Man by Jane Harper. I've found with all three of Jane Harper's novels now that I'm able to fly through them, wanting to pick the story back up at any and every possible opportunity. 

Having been really quite invested in the Aaron Falk series, I was a little unsure about a standalone from Jane Harper... But at the same time this newest release of hers was one of my most anticipated titles going into the new year. There was no need for hesitation however, I came away from The Lost Man concluding it be my favourite of the three books Jane Harper has released.

The Dry & The Force of Nature are both books that are quite crime driven, whilst developing the character of Aaron Falk, whereas The Lost Man felt more character driven, with a crime/mystery tying everything together. I really enjoyed this slight variation, and felt the characters (especially that of main character, Nathan Bright) to be really well crafted - detailed backstory, life events that feel true to life, authentic reactions in certain situations, and more. The setting of outback Australia was really well presented, with the remote landscape lending to the desperation and isolation of certain characters. Also, the dynamics of the Bright family were really interesting to follow, although hard to read at times.

The Lost Man is quite a dark story, with abuse themes running throughout, however there were glimmers of light to be found within, and as a reader, it was nice to see that it wasn't all doom & gloom for characters you had connected with. 

Before finishing my talk about The Lost Man, I did just want to touch upon the title of this book - something I actually thought about quite a lot whilst reading - as it felt like such a fitting title for the book. The Lost Man could have applied to a handful of characters within the book, and I appreciate how appropriate of a title it is.

(Goodreads link)
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Following on from The Lost Man, I picked up The Drowned Village by Kathleen McGurl; a new to me book & new to me author, I went in knowing very little about both.

The Drowned Village is told from a duel perspective, with the narrative being told in a present day timeline as well as a historic timeline largely from the 1930's.

Stella Walker grew up in a small village - an everybody knows everyone, we take care of our own type village - in The Lake District, however at the age of eleven the place she had always called home - Brackendale Green - is emptied and demolished making way for a new reservoir. This year, 1935, is significant for Stella in many other, including the death of her mother, and a long held mystery that still haunts Stella to this day, as an old woman in her 90's. 

When a heatwave arrives, and leaves areas of the Lake District dried up, Stella encourages her granddaughter, Laura, to visit the place she once called home, and to help her clear up & conclude a part of her own history.

The mystery is definitely what held me the most in The Drowned Village; it was intriguing and I really liked the little details that wove the modern day narrative & historic narrative together. I wasn't too keen on the romance side of this book (as it felt a little cliché at times), but it didn't deter me finishing the book, nor ruin my reading experience as a whole. I was held and engaged throughout my time with The Drowned Village, and would be interested in reading more books by Kathleen McGurl.

(Goodreads link)
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Having just really enjoyed the historical elements of The Drowned Village, I decided to pick up another book steeped in history, heading to my shelves and deciding on The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola. 

In The Story Keeper we follow Audrey Hart, a young woman who is fleeing London in the hopes of securing a job as an assistant to a folklorist in Scotland - specifically on the Isle of Skye. Audrey has some of her own history with the island, and is keen to help out, and assist, Charlotte Buchanan, as a means of becoming independent of her family. 

There is a lot of change happening on the Isle of Skye, and Miss Buchanan is hoping to finish her book of folklore very soon, as more and more residents of the island are moving away. 

'"Every group of people have their own stories that they create to make sense of their world. Therefore, in folk stories, in fairy tales, we see the reflection of humankind: its strength, flaws, hopes, fears. They tell us what it takes to survive. That, Miss Hart, is why the stories are important, and why they must be protected."'

As Audrey settles in and adjusts to the island, young girls start going missing... Feeling invested and connected with the disappearances, Audrey sets out to discover exactly where these girls going, and what is happening on the island. Are the disappearances linked to the folklore the locals talk of, or is it something much more sinister?

Anna Mazzola has a beautiful writing style, and has pieced this story together so well.

The Story Keeper is an atmospheric mystery, with the backdrop and characters only lending to the darkness of the tale. If I were describe this book in one word, eerie would be it. I highly recommend this book if you're looking for an absorbing historical fiction read.

(Goodreads link)
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Start as you mean to go on they say... And I did, with another historical fiction book, this one being a family saga: The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans. 

I first read a book by Harriet Evans last summer, and upon completion, knew I'd be keen to read more books of hers. The Garden of Lost and Found is her newest release, and I borrowed my copy from the library. At 480 pages, in hardcover, it is a chunkster, but a story I'm happy to have committed to. 

In the beginning, I did find it quite hard to fall into the story as present day main character, Juliet, leads a rather chaotic life which put me on edge a little, but also a lot of characters were being introduced in a short space of time and piecing together the threads was a little tricky at times... But once I got to grips on all of that, around the 100 page mark, I flew through this book quite quickly. 

The story centres around Nightingale House, a house that has been in the family for generations, with possession falling to Juliet at a time in her life when she is very much in need of a change. Once there, family history and long held secrets soon unravel.

I do quite enjoy books like this: family sagas that often focus around a house/building, and think that in itself is one of the main reasons I enjoyed this book as much as I did.

(Goodreads link)
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Last, but by no means least, I want to talk about my reading experience of The Hiding Places by Katherine Webb... And I'm sure you've already guessed that it's another historical fiction. What can I say, I'm very much a mood reader and have clearly been on a historical fiction kick of late.

I came across The Hiding Places by chance, whilst placing reservations for other books from the library online. The Hiding Places came up as a recommendation - I was drawn to the cover, and have read and enjoyed two other books by Katherine Webb, so I took a chance and reserved this one also.

Katherine Webb is a wonderful writer, and that shines through in The Hiding Places - she sets the scene of the story so vividly that you feel as if you are there yourself, with well crafted characters that you feel you know, and a story that you want to savour but also want to get to the end of to unravel the mystery; I find her stories truly engage and absorb a reader.

I don't know how to talk about the plot of this book, as it is so cleverly done and best left going in knowing little, as I did. I will say though, that if you have ever wanted to pick up a Katherine Webb book, do with this one, and dedicate yourself to the story and her writing... Pay attention; it is very important. 

The Hiding Places is my favourite Katherine Webb book I've read so far, and also one of my favourites for the year too.

(Goodreads link)
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As of posting this, I'm not currently reading any fiction books at the moment... Today I'm going to pick up some new books from the library (& return old ones) that I've put aside for the next round of the Buzzword Readathon which starts on Wednesday 12th. If you want to find out more about this readathon then you can check the Twitter page - here.

Happy reading!
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8 comments

  1. I haven't read any of these but, a few sound really good to me.

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    1. There are definitely some good reads to be found from this selection of books - The Lost Man, The Story Keeper and The Hiding Places were all stand out reads for me.

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  2. Wow so many of these sound good!! I just added 4 books to my TBR just like that! (imagine me snapping my fingers)

    My grandmother always told me that the Isle of Skye was the most beautiful place she had ever been. :)

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    1. Haha! I think you'd really like The Story Keeper as well as The Hiding Places, Erin.

      Oh wow, really?! I have heard wonderful things about it.

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  3. I've been curious about Jane Harper- I remember The Dry catching my interest- so that's good to know! The drowned Village sounds good too- I love the sound of the Lake District setting.

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    1. I think this standalone of The Lost Man would be a good place to start with Jane Harper, especially if you aren't keen on committing to a series. Either way, I have thoroughly enjoyed all 3 of Jane Harper's books now, and would recommend her writing.

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  4. Sounds like you've had a lot of great reads lately. I keep hearing good things about Jane Harper's books but haven't tried one yet.

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    1. Oh, really?! You should! I think The Lost Man is a good place to start if you're not wanting to commit to a series (of which The Dry & Force of Nature are a part of).

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