This first Reading Roundup of the year covers the last books that I finished in 2019 and the first of 2020. Unfortunately, I have to tell you that I am still struggling with book reading since the stroke at the beginning of September. Although my eyesight has improved quite a lot – the “cloudy” parts are much smaller – I do have issues with the central area of my vision. This means that I still cannot read print books, even with my glasses. With ebooks, I can adjust the font size and can just manage to decipher the words enough to be able to read fluently. As books usually have such dense print and not much clear white space, I cannot cope with them. Websites, magazines and newspapers are much easier for me.
The main problem, however, is with my memory. Long-term memory function seems to be fine, but short-term memory is not what it used to be. This has a real impact on my reading in that I cannot remember clearly what I read the day before. This means that I often have to go back and re-read parts that I have already finished on previous days. It also has the effect that I struggle to remember the plot of a book when I have finally reached the end, for more than a few days.
I am writing this so that visitors to this regular part of my blog understand why my book reviews are getting so short. OK, I was never the best reviewer even when I was well and working! I freely admit that. I love books and reading – these have been my life, but I am aware of my limitations. I tend to react to a book in one of three ways – “Wow!”, or “Meh” or “OMG! That was terrible!”. So, please excuse me for the Reading Roundup posts at the moment. I will try my best, but I am not going to make this into an obligation or burden for myself. This is only a personal blog, after all!
Right, so bearing all the above in mind, here is the first book: The Blame Game by C J Cooke. This is the blurb:
He said he’d do anything to protect her.
She said she’d do anything to protect her family.
And they both said they would forget what happened twenty-two years ago.
But now it seems that there is someone who will stop at nothing to make them remember…
Who is playing the blame game?
Well, that doesn’t tell us much about the book! It was quite a complex tale, weaving past events into a story of severe trauma. This is my attempt at a review – for more and better reviews, please have a look at Goodreads:
This was an interesting book with a lot of twists and turns. A family – mother, father, son (with ASD), daughter – appear to be on a holiday in South America. Things seem to be fairly conventional and then events happen which overturn everything. Interwoven with a traumatic past, the book switches between the present and the historic point of view and the plot accelerates to a gripping conclusion. It is difficult to say much more without giving too much away.
As a mother of a son with ASD, I found the portrayal of this very interesting and useful for the plot!
My last book of 2019 was Envy by Amanda Robson. This is the blurb:
She wants your life – and she’ll do anything to get it…
Erica has always wanted to be exactly like her neighbour, Faye: beautiful, thin, and a mother. But Faye’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems – she has a terrible secret, and slowly but surely, it is threatening to destroy her and everything she holds dear.
When Faye’s daughter Tamsin goes missing after school, the police turn to Erica. But is Erica the only one who has been enviously watching Faye? Or is there another threat hiding in the shadows…?
An unsettling, claustrophobic thriller about jealousy, greed and desire from Sunday Times bestseller Amanda Robson.
This was another random choice from the Public Library’s ebook service. Here is my short review:
The book started off quite well, with what appeared to be an attractive, confident woman being watched and stalked by a disturbed and damaged one. As the story developed, it became interesting and gripping as many of the initial assumptions were overturned and I began to enjoy the ride. The plot, however, deteriorated in the last third until it became almost ludicrous, with characters being completely turned into something else. Not for me!
Well, at least my first book of 2020 was far better. In fact it opened my new decade of reading with a nice fanfare, although perhaps not quite a full firework display!! It was The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse (apparently the start of a new series). This is the blurb:
Bringing sixteenth-century Languedoc vividly to life, Kate Mosse’s The Burning Chambers is a gripping story of love and betrayal, mysteries and secrets; of war and adventure, conspiracies and divided loyalties . . .
Carcassonne 1562: Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE.
But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to get out of La Cité alive.
Toulouse: As the religious divide deepens in the Midi, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as sectarian tensions ignite across the city, the battle-lines are drawn in blood and the conspiracy darkens further.
Meanwhile, as a long-hidden document threatens to resurface, the mistress of Puivert is obsessed with uncovering its secret and strengthening her power . . .
Now, that is a proper blurb! It actually tells you something about the book you are going to read!
I have read other Kate Mosse books and have had a patchy experience, but this one was a really good, enjoyable and meaty read. The historical background was interesting and I found that I already had some useful knowledge. There was a good balance between story telling and historical explanations. The characters were well-drawn and interesting. I was also pleased to see that there are more books in the series which will appear in the future – with, perhaps, an answer to the intriguing start to the book?
I do wish that I could be well enough to visit the areas of France that Mosse writes about, particularly Carcassonne. The countryside and the scent of flowers would also be wonderful to experience. I can’t wait for the next book in the series!
I have now started another book, which I plan to write about in next week’s Reading Roundup post: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. Until then…
Happy reading to you all!
Love and best wishes,