What I've Been Reading Recently

A Robot In The Garden by Deborah Install
UK Publication Date: 23rd April
c/o Random House/Transworld (via Netgalley)
When Ben finds a leaky, battered old robot in his garden, his wife wants him to throw it away. But, as Ben gets to know Tang, the charmingly childlike robot, they become firmly attached to one another. Before long, they set off on a round the world adventure to find someone able to repair Tang - and perhaps somebody who can repair Ben, too. Perhaps it was my hormones talking, but I really enjoyed this book and was surprised by how deeply I came to care for Tang, too.

If We Lived Here by Lindsey J. Palmer
c/o Kensington Books (via Netgalley)
After three years of dating, Emma and Nick have decided to take the plunge and move in together - but house hunting in New York proves easier said than done, especially given that they're also facing their friends' extravagant wedding, a looming storm and their mutual reluctance to talk honestly about their feelings. This initially seemed like it was going to be chick-lit-by-numbers but it turned out to be smarter and more sympathetic than I was expecting and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey
UK Publication Date: 23rd April
c/o Curtis Brown
A big, chunky historical romance - this is not the kind of book I would normally buy. Which is a shame because I spent a good week getting totally absorbed in it. In modern day London, Jess finds a letter from an elderly American man, Dan, who is trying to contact Stella, the British woman he fell in love with during World War II. The novel cuts back and forth between Dan and Stella's wartime romance and Jess and new friend, Will's, attempts to track Stella down (whilst dealing with some demons of their own). Full of period nostalgia, dramatic twists and enormous emotions, this is the perfect book for wet, windy weeks when you just want to curl up under a blanket with a hot cup of tea and some cake.

The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan
Note: This has been out in the UK for about a year but will be published in the US next month.
c/o St Martin's Press via Netgalley
Four women and one man are taking part in a baking competition, vying to become the new face of Eaden's supermarkets. Despite the token bloke, this is a novel about women's lives and, in particular, about motherhood - the heartbreak of miscarriage and fertility issues; the (sometimes) loneliness of stay at home mums; the (potential) wrench of grown up children leaving home; and love for one's offspring. Written in a simple "women's fiction" style but with a little bit more going on than your average chick lit. It gave me such a craving for cake.

Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowy
UK Publication Date: 23rd April
c/o Simon and Schuster via Netgalley
Fifteen year old Darren's parents have not long separated when his dad announces that he's gay. Whilst trying (and largely failing) to get his head around this, Darren also has to contend with a huge crush on a bad girl and his big brother's increasingly erratic behaviour. Written as a series of lists, I expected the gimmicky style to grate pretty quickly but was surprised to find that it worked really well. Aimed at young adults, I did find some of the emotions a bit simplistic and the ending pretty abrupt, but I know I would have loved this in my early teens.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
A tiny book following the enormous story of an everyday relationship. A couple meet, fall in love, have a baby, grow both together and apart. So beautifully written - sparse, almost like poetry. Loved it.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
First published in 1899, this is the story of a wife and mother in America's South who begins to question her very ordinary life choices. Might she have found passion with another man or had a chance of a career if it weren't for motherhood? The story itself is not unusual nowadays and felt like it was meandering along a bit, but I liked the mellow, dreamy writing style which had a feel of lazy summer to it. There's something lovely about reading early books about women seeking a better place in the world, too.

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
As with so many of the books I bung on my Kindle, by the time I got around to reading this I had completely forgotten what it was about. At first, it seemed like it was going to be a story about two sisters running off to Hollywood in the 1940s to try to make their fortune - that sounded like something I would have bought but the pacing was all wrong for that story and I felt a little disappointed. But then: oh! Hollywood homophobia! oh! Wartime paranoia! oh! A load of other things I can't list here without giving too much away. So many stories of people changing their identities - or having their identities changed for them. It turned out to be a powerful read.

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
I zipped through this in a couple of hours. Deceptively simple YA fiction about a boy growing up in the ruthless Motherland and realising that he might have a role to play in improving the lives of those around him. I can't say much more without giving the entire plot away but it's a smart book for anyone enjoys the odd conspiracy theory...

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  1. The Awakening is one of my favorites! I find those early feminist-esque texts so interesting. It's crazy how women back then were total outliers if they wanted to choose a different path (and crazier still that sometimes that's still true today). Last time I read it, I kept getting tripped up on the term "quadroon", because it's so insane that people thought about race to the extent that they would have all these levels of 'other'. I mean, we still think and talk a lot about race (especially in America) but that level of taxonomy seems unreal to me. (Progress?)

  2. Mm, there's a lot on there which really doesn't appeal to me! I only ever search one category at a time - maybe that helps?

  3. I don't think I had ever even heard the term before I read the book!

  4. Ah that may be where I go wrong - I tend to just trawl through the whole 'Recently Added' section, I'll try being more specific next time.

  5. I really like The Awakening - I read a lot of feminist literature at Uni - in fact one of my favourites is Sister Carrie which is actually by Theodore Drieser. You may like it. Anyway - I am quite keen to check out a lot of the other books you have mentioned here. I am hoping once my exams are over I can do a lot of reading in the sunshine this summer.


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