What I've Been Reading Recently

What I've Been Reading Recently: Book reviews from Sarah Rooftops

Cor, it's ages since I had such a consistently good month with books. Don't just read on - read these:

The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola*
It's 1837 and Sarah Gale is to hang. Her partner, with whom she and her son have been living, has been found guilty of murder; Sarah has been found guilty of helping him keep his secret. But Edmund Fleetwood, a lawyer tasked with investigating Sarah's case, isn't convinced that she's guilty - and, even if she is, he doesn't agree with the death penalty. I didn't realise until after I read this that both Sarah Gale and the murder were real; Edmund is fictional and the "facts" are speculation, but that doesn't stop this from being an extremely powerful look at domestic abuse, the criminal justice system and the treatment of women in the nineteenth century. Right up until the end, I wasn't sure what the truth would turn out to be and I badly wanted to know. I recommend this one.

Melody Bittersweet and The Girls' Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French*
Melody - like her mother and grandmother before her - can see dead people. Not fancying herself as a psychic, Melody decides to start a ghostbusting firm (always with the emphasis on helping the dead to move on, rather than the living to get rid of them). Before long, she and her team have their first case - it's a tricky one, made all the more complicated by both Melody's ex-boyfriend and a sexy-but-sceptical reporter hanging around. There's no getting away from the fact that this is A Very Silly Book. But it does silly well. It's lots of fun, full of pop culture references and intriguing enough to have kept me turning pages. It's clearly the first of a series and I can tell you right now: I'll be picking up book two.

Wake the F#ck Up by Brett Moran*
By 19, Brett Moran was a crack head, dealer and petty criminal. It wasn't until he was sent to jail that he realised his life didn't have to continue along this course. He discovered mindfulness, set to work turning himself around and establishing a career as a life coach, and then to writing this book. There are loads of books about mindfulness filling the shelves at the moment - honestly, which one you choose all comes down to how swirly you like your covers and how fuzzy you like the author photo to look; Brett's photo looks cool and relaxed and his stories are a bit edgier than the norm. If you're curious about mindfulness but embarrassed by pastel pictures of feathers, this is the book for you - I did do a bit of flicking past all the waffle but, as a guide to getting control of your thoughts, it's straightforward and easy to read.

We'll Always Have Paris: Trying and Failing to be French by Emma Beddington
Emma (the blogger behind Belgian Waffling) became obsessed with France in her teens, fantasising about a life in Paris. In her twenties, she had the chance to move there with her (French) husband and their two tiny children... but reality didn't quite match the dream. I had expected this to be a series of humorous anecdotes about catastrophes in France - and it is often witty - but it turned out to be a brutally honest account of grief, emotional breakdown, some very difficult decisions and several blind attempts to run away from disappointment. With a lot of cake thrown in. I raced through it.

Martini Henry by Sara Crowe*
18 year old aspiring writer, Sue, is trying to fit in with her sophisticated classmates on a creative writing course. Back home, her Aunt Coral has discovered the remains of a walled garden in the grounds of her crumbling mansion. Soon they're both trying to piece together their family history. This is funny, eccentric and touching and Sue's pretentious naivety is perfectly written - with wit and with affection.

Ruby Oliver 1: The Boyfriend List and Ruby Oliver 2: The Boy Book by E. Lockhart*
15 year old Ruby starts to have panic attacks after losing her boyfriend and best friends and being ostracised by most of her peers, so her parents send her to see a therapist. There's a lot of the usual teenage girl romance fodder here - crushes, cheats and the ethics of friendship - but Ruby works her way through and, to some degree, past the standard "boys are unfathomable" and "attractive girls don't complain" crap. If my daughter must go through adolescent heartache (and I suppose she must), this is the kind of book I want her to read - honest about how much this stuff hurts but with enough entry-level feminism and psychology to get her thinking about how she responds.  

*Provided for review

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