Ahem. Sometimes you get behind in reviews. Sometimes you don’t have enough to say about them to constitute an entire review. Sometimes you just weren’t in the mood to write one at the time. This post is pretty much a combination of these. And I see a few more heading your way in the future, ha.
The Good Daughter – Alexandra Burt
Dahlia Waller’s childhood memories consist of stuffy cars, seedy motels, and a rootless existence traveling the country with her eccentric mother. Now grown, she desperately wants to distance herself from that life. Yet one thing is stopping her from moving forward: she has questions.
In order to understand her past, Dahlia must go back. Back to her mother in the stifling town of Aurora, Texas. Back into the past of a woman on the brink of madness. But after she discovers three grave-like mounds on a neighboring farm, she ll learn that in her mother s world of secrets, not all questions are meant to be answered…
An interesting concept, but the execution, pardon the pun, was fairly lacklustre. With some better editing, this book could have been cut down by a hundred pages or so and been all the more suspenseful for it. There was just so much unnecessary filler. I love me some slow atmospheric mystery novels, don’t get me wrong (Jane Harper’s The Dry is an excellent example of how this can be done) – but The Good Daughter just took far too long to get us there. The reader could join the dots long before some of the reveals. Finally, I was expecting some kind of connection between the two cases going on, but there was nothing, which felt a bit strange to me.
Free copy received from Jonathan Ball Publishers in exchange for an honest review.
Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig
Reasons to Stay Alive is about making the most of your time on earth. In the western world the suicide rate is highest amongst men under the age of 35. Matt Haig could have added to that statistic when, aged 24, he found himself staring at a cliff-edge about to jump off. This is the story of why he didn’t, how he recovered and learned to live with anxiety and depression. It’s also an upbeat, joyous and very funny exploration of how live better, love better, read better and feel more.
This was the book I needed 7 years ago, in the midst of a nervous breakdown where I eventually ended up dropping out of university for a year to recover. It wasn’t the book I needed right now, but it’s comforting to know it exists. I know that mental illness can come in waves, and I know I may very well need it in the future. Haig tells of his own experience with anxiety and depression, interspersed with suggestions on what worked for him, and ruminations on mental illness and how much of it is connected to modern life. It’s definitely worth a space on your bookshelf.
The evolutionary psychologists might be right. We humans might have evolved too far. The price for being intelligent enough to be the first species to be fully aware of the cosmos might just be a capacity to feel a whole universe’s worth of darkness.
Notes from a Big Country – Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson has the rare knack of being out of his depth wherever he goes – even (perhaps especially) in the land of his birth. This became all too apparent when, after nearly two decades in England, the world’s best-loved travel writer upped sticks with Mrs Bryson, little Jimmy et al. and returned to live in the country he had left as a youth.
Of course there were things Bryson missed about Blighty but any sense of loss was countered by the joy of rediscovering some of the forgotten treasures of his childhood: the glories of a New England autumn; the pleasingly comical sight of oneself in shorts; and motel rooms where you can generally count on being awakened in the night by a piercing shriek and the sound of a female voice pleading, ‘Put the gun down, Vinnie, I’ll do anything you say.’
Whether discussing the strange appeal of breakfast pizza or the jaw-slackening direness of American TV, Bill Bryson brings his inimitable brand of bemused wit to bear on that strangest of phenomena – the American way of life.
I just had to chuckle in despair when I read this book, a collection of short essays. As it was written in the mid nineties, all I could think of was ‘Oh Bill, you ain’t seen nothing yet.’ And not just the humorous nostalgia of internet dial-up, junk mail adverts and catalogues, diners and motels, endless bureaucracy, labour-saving appliances, and all those other weird and wonderful elements that characterise the decade of my childhood. Rather, I refer to the political commentary he slyly interjects into most of his pieces – with the hope that twenty years later, the land of his birth may have made some progress in these matters.
I don’t want to get heavy here, but given the choice between free iced water at restaurants and, let us say, a national health service, I have to say my instinct is to go with the latter.
Done Dirt Cheap – Sarah Lemon
Tourmaline Harris’s life hit pause at fifteen, when her mom went to prison because of Tourmaline’s unintentionally damning testimony. But at eighteen, her home life is stable, and she has a strong relationship with her father, the president of a local biker club known as the Wardens.
Virginia Campbell’s life hit fast-forward at fifteen, when her mom “sold” her into the services of a local lawyer: a man for whom the law is merely a suggestion. When Hazard sets his sights on dismantling the Wardens, he sends in Virginia, who has every intention of selling out the club—and Tourmaline. But the two girls are stronger than the circumstances that brought them together, and their resilience defines the friendship at the heart of this powerful debut novel.
I am conflicted with this one – on one hand, it’s a fun, entertaining YA novel entered on female friendships, young women navigating their way in what is very much a macho world. There’s some madcap adventure, romantic suspense and superb teamwork. The author also has a really enjoyable writing style.
On the other hand, there are two elements in the book that can be considered problematic. First, while both girls are of legal age, the one romantic relationship features a ten year age gap. So keep that in mind. Secondly, the other love interest is black, and the new recruit to the motorcycle club, who takes on the grunt work and isn’t referred to by his name during his probation period. While the author does try delve into this in a conversation between the pair, Tourmaline and Cash, the whole scenario has me feeling uncomfortable considering the history of the American South. Again, something to keep in mind, and I would suggest deferring to the reviews of those more qualified than myself to make a judgement call on this.