Well, that’s another month of summer gone – the days are just flying by!
July turned out to be a while lot busier, work-wise, than I anticipated and as a result, (you’ve guessed it!) I am behind on the 20 Books of Summer challenge.
At the moment, I have read 15 of my chosen books and am halfway through 2 more. I have only managed to review 9 so I have a lot of catching up to do in that department. If I’m honest, I think at this stage, that I won’t complete the challenge as set. I think I will finish 18 of the original 20.
I am not going to stress about it too much though, I’ve read way more than 20 books already this summer, so it’s not such a disaster!
How are you all doing with the challenge? It’s hard to believe that we have a mere 4 weeks left!
As I said, it has been a busy time in work, but an exciting one also.
In early July, I had the pleasure of welcoming the dream line up of Max Porter and Sarah Moss to HomePlace, interviewed by Sinéad Gleeson. They were, as you can imagine, insightful, intelligent and witty and I was delighted then when Max Porter made the longlist for the Booker Prize.
Last week – and I am still pinching myself about this one – Van Morrison played three intimate gigs in HomePlace and they were all astonishing. I know, because I watched them all! Booking Van Morrison was the culmination of three years hard work and I never quite thought I could pull it off, so when he opened his first show with St Dominic’s Preview, I will admit, I may have shed a tear!
In other reading news, I was quite pleased to see that I had quite a few ARCs of longlisted Booker books, so I took a little summer reading detour to catch up with some of the longlisted books and read some other good books too.
The Chain by Adrian McKinty
I was lucky enough to attend the Belfast launch of Adrian McKinty’s new novel The Chain. Adrian is originally from Belfast but now lives in the States and is the author of the acclaimed Sean Duffy series of novels set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Adrian’s story, if you haven’t heard it yet, is quite something.
He had given up writing and was working in a bar and as an Uber driver after being evicted from his house, when a big American agent called him up on the recommendation of crime writer Don Winslow, and talked him into writing an ‘American’ book.
The resulting book, The Chain, is a high-octane, taut thriller written in Harlan Coben style, which has one of the best premises I have heard in a long time. Your child is kidnapped. To get your child back you must kidnap another child. When their parents kidnap a child, yours will be freed. You can never break the Chain.
The Chain lacks the slow-moving subtlety and descriptive prose of McKinty’s Sean Duffy series, but it does exactly what is expected of it. The plot is propulsive and the tension and pace never slip. The Chain has already been optioned by Paramount Pictures, so this will undoubtedly make Adrian McKinty’s name.
Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland
I requested Fake Like Me on a whim while browsing through Netgalley (this is why I am in the situation I am with my TBR!) and was drawn to it as I love a novel set in the art world. This clever, visceral thriller explores issues of privilege, women artists and commodification in the contemporary art world. It is not often that I am genuinely surprised by a plot twist, but Fake Like Me pulls it off. The book references a lot of contemporary art and artists and as such may feel weighed down by some readers, but I enjoyed checking out lots of new painters and artists on the internet as I read.
Flames by Robbie Arnott
I first heard of Flames when Susan at A Life in Books recommended it, so it went on my Christmas list and I am so glad it did. I predict that this will be my book of the year, if not my book of the last five years. I was blown away by the beauty and wit of this wondrous tale of fire, nature, human relationships and talking water rats. Magic realism can be a bit hit or miss for me, but I was so engrossed and carried along with this wonderfully constructed narrative that I accepted everything that was offered to me.
Susan’s review says what I am struggling to say, but I urge anyone looking for something a little different, or for something unforgettable, to try Flames.
Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry
I do love Kevin Barry’s writing, it is so colourful, heightened, and moreish and Night Boat is no exception. Two aging Cork gangsters travel to Spain to find a missing daughter and in the process, look back on their lives. I have read a description of Night Boat to Tangiers as Waiting for Godot meets Harold Pinter meets Sexy Beast and I think that sums it up perfectly! I’d love to see this make the shortlist. Plot-wise, it is pretty standard, but the prose and dialogue practically fizz off the page.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
I often think that when people say they have read a book ‘in one sitting’ that they are not being entirely truthful, but I am here to prove myself wrong. I read My Sister, the Serial Killer in one afternoon and found it to be very entertaining but rather slight. Mixing crime fiction, romance and a comedy of manners, this slim novel starts out strong and worked best for me when it focused on the relationship between the two sisters, but I felt like it didn’t fully come together.
I have copies of Lanny by Max Porter and Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman and a few other Booker longlisted titles on my Netgalley shelf:
- The Wall by John Lanchester
- Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luisella
- Frankisstein by Jeanette Winterson
- The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy
Are there any you would particularly recommend I read? Any shoe-ins for the shortlist? Because reading these will help me finish my 20 Books of Summer, right?!
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!