Recently read | part one

I thought now a perfect time than any to do a round-up of all the books I’ve read in the last six months. Don’t worry though, I’m breaking it up into two posts so you won’t feel too overwhelmed.

How It Feels by Brendan Cowell – 2/5

Written by an Australian author How It Feels is about youth and the layers of nostalgia that come with it. Focusing on Neil, the reader is taken through his teenage years right into young adulthood. From his ‘first time’ and relationships to alcohol and drugs, the reader gets a broad scope of life inside Neil’s mind. Brendan Cowell’s writing style is unique, engaging and pleasant to read. His execution of character development is brilliant and I read through this story quite quickly. The story itself was captivating and suspenseful, but the second half felt a little lost, with the ending lacking momentum.

What I struggled to get past and eventually concluded to not enjoying was the use of vulgar language and the depictions of gender, sexuality, race and culture. It’s an outdated, narrow-minded portrayal of society and in all honesty, distracted me from giving this a better review. While it’s important to have multi-faceted characters that have differing opinions and upbringings, it felt unnecessary for Cowell to write characters in such an offensive way. I feel slightly conflicted whether to recommend this book or not. It’s definitely not a life-altering book, nor I’m sure is it the worst book ever written. For me, it sits somewhere in-between.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote – 3/5

In Cold Blood is a truly unique book not only for Truman Capote’s writing style but for how the story is told. This story came about through inspiration of a 300-word article published in The New York Times, with Capote having done extensive research and writing to create this book. It is about a family who are brutally murdered by two young killers initially unknown to the police. Their motif and whereabouts is constantly under scrutiny. However the reader begins to learn more about the two killers – who they are and what they have done in life before this moment – well before the police find out.

Capote is a brilliant writer and his style of approaching true crime is unique. The start of the book reminds me of how Alice Sebold begins her books including The Lovely Bones: revealing a key scene then backtracking. There are poignant moments throughout that shine a light on Capote’s talent, including the unexpected sympathy for a character. Overall I enjoyed this book but did struggle here and there to ‘read between the lines’ so to speak, due to the language used. Classics aren’t my favourite but seeing as this is an iconic book given to me by my best friend, I had to see what it was all about. I would recommend this book.

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith – 4.5/5

Lethal White is the fourth instalment in the Strike series and is a definite standout alongside the first book, The Cuckoo’s Calling. It follows the story of a young boy, Billy, who comes to Strike troubled and seeking help in solving an investigation. While Strike and his work partner Robin try and solve this complex, layered mystery, both of their personal lives are slowly crumbling.

This is one of my favourite series (not only because it’s written by JK Rowling, but of its engaging storyline, plot and characters). A lot of people might be put off by the size of this book (a hefty 647 pages), but for me it’s a huge selling point – Galbraith isn’t skimping off any detail. I don’t want to talk too much about this one because the beauty of this series is to know very little and enjoy the twists and turns the reader is taken on. I highly recommend this one and cannot wait for the next.

My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen – 5/5

I have always been a fan of Lily Allen as an artist and person (from what we see online). For a good decade I always anticipated her new music with excitement, counting down the days until the release. This year I finally got to see her live in Melbourne – to say I was blown away by her performance is an understatement.

My Thoughts Exactly is a memoir focusing on Lily Allen’s formative years up until quite recently. I honestly couldn’t put this book down. I was obsessed. We could add that because I’m a fan, it was therefore more enjoyable. But, bias aside, it’s a fascinatingly addictive read. Allen’s writing style is easy to follow and her use of subheadings instead of chronological years (like a typical memoir) works extremely well. A few times she uses the same subheading (work and sex), branching them into two parts to reflect on time passing. Reading about what has happened so far in her life is a mixture of good, bad and everything in-between. This is a heartfelt, funny and intelligent read. I cannot recommend this book enough, so much so, I will definitely be re-reading it some time soon.

My Notorious Life by Kate Manning – 5/5

This is a story that will stay in your thoughts long after you finish it. And for good reason. I give genuine, wholehearted praise to Kate Manning and her extraordinary writing style. The crux of this story was originally discovered by Teresa in 1925 in seven leather-bound diaries, barely legible. They were written by her great-great-grandmother Ann and made public documents after Ann passed away. My Notorious Life is about Axie Muldoon who grows up on next to nothing, with the expectation to raise her younger siblings by herself. She goes through a lot by the time she is eighteen, but it is what becomes of her life after that is a true legacy. She gains a reputation in New York as “the most scandalous midwife of her time”.

What is remarkable about this story is not only what occurs in Axie’s life and what she achieves, but the extreme challenges women faced in the late 1800s. I felt a sense of gratitude as I read through extremely traumatic medical scenes in this book. We have come such a long way. Axie’s character helped women beyond what is expected of a midwife, let alone a person.

I couldn’t put this book down, flying through chapter after chapter. There were many moments of suspense or almost cringing away from the pages because of how brutal the words were of describing a scene. I also had moments of deep sadness and sympathy for characters. I took away many things from this book, not only of how extraordinary women are, but of the lengths we take as a community to support one another. In a lot of ways, this is a feminist book. The help, advice and progress Axie made for women in the late 1800s is honestly profound. I would highly recommend this book: it is a brilliant read.

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