22 Before 22: Recent Reads Round-Up

One of the items on my 22 Before 22 list was to read 20 books of my choice. I’m actually doing better with this one than I thought I would! Because I have to read so many books for university, I wasn’t sure how much time I would have to fit in reading books of my choice but I have been making the most of the time that I have had and I have flown through 7 books already! I have been doing some other reading as well as these books, mainly for my voluntary work with Booktrust, but I am just reviewing the ones that I have chosen. Here are some mini reviews of what I have read so far.

More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

1. More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell.

I absolutely loved the first instalment of Jen Campbell’s weird things customers say in bookshops and I bought the second one as soon as I saw it! Being a bookseller, I am frequently asked hilarious things similar to the quotes in the book and it is reassuring to know that I’m not the only one! This book had me crying with laughter and wondering how people can be so silly! Definitely one that I recommend again and again!

10/10

Dolly: A Ghost Story

2. Dolly by Susan Hill.

I have read a couple of Susan Hill’s ghost stories before, and some of them appeal to me more than others. Dolly sounded like it would be pretty frightening, simply because it involved a china doll, which, in my opinion, are pretty terrifying anyway! The first half of the story was pretty slow going, the plot took a long time to get going and there were a few strange occurrences dotted around, but none of them appeared to be linked any many, frustratingly, remained unexplained at the end of the book. The second half of the book was more engaging but it grew more and more strange and deviated rapidly from a ghost story into a story of a mythical theme and it didn’t intrigue me as much as it had hoped. The ending was even more bizarre and had no explanation what so ever, leaving me feeling frustrated and disappointed. While I didn’t like this one, I do love some of Hill’s other titles and I will read others in the future, but this one isn’t one that I will go back to in the future.

4/10

3. The Omen II by Joseph Howard.

I have all 5 of The Omen books on my shelf, which were donated to me a few years ago. I read the first one last year and it was pretty enjoyable, so I decided to read the second one this summer. Like the first book, this one was also produced after the film, so it has a strong emphasis on dialogue, reading very like a script. However, there is also a lot of physical description which makes it possible to visualise the film as you are reading. Without having seen the film, I am fairly confident that it will play out very similar to how I could see it as I was reading. I found this book less enjoyable than the first, which is possibly due to the different author. It was more obvious in this book that it was a book adaptation of a film and it didn’t seem to flow very well in writing. That said, the plot itself was intriguing but it did feel very much like a ‘bridge’ between the first and third instalments, where not a lot happened and it was clearly left open at the end with a third story planned.

7/10

Lord of the Flies

4. Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

A plane crashes on a desert island killing all adults on board, leaving only a group of school boys to fend for themselves. Initially, their traditional English upbringing kicks in and encourages them to set up a society, electing Ralph the ‘chief’, who is responsible for delegating the jobs the boys must perform to enable them to survive. Gradually, however, the stability of their society begins to deteriorate, as does the mental state of the boys, the longer they are stranded. A rift within the group causes them to separate and tempers flare between the groups, even resorting to violence in several cases. The longer they are stranded the more savage the boys become and the violence quickly escalates with deadly results. Their only chance of survival is to pray for a ship to materialise on the horizon of the endless sea that surrounds them.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started this book. While I knew that the myth that the book was just about boys and cannibalism was an exaggeration of a much deeper plot, I wasn’t sure if the book would be to my taste. The first few pages did feel a bit like hard work initially as the plot got going but once I had established what was going on and who was who I found that I was thoroughly engrossed in it. The plot was relatively simple and even possibly predictable, but the psychological deterioration of boys is what really drives the novel and makes it gripping. Golding makes this deterioration subtle enough to seem realistic, and yet the violence of the boys still has the ability to shock and appal the reader. As the violence grows, it does become increasingly disturbing to read, but part of you cannot help but want to read on and find out how it ends. It is a fascinating exploration of just what people, particularly children, are capable of if their familiar social structure is pulled from beneath them.

8/10

Death Du Jour (Temperance Brennan 2)

5. Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs

‘On a bitterly cold March night in Montreal, forensic anthropologist Dr Temperance Brennan is exhuming the remains of a nun in the grounds of an old church. Hours later, Tempe is called to the scene of a horrifying arson. A young family has perished, but there is no explanation, no motive, and no witnesses. From the charred remains of the inferno, to a trail of sinister cult activity, Tempe faces a nerve-shattering case which will test her forensic expertise – and her instinct for survival.’ (source)

I really enjoyed reading the first book in the series and the second one was even better! Reichs is the master of suspense and refuses to give anything away, even though she insists on dangling taunting comments right in front of the readers’ eyes that compels you to read on. The other thing that I really love about Reich’s writing is the language that she uses to describe her characters, they are so unusual and creative. Her ability to describe the characters in such a unique way makes them really memorable and you feel that you really get to know them. At times the plot was completely baffling and began to seem very far-fetched as the pieces began to slot together, but her strength in writing believable characters grounded her fantastic plot in something that was thoroughly gripping and enjoyable to read.

9/10

The Lovely Bones

6. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

Susie Salmon has been killed by her neighbour and she is reporting on her last moments on Earth, as well as what she observes of her loved ones after her death, from heaven. This book is beautifully written and truly horrific at the heart of it, but for some reason I found it incredibly difficult to engage with. So many people had told me how moved they had been by this story and how sad it was but I didn’t feel it at all. I didn’t feel that Susie’s character was one that was particularly well developed, possibly causing me to grate with her in the way that I did. None of the characters in her family felt particularly realistic either, again, making it difficult for me to feel for them. Unfortunately, not a book for me, which is a shame as I loved the film version.

6/10

WI – Women’s Institute – Practical Know-How at Christmas

7. Women’s Institute Practical Know-How At Christmas.

You might remember me mentioning this book before as I received it in the Faith, Hope and Charity Shopping Christmas Swap that I took part in. While I read a lot of it when I got it, I never quite finished it. I picked it up again as I was reading my way through the pile of books next to my bed and it only took me a few minutes to finish it…I don’t know why I didn’t get round to it sooner! This little book is packed full of handy tips of how to make Christmas stress free and environmentally friendly! It has some really handy hints for cooking the Christmas dinner, recycling cards and wrapping, as well as some quotes and thoughts on Christmas from famous people in history. It is a beautiful, simply little book that makes a great gift, is a pleasure to read and one that you can dip in and out of again and again.

10/10

So that is everything that I have read recently, hopefully I will have made it to halfway before I know it!

Let me know!

What have you been reading recently?
What are you reading now?
Have you read any of these books and do you feel differently about them?
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12 thoughts on “22 Before 22: Recent Reads Round-Up

  1. empress27 says:

    Those are all books I would choose to read. I read ‘Lovely Bones’ a few years ago and it was very good, very interesting. I must say I do like Dean Koontz for an easy horror read, Stephen King if I want a more solid, in-depth read. I’ve not long got onto the third Hunger games book, ‘Mockingjay,’ and I’m just hooked. A lot of people said they were not very good, but I’m enthralled with them. I’m very fortunate my Dad OWNS his own book shop so I pretty much have a pick of the books! (It’s a mix of second-hand and new books, so I always go for the second-hand ones. The horror section is gigantic).

    • Hannah Ackroyd says:

      Ooh it’s always good to find someone who has similar reading interests! I don’t know why I struggled with The Lovely Bones, everyone said it was really good! Maybe it was because of the hype that I felt that it didn’t meet expectations as I was expecting a lot? Never mind. I have read a couple of Dean Koontz and I really enjoyed them but I haven’t read any in years! I do have one on my shelf waiting though, I might give it a go 🙂 I have a few Stephen Knig ones waiting too…I don’t know what to read next! Too many options lol. I haven’t tried the Hunger Games series, I didn’t think it would appeal to me but I might try it once I have cleared a few more books off my shelves. Oh wow, how amazing! I bet you have the same problem I do…too many books and just not enough space!

      • empress27 says:

        You would think that wouldn’t you, but no, not really. I gave so many of my books to my Dads shop when he opened it. I haven’t read nearly as much as I should these past few years and it’s only recently I’m starting to get back into it. ‘Phantoms’ by Dean Koontz was amaaaazing. Stephen Kings ‘Carrie,’ and ‘Misery’ are great too, but he has such a specific style of writing it’s hard to grasp what he is actually saying sometimes. E.g. when he jumps from what someone is thinking to what they are saying, etc. Lots of long description too. The Lovely Bones was good, but at the same time it was a bit of an anti-climax. The ending just sort of gently came to and end, and I was expecting just a bit more. I’ll have to have a good look at the books I do have and see if I have any to recommend you 🙂

      • Hannah Ackroyd says:

        Aah that’s good then…I have too many books to fit on my shelves! Eek! I’m trying to do a ‘read three before buying one’ system but it isn’t working very well! I just took a box load of books to Oxfam this morning and I still have 15 shelves full, a stash under my bed AND a pile next to the bed (and that doesn’t include the craft books in the cupboard…) I haven’t read ‘Phantoms’ before, I’ll have to see if I can find a copy when I have read a few more of the books on my list! I have read ‘Carrie’ but I felt that I came a generation too late to appreciate it fully…the setting and the time were just so alien to me that I couldn’t get fully absorbed into the story. I have ‘Misery’ and ‘The Shining’ on my shelf waiting to be read though and I am looking forward to reading those! I agree, ‘The Lovely Bones’ just seemed to peter out which I think is what I found disappointing but I loved the beautiful writing. Ooh that would be great! We seem to have similar reading styles 🙂

  2. Ginny says:

    That is quite the list of books already read. I am currently reading Lord of the Flies and have to say that is quite boring. I started reading it in June when my son was reading it in his high school language arts class. I wasn’t too far into it when he had to return it to school. My girlfriend was at the library a month ago and I asked her to pick it up for me. It was due back on Sunday and I was only 1/2 way through the book. I was late returning it yesterday and was just going to turn it in, pay the fine and be done with it, but my mind had other plans. I have only abandoned one book in my life. I blurted out to the librarian that I wanted to check it out in my name so that I could finish it. I think that even as boring as it is, deep down I want to know what happens in the end. My husband and son loved this book and I guess I am still trying to see where that “love ” is. So…I have 4 weeks to read it before it has to be back to the library. I have a hair appointment today, so maybe I can get through a big portion of it.

    • Hannah Ackroyd says:

      I agree that it is pretty difficult to get into but the further I got the more I enjoyed it. At least it isn’t very long so hopefully you will make some progress! I would definitely recommend sticking with it…I found that it started getting interesting as their society began to break down.

  3. cross(stitch)yourheart says:

    I absolutely could not stand “Lovely Bones.” I wasn’t able to connect with Susie and thought the plot was just a little, well, I guess odd is the best word I can think of for it. I normally like crime novels but this one just tried to do too much without really fleshing any one part out. I guess was another one of the readers that couldn’t connect with it.

    • Hannah Ackroyd says:

      I know what you mean, Susie didn’t feel like a fully formed character compared to some of the other characters in the book. It just didn’t appeal to me at all! Have you seen the film adaptation? That was a lot better surprisingly! It is pretty long though!

      • cross(stitch)yourheart says:

        I haven’t yet, I keep avoiding it because I read the book first and found it so disappointing. I guess I should give it a try and give the story a chance to redeem itself.

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