04 Oct Books I Loved In September
It’s not quite officially winter, but it is beginning to feel like it, with the rain battering the windows, the wind blowing the last of the rose petals from the shrubs and the central heating back on!
Time to cosy down with a good book, and I’ve got a great selection for you this month. Though sci-fi is a relatively new departure for me, I’m still loving Andy Weir and raced through Project Hail Mary.
Hazel Prior is a favourite of mine – she may have moved away from penguins but her love for wildlife still shines through in Life and Otter Miracles, where Coco the otter takes centre stage along with a host of endearing humanss.
Kate Hamer and Laura Elizabeth Woolllett are new writers for me, and I loved both these books!
As always, whatever you go for, I hope you enjoy my choices – let me know through the comments sections, if you’ve read or plan to read any of the books.
Life and Otter Miracles by Hazel Prior (Penguin, paperback)
Phoebe, a teenager racked with chronic pain, finds a new interest in life when she and father Al rescue infant otter Coco and discover a local otter sanctuary. Phoebe saved Coco – now can she save the otter sanctuary from sabotage? And can Coco save her from a life of pain? This was a delightful and charming read, funny, wise and throught-provoking, too. Phoebe is a very real flesh and blood girl, and her father Al is a delightful man. The other characters in the story are by turn warm and whimsical – people like sanctuary owner Carol, artist Christina and local nob Rupert all have their part to play in the story, along with the quirky customers on Al’s parcel delivery round. There’s so much going on in this story that every page is a delight. It’s a worthy successor to Hazel Prior’s penguin books, with the otters every bit as charming and central to the plot. A five-star read.
The Newcomer by Laura Elizabeth Woollett, narrated by Natasha Beaumont (Wavesound Audiobook)
Paulina Novak has gone missing on the Pacific Island she has made her home in order to start a new life – and her mother Judy’s worst fears are confirmed when she turns up dead. Has Paulina, a complex and troubled young woman, killed herself, or has she been murdered? It soon becomes clear it is the latter, and so begins Judy’s quest to discover the truth about her daughter’s fate.
This is not your usual crime thriller – it’s more an exploration of the mother/daughter relationship, and how it can be bent but never broken. The story is told both from Paulina and Judy’s point of view, in the present and in flashbacks to when Paulina moved to the island.
She is a terrific character – loud, feisty, wild and outspoken, and she is brilliantly brought to life by narrator Natasha Beaumont, who gives her voice a touching vulnerability the reader might otherwise miss. Her story is a tragedy waiting to happen, but it is so enthralling, as she settles on the island, making friends and enemies, exploiting men, but being far more exploited by them in all ways.
Judy is a very sympathetic character, and I enjoyed watching her grow in confidence and strength through her deep, abiding grief.
And the setting is wonderful – a fictional Pacific island peopled with characters who can be welcoming, strange, or sinister – and sometimes all three at once.
This was laugh-out-loud funny in some parts, heartbreaking in others. Author Laura Elizabeth Woollett has a rare and precious skill in bringing threads and themes together with powerful storytelling.
The Lost Girls by Kate Hamer, narrated by Antonia Beamish (Clipper audiobooks)
Another mother and daughter story and another five star read! 21-year-old Carmel was kidnapped at eight years old and taken to the US by an itinerant preacher to perform healing miracles on his congregations. At 13, she is found and returned to her mother, Beth – but what has happened to Mercy, the preacher’s first “protegee”?
A midwestern child of drug addicted parents, she, too, was exploited by the preacher. Carmel knows of her existence, and is determined to find out what happened to her. But to do so, she has to contact the preacher once more – something Beth is profoundly unhappy about.
This was a wonderful read, told from Mercy, Carmel and Beth’s point of view. Mercy is a joy of a little girl; Carmel a troubled and vulnerable adult. But it is Beth I empaphise with most. Imagine losing our little daughter for five years, then losing her all over again as she struggles against the trauma of her abduction and recovery.
The plot twists and turns, never failing to keep the reader enthralled, but it is the characters that really drive this story.
Atmospheric, chilling and as mesmerising as the preacher’s hooded eyes.
This is a sequel to The Girl In The Red Coat, but I read it stand-alone and did not even realise it was a sequel – that’s how good it is.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, Penguin Random House
What can I say? I’m a convert to Andy Weir’s books, having read The Martian just a couple of months ago.
Like that story, this one is set in space. Ryland Grace awakes from a deep sleep to find himself alone in a spacecraft, light years away from earth – and no memory of how he got there! Gradually, he remembers his mission is to save his home planet – but how can he do that all alone? Is there anyone out there who can help him? And will he ever get back home?
Ryland Grace is a great character – though pretty indistinguishable from our Martian friend! Both have the same dry humour, the same intelligence, ingenuity and wit to get themselves out of tight black holes. But there is an extra dimension to Project Hail Mary in the shape of an unlikely rescuer. No spoilers now – but if you’re a fan of fun and witty sci-fi, you won’t do better than read this book.
I’m now on to Artemis, another Andy Weir book, and enjoying my time on the moon! Look out for my review in next month’s round-up.
Please check out all my September reads through the links below