February 2016 favourite reads

Deborah CookLife 10 Comments

Editor’s note: Please welcome back Deborah from Debbish dot com who’s sharing her favourite new releases with Styling You readers each month. 

If I was prone to swearing or hyperbole I’d tell you all what a bloody amazing reading month February has been. In fact, I’ve doled out two 5-star reviews this month after offering up only 1-2 in all of 2015. But as I’m far too classy to cuss in public (?!) I’ll just let this month’s fave new releases speak for themselves.

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
Smart and sassy Alice is hand-picked by her publisher boss to assist Mimi (MM) Baxter write her new bestseller. Mimi is a reclusive Harper Lee-esque figure who released a Pulitzer Prize winner decades ago… before going into hiding. Now broke the 50-something year old has reluctantly agreed to write something new.

Alice arrives at MM’s to discover her main role will be a caretaker to MM’s 9-going-on-90yr old son, Frank. Johnson carefully doesn’t label Frank’s behaviour but he’s obsessed with 30s films and their fashions, has a genius IQ, refuses to be touched and struggles with change.

And in terms of the synopsis, that’s kinda it. This ‘captivating’ novel covers the months 25yr old Alice spends with Frank and MM as she finds herself becoming intricately interwoven into the lives of the eccentric pair.

This is a beautifully-written book, with elegant prose and droll, sarcastic dialogue. Alice’s wonderfully witty repartee with the ingenuous and very literal Frank is just delightful. It’s incredibly sad at times but we’re also reminded of the resilience of human spirit and generosity of tolerance and acceptance. #5stars

be frank with me

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Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
In my own review of this book I mentioned that it would make a great movie or TV series… and my *ahem* discerning reading palate (?!?) was validated when I discovered the film rights have been bought as a vehicle for Bradley Cooper. Apparently.

Orphan X (Evan Smoak) was trained, from a young age, to become a cold hard assassin. Like so many before him (Jason Bourne, Jack Reacher and the like) Evan becomes disillusioned with his action-packed black-ops life and goes into hiding. His penthouse apartment is akin to a fortress and it’s there he’s set up base as The Nowhere Man, helping those who can’t help themselves.

Evan’s working a case when he comes up against someone trained equally well. Another ‘Orphan’, perhaps?

This novel is marked as #1 so we can assume there’ll be more to come and I cannot wait! Evan is a fabulous character with an interesting backstory. He’s antisocial but a far better person than he realises. He’s surrounded by an interesting support cast of neighbours – including a potential love interest – to keep (those of us bored by the action / fight scenes) entertained. I’d recommend getting on board this series now and staying ahead of the curve. Or game. #whatevs

orphan x

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Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard
My second 5-star book of the month is a young adult novel which will appeal to both late teens and adults. And if the two intersect and you’re a parent of teens… well, you won’t want to miss this!

Sixteen year olds Caddy and Rosie have been lifelong besties. They’re basically good kids occasionally pushing the boundaries with booze and missed curfews, but Caddy in particular bemoans her lack of ‘Significant Life Events’.

Things change when Suzanne arrives in town. Escaping family violence Suzanne is living with her aunt and very obviously (to this 40 something anyway) acting out. Big time.

Suzanne is everything Caddy wishes she was. Not only beautiful, confident and charismatic, Suzanne has obviously experienced a Significant Life Event, or two. Of course the old ‘be careful what you wish for’ adage comes back to haunt Caddy.

This book is beautifully written and Barnard really nails the voices of our 16yr olds. She makes great use of social media and text messaging so the characters and events of the book feel very real. I was blown away by this book and couldn’t put it down.

beautiful broken things

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Find Her by Lisa Gardner
Find Her is the eighth novel in Gardner’s Detective DD Warren series, but it doesn’t matter if you’re a long-term fan or a first timer as the book’s focus is almost completely on the case at hand. And it’s one with a difference.

Flora Dane survived 472 days with her kidnapper. Now, seven years later she’s getting a reputation as a vigilante of sorts. Adept at identifying predators she takes action before they can claim another victim.

While the book touches on the vigilante vs victim question – which I must admit I would have found tedious – things change when Flora again disappears.

The stand-out of this book is the way Gardner’s able to get into Flora’s head. We spend a lot of time with 2009 Flora and everything she went through in captivity through a series of flashbacks. Gardner’s insight into the complexity of the experience is impressive. She also reflects on the impact of Flora’s kidnapping on her family and how they relate to the changed person who returns.

find her

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The Ex by Alafair Burke
I’m a huge fan of Alafair Burke so you’ll know you’re in for a treat when I tell you The Ex is my favourite of her books. Our lead character, Olivia Randall, is a talented defence attorney… prone to boozy nights and inappropriate relationships. She hurt former fiancé, Jack Harris badly decades before so feels obliged to help him when he’s arrested for murder. And of course, the Jack she knew wouldn’t harm a fly. Would he?

Burke was a Deputy District Attorney and law professor so knows her stuff. I’d describe this as a legal procedural – focusing more on the defence case than the investigation… but the real delight is Olivia herself – a wonderfully flawed character readers can’t help but adore. And of course there are lots of twists and turns to keep everyone guessing.

the ex

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And there you have it… my favourite reads for February. And I must admit I still have February releases in my to-be-read (TBR) pile. So no time to dilly dally… and I’ll be back with more next month.

Have you been doing any reading? Do any of these take your fancy?

debbishDeborah blogs about books, not-dieting and life in general at debbish.com. Her life-long love of reading is only surpassed by her addiction to vanilla diet coke, baths, chocolate and champagne. 

Comments 10

  1. I like the sound of all of these books. I have been ‘all over the shop” this year and not as organised as I’d like to be with my reading. My book club reads have been challenging and out of my usual genre, which has made them hard work, and hasn’t left me much time for books that I would choose for myself.

    1. Inese I’m a bit the same with my own reading… I’m fortunate enough to get a lot of my fave authors and genres for review but a few slip through. I took a short break from ‘reviewing’ at Christmas to read some books by authors I love (but had missed).

      Of course it’s good to get pushed out of your reading comfort zone sometimes. Beautiful Broken Things was one of those reads for me!!

  2. These are great reviews! In February I managed to read 3 books (despite my goal being only 1!). My books for the month were: Trouble Maker – Leah Remini, Break No Bones – Kathy Reichs and Seriously…I’m Kidding – Ellen Degeneres. All great reads.

    1. Well done Kate. I have to admit I used to love Kathy Reichs though have skipped her last couple as I was struggling a little with the series. Glad you enjoyed it however!

  3. I love your reviews Deb and look forward to your monthly posts. There’s always something I like the sound of, but this month I think I could (and no doubt will) read all 5.

  4. Thank you Deborah for the recommendations,I have been reading Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert but I’m finding it a bit boring to be honest!

    1. Ah yes… I enjoyed Big Magic but skipped Committed (as I’d not heard great things!)

      I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talks and stuff so think that’s her strength!

      I should mention, as I’ve gotten older and fussier I DNF (do not finish) a lot more books than I once did! Life’s too short for bad / unsuitable books! 🙂

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