Read in 2017: May


#28 - FRANKENSTEIN // Mary Shelley
"Obsessed by creating life itself, Victor Frankenstein plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, which he shocks into life by electricity. But his botched creature, rejected by Frankenstein and denied human companionship, sets out to destroy his maker and all that he holds dear. This chilling gothic tale, begun when Mary Shelley was just nineteen years old, would become the world's most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity."
Starting off with our book club pick, I didn't love the story itself but really enjoyed the discussion it created.  For once I'd looked up some reading group questions and it was nice to have some focus to our monthly meet up.  I think perhaps the reason I didn't enjoy the story too much is that Frankenstein is so familiar in everyday culture that it just didn't shock me.  The characters were interesting though (I didn't expect to *like* the creature) and it wasn't as difficult a read as I'd anticipated.
Rating: ★★★
Good if: you like gothic classics or fancy something thought-provoking

"It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be is a handbook of how to succeed in the world: a pocket bible for the talented and timid alike to help make the unthinkable thinkable and the impossible possible. The world's top advertising guru, Paul Arden, offers up his wisdom on issues as diverse as problem solving, responding to a brief, communicating, playing your cards right, making mistakes, and creativity - all endeavours that can be applied to aspects of modern life. This uplifting and humorous little book provides a unique insight into the world of advertising and is a quirky compilation of quotes, facts, pictures, wit and wisdom - all packed into easy-to-digest, bite-sized spreads. If you want to succeed in life or business, this book is a must."
Well, this book was one big failure for me.  For now I'm quite happy career-wise so I wasn't seeking out revolutionary ideas that would help me fight my way to the top, but I was hoping for some take home advice on dealing with people and presenting myself in the best possible light.  A little motivation, perhaps.  No.  This book was so advertising focused that I really struggle to see how it'd be of any value to anybody not in that industry.  Plus points are that it's really accessible, exploring one chunk of advice per page and a few of these were applicable to life outside of the advertising world.  It's also a lovely little book to look at and quick to flick through.  Positives end there for me though, I'm afraid.
Rating: ★★
Good if: you work in advertising

"When she was suddenly given the opportunity of a new life in rural Jutland, journalist and archetypal Londoner Helen Russell discovered a startling statistic: the happiest place on earth isn't Disneyland, but Denmark, a land often thought of by foreigners as consisting entirely of long dark winters, cured herring, Lego and pastries. What is the secret to their success? Are happy Danes born, or made? Helen decides there is only one way to find out: she will give herself a year, trying to uncover the formula for Danish happiness. 
 From childcare, education, food and interior design (not to mention 'hygge') to SAD, taxes, sexism and an unfortunate predilection for burning witches, The Year of Living Danishly is a funny, poignant record of a journey that shows us where the Danes get it right, where they get it wrong, and how we might just benefit from living a little more Danishly ourselves."
I'd heard really good things about this book and for the most part think it's well-deserved.  With the recent movement towards hygge, this is very current and topical and feels well-researched throughout.  Helen contacts experts in each field and I thought the statistics were a brilliant feature.  Overall I enjoyed the writing style (both the author's voice and the way it's split into sections whereby each month she explores another aspect of Danish culture) and found it easy to get through, but I do have a few downers.  Any conversation between Helen and "Lego Man" didn't feel real and at times I felt she repeated herself in order to really hammer home her quest for happiness.  And whilst I'm not doubting the authenticity for a moment, the end of this wrapped up a little too nicely for me.
Rating: ★★★
Good if: you like travel or learning about other cultures

#31 - THE MUSEUM OF YOU // Carys Bray
"Clover Quinn was a surprise. She used to imagine she was the good kind, now she's not sure. She'd like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else's story is difficult. She tries not to skate on the thin ice of his memories.
Darren has done his best. He's studied his daughter like a seismologist on the lookout for waves and surrounded her with everything she might want - everything he can think of, at least - to be happy.
What Clover wants is answers. This summer, she thinks she can find them in the second bedroom, which is full of her mother's belongings. Volume isn't important, what she is looking for is essence; the undiluted bits: a collection of things that will tell the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be.
But what you find depends on what you're searching for. "
 I'm fast becoming a big Carys Bray fan and this book didn't disappoint.  This is a lovely family-focused story with believable, dimensional and varied characters.  Their relationships are complex and secrets are slowly revealed through the course of the book.  Carys writes families so well, and although there's humour in this it didn't feel gimmicky which other, similarly family-driven books I've read in the past have.  Favourite of the month!
Rating: ★★★
Good if: you like beautifully written, family-based books

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