Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Reading round-up: July & August

(This is a continuation of the bi-monthly book list I used to do at my old blog. Now that I'm posting my book reviews here, in future I'm just going to do a quick round-up at the end of each month, but I didn't want to miss anything out!)

July & August weren't great months for getting a lot of reading done, partly because I've had so much else to do, partly because I got bogged down in a couple of not-so-great books that took me a while to finish. However, I still managed a total of 13. Here's an overview of what I thought of them all...

53. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley - 7/10 (full review). A fluffy, but nevertheless enjoyable historical romance alternating between 18th-century Scotland and the present day.
54. The Likeness by Tana French - 6/10 (full review). A too-long suspenseful thriller that wants to be The Secret History but doesn't succeed, thanks in part to a completely implausible plot.
55. How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran - 7/10 (full review). An amusing (at times hysterically funny) personal memoir with an admirable feminist agenda.
56. Gillespie & I by Jane Harris - 10/10 (full review). Absolutely sublime - a deliciously dark, compelling and addictively readable historical tale with a completely spellbinding narrative voice. My read of the year so far. If you take any notice of my opinion on books whatsoever, I urge you to read this!
57. Oracle Night by Paul Auster - 8/10 (full review). Hard to describe but very captivating, this is a slightly surreal, multi-layered story charting the effect of a seemingly powerful notebook on a writer's life.
58. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster - 8/10 (full review). A trio of interconnected detective stories in which nothing is as it seems. Full of symbolism and recurring themes, this was unlike anything I've read before (in a good way).
59. Lucky Break by Esther Freud - 6/10 (full review). Following the fates of a group of drama students across 14 years, this has an interesting premise but somehow never quite hits the mark.
60. Snowdrops by A.D. Miller - 4/10 (full review). Despite the beguiling and well-depicted setting of modern Russia, this 'suspense' novel is hampered by a detestable protagonist and a notable lack of suspense.
61. The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster - 7/10 (full review). A subdued story about a grieving man's obsession with a silent film star. Unbelievable in parts, but intriguing and haunting.
62. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes - 6/10 (full review). A beautifully written but ultimately rather too slight tale of unreliable memories and past secrets.
63. Travels in the Scriptorium by Paul Auster - 5/10 (full review). While as well-written as the other Auster books I read this month, the plot of this self-referential fable is muddled and unengaging.
64. The Magician King by Lev Grossman - 3/10 (full review). A bloated, anticlimactic mess full of unpleasant characters, this is much worse than its predecessor, The Magicians. A disappointment.
65. A Summer of Drowning by John Burnside - 9/10 (full review). With flawless prose and characterisation, plus fascinating themes, this semi-supernatural mystery set on a remote Norwegian island is only let down by some frustrating plot points.

I've got my work cut out for the next month or so - there's a HUGE list of books I want to read (but isn't there always!) Next on my to-read pile is Cold Light by Jenn Ashworth, as I just managed to find a copy at the library after coveting it for months. I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing Incubus by Carol Goodman - I've previously read a few of her more 'literary' mysteries in the Secret History vein, and this is a paranormal novel which has (worryingly) been compared to Twilight, so I'm interested to find out whether it will be a successful take on the genre or a bit of a car crash... I'm very intrigued by the buzz about Erin Morgenstern's debut, The Night Circus, and I also really want to get round to reading Ross Raisin's God's Own Country, by all accounts a quintessentially 'Yorkshire' book. And then, of course, there's the Alan Partridge 'autobiography', I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan, out at the end of the month!

What have you read and loved (or hated) this month? Which books are you looking forward to reading? As always, recommendations are welcome!


  1. an alan partridge autobiography?! incredible!!!! i read 'any human heart' by william boyd recently, it's just wonderful. i would definitely recommend it, the research that has gone into the book is astounding, everything feels so realistic and you totally connect with the main character. definitely going into my top ten books!! x

  2. Oh I love this new blog of yours. I just wish I had as much time to read as you do! What with work, writing for too many people, boyfriend, seeing friends, crafting and the obscene amount of time I spend trying to keep my flat clean I feel like I'm lucky if I read three or four books a month :(

  3. Gah, I have been on the waiting list for How To Be a Woman, at the library for about 3 months now and I'm only in position 5 now *sigh*. I'm glad you enjoyed it though, I love Caitlin's writing, as well as her tweets.

  4. Massively looking forward to Jeffrey Eugenides' new one and Murakami's wonder of a trilogy... And still crying over no new Donna Tartt, though they promised us one ages ago. I'll just have to re-read the Secret History for the 29th time... The only good YA I've read recently is Divergent (solid), and Patrick Ness' A Monster Calls, which is not as good as the Knife of Letting Go etc series, but is a small wonder none the less.

  5. Ah! I wish I had more time to read! I only get to read fiction during the summer :[ Have you read any Joshua Ferris? I read "Then We Came To the End" sometime in July/August and I LOVED it. I also read "The Unnamed," which I would recommend, but I didn't love it. It was very depressing and much too existential for me, but well-written and I value the message.

  6. I read The Host by Stephenie Meyer last week. I thought it was pretty decent, and really made me think. Have you read that one?

    Loving the blog, Blair - brilliant writing as ever.

  7. I really want to read How To Be A Woman. Definitely will now!