Monday, 7 November 2011

Reading round-up: October

Here we go again - without further ado...

72. Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi - 6/10 (full review). Typical of the author's work, this is very avant-garde fiction depicting a battle of wits between two characters - one of them imaginary - through the medium of short stories. Interesting, but it doesn't quite come together in the end.
73. The Ghost by Robert Harris - 7/10 (full review). A fairly run-of-the-mill suspenseful mystery made more interesting by its tense atmosphere and overt allusions to Tony Blair's political career.
74. Like Bees To Honey by Caroline Smailes - 7/10 (full review). Difficult to describe, this is an exploration of loss, love and family ties set in a magical version of Malta inhabited by various ghosts. Funny and touching, though a little overwrought at points.
75. The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths - 6/10 (full review). This is a gripping crime thriller with an excellent cast of characters, especially the protagonist Dr Ruth Galloway, but I was really disappointed by the generic plot.
76. The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson - 7/10 (full review). An homage to/pastiche of Rebecca, this is a cross between a gothic mystery and a romance. Unoriginal and a little underdeveloped, but absorbing and evocative.
77. I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan by Alan Partridge - 6/10 (full review). Pretty much exactly what you'd expect - a must-read for Partridge fans, it's very funny in places and the tone of voice is great, but it does get a bit tiresome after a while.
78. Blacklands by Belinda Bauer - 6/10 (full review). Another crime thriller, this time focusing on a young boy who starts writing letters to the serial killer who may have murdered his uncle. The characters' viewpoints are portrayed effectively, but the plot never quite feels like it gets going properly.
79. The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards - 4/10 (full review). A story of family secrets and tangled relationships that's dragged down by boring characters, a slow-moving plot and poor dialogue.
80. Isis by Douglas Clegg - 6/10 (full review). An atmospheric period ghost story, beautifully written but much too brief - more like a cautionary fairytale.
81. Imperium by Robert Harris - 8/10 (full review). Far more factual and educational than I expected, this is a well-crafted, gripping fictionalised account of the life of Roman statesman Cicero.
82. Affinity by Sarah Waters - 7/10 (full review). The tale of an unhappy woman who becomes a prison visitor and her obsession with a prisoner who may have paranormal powers. Brilliant but extremely depressing, and I guessed the twist.

This was the first time I've introduced what could be a called a 'theme' to the month's reading, which - with the exception of Mr Fox, which I started in September anyway - was to use it to get through a whole batch of what I can't help but keep thinking of as 'lightweight' books; ie genre, as opposed to literary, fiction. This was a good opportunity to clear out a backlog of 'maybe I'll read this... one day' titles from my Kindle (in addition to the books listed above there were several I began and discarded after a few pages), but it wasn't as fun as I initially thought it would be. Quick and easy reads are all very well, but after a long run of mostly average books, I found myself deseperate to get back to stories with more substance and less predictable plots. The highlight was Imperium, which was completely different from what I expected but very good and actually taught me quite a bit about Roman politics. The closest thing to a 'guilty pleasure' I got out of this month's reading was The Lantern.

I don't really have a plan for November, although I would like to read a couple more of the Booker nominees. And the new F.G. Cottam, Brodmaw Bay, comes out on the 10th, obviously a matter of great excitement to me (although I really don't like the cover at all, which is making me apprehensive about it). In December I think I'm going to re-read some old favourites.

As ever, please feel free to a) add me on Goodreads and/or b) discuss your recent, current or future reads in the comments!


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