Saturday, 31 December 2011

Reading round-up: December

It seems like literally five minutes since I last wrote one of these! I can't believe how quickly the month has flown by, but just in the nick of time, here are the books I read in December.

92. Landfall by Helen Gordon - 5/10 (full review). A rather disappointing character study focused on a thirtysomething woman who moves from London back to her parents' house. Lots of interesting themes are half-heartedly explored, but the ending is totally anticlimactic.
93. The Drowning Pool by Syd Moore - 6/10 (full review). This starts off like a straightforward ghost story (if there is such a thing!) but spins into a mash-up of genres - paranormal adventure, crime thriller, historical mystery and chick lit. Entertaining but rather too messy.
94. Great House by Nicole Krauss - 7/10 (full review). Though there is an overarching theme, this is essentially a series of short stories. The tone and style are brilliant, but the characters are hard to connect with - although I strongly related to one in particular.
95. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - 4/10 (full review). A YA novel about a boy who discovers his late grandfather's stories about children with amazing powers may really have been true, this starts really well but just doesn't go anywhere. Definitely best left to a younger audience.
96. There but for the by Ali Smith - 6/10 (full review). Intriguing and beautifully written, yet seeming to adhere too closely to a particular literary-fiction template, this tale of a man who attends a dinner party and never leaves is a book to admire rather than enjoy.
97. Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami - 5/10 (full review). A double-pronged story with two protagonists, a fifteen-year-old runaway and an elderly man who can speak with cats, this is a magical and philosophical book filled with metaphors. I wish I could say I enjoyed it more than I did, but it just failed to capture my imagination.
98. The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley - 8/10 (full review). A children's ghost story which I didn't expect much from, this turned out to be surprisingly excellent! Very well-written, chilling and atmospheric, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to adult fans of spooky tales.
99. The Teacher's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley - 8/10 (full review). Short but sweet, this contains three brief ghost stories, each with a truly devilish twist. While it might be intended to be enjoyed by younger readers, this book genuinely scared me!
100. The Devil's Double by Latif Yahia - 6/10 (full review). The biography on which the film of the same name (my favourite of the year) was based, this is certainly an interesting read, but also quite frustrating due to the lack of evidence that any of it is actually true.

This month's reading was a bit of a mixed bag, with literary and genre fiction, children's and YA books, and non-fiction. But the important thing is, of course, that I JUST managed to reach my year's goal of 100 books! It wasn't easy and I think I'll be setting myself a lower goal next year (or sticking to the original 2011 number of 75). I DID cheat a bit by reading a couple of children's books which took me no time at all to get through... but I DID IT!

Sadly, I haven't read anything I found amazing for quite some time and as much as this month was a mixed bag genre-wise, it was the same story as far as my ratings were concerned. I read a couple of books I'd been looking forward to for months - namely There but for the and Landfall - which failed to ignite any great passion in me. I read my first Murakami in Kafka On the Shore and was distinctly underwhelmed. I dipped my toe into YA fiction with Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and was really disappointed. All in all, the best books I read in December were a couple of short volumes by Chris Priestley, a writer of ghost stories for children. I'm glad I finally managed to find some modern kids' fiction I didn't hate (it's so popular among the book-obsessed people of the internet and I always feel like such a spoilsport for not generally liking it), but I'd much rather read a great novel, and I can't wait to discover the next addition to my all-time-favourites list.

I'm working on my Best of 2011 list and book-related resolutions/predictions for the coming year, to be posted in the next few days. Happy New Year - I'll see you in 2012!


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