Saturday, 3 December 2011

Reading round-up: November

Aargh! Yet again, I've been neglecting to update here with recent book reviews. The reason for this is that I try to leave a gap between them so I can post about other things as well, but I just haven't had time to write any of those other posts. I HAVE been updating Goodreads, though, and I've linked to all the individual reviews below.

Anyway, here's this month's round-up of the books I've read and what I thought of them.

83. High-Rise by JG Ballard - 6/10 (full review). A postmodern fable about the breakdown of a mini-society within a huge tower block; lacking in subtlety, and filled with inevitably off-putting characters, but alarmingly prescient for its time, and definitely thought-provoking.
84. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - 8/10 (full review). The most fun I've had with a book in ages, this sci-fi romp set in the near future - in which the whole world is obsessed with an immersive videogame - is witty, exciting and moving. I didn't expect to get into this, but it really surprised me.
85. A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth - 8/10 (full review). A dark tale told from the point of view of a lonely, delusional woman who has an unhealthy fascination with her new neighbour. Certainly disturbing, but in places it will ring uncomfortably true with anyone who lives alone.
86. Brodmaw Bay by F.G. Cottam - 9/10 (full review). Another wonderfully chilling ghost story from one of my favourite modern authors. This one follows the Greer family as they relocate to a seemingly idyllic coastal village which harbours some truly terrible secrets...
87. Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman - 7/10 (full review). A funny, sad and believable coming-of-age story, this examines the causes and consequences of a stabbing on an inner-city estate, as seen through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy. The narrative is excellent but the plot ultimately unsatisfying.
88. UR by Stephen King - 6/10 (full review). This is a very short novella about a teacher who mysteriously receives a magical Kindle. Somehow, it's not actually as daft as that makes it sound, but it's still far too brief to be sufficiently involving.
89. The Prestige by Christopher Priest - 8/10 (full review). Genuinely unpredictable, this tells the story of two Victorian magicians locked in an intense rivalry - as discovered by their ancestors in the present day. Full of twists and turns, with an unexpectedly surreal ending.
90. Lustrum by Robert Harris - 8/10 (full review). The second book in a trilogy about Roman statesman Cicero, this picks up the story from Imperium but ups the drama, sex and violence. Compelling, exciting and educational to boot, with brilliantly drawn and sympathetic protagonists.
91. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga - 6/10 (full review). Told in the form of a letter, this recounts the life of an Indian 'entrepreneur' with a dubious past. It has some fascinating themes, but the lack of any characters you can understand or relate to lets it down.

Brodmaw Bay was my favourite book of the month. I'd been waiting for it for what felt like forever, and I was so glad that it lived up to my expectations. Lustrum was a close second - Robert Harris's trilogy of novels about Cicero is shaping up to be a brilliant series, and I just hope I don't have to wait too long for the third installment to be published. Also worth mentioning from this month's batch are A Kind of Intimacy, Ready Player One and The Prestige, all highly recommended. (NB: I just watched the film version of The Prestige tonight and was really disappointed. The book is quite different from the film, and it's much, much better - very glad I read it first!)

After completing my original 2011 goal of 75 books by early October, I decided to up my goal to 100. This means I have my work cut out for December, as I have to read 9 books... which just about matches my reading levels for most of the previous months, but bear in mind I have Christmas and ~the party season~ to contend with. I'm hoping I will just scrape 100 for the first time EVER!


  1. A book I am reading and enjoying at the moment is Shantaram, not sure if you have already read it. It’s not available as an ebook though. I think you may like it. It is over 900 pages though so not something to read this year if you want to meet your target. 100 books is very impressive!
    I have been thinking about getting Pigeon English, but I don’t want to ultimately be disappointed!

  2. I thought White Tiger was hilarious, apart from the horrible bit in the middle! Am going to try A King of Intimacy next, thanks!