Monday, 5 November 2012

Reading round-up: October

65. The Day is Dark by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir - 4/10 (full review). Despite a promising premise, this mystery set in Greenland failed to deliver, and some of the characterisation was bizarre: the fact that I disliked the protagonist didn't really help.
66. The Playdate by Louise Millar - 6/10 (full review). A typical chick lit/thriller hybrid, this was silly and clichéd but nevertheless entertaining. Predictable in a lot of ways, but so full of twists that it's bound to surprise you now and again.
67. The Chemickal Marriage by G.W. Dahlquist - 8/10 (full review). The final part of a trilogy that began with The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, one of my favourite books. A great, if not brilliant, end to the series, but I wouldn't recommend it if you haven't read the other two!
68. The Angel's Kiss: A Melody Malone Mystery by Justin Richards - 6/10 (full review). A fun, witty, and extremely short book (more like a short story) tying in with a recent Doctor Who episode. Really enjoyable (for Who fans, that is) but very brief.
69. The Girl on the Stairs by Louise Welsh - 8/10 (full review). A wonderfully creepy and suspenseful thriller about a pregnant woman who, alone in an unfamiliar country, becomes convinced her neighbour is abusing his daughter. Tense, compulsive and very clever.
70. The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey - 7/10 (full review). Focusing on two sisters who are both successful ballet dancers, this is an unusual but involving story in which not much really happens but relationships and human interactions are explored in great detail. It's very believable and is both funny and sad.
71. Don't Look Now & Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier - 9/10 (full review). I loved this collection of dark, twisted short stories: the titular tale is a classic, but most of the others are of equal quality and power, and almost all feature a spellbinding, revelatory twist. Sinister and fascinating.
72. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan - 5/10 (full review). This is an adventure novel about a group of tech-savvy friends discovering an arcane secret society which centres on a old-fashioned, tiny and very odd bookshop. Kind of fun, but completely lacking in tension and very derivative.
73. The Birds & Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier - 8/10 (full review). Almost the equal of Don't Look Now, this anthology contains stories with perhaps even more shocking and incredible twists, with many turning against their central character.
74. The Breaking Point: Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier - 7/10 (full review). A weaker collection than the two above, this deviated somewhat from the author's usual macabre themes, with mixed results. Nevertheless, it contained a couple of great stories.

This was a funny month. I read ten books, but it didn't feel like that - maybe because three of them were volumes of short stories, and a few others were quite insubstantial reads, quick and light. As a result, I'm already close to achieving my target number of books read for the year (75), but I have some way to go to reach my other goal (beating my total of pages read from 2011, which was 28,112: currently I'm on 24,168 - only four thousand pages to go..!)

October was dominated by the three volumes of Daphne du Maurier short stories I read. I'd had Don't Look Now & Other Stories for ages and didn't particularly feel compelled to read it, but something made me pick it up this month - perhaps the fact that Halloween was imminent, the nights were drawing in and it felt like the right time for some unsettling, spooky tales. Anyway, I absolutely loved it and couldn't get enough of du Maurier's stories - based on my (admittedly limited) experience, I much prefer them to her novels, including Rebecca. However, by the time I finished The Breaking Point I'd started to feel a bit jaded and was finding the stories more predictable. I still have another anthology, The Doll, waiting to be read, but I'm going to save it until the others aren't quite so fresh in my mind.

Aside from the above, my other favourite of the month was The Girl on the Stairs - an incredibly atmospheric and readable novel which I would definitely recommend. Most of the other books I read were good but not particuarly remarkable, and there were a couple of disappointments: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore was mildly enjoyable but not worth the hype, and The Day is Dark was just a bit rubbish, despite a few sparks of promise.

I should also mention that this month I finally gave up on Fate by L.R. Fredericks. I bought it back in July when it was released, but despite numerous efforts, I just couldn't get into it. As with her debut, Farundell, I was really interested in the concept but couldn't stand the main character and didn't feel the plot really did anything with any of its (potentially brilliant) themes. I kept trying to dip back into it for months, but it just wasn't working out at all. On a superficial note, I'm upset that I didn't like it because the cover is absolutely gorgeous!

For the first time in ages - perhaps the first time all year - I'm unsure about what I want to read next. Of course, I still have a lengthy to-read list, but there's nothing that's jumping out and making me think 'yes, that's the one'. I'm in the mood for something a bit more meaty after all those short stories and quick reads, but at the same time I'm always tempted to just race through a few non-taxing mysteries and the like, if only to narrow down the list. Watch this space!

1 comment:

  1. I read your review on The Girl on the Stairs and I can't wait to read it! Don't Look Now & Other Stories also sounds like the type of book that I would enjoy reading. Thanks so much for the fantastic reviews!