Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Reading round-up: December

80. Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam - 10/10 (full review). I was absolutely wowed by this dark, intense and unsettling debut about a man kidnapping an eleven-year-old girl. It takes the reader on a difficult journey, but is beautifully written and has a stunning narrative style - vague, seductive, disturbing, utterly compelling. Brilliant.
81. The Cranes That Build the Cranes by Jeremy Dyson - 6/10 (full review). A collection of macabre short stories from the co-writer of TV series including The League of Gentlemen. Some of them were very intriguing, others didn't really hit the mark for me, and the characters weren't likeable. Interesting enough, but these themes have been handled better by many other authors.
82. Isabel's Skin by Peter Benson - 6/10 (full review). Set in the early 20th century, this is a pastiche of (or homage to?) the traditional gothic novel, with added elements of fantasy. I wasn't quite sure what to think of this strange mixture, which was also saddled with uncharismatic main characters. It had some good bits, but was ultimately unsatisfying.
83. The Dinner by Herman Koch - 6/10 (full review). A family drama, unfolding over the course of one dinner in a prestigious restaurant, that's been a bestseller across Europe. Despite interesting themes, I thought it was rather forgettable, and the tone also seemed to have lost something in translation.
84. Ghost Stories by various, edited by Lorna Bradbury - 4/10 (full review). A collection of ghostly tales which were winning entries in a competition run by the Daily Telegraph. A mixed bag, with some vaguely interesting and others really quite poor - and they were all too short!
85. The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood - 6/10 (full review). Split between the past and present lives of two women who committed a terrible crime when they were children, this thriller was an up-and-down experience for me. It raised my expectations with good characterisation and an evocative setting, then disappointed me by turning out to be rather generic after all.
86. Elijah's Mermaid by Essie Fox - 8/10 (full review). Set in Victorian London, this is a deliciously gothic saga following a pair of twins from a well-off family and a girl raised in a brothel. Great detail and atmosphere - the only thing that let it down (as so often happens) was an implausible love story.

Another good month of reading, and one that included one of my favourite books of the whole year in Lamb. I also really enjoyed Elijah's Mermaid - I read Fox's debut The Somnambulist earlier in 2012 and found it average, but this was MUCH better. The only book I really wasn't keen on was the ghost stories compilation: the others all had flaws but were at least interesting, and again, I've managed to knock quite a few titles off my to-read list.

So that rounds off my reading year for 2012: I read a total of 86 books (27,196 pages) by 73 authors. I didn't beat last year's record of 100 books, but to be honest I would never expect to! Since the beginning of 2013 I've been working through A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - really good, but quite slow-moving (I don't think I am ever going to understand why she waited so long before trying to get that damned manuscript out of the library again). I also just got an ARC of Erin Kelly's new book The Burning Air - only slightly early, it's due out on the 17th - and am tearing through that.

I want to do a post about the new releases I'm most anticipating this year, but the list isn't looking too long at the moment. That's probably a good thing, as I don't need any reasons to spend more money, but I like having brand new books to look forward to! Is there anything you're particularly excited about reading in 2013?

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