Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Reading round-up: February

6. The Engagement by Chloe Hooper - 10/10 (full review). An unexpectedly tense and frightening story about a woman involved in an affair which takes a strange turn. Beautifully written, incredibly atmospheric and suspenseful, I was both spellbound and horrified by this gothic tale.
7. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness - 4/10 (full review). I don't normally read full-on fantasy, and this reminded me why... although it had all the ingredients to be really good, with its combination of academia and magic. Unfortunately, the dreadful romance between the protagonist and her horrendous (vampire) boyfriend ruined all its potential.
8. Threats by Amelia Gray - 6/10 (full review). A man's wife dies and he sets out to discover what happened to her: a fairly simple premise, rendered in a very experimental manner. An original idea with some great writing, but it never quite seemed to come together properly.
9. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - 8/10 (full review). An earlier novel from the author of the phenomenally successful Gone Girl. A woman whose family were murdered when she was a child is approached by a group of crime enthusiasts who want her to reinvestigate the case, leading to some dark discoveries. Compelling, with brilliantly messed-up characters.
10. The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz - 7/10 (full review). A young girl is ensconced within an all-female community which is shielded from the outside world: then she's 'rescued', and the story follows how this came to happen and why she's been living this strange life. Addictively readable and very interesting, but I didn't feel the backstory of this place was at all realistic, and I couldn't figure out what the author was trying to say.
11. Through Dead Eyes by Chris Priestley - 6/10 (full review). Another enjoyable ghost story from Priestley, this time set in a beautifully portrayed Amsterdam - written for kids, but spooky and exciting enough for adult fans of the genre to enjoy too.
12. Orkney by Amy Sackville - 8/10 (full review). In this disturbing, intense story, an oddly matched couple - an English professor and his former student - spend a week honeymooning on the bleak island of Orkney. It's a study in obsession, told only from the point of view of the husband, who is clearly lying about at least some aspects of the relationship. It made my skin crawl, but I was fascinated, and haven't stopped thinking about it since.
13. The Doll: Short Stories by Daphne du Maurier - 6/10 (full review). A collection of 'lost' tales by du Maurier, most written early in her career. Very much a mixed bag, and some are quite amateurish, although they're really interesting to read. I'd only recommend this if you're already familiar with the author, though.

In terms of numbers, I did a bit better with my reading in February, particularly considering that it's a short month. I still seem to be sticking to this unconscious theme of only reading female authors - I've only read one book written by a man in the whole of 2013 so far.

The Engagement was by far my favourite book of the month, and although I'd been interested enough to look for it at the library, I was completely surprised by how good it actually turned out to be. I was also very impressed by Orkney - I didn't evn love it that much when I was reading it, I just couldn't get it out of my head afterwards, and thinking about it so much made me see a lot of hidden depths, meanings and implications in it which made me appreciate the whole story so much more. (Sometimes all that time spent writing reviews is actually a bonus!) For crime fans I would definitely recommend Dark Places - I actually thought it was a bit better than Gone Girl.

Aside from that, the other books I read hovered around the 'average' mark. The First Book of Calamity Leek was an incredibly intriguing idea, but by the end, I found myself quite disappointed by the explanations given for what had happened. I finally managed to finish A Discovery of Witches, and thank god for that. I couldn't read another word about Matthew bloody Clairmont if someone paid me.

As usual, I've already got a list of books lined up to read in March. I've read a lot of new releases this year and although I would like to catch up with some older books too, I can't see that changing this month: there are just too many new books I'm excited by!


  1. I absolutely loved Dark Places, it was the first Gillian Flynn book I read and I've been hooked on her work ever since. I really want to read Threats, and I'll probably try The Engagement too seeing as everyone seems to love it!

  2. The books you read always have the best covers. Shall definitely add The Engagement to my to-read list.