Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Reading round-up: March

14. The Girl Below by Bianca Zander - 7/10 (full review). An unusual mixture of genres - character study, family drama, mystery and fantasy - concentrating on a mixed-up young woman who returns to London after a decade in New Zealand. Fantastic characterisation and I loved the protagonist, but the odd inclusion of supernatural elements marred my enjoyment.
15. The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice - 6/10 (full review). The long-awaited follow-up to Rice's great The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, this is another retro romance, featuring a naive country girl who becomes a 1960s pop star. Fun, but over-long and often unbelievable: definitely not as good as Lost Art.
16. How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman - 6/10 (full review). As cold as its Scandinavian setting, this mystery/thriller is about a dutiful wife who begins to suspect her husband is not what he seems. Cleverly written, with a good ending, but frustrating.
17. The Rose of Fire by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - 5/10 (full review). An extremely short story acting as a prequel to the author's Barcelona quartet (The Shadow of the Wind et al). Nothing enormously negative or positive to say about this, it's well-written but far too short to be a standalone book.
18. How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti - 6/10 (full review). Mixing fiction, non-fiction and philosophy, Heti's memoir-cum-novel is interesting but patchy. I liked it, but didn't relate to it as much as I thought I might, and it didn't contain any new or exciting ideas.
19. The Night Rainbow by Claire King - 7/10 (full review). A charming, richly atmospheric tale about two little girls in the South of France, with a great twist. I don't normally like child narrators, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. It's a bit uneventful but quite enchanting.
20. Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman - 6/10 (full review). The life story of a neglected teenage girl living in a Nevada trailer park. This felt a bit like a missed opportunity - it lacked the emotional impact it should have had and the narrative voice, while extremely well-crafted, didn't fit the character.
21. You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense by Charles Bukowski - 6/10. A lengthy compilation of Bukowski's poems, which caught my attention after I saw it featured in a film. A good read, with some killer insights, but the author's notorious misogyny was (unsurprisingly) offputting.
22. The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver - 6/10 (full review). The titular Noa is an inmate on death row: this is the story of her crime, and an attempt by her victim's mother to change her fate. While an intriguing premise, I struggled to believe in the characters' motivations and found it unmemorable, though readable.
23. The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker - 8/10 (full review). A woman flees her husband and home in the Netherlands and moves into a remote Welsh farmhouse. What is she doing there, and why is she so keen to be left alone? This was definitely my sort of book - simple yet surreal, with an ending I didn't see coming at all.

I couldn't escape the three-star rating (on Goodreads, at least) this month - with the exception of The Detour, I gave everything above three stars, although, as you can see, that can mean anything from 5 to 7 out of 10.

The Detour was my favourite book of the month, although I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to everyone. If you (like me) love stories about solitude and isolation, however, you'll probably enjoy it. Other than that, the two books that stand out to me from March's reading are The Girl Below (despite the middling rating, I've thought about this lots since finishing it and think I'm probably going to buy a copy and give it a re-read) and The Night Rainbow (a real surprise - I wasn't expecting to like it much, but it was incredibly evocative).

I've cleared my to-read list of new and recent releases for the time being, so am going to make an effort to read some older books in April. (Four of the books I read in March were 2013 releases - and two more were published in the UK for the first time this year.) I'm really hoping I will find another five-star read this month!

1 comment:

  1. After reading your review of The Detour on Goodreads last night, I bought it immediately. I love me a good book about solitude and isolation (hey, I haven't seen a single person in over two weeks!)