Sunday, 5 May 2013

Reading round-up: April

24. Ghostwritten by David Mitchell - 10/10 (full review). A series of interconnected stories, each as vivid and captivating as the last. Hugely entertaining, intellectually engaging, funny, fast-paced and addictive - I didn't want to tear myself away from it.
25. The Quickening by Julie Myerson - 8/10 (full review). Past misdeeds come back to haunt a newlywed couple in an atmospheric ghost story, in the unconventional but very effective setting of Antigua. Very tense and very enjoyable.
26. The Palace of Curiosities by Rosie Garland - 6/10 (full review). Set in Victorian London, this debut seeks to emulate Angela Carter with an adventure-slash-romance set among a freakshow-style variety performance. Readable, but lacking in depth.
27. Jellybird by Lezanne Clannachan - 7/10 (full review). A new friendship is the catalyst for the protagonist to revisit her past in this slow-burning, but fascinating, psychological drama.
28. Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley - 4/10 (full review). An interesting premise - a woman and her two daughters become stranded on a remote farm while fleeing from a polygamous cult - which is, unfortunately, executed poorly. More of a dull domestic tableau than the intriguing story it could have been.
29. The Asylum by John Harwood - 8/10 (full review). In Victorian England, a young woman wakes up in a lunatic asylum and is told her beliefs about her own identity are all part of a delusion. Can the reader believe her own account of who she is? Hugely compelling and great gothic fun.
30. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - 8/10. The sort of book that needs no introduction, really. A luminous and haunting story with memorable characters, elegant prose and many very striking scenes. Wish I'd read it sooner!
31. The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan - 5/10 (full review). A 15-year-old girl is admitted to a home for chronic child offenders. Is she really guilty of putting a police officer in a coma, and is there some darker force at work in determining her fate? Well-written, but this didn't live up to my expectations, as it's more character portrait than mystery.
32. Death: A Picture Album - 8/10. I mentioned this in my spring post and I was really pleased with it. A beautifully bound volume containing an impressive number of artworks and accompanying artistic and cultural history.
33. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight - 8/10 (full review). In this fast-paced, gripping mystery, a mother attempts to unravel the mystery of her teenage daughter's apparent suicide. The narrative patches together various sources, making for a brilliantly readable popcorn thriller.
34. Accidents Happen by Louise Millar - 6/10 (full review). Another solid domestic thriller from the author of The Playdate, in which an extremely paranoid woman is persuaded to abandon her inhibitions by an enigmatic new friend. Not exactly remarkable, but a decent read which ends well.
35. Cooking With Bones by Jess Richards - 10/10 (full review). Difficult to describe but absolutely excellent, Richards' second novel is a mixture of dystopian fantasy, fairytale, mystery, coming-of-age, and ghost story. It follows two sisters from a futuristic city and a child in an old-fashioned village, in a multi-layered tale with lots of themes and meanings. Fascinating and beautiful.

My favourite book of April has to be Cooking With Bones - an entirely unique concoction of a novel that was completely unlike anything I've read before. I also loved Ghostwritten - similar to the author's more widely read Cloud Atlas, but better - and The Great Gatsby, which was much more vibrant and readable tham I expected from a 'classic'.

The high number of books I got through this month is probably down to the fact that I read quite a few 'lighter' books, which could probably be (loosely) collectively described as thrillers. Of these, I would really recommend Reconstructing Amelia, a very enjoyable mystery; The Quickening, a very atmospheric ghost story; and The Asylum, a Victorian gothic romp. Jellybird was also very good and Accidents Happen a bit more mediocre - although the latter did have a good ending.

I really hope I can keep up this pace in May. As my recent post about 2013 releases will testify, I have loads and loads of books to get through - so many that I'm kind of hoping some of them turn out to be rubbish and I can abandon them!


  1. interesting collection. I'm curious as what you have to say about the David Mitchell. I'm still unsure as to what to think about Cloud Atlas. which one do you like better?

    1. I definitely preferred Ghostwritten - although I should mention I really liked Cloud Atlas as well! I just felt that with Ghostwritten I loved all the stories, whereas with Cloud Atlas there were some I adored and others I just wanted to be done with. Even though Ghostwritten was published earlier I felt like it was a much more accomplished work.