Sunday, 2 June 2013

Reading round-up: May


36. Telling Stories by Beverley Jones - 8/10 (full review)
37. The Haunted Book by Jeremy Dyson - 6/10 (full review)
38. The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway - 7/10 (full review)
39. The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah - 3/10 (full review)
40. This House is Haunted by John Boyne - 8/10 (full review)
41. First Novel by Nicholas Royle - 10/10 (full review)
42. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes - 6/10 (full review)
43. The End of Alice by A.M. Homes - 10/10 (full review)
44. The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell - 8/10 (full review)
45. Hunters in the Snow by Daisy Hildyard - 6/10 (full review) - advance copy, released 4th July
46. The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke - 7/10 (full review)
47. The Drowning of Arthur Braxton by Caroline Smailes - 6/10 (full review)
48. The Professor of Truth by James Robertson - 7/10 (full review) - advance copy, released 6th June
49. Petite Mort by Beatrice Hitchman - 8/10 (full review)
50. Eloise by Judy Finnigan - 5/10 (full review)
51. The Darkling by R.B. Chesterton - 6/10 (full review)
52. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin - 9/10 (full review)
53. Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie - 2/10 (full review)
54. NOS4R2 by Joe Hill - 6/10 (full review)

Apologies for not doing my usual summary of the plot of each book, but if I'd attempted to do that, this post would probably have taken a week to put together. I'm going to try and cover them all in the summary below to make up for it. I think I actually read so much this month that I've almost managed to make myself completely sick of it!

Favourites of the month: I loved the weird, brilliant First Novel, actually the seventh novel by Nicholas Royle. It's a bit difficult to explain what it's actually about, as it's kind of plotless, self-referential and metafictional, but it's just fantastic, the sort of book that gets under your skin and makes you think at the same time as being addictively readable. Giovanni's Room was also excellent - a deserving classic, and one of the most heartbreaking love stories I've ever read. Although I wouldn't recommend it to everyone because of the controversial subject matter (it's written from the point of view of a paedophile), The End of Alice was simply breathtaking, a book I would have had to be physically pried apart from had I not had the opportunity to read it in one sitting. I had great fun reading The Other Typist and Telling Stories, two intriguing, readable mysteries with enthralling protagonists.

Recommended holiday reads: Top of this list would be The Sea Sisters: not brilliantly written, and it has a daft title, but I ended up being truly captivated by its combination of thriller and travelogue. Petite Mort was great fun and very atmospheric, if somewhat forgettable. If you're into ghost stories and horror, The Darkling and NOS4R2 are both worth a look, although both strayed a bit far into fantasy territory for my liking. Speaking of fantasy, The River of No Return would probably belong in that bracket too, but it's something of a soft, romantic story which was very light but thoroughly enjoyable. The Shining Girls is yet another fantasy hybrid, this time with a crime/thriller slant, and I found it fairly compelling, but wasn't as impressed as many reviewers have been. This House is Haunted was more my sort of thing - a classic Victorian gothic tale with a welcome dose of tongue-in-cheek humour. I liked The Professor of Truth too, but it was a very quiet sort of book and won't be a priority for everyone's holiday reading list!

On the fence: I'd been looking forward to reading Hunters in the Snow for quite some time, so I was disappointed to discover it wasn't that great: it's partly composed of historical anecdotes which I found rather dull. I've also read some rapturous reviews of The Drowning of Arthur Braxton, and though it's certainly an original story, I couldn't really see the magic in it and found Arthur himself pretty unlikeable. The Haunted Book was interesting but didn't really live up to its intriguing premise (the collision of numerous local ghost stories with a real-life haunting). Eloise was fine as a sun-lounger read on a very hot day, but it was extremely silly, and I wouldn't recommend it under any other circumstances.

Avoid at all costs: Close My Eyes, a truly risible variation on the currently very popular chick-lit-thriller hybrid. Also The Orphan Choir, a botched attempt at a ghost story from an overrated author (if you want a good one, try Julie Myerson's The Quickening, from the same series of Hammer horror books).

Started and didn't finish: The Infatuations by Javier MarĂ­as, Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid, Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter, Dare Me by Megan Abbott, The Innocents by Francesca Segal, Gone to the Forest by Katie Kitamura.

I'm glad I read so much this month - I crossed a lot of books off my to-read list (including several I started and quickly decided not to finish), but it was all a bit exhausting, really! The downside of reading so many books so quickly is that the stories I enjoyed haven't lingered in my memory as much as they should have. I certainly don't have any plans to keep up this pace in June - I'm way ahead of my target now so I'm just going to take it easy.

1 comment:

  1. Blair you read SO much, i've always been quite jealous!! I have so many books on my to-read list that it's crazy and i feel like i'll never get through them cause i'm always adding more (particularly when i read blog posts like this).

    I read this article about reading and then forgetting yesterday, which always happens to me. I'm not sure i can afford the time to read many things twice though. Anyway i thought you might be interested to read it given how much you manage to get through :)

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/05/the-curse-of-reading-and-forgetting.html

    Jo (@essentiallyJo) xx

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