Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Reading round-up: June

55. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles - 8/10 (full review). As cool, sophisticated and elegant as its characters, Rules of Civility is an ice-cold gin & tonic of a novel. Following a social-climbing twenty-something secretary through the New York of the late 1930s, it's extremely atmospheric, if a little too languid in places.
56. The Memory of Trees by F.G. Cottam - 8/10 (full review. The lastest ghost story from Cottam is typically gripping and features more of the believable, well-rounded characters that have become the author's trademark. It was a bit slow to get started compared to his previous novels, but once it got going it was great, spooky fun.
57. Cold Water by Gwendoline Riley - 5/10 (full review). A decent, but ultimately disappointing, coming-of-age slash quarter-life-crisis novel set in Manchester. I liked the author's portrayal of the setting, but nothing much happened and I couldn't relate to the protagonist at all.
58. Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld - 6/10 (full review). Sittenfeld's latest is about psychic twin sisters, but despite that it's more of a meandering domestic saga than a paranormal drama. While I enjoyed the story, the fact that I didn't much like the main character - 'good twin' Kate - meant I struggled to care much about any of it.
59. The Horned Man by James Lasdun - 8/10 (full review). After Cold Water, this was the second book of the month I discovered through a mention in Nicholas Royle's excellent First Novel. It's a slightly creepy, very odd tale about a university professor losing his mind (or is he?) in a claustrophobic New York, and Royle's book owes an obvious debt to it! Not completely satisfying, but a compelling, original story.
60. The Juliette Society by Sasha Grey - 7/10 (full review). This is the debut novel of a former porn star, but don't let that put you off. The Juliette Society - about a film student who's inducted into an underground sex club and has to balance this new obsession with a floundering relationship - is actually really good and intelligently written. It does have some significant flaws, but is definitely worth a try.
61. Indiscretion by Charles Dubow - 5/10 (full review). A beautifully written but rather empty debut novel about a group of wealthy friends whose lives are thrown in different directions when two of them have an ill-advised affair. This didn't live up to my hopes at all - while I liked the prose, the characters were difficult to either like or believe in, and their lives struck me as deathly boring more than anything else.
62. Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes - 7/10 (full review). I didn't have particularly high expectations for this thriller about a woman who is desperate - possibly murderously desperate - for a baby. More fool me, then, because it was actually one of the best genre books I've read in a while. Very tense and full of twists, with a killer punch of an ending - take it on holiday!

Does anyone else who reads a lot find they have occasional lulls in enthusiasm for no real reason? I don't know if it's just because I've been snowed under with work recently and have wanted to turn my brain off upon getting home, but while I read a lot in the earlier part of June, the second half has been less productive. I started a 100-page book on the 26th and STILL haven't finished it. I haven't felt very motivated to write particularly in-depth reviews, either, which is why most of my recent posts here have been about fashion.

Anyway, despite this inexplicable loss of interest, I read a respectable 8 books in June. My favourite was The Rules of Civility - a book I'd actually been putting off for a while as I wasn't sure whether I'd like it, but it turned out to be quite fabulous. Although none of them were perfect, I also really enjoyed The Memory of Trees, The Horned Man and The Juliette Society. Indiscretion and Until You're Mine were almost opposites of each other - I was really looking forward to the former, but didn't like it much in the end; and I feared the latter would be terrible, but was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it proved to be.

I think I'm going to have a bit of a rest from reading so much this month - although it is my birthday soon so I'll probably be treating myself to a few of the books from my wishlist. However, it's all about quality, not quantity, and I'm trying to train myself to give up on books that I know aren't going to be that great from the beginning, without feeling horribly guilty about it. I've already ruthlessly crossed a few off my list during a visit to the library last weekend, but I'm already wondering whether I should change my mind about a couple of those... Watch this space!


  1. You are my reading inspiration. How do you manage to imbibe all of these so quickly?!

  2. Yep, the lulls. Right now I'm going through the manic phase, but soon enough I know there will be a time when I won't feel like reading at all and will fill my days with silly movies and even sillier tv.

    I have a love/ hate relationship with your reading posts. Love because they're intelligent and your recommendations are good, hate because I just want to buy nearly every story you positively review, and it just ain't happenin', according to my wallet. Ah.