Monday, 2 September 2013

Reading round-up: August

August 2013 books

A small post this month - various work-related things have meant I haven't had a lot of time to read (ugh, I hate it when 'work' and 'life' get in the way of reading...) and the books I have read have been a real mixture.

70. Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield - 5/10. It's not out until October, so I was excited to get hold of an advance copy of this second novel from Setterfield, author of The Thirteenth Tale. Unfortunately, it was a little disappointing. It's a lacklustre ghost story with far too few ghosts, focusing on William Bellman, a businessman who makes a mysterious bargain with the shady character of 'Mr. Black'. While I liked the authentically historical tone, I found the story rather dull. Read my full review / Pre-order the ebook
71. Night Film by Marisha Pessl - 10/10. Probably my favourite book of 2013 so far (and unlikely to be beaten), this is another second novel, and this time it was a glorious improvement on its predecessor. Night Film is a fantastically enjoyable literary thriller, packed with colourful characters, hints of darkness, black magic and noirish mystery. Intelligent, fun, exciting, funny and full of twists: not just my highlight of the summer but one of the best books I've ever read. Buy it! Read my full review / Buy the ebook
72. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt - 8/10. Another book set for an October release, which I was very lucky to have the opportunity to read early. And I must admit, I'm still struggling to write a good review. While it didn't live up to Tartt's The Secret History, which is my favourite book, it was a beautifully written, elegant and moving novel which captivated me in ways I didn't expect. The story is about Theo, thirteen years old when his beloved mother is killed in a bombing at an art gallery. The aftermath of this incident ultimately draws him into art fraud, but the book is more of a character study, following Theo through youth and adulthood, and examining his friendships and love affairs. The characterisation was brilliant, particularly Theo's sometime best friend Boris, and although I had a couple of issues with how the plot panned out, they were very minor things. Pre-order the ebook (or buy The Secret History if for some insane reason you haven't read it)
73. Lolito by Ben Brooks - 6/10. This book takes a shocking premise - a 15-year-old schoolboy has an affair with a middle-aged woman he meets on the internet - and turns it into something almost mundane. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just that Brooks focuses the bulk of the narrative on the immaturity of his protagonist, Etgar. It ends up being more like a weirdly realistic, funny portrait of a modern teenager's life, in which boredom and childishness sit side by side with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll - with everything punctuated by Facebook status updates - and the affair is almost an incidental detail. I found it disappointing that Brooks didn't explore some elements of the plot further, but I was captivated by Etgar's unique voice. Read my full review / Buy the ebook
74. Precious Thing by Colette McBeth - 5/10. A serviceable thriller about two women whose ostensibly close friendship hides a multitude of dark secrets. I know this is a bit pedantic, but it really annoyed me that it was full of stylistic flaws and mistakes, especially the punctuation. But apart from that, I had issues with the story as well, mainly the fact that it didn't deliver the brilliant twists I have come to expect from this genre. While it was readable enough, there are many better books of this type around. Read my full review / Buy the ebook

I don't think it needs to be said that Night Film was my favourite book of the month. I can't emphasise enough how much I enjoyed it - I've seen a few negative reviews since its publication, which I find amazing as I thought it was such a fantastic read. If you're interested in it, I implore you to read it yourself and make up your own mind, and I hope you love it as much as I did! I also really liked The Goldfinch, and thought Lolito was a really interesting, if flawed, story. It's a pity the other two weren't as good as I'd hoped, but maybe that was the universe trying to balance out the brilliance of Night Film.

I don't like abandoning books but it happened quite a few times this month. The first casualty was Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being - on the Booker Prize longlist - which I got about halfway through before just losing interest in every aspect of the story. Secondly there was Michael Irwin's The Skull and the Nightingale, which I simply couldn't get into. Finally, Let the Games Begin by Niccolò Ammaniti, which I'm sorry to say contained a rape scene so hideous and offensive that I still can't quite believe how awful it was. Avoid.

I really hope I can find the time to read more in September! As usual, I have lots of books I want to read, including a few August and September releases. What are you looking forward to this month?


  1. I hadn't read Donna Tartt before (I know!) so I absolutely adored The Goldfinch. It took me over 2 weeks of constant reading because I wanted to take in every single word. I finished it back in June (and reviewed it on Goodreads, but I still miss Boris, Hobie and Theo and find myself thinking about them sometimes.

  2. I'm really intrigued to read Lolito - really enjoyed this post, was nice to read your perspective on the books alongside fuller reviews :)


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