Saturday, 5 July 2014

Reading round-up: June

June 2014 books

47. Young God by Katherine Faw Morris - 6/10. Read my full review / Buy the ebook
48. Upstairs at the Party by Linda Grant - 10/10. Review to come / Pre-order the ebook
49. The Wild Ass's Skin by Honoré de Balzac - 8/10. Read my full review / Get the ebook (free at Project Gutenberg)
50. Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan - 10/10. Read my full review / Buy the book
51. The Incarnations by Susan Barker - 7/10. Read my full review / Pre-order the ebook
52. The Vanishing by Tim Krabbé - 1/10. Read my full review / Buy the book
53. For Esme - With Love and Squalor, and Other Stories by J.D. Salinger - 8/10. Read my full review / Buy the book
54. The Hundred Year House by Rebecca Makkai - 9/10. Read my full review / Pre-order the ebook
55. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman - 8/10. Read my full review / Get the ebook (free for Kindle)
56. Chess by Stefan Zweig - 7/10. Read my full review / Buy the ebook
57. Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas - 4/10. Read my full review / Pre-order the book
58. The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin - 5/10. Read my full review / Buy the ebook
59. Sin by Josephine Hart - 5/10. Read my full review / Buy the ebook
60. Broadchurch by Erin Kelly - 6/10. Read my full review / Pre-order the ebook
61. Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman by Stefan Zweig - 8/10. Read my full review / Buy the ebook

Another productive month, although that was partly because I've been ill for 3 weeks and had some time off work. For the same reason, this will be a short(ish) summary!

Undoubtedly my pick of the month, and also my favourite book of the year so far, was Linda Grant's utterly brilliant Upstairs at the Party. This book is so many things: a campus novel; both a coming-of-age story, and a story about what comes after; an exploration of sexuality, gender and individual identity; a mystery; a story about education, class and politics in the 1970s and beyond; a character study; a love story that isn't, a love story about a friendship, and an account of a doomed affair; and more besides. I absolutely LOVED it and I can't recommend it enough. I implore you to buy it when it comes out - or pre-order it now, the Kindle version is priced at just under £5 at the moment, which is a massive bargain if you ask me.

I also loved the sparkling, perfectly formed Bonjour Tristesse. You might have noticed that I've been trying to read more classics over the past couple of months, and so far I've really enjoyed most of those I've chosen. In June, they included J.D. Salinger's short story collection For Esme - With Love and Squalor, Stefan Zweig's novellas Chess and Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman, Honoré de Balzac's rich, funny The Wild Ass's Skin, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's frightening story The Yellow Wallpaper.

In the 'just okay' corner: Young God, a startling, gritty novel but rather too horrible to actually enjoy; Sin, a novel of revenge with fascinating themes but hateful characters; The Night Listener, based on a really interesting true story but with too many diversions into irrelevant subplots. I liked Susan Barker's expansive historical/fantasy saga The Incarnations, but wasn't taken with the protagonist, and found many of the themes disturbing (there's a lot of sexual violence). The novelisation of the TV series Broadchurch, written by Erin Kelly, was alright but nothing to get excited about - all of Kelly's previous books are better.

Funnily enough, in the same month I discovered the best book of the year so far, I also read the worst. In fact, I'd put The Vanishing by Tim Krabbé among the worst books I've ever read. Totally flat and pointless with awful, awful characters. While nowhere near as bad, I was also disappointed in the new Louise Douglas book, Your Beautiful Lies. Compared to her other novels it's very, very dreary and I found the main character unsympathetic and her love interest bland. I like the fact that the author's tried to do something different but it didn't really work for me.

To follow up on my post about books coming out in June & July, I guess it's worthy mentioning that a couple from that list ended up on the 'didn't finish' pile. The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters seemed good but I just couldn't get into the narrative or summon up any motivation to keep reading it. Definitely not bad in any way, but just not my thing. Meatspace, on the other hand, I really wasn't keen on - it reminded me a lot of Danny Wallace's Who Is Tom Ditto? which I also disliked. I'm just not interested in reading about laddish guys, and I think it aggravates me even more when the characters are made somewhat 'nerdy' in order to make them likeable - they just come off as even more horrible to me. On a more positive note, I've started After Me Comes the Flood and am happy to report that it's excellent so far.

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