Book Count (since 1 January 2012)

Book Count (since 1 January 2014): 30

Friday, 27 April 2012

Murder on Page One by Ian Simpson

An easy to read, quite light and fairly engrossing murder mystery.  This book is good "fun" and keeps you guessing.  The writing is unobtrusive and occasionally humorous but there is nothing earth shattering about it.  I did enjoy the characters who were entertaining, if a little stereotypical.  This is a very readable crime novel and would be a good holiday read.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Gillespie and I by Jane Harris

A very enjoyable, fast paced novel with an intriguing and unusual plot which I very much enjoyed. The characters are realistic and very well drawn, particularly the complex main character - Harriet Baxter. The novel is set in the 1880s and is about a young painter and his family who are befriended by Miss Baxter, a 30 something spinster. The painter's family meet with increasingly serious mishaps until a tragic event calls them to question whether Miss Baxter is what she seems. The novel is narrated by Miss Baxter, who is writing her memoirs from a flat in 1930s London and, certainly towards the end, the opinions of the older Miss Baxter gives the narrative a more sinister slant. A thought provoking novel which is also an enjoyable read.

Monday, 23 April 2012

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Is this fiction or non-fiction? No one knows.

The book follows Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley, as Ernest endeavours to start out as a writer. It is interesting and the narrative is well written and fairly engrossing but it lacks sufficient drama to be properly termed a novel. It is a bit like a book version of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris - fun, surreal and easy but ultimately a bit self satisfied. In summary, I shall borrow an eloquent phrase from a sullen teenager I happened to be sitting next to on the bus this morning "s'alright".

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

Starts badly. Ends better.

The first few chapters are a bit difficult to get into as the writing style is very Southern American (i.e. there is lot of incorrect grammar and made up words – and not just in the dialogue). Once you get used to that, it becomes less like reading an adolescent's diary and more like a novel, particularly once the plot picks up. The story is interesting and the characters are likeable but it is still quite a superficial book. There is a strong religious theme and the "miracle" at the end stretches the reader's credulity rather – I don't mind a bit of mysticism but in this novel it was too incongruous to be believable (although to be fair my doctor says I have unusually high levels of natural cynicism). Entertaining but not especially memorable.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Half of the Human Race by Anthony Quinn

This book is excellent. "I couldn't put it down*!!" It is about a young suffragette whose beliefs and ambitions clash with social expectations, and her one time admirer, a young man who becomes an officer during World War I. It is interesting, well written and easy to read. The characters are perhaps a little idealised but not so as to detract from the overall believability of the narrative. I very much enjoyed this and would wholeheartedly recommend it.

* although I use this ironically it is metaphorically true.

The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas

A romantic novel about a young woman who goes on a trip to India to rediscover her family's past. Luckily, this past is more interesting than "my grandparents lived in India for a bit" (although not by much). There are some truly amazing coincidences. The young woman can hardly turn round without accidentally bumping into people who have some connection to her grandparents. Or perhaps not that amazing. India is quite small.

The characters in this novel are a little one dimensional but the writing is good and the plot, although thin, is gently flowing. Definitely a readable girly novel and would be a good beach read.

[Note to author: there is no grammatical rule which requires the words "in spite of.." to be followed by "...perhaps because of...". You're welcome.]

The Book of Crows by Sam Meekings

This book is divided into sections with two main plots interspersed with smaller, incidental stories.  This makes the whole thing too disparate to be an enjoyable or satisfying read.  The writing is good but the narrative too disjointed and each plot is too independent to amount to a cohesive whole.  What little plot thread there is (linked to the mysterious book of crows) is unrealistic, vague and spectacularly uninteresting.   It might be more gripping if you are keen on theology (I said might - don't blame me).

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

A novel about a retired man who sets out from his house in Devon to post a letter and ends up walking to Berwick-Upon-Tweed in a pair of yachting shoes. I enjoyed the plot and the characters, who were likeable and interesting, but it is the writing that I really enjoyed about this book. The language is very well chosen but not pretentious or cumbersome so whilst this is very easy to read it is also wonderfully descriptive. This is a very thought provoking novel and one I would recommend.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

A novel about a banker who is in an accident and loses the use of his limbs. His mother hires a young woman to be his carer and, predictably, they develop a relationship.

My favourite scene is when the author describes the carer's trip with the banker to a classical music concert. The carer is from a working class family and it is the first time she has been to a classical musical concert. She is worried she will be bored. But then... the music begins...she is "rapt" and starts to cry as she has never heard anything so beautiful. What an imagination. [c.f. Care of Wooden Floors which contains a wonderful and much more realistic description of an audience member at a classical musical concert]

Overall though, if you don't mind a bit of literary cheese, this is a readable, fairly well written romantic novel with a predictable (but still bearable) plot.

Tom-All-Alone's by Lynn Sheperd

I was disappointed by this book which I found rather boring. It is about an ex police detective who sets himself up as a private investigator after being dismissed from his job. As the title suggests, this is a Dickensian novel and unfortunately I found it suffered from an excess of imitation. If I wanted to read a Dickens novel, I would read a Dickens novel, not a novel which tries very hard to be reminiscent of a Dickens novel. The arrogance and stupidity of inviting comparisons with such a popular English writer irritates me. And although the writing isn't bad the plot and characters were too bland for me - particularly the insipid main character. If I were you, I'd read Bleak House and have done with it.

The Somnambulist by Essie Fox

I very much enjoyed this novel set in Victorian London about a young girl being brought up by her mother and aunt who have very different outlooks on life.  The characters are colourful and realistic and the plot is fast paced and interesting.  There is a touch of the Victorian gothic in this novel which gives it a slightly darker tone than you might expect and lends an air of mystery to some of the aspects of the plot.   The writing is unobtrusive and a little formulaic in places but this does not detract from a very readable and enjoyable novel.