Book Count (since 1 January 2012)

Book Count (since 1 January 2014): 30

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

I found this novel surprisingly light both in content and in its writing.  It follows Gina and Sean, both married, who embark on an affair which affects both their families.  It is difficult to get very interested in this book as the characters are not complex enough to be realistic. The plot is a tired, old plot and idea of rejuvenating it by telling it solely from Gina's viewpoint just doesn't work for me. This is of course better than your standard affair novel but does not live up to the writer's previous work.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

A classic novel which I very much enjoyed. The book conjures up a glitzy era of parties and romance which is easy to get sucked into.  The characters are well drawn and intriguing which makes this book very compelling.  Coupled with the excellent writing it is easy to see why this is an unforgettable novel. 

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

The third of a trilogy and you can tell - the excitement and novelty created in the first novel (Daughter of Smoke and Bone) has lost it's magic. This is still a fun read but the atmosphere of the first book is nowhere near recreated here. I also found the plot a little stilted and certainly left unresolved, which is disappointing. Unfortunately as this series progress it begins to detract from the exoticism of the first book so I do hope there are no plans to write any further novels. I don't think this is worth reading unless you have a compulsion to finish the trilogy.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker

I loved this book. It's beautifully descriptive and the writing is lovely to read. The basic premise is a bit forced - an American woman travels to Burma to discover what happened to her father after he disappeared years earlier.  In my view this was an unnecessary framework for a better story - a love affair between two young Burmese who both suffer from different disabilities and learn to fill each other's deficiencies.  This aspect of the book was very compelling and enjoyable, and I think the modern day context could have been cut out. Overall, an easy but lovely book to read.

The Sunset Limited by Cormac McCarthy

I really enjoyed this play, which is wonderfully thought provoking. It can be difficult to read plays, especially those you have never seen performed, but both the writing and the fact there are only 2 characters in this play make it easy to get drawn into the drama. The play is a conversation between a black man and a white man, which takes place exclusively in a New York apartment after the black man has saved the white man from committing suicide earlier in the day. There is no plot as such but the writing examines religion and the meaning of life, which does not come across as pretentious or artificial. Very easy and worthwhile read.

Skeletons by Jane Fallon

This is a silly book - way too 'chick lit' for me. The plot is unrealistic and the characters two dimensional so it is difficult to maintain any connection with this novel. There is no substance to this book and I wouldn't recommend it.

The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

An easy read which was wonderful after A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing but perhaps a bit light otherwise. It follows a young single mother trying to do her best for her children and a high flying businessman accused of insider trading.  The writing and plot are gently uplifting and there's enough to (just about) sustain your interest.  I much preferred this to Me Before You as it is much more straightforward and unassuming. Would make a good beach read but nothing especially memorable.

A Girl Is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

I have no idea what this book is about. It is excellently written and highly intelligent but unless you are prepared to study every word it is incomprehensible and frustrating to read. Definitely worth studying if you have a spare week or so to dedicate to it, but not worth reading in the midst of everyday life.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Iceland in the 1820s and Agnes, along with two others, is convicted of murdering her employer and his friend. Whilst awaiting her death sentence, Agnes is housed with the local district officer's family and this novel follows both Agnes' harrowing wait to die and the officer's family's acceptance or otherwise of a convicted murderer into their household. The writing is excellent and although the plot is not especially gripping the novel keeps you very interested and this makes it a compelling read. The characters are very well drawn, particularly Agnes and the young priest who comes to administer to her. This is a relatively heavy book to read so not a beach read but definitely enjoyable and worth reading.

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

A novel about Max, a young, popular boy who was born intersex.  Max seemingly has a happy secure life but his secret condition threatens to reveal itself as he reaches puberty and experiences a violent assault. The writing in this novel is good and the story has enough to keep you interested but it's not an especially memorable book, and the storyline gets increasingly unbelievable.  I didn't find this book as powerful as many other reviewers seem to have done, perhaps because the characters of Max's parents seemed to me to be detached and hard to relate to. This is a good book but not excellent and I did not enjoy the subject matter.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Love Nina: Despatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe

I loved this book. It is a collection of letters written by Nina in the 1980s when she was a nanny to a London family moving in literary circles. I love the style of the writing, which is witty, eccentric and easy to read. The narrative is entertaining and the people the letters describe are beautifully portrayed and easy to like. These letters make a very interesting and fun read.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

I enjoyed this book, which is about a photographer who moves from New York City to a remote rural cottage in order to help get her finances in order. I enjoyed the writing in this novel which is wonderfully descriptive but easy to read. The characters are well drawn and the story compelling. A very easy and entertaining read but has a real depth.

The Bear by Claire Cameron

A young family go camping and are attacked by a bear. The two children survive and this novel is written from the point of view of Anna, the oldest child, who tries to help her and her brother to safety. This is a difficult book to read and it is very well written, but it is nowhere near as good as Room.

All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

I really enjoyed this novel which is about a young Australian girl, Jake, who is living on a remote island in the UK and raising sheep.  Jake is escaping from something in her past which is gradually revealed throughout the novel as she begins to come to terms with it.  The plot is compelling and Jake as a character is very well drawn. Definitely worth reading.

The Radleys by Matt Haig

A fun book about a family of vampires trying to fit into suburban life. This is an entertaining read and funny in parts but not especially memorable and a bit silly. Not as good as The Humans.

From The Holy Mountain by William Dalrymple

A much more interesting book than I was expecting, this is a non-fiction book about a journey through Istanbul and the Middle East. It isn't as dense as I thought it would be and I learnt a lot about the history of religious conflict. There are anecdotes and human interest stories throughout this book but I found it difficult to connect with any of them.  I didn't find this particularly enjoyable to read but it is worthwhile if you are interested in religious history or that part of the world.

Capital by John Lanchester

A very readable book about the residents of Pepys Road, South London. I really enjoyed reading this book, which has some well drawn characters and interesting stories.  This book is not especially literary and some of the themes were a bit forced but it is very easy to read, entertaining and well written.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Meeting The English by Kate Clanchy

When Philip Prys suffers a stroke his first wife, Myfanwy, hires a Scottish school leaver, Struan, to care for him in a bid to prevent his second wife, Shirin, from dissipating the family funds.  The book then follows Struan's attempt to fulfil his job description despite an increasingly dysfunctional family life involving both wives and Philip and Myfanwy's two children. The characters in this book are very well observed, particularly Struan and Julia, the youngest of the two children, although Myfanwy is perhaps slightly overdone as the uncaring first wife.  The writing is excellent, with lots of wonderful descriptions of London and the Heath, which makes this book very easy to read and enjoy.  I would recommend this novel.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

An unusual but very entertaining novel about a concierge in an upmarket apartment block who hides her intelligence and cultural tastes from her employers for fear of breaching social etiquette.  There is lots to enjoy about the writing in this novel, which is humorous and often very powerful without being overbearingly literary.  The characters are depicted very well and are easy to like which really draws you in to the social atmosphere the book creates.  Intelligent and often moving, this is one of those books which is enjoyable as a read but which also has a real substance to it. 

Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer

A novel about a young anatomy student, Patrick, who has Asperger's Syndrome and struggles to fit in with his fellow classmates causing much anguish to his mother.  The plot in this book is very compelling and definitely keeps you interested but I think the way Patrick's character is portrayed lacks the depth of books like The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night or The Rosie Project.  I enjoyed this book and it is an exciting read but there are better books at tackling the subject of this disease.

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

An average book about the run up to a traditional American wedding and the strains this puts on family relationships.  Very easy reading.  Not very memorable.

Unfaithfully Yours by Nigel Williams

This book is written exclusively in the form of letters between six people – five old friends who have lost touch and a private investigator.  Setting out the book like this means it is sometimes artificial as plot turns have to be crowbarred into a letter in a way which does not read very naturally.  This is not helped by the fact that the plot itself is unrealistic.  I appreciate this is intended to be a black suburban comedy rather than a real life story but it is still a little incredible.  And it is not funny.

Marriage Material by Sathnam Sanghera

I really enjoyed this well written novel about an Indian family living in Wolverhampton.  The plot begins with a family of four who have moved over from India in the late 1960s and follows the son of one of the daughters as he grows up and moves to London.  This novel has racism and racial integration at its heart but it is not a moralistic or judgemental book.  The characters are very realistic and easy to relate to, which makes this a very compulsive read.  I enjoyed the writing which is often humorous and handles what could be difficult subjects very sensitively.  A great novel which is very easy to read but has a lot of depth.

Frenchman's Creek by Daphne Du Maurier

A classic story about an unhappy mother and wife who escapes to Cornwall and finds illicit love and adventure.  I read this in Cornwall which added to the atmosphere but it is a great read wherever you are.  The main character, Dona, is easy to like and this makes the plot more engrossing.  The writing is very good, with some wonderful descriptions of the Cornish coast and countryside.  Definitely worth reading.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Carver's Quest by Nick Rennison

A very enjoyable mystery story about Adam Carver, a young gentleman in Victorian England and his servant Quint.  Adam and Quint enjoy a relaxed, respectful relationship and are both drawn into a murder mystery when they discover the body of a man who had apparently uncovered an ancient secret.  This book is very easy to read and the characters are likeable and charming.  The plot is engrossing but not particularly demanding.  A fun historical mystery story.

Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman

An American thriller involving an ex-FBI agent who is reluctantly drawn back into a case she investigated before retirement.  The case was unsolved and it now appears that the perpetrator has confessed, but have the police found the right man?  Easy to read and fairly gripping with writing which is just the right side of average this is a good holiday thriller.  There is nothing literary about this book but it is entertaining and inoffensive trash.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I really enjoyed this novel about a young boy growing up without a stable family after the tragic death of his mother.  The characters in this book are really engrossing and very realistic, which makes it easy to be drawn in to their lives.  The story is captivating and unusual and although slow in places maintains the readers interest, particularly as the writing itself is easy to read but very rich.   This is not a quick read but the pace of the plot prevents this from ever becoming boring.   Definitely recommended.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates

A novel about a curse which apparently befalls the University town of Princeton, and seems to particularly affect one wealthy and powerful family.  It sounds brilliant but I found the story heavily slow, the characters one dimensional and uninteresting and the writing cumbersome.  I found it very difficult to finish this book and my sense of relief when I came to the end did feel like the lifting of a curse.

The Honey Guide by Richard Crompton

This novel is about a Kenyan detective, Mollel, who buries himself in work following the tragic death of his wife.  In the run up to an election, tribal tensions run high and Mollel and his partner struggle against Kenyan politics to try and solve the murder of a young girl.  The Kenyan backdrop for this detective story is very interesting and the plot is gripping.  As a character Mollel is perhaps a bit too much of a stereotypical emotionally wounded maverick policeman but he is still likable and it is easy to root for him as he pursues the case.   Overall an enjoyable easy to read and slightly different detective story which would be good for holidays.

Stoner: A Novel by John Williams

This is a very well written book about a young farmer who, whilst studying a course in agriculture, becomes mesmerised by a Shakespeare sonnet which kickstarts a long career in literary academia.  The plot is very unassuming and Stoner's life is not unusually remarkable but it is the writing and the observations on a normal life which make this a very powerful read.  Stoner is a very principled, just man who encounters personalities during his life which challenge his definition of right and wrong which leaves the reader feeling both desperately sad for Stoner and also questioning their own morality.  I enjoyed reading this very much but it will not appeal to those who look for an explosive plot in their novels.