This may be the final instalment of this…Let’s see how we go. So, I got up to ‘Cloud Atlas’ by David Mitchell. The nest book I read was:
‘The Daylight Gate’ – Jeanette Winterson – I think this is the first Jeanette Winterson book I have read, I have read a few short stories, I think. Definitely at least one in ‘Gutter’ – which you should all subscribe too, because it is wonderful, which reminds me that I need to renew my subscription – , and I have been meaning to read ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’, forever, and I mean to get round to it at some point. But to this book, honestly, I was a bit disappointed in it.
It is loosely based around the Lancaster witch trials, but I think this was used more for inspiration, and the history in the story isn’t entirely accurate – but it is a fiction book, and that wasn’t really the point of the novel. It felt like a real slog to get through, and it is short, and the prose was beautiful, but I didn’t think the story was that great. This was reflected in other reviews that I read, and I can’t speak for the other reviewers, but I think there was just something that I didn’t ‘get’ about it. So, I am sure that if I had picked up on this, it would have been far more enjoyable. I will at some point get round to reading, ‘Oranges’, and I listened to an interview with her around the time she released ‘Why be happy, when you can be normal’, so that is also still on my reading list.
‘Station Eleven’ – Emily St John Mandel – This year, one of my resolutions is to only buy actual, physical books. Rediscovering book shops has been absolutely wonderful, and although it is easier, and cheaper to read books on my Kindle, the joy of having a physical book far outweighs that for me. So right now, I don’t know whether I will go back to my Kindle, but this was the first book I bought as part of my resolution. I hadn’t heard of it before, and I only picked it up as I saw that it had one the ‘Arthur C. Clarke’ award. (I was creeping around the sci-fi and fantasy section, which is where you will usually find me), plus I liked the cover (yes, I do judge books by their cover), and I am so pleased I picked it up.
It follows the story and interlocking lives of a number of characters, but primarily Kirsten, as she travels through the world, as part of an acting troupe, after the world has come to an end after an illness sweeps the world and wipes out most of the population. The way the stories interlock, and the way they are told, is engrossing. It was amazing, and after I read it, everyone I spoke to about it said they had read it, or were reading it, or that they intended reading it. I was behind the curve (as usual), but this comes highly recommended.
‘The Haunted Hotel’ – Wilkie Collins – This is a horror book, hence the title, and is a classic. Apparently. (Who decides these books are classics?) I believe it was written around the early 20th century, and I hated it. It was boring. It was a chore to read, and I was not one bit terrified. It tells a story of, murder, inheritance, and a supposedly haunted room at a hotel in Venice. The ending wasn’t even worth it. Just avoid. I really can’t find any more to say on it than this. On to the next!
‘Signal to Noise’ – Silvia Morena-Garcia – I picked this up because, once again, I liked the cover (sometimes it works!), and it was one of those books that had the title card underneath it with ‘Staff Recommended’, and a blurb about what the book was about. I read the blurb on the back of the book too, and it didn’t really seem like my thing, but once again, I liked the cover, and usually, the staff picks are really good, so I went against my instincts and picked it up. And, the book was OK. It was pretty middling. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t read it again, and it is in the pile of books to go down to the charity shop. It tells the story of a woman, who returns to her home town/city, after her father dies, and is left to clear up his flat, and when she is there, she remembers one particular summer of her childhood, where she and two childhood friends can use music to create magic. This is also tied into her relationship with her father, her friends, her family, her childhood and subsequent career decisions. It was enjoyable, and it is worth a read, but it wasn’t a standout book for me.
‘The Girl on the Train’ – Paula Hawkins – Yes, I am as prone as the rest of the world to reading the current ‘It’ book (shocking, I know). See also, The da vinci code (compulsive, but terrible), Fifty Shades of Gray, (terrible, terrible story and sex scenes), Twilight (loved it at the time, but after reading many detailed critiques, realised how wrong I was), Gone Girl (I really didn’t like the book, and then I went to see the film, and didn’t enjoy it either. Not sure what I was expecting?) and so on. I guessed the ending just before 50% of the way through, but I read it to the end because it was enjoyable. It was a good, light, easy read. I would never read it again, but I like that I have read it. I will probably see the film too, but mostly because I like Emily Blunt. (Also, you do you think that Ben Affleck was miscast in Gone Girl? I feel as though he would be better in ‘The Girl on the Train’, as Emily Blunt’s ex-partner).
First Law Trilogy – Joe Abercrombie. There are three books in this trilogy (no shit, Sherlock), so I am not going to bother reviewing all three individually. I enjoyed the books, I felt as though the second one was the best, however, the books, pacing wise were actually quite odd. Sometimes it felt as though nothing was happening, and that the pacing wasn’t quite right, but then I would realise 5 pages on that loads had happened in that time, and that Abercrombie was just setting things up in a really fascinating way. The books are set in a world where there are three main powers, the Union, the Gurkish Empire and the Northmen. Effectively the Union is fighting on two fronts, and the story follows a mismatched band as they try to navigate through these ways, each taking parts in different ways. The oddest thing is, most of the characters are total dicks, but you love them for it. You can understand their motivations and why they do what they do, and you sympathise with them.
I don’t think that the books are for everyone, as when I have discussed it with other people, with similar tastes to me, they have not enjoyed it. If you enjoy fantasy, I would suggest you read them, but only when you have a chunk of time to dedicate to them – they are massive books!
‘The Dinner’ – Herman Koch – I picked this up as my ex-partner’s Mum, got me one those ‘page a day’ calendars, and this was one of the books. It sounded interesting, as the premise is that the two sets of parents go to dinner to discuss how to deal with their two sons, who have broken some sort of law. It isn’t clear what this is until near the end of the book, when it all comes to the fore, but I was interested to read the build up to the big reveal. It is also a translated book, and generally, I have found, that books translated in English, are generally always amazing, so I had pretty high hopes. Only to have these horribly dashed.
The two couples are related, as the fathers in each couple are brothers. A lot of the book is spent exploring the hatred of one brother for another. The main protagonist, one of the brothers, is just awful. I could literally find no redeeming features to him, and reading his bile was just drudgery. A lot of the book seemed to focus on Dutch culture, among certain classes, as critique, which was interesting. But, it felt as though the book was not was I was expecting, and while this isn’t always a problem, it was in this case as I did not enjoy at all. Thanks page-a-day calendar.
‘A Little Life’ – Hanya Yanagihara – I have seen a number of reviews since I read this book, kind of slating it as misery porn, and as saying in some ways it is too idealised, but I absolutely loved it. I just could not put it down and ploughed through it. It is a huge book, but it was so engrossing, and I was incredibly attached to all the characters. It follows the lives of 4 boys from college through to adulthood, primarily focused round one main character, who has had a traumatic and debilitating past. It is set in New York, which sounds a bit cliche, but who am I to complain? (Oh wait…my above review, oh well!) It was wonderfully woven together, and I could hardly wait until I got the opportunity to read it all day. I read one review, where the reviewer said they never wanted it to end, and I kind of have to concur with that. I could have kept on reading it and never gotten bored. If you are looking for a long, engrossing read, whether for a holiday, long-haul flight, train journey, whatever. I would recommend you take this book. It may be bulky, but it well worth finding space for it.
OK, I am going to finish there, but unfortunately, it looks as though we are going to have a part four. My quick, fast-paced reviews seem to be getting longer, and longer. I must be getting back into the swing of things! Until next Sunday then…