August 2014 reads

>> Tuesday, September 02, 2014

I took quite a few chances on new authors this month. Several unfortunately ended in DNFs (even though with most of them I read a fair bit before giving up), but some (especially Mark of Cain and those which are on the Man Booker Prize longlist, which I'm attempting to read) were excellent.

1 - Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson: A
review here

A sort of literary Groundhog Day. This is the story of Ursula Todd and all the different paths her life could have taken. I read it for the first time when it came out a couple of years ago, but reread it (or rather, relistened to it) for my September book club. I thought it might be too soon, but it was fantastic, and I'd forgot just enough to enjoy it fully. This time around, the image in my head was someone in a maze, trying one route, a slightly different one only going back one turn, another, going "sod it, I'm just going back to the beginning and taking a completely different route", and so on. I found the refusal to take the easy answer about what the "right" life should be very interesting, too.

2 - Mark of Cain, by Kate Sherwood: A
review coming soon

This is a romance between an ex-con and the brother of the man he killed, which might be a hard sell. It's wonderfully done, though. In addition to a very nice romance, there is a real exploration of themes of redemption and forgiveness, as well as a hero who's an Anglican minister and is struggling with how his church deals with gay priests like him.

3 - We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler: A-
review coming soon

So far, this is my favourite of the books on the Man Booker longlist. Rosemary once had a brother and a sister, but when we meet her, as a college student in 1996, her sister has been out of the picture for many years, and her brother is on the run. We don't know why, and we discover why throughout the book. Some fantastic ideas here, and Fowler executes them perfectly. It's also very readable, even compelling.

4 - To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris: B
review coming soon

Also on the Man Booker longlist. This one is about a dentist whose online identity is taken over by someone determined to spread the word about the Ulms, a Middle Eastern "lost tribe". It's a fascinating book, with its combination of the mundane (and often hilarious) goings on in the protagonist's dental surgery and his desperate search for something bigger (also often hilarious).

5 - The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan: B
review here

Another Man Booker read. A bit of a mixed bag. The sections about the main character and his men, Australian POWs, working on the Death Railway and the aftermaths of this, both on the POW's and their captors, were extraordinary. The sections about the protagonist's love life were just tedious.

6 - The Escape, by Mary Balogh: B
review coming soon

Latest in the Survivors´Club series, centred round a group of characters recovering from the Napoleonic Wars. The hero had his legs crushed during the wars, and after completing the initial stage of his recovery, finds himself at lose ends. The heroine is a recent widow who had hoped the nightmare would be over when her husband died, but now finds herself suffocated by his inflexible family. It's a nice read, but no more than that.

7 - The Collector, by Nora Roberts: B-
review coming soon

The heroine witnesses a murder, and the hero is the brother of the man initially thought to be responsible for it (a murder-suicide). There's a psycho assassin and a search for priceless objets d'art. I liked a lot of it, but the characters never completely gelled for me. Not amongst Roberts' best.

8 - A Letter of Mary, by Laurie R King: B-
review here

I read this one a long time ago, after picking it up at random in Uruguay. Now I've started the series at the beginning. The letter of Mary refers to a manuscript left to Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, by an archeologist friend. The manuscript makes it clear that it was written by Mary Magdalen, who refers to herself as an apostle. Turns out the archaeologist was run over by a car in suspicious circumstances the very day after she visited Russell and Holmes, and they decide to investigate her death. I enjoyed this very much for the investigation and the character development (and for the little visit with Lord Peter Wimsey!), but this time around I found the ending just as disappointing as Russell and Holmes did. Probably more. Plus, there's a promise Russell makes at the end of the book which I thought was completely unwarranted. I did realise there were other reasons for her decision, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.

9 - Too Hot To Handle, by Victoria Dahl: B-
review coming soon

Merry is someone who's always treated like a "buddy" by men. Shane, a carpenter who's a neighbour of hers and her friend, doesn't feel at all buddy-ish towards Merry, but her friend and the friend's boyfriend are super protective. It was nice, but not Dahl's best.

10 - Have Glass Slippers, Will Travel, by Lisa Cach: D
review here

The heroine, having just lost a solid if unexciting job, decides to follow her dream by travelling to England and hunting herself an aristocratic husband. She runs into the hero, who's a duke but doesn't like to boast about it. She thinks he's "just a farmer", and wavers between him and his aristocratic-but-assholic cousin. Cach's humour usually works for me, but here it relies too much on the heroine behaving like a total idiot.

11 - Cold Magic, by Kate Elliott: DNF
review here

Fantasy, set in an alternate version of England. The heroine is suddenly plucked from her home by a dark mage, whom she has to marry to fulfill a contract. It's an interesting premise and the world was quite interesting, but it was all much too slow-moving and the world-building was info-dumpy. Plus, baffling character motivations.

12 - Eight Feet in the Andes: Travels With a Mule From Cajamarca to Cuzco, by Dervla Murphy: DNF
review here

About a trip the author took with her 9-year-old daughter and a mule through the Andes in the early 80s. Very boring, I'm afraid. It's written in diary format, so we get to hear every single detail of every single step they take, and very little of the impressions and stories and characters that good travel books give you.

13 - The Sweetest Seduction, by Crista McHugh: DNF
review here

The hero owns the building where the heroine is renting space for her very successful restaurant. He, however, is planning to evict her and use that space to attract a celebrity chef. They meet before they know this, though, and they're instantly attracted to each other. Some good things (especially the insistence on talking and avoiding Big Misunderstandings), but I got a bit bored and the characters (especially the secondary ones) felt completely preposterous.

14 - Buried, by Kendra Elliot: DNF
review coming soon

The hero and heroine's respective brothers were on a school bus that disappeared without a trace 20 years earlier. Her brother walked out of the woods 2 years after that, but with no memories of what had happened. Now the bodies of the still-missing kids have been found -except for the hero's brother's. He's determined to talk to the guy who survived, and tries to find him through his sister, the heroine. Another one with preposterous characters, I'm afraid, plus pretty bad writing. Oh, and I was listening to the audiobook, and the narrator was awful.

15 - Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin: DNF
review coming soon

Originally published as a serial. It´s about a group of people living in and around and appartmente building in 1976 San Francisco. I wanted to like it, but I had trouble being interested in all but one of the characters. Plus, pretty much all of the male characters were incredibly sleazy!

16 - The Wake, by Paul Kingsnorth: still reading
review coming soon

Another on the Man Booker longlist. Historical fiction about the resistance against the Norman invasion of 1066. Two remarkable things about this one: a) it was crowdfunded, and b) it's written in what the author describes as "a shadow version of Old English". It's hard to read, but I've got into it, and the story's actually really good (even often really funny, in a very dark way).

17 - Carolina Girl, by Virginia Kantra: still reading
review coming soon

The heroine left her small town and made a successful career in the city. She gets fired and goes back to the family inn, not telling anyone about being laid off. The hero is her brother's friend, with whom she had a bit of a romance when she was younger. It's a setup I don't trust (too often there's a "small town: good; big city: evil" message), but I read the first in the series and there are overarching series things I'm interested in, so I thought I'd try it anyway.

18 - The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith: still listening
review coming soon

Second in Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)'s series of detective novels. Our private detective, Cormoran Strike, is a fantastic character, and I love his relationship with his secretary/wannabe detective Robin. The case is also very interesting. It's about a missing writer who's just finished a roman à clef basically slandering all sorts of powerful people. This gives the author the chance to poke a lot of fun at the literary establishment. I'm enjoying this tremendously.


Post a Comment

Blog template by

Back to TOP