I don’t do the most brilliant job keeping you all abreast of what I’ve been reading. In fact my last reading updates post was on July 24. Better late than never, though, right? I’ve blown through my 2015 reading challenge already. I set myself the goal of 50 new books by the end of the year and I’m currently on 64. Though I love blogging, I’m trying to not let blog reading dominate all my reading time.
1. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
I really enjoyed this novel. I was quite moved by its accounts of trauma, grief and mental illness. Though flawed- I found Matt to be a compelling narrator.
2.Looking for Alaska by John Green
It’s a fairly standard boarding-school story of pretentious and precocious teens, but I still really cared for Miles and the rest of the gang, and in typically Green fashion, it was a tearjerker.
Verdict: 4 *
3. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
It was definitely an easy read, and I enjoyed being in it’s world, but it was a bit bland. Colin, as a narrator is whiny and annoying and the plot didn’t bring a lot to the table.
4. The Palace of Curiosities by Rosie Garland
Essentially it’s about a Victorian sideshow. So I should have loved it. But I didn’t. I enjoyed how weird it was, but the two main characters, Abel and Eve despite their peculiarities were just dull. Because of it, the whole novel felt very flat.
Verdict: 2 *
5. The House That Jack Built by Graham Masterton
I’d heard that this novel was a legitimately terrifying haunted house story. It started out with a great deal of spooky (and very explicitly gruesome promise). And then it fell into that old horror trap: recycled misogyny. I’m not sure there isn’t a single male character that doesn’t get off on the suffering of women. Ick. Ick. Ick. Ick. I’m so bored of reading/watching horror driven by the fear and hatred of women. Come up with something else!
6. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
This was a random grab from the library on a whim. It’s a fairly standard teen mystical love story, a la ‘Twilight’, but I enjoyed the “good guy falls in love with the bad guy” plot.
Verdict: 3 *
7. The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper
Never has a book about a stolen child, a college professor and a battle with ancient evil ever been so dry and boring. I think maybe plots about men struggling at odds with their own faith just aren’t for me, however, if you love Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ you might want to give this a read.
8. The One That Got Away by Simon Wood
I fell like the downfall of this novel was that it was marketed along the same lines of “Gone Girl” and “The Girl on the Train”. But it’s not even remotely similar, unless you consider having female characters a uniting tie. This was a fairly bland crime novel involving a serial killer. It had the makings of a good story, then got too swept up in cliches.
9. The Ritual by Adam Nevill
This might have been the biggest reading disappointment in recent memories. The first half is so darn good. A group of middle age men go on a hiking trip to reignite their college friendships. They get lost and things go horribly wrong. It’s the male version of the “Descent” and I loved it. Then in the second half the survivor finds himself in some idiotic plot line about ancient ritual sacrifice and heavy metal. Why couldn’t you stop halfway through, Adam Nevill, why?!
Verdict: 2* – 4* for the first half, 1* for the second.
10. House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill
Because the first half of “The Ritual” was so good, I decided to give Nevilleanother chance. Don’t let me down this time… Initially I was interested, creepy house, WW1 era taxidermy- tell me more! And then the story got weird and confusing. The horror in the second half was drawn out way too long and rendered the reader insensitive to what was happening and then the book was over. Meh.
11. The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan
An enjoyable historical fiction. Nothing life-changing, but all the key elements are there: mystery, a beautiful estate, atmospheric. Some interesting attitudes about mental health and pregnancy were presented, especially postpartum depression. The novel feels a bit laborious and tedious towards the middle though, and the two narratives together didn’t compare as nicely as the author clearly thought they did.
12. Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill
Adam Nevill’s generally high ratings are what convince me to keep giving him second chances. I’m always fooling myself. Yet another novel of his that on the outset had masses of promise and of particular interest to me. Young American vintage enthusiast inherits prime flat in Kensington. Said flat is obviously in a haunted building. Breaking down the barrier between worlds through art is an interesting concept. I can get on board with it’s tripiness. But then this book rapidly descended into nonsense.
13. The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse
I enjoyed it, but I didn’t go crazy for it. I felt that it would have made a significantly better short story than a novel. It was really, really stretched into excessive detail in places to hit the “novel” length. It was over-written in a way that I don’t usually attribute to Mosse and I think all its problems could have been solved with some generous editing.
14. Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid
Updated Austen works are always hit or miss, and the original ‘Northanger Abbey’ is a favourite Austen of mine. The biggest flaw in this update is the absolutely cringeworthy use of abbreviations and slang, especially in the text messages exchanged by the characters. But I totally dug that McDermid set it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
15. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Penguin Modern Classics) by Muriel Spark
I loved reading a book set in a girls school- think “The Dead Poet’s Society” for girls. But as a teacher Miss Brodie’s influence is a bit more nefarious. There’s a lovely balance of being both appalled and compelled by the Brodie set, and obviously by Miss Brodie herself.
16. The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood
I found it a pretty interesting “crime” read. Especially when considering the age, income level and how privilege effects trials and the justice system. I enjoyed the mystery, but was a bit put off by the sweeping justifications and generalisations made about social classes and the poor.
17. The Heir (The Selection, Book 4) (The Selection Stories) by Kiera Cass
I enjoyed “The Selection” series. I admit it. So I was excited for this latest instalment. But how can the child of Maxon and America be so annoying? If she had gone through selection at the same time as her mother, America, her mother would have hated her. I’ll still read the next book though, because I can’t not finish a series. And it’s nice to see Maxon and America still in love.
18. Marie Antoinette by David Adjmi (play)
In my hunt to find plays to direct for Truc Vert’s interactive theatre night, this is the one I settled on. It’s a great play, and I thoroughly enjoyed it (Or else this wouldn’t have been the one I picked!). All else shall be secret in case you have booked tickets.
19. Banquet for the Damned by Adam Nevill
Damnit Nevill, this is your very last chance! You hear that? Last one! Once again, I loved the atmospheric setting that Nevill created. (A very moody St Andrews.) I liked tying academia to a history of witchcraft, but meh. The characters weren’t compelling and a never felt seriously unnerved by the “threat”. It was so graphic that it became fairly silly.
20. Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase: Book 1 (Lockwood & Co 1) by Jonathan Stroud
This series was recommended to me by the lovely Lindsay. I got completely sucked into it. It’s YA, and it’s just such a joyous adventure. Set in a London where 60 or so years ago, ghosts started making themselves known to the public and if you were ghost-touched you’d immediately die. But adults can’t see the ghosts, only children can, so the city is patrolled and policed by agencies of kids.
21. Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children) by Ransom Riggs.
After I read the first Miss Peregrine book, I knew that I was going to keep up with the series as the novels were published. The series is eccentric and a bit creepy, and I absolutely love the collection of black and white photographs amassed for the books. This second book wasn’t quite as strong as the first, in my opinion.
22. Lockwood & Co: The Whispering Skull: Book 2 (Lockwood & Co 2) by Jonathan Stroud
Lockwood and Co are at it again with their ghost fighting abilities. I enjoyed the development of Lucy’s powers. And it definitely held my attention enough to read the 3rd book.
23. The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library series Book 1) by Genevieve Cogman
I loved this book. Is the library hiring? I want a job, if so. The library is an inter dimensional “hub” of sorts and the librarians collect rare books across all the dimensions and alternate realities. Our heroine and librarian in question, Irene, finds kindred spirits on a job in alternate Victoria-era England. Sherlock Holmes assists in her quest. But what makes this London different is that Vampires and Fairies are real and hold the reins of power.
24. Lockwood & Co: The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud
Again enough to keep me interested and rooting for the Company. As all the kids are approaching becoming adults it will be interesting to see how they deal with their ghost-senses failing and becoming regular adults. (But my suspicion is that Lucy’s powers don’t fade.) I didn’t appreciate yet another cliffhanger ending.
25. The Host by Stephanie Meyer
I know, I know, it’s cool to hate on Meyer and “Twilight” but hear me out…. I didn’t hate “The Host” (ducks for cover). Yes it has all the classic Meyer writing problems, plus a weird love triangle but at least the character engaged in premarital sex. Oh, and I found myself genuinely caring about The Wanderer. What can I say? I must like books about alien invasions.
26. Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
The last of the Miss Peregrine books, and I felt satisfied by it. I thought it was a very fitting conclusion to the series, even if I did find the last 30 odd pages quite rushed.
27. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
I know it’s a classic, but I just don’t like it. I found it unbearably boring. I might have cared about their descent into barbarism if I thought that any character had development at all, but all the boys were interchangeable essentially, with maybe the exception of Simon. Controversial opinion, I think the prose was bad. Plainly dreadful. And I just don’t buy the assertion that humans failure to govern and the failings of the human race are represented by the example of some priggish English schoolboys on a desert island.
28. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Technically, this is a rereading in honour of Halloween, but I always enjoy it. It can be read as a classic ghost story, it can be read as a descent into madness and devious instincts, and it can be read as a combination of the two. I have so many theories on the reality of the book, but I will refrain here as to not spoil it for those who haven’t read it yet.
What have you been reading lately? Any good recommendations?