Book Count (since 1 January 2012)

Book Count (since 1 January 2014): 30

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Seven Houses in France by Bernardo Atxaga

A novel about a small colony in the Congo inhabited by employees of a French rubber company who direct the natives in the extraction of rubber from the jungle. The book is about the relationship between the local tribes and their French employers as well as the political wranglings between the French for control of the encampment. The writing is good but the characters are very difficult to engage with as they are portrayed in a very two dimensional way. I also found the plot quite dry and at times almost boring. The more interesting characters, such as the camps champion marksman, were disappointingly underdeveloped and similarly the more interesting plot lines, such as the love affair between a French lieutenant and a local girl, were simply dropped without any exploration. This novel is not bad and the writing in particular is enjoyable but it does not live up to its potential and could have been a lot better.

Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh

An enjoyable book about a young man's expulsion from Oxford and his subsequent career as a school master. The novel is often humorous but contains a very powerfully portrayed message about the difference between the social standing of the rich and poor regardless of their education or ability. I enjoyed this book very much.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

This is a very unusual book about imaginary friends. The main character, Max, who apparently has undiagnosed autism, has invented a friend, Budo, to help him through school. The book describes their relationship and envisages a separate independent identity for the creations of our imaginations. Whilst this is an interesting idea the framework of the plot and the writing made it a difficult concept to accept, perhaps because there was no acknowledgement that the novel involved a fantastical element so instead of feeling drawn in to a new world the reader feels almost as though they're being made a fool of.
Having said that, the writing is very good and the characters excellently developed.  There are some very touching moments, particularly between Max and his parents. The second half of the book is a lot more exciting and easier to engage with than the first half as the plot picks up pace and the writing improves. I did definitely enjoy this book but there was something about the way the whole concept was portrayed which I found difficult to swallow.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

The third and final hunger games novel, this book is about Katniss' participation in a revolution against the Capitol.  It is an exciting end to the trilogy but not as gripping as the previous two novels nor as well written. Of all the hunger games books this is most obviously a young adult book. Whilst it is an enjoyable end to the story, this book would not stand alone as both the plot and the writing are weaker than the previous books.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Very slow start but after the halfway point this gets better.  It is a thriller about a couple who are struggling with their relationship when the wife disappears under suspicious circumstances.  There is a twist about half way through and it is after that that the book hugely improves – the plot becomes a lot more interesting and the characters more complex (albeit not especially realistic).   A fairly good thriller but on balance it is not worth the slog through the first half.

Life! Death! Prizes! by Stephen May

I really enjoyed this unusual, thought provoking and well written novel.  It is about a young man who's finds himself responsible for his younger brother following the tragic death of their mother.  The book is a clever and sometimes amusing look at grief and adult responsibilities.  I thought the main character was very well drawn and likeable which made this book easy to engage with and enjoyable to read.  The novel is fairly dark but not depressing - worth a read.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Merivel by Rose Tremain

Seemingly neverending.  But end it did and I suggest we move on.

Snake Ropes by Jess Richards

This novel is honestly one of the most bizarre books I have ever read.   It is about a remote island community whose only link to the mainland is when traders visit monthly to exchange goods with them.  As boys start to go missing from the island, the women seek their own form of justice.  There are shades of traditional fairy tales, psychology and magic which do not always blend together particularly well and which sometimes lead to a slightly confusing read.   I am really not sure if I loved it or hated it.  I loved the idea but hated the way it often became too surreal, particularly as this made it harder to identify with the characters.  Overall, this is a dark fairy tale which is excellent conceptually but is let down slightly by the execution which, whilst good, is not a match for the complexity of what the novel is trying to achieve.