Book Count (since 1 January 2012)

Book Count (since 1 January 2014): 30

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

This was my book club's choice, and a very difficult book to review.  Celeste is a beautiful high school teacher with an insatiable sexual obsession with adolescent boys. The subject matter was always going to make this a disturbing read but Celeste is a lot more perverse than I was expecting and this novel is truly difficult to read in places. There are some great similes in this novel but it is very difficult to get past the perverseness of some of the events which are described in the book. This is not a book which can ever be enjoyable to read but it is controversial and that makes it very thought provoking. Worth reading but two qualifications - firstly, this is deviant so be warned and secondly, buy on the kindle - the front cover attracts unwanted interest when on public transport.

The Taliban Cricket Club by Timeri N Murari

I really wanted to love this book but I didn't. I did enjoy it, but it was a lot lighter and more 'feel good' than I was expecting given the subject matter. It is about a young Afgan girl, Rukhsana, who tries to bring the truth of the Taliban regime to the public through journalism but who is thwarted by the brutality of the regime's laws.  When the local Taliban leader announces a PR cricket competition, the winners given the opportunity to leave for Pakistan, Rukhsana coaches a team of her cousins in the hope of winning and escaping the violence of Kabul. The plot is unrealistic and fundamentally a love story rather than an observation on life in a totalitarian state. This is not a bad book - the writing is good and the plot full of suspense - but it is not a heavy weight novel and will not teach you much about the Taliban.

The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

The plot is ridiculously predictable, the characters unrealistic and unlikeable and the writing average. Don't even take on holiday. Cheers for the recommendation Amazon.

Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

Always good fun this novel follows PC Grant as he continues his wizarding apprenticeship and fights supernatural crime in London. With most series, each book's plot is a little bit more tired and threadbare than the preceding one and that is certainly the case here, but even so this remains reliable holiday reading.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Another readable holiday thriller. Amelia, a young high school student, dies in an apparent suicide. Her mother doesn't believe her daughter killed herself and embarks on an investigation to discover what really happened, learning surprising things about Amelia's life. Easy to read with a fairly gripping plot, this is a good holiday choice.

The Humans by Matt Haig

An excellent book which I really enjoyed. Professor Andrew Martin is taken over by an alien life form seeking to destroy the evidence of a mathematical breakthrough which the Professor has discovered. The plot gives a platform for a wonderfully humorous, well observed and thought provoking book about the behaviour and social conventions of humans. The writing is good and easy to read, but it is the delicate observational dialogue and plot twists which I really enjoyed.  A great book.

The Back Road by Rachel Abbott

readable holiday thriller about a seemingly perfectly happy family who start to keep secrets from each other, dragging them down a dangerous and uncertain path. The writing is fine and the characters believable enough to allow the reader to suspend disbelief. This book will never win any awards but it is definitely a fun holiday read.

Perfect by Rachel Joyce

I really enjoyed this book. It is set in the early 1970s and follows James and Byron, two young boys who embark on a project to rescue Byron's mother from potential repercussions following a car accident. The boys believe that the accident was caused in part by the addition of 2 seconds to the year to rebalance time to match the rotation of the earth, and this contributes to one of the themes of the book - the process of time and how humans define it. As the plot gets darker the writing gets better, particularly the development of the main character which is excellently done. Definitely worth reading.

Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach

Leila is a lonely young woman whose mother has just died from MS and who interacts with other people almost exclusively online. She joins a philosophy discussion website and the owner of the site approaches her with a proposal - take on the online identity of another person in order to enable that person to commit suicide without anybody knowing. A disturbing idea and well portrayed, this book is well written and worryingly easy to believe. Leila's complex character is very well drawn and really makes this novel more than just a holiday read. An enjoyable book about an unusual and morally interesting subject.

Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Book Club by Robin Sloan

This book is not what I expected but it is quite good fun. It is about Clay, a young unemployed web designer in San Francisco who takes on a night shift in a small old fashioned book store owned by Mr Penumbra.  Clay's curiosity as to the mysterious coded books which are loaned to eccentric members of a book club leads him on a quest to discover the secret of eternal life. The plot is a little too ridiculous for me, and doesn't even really make sense as a lot of it is never properly explained. However, it is an an enjoyable bit of silliness which is good for a sun lounger

Come To The Edge by Joanna Kavenna

I was disappointed by this novel which is not the hilariously funny book advertised. The book follows Cassandra White, an eccentric smallholder who tries to live self sufficiently in a tumbledown farmhouse in a small village in the Lake District. Cassandra advertises for a farm hand and a young city dweller in her mid thirties decides to apply, after having been left by her husband for a younger woman. The characters are ridiculously unrealistic and not especially likeable and the writing is very bland. It is vaguely amusing in places but in a very predictable way. I barely smiled, let alone laughed out loud, but then I suppose that's what you get for believing a quote by the Daily Mail.  Overall an okay holiday read but not as funny as the reviews suggest.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

An excellent book about a group of young Zimbabweans who grow up in a small shanty town, playing together as the political climate changes around them. The main character, Darling, then moves to Detroit to live with her aunt and struggles to fit in with the overwhelmingly different culture. This is particularly interesting to read alongside Americanah which is about a very similar subject, but which reads in a much denser less accessible way. The writing in this book, though simple, is really enjoyable with lots of very clever wordplays. Darling's character is easy to like and this makes the novel much more accessible than Americanah. Definitely my favourite on the Booker Longlist so far.

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

An interesting novella about Jesus' mother and the way she perceives his teachings and way of life. Worth reading alongside The Liars Gospel to compare the different styles and interpretations of the same subject. Mary is a very well drawn, complex character which makes the book easy to enjoy.  The writing in this book is very good and it is an interesting concept but it was really too short to properly get into.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

An easy beach read about the Bird family and their various tragedies which impact on their relationships with each other and with their ability to function in the world as they grow into adults.  The mother is the most complex and well defined character as she is quite unstable and develops a hoarding habit, which is an unusual and interesting theme for a book.  Definitely readable as the plot is engaging and keeps you guessing but not a literary masterpiece or anything which will stay with you in the long term.  The characters are gripping and likeable but not very realistic.  The writing is unobtrusive and easy to absorb.  Overall a readable holiday book.

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey

A fascinating novel about LA, this book follows a number of different characters and stories some of which are dealt with in one or two pages and some of which the author continues to return to as their stories begin to develop.  Interspersed with these stories are facts about LA and its inhabitants which describe a much darker side to the city than the movie star dream.  The writing style is quite difficult to get into as it lacks punctuation but once you got used to this I really enjoyed the immediacy of this style as it really draws in the reader.  To begin with, the constant changing between characters makes the book a little disjointed but this settles down as four main characters emerge from the different threads.  This book is a very surprising read which I found dark, interesting and very engaging.  Definitely recommended.

Unexploded by Alison Macleod

Evvie and Geoffrey, a bank manager, live in middle class comfort in a town house in Brighton with their son, Philip.  When the second world war comes, an internment camp is opened on the hills above Brighton and Geoffrey becomes the camps superintendent.  Geoffrey's new role puts increasing pressure on his relationship with Evvie and they each start to question their love for each other.  As his parents are distracted by their complex relationship, Philip is free to roam around Brighton and he gets manipulated by his friend into doing some uncomfortable things.   I did enjoy this book which is easy to read but not as heavyweight as you would expect from a Booker longlist novel.  Philip was the most interesting character, and the way he strives for love and a sense of belonging was very well portrayed.  I found the way Philip would comply with his friend's direction often quite dark particularly as it mirrored Geoffrey's compliance with orders regarding the treatment of the internees.  This is a good book with good writing and a readable plot, but it is not especially memorable.

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

This book is about two young men who, after the war, attempt to fly from Canada to Ireland in an adapted war plane.  Before they set off, they are given a letter by a female reporter who is determined to pursue her dream as a writer.  The letter is never opened but is passed down through the generations of the reporter's descendants and the book follows the lives of those in possession of it.  I found this book difficult to engage with and hard to enjoy.  The writing is very good but the plot is slow and I felt the female characters were too undefined to be entertaining.  It is an interesting premis and there is a lot of well researched information in this book but I found it a bit bland and lacking in emotion.

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris

A fascinating novel about a tight knit Jewish community in North London.  The novel has three main characters, each with a different relationship with their faith.   Chani is a young girl, part of a large family, who is resists pressure to marry until she meets Baruch who seems to respect Chani's bold character despite the fact that it is not always compatible with doctrine.  Avromi is a friend of Baruch's who, when he starts at college, struggles to resist the temptations and freedoms of the secular world whilst at the same time being unable to cut himself off from his family and the guilt he feels for what he sees as a betrayal.  Rivka is a rabbis wife and Avromi's mother who was not born into the community and starts to question the decisions she made to join it.    I really enjoyed the different themes within this book as well as the excellently written characters, all of whom are believable and engaging.  The plot is well portrayed and the three characters' stories are woven in a very natural way.   The way the Jewish community is described is really interesting, particularly the different ways the community interact with those outside of their faith.  Definitely worth a read.