Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Reading List 2016

I don't really use Goodreads any more, so I have to record my 2016 reading progress here.

It was a slow start to the year: I kept trying to read books but somehow I was unable to get into any of the several I'd started.  But about three quarters of the way through March I bought two books by Oscar de Muriel mostly because they had interesting covers.  It took me a little while to get into the first, The Strings of Murder, but once I did I finished it at a phenomenal rate and started the second, A Fever of The Blood, immediately after.  That one stalled a little in the middle but when I finished it I was really disappointed that it had been published this year, as now I have to wait for the next one to be written...

After that, I finished off The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman.  It was an okay book that could have used better editing: the story only started to get interesting just over halfway through and the ending was an inconclusive disappointment.  I have no idea if there is a sequel, or if there had been one intended before the weird ending.

Then it was onto a spot of non-fiction, with How To Manage Your Slaves by Jerry Toner / Marcus Sidonius Falx which is... well, exactly that: how to buy and manage your slaves in the ancient Roman empire--but delivered with a sense of humour.  Ah, the joys of research.

After that I moved on to The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan, a very lovely book I read a review of in the Daily Mail (don't shoot me) and then forgot the title of.  I had to explain the book to the very nice man in Waterstones who knew exactly which one I meant--and couldn't remember its title either.  He had to Google it, then trotted off to find it on the shelf, came back when it wasn't there, had another look on the system, then located it on a table near the door...  But it was well worth the hunting.

As well as reading that, I read Hitman Anders and The Meaning Of It All by Jonas Jonasson, bought from WH Smith because I spotted it while ordering some pastels.  It's a peculiar and enjoyable novel that isn't quite what you expect it to be when you read the description.

I also managed to finish Snuff by Terry Pratchett, which I'd started last year but for the life of me just could not get into, which was a tiny bit distressing.  It seems that the opening quarter or fifth or so is just quite boring though, and once past that I really enjoyed it.

Then it was Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett which was, I think, a fitting end to the main Discworld stories.  I still have the last Tiffany Aching book to go but... I'll read that when I'm feeling a little less sad, I think.

So it's onto The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins, which I picked up at Waterstones for the very reasonable price of £4, as it was half price.  And who can say no to a half-price book?  it was a better book than I’d anticipated too.  I don’t often read straight-up thriller-type novels because I guess the endings too well, but I enjoyed this — even if I guessed the ending before I was a third of the way through the book.  One thing I didn’t expect was to like the main narrator so much: I’d seen people comment about how unlikeable she was, but she was... well, human, and I appreciated her fallibility.

After that is Storm Front by Jim Butcher, book 1 of The Dresden Files, although it felt a little more like I was several books in and had missed out on some things.  Sometimes I enjoy that feeling but in this case it was a little frustrating, even if I did enjoy the book a lot more than I expected I would.  Still, I’m glad to cross this one off my TBR pile, as it’s been glaring down from the top of the bookcase for a couple of years now — I just wish I wasn’t planning on adding the next one along to it.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest was given to me by a friend who hadn’t enjoyed it.  I can sort of see why.  In some ways it’s enjoyable and the author has a way with words, but it takes too long to get going, I didn’t care too much about the characters, plot twists were apparent a mile off and both the identity of one character and the ending in general were incredibly anticlimactic.

Next up was The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, again given to me for the same reason by the friend who hadn’t enjoyed the previous book.  It’s all written in present tense which sometimes I don’t notice, and other times suddenly lunges out at me and feelings glaringly obvious, but that mostly settles by the end of the book.  Of particular irritation is the author’s continual use of the word ‘chile’ instead of ‘chilli’ for the pepper.  Yes, it’s a nonstandard spelling but I just keep scanning it as the country and then need to reread the line again.  On the whole the book is... odd, with some peculiar pacing and with an ending I found somehow unsatisfactory but can’t exactly put my finger on why.

In the middle of reading that (it was a slog), I also read The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell.  It has some grammatical issues and managed to confuse me by referring to one character as having green eyes, then three pages later stating they’re brown, then half a book later saying they were green again.  This was a problem given a particular plot point; I didn’t know whether I could actually trust the character until I got to the end and realised it was just an error.  Proofreading fail from Penguin, but they’ve been accumulating black marks on that front for a while now so I guess it should be no surprise.  Those aside, it was an enjoyable YA book with an interesting premise—which sounds like damning with faint praise given the aforementioned complaint, but it is an enjoyable book, it just needed more care given to it.

Onto Fool Moon by Jim Butcher, because it turned out I couldn’t be in a bookshop and not buy the next three books.  Then Grave Peril, which had me spending ages fretting about the fate of one character, and then Summer Knight.  And now I’m out of Dresden books again...

So it’s onto Stephen King’s Cell that I picked up cheap in a small bookstore in the Broadmarsh and which I enjoyed immensely.  Now King has achieved a kind of literary fame it seems like critics fall over themselves to call his books ‘thrillers’, but let’s be honest here: this is a lovingly-crafted horror.  It plays on those popular little fears about technology and I couldn’t put it down.  I can’t decide if I’d have liked a little explanation about how it all happened or not, as I liked how it ended anyway...

I picked up the next book cheap in the same bookstore too, and it’s another Stephen King: Full Dark, No Stars, which is a collection of four excellent short stories, with one bonus story.  Needless to say, I enjoyed them all a lot.

After that, I had a small interlude when I was reading two books at once, which then became three.  I started with Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass, the first of a new series.  In some ways it was reminiscent of the Ketty Jay series by Chris Wooding, particularly in the relationship between two characters, but it was also very much its own beast.  Butcher always describes Harry’s cat wonderfully in the Dresden books and this time was just as fantastic.  Rowl really stole many of the scenes he was in, but I grew very attached to all the characters and I’m very much looking forward to the next book.

I was also reading M. C. Beaton’s The Quiche of Death, the first in the Agatha Raisin novels I bought my mother while she was ill.  I’m still reading it but I’m enjoying it a lot: it’s moved from being my ‘Downstairs’ book to replacing The Aeronaut’s Windlass as my ‘Upstairs’ book.  They’re quite short books with sparse prose, but humorous and Agatha is definitely a character and a half...

I bought Alice by Christina Henry while I was waiting for my new phone’s new sim card to activate (turns out it’s dangerous letting me even be in the same city as a book shop) and started reading it in the Nottingham Waterstones’ Costa cafe.  It’s a simplistically written (moreso than Lewis Carroll’s style, which I think was what was aimed for) but enjoyable new version of Alice in Wonderland, although not one for the faint of heart.  I devoured it in a couple of days.

As such I then moved on to the next book by Christina Henry, Red Queen, although so far I’ve not made much progress through it.

At the same time, I also started Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, which I’ve been meaning to buy ever since I read the beautiful comic version illustrated by Cassandra Jean (the second of which I'm waiting to arrive...!).  I rather wish I’d bought it sooner, as it’s very well written and honestly I’m struggling to put it down...

This will, of course, be updated again once I finish it... or remember to, at any rate.

1 comment:

  1. Good for the bookstore clerk for sticking with it and finding the book! This is why I love our librarians. (I'm too broke to buy anything but school books.) Seriously. They've never let me down. :-D

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