Friday, 3 July 2015

Summer reading

July made an entrance without me noticing. Most of June was a blur of activity with schools ending and whatnot. I am surprised how much I read, considering. As usual, my reading was random and varied. There are few genres I don't enjoy but these days I am gravitating towards fiction rather than non fiction. I seem to be particularly drawn to science fiction at the moment, with crime fiction as a tried and trusted go to when I can't find anything else that tickles my curiosity. With regards to authors, I am working my way through all of Margaret Atwood's work.

My chosen June read was 'The Blind Assassin' by Margaret Atwood. This didn't disappoint although it took me a while to get into it. I was at first confused about the story in the story in the story. The book is about two sisters, Laura and Iris Chase, their childhood, their relationship with each other and with the political radical Alex Thomas, Iris' arranged and failed marriage to Richard Griffen and finally, Iris in the now. I was left thinking this is a story about a life not well lived and I felt very sad for Iris and Laura, particularly Iris. It is not a book easily summarised, there are so many threads it is difficult to give an accurate account. There is plenty of reference online but I found it more enjoyable getting sucked into the story and starting to understand the complicated relationships page after page. Margaret Atwood is very good at keeping you on your toes, making you want to read another page, and then another page, and then another page.

For a bit of lighter reading I immersed myself into the first installment of a crime series set in the Peak District in England. The series is written by Stephen Booth and the book is called 'Black Dog'. The book was just right for late night reading, it requires not much thinking. I found it rather disappointing actually. The main characters have no real depth and fall into the categories of 'hard-nosed ambitious b**tch' and 'sensitive bloke with personal issues'. I found these traits were very cliched and the relationship formation between the two detectives is rather immature (setting each other up to look like a fool) and I can't really imagine any professional relationship develop like that. Funny enough, the less important characters were more appealing, maybe because they have not been overdrawn. The actual story wasn't particularly riveting either. It kind of sums up as the the good native villagers meet the nasty nouveau riches in the big house. I am holding off getting the next book in the series until I have really not got anything better to read.

I indulged myself in a second crime novel, this time by James Oswald. It was 'Dead Men's Bones'. I have written about his series of novels before. I don't know why I was lured into reading another book in the series. The mildly maverick but likeable detective Tony McLean is investigating the murder suicide involving a prominent political figure and his family. He is at the same time investigating the murder of an unknown man who was found covered head to toe in tattoos, which have been inflicted on him by whoever abducted him. You need little imagination to figure out that the two are linked. As usual, Tony is set up as the man to take the fall should things go wrong. Which they do. Unfortunately, James Oswald is rather vague on many points, including said fall from grace, details of case development and the resolution of the case. The latter is immensely disappointing and again (as in previous novels) includes a good dose of the supernatural. I am just saying one thing: selling your soul to the Devil (literally) doesn't make for good contemporary crime fiction. Seriously. Human relationships are complex enough and there is no need to invoke the supernatural in the crime genre.

There are only two crime series at the moment that I don't find disappointing. These are the Bryant & May peculiar crime unit series by Christopher Fowler and the Department Q series by Jussi Adler-Olsen.These are well researched, well plotted, well written, witty and the characters are more than just pale shadows. Don't get me wrong, the crimes investigated do sometimes border the unimaginable but lets face it, a book investigating high volume crime such a car theft or house burglaries don't make for riveting reading.

When I finished reading 'Life After Life' by Kate Atkinson I was thinking that I would have liked this book to be longer. So I was exited about her new novel, 'A God In Ruins', which she describes as a companion novel to 'Life After Life', rather than a sequel. The main character of the first novel, Ursula, is on the sidelines, this book is about Teddy, the younger brother she doted on. I suppose we are in one of Ursula's lives that wasn't featured in the previous book. The story bounces forth and back in time, always homing in on the Second World War, during which Teddy was a pilot of a bomber participating in the bombings of German cities. We meet his wive Nancy, their daughter Viola and Violas children Sunny and Bertie. It is a life story of sorts of all of those people. I haven't read any reviews of this book yet but personally, I was a bit disappointed. It is well written of course for Kate Atkinson is a gifted writer. There was nothing wrong with the story, I just felt is was a bit of a wash out. It took my a while to get to the end of the book and I didn't miss it in the breaks. 

I listened to Peter Clines 'Fold'. I do like good science fiction, I really do. By good science fiction I mean a storyline that is almost credible but not quite. In fold, we meet Mike, a high school teacher. He appears perfectly normal at first but then we find out that he has an eidetic memory, a gift that makes him the perfect guy to find out what is going on in a research facility where a small team of researchers test and retest a device that allows individuals to travel longish distances by stepping through a gateway, the Albuquerque door. All is not quite as it seems though but it is near impossible to put a finger to what is not quite right. This is where Mike and his astounding memory enter the story. All is indeed not as it seems but you'll have to find out for yourself because I do not want to spoil the fun. I shall only mention the green mutant cockroaches that are not actually mutants. These  have already featured in '14', Peter Clines last novel and are enough of a pointer if you have read this first book.

Lastly, I read a quick delightful novel, 'The Age of Miracles' by Karen Thomson Walker. This book is also science fiction. The narrator is Julia, an introvert 11 year old girl. She lives with her mum and dad in Los Angeles and leads a normal life until all of a sudden, the earth rotation slows down and days/nights get longer and longer. Gravity is affected, and the environment changes slowly but dramatically as plants and animals fail to adapt to long hot days and long freezing nights. The health of humans is affected, too. Amidst that change, Julia is also learning to cope with the normal things of growing up, of her parents marriage falling apart and with being in love for the first time. I enjoyed this quick read. I wonder if the target reader should be adolescents rather than adults. I am sure my daughter Annie would enjoy this book, too. She is Julia's age.


In July, I want to read 'A Crime In The Neighborhood' by Suzanne Berne.
Do you this author? I don't. It is always good to leave one's comfort zone and try something new. What are you reading just now? Do you have any recommendations? Do tell. If you don't feel inspired by my own reading, why not check out The Year In Books hosted by Laura over at Circle of Pine Trees?


Happy reading! Cxx

15 comments:

  1. I'm always in awe of how much you read in a month Christina. I don't often read crime fiction but have enjoyed the latest book from Val McDermid this month. I'll get around to writing about it soon.

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  2. Margaret Atwood is very hit or miss for me. Of course I loved The Handmaid's Tale, but Crake and Oryx left me cold. Blind Assassin is on my waiting list at the library. I loved Life After Life and it's sequel A God in Ruins is waiting for me on my Kindle. I like the Department Q books too. Just finished a fairly good mystery, first in a series, The Burning by Jane Casey.
    Right now I'm reading A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah about a boy soldier in Africa, so, so sad. Just finished Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier, a reread, and of course loved it. I'm also reading We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shrivner, the story of a child killer told by his mother and it's riveting. Also reading Ken Follet's Fall of Giant's series, good, but not riveting, I find the characters a bit cliched.
    Really enjoyed Still Alice by Lisa Genova about a Harvard professor with early onset Alzheimer.
    I'm a big science fiction/fantasy fan and can't recommend Station Eleven highly enough.

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  3. Gosh, you've read a lot last month! I've yet to finish the last chapters of the Kate Atkinson book I'm reading at the moment. Just can't find the time. 'A God in Ruins' sound interesting. I'll add that to my reading list. I like Margaret Atwood' s work too. I haven't read the 'Blind Assassin', but I've enjoyed 'Alias Grace', 'A Handmaid' s Tale' and her collection of poetry 'Eating Fire'. I'm a fan of crime fiction too. Have you tried A. Indridasson' s books about an Icelandic detective ? It's very good, I think.

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  4. I'm not getting to read much at all lately. I really should get on with it! Can't believe we're into July already.

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  5. I loved, loved, loved The Blind Assassin - all of Atwood's books, really. Definitely makes more sense towards the end than it does at the beginning!

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  6. Hello, and thanks for the reviews. Nice of you to share.

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  7. I really am in awe with all that your read. June went by in flash...

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  8. I don't read many crime thrillers but you may have caught my attention with one or two. I like the sound of the Kate Atkinson novels. I like books that have tenuous links to previous books but aren't sequels. Hope the life on the home front is calming down a little for you.

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  9. Wow you've read such a lot! I agree about the supernatural in crime... I just get very frustrated with it. I will have to try those series you recommended, I like a good crime book now. I really want to read the Kate Atkinson books :) And I've never really got on with Sci Fi but I think I should give it another chance, I wish there was more time in the day to read! Enjoy July's reading x

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  10. Gosh you have done a lot of reading Christina, and I really enjoyed your reviews. I am reading the Kate Atkinson at the moment, though not very far into it. I keep wondering if I should be reading 'Life after Life' alongside to see if events match up, and that it is making me feel a bit anxious, however I am quite enjoying it so far, though agree not the masterpiece that is 'Life After Life' X

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  11. Wow! I can't get over all the reading you did for June! Shamefully, I would consider that a good year's worth of reading! In my defense however, lately I have been reading much more than usual in between my self teaching to spin fiber and weave both cloth and such as well as tapestry weaving.

    I too love a good mystery but I also read slowly, intentionally. I used to be into Sci Fi but not so much in recent years. When I find a really juicy book that appeals to me right away I don't want to leave the characters behind so I take my time and usually instead read several books at a time making them last longer! I know, I know, crazy but that's me :D
    Hugs,
    Beth P
    P.S. Thanks for the reviews!

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  12. I really enjoy reading about what others have been reading! These all sound interesting to me. I think we must have very similar tastes in books. I enjoy Kate Atkinson and Margaret Atwood too, though I haven't read either of the books by them that you mentioned here. Thanks for sharing, it's great to get more reading ideas. :)

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  13. I dislike the supernatural elements in James Oswald's crime series too... not the best crime books I've ever read but I enjoy them enough to keep reading them! I'm quite enjoying his Sir Benfro fantasy series though, about dragons. I've not had time to read since I started 30 Days Wild, but I'm getting on top of things so will have time for it again soon!

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  14. I've read a couple of Margaret Atwood books and enjoyed them so I should get her back on my list again. I am always in awe at your energy for reading :) xx

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  15. your reading list always puts me to shame! I have been reading the same book for over a month now. I really seem to have lost my reading lust. You however are such an inspiration. Sx

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