Monday, 20 February 2017

a new reading year

I have been meaning to write about my latest reading adventures for a couple of weeks now but there was always something more important to say. If you hate urban fantasy and science fiction, you may want to give this post a miss. With the current state of the world on a disaster trajectory, I can only face reading fodder that is firmly set in a fantastical world. It needn't be a perfect or even a particularly good fantastical world, just one in which the leaders are not inarticulate despots or evil witches.

Bucking the trend, I started of with a book that is set in reality. It is 'About Grace' by Anthony Doerr. I discovered this author in December and very much enjoy his prose. This book is not actually about Grace but about David Winkler, a desperately lost soul. At first glance, David is an ordinary man with an ordinary life and a particular fondness for snow. Sometimes though he dreams events before they happen. The dreams are accurate and events dreamed seem unavoidable. When David dreams that his baby daughter Grace drowns in a flood as he is trying to save her, he abandons home and family and ends up on a Caribbean island - a desperate attempt to save his baby girl. There he finds some solace in the friendship with a couple who also have a daughter, with whom he forms a father/daughter relationship. Many years later, David travel back to the US to find  his daughter, Grace. I have just finished the part where he drives across the country, visiting every single Grace Wheeler (Grace's mum is a Wheeler, not a Winkler. Long story). I hope to finish soon, I am eager to find out if Grace is still alive and if David gets a chance to get to know her.

All other fiction this month was enjoyed in audio versions. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't enjoy fiction by means of audio book.

My next book was set in the current time, in a small town called Sorrow Falls in Massachusetts. There is nothing extraordinary about the town apart from a spaceship that landed in an open field three years previously. Nothing has happened since that day, the spaceship sits in the field doing nothing at all. The story is not so much about aliens and first contact and all but about Annie Collins, a sixteen year old living in Sorrow Falls, and the community she lives in. We meet her three years after the landing, when she offers to be the guide for a journalist who arrived to write about the extraordinary object and how it has changed the community. Things go wrong soon after and it is a bit of a whirlwind that leads up to a grand finale. The book is fun, the dialogue witty and the characters likeable. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it.  Oh, before I forget, it is called 'The spaceship next door' by Gene Doucette.

Gene Doucette is not an author I had ever heard of and I decided to find out if he authored other books. He did indeed. The Immortal series (three books) is definitely of the urban fantasy genre. The three books are a fairly quick read and make good entertainment whilst working on something else. The main protagonist is Adam, an immortal of indeterminate age. He describes his first memories as being along the lines of 'fire good, ice bad', which makes him old indeed. Adam doesn't know why he stopped ageing at about 32 years old. He is immune to infection and other diseases but can be injured by accident or violence and could be killed. He is not only a very old man but also a very lucky man.
We meet Adam in the current time but there are many diversions into the past. Adam makes for an excellent guide through history. The 21st century is not a time Adam finds easy to get used to, changes happen terribly fast and he can't quite keep up emotionally. Imagine your mode of transport to be your feet or maybe a horse for millennia and then within a short period of time, cars, trains and planes make travelling easy and fast. The thought experiment alone is mind boggling. With information technology and all the other modern gizmos, Adam doesn't go unnoticed and with immortality a pretty useful commodity, is a subject of interest for many parties. The stories are essentially either adventures to escape capture by agencies and/or super mad scientists, or are the result of Adam's actions in the distant past. Easy escapist literature with interesting historic snippets.

Lastly, I have also been labouring my way through Tana French's 'The Trespasser'. This is the sixth in the Dublin murder squad series. Boy it is tedious. I don't care much for Antoinette Conway, the lead detective in this particular book. Her behaviour and actions are downright paranoid at times. I guess it is not surprising considering Antoinette suffers a degree of harassment at the hand of her colleagues that I can simply not believe to be tolerated in any modern workplace, certainly not a Western police force. A colleague peeing in her locker and another one stealing her written up and signed interview statements? The degree of corruption amongst Antoinette's colleagues rivals that reported for the Russian government. Please tell me I am not that naive! Of course sexism and nepotism are still widespread, even at a renowned institution as the one that employs me but there are safeguards in place to prevent or punish behaviour described in this book. Apart from that, the story is on the dull side and unnecessarily protracted. The audiobook is over 14 hours long. With four hours to go, I have lost interest and don't even want to find out what happened to the murder victim, Aislinn. I have a confession to make here: I didn't particularly enjoy any of the Dublin murder squad books, with the exception maybe of the very first one. I keep going back to it because people are raving about Tana French's crime books and I feel like I am missing out by not getting it. I obviously don't.

I am hoping to finally read Ian McEwan's 'Nutshell'. I know some of you have read it and have mixed feelings about and I have put it off a bit for this very reason. Alas, with Spring on the doorstep and me working school hours in just a few days, there will be opportunities to read when I 'watch over' the boys at the playground. Keeping my fingers crossed for some good weather.

Happy reading!


  1. I've heard a couple of extracts from Nutshell and quite fancy reading it. I tried a Tana French book a while back and really didn't enjoy it either. I read it because so many people seem to love her books so I thought I'd find out what all the fuss was about. I just about struggled to the end, but it wasn't a good read. CJ xx

  2. Love these bookish round-ups. I know I've read one Tana French, In The Woods, which I seem to remember was an okay story. I've read most of Ian McEwan's output but Nutshell I'm not at all sure about. Will be interested to read your review. Have a good week.

  3. Some of these really sound good, I'm always looking for good urban fantasy or science fiction. I have liked Tana French's murder squad stories, but not this one, it was boring, boring, boring and I didn't like Antionette at all.

  4. Hey Christina,
    I've had a rather disappointing February, read wise. I'm wondering whether I expect too much from a book. Having said that I did enjoy Alexander Masters, 'A Discarded Life' and 'The Genius In My Basement' He has also written 'Stuart; A Life Backwards' which was an excellent read. All three are biographies. I found two travelogues by Oaul Theroux (Louis Dad) in my friend's charity shop at the weekend, and am looking forward to them both.
    Leanne xx

  5. I've never heard of Gene Doucette but I quite like the sound of the books you've mentioned.

  6. I always enjoy reading your book reviews. I really want to read About Grace and I fancy the Ian McEwen too.

  7. I have written down About Grace to my to read list. I have heard it is really good from several friends. His writing is amazing is it not? Hugs.


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