Wednesday, 27 May 2015

May Reads

1. Seth dies, heartbroken, dashed against the rocks off the coast of Oregon. And then he wakes up, and he's not in Oregon. Instead, he's somewhere vaguely familiar... I'm one of the few readers who wasn't taken by Patrick Ness's award-winning Chaos Walking trilogy, but attracted by the amazing cover of More Than This I decided to give his new novel ago. It's a fantastic mix of dystopian science fiction, mystery and teen romance, and well worth a read.

2. Neil Gaiman's first collection of short stories, Smoke & Mirrors, is a great favourite of mine so I was very much looking forward to his new collection, Trigger Warning. But although some of the stories captured my attention - the short but viscerally creepy tale of a man babysitting his girlfriend's little brother deserves particular mention - I found Gaiman largely going over old ground here. I'd maybe have enjoyed it more if I'd taken the stories one at a time, rather than ploughing through one after the other.

3. Apple Tree Yard is so good, posing all sorts of questions about the relationships between men and women and whether revenge is ever an excuse for terrible acts. Scientist Yvonne Carmichael has reached a comfortable middle age, happily married and successful in her career. However, a chance encounter at the Houses of Parliament will change her life. I can't say much more but I'd love to hear from you if you've read it - what did you think of the twist and the subsequent actions taken?

4. It's 1978, Jess is thirteen, and finding it tough being the daughter of the only Communist in Tamworth. Motherland** follows Jess and her mother, Eleanor, as they spend their summers in East Berlin on education courses, and try to bring the Communist message to their unreceptive neighbours in the West Midlands. Quietly amusing and somewhat reminiscent of Jonathan Coe's Midlands-based novels.

5. Wreathed in good reviews comparing it to I Capture The Castle and the novels of Nancy Mitford, I had high hopes for The Lost Art Of Keeping Secrets***. Alas, my hopes were dashed: I found this novel a bit dull and utterly lacking the sparkle, quick wit and - above all - fantastic characterisation of ....Castle or The Pursuit Of Love. The title implies some intrigue around secrets, which I found sorely lacking, and I couldn't bring myself to care about the exploits of heroine Penelope nor her family living in their grand but decaying country house.

6. When lawyer Thora is employed by the parents of a man who has disappeared - together with his wife and twin daughters - from a luxury yacht, mystery piles upon mystery. The Silence Of The Sea effectively combines Thora's investigations with flashback chapters about what happened on the yacht, and the slightly supernatural elements work well. I found the solution a bit rushed at the end but, as always with Sigurdardottir's novels, enjoyed the insight into Icelandic society that the narrative provides.

7. I really liked Seth and Quinn, the main characters in 89 Walls*, and my sympathy with them made up for the fact that there are so many issues and topics crammed into a relatively short novel. As a result, important events seem to spring up out of nowhere, with little build-up or tension. The author has a lot to say about American politics, diplomacy and international relations (within the context of the end of the Cold War), and it's to her credit that this was actually pretty fascinating. I was particularly intrigued to read about the Republican Party before it got highjacked by fundamentalist Christians (with Quinn's father being both a card-carrying Republican and vehemently pro-choice, for example). I do feel the novel would have benefited from either a pruning of the issues tackled or expanding the narrative more so said issues could have been properly explored.

8. The Rise & Fall Of A Theatre Geekwas a sadly sub-standard YA romp following high school student and self-confesed theatre geek Justin as he completes an internship in New York City and dreams of Broadway stardom. I was drawn to this by the gay protagonist, and liked how this element was just one part of his character rather than being the whole issue of the novel, but unfortunately I otherwise found it all a bit silly and immature. Perhaps some YA novels are best read by their target audience only.

9. It took me about half of Say Goodbye*** to realise that I'd actually read it before, but luckily I'd forgotten a lot of the important twists and turns so still enjoyed it. Creepy and disturbing as hell, this is one of Gardner's FBI novels featuring Kimberly Quincy. Here, she's becomes dragged into an investigation into the disappearance of several sex workers from Atlanta: how are their possible murders linked to the shooting of a high school football star?

10. 11. & 12.
I was feeling quite run-down and tired by the end of the month, so ended up doing quite a bit of re-reading of comforting and easy reads: Adorkable, which I reviewed here, The List, which I talked about here, and Dancing In My Nuddy Pants, one of the extremely silly but extremely funny Georgia Nicolson series.

* These books were kindly provided for review by the publishers via Netgalley, but all opinions are entirely my own.
** This book was kindly provided for review by the Curtis Brown Book Group.
*** These books were sent to me by Alex as part of Char's Blogger Book Swap - thanks Alex!
Note: I do not use affiliate links in these posts, I just like to provide a non-Amazon source.