Monday, 3 August 2015

July Reads: Part Two

I have to say I'm not really feeling it at the moment when it comes to reading; everything I pick up seems to make me kind of, "meh." I need a really amazing read to pull me out of this slump: any recommendations?

1. I always enjoy the Shetland setting of Ann Cleeves' Jimmy Perez novels, and Thin Air was no exception; the descriptions of island life during midsummer made me want to hop on a plane (and then a ferry, and then another ferry). When a group of London-based friends travel to Shetland to celebrate a wedding, the joyful occasion turns to tragedy when glamourous TV producer Eleanor goes missing. Although the denouement required, as with many thrillers, some suspension of disbelief, I found myself liking and sympathising with the characters, who felt very real. If you haven't read any of the Perez series, this would be a good place to start.

2. A re-read of How To Build A Girl seemed like just the thing to reinvigorate my reading. I first read it last October and thoroughly enjoyed Moran's raunchy humour, class war rants, and perfect depiction of how it feels to be a particular kind of weird, bright, isolated teenage girl, and it stood up well to a second reading. Very much recommended.

3. I Let You Go was an interesting read about the aftermath of a hit-and-run accident in which a small boy is killed. Although it was full of cliche and not amazingly written, it tackles the subject of domestic violence unflinchingly and there was a vibrant realness to the characters and settings.

4. The Long Way Home is the latest in Louise Penny's series about Quebec detective Armand Gamache, and finds him newly retired to the idyllic village of Three Pines that's featured so often in earlier books. Gamache's neighbour, artist Clara, separated from her husband a year ago with the promise that he would return to the village exactly 12 months later. When he fails to turn up, Clara asks Gamache to investigate. I return to this series because, in Three Pines and its inhabitants, Penny has created something quite magical, and I enjoyed reading this because I always enjoy reading about these characters. But there was a lack of tension to the story, which dwells mainly on the philosophy or art before, at the very last minute, revealing itself to be riven with sinister intent.

5. I'd heard lots of good things about Mindy Kaling's book of - what? - essays? Comic vignettes? Autobiographical snippets? But unfortunately my reading of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? became overshadowed by the fact that so many people had told me how much they loved it and how funny it was. As a result, I spent a lot of the time waiting to adore it, waiting to laugh uproariously, and never quite getting there.

6. Periodic Tales is a collection of stories - true stories, about their discovery or their discoverers, or about their historic relevance - about the elements. It's fascinating, although I couldn't read very much in one sitting without feeling like my head was going to explode (it's fair to say science  wasn't my best subject at school, and it took me a shamefully long while to even remember what an element is when I started reading).

7. I really did try with Cross Stitch. Despite it being a behemoth of a paperback, and despite finding my attention waning within 60 pages, I tried to persevere. But it all - the awful transcription of Scots accents, the weird plot points that came without warning, the poor characterisation - just became too much for me and I gave up after 300 pages. So, although I hear great things about Outlander, the TV series based on the book, I don't think time-travel and Jacobite rebellions are quite the thing for me.