Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Reading List # 4

I think this reading list is the most mixed bunch so far, so I’ll just get on with it!

The Scar, China Mieville

There’s a bit of a story behind this choice. In second year of university we did a genre fiction week, discussing why science fiction and fantasy aren’t studied at school. The set text was an 800-page fantasy novel: China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station. I was dreading it, as I would never select something like this, but stuck with it and was more than impressed. Browsing at the library a while ago, I spotted this other Mieville book, and just had to give it a try. The Scar is about a character called Bellis Coldwine, who has been exiled from New Crobuzon, and finds herself living on a floating city run by pirates. They are all on a hunt for a forgotten people and a wound in reality.

Yet again, Mieville has converted me to his favoured genre and blown me away with his writing. The descriptions are exquisite, and the world he creates is so well-crafted that I found it easy to suspend reality – it feels as if you are reading of a world you know. There is no time wasted, though – the story is never lost to huge passages where the author is trying to construct a world. It just works. It’s another long one, about 750 pages, but I’d definitely recommend giving Mieville a try, especially if you’re a fantasy fan already.

After the Fall, Charity Norman

Five year-old Flynn falls from a balcony on holiday and is rushed to hospital. This novel tells of that night in hospital, and the lives of Flynn’s family leading up to this event. I was totally drawn in by the line on the cover describing the book as similar to Jodi Picoult – I’ve said on here before that I’m a huge fan. I can understand the comparison so far as the fact that the story flits between two periods in time leading to a climax, but that’s where the similarities end.

The McNamara family clearly have issues, but these issues were far too overplayed. There were a few too many dramas to draw me in completely. I also felt that the final climax or conclusion was rushed over, which was a shame after having spent so long building the tension. There were some good descriptions, especially in the chapters set in hospital, but I wasn’t wowed.

Fashion Babylon, Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous

This book covers six months in the life of a fictional designer, with all of the events based on real stories from ‘industry insiders’.  It’s a light-hearted, humorous window into a fashion world, and is a good escapist read. I originally read this when it first came out, on holiday, and that’s the kind of book it is. If you want an easy read, and something light-hearted and a bit trashy, this is what to turn too. The only thing that was a shame is that it’s dated very quickly since release – names of places and celebrities are used, so these nods to celebrity culture were only relevant for a short period. Worth a read if you want trashy escapism, but it won’t change your world!

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

Nick Dunne’s wife, Amy, disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary, giving way to a great thriller exploring what may have happened. This really was the book of the summer, so I was looking forward to reading it. This book has all the ingredients for a winning thriller: strong characterisation, multiple viewpoints, suspense, manipulation and twists. The story is gripping and it’s a page-turner. I’m not sure it deserved quite the amount of hype it did get, as I think there are a couple of issues with the plot, or parts where huge jumps are made, but overall I really, really enjoyed it.

So that was this reading list’s mixture of styles. I’m racing through books at the moment, so it won’t be long until the next!

What have you been reading recently?

Sophie x

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Reading List # 3

This reading list contains yet another very random mix of novels. I was in the library and just picked up some books with interesting covers or titles, to be perfectly honest! Amongst this group were a few very pleasant surprises…

Jubilee, Shelley Harris

In 1977, a photograph is taken at a jubilee street party, with a young Asian boy at its centre. 30 years on, Satish is still living with the memories of that day, and a reunion photo is being arranged. The novel weaves together the events of that day in 1977 with Satish’s life now, as a grown man. The day itself is examined from so many different viewpoints, yet is never repetitive, and there are many complex emotions and themes tied to that day which still haunt his life.

I’ve got to say, I absolutely loved this book. It was beautifully written, and cleverly pieced together. Not much actually happens, yet Harris keeps you turning every page, and you are lost in Satish’s story. Satish is such a fully-formed character, and some of the descriptions and thoughtful moments are fantastic. Satish’s feelings of being an outsider are described so intricately, and I was blown away by Harris writing. This one is definitely worth a try.

The House of Velvet and Glass, Katherine Howe

This novel is set in Boston, in 1915. Sibyl lost her mother and sister in the sinking of the Titanic, and has been drawn into the world of psychics, spiritualism and opium dens. The story weaves in fraud and deceit, as Sibyl explores this world with psychology professor Benton Jones. There are also passages set on the Titanic, and chapters on the life of Sibyl’s father, Lannie, when he was a 17 year-old at sea.

This is another novel that is crafted beautifully, and the three time periods weave together well. It was also intriguing to read about a place I know little about, and a fascinating moment in time. There was beautiful imagery throughout, and I enjoyed the afterword, which provided historical context, I wasn’t a huge fan of the final parts of the story, but I’ll leave you to make your own minds up about that!

Burning Secrets, Clare Chambers

Daniel moves to the remote Isle of Wragge with his mother and sister, leaving undisclosed secrets behind him. Daniel’s secrets are gradually revealed during his time on the lazy, seemingly idyllic island. It quickly develops into a pacey mystery or detective-style tale.

This wasn’t the best mystery I’ve read, and I wouldn’t rave about it, but it was a page-turner and it was entertaining.

Just Like Proper Grown-Ups, Christina Hopkinson

This is about a group of women in their late thirties, all facing different challenges in their life. Tess’ pregnancy, by a sperm donor at the age of 39, makes the other women question where they are at in their lives. It’s certainly a good place to begin a ‘trashy’ novel, and it was a fairly easy read.

For me, there were a few too many peripheral characters in this book, and far too many huge dramas for just one group of friends. That’s always the way with books like this, but in this there were just too many messy overlaps and dramas. It also tied up at the end far too neatly for my liking, but if that’s what you’re looking for, go for it.

So there you go, a mixed bag! Coming up in the next reading list are another couple I’ve read already and loved, so that post won’t be too long away.

What have you been reading recently?

Sophie x
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