Twenty-four books read this month, not surprisingly as I seem to have been reading pretty much non-stop. I've just been putting in the stats and was surprised to see how many books there are from the 1001 list. I've read a few interesting books this month, a couple of blah books, many good books and some that were very good indeed. The Angel's Game was my absolute favourite of the month, with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies coming a close second.
All but one of my challenges were met, and I think you'll guess which one wasn't. That's right. Once again I added more books to my TBR pile than I read from it. As you can see, I read thirteen so you'll gather that I was very bad indeed. I've been to The Works again, I'm afraid…
7 x bookrings
13 x from TBR
4 x local library
13 x 1001 list
6 x Big Read
Chess – Stefan Zweig (1001, bookring) This was a really slim book but a very engrossing story to start the month. Two chess players meet on a boat. One player is an open book, one is more mysterious. I very much enjoyed it.
Schindler's Ark – Thomas Keneally (1001, tbr) This wasn't what you'd call a light read in terms of the subject matter. Holocaust books always get to me. I supposed I'd be worried if they didn't. This one was written in quite a dispassionate way though, making it easier to read than some. It made you focus more on the larger than life character of Schindler than the misery surrounding him. It was still an emotional read, but fascinating and very well written.
Moby Dick – Herman Melville (1001, Big Read, tbr) This was my second attempt at reading this book. I tried it about five years ago but only got a few chapters in before discarding it. This time I managed to finish it. I enjoyed the part that was all about the storyline but found the constant blathering on about other stuff a bit tedious at times. I gather though, that the blathering is what makes this such a good book so maybe that's just me then? One thing, I am rather fond of whales so I did find some of the scenes in the book rather distressing. I took heart at the end though when I was able to cheer on the white whale as he won his battle against the nasty Ahab.
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler (1001, tbr) After the last two books, I felt I needed some light relief so I picked up this. I do like a bit of film noir! This was superb. I do love Chandler's writing style and his characters are wonderful. This is how one of the main female characters is introduced:
Her eyes rounded. She was puzzled. She was thinking. I could see, even on that short acquaintance, that thinking was always going to be a bother to her.
It goes on:
Then she lowered her lashes until they almost cuddled her cheeks and raised them again, like a theatre curtain. I was to get to know that trick. That was supposed to make me roll over on my back with all four paws in the air.
As you read, you can just hear Marlowe, the private eye, drawling out the narrative. It sets the scene perfectly. One day I really must watch the films to see if the're anywhere near as good as the books.
Visions of Sugar Plums – Janet Evanovich (local library) According to the author's website, after Hard Eight there's a break from the numbered books for this one. It's a thinner book than the others in the series so far and has a sort of supernatural slant to it. And it's Christmassy. I liked it, but not as much as the numbered ones. There were some funny moments in it but not as many as I expected and it just wasn't long enough.
The Curse of the Pharaohs – Elizabeth Peters (local library) The second in the Amelia Peabody murder mystery series. I love murder mysteries and I nearly always guess who the murderer is before they're revealed. It's part of the fun of reading them, trying to work out whodunnit. In this book, I must have suspected every character at one point or another. Even poor unassuming Mary! I had no idea. Brilliant! It kept me guessing right up to the last minute. I loved it. Now I can't wait to get my hands on book three.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (tbr) Absolutely bloomin' priceless! The second book for the Everything Austen II challenge. The link to my review for the challenge is here.
Cry Wolf – Tami Hoag (SIY, tbr) This was a nice easy read, and a good chunky book at 528 pages. I did find it slightly 'bodice ripper-ish' in places and some of the phrases used made me giggle. Overall I did enjoy it but I probably wouldn't seek out any more by the author.
Behind the scenes at the museum – Kate Atkinson (Big Read, SIY, tbr) I really enjoyed this. I loved the quirky way it started, it intrigued me and drew me in straight away. I liked the Footnotes that kept delving back into the past giving you the history of Ruby's family. I thought the way that they weren't necessarily set chronologically was much better as it added to the mystery.
And if we're talking about mystery, there's Pearl. From the start you suspect that there's 'something', and you just have to keep reading to find out what. You have an idea early on, but you need it confirmed, you need to know and the author keeps dangling the truth just out of reach, almost to the end. Clever.
Oh I really loved this book.
To the nines – Janet Evanovich (local library) Despite having two very chunky books on the go, plus a queue of bookrings waiting to be read, when I picked this up from the library yesterday it somehow managed to wangle its way right to the top of the pile. I was just going to peek at the first page, as you do, but I seem to have accidentally read it all. Ooops. It was really very good, and just grabbed me and drew me in. I loved Stephanie's mishaps with Ranger's men. There were several laugh out loud moments, but with these books I'd be disappointed if there weren't. I've just noticed there are some books that look a different series advertised in the back of this one. Wonder what they're like…
Dark Visions: The Strange Power – L. J. Smith (tbr) This is a young adult novel and is about a group of five teens who have psychic powers. It's the first in a trilogy. I bought it as I like L. J. Smith's books although this is the first that I've tried that didn't have vampires in it. I did like it very much though. The psychic powers are nicely understated, there's the usual teen angst going on but not too much so. It was a complete story, but was set up nicely for the next one to follow on from. And I do need to read the next one. Good job all three books are in one bind-up then.
Unraveled Sleeve – Monica Ferris (bookring) This is part of the book-spiral that I started reading last year. It's been eight months since last received a book as there's been a bit of a hold up but I soon got back into the characters and really enjoyed this installment. In this book Betsy and Jill go away to a stitch-in that sounded rather like a needlework equivalent of a scrapping weekend, only with a murder-mystery for Betsy to get her teeth into. I enjoy the descriptions of various needleworks in these books, especially now that I'm cross stitching again. And I like the cosy murder-mystery aspect. They're comfort reading and perfect when you fancy something lighter.
Never the bride – Paul Magrs (bookring) This is the first installment in another book-spiral. The publisher has very kindly donated the author's first four books in the series and when I heard the description, I was intrigued as it sounded nicely bizarre. So, firstly I absolutely love the cover. If I'd seen this in a bookshop I'd have bought it on the strength of the cover art alone. It's perfect. The book itself is witty, quite dark, tongue-in-cheek and nicely gothic. There are some wonderful classics mixed into it. We start off with a bit of Mary Shelley, move on to H. G. Wells and then some Sweeney Todd and of course some Bram Stoker. It is set in Whitby, after all. Then you have some Most Haunted, a nod to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a hint of Twin Peaks. Just to mix it up a bit.
The book is about two ladies who live next door to each other. Both have an interesting past which reveals itself over the course of the book, while they encounter more and more mysterious and supernatural goings on. I'm really looking forward to the next installment!
Midnight's Children – Salman Rushdie (1001, Big Read, SIY, tbr) This has taken me ages to read. Not only is it 650 pages long, but I just couldn't settle to it for longer than a couple of hours at a time. (The light reading above was slotted inbetween the pages of this as a diversion.) Having said that, I did like it. The narrative style was pleasant to read, and having recently read The Great Indian Novel, most of the historical content was very familiar and so was enjoyable. I've read several novels set in India recently and I liked this one a lot more than say The Siege of Krishnapur, another Booker prize winner, but not nearly as much as the two by Aravind Adiga. Rushdie has several other books on the 1001 list so I'm quite looking forward to reading those, especially the notorious Satanic Verses.
Siddhartha – Hermann Hesse (1001, bookring) A nice short peaceful read. I really enjoyed this story of a young man's journey into old age and the attainment of wisdom.
Less than zero – Bret Easton Ellis (1001, bookring) I really liked this one. It was all sex, drugs, parties, misery and boredom – all rolled up together. (not sure what that says about me) It gets progressively nastier as the book goes on and is set during the narrator's Christmas vacation from college. It was very compelling and very easy to get drawn into. This was my first encounter with the author so I'm looking forward to finding more of his books now.
Jude the obscure – Thomas Hardy (1001, Big Read, SIY, tbr) I loved this. Not quite as much as Tess, but almost. Arabella was loathsome and I felt like giving Sue a shake occasionally. And you couldn't help but feel for poor Jude. I love the way Hardy's novels draw you in and get you so involved with the setting and characters.
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo (abridged version) (1001, Big Read, SIY, tbr) I'm not sure why I've been putting this one off as once I started reading it, I had great difficulty in putting it down. I really enjoyed it. From the first chapter when Valjean is rejected by the townspeople, I was completely hooked. A marvellous story. I don't normally buy abridged versions but this one was given to me and I'd almost finished it before I realised it wasn't the full version. I'm told though, that the main thing missing is a huge chunk of Waterloo. As I've recently read War and Peace, I think I've had my fill of battles this year so I'm excusing myself. Ok?
Things fall apart – Chinua Achebe (1001, bookring) A slim book at only 151 pages and one of the few African novels on the 1001 list. This was a fascinating read and the hour or so it took me to read it absolutely whizzed by. I thought the ending was a bit abrupt but maybe that was me wanting the book to last longer as I was enjoying it so much.
Middlemarch – George Eliot (1001, Big Read, tbr) This was a bit of a whopper at 800+ pages and I've been reading it a bit at a time over the past month. It took a while to get into, partly because some of the book was set in a place called Tipton and I couldn't help but smirk every time it was mentioned. If you're not a local, that probably won't mean much to you, but if you are, you'll understand why I kept hearing the characters suddenly start speaking in broad Black Country accents in my head. It was very off-putting.
Other than that, the book was very good indeed. There were several main characters whose lives intertwined. Some of them I wanted to give a good shaking at times, and some I really commiserated with. Definitely worth the time it took to read.
Falling man – Don DeLillo (1001, bookring) This is the first book that I've read by this author and one that I've wanted to read for some time. That's partly because the author has several on the 1001 list, and partly because I have a morbid fascination with the events of 9/11. Having now read this, I'm keen to read more by the author as I very much enjoyed it. It starts with a man walking away from the towers as they fall and ends in the same place. It goes through the days and years following, going back and forth, in time, and between characters and places. It was compelling, and spellbinding, and I read it in one sitting despite getting to the stage of almost having to prop my eyes open as I was so tired. Recommended.
The Angel's Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafón (tbr) I bought this as I'd read and enjoyed the author's previous book, Shadow of the wind. I've put off reading it for a few months as I was worried that it wouldn't live up to its predecessor. And now that I've read it? It wasn't as good as Shadow of the wind, in my opinion it was much, much better. I was completely gripped the whole way through. It was complex and dark and deliciously gothic. Every now and then you got a hint of what was going on that made you stop and think. And then dive back into the book to see what was going to happen next. Absolutely brilliant!
Agnes Grey – Anne Brontë (1001, SIY, tbr) This is the second novel by Anne Brontë that I've read, the previous one being The tenant of Wildfell hall. While I liked the first one, I much preferred this. It was a very light and easy read and I read the last ten pages with a smile on my face. It was a lovely book with a feelgood ending, and was just right to curl up with this afternoon while I had the house to myself.
Angelology – Danielle Trussoni (local library) This was one that was recommended to me by Tree. I've had it on order at the library since June and it finally arrived a couple of days ago. It's not something I'd have picked up normally, but Tree hasn't recommended anything that I haven't enjoyed yet so I gave it a try. And, I really enjoyed it. I liked the way the events of the past were narrated in between the present day. I thought the story moved along at a nice fast pace and dropped in plenty of interesting moments along the way. The only disappointment was the ending. I turned the last page and found it had finished when I expected it to carry on a bit more. Other than that, a slightly different and entertaining thriller.