Archive for the ‘books read’ Category

How To Be Both

How To Be Both by Ali Smith

In books read on January 25, 2015

I can't say I enjoyed this half as much as I would have liked to. Which is because I love Ali Smith's way of writing like no one else does and though I did enjoy it a lot I would have liked to have enjoyed it more. I think I was just expecting too much of it really. The copy that I read had the modern day story first, and I liked the historical one better. It feels like a book that ought to want a second closer reading, but from previous Smith books I know I'll enjoy it better at full tilt. Can't win that one really!

This was a hardback. This was borrowed.

All Change (The Cazalet Chronicle, #5)

All Change (The Cazalet Chronicle, #5) by Elizabeth Jane Howard

In books read on January 5, 2015

This is the fifth in a family saga that begins in 1938 with a group of cousins - well the whole family but the focus is always on the young girls - going to their grandparents big house in Sussex where they end up spending most of the war. The first four volumes cover the war years and just beyond and sees the girls into young adulthood. This last volume picks up the story in the mid-1950s and sees them in their 30s with families of their own.

At first this book is heavy on the nostalgia with the characters spending a lot of time reminiscing about things that happened in the previous books. It's a bit too sugary sweet but no one who has got this far through the series will really object to this though it doesn't make for a good story. But the world is changing in the 1950s and the Cazalet family must change with it. When things start to go awry for them it becomes a much better book, and knowing the characters as well as you do by this point means that you know it is not going to be that bleak, there are some tough cookies here and there are also characters you are pleased to see get their comeuppance.

In the end the whole series adds up to a lovely, often sentimental (and often in a good way), portrait of the life of an upper middle class family across a twenty year span in which I think Britain changed as fast as it ever had done and yet people, on the whole, managed to keep up and change with it. For once I am not sorry that this is the end of the series, the series would probably have seemed complete at four books but this one does cap off the story well without tying up every loose end and I can use my imagination to guess where the characters go from here.

This was a kindle eBook.

Dead Water (Shetland, #5)

Dead Water (Shetland, #5) by Ann Cleeves

In books read on December 24, 2014

I really enjoyed the "Shetland Quartet". A good linked set of mysteries that had an ongoing story arc that finished off neatly in the fourth book. Which made me rather dubious, almost dismayed, when I saw Ann Cleeves was writing more of them. I know they have been successful but I would rather that the characters had been left alone and the author had found some more good ones to tell me about. I resolved not to read these.

But I couldn't leave it be either. When I realised the titles (with Water and Air) were hinting at another limited frame for the story (the first books used Black, White, Red & Blue) I decided to give it a try and read on. I'm glad I did now, this was an excellent mystery. One of those where you can't believe any character guilty of murder but where it is entirely believable when all in revealed. The atmosphere of Shetland is as good as ever. I'm looking forward to the next one.

This was a kindle eBook.

The Children Act

The Children Act by Ian McEwan

In books read on December 1, 2014

I suspect that when Ian McEwan gets up and scribbles his to-do list on the back of an envelope it is probably a literary masterpiece. This is the second of two books I've read in a row that have made me question why I read fiction. This is a scrap of a story is wrapped around a whole load of details concerning a few court cases mostly to do with the religious beliefs of parents and what they mean for their children when they fall outside those we consider to be normal. This time I felt that I would perhaps rather have read about the real life cases that inspired McEwan to write the book rather than these fictionalised accounts. And I got a bit annoyed at seeing Sally Clark's downfall condensed into a quick anecdote.

In the end though I loved McEwan's scrap of a story, fabulously told and with all the emotions pitch-perfect. Though I'd rather he wrote something else, I'm not going to stop reading or enjoying this kind of book from him anytime soon.

This was a kindle eBook.

The Soul of Discretion (Simon Serrailler, #8)

The Soul of Discretion (Simon Serrailler, #8) by Susan Hill

In books read on November 28, 2014

The first of two books in a row that have made me question why on earth I read fiction anyway. For entertainment mostly obviously. I found myself putting this book down when (spoiler, but not a book-busting major one) the lead character needs to get inside the character of a child-abuser. I picked the book up again and obviously the author no more wants to tell me about the details than I want to read about them, so it wasn't an horrendous experience to read after all. And there was entertainment and information and elucidation. I wouldn't have wanted to have read a non-fiction book with a child abuse (maybe that is shortsighted of me too), and I did get something out of reading a fictional one. There are two storylines in this book that get home the point that people capable of evil don't come with big pointers labelling them as such (and Ben Goldacre said something very similar when leaving a piece concerning a Rolf Harris song in his book I Think You'll Find it's a Bit More Complicated Than That I read recently).

The book itself was pretty decent. I like the ongoing family saga thing that is going on in the background behind the detective stories, and, in the end, I like the fact that Susan Hill isn't afraid of putting some pretty thought provoking stuff into these books.

This was a kindle eBook.

Death of an Avid Reader (Kate Shackleton, #6)

Death of an Avid Reader (Kate Shackleton, #6) by Frances Brody

In books read on November 20, 2014

I've enjoyed the previous books in this series so I was a bit disappointed to walk into Waterstones in Huddersfield a few weeks ago and find a big sign telling me that Frances Brody was coming to sign books... I was disappointed because the time on the sign ended about an hour before I had arrived. Happily as my brain was still processing this a little lady popped up beside me who turned out to be Frances Brody - still there and happy to sign a book for me. Thanks!

I liked this too - it's set mostly in the middle of Leeds which will have me wandering round looking for the right buildings next time I am in the city centre, it's 1920-something and Kate's searching for the adopted daughter of a lady and getting tangled up in a murder at the Leeds Library. Nicely plotted as usual and lighthearted without being too lightweight. Good entertainment.

This was a paperback.

I Think You'll Find it's a Bit More Complicated Than That

I Think You’ll Find it’s a Bit More Complicated Than That by Ben Goldacre

In books read on November 20, 2014

I was a bit disappointed to see that Ben Goldacre's new book was just a collection of his mostly previously published writing - the majority of the book is made up of his Bad Science columns from the Guardian, and you can read a lot of that on his website (which I would recommend as a way to while away an idle afternoon). I was really hoping to see Goldacre get his teeth into subjects a bit more than he gets the chance to do in the length of a newspaper column.

The curious thing is that the short pieces of writing become one of those "greater than the sum of its parts" things: you get to see in ten minutes of reading how the same subjects have been revisited over several years of writing; and although you mostly have to join the dots yourself it turns out to be a very worthwhile read. Occasionally Goldacre adds footnotes - mostly these are where someone has told him that he needs to wait a year or five for some results to be published and the footnote points out that a year or ten has now passed without that happening (big surprise all round...). I've certainly read a fair chunk of this book before so I was surprised to enjoy reading it again quite so much. Despite being a bit of a doorstop it's a book that you can read in three minute chunks, though the short articles reel you in with that "just one more" thing and you suddenly find you've burnt tonight's tea.

Definitely looking forward to his next book.

This was a paperback.

A Breach of Security

A Breach of Security by Susan Hill

In books read on November 20, 2014

I picked this ebook up thinking it was the new Simon Serrailler book. It is a Simon Serrailler book that I hadn't read but it's just a short one, somewhere between a short story and a novella. Oddly it seems to take place after The Soul of Discretion which is the book I was after (maybe not odd - it was published later, it's just that Goodreads has this down as before it in the series). It packs a lot in but as usual with short stories I end up wishing the author had padded it out to develop some of the characters further, everything seems a bit too rushed in this format.

This was a kindle eBook.

Casting Off

Casting Off by Elizabeth Jane Howard

In books read on October 31, 2014

Whereas the first three books in the series are very much about a family spending too much time in close proximity as the result of a wartime evacuation from London to Sussex, and the problems that result from that, this book is very much about the difficulties of the post-war untangling of that situation and how it's no easier to end things than it is to begin them. The young teenagers of the pre-war first book and now young adults making their own decisions at last. The babies have turned into proper children. The adults have grown older - sometimes wiser, sometimes not - and in many ways are finding the new world a harder place than their children are who haven't really known anything different.

I've really loved reading this series, it's been one of those "put the book down because you don't want it to finish" experiences for me. I'm pleased to discover that despite it being advertised as a "quartet" in various places there is actually a fifth book to read which Elizabeth Jane Howard wrote some time after the others. I'm holding off on finding out exactly how auto-biographical she has been until I've finished the series. I started out guessing that Clary was the autobiographical character, but lately I'd be more inclined to choose Louise, mostly because it's a much harsher portrait of a young woman's life as she grows older. Polly has always been too happy and sensible to be any kind of self portrait. I will be interested to find out whether I am barking up completely the wrong tree.

This was a kindle eBook.

The Jewels of Paradise

The Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon

In books read on October 14, 2014

I'm surprised by how miserable a lot of the comments and reviews about this book are. I suspect a lot of that stems from the fact that it's not a Brunetti book - I think it's the only non-series book that Donna Leon has written but I may be wrong about that. I enjoyed it - Leon has stuck with Venice but moved to an entirely different kind of mystery with a female musicologist researching some chests of paperwork belonging to a seventeenth century composer. It's a quiet sort of a plot for the most part but I found it all interesting and was surprised to search and find that the composer at the centre of the story wasn't a fictional creation. The book certainly has a few shortcomings, the end of the story was tied up very quickly without explaining all the details. I think that may have worked better than a long drawn out conclusion though, I could imagine the holes in the plot being closed up rather than having them tediously explained to me and my perhaps not being happy with the explanations. I liked the characters and am kind of disappointed that there's probably not another series starting here. I would quite have liked a family saga about Caterina and her sisters!

This was a library book.


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