Tuesday, 29 November 2016

November 2016: Favourite Reads

November 2016: Favourite Reads

As usual, there's a lot of crime fiction in this month's favourite books post. I've also been reading quite a few new releases too. They weren't all a hit though and, as usual, I've picked my favourite reads of the month to share with you.

Most of the books on this list were from the library and have now been returned, so I haven't been able to photograph them all together. Considering my photography skills this is probably a good thing.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

As I admitted in my review of Swing Time that I hadn't read any Zadie Smith before. I thought I'd better read her first and most famous book before I read her latest one. White Teeth is one of those books that, as a writer, just leaves me in awe. Not only was it original, well written and intelligent, the sheer time and planning that must have gone into coming up with all the characters and their timelines is amazing. And she was so young when she wrote it!
What also struck me about White Teeth was how funny it was. It's a long book, and deals with difficult subjects like race and family, but Smith's humour ensures its enjoyable.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

So onto the next Zadie Smith; I've already reviewed her latest book, Swing Time, but I had to include it in this month's favourites too. It focuses on the childhood friendship of the unnamed narrator and Tracey, two brown girls who both love dance. Even though their friendship ends abruptly in their twenties, neither can escape it or its repercussions in their later life.
I definitely prefer White Teeth but Swing Time is still an excellent book that explores friendship, race and culture, while also exuding Smith's love of dance from nearly every page.

Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves (Vera Stanhope #2)

The Vera Stanhope series by Ann Cleeves

Damn my Grandmother! She's always lending me crime fiction books, which turn out to be part of a huge series that I get hooked on; I then add a whole lot of books to my reading list and lose even more shelf space. This month she leant me Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves, which is the second Vera Stanhope book.
I loved Telling Tales and have managed to pick up two more Vera books from the library; The Glass Room and Harbour Street (5 and 6 in the series, I haven't been reading them in order, just whatever I can find first).
I think the character of Vera is fantastic and original. She's such a mix of things; independent, lonely, drama queen, intelligent and always defined by her weight.
Cleeves' writing is incredibly atmospheric and she can make you feel the barren beauty of windswept Northumberland or the claustrophobia of a tiny country town.
This series has been made into a TV series Vera, as has Cleeves' other series, Shetland. Neither of which I've seen but I definitely want to once I've read some more of her books.

Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

Along Came a Spider by James Patterson (Alex Cross #1)

I finally read the first book in the hugely popular Alex Cross series by James Patterson. In Along Came a Spider Detective Alex Cross must tackle the kidnapping of two school children, the brutal murder of a poor family in the Washington projects and a serial killer who's desperate for fame.
Along Came a Spider is every bit as fast paced and addictive as everyone says. But, while I did enjoy it and read it in one sitting, I also guessed the main plot twist, which ruined it a bit.
I like the character of Alex Cross and found him complex, yet at times he was also a bit too good to be true.
However, I did enjoy the book and would like to read more of the series. It's ideal holiday reading.

Has anyone read these books? What did you think? I'd also love to know what you've all been reading this month.

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Friday, 25 November 2016

Classic Literature: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Book Review

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

"Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst, for I will do mine! Then the fates will know you as we know you."

I've been reviewing a lot of new releases recently and I thought it was about time to show some appreciation for the classics.
First off is one of my favourite books, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. This is my rather battered but loved Penguin Classics edition.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Smoke Hunter by Jacquelyn Benson

Book Review

After the first few chapters of The Smoke Hunter by Jacquelyn Benson (Headline) I considered giving up as I was not particularly impressed. The stock characters were acting out a story that's by no means new. And the romance, which can be seen coming a mile off, was almost ridiculously clichéd.

There were a few touches of depth; the lead character Ellie is a suffragette and Benson writes about the restraints and patriarchy that she encounters with passion and warmth. The history of Central American ancient cultures was also interesting and an area I don't know much about, but this was all overwhelmed by the rather unoriginal story-line.

But I carried on reading, and I'm not sure exactly what it was that hooked me in but something did and I finished The Smoke Hunter in a day and wanted to read more. I'd like to say that it was the fascinating history that got me hooked, but I think it's more likely it was the dreadfully predictable but still somehow page turning romance.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Book Review

Review of Swing Time by Zadie Smith

I've got a confession to make; I hadn't read any Zadie Smith novels until a few weeks ago, when I ploughed through White Teeth as I knew I had Swing Time to review and wanted to read her most famous novel first.

I don't know why I've never read any Smith, maybe because when White Teeth came out in 2000 I was 13. It's always been on my to-read list but for some reason I've never got round to it. I'll do a review of White Teeth later (it blew me away) and will focus on Swing Time here, but I will say that by reading White Teeth first I got a true feel for Smith's writing and themes. Maybe I should have read Swing Time blind but I'm glad I read White Teeth first.

Anyway, everyone has been awaiting Zadie Smith's latest novel and the chances of her writing a bad one were very low. And Swing Time is not bad, it's exceptionally good, tackling such themes as friendship, race, culture, finding your 'tribe', religion, celebrity and more, all with Smith's typical dose of reality and humour.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Cover Me in Darkness by Eileen Rendahl

Book Review

Review of Cover Me in Darkness by Eileen Rendahl

By just flicking back through a few of my older posts you'll see that I love a good thriller. Crime fiction is my thing, but it's often hard to find something original in a genre that's so saturated. I had high hopes for Cover Me in Darkness by Eileen Rendahl (Midnight Ink); I liked the cult angle and though 'murder made to look like suicide' has been done rather too many times, the story seemed to have legs.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

October 2016: Link Love

The Reading Nook - October 2016: Link Love

This is a new monthly post featuring, you guessed it, links that I love. I know it's a little late for October's post, now being well into November, but I've been spectacularly unorganised as usual.

Each month I'll bring a round up of what I've been enjoying on the web, including books and writing related links as well as a few random favourites.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The Evenings by Gerard Reve (translated by Sam Garrett)

Book Review

The Evenings by Gerard Reve (translated by Sam Garrett)

In The Netherlands The Evenings, published in 1947, is considered a classic and is taught in schools, but many English readers have never heard of it or author Gerard Reve, who was the first openly gay writer in The Netherlands.
Finally, almost 70 years after its original publication, The Evenings has been translated into English and was published by Pushkin Press on November 3rd 2016.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

October: Favourite Reads

October 2016: Favourite Reads

This month's favourite reads post is a little sparse; October was a month of rather disappointing books punctuated, luckily, with some great ones. I'm wondering whether to do a post on the books that I've struggled with, would anybody actually be interested in that?
I'll have a think.

But back to the good books. These four really stood out in an otherwise dreary reading month. I've just realised they're all crime fiction and all part of a series, clearly I have a type.