☰ Menu

Reading

rulesofcivility

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Katie Kontent is determined to be a success in late 1930s New York. She is smart & witty but loses her dream man, Tinker Grey, to her best friend. The plot sagged a little in the middle as Katie drifts in and out of relationships but ends very well. Katie finds out the truth about Tinker, reminiscent of the Great Gatsby. This is written in brilliant evocative style. Full of wry humour, Katie is a heroine worth rooting for. 8 out of 10. June 2017

Stationeleven

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

A story that flits between just before and after a flu pandemic wipes out 99% of humanity. It centres around Kirsten, who lives in a travelling caravan troupe and a famous film star who died just as the pandemic hit North America. Several of the actor’s friends survived in different ways and their stories are told in flashback. The future is bleak and scary but full of kindness and love too. Moving. 9 out of 10. July 2017

MayQueen

The May Queen by Helen Irene Young

May’s life is dominated by her Ma, especially after her sister, Sophie, disappears with a baby out of wedlock. May’s heart is stolen by the Lord of the Manor’s son, but she thinks he’s responsible for Sophie’s child. WWII breaks out and May becomes a wren, finding another man, but never falling for him. After the war she is re-united with Sophie and the heart-throb. Very distinctive voice, and the era is well-captured. Accomplished debut. 8 out of 10. July 2017

Electricsouk

Electric Souk by Rose McGinty

Aisling moves to Arabia to work for the health service there. Her relationships turn out to be troubling and a potential boyfriend seems crooked. The locals are friendlier but who works for the secret police? As the Arab Spring erupts, she needs to flee the country but whom can she trust? Atmospheric & paranoid, but the passage of time is slightly did-jointed. 7 out of 10. May 2017

Valdez

Valdez is Coming by Elmore Leonard

A black man is killed accidentally for crime he didn’t commit. Bob V.aldez, town constable, tries to win compensation for the man’s widow from Frank the man who wrongly accused the black man. When Frank’s men beat Valdez and leave him for dead, their only problem is they didn’t finish the job. Valdez is coming to get you. Fine, compact storytelling, very satisfying ending. 9 out of 10. May 2017

Bewarethecuckoo

Beware the Cuckoo by Julie Newman

Three teenage girls growing up in the late 1970s, one of them abused by another’s father. The story flits between that timeline and the present day when two of the girls are reunited with secrets and scores to settle. The dual timeline reveals just enough information each time to maintain the intrigue. Well-paced easy read. 7 out of 10. June 2017

24 out of 30 for this story about a woman seeking a career in 60s sitcoms

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

Barbara turns herself into Sophie and lands a starring role in a TV comedy, her life-long ambition. Evokes the 1960s London scene nicely along with its blatant sexism, homophobia and clash of establishment vs youth. The dialogue is excellent and the interplay of relationships amongst the cast, writers and director very good. Funny but not hilarious. 7 out of 10. May 2017

essexserpent

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Cora Seaborne’s abusive husband dies and frees her to pursue her interests in science and the natural world. Out in Essex, rumours of a serpent drowning people swirl in the beautifully evocative Victorian mists. A minister of the local parish befriends, Cora, much to the annoyance of her London friends. A story about religion vs science and about dealing with the unknown. 8 out of 10. May 2017

holdbackthestars

Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

Two lovers, Carys and Max, are thrown from their spaceship with only 90 minutes of oxygen left. As they struggle to find a way back to the ship they argue and reminisce. A dystopian Earth where young people are meant to serve time for the community before they can settle. Challenging the rules, they are sent into space to be together. Can one of them save the other? I wasn’t that bothered. 6 out of 10. May 2017

Hector

The Late Hector Kipling by David Thewlis

A successful artist is jealous of his friend’s nomination for the Turner prize. Hector has a lovely girlfriend and a new exhibition coming up. He thinks he needs some bad news in his life and soon he has more than he can cope with. A self-destructive spiral ensues. Dark, humorous, crackling dialogue and some great one-liners. Ending too downbeat for my tastes. 8 out of 10. Apr 2017

Alchemist

The Alchemist’s Secret by Scott Mariani

The first Ben Hope adventure. Ex-SAS sent on a mission to find an ancient alchemist’s secret that could save the life of a dying child. Soon Hope is trying to stay ahead of the police and a dangerous organisation after the very same thing. Plenty of action and historical code-breaking. Very close to Dan Brown in feel. 7 out of 10. Apr 2017

Stormfront

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

The first Harry Dresden file – he’s a wizard private investigator who helps police solve unusual cases. A missing husband and a grizzly murder are connected, somehow. Magic realism crossed with Ray Chandler gum-shoe detection and lots of action. Harry Potter meets Dirty Harry. Strong cast of supporting characters. Very enjoyable. 8 out of 10. Apr 2017

thethingitself

The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts

A bit like Foucault’s Pendulum, I’m not sure if this is genius or nonsense. High concept sci-fi full of wit and imagination. Some sub-plots irritate and detract. I almost gave up halfway through. A secret institute is researching AI and teleportation, using Kant’s philosophy about The Thing Itself. 2 men on an Antarctic research base, 20 years earlier, are somehow caught up. Good ending, so glad I stuck with it. 7 out of 10. Mar 2017

rumpunch

Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard

The story of a gun runner, Ordell Robbie, who uses and disposes of people at will while the police are trying to entrap him. When Ordell asks Jackie Burke (renamed Brown for the film) to smuggle money for him,  and the police want her to help them, Jackie out-foxes them all. Max Cherry, a bail bondsman, wants to help her but stay on the right side of the law. Great story-telling, crossed purposes, razor sharp dialogue. 9 out of 10. Mar 2017

redrising

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Darrow is a Red, a miner who lives inside Mars, struggling to make the planet inhabitable for future generations. But in reality, the planet surface has been lived on for decades and the Reds are slaves for the Golds. A rebel group transform Darrow into a Gold and in the first of this trilogy he must pass through the deadly academy as a winner and into a position of power. 9 out of 10. Mar 2017

Slow Horses

Slow Horses by Mick Herron

A sharp, intelligent thriller about the forgotten department of MI5 – Slough House – full of supposed no-hopers headed by Jackson Lamb. A hostage due to be be-headed, double-crossings, plots within plots. Full of dry wit and lively characters that make this a cracking read. 9 out of 10. Feb 2017

Red Dancer

The Red Dancer by Richard Skinner

The fictionalised life of Mata Hari, as seen through the eyes of people who knew her. The early, disastrous marriage, the re-invention as an exotic dancer and peak in fame. And then as WWI breaks out, the life as a double agent and eventual execution. The narrative structure keeps the subject lively and ephemeral. 7 out of 10. Feb 2017

A monster calls

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The story of a boy coming to terms with his mother’s terminal illness. Bullied at school, an absent father and a strict grandmother pile on the pressure. A monster with attitude – the Green Man – comes to visit, to help in ways that Conor does not expect. Poignant, emotional depth. 9 out of 10. Feb 2017

511Mjg+vIKL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

This is darkness beyond my comfort zone. A daughter turns in her serial-killer mother to the police. But is the girl destined to be like her mum, or can she start a new life with a foster family? Chilling, taught and very well written. Stays with you long after the book is finished. 8 out of 10. Jan 2017

Dune

Dune by Frank Herbert

I read this many times in my youth, returned to it for a book club. The plot remains fantastic. The political machinations, the completeness of the setting is so well thought out, it’s completely logical and believable. Full of brilliant characters, heroes and anti-heroes. Stands the test of time well. 9 out of 10. Jan 2017

EricAmbler

Journey Into Fear by Eric Ambler

A great story about an engineer dragged into the shady world of espionage at the onset of WWII. Atmospheric, tense, full of well-rounded characters and a nail-biting, satisfactory finish. The 210 pages flew buy. Have ordered more from Ambler – a forgotten genius, front-runner to Fleming, Deighton and Le Carre. 8 out of 10. Jan 2017

2016 books

nameofthewind

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The brilliant start to a trilogy that I can’t wait to finish. The Name of the Wind is about a hero, Kvothe, who relates the story of his childhood and magical education. But this is no Potter-derivative. 660 pages and the pace never drops. Full of intelligent depth that doesn’t obstruct the flow. 9 out of 10. Dec 2016

uprooted

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Wonderfully written dark fairy tale of a wizard in a tower, an evil forest and the coming of age of a young woman who becomes the wizard’s apprentice. Agnieska turns into a very powerful sorceror but she’ll need all that to combat the evil that lives in the forest. Fine fantasy. 9 out of 10. Aug 2016

buriedgiant

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Beautiful writing that gives a powerful treatment of memories, time and the enduring love of a couple. All set in dark ages England. The land is wrapped in a strange mist – the breath of a dragon – that helps people forget the horrors of the war just gone. A warrior sets out to defeat the dragon, while a knight tries to keep it safe. 9 out of 10. Mar 2016

518x732bybl__ac_us160_

The Silent Children by Amna Boheim

The ghostly tale of tragedy and revenge from debut author Amna K Boheim. This book won an indie award and is well deserving of praise. The setting jumps between pre-WW II Vienna and modern-day London. Dark and unsettling at time. 7 out of 10. Nov 2016

sagavol1

Saga Volume 1.

Yes I know I am late to the party – many volumes of enjoyment for me to catch up on. This is a very graphic graphic-novel starting with a humorous birth scene and including plenty of violence and sex. And yet, even with sparse dialogue, it’s full of wit and depth. 9 out of 10. Dec 2016

slaughter5

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

A very famous book – really a novella at 176 pages – about the WWII bombing of the German city Dresden. Vonnegut tells the story of a prisoner of war who after the war gets captured by aliens and starts to slip back and forth through time. Very effective and affecting. 8 out of 10. Dec 2016.

roseoftibet

The Rose of Tibet by Lionel Davidson

Evocative, tough as teak adventure full of vivid characters and challenges that push the protagonists to the limit. A monastery, a treasure and a chase that you’ll never forget. Slightly unusual framing device of a journal being pieced together by a writer. 8 out of 10. Jul 2016

tlaa

The Life Assistance Detective Agency by Thomas Hocknell

Well paced plot with a nice twist at the end. Two detectives go in search of a missing professor who is obsessed with Elizabethan Dr John Dee, and scrying for Angels. Humour and fantasy elements that reminisce of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently. 8 out of 10. Oct 2016

allthebirds

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

The story of two school friends, one a witch, the other a brilliant scientist. An unusual chatty style of writing that is full of humour, intrigue and wild ideas. While the middle drags, the start and ending are great. A bold attempt at fusing sci-fi with fantasy. 8 out of 10. Sep 2016

oceanlane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Writing that conjures up wonderful and scary images as well as recreating what it is like to be a seven-year old child in an adult world. Fantasy that deals with what makes us who we are and our worth. Short but poignant. 9 out of 10. Jun 2016

luna

Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald

Lots of fine detail about politics, the legal system and fashion as well as the technology behind a moon colony. Everything, even the air you breathe, must be paid for. Feuding families. Slightly ponderous middle. First in a series – not entirely satisfactory as a standalone work. 5 out of 10. Feb 2016

51h1xtoamrl__sx324_bo1204203200_

Stasi Child by David Young

Evocative, well researched, detective novel set in East Germany before the Wall came down. The plot proceeds at a good pace, with obstacles typical of the genre, including a failing marriage and an internal cover-up.  7 out of 10. Aug 2016

2015 books