I’ve seen almost no TV this year. Now they’ve started messing around with the scheduling of Doctor Who (what precisely is wrong with running a series all the way through without a break?), I’m really not that engaged with the whole medium. But books I can manage and make a priority of including in my day. Let me assure you, that my (currently) 42 books read this year is nothing, absolutely nothing compared to some people’s totals. They are polishing off 75-100 books a year and more. I am only a entry-level story junkie compared to them.
So, continuing on from part 3, this is what I’ve read during the latter part of the year:
The Rock – Robert Daws
Always difficult when you read something written by someone you know, especially when it’s not a genre that you would normally gravitate to. As I’ve said many times I’m not a person who reads a lot of crime fiction, but this is a good introduction to a likely series, giving you enough information about the characters but leaving sufficient in reserve to be able to develop them later on. The slight downside to reading about any male Detective (for me), is that I always expect them to be like Gene Hunt. Broderick was perhaps a little too like Hunt for me not to be imagining a bloke in a camel-hair coat. More about the book HERE
Under the Dome – Stephen King
2012 has been about reading a greater variety of books than I usually would and never before has anything with the label horror ever appeared on my reading list. I read this for bookgroup and this was not what I was expecting. I was anticipating spinning heads and exploding stomachs; what I got was an absolutely unputdownable tale (of nearly 900 pages), which documented the breakdown of a small American town when a mysterious and impenetrable dome suddenly appears over it. My disquiet in reading it came from the Christians in the town – a more evil bunch you could not imagine – and the shocking way that society imploded in a very short space of time. I found this wholly believable, as I’m of the opinion that if we had to go through another state of war, where everything was rationed – such as Britain in WW2 – there would be rioting on the streets inside a week. We are simply too selfish in the west to go without access to everything, all the time. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would be quite happy to read something else by Stephen King. So I did.
Full Dark, No Stars – Stephen King
This is a series of shorter stories – not short, (two of them take up most of the book), which explores what makes people kill or do things that they wouldn’t ordinarily do. The story ‘A Good Marriage’ was the one that unsettled me the most; both in the capacity of the very nice, well thought-of man turning out to be otherwise; and his wife’s reaction to that discovery. A Fair Extension I didn’t enjoy, as I struggled to cope with the concept of wishing ill-fortune on someone just because you’re envious of them.
That Loving Feeling / With Love at Christmas – Carole Matthews
Stephen King to Carole Matthews is quite a segue! I read these two books sequentially because Carole’s new book With Love at Christmas, features the same Joyce family from her 2009 book That Loving Feeling. You don’t need to do that to appreciate the second book, but it was a good to remind myself of the background hinted at in the first couple of chapters. One of the many things I adore about Carole’s books is that they are set outside London. Both these are set in Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, a place I know well (you must go to The Outdoor Shop there, it’s brilliant). Both stories are centred around Juliet Joyce, who in That Loving Feeling finds herself back in contact with her ex-boyfriend and contemplating a life that’s a lot more glamorous than her current married-with-two-teenagers-who-treat-the-place-worse-than-an-hotel existence. How that pans out I’ll let you find out for yourself. But suffice to say, things in With Love at Christmas get a whole lot more complicated. As Christmas books go, this is a big tin of Quality Street with all the ones you like in. As a bonus there are more roast potatoes than you can shake a stick at.
Light on Snow – Anita Shreve
This book has been sat on my shelf for several years. With the onset of winter, my thoughts had found themselves dwelling on the season and what that brings with it. A father and daughter out for a walk discover an abandoned newborn baby in the wood close to their home. What follows is an absolutely beautiful story of how grief affects people and their relationships with those around them. This was a glass bauble of a book, exquisite and delicate; of which I have one very serious criticism. It ended far too soon.
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Read for Bookgroup. A really simple tale on the face of it (a butler sets off for a motoring holiday in the West Country), but at one point the tale expands outwards so suddenly that you feel like you can see the universe on the page. I adored the use of language; the correctness and economy of meaning. We live in a time where everything is ‘hideous’ or ‘fabulous’ and there seems to be nothing in between. It was nice to go back to a time when things were expressed in gentler, more specific way. Definitely a book to treasure, especially if you are a fan of Downton Abbey.
Comet in Moominland – Tove Jansson
Not perhaps something that you’d expect me to read, but it’s my aim to work my way through the Moomin series again. The world appears to be sitting more correctly on its axis after I have taken a wander through Moominland. One of the many things I am thankful for these days, is that children’s literature is not derided. We recognise that books and stories are important to both fire up and inform young minds. The Moomin books need to play a vital role in every child’s development. If there is no fantasy then there is no escape. We all need an escape.
Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
With this I stuck to my ‘don’t watch the film until you’ve read the book’ policy and I’m glad I did. This is an absolutely amazing piece of storytelling which owes much to very detailed research. If anyone has ever wanted to run off and join the circus, they would do well to read this tale of 23 year old Jacob Jankowski; who, in the wake of his parents’ death, leaves his finals at Cornell University and does just that. What he encounters is not pretty, although Marlene is ( the equestrian director’s wife) and I’m sure you can guess what happens there. The scenes of animal cruelty are shocking and I would like to believe that this sort of thing is behind us; but alas, the very day I finished the book, this article appeared on the BBC News website.
Christian Beliefs – Wayne Grudem
Probably up there with John Stott’s Basic Christanity as a good outline on the things that every Christian needs to know. It’s a very abridged version of his 1300-page Systematic Theology. Each chapter gives good solid information on each topic with enough explanation and expansion to inform without swamping your brain. I would say that every Christian should have a copy.
The Devil Wears Prada – Lauren Weisberger
I bought the book a long time after I saw the film of the same name, so this breaks my rule of reading the book before watching the film. As soon as the story gets going you’re left in no doubt that significant changes were made to the film from the original book. The kernel of the book is there, but virtually everything about it was changed for the film. I found the character of Lily in the book particularly sad and it was a shock to discover how she was originally written. However, you have to boggle in amazement at the character of Miranda Priestly. Does she really set out to break every person who works for her? Well done to Lauren Weisberger for writing an iconic fictional character. Sadly, and it pains me to say it, but on this occasion, I prefer the film. This is why I always try and do it the other way around because it feels inherently wrong to be disappointed by a book.
Winter’s Tale – Mark Helprin
This book was so good that it gets its own blog post, HERE. It is the best book I have ever read and knocks Tess of the D’Urbervilles off its perch after 20 years.
The Other Hand – Chris Cleave
I’m struggling to know what to write about this book, especially as the blurb from the publishers says “we don’t want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it.” This is possibly because if you find out what the subject matter is, you’ll put it back on the shelf and choose something else. We would exhibit in a bookshop precisely what we’d do in real life. We would most likely ignore this subject and find something happier to watch on TV, something happier to read about; but these are people’s lives. If we don’t read stories like this then we may go through life thinking that our lives are worth more than the type of people in this story. That is blatantly not true. So I say find a copy and read it. Expose yourself to something not very good about the United Kingdom and perhaps it will make you think twice when an item about it comes on the news. Both hysterical and horrific in one fell swoop.
I’m currently reading…The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Onward into 2013 with my never diminishing ‘to read’ pile.