April Reads 2014

burial ritesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent (Novel)

I loved this book. It’s one of those books where, even though you know what will happen in the end, you are compelled to keep reading. I saw Hannah read/talk in York and wrote a bit about it here.

the-sense-of-an-ending-julian-barnesThe Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (Novel)

This won the Booker in 2001 and, without knowing what it was up against, I’m not sure why because it was very patchy. The first two thirds or so were brilliant, but it completely dropped off in the final third. It just became less interesting as a story and, maybe as a result, less engaging as prose. The ending, though nicely linking back to the beginning, was unconvincing in the way it tried to explain one character’s anger at another. (*Irony fun – having a disappointing ending with a title like that*). I did enjoy it, and would recommend it, but it’s just too patchy to be great.

scott Pilgrim 2 and 3Scott Pilgrim 2 & 3 by Bryan Lee O’Malley (Graphic novels – fiction)

Scott Pilgrim himself is the least interesting and most annoying character in this series, but I am enjoying it. They do seem to be getting better as they go along, and number 3 (Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness) is definitely my favourite so far.

There but for the Ali SmithThere But For The by Ali Smith (Novel)
I re-read this for a book club. I absolutely loved it the first time around but didn’t enjoy it so much this read (though did like it). After reading The Pleasures of Reading, I realised I was reading it too quickly, just to get it done, which is not what this book needs. I love Ali Smith’s writing, so many punch-the-air-yes sentences, and I do love this book. I’m going to leave it at least a year and then give it another, slow, go.

nik-perring-beautiful-wordsBeautiful Words by Nik Perring (Non-fiction & short stories)
This is a kind of illustrated A-Z for grown-ups with little flashes of story. Nik has kindly answered a few questions so I’ll talk more about it when I post the interview next Monday. [Edit: Over here]

struck by geniusStruck by Genius by Jason Padgett & Maureen Seaberg (Non-fiction)
I thought this was a very interesting story about acquired synaesthesia and acquired savant syndrome. But I didn’t like the way it was written in parts. Full review here.

9780143123200_HenWhoDreame_CVF.inddThe Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang (Novel – Korean translated)

Translated by Chi-Young Kim. This is a beautifully illustrated Korean fairy tale about a plucky hen who dreams of hatching her own egg. I thought it dipped a little in the middle but picked up again towards the end. Definitely worth a read if you enjoy fairy tales. Full review here.

the pleasures of reading in an age of distractionThe Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs (Non-fiction)

This is both a love letter to reading and a reading guide that doesn’t feel lecturing or prescriptive. I think if you enjoy reading, or used to and want to again, or want to read but feel like you’re not ‘good enough’ or not reading the ‘right things’, you will definitely find something in this book. Full review here.

We Have Always Live in The CastleWe Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (Novel)

This is my first novel by Jackson (I had only read her short stories until now). My gosh I want to be her when I grow up. Not a lot happens but there’s a creeping sense of dread and weirdness. The ‘who dunnit’ reveal towards the end isn’t a surprise – it’s completely obvious early on who it was – but it’s absolute genius as you spend the whole book wondering why the hell the characters are colluding with them and acting as though they aren’t a complete psychopath. I will be reading more of Jackson’s novels very soon. (Also, in my Penguin Modern Classics edition, they printed a tiny spider at the end even though spiders are only mentioned in the final sentence. All books should end this way. The End. Spider.)

I’ve also been dipping into Kirsty Logan’s short story collection The Rental Heart, and should have a review up when I finish it some time next month.

The End. Spider.

Shirley Jackson spider

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