Monday, 17 March 2014

What I Read In February

While I haven't quite managed to top the 9 books read in January (nor am I sure I ever will), I did manage to get through another 5 in February bringing my total for the year to 14 so far. This is roughly half of what I read in all of 2013 so a great start! Unfortunately not so many 'book of the year' contenders this month.

Rush of Blood - Mark Billingham (Kindle) 4/10

I can't lie, I hated this book.

The story is about three couples who meet in Florida and a girl who goes missing during their holiday. They stay in touch afterwards and share their thoughts and suspicions over a series of dinners.

The plot is fine enough, but I despised each main character, particularly the way the women were described (highly misogynistic) and the liberal use of the word 'retarded'. I still can't tell if that was the writer's personality coming through or he's just great at writing nasty people (hopefully the latter!)

If you like a good, quick crime read this would be worth a look, but I expect there are betters out there.

Tampa - Alissa Nutting (Google Play Books) 8/10

Tampa is a great read, but the main character is a horror show. 26 year old Celeste is a high school teacher, barely functioning in her marriage, partly due to the Floridian heat, largely due to her deep sexual addiction to 14 year old boys.

This book is highly sexual but fiercely unarousing as Celeste is somewhat of a psychopath and engages in the type of behaviour that I'd be disgusted by in a male lead (not to say I wasn't horrified here). As someone who works in the field of child protection I have a hard time describing this as enjoyable, but it was certainly a page-turner that I'd recommend.

Since reading this I've learned it's based on a true case where a teacher's defence claimed she was "too attractive to go to prison" and I've since thought about this book a lot as an interesting comment on the type of student-teacher relationships which the media so loves to glamorise.

Related to the first two reads this month, here is a great piece about unlikeable women in fiction, and how they don't always mean the book itself is unlikable (as evidenced by my utterly polarised thoughts on those two choices). Gone Girl is an excellent example of this and is mentioned in that article quite a bit (with mild spoilers, but if you haven't read Gone Girl yet might I suggest you HURRY UP!).

The Shock of the Fall - Nathan Filer (Paperback) 6/10

I first heard about this at my book club, only to get home and discover it has won the Costa Book of the Year and I so picked it up in a 2 for £7 deal in Tesco a few days later. (Along with Curtis Sittenfeld's Sisterland for future reading.)

Without wishing to give away too much, this is the story of Matthew, his dead brother, and mental health. It's told over several years, Matthew's memories shifting and changing.

It really is a quite lovely read, from a former mental health nurse who clearly knows his stuff, but something about it just didn't quite grab me. Sweet but largely forgettable, though don't let that put you off, I devoured it in a weekend.

The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion (Paperback) 7/10

This was our book club choice this month and had been on a number of our wishlists since the hardback release last year.

This is the story of Professor Don Tillman, a 39 year old geneticist who wants to get married and embarks on The Wife Project to find the bride to be. For the women, this involves completing a very long and very specific survey which naturally means almost everyone is eliminated.

In real life I don’t think I’d much like a Don Tillman, but on paper he is awkwardly sweet and thrown into utter chaos the day he meets Rosie.

An interesting discussion was had about contemporary online dating vs the types of screening likely required by the dating agencies of yore. Don’s survey seemed bonkers to many of us but I’m sure that 20 years ago it would be considered quite normal!

Like The Shock of the Fall, this was very sweet and a quick read. Perfect for summer!

No Time For Goodbye - Linwood Barclay (Kindle) 8/10

My favourite read this month was this, which was recommended by a friend on Twitter.

When she was 14, Cynthia’s family disappeared one night and with no evidence of a crime having taken place, the police investigation went cold.

25 years later, her husband tells the story of her new mission to finally uncover the truth about what happened to her family. The right mix of likeable and loatheable characters, short chapters, and lots of twists, meant this was hard to put down.

This is from 2008 and is one of a number of Barclay’s thrillers so I am likely to pick up another soon. Let me know if you've read any of his others!


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