What I’ve read so far in 2012

As I have been neglecting this blog, lately, I am adding this post as a ‘filler’, with the intention of updating throughout the year (unless I get back into the swing of things), so I still have a record of what I have read.

JANUARY

The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – 3/5 
Not many thoughts about this, really.  Innocuous fare, not as clever as I had hoped from the jacket blurb.

Mystery Man by Colin Bateman –  3.5/5  (extended review added retrospectively, March 29th)
Very funny in parts, but not quite as good as I remembered Chapter & Verse to be (or Turbulent Priests).

Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks by Christopher Brookmyre –  3/5   (extended review added retrospectively, March 29th)
I was looking for something Bateman-ish in style/tone, so it took me a while to adjust to the fact that this was not.  A little too much self-reference to previous adventures (which did not whet my appetite for them).  Might try another in the future, but as this was the storyline which most appealed to me, currently undecided on that.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt –  3/5 
A very easy-going narrative & short chapters made the novel easy to get into, but became very same-y all too soon.  Has a fantastic cover design, though!

Paper Moon by Joe David Brown – 3/5 
Enjoyed the first part a lot more than the latter, with the descriptions of the scams pulled by father & daughter.  Was disappointed by the Pollyanna-ish turn as the book progressed (something I assume I would have been prepared for if I had first seen the film…).

FEBRUARY

Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby – 4.5/5
A mini collection of short stories, of total genius.  Loved them so much I have bought one of the larger story collections & added most of his work to my wishlist.  I read & enjoyed Snow White years ago; really must read again, following this rediscovery…

Rumpelstiltskin by Ed McBain –  3/5
A very generic crime novel, notable only for its occasionally clever parallels to the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale.  Otherwise focuses far too much on the love life of the ‘hero’, which is both irrelevant to the plot, and uninteresting.

New World Fairy Tales by Cassandra Parkin –  3.5/5
I wasn’t quite convinced that the interview style really suited the literary prose the author clearly wanted to write (people don’t speak in the style writers write).  Louisiana voodoo & New York skyscrapers were essential ingredients to her versions of the stories – and resulted in some genuinely interesting interpretations – but  unfortunately, the voices of her characters also jarred due to their unnatural Americanisms.  Although the stories are interlinked, as with most short story collections, this was a bit of a hit and miss affair, even excluding my perhaps petty niggles about the forced vernacular.  But the good stories were good.

The Radleys by Matt Haig –  4/5
A good, light but intelligent read.  I’ve only read one of Haig’s previous novels, The Possession of Mr. Cave (largely due to appreciating the fact that the backlist were contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare), but found The Radleys far more likeable.

MARCH

A Mysterious Affair of Style by Gilbert Adair – 3/5
Nowhere near as entertaining or cleverly conceived/wrought as the previous book in the series, The Act of Roger Murgatroyd. Disappointing.

War Crimes for the Home by Liz Jensen – 4/5
A clever writer, and a very entertaining read.  I was relieved that the ‘twist’ (evident that it would be coming from early on in the story) was slightly different than I had imagined.  I like the fact that Jensen explores different styles in her writing, this being quite different to The Ninth Life of Louis Drax (equally enjoyed, and in retrospect does have some overlap of theme despite the dramatic difference in characters), My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time (a vivid historical romp, but with a schmaltzy ending), Egg Dancing (reminded me very much of Fay Weldon – actually, War Crimes could be said to have echoes of Weldon, also) and The Rapture (not as good as I had hoped).

The American Boy by Andrew Taylor – unrated
Read up to about the halfway point & was neither hating nor loving it, but realised I had no great desire to continue reading it.  So I stopped.

The Girl from the Chartreuse by Pierre Peju – 3.5/5
An accident involving a bookseller’s van knocking down a young child whose mother has not collected her from school provides the framework for this introspective and philosophical novel about two drifting souls searching for either meaning or escape.  Very French, very existential, quietly intriguing but lacking engagement on an emotional level.

Something Beginning With by Sarah Salway – 3.5/5
An encyclopedic look at Verity Bell’s life, naive and touching; very cleverly constructed.  Full review.

Ella Minnow Pea by Matt Dunn – 4/5
A clever & enjoyable fable, complete with literary challenge.  A fun read, but more importantly, a good story, too!  Full review.

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