Recommended reads

A break with tradition and I’m telling you about some recent books wot I have read, and it’s not the end of the summer holidays.  I hardly manage to read books these days – and what I’m saying with that is that I don’t make it enough of a priority. As a friend said at work: you manage to find hours to spend with your phone. I have a few mental pictures of the life I’d like to lead – in bed by 9.30 and reading for an hour; cooking Sunday lunch every week and sipping sherry to the Food Programme (empty your glass if you hear “Chorley-Wood bread process”).  The only thing stopping any of these things happening is me.

The books below are books recommended to me that I have (mostly) totally enjoyed and want to pass on.

My friends at work were raving about Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I think they were initially reluctant to recommend because it’s not classicly a boy book and it has been pigeonholed a bit as chick lit. I need to read about outside my comfort zone anyway (mostly nothing but crime!) and they did point out it was a short book and would not take me long.  Amazon’s Kindle preview thing lets you download the first chapter and see how you get along, so I read the first few pages on my phone in my classroom before going home one weekend – paid there and then and finished it in a couple of sittings – with kindle and pint in Wetherspoons running up to midnight on Friday night, and then in bed on Saturday morning.  It’s quite unlike anything I’ve ever read and it’s fab.  Eleanor is clearly on the spectrum and is a wonderful, spiky, unique, unreliable narrator.  The story unfolds with some complete bouleversements (hmm… is that not actually an English word?) unexpected changes in direction. It’s very hard to review without giving too much away, so you just have to read it, it’s amazing!

My friends at pudding club were raving about Magpie Murders. So much so they didn’t let me leave without pushing it into my hands and saying you must read this!  I took it to France over Easter but didn’t have a chance to read it before returning, so took a day on bed after to do nothing but read and again polished this off in super quick time. It’s a return to crime fiction but again it’s a book that gives you unexpected twists. It’s a book within a book – most of the story is a crime novel by a character within the wider text – so just by flicking through it you see two different typefaces. The metatext has all sorts of fun games to play with the story within, and you get two crime narratives for the price of one. Again, highly recommended and puts me in mind of reading more Anthony Horowitz – I might even borrow some Alex Rider from the school library.

Finally one of my friends from the language teachers who lunch collective recommended Holy Island by LJ Ross, and I’m sorry to say this is not something I would recommend at all. It’s the first in a series of crime fic / police procedural with a lead character with a back story, DCI Ryan. I found the writing overblown and clunky and there’s an obvious, heavily signposted romance between the detective and a female cult expert bussed in from a nearby university which is completely at odds with common sense and lead me to some heavy eye rolling. Then, guess what, the woman finds herself in peril with the police officer battling the odds, the weather and the antagonist(s) in the heavy-handed dénouement. I’m not in any hurry to read any more, didn’t read the “first chapter in next book” that I got free with this one and I was very happy finally to finish this story after months of it clogging up my kindle.

Coming up next – I moved straight from Holy Island to a welcome return to P D James – A Certain Justice, and will hopefully finish this afternoon, then I have been preparing some free sample chapters to see where we move next. Stephen Tall raved about Kate Atkinson so I’ve a chapter from one of her books. I heard a radio review of The Power and have been intrigued by the premise for months – “Suddenly – tomorrow or the day after – teenage girls find that with a flick of their fingers, they can inflict agonizing pain and even death.” – how different would the world be if no-one could argue with or abuse teenage girls!? An interview in the Guardian with David Sedaris has a throwaway recommendation for a book by Rebecca Front – he doesn’t appear to know who she is!  Someone – I now can’t remember who – recommended Mythago Wood, but it’s set in Herefordshire, so that’s reason enough to read it too.

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