I’ve been away for a little while, and in that time I have read quite a few books, most of which I have some opinions on that I would like to share. Saying that, I have no time to write any full reviews at the moment, and my memories of some of these have faded so much so that I would not like to write a review of them now. What I will do, however, is give a quick overview of them now in a list, so that you can still see how I felt about these titles.
‘The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry’ by Gabrielle Zevin – 5 stars
This book was my book of the month for March. I had heard a lot of good things about it, and it totally lived up to my expectations. Following the life of a widowed bookshop owner, all of the literary references excited me and the ending was incredibly poignant and effective. I’d wholeheartedly recommend this one.
‘Let the Sky Fall’ by Shannon Messenger – 3.25 stars (rounded to 3)
I read this one for the Quarterly Book Club first quarter, and considering it has been on my radar for a while, and I enjoyed Messenger’s middle grade book ‘Keeper of the Lost Cities’, I was hoping that this one would be enjoyable. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a stand-out read for me. It was painfully slow to get through, in part because not very much happens for the majority of the book. The characters were bland, the plot was predictable and it had none of the charm of Messenger’s middle grade writing. Pretty mediocre overall, I don’t think I will be picking up the sequel.
‘The Beautifull Cassandra and Other Stories’ by Jane Austen – Overall score 3 stars
This book from the Penguin Little Black Classics range is a compilation of some of Austen’s short pieces written in her youth. Some of them, such as ‘Jack and Alice’ and ‘Henry and Eliza’ were delightful, but overall they were very clearly written for personal enjoyment rather than an audience. Still enjoyable for anyone who likes Austen.
‘Goblin Market and Other Poems’ by Christina Rossetti – Overall score 3.5 stars
As with the Jane Austen, this was a Penguin Little Black Classics book, compiling the poetry of Christina Rossetti. These were not the first Rossetti poems I have read, but my Rossetti experience was limited. Some of these poems were absolutely fantastic, with ‘Dream Land’, ‘A Pause of Thought’, ‘The Queen of Hearts’, ‘A Dirge’, ‘A Frog’s Fate’ and ‘Nursery Rhymes From Sing-Song’ really standing out to me. There were very few weak poems, and overall, I enjoyed this collection.
‘Ode to Psyche’ and ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ from ‘The Eve of Saint Agnes and Other Poems’ by John Keats – Overall 2.5 stars
This Little Black Classic contains 5 poems, however the first three, ‘The Eve of Saint Agnes’, ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ and ‘Lamia’, I know very well, so I did not reread them, instead only reading the other two poems. The other two poems were of no surprise to me – they reminded me why I do not like Keats’ poetry. Not great, especially after the Rossetti, however it was as expected.
‘Amy and Matthew’ by Cammie McGovern – 2.75 stars (rounded to 3)
I was really looking forward to picking up this one, known as ‘Say What You Will’ in the States and the Quarterly Book Club contemporary picks gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, I was really let down by it. While Matthew was a great character, he was overshadowed and controlled by the demanding, unreasonable cow that was Amy. She was simply a vile character, preaching about how she wants to be independent despite her disability, then taking chunks out of Matthew for not being around her for every second of every day with complete disregard of his own issues, and worse, trying to diagnose and ‘cure’ his OCD. Also, the plot twist that occurs 2/3 of the way through was unnecessary and didn’t fit with the rest of the story, and I felt like the end provided little resolution. Thankfully it was a quick read, however overall I was not impressed.
‘Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death’ by M.C. Beaton – 3.75 stars (rounded to 4)
This light murder mystery did everything I was expecting it to. Having seen the first half of the recent TV adaptation, I knew of the basic story and characters, but did not know the ending. While this was not quite as enjoyable as the TV episode in my opinion, it was a nice little read, and I would happily read the next few books in the series.
‘Zodiac’ by Romina Russell – 3.5 stars (rounded to 3)
I had such high expectations for this! The world behind it was amazing, and the premise interested me a lot, however the characters and the romance did irreparably damage the book for me. Firstly, the protagonist started okay, but by the end had escalated into a whiny, self-important bitch. There was a huge love triangle in this book, and not an enjoyable one either. One of the love interests, Mathias, was actually a great character, one I enjoyed reading about immensely. The other, Hysan, was exactly the kind of character I detest; the cocky, smug, arrogant bad boy, bearing a lot of similarities to Will Herondale and Adrian Ivashkov, which is the biggest turn-off imaginable for me. The romance was very central in the book, at times overshadowing the fantastic plot and world the author had created. A bit of a let-down, given the potential that was so clearly visible.
‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemingway – 2 stars
I appreciate why this novella is hailed a literary masterpiece for some, and technically it is fantastic, but to me it was just boring. Nothing happened, and even though it was barely 100 pages, it took me so long to get through, given that I had no enthusiasm at all for it once I had read the first few pages.
‘The Year of the Rat’ by Clare Furniss – 4.5 stars (rounded to 5)
My book of the month for April. This was a lot better than I was expecting it to be; contemporaries in the same vein as this very rarely do it for me, but this one was very well-written and felt very genuine and emotive. The characters were enjoyable to read about, even if they were not likeable, and I was truly caught up in the story for the two and a half hours it took for me to read it. Not the best book I have ever read by a long shot, but worth a recommendation.
‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho – 4.25 stars (rounded to 4)
This book started off fantastically; the story of chasing your dreams and fate etc. was appealing to me, and I loved the setting. The language was lyrical and I really enjoyed reading it. What brought it down in my estimations slightly was when the protagonist meets Fatima, as I felt the whole message the book had been promoting up until them takes a huge hit at that point, and it became tiresome reading about how much he loved her. However, it redeemed itself at the end, and while I noted that many people did not like the ending, I thought it was genius.
‘Dead Man Talking’ by Roddy Doyle – 4.75 stars (rounded to 5)
This short story is part of the £1 books collection inspiring adults who do not read to get back into reading – I stumbled across it, thought it looked interesting and needed something to read on the bus. While I guessed the ending very early on, this novella was gripping and very well written (especially taking into account the book’s purpose), and I happily would have read more of this little story. Unfortunately as it was a short story, I couldn’t make it my ‘book of the month’, but it was my favourite thing I read in April.
‘Shadow Kiss’ by Richelle Mead – 4.5 stars (rounded to 4)
After dwelling on my feelings for the previous two ‘Vampire Academy’ novels (and subsequently moving their ratings up from 3 stars to 4) I ploughed on with the series with a much greater appreciation than I had before, to discover that I actually really love it. The third instalment was easily the best one so far, and I absolutely adored the route the story took (even if it was slightly heartbreaking). My previous issues regarding not quite liking the narrative style and hating Adrian with a passion do remain, but overall this was one of the most enjoyable things I have read recently. Saying that, while I really wanted to rate it 5 stars, there was a niggling voice in the back of my head that wouldn’t quite allow it, so I have settled on 4, but that rating may very well change, and I am waiting impatiently for the fourth book to arrive so I can continue.
‘A Thousand Pieces of You’ by Claudia Gray – 3.5 stars (rounded to 3)
This book turned out incredibly similarly to ‘Zodiac’ in my reasoning behind the rating. The premise is captivating, and the plot progression very clever, however the protagonist verges on self-righteous at times, and the romance was overbearing. Rather than a sci-fi novel with aspects of romance, this was a romance novel using sci-fi as the foil to their love. Also, the characters tended to spend a little too long in one dimension, especially the Russian one – a lot of elements could have been cut in places. Not a terrible book, but not meeting my expectations.
‘Murder on the Orient Express’ by Agatha Christie – 4.75 stars (rounded to 5)
It has been far too long since I read any Poirot, and this one had been sitting unread on my shelf for the longest, as well as being the best-known. Of course, I knew the outcome (most people do) and had seen the TV adaptation with David Suchet, but despite this, it still managed to keep me gripped and guessing at some element or another the whole way through. This one now rivals ‘Curtain’ as my favourite Agatha Christie, and at the moment, even has the edge. I think this is a must-read, personally.
That’s it! A quick list of everything I have read in my break, with some reasoning behind their ratings. Hopefully, the next thing I finish will have a proper review, or at least a bite-size one, but I am glad to at least get some opinions out there on this batch first. Have a good day!