Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What I Read: May 2015


So I'm just going to have to do a really rubbish round-up because I do not have the energy to do it again properly. *Sigh*
  • Foxglove Summer - Ben Aaronovitch: I have written about him and the Rivers of London series before and I'm sure I will continue to do so because they are fun and I like them. This is #5 and, like #4, I found it rather slight (due to the books' popularity, it seems, they are now being published too fast to match the content of the first three novels) but I will read #6 (The Hanging Tree, due Nov 2015) nonetheless once it hits the library circuit.
  • The Third Wife - Lisa Jewell: A tightly written and well executed novel. I don't dabble much in the commercial/family life-drama/thriller world but if that sounds like your cup of tea then I would easily recommend it.
  • The Hawley Book of the Dead - Chrysler Szarlan: This did not work for me. I have read both of the comp titles, The Night Circus and A Discovery of Witches, and I didn't really care for either so perhaps this is a question of taste but I don't think this book lived up to either the (dubious) lyricism of the former or the (dubious) romance of the latter. It felt confused and over-long and, although there were some nice ideas, it just didn't follow through.
  • All My Puny Sorrows - Miriam Toews: Now this I loved. I read Miriam Toews’ beautiful, semi-autobiographical novel in almost a single sitting. Although the story is grim, the narrator’s sister tries repeatedly to kill herself as her family struggles to keep her alive, the voice of Yolanda, the narrator, is so compelling. The way that Yoli thinks and speaks, the contradictory jumble of her emotions, feels intimately familiar even if you have never endured this kind of trauma. She loves her sister and is afraid for her; she both resents and understands her inability to live; her own life is falling apart and she is sleeping with the wrong men but she holds herself together for her mother and her children. All of this should be horribly depressing but the book is light-footed and slyly comic throughout. I would never have expected to laugh so much at a slow, painful suicide narrative but Toews reveals the humour embedded in life’s most agonising moments. The empathy the characters offer each other is deeply moving and the book has, undoubtedly, expanded my emotional understanding of suicide. I finished the book in tears but feeling uplifted; I am a better person because of it. I will be reading A Complicated Kindness next on LJ's heartfelt recommendation. (Isn't Toews great with titles?)
  • A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful - Gideon Lewis-Kraus: I do not care at all about the angst of young, white men and Gideon Lewis-Kraus is a young, white man with doubts and worries but he is also an excellent writer, observant and very self-critical, so his account of late-twenties ennui and the three walking pilgrimages he undertook in response to said ennui is surprisingly gripping. Surprising to me anyway. I found myself fascinated by his chronicling of these endless, pointless, painful walks and I thought a lot about life and survival and whathaveyou. We all have ennui after all or, at least, I assume we do.
  • City of Stairs - Robert Jackson Bennett: Both of the hosts on two of my favourite book podcasts, Shipping & Handling and Portable Magic, have raved about this fantasy novel and I was looking forward to giving it a shot. In a world where the colonised rose up and killed the gods of the rich and powerful, the tables have turned and a once beautiful capital is in tatters. There are spies and bureaucrats and religious fanatics and murderous pirates and monsters. The world building is excellent and there are two very interesting and sympathetic female leads and I liked this a lot even if I didn't love it. It is clever and interesting and I'll definitely try another RJB.
  • Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened - Allie Brosh: I love Hyperbole and a Half, everyone loves Hyperbole and a Half, but I hadn't got around to reading Allie's 2013 book. [Exciting news, her next book, Solutions and Other Problems is due out in Oct 2015.] If you are familiar with the blog then the book won't contain any great surprises but there is new material and it is funny and sad and wonderful and all in one place. Allie gives great dogs and small children and even as she excoriates herself she reminds me to try and forgive myself. I love her and consider her as something of a patron saint which I'm sure she would hate but there you go.


  1. Hold on. What?! You read all these books last month? I seriously need to up my reading game. Love all the breakdowns you've done here. Definitely going to look into some of these books now.

    p.s. there is nothing worse than losing everything you've written! I'm so sorry that happened!


  2. It was a busy month! Also, three of these were pretty light. I would highly recommend AMPS though. So good.

    Eugh, beyond frustrating and I highly wanted to break something but I suppose I will live! cx

  3. You read so much, what an inspiration! I need to dust off the ol' library card and get my butt in gear. Definitely love reading your opinions on the books and use them to guide what I'll select next

    1. I swear I read faster because they're often library books. Tiny deadlines inspire me. This is probably a sad indication of my psychology...

  4. A few of these are on my list so it's good to know what you thought. Speaking of which, I'm way behind on updating my "Read" list for my blog... sigh

    1. Yes! I want your latest list *gimme*