Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Books I read in January

It's time to resurrect the never-popular 'Books I Read In...' feature. January started with four books in as many days - nearly four in three days, in fact - such is the nature of a rainy New Year's Day.

Ian Rankin Rather Be The Devil
Reliably good latest Rebus novel. Can't say too much about it - it was my Christmas present to Jim and he hasn't read it yet!


Cathi Unsworth Without The Moon
Police procedural set in WW2. Didn't live up to the gushing cover quotes; rather dull.


Tim Footman Leonard Cohen: Hallejulah
2009 biography I suspect hastily reprinted. Much thinner in every sense than Sylvie Simmons exhaustive 2013 tome; more of an annotated discography. Occasionally slightly amusing, but you can't really respect someone who dismisses 'Sing Another Song Boys' and 'Closing Time' and instead raves about the insipid 'Bird on the Wire' and someone else's version of 'Hallejulah'.

Sabine Durrant Lie With Me
I finished the Cohen biography on the Thameslink, so I had to quickly find something at St Pancras for the rest of the journey, so grabbed this in Smiths. Pretty good psychological thriller; if I saw the ending coming a mile off it's probably only because I read far too much of this sort of stuff.

B A Paris Behind Closed Doors
Another psychological thriller. Good plot idea, but could have been handled so much better to create real credibility and suspense.

Trevor Yorke  Britain's Railway Architecture and Heritage
I saw this on the second-hand shelf in Sebastian's shop and demanded it for Christmas. He forgot, but I got it for new year. Lovely photos, very helpful drawings, and plenty of material for wistful longing - it taught me more about engineering and architecture in a few pages than many much longer books have ever managed. 

Liz Nugent Lying in Wait
Now this is much more like it on the psychological thriller front. Using multiple viewpoints to really good effect, complex, engaging characters, and a genuinely enexpected, but still credible ending. Excellent stuff.  

Scarlet Thomas The Seed Collectors
Cleverly written, occasionally funny but ultimately tediously weird family saga.

Ann Cleeves Too Good to be True
Essentially a short story (a 'quick read') which suffers from the same as all short detective stories - no time to do more than skim the surface of character and crime before wrapping it all up neatly.

Kerry Wilkinson Down Among the Dead Men
Competent, un-gripping Manchester gangland tale - no sympathy for, hence no involvement with any of the characters. The second book I've read this month that makes it seem implausibly easy to incapacitate a Very Dangerous Person by persuading them to drink whisky laced with ground up pills.


Susan Hill The Small Hand
Ghostly novella. Nice writing, but the plot did nothing for me.


Rose Tremain The American Lover and other stories
I used not to like short stories, until I took a course on them and tried to write a couple. Now I really appreciate the skill and the artistry required to create a perfect small sketch rather than a great sprawling canvas of a novel. And these are wonderful examples of the craft.


David Brookfield The Skillful Teacher
You may surmise - and you would be correct - that this was one book I wasn't reading for fun. Nonetheless, as far as the genre goes (and it goes pretty low) this was good - lots of useful practical ideas and hardly any pseudo-theory.  

Andrew Marr Children of the Master
Enjoyable political romp, runs out of steam a bit towards the end. 

M.J. Arlidge The Doll's House
Workaday, unthrilling thriller. 

Books I didn't read in January
Tom Bowyer Broken Vows: The Tragedy of Power
I was looking forward to this; no fan of Tony Blair, I was anticipated a well evidenced, forensic dissection of New Labour policy from this biographer with a reputation for mercilessly skewering his subjects. But it read like the worst kind of Daily Mail journalism, and I couldn't stand it.  

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