Right then. Let’s have a whistle stop tour of some of the things I’ve been reading in the last few weeks:
It’s always nice when you think you’re up to date to find books in a series you’ve missed. I read two by Stuart MacBride from the Logan McRae series, The Blood Road and Now We Are Dead. Gritty, Scottish noir with a darkly humorous slant. I love them. There’s a new one out in May.
I had more of a crime fix with The Return of Mr Campion by Margery Allingham, a book of short stories which I was sent by NetGalley. Old fashioned and rather charming. I liked them very much, particularly the stories in which Campion didn’t feature, which was a surprise.
I also read Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell, which Oscar bought me for my birthday. Don’t tell Oscar but I hated it. I’ve only ever read one other Kay Scarpetta book and hated that too. I had rather hoped that this would be better. It wasn’t. You know it isn’t for you when you really hope that the horrible sociopath will bump Scarpetta off in chapter four, only to be cruelly disappointed when it doesn’t happen.
Meat Market by Juno Dawson was a proof from NetGalley. I very much enjoyed it. It’s a YA novel about the fashion industry and exploitation of young girls. It’s well written and I think it’s an important book for its target market. It’s out at the end of May.
Natboff by Andy Stanton was a good, solid offering from the creator of Mr. Gum, who I love with all my heart. Even my new car is named after a character in one of his books. Natboff doesn’t live up to quite the deluded genius of Mr. Gum but it has its moments. If you have kids who like very silly books, you should get it for them.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata was an odd one. I really enjoy Japanese literature. I’m not sure whether it’s the authors I’m choosing to read or the translations, but they all tend to have this quite surreal quality to them. This is no exception, and I loved this right up until the end, which I thought let it down somewhat by not being weird enough.
Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks was another odd one. Hanks (of film star fame) collects old typewriters in real life. He also writes stories on the type writers. Each story in the collection is written on a different antique typewriter from his collection and makes reference to said typewriter in the story. It’s novel, I’ll give it that. Some of the stories are good, some less so. I got my copy in the Kindle sale a while back. I’d have been annoyed to pay full price.
Three books about fashion were all great. Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life by Justine Picardie, Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath the Skin by Andrew Wilson and The Button Box: The Story of Women in the Twentieth Century Through The Clothes They Wore by Lynn Knight, were all fascinating. The Lynn Knight was my favourite. I love a wander through social history with an interesting focus and this provided all of the above. The McQueen was next. It’s made me want to watch the film again. The Picardie book was a bit staid, but got more interesting as it went on.
Paul O’Grady Still Standing: The Savage Years, Rosie: Scenes from a Vanished Life by Rose Tremain and Then It Fell Apart by Moby were all decent autobiographies. Rosie was particularly fascinating because Tremain is such a vivid writer and her incredibly privileged childhood at the end of the Forties is so well drawn. I also really enjoyed the Moby book because it was pretty salacious and full of gossip. He’s had a surprisingly louche life for a vegan. Both these were advance copies from NetGalley. The Paul O’Grady was because I still love Lily Savage. I saw her once on stage. She reminded me rather of my gran.
I also read A World Gone Mad: The Wartime Diaries of Astrid Lindgren. It was interesting, but I realise I know very little about Lindgren, and because the book is predominantly diary extracts I found myself frustrated because I wanted to know more about all the people she talks about.
Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant by Joel Golby was sort of autobiographical, along with journalism. A real mixed bag, but yes, brilliant.
The Haunting of Henry Twist by Rebecca F John was a bit of a punt, and not an entirely successful one. It started off as one thing, which I was really into, and then about a third of the way through, decided to branch off in about twenty different directions, none of which really resolved at the end in any way I found satisfactory.
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney was excellent and as enjoyable for me as her book, Normal People. She writes with this sort of superb ordinariness that I find hugely appealing despite the fact that lots of people seem to hate her. I think she’s exceptional.
Currently I have several books on the go:
I am reading an extraordinarily boring book about the Tudors which I have been reading on and off for two years now and which is a very effective insomnia cure. It was free on Kindle and it’s really, really terrible. Imagine the worst text book you ever read and then add levels of hitherto unknown boredom. I can’t even be bothered to tell you who it’s by, that’s how bored I am of it.
I am reading The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware, which is another book Oscar got me for my birthday and which actually seems pretty good so far.
I am reading The Theoretical Foot by M F K Fisher which is strange and excellent
and finally I am reading The Overstory by Richard Powers which I got sent by NetGalley and which is superb.