February Book Round-Up

Wow, I came on here to write a bit about what I read this month, and then I realized that the last thing I contributed to my poor wee blog was actually last month’s January’s round-up! Bad, bad Moonsong! *slaps wrist*

Ah well, what with multiple writing commissions I never seem able to catch up with, my day-job which is getting more demanding lately, plus one week of travelling through Southern Germany, you could at least try to understand why right?

Anyways, here I am once again – ready to razzle and dazzle… or at least, to ramble a bit about the books I read this month. Here goes:

1, 2, 3, 4 The Giver Quartet – Lois Lowry – 5 Stars

The Giver
Gathering Blue
Messenger
Son

I had already read all four books previously some years ago, even before I even knew there was going to be a movie. Lois Lowry is a very good writer, tackling current social issues magnificently couched in fantasy. The four books all have different narrators and different settings, and yet I was impressed by how well they interlocked together in the end. The plot is masterful. I purchased a very beautiful hardbound copy of it and couldn’t resist re-reading it at once!

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5. Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter – Ruth Rendell – 3 Stars

I love Ruth Rendell but I had steered clear of her Inspector Wexford Mysteries before. This is because I’m not much into investigative books. I got this one from the public library because I was curious and thought I’d give it a go. It wasn’t bad, however it fell short of my expectations as R.R’s psychological stand-alone thrillers are usually really good and always have a twist at the end. This one… well let’s say that even someone who’s not into investigative fiction could see the so-called ‘twist’ half-way through the book… so no surprises at all there. Kind of disappointing really, though very well written of course.

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6. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen – 3 Stars

I found a beautiful and very cheap edition at my local store, and was honestly  ashamed to realize that although I’ve devoured Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice countless times, I had never actually read Mansfield Park! To be fair, I did not like the characters as much as the ones in Austen’s other novels, and the situations described were not particularly riveting either. No wonder this novel is not as famous as her other works.

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7. Furies of Calderon – Jim Butcher – 3 Stars

I had already read almost all of the Codex of Alera book series last year, however I was missing the last book. Now I’ve bought it, so I obviously need to re-read all the others too in order to refresh my memory, before reading the concluding novel. The first one of the book series was not so great to be honest, not because it was not masterfully written, or because the plot was weak. Not at all it was amazing in that way, however personally I did not like many of the characters much and would have preferred it if the writer had focused only on Tavi, who becomes the main character later on, than equally shift the narrating around.

8. Academ’s Fury – Jim Butcher – 4 Stars

Continuing the series previously mentioned, the second book focuses mainly on Tavi (finally) and is much more satisfying, hence the 4 stars instead of 3. I look forward to more!

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January Round-Up – Book Reviews

FINALLY, I have fifteen minutes’ time to sit down, take a breath, and write the round-up of the books I read in January. It’s been an unbelievably hectic week, and what’s more, it promises to be quite a hectic weekend too, so I’d better get down to it before I fall asleep at the desk.

January has been a good month in that I got hold of quite a few interesting books, some of which I’d had my eye on for a bit. I read a grand total of ten books, which is not too bad, though I admit some of them were not as long as I would have liked. So, here goes:

1 The Moth – Catherine Cookson – 1 star out of 5
I started out the year by deciding to try and read something by this author, since I had previously watched a couple of movies transposed from her novels. The movies are maudlin and depressing, but I thought maybe the novels would be better…? No such luck, apart from being disgustingly predictable, the ‘heroine’ is nothing less than the usual damsel in distress, the ‘hero’ is the ‘charming man of low class’, and of course, though set in rural England, the story-line is completely boring. 

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2 The Interpretation of Murder – Jed Rubenfeld3 Stars out of 5
Lovers of the Agatha Christie/Sherlock mysteries will love this one. Not to mention those who have studied, either professionally or in an amateurish way (as in my case) the theories of Sigmund Freud. Basically, a string of strange crimes and murders are investigated by a young psychoanalyst, who’s also a student of Freud. The plotline is quite good, but what I really loved was the apparent research and dedication the writer shows when describing America in the very early 20th century.

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3 The Rottweiler – Ruth Rendell3 Stars out of 5
I just love anything by Ruth Rendell. The way she portrays her characters, and especially her study of the main character, which is usually the serial killer himself, is truly revealing. Creating a net of everyday happenings, while introducing a number of characters, most of whom all know each other, Rendell creates an enthralling and unsettling landscape where you realize each person you know, in the end, has something to hide.

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4 The Green Mile – Stephen King4 Stars out of 5
I had watched the movie before, and I must be frank, read the book too, but it was such a long time ago, that I decided to refresh my memory a bit. And boy, was I glad I did. King’s suspenseful novels are always a joy, and this one in particular is pretty different from his usual work since there is hardly anything of the supernatural or fantastical in it. It is mostly a portrayal of racism, friendship, love, human behavior, not to mention a stark critique of society which leaves the reader feeling as though he’ll never be the same again after he’s read it.

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5. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald2 Stars out of 5
Ok, I know this is supposed to be like ‘the great American novel’, but seriously, I did not like the pace of writing, and the style much. I admit, if I hadn’t watched the movie before, I would have liked it even less. Yes, I get that it’s a portrayal of society’s hypocritical behavior, but still… I don’t know, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

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6 – 10 – The other five books I read this month were five novels collected in one single thick volume which I finally managed to purchase online. The volume is in beautiful hard cover and all the novels in it are by the horror writer Susan Hill. These are:

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Dolly – This novel had much promise but when I finished it, I felt as though the author could have been more specific or given us at least a partial answer to the weird happenings… 2 Stars out of 5

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The Man in the Picture – This one was my favorite out of Hill’s five novels, it is evocative of Wilde’s ‘Picture of Dorian Grey’, as well as portraying decadent Venice and its masked balls, which is a subject which always wins me over…. 4 Stars out of 5

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Printer Devil’s Court – Hmm I’m of two minds regarding this one. Again, I think it could have been explored more… 2 Stars out of 5

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The Small Hand – Not bad, a ‘traditional’ ghost story with an old mansion, a man with a troubled past, and an unreliable narrator. 3 Stars out of 5

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The Woman in Black – Yes of course I’ve watched the movie with Radcliffe, and the novel is much more toned down than that, still the atmosphere and the writing were breathtaking, though not as good, I think, as The Man in the Picture. So, 3 Stars out of 5

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And that’s it! Right now I’m reading a book about Celtic Lore and Wicca, so it’s not a novel, but I will still include it in my February round-up next month. To be honest, I think the next round up will contain less books than this one, since I will be going to Germany for a week soon, and I doubt I will be reading much during that time as I will be too busy sightseeing!