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!

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2016 Goodreads Challenge WON!

During the past four years, I admit that I haven’t been as voracious a reader as I used to be in the past. This is mainly because:

  1. I moved house 3 times in 3 years, meaning that my books were hidden in boxes for long periods of time at a stretch.
  2. Living alone means that one has more responsibilities and more time needs to be dedicated to house chores, meaning that when I finally have some free time, I mostly end up mindlessly vegetating and watching some T.V rather than reading.
  3. Me and my bf bought our own place in 2015, which also meant we had to restore, furnish and do quite a number of maintenance jobs, which left me exhausted both in mind and body.

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Finally however, I was all settled in 2016 and could re-start focusing my life once more. This is why I took part in the Goodreads challenge with the premise of reading at least 75 new books during that year. I don’t know whether to you 75 books sound like too many, but for me, it is the bare minimum I had to read to restore the real ‘me’ to myself, taking into account the enormous number of books I used to read and enjoy before. 

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I am happy to say that I more than passed the test. I read a total of 116 books in 2016, passing and topping the challenge I had set myself. Which is what I actually wanted really. I must also add that I didn’t make an effort or check myself constantly in any way to push myself to read. I didn’t do it because I HAD TO. I read effortlessly, lovingly, having fun and choosing books I liked or those I was curious about.

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2017 brought along a new Goodreads challenge. This time, I am promising myself I’ll read at least 100 new books this year… which means that I’m reading at least 150… haha. Call it my New Year’s Resolution.

Also on this note, I’ve decided to start writing a blog entry each month, reviewing briefly the books read during the previous 30/1 days. So looking forward to that!

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Goodreads Challenge – NAILED!

One of my favorite websites, Goodreads, organises a ‘Challenge’ at the beginning of the year. Basically it asks all readers to set a number of the books to read by the end of the year, in order for one to keep track of his/her reading acumen.

Unfortunately, gone are the days when I had the time and opportunity to read at least 7 books a week (thick dreamy ones not thin ‘young adult babble’ ones). Now I have a demanding full-time job, house chores, a live-in boyfriend and many many errands. HOWEVER I did try to set a reading challenge anyways, at least to see how far I had fallen from my previous pinnacle.

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So, my target was to read at least 50 books (almost one book per week – terrible I know). The catch is this – I was not to record any books RE-READ!! Some books, I fully feel, are like good old friends – one misses them at times, and ends up re-reading, re-living and re-meeting all one’s friends at least once every couple of years. Taking into account how many good books I’ve read in my life, it’s obvious that I do a lot of re-reading. A LOT. So, the target of 50 books for 2015 actually meant 50 NEW books and it also meant that I was conscious that I would actually be reading many more books than this.

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Well guess what? I reached the 50-bookmark yesterday, during the second week of October. Considering that one must keep in mind the many life-changing and time-consuming things that happened this year – some examples; moving in with bf, buying a house, renovating said house, chasing after plasterers, painters, etc, moving for the second time this year into said new house, and going abroad twice) AND also re-reading tons of old friends, I am really proud of myself. I have fallen from my Tower of Incredibly Insurmountable readership BUT I have not fallen off the grid. There is still hope.

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And for those who ask, NO I did not stretch myself to the max trying to reach this goal. I did it naturally and effortlessly. I simply read when I wanted to (which is all the time), when I had the chance, and wasn’t sleeping/eating/consorting with people.

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What I am going to do next is note how many new books I will have read by 31 December 2015 in total, and then set a new target for 2016. Resolving to make time for old friends like Gaiman and Pratchett, Rothfuss and GRRM, but also to read new stuff from new authors, whenever I can 😀

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I Read therefore I AM

Each year, goodreads (which is an excellent website for keeping track of what you read, not to mention reading comments and opinions about books) organizes a GOODREADS CHALLENGE in order to promote reading and show readers how to value their reading time more. It’s pretty simple, you go on the website, you click on the challenge link on the homepage, and you just set a target for yourself. For example, my target is to read 50 books by the end of the year.

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To be honest, I am kind of ashamed of myself. 50 books??? I used to read a book a day!!! SERIOUSLY, my reading quota is one page per minute! And no I AM NOT JOKING! I m not a bookworm, I’m a book devourer.

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Yes, I used to read 1 book a day, and I’m not talking about paltry 200-pagers here, no ‘young adults’ claptrap for me, I’m talking about the 400-600 epic fantasy tomes by the likes of Terry Brooks and Brandon Sanderson. The emphasis, however, is on the USED TO. I USED TO have the time… before I started working full time, before I started living in my own place, and before I got in a serious relationship. Life-wise, these changes are obviously very important for me as an individual, however the VERY UGLY TRUTH is that everything comes at a price, and the price of monetary self-sustenance, freedom, and love, is having less time to read. Before, I used to read a book a day, now I’m fortunate if I can manage a book per week 😦 And I try sooo damn hard too! I read while I’m on the bus, I read during break at work (when I have any), I read while I’m on the toilet, I read before I go to sleep, I read while my bf plays ps4, I read in the car when there are longish drives… and still…

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So, to be on the safe side, taking into account evenings out, festivities, holidays abroad (already booked and payed for 2), sickness, etc, and that one year has 52/3 weeks, I set my target to 50 books this year. *sigh* I want to bang my head against the wall whenever I look at that in writing, but there it is.

I wonder, will I manage to surpass that? Am I being too pessimistic? I’ve already finished two books since the beginning of the year, but to be honest, the first one was already half done when it started, and the year started with a long weekend too, so I had quite a bit of free time. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe I’ll be posting again about it in 3/4 months saying I had been too hasty in my 50-book bet, and that I had already achieved it. Fingers crossed!!

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