October Summary and Plans for November

I read 11 books in October, and overall the quality was outstanding. My major achievement this month was finally finishing 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, over 6 months after starting it. It felt like hard work at times, but now I have finished it I can appreciate how amazing this book is. I highly recommend it to anyone who can dedicate many hours to studying a lengthy piece of literary fiction.

My favourites this month

I also finished one audio book. Child 44  is the best audio book I have ever listened to, so I highly recommend you try to find a copy.

Books reviewed during October

Stone’s Fall – Iain Pears stars51

2666 – Roberto Bolaño stars51

Legend of a Suicide – David Vann stars4h

The Island at the End of the World – Sam Taylor  stars4h

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier stars41

Modern Delight – Various stars41

Her Fearful Symmetry – Audrey Niffenegger stars41

De Niro’s Game – Rawi Hage stars3h

Eating Air – Pauline Melville stars3h

I Served the King of England – Bohumil Hrabal  stars3h

Dracula – Bram Stoker  stars21

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness stars21

Labyrinth – Kate Mosse stars1 (DNF)

Audio Book

Child 44 – Tom Rob Smith (Audio Book) stars51

Plans for November 

The great thing about November is that I have no real plans – I am just going to read whatever takes my fancy!

Have a fantasic November!

1800s Classics

Dracula – Bram Stoker

Dracula is one of those classic books that has never really appealed to me, as I’m not a big fan of vampires. When I saw that Fizzy Thoughts was hosting a readalong, just in time for Halloween, I thought I should grab the opportunity to read it with a group of people, before it gathers too much dust on the shelf!

I knew very little about Dracula before starting it, as I avoid vampire films and have never had the urge to ask anyone about it! The opening scene was exactly how I imagined it to be – an English man heading towards a spooky castle in the middle of Transylvania. I enjoyed the first few chapters, as the central character, Jonathan, meets Dracula and observes the old castle.

Hitherto I had noticed the backs of his hands as they lay on his knees in the firelight, and they seemed rather white and fine; but seeing them now close to me, I could not but notice that they were rather coarse – broad, with squat fingers. Strange to say, there were hairs in the centre of the palm. The nails were long and fine, and cut to a sharp point. As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me, I could not repress a shudder.

I thought the atmosphere was built up well initially and I almost found it creepy, but just as things seemed to get darker, the atmosphere was lifted by some flippant remark. The tone of the book was a lot lighter than I expected and it reminded me of Three Men in a Boat. The book was trying to be funny and I was quite disappointed that it wasn’t creepier. 

I felt that the dark atmosphere was even harder to maintain once the plot left Transylvania. I was very surprised that so much of the book took place in England, as I had just assumed that it all took place in Dracula’s castle. I found myself becoming increasingly bored by the book – the characters failed to engage me and the unlikely plot meant that I didn’t really care what happened.

The ending was very predictable and the length of the book meant that it took far too long to get there. 

I am pleased that I read Dracula, as I have filled a gap in my knowledge, but I didn’t enjoy reading the book and would only recommend it to people interested in the development of the vampire novel.


Have you read Dracula?

Was it how you expected it to be?


2009 Recommended books Short Story

Legend of a Suicide – David Vann

Legend of a Suicide is a book which is hard to classify. It has been described as a collection of short stories and is now being marketed as a novel. I think the truth is that this book is similar to Olive Kitteridge, in that it is a very successful book of interconnected short stories.

The book follows Roy, a young boy whose father commits suicide. The emotion in this book is pitched perfectly. The suicide of the author’s own father enables him to give us an insight into the real, conflicting emotions experienced by a child put into this terrible situation. This book shows us how immersing a child into the dark, adult world is such a bewildering experience – one they don’t have the knowledge to handle.

There was nothing Roy could think of to say, so he didn’t say anything. But he wondered why they were here at all, when everything important to his father was somewhere else. It didn’t make sense to Roy that his father had come out here. It was beginning to seem that maybe he just hadn’t been able to think of any other way of living that might be better. So this was just a big fallback plan, and Roy too, was part of a large despair that lived everywhere his father went.

The first few stories were slightly disjointed, in that I couldn’t follow the narrative, but once I reached the novella of their trip into the Alaskan wilderness I was completely hooked. I found the book impossible to put down and I read the rest in a single sitting.

The writing was vivid, emotionally charged and thought-provoking. I think that this book might help relatives of suicide victims to be able to cope with their loss and it should also be read by anyone who feels that suicide is a good option, as it is the best demonstration of the devastation a suicide brings to a family I have ever seen. The number of issues raised and the power of this story make it perfect for reading groups too.

Highly recommended to anyone who loves books which are packed with emotion.


1930s Classics Mystery

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier


Rebecca is a book which everyone seems to rave about. The brooding, Gothic mystery sounded like the sort of thing I would love. I hoped that it would become one of my favourites, but although I enjoyed reading it, Rebecca won’t make it into my top 50.

The book begins with a young woman falling in love with Maxim de Winter, but after a hasty marriage she realises that everything she does is compared to Rebecca, Maxim’s seemingly perfect first wife, who died in tragic circumstances a year earlier

It was slow to start, but after about 100 pages I was completely hooked. I loved the first glimpses of Manderley and the vivid descriptions of the house and grounds.

Yes, there it was, the Manderley I had expected, the Manderley of my picture post-card long ago. A thing of grace and beauty, exquisite and faultless, lovelier even than I had ever dreamed, built in its hollow of smooth grassland and mossy lawns, the terraces sloping to the gardens, and the gardens to the sea.

The girl’s jealousy and feelings of inadequacy where incredibly well written, but I was disappointed by the mystery aspect of the book. Although I was vaguely aware that Rebecca’s death might not have been accidental, this wasn’t confirmed until Maxim admitted the murder. I felt that this was too quick – the mystery was solved the moment it was created and I felt let down that I hadn’t had at least a few chapters to try to solve the crime myself.

There were some amazing characters in this book. I loved the way that even the side characters were fully formed. Mrs Danvers was a deliciously dark character and I would love to know more about her.

I thought the book went downhill quickly once we knew Rebecca had been murdered. All the emotion seemed to disappear, replaced with an average police investigation. Did you enjoy this part of the book? I haven’t seen it mentioned before, so am wondering if people just forget that almost half of the book was reasonably dull.

The last page of the book was fantastic. I love the ambiguous ending and the  destruction of Manderley. Do you think all the staff were killed in the fire? Do you think it was started deliberately?

Overall, this book had some amazing sections, but overall I was slightly disappointed. I think this book will grow on me, as over time I will remember the emotional aspects of the book, but slowly forget about the dull half. I would still recommend this to everyone, but I think there are a lot of better ones out there.


Thank you to Sandy for arranging the readalong for this book.

Do you think Rebecca is one of the best books ever written?

Were you disappointed by any sections?


Eating Air – Pauline Melville

Eating Air is a very unusual novel and I am still unsure as to whether I enjoyed it or not.

The book centres on a strange couple – Ella, a dancer with the Royal Ballet and Donny, a violent anarchist. It isn’t long before they become involved in illegal acts and start to form relationships with  terrorists. Spanning 30 years and several countries, this is an ambitious novel, which confused me as much as it shocked and entertained me.

The characters were evil and impossible to like. They swore continually and, although there wasn’t a great deal of violence, they discussed it and made light of horrific acts. The book did contain a lot of humor, but I  felt uneasy about some of the jokes. 

‘Personally, I always use violence to obtain my objectives. And that’s what will happen when I die. People will stand up and have one minute’s violence.’ He let out a cackle.

There were a large number of characters, which meant that I sometimes lost track of who each one was and it also took me a while to realise that the story had flipped back/forward in time, as there was nothing to indicate this at the start of each chapter.

The writing was beautiful though. I loved the vivid descriptions which were present throughout the book.

To his left on the English Channel a fluffy grey angora haze blotted out the horizon. The milky sea gave slow sluggish sucks at the shore.

The ending had a profound effect on me – I predicted it in advance, but when it finally occurred, it was much more powerful than I ever imagined. I think I will remember it for a long time.

Pauline Melville is clearly a talented writer and I think it was mainly the subject matter that caused me to struggle with this book. I am keen to read The Ventriloquist’s Tale, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, as I am sure I will enjoy it much more.

If you are interested in the lives of terrorists, then this book would be an interesting choice. The originality of this book should not be ignored and, as it contained a number of thought-provoking issues, this book would be a great choice for a tolerant book group.


Have you read any  Pauline Melville’s books?

Can you enjoy a book where all the characters are evil?


Why is it so hard to choose a book for a book group?

Ever since joining my first book group a few months ago I have been trying to decide which book I should pick when my turn arrives. I think that I am over analysing it, as 5 months on I still haven’t managed to think of a good book. I don’t have a problem thinking of books that I want to read, but trying to find one for a group of people is so hard.

Here is a brief summary of the rejection process I have gone through:

  1. Too long
  2. Too expensive
  3. Too long
  4. Out of print
  5. Out of print
  6. Too expensive
  7. Too complicated
  8. Out of print

Help! I am running out of ideas!

Do you have trouble deciding which book to choose for a book group?

I want to find something which has a great plot, lots to discuss and which none of the group will have read. Bearing in mind that half the group are bloggers I am finding that difficult – hence the out of print/too expensive (newly published) books.

Am I trying to do too hard?

Is the perfect book out there?

If you have any suggestions for me – please let me know!