March Summary and Plans for April

I read 16 books in March and managed to get a fair way through a few more. A combination of miserable weather and my family suffering from colds and flu meant that I spent a lot longer than normal in the house. It isn’t nice looking after people who aren’t well, but it did mean that I had a lot of spare time to read while they slept. 

As usual I read a range of book in terms of both in enjoyment and subject matter. I especially recommend When I Was Five I Killed Myself which I am considering promoting to 5 stars! 

Books reviewed in March

When I Was Five I Killed Myself – Howard Buten 

The Blasphemer – Nigel Farndale 

Bonk – Mary Roach stars4

The Woman in the Dunes – Kobo Abe stars4

Buddha Da – Anne Donovan stars4

This is How – M.J. Hyland stars4

Small Island – Andrea Levy stars4

Pocket Notebook – Mike Thomas stars4

Thaw – Fiona Robyn stars3h

Red Dog, Red Dog – Patrick Lane stars3h

The Solitude of Prime Numbers – Paolo Giordano stars3h

My Driver – Maggie Gee stars3h

Black Mamba Boy – Nadifa Mohamed stars3

The Native Hurricane – Chigozie John Obioma stars3

July’s People – Nadine Gordimer stars3

So Much For That – Lionel Shriver stars3

Plans for April

I am going to finish and write reviews for:

Small Wars – Sadie Jones

The Great Perhaps – Joe Meno

The Kindly Ones – Jonathan Littell

Solar – Ian McEwan

Hurting Distance – Sophie Hannah

My Father’s Paradise – Ariel Sabar

The Weight of a Mustard Seed – Wendell Steavenson

Seeing – Jose Saramago

Due to the vast amount of reading I did in March I have actually finished/nearly finished all of the above. I haven’t quite managed to keep up the 50 page a day pace I set on The Kindly Ones, but I have now read 300 pages and hope to finish it this month.

I have a lot of books that I plan to read in April. It wasn’t until I wrote them all down that I realised I had far too many! I’m not sure which ones I’ll get round to reading, but here is my over ambitious plan!

Nights at the Circus – Angela Carter for Claire’s Angela Carter month

The Hiding Place – Trezza Azzopardi

The Love We Share Without Knowing – Christopher Barzak

Marcelo in the Real World – Francisco Stork

Angelology – Danielle Trussoni

The Rehearsal – Eleanor Catton

Good to a Fault – Marina Endicott

The City & The City – China Mieville

The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner

A Life Apart – Neel Murkherjee

I Do Not Come to You by Chance – Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

The Temple-goers – Aatish Taseer

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradley

The Long Song – Andrea Levy

Even the Dogs – Jon McGregor

Our Tragic Universe – Scarlett Thomas

Which books from my list should I ensure I read?

Do you plan to read any of the same ones?

I hope you have a fantastic April!

2009 Orange Prize

This is How – M.J. Hyland

 Long listed for the Orange Prize 2010

I first heard about this book last year when several people were surprised that it didn’t appear on the Booker long list. I hadn’t read any of her books and was intrigued by the praise she was getting. Unfortunately I forgot all about her until the book appeared on the Orange long list last week. I immediately reserved a copy from my local library and eagerly awaited its arrival.

This is How follows Patrick, a young man who moves into a boarding house after his fiancee breaks off their engagement. Depressed and alone he struggles to connect with the other occupations of the house and finds himself wandering around the small British sea-side town, trying to come to terms with his situation.

I read This is How in a single sitting. The clarity of the words was amazing – the descriptions so vivid that I could almost imagine I was there. I was immediately sucked into Patrick’s world, feeling all of his intense emotions. The plot flowed along at a steady pace and I was never tempted to put it down.

What could possibly go wrong with a book so well written? I find it hard to explain without giving things away, but this book made me see why Orange judge Daisy Goodwin might have had reason to complain about the misery present in books. The second half of this book was very depressing. I don’t mind a bit of tragedy, but I do like there to be at least a shred of hope at the end of a book and this one just slipped further and further into misery.

This leaves me with a problem. Can I recommend a book that is beautifully written, but bleak and without hope? I’m not sure.

I’ll let you decide whether or not you want to read it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Have you read This is How?

Do you think it will make it onto the Orange short list?



Links I’ve stumbled across this week and Solar winners

Thank you to everyone who entered my Solar give away.

The winner of the signed copy of Solar is: Lu from Regular Rumination

The 3 Solar T-shirts go to: Jane Willis, Natalie Newham and Teresa Majury

Congratulations to the winners! I will get in touch by email soon.

Blogger discussions of the week 

  • Next Read had an interesting discussion about deciding which books to read and review.
  • Regular Rumination wrote a great post about how negative book reviews can make the book more intriguing to the reader.
  • Book Lust discussed falling for book hype.

Elsewhere on the Internet

As a book seller on Amazon I am quite annoyed by their new policy which forces sellers to ensure their books are not cheaper on other selling platforms. Luckily I don’t normally have the same stock for sale on different sites at the same time, but this will have a big impact on some people.

This is a lovely little video about the publishing industry – I thought it was very clever!


Thaw – Fiona Robyn

You may remember Thaw from the blog splash at the beginning of the month. In order to promote the book an impressive number of bloggers posting the first chapter of Thaw on their blogs. Fiona Robyn is now posting the entire book, a chapter at a time, on the Thaw blog.  So head over there and read the book for FREE!

Thaw is the diary of Ruth, a 32-year-old woman who is considering suicide. The diary spans the three month period before her 33rd birthday as she decides whether or not to take her own life.

The book is beautifully written and all the characters felt realistic. I was pulled into Ruth’s depressing world and in a desperate bid to discover what happened to her I read the whole book in a single sitting. It was a quick, easy read, but I’m can’t say that it was a pleasurable experience. The life of a depressive isn’t exactly fun:

I find a drawing pin or a safety pin and hold the spike close to my skin – teasing, pulling it across the surface. Pushing it in, just underneath, just inside. Never deep enough to bleed.

The book accurately reflects the struggle of daily life and the complexity of relationships, but I wasn’t moved by the book. Some might think this is plus point, but I like to become emotionally attached to characters, feeling their pain. I felt quite detached from Ruth, passively observing her problems instead living through them myself.

Overall it was good, but not the emotional roller-coaster I expected.

Are you reading Thaw each day?

2000 - 2007 Chunkster Historical Fiction Orange Prize Other Prizes

Small Island – Andrea Levy


Winner of the 2004 Orange Prize, Winner of 2004 Whitbread Prize (now Costa)

Small Island is a book I have been meaning to read for a very long time, but for some reason it never really grabbed my attention and kept sinking down the TBR pile. In an effort to prevent it from becoming lost forever under stacks of books I made a conscious decision to read it, but it still took me three months to finally start!

Small Island follows the first wave of Caribbean immigrants as they move from Jamaica to the UK. The book centres on four characters: Jamaican newly-weds, Gilbert and Hortense; and English couple, Queenie and Bernard. Bernard has failed to return from WWII and so Queenie lets rooms in her house to the Jamaican couple. We discover their complex relationships as well as their individual feelings as they cope with the effects of war and moving to a new country. The plot travels forwards and backwards in time, describing their lives before, during and after the war, but the main theme of the book is the racism encountered in both countries.

The pace of the book was gentle and I’d describe it as charming rather than the more intense book I was expecting. The plot held my attention, but although I was entertained all the way through I didn’t encounter anything that really bowled me over.

The narratives of the women were well done, but I found the male characters to be less convincing and almost boring in places. Bernard’s section was the weakest and I question its inclusion in the book.

I also found the book lacked vivid descriptions – I couldn’t picture the Jamaican scenes and I’d have had no idea where in the world they were if I hadn’t been told. These are minor quibbles really – a 560 page book has to be very good to provide an interesting plot throughout.

Recommended to the few people that haven’t already read it!

I have reserved a copy of The Long Song from the library and will be interested to see if it is good enough to win this year’s Orange prize.

Have you read Small Island?

Which is the best Andrea Levy book you have read?

2009 Books in Translation Other Prizes

The Solitude of Prime Numbers – Paolo Giordano

 Translated from the Italian by Shaun Whiteside

Winner of the Premio Strega 2008, Italy’s premier literary award.

Paolo Giorgdano is the youngest author to win the Premio Strega – he was just 26 when he was awarded the prize. There has been a lot of publicity around this and so I was keen to see how he managed such a remarkable achievement.

The title and the five literary awards this book has won led me to think I’d find a complex literary novel with a mathematical element, so was very surprised to discover that The Solitude of Prime Numbers is actually a light, coming-of-age story with elements more associated with a thriller.

The book centres on two children – one wracked with guilt after abandoning his sister, the other suffering from anorexia. They form a bond with one another, but this relationship is strained as they progress through their teenage years.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers was a real page-turner and I read it in a single sitting. The plot was fast paced and well structured, but I was surprised that this book was so highly acclaimed – it was an enjoyable read, but it lacked the depth I expected from a multiple award winner. The writing was simple, but precise and there were many sections where his talent shone through, but at the end of the book I was left with a “is this it?” feeling.

A small section compared the two children to prime numbers, but this felt out of place compared to the rest of the book. I’m not sure why a simple piece of mathematics has amazed so many people – perhaps it is that scientist in me coming through again, but I thought it was just a bit cheesy.

2760889966649. He put the lid back on the pen and set it down next to the paper. Twothousandsevenhundredandsixtybillioneighthundred andeightyninemillionninehundredandsisxtysixthousandsixhundredandfortynine, he read out loud. Then again, under his breath, as if to appropriate that toungue-twister to himself. He decided that number would be his. He was sure that no one else in the world, no one else in the whole history of the world, had ever stopped to consider that number. Probably, until then, no one had ever written it down on a piece of paper, let alone spoken it out loud.

I thought it was appropriate to review this book after my post on author age yesterday as this is another example of a book where a younger author has failed to impress me.

Overall, I thought it was a reasonably enjoyable light thriller, but it is nothing special.

This is by no means a perfect novel, but it’s an extraordinarily human one. Reading Matters 

….a phenomenal read. Rob Around Books

…a beautiful story which shows just how a traumatic childhood can scar us for life. Bibliophile by the Sea

Have you read The Solitude of Prime Numbers ?

Were you surprised by the contents of the book?