Other Uncategorized

March Summary and Plans for April

I had high hopes for March, suspecting it might be my best reading month for a while. Unfortunately many of the books that I was excited about (The Buried Giant, Everything I Never Told You and Wolf Border (reviews for these last two coming soon)) failed to live up to expectations. Luckily both The Martian and I Am Radar were fantastic reads. They are very different in style (The Martian is plot driven, whilst I Am Radar is a slow, reflective book packed with beautiful prose), but the thing they both have in common is great science. I love it when authors aren’t afraid to tackle complex theories and stretch them in new directions.

Books of the Month

The MartianI Am Radar

Books Reviewed in March:

The Martian by Andy Weir (Audio Book) 

I Am Radar by Reif Larsen 

Scorper by Rob Magnuson Smith 

Redwall by Brian Jacques 

The Book of Fathers by Miklós Vámos 

Outline by Rachel Cusk 

Dear Thief by Samantha Harvey 

No Such Thing As Failure by David Hempleman-Adams 

Plans for April

The Wellcome Prize Shortlist

I’m planning to read the Wellcome Prize shortlist before the winner is announced on the 29th April. The Wellcome Prize celebrates the best new books that engage with some aspect of medicine, health or illness and I’ve had a very good experience with the winners from previous years (including Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot)

I’ve already read Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh (review coming soon) and All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews and plan to read the rest of the shortlist soon:

Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss

The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us by Alice Roberts

My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel

The Iceberg by Marion Coutts

Non Fiction

I’m also going through a non-fiction stage. I’m listening to An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield in my car and Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson in my kitchen. I’m also in the final section of School Blues by Daniel Pennac, so hope to have my first review of a non-fiction book in translation up soon.

Other books

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell is my book club’s choice this month and Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin and The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
are also high on my list. I’m also continuing my investigation of the Bailey’s longlist and will probably pick up a few random selections along the way.

Have a great Easter!

8 replies on “March Summary and Plans for April”

‘Scorper’ is a book I’d probably have missed without your review, Jackie, but I am now very keen to read it – Eric Gill is a controversial figure but was a great designer (a perfect argument for why sometimes you should separate the art from the artist) so my interest is immediately piqued. I’m also still looking forward to reading the Sarah Hall, even if it didn’t quite live up to your expectations (re the discussion about Samantha Harvey: for me Sarah Hall has never quite bettered her debut even if in some ways her writing has become stronger and more mature).

March was a very busy month for me with one week where I read scarcely a single page (ironically I was working on a book cover so a book stopped me reading any books!) so I didn’t get through as much as usual. However, amongst those I did read there were three absolute corkers:

Mary Costello’s ‘Academy Street’ is just gorgeous and properly moving.
Roger McDonald’s ‘The Ballad of Desmond Kale’ won the Miles Franklin Award in 2006 but he seems almost unknown outside Australia. A mystery as this almost Dickensian romp (written in a style approximating the writing of the late 18th/early 19th centuries) through the early years of settlement in New South Wales is full of character and incident and ideas and is a real delight.
Mollie Panter-Downes’s ‘Good Evening, Mrs Craven’ is a wonderful collection of short stories written between 1939 and 1944 that capture life on the home front for a certain class of (mainly) women, but is also a great bit of journalism in the way that it captures the shifting mood of the nation as it reacts to events almost as they happen.

Others I enjoyed:
Laird Hunt’s ‘Neverhome’, a reverse Odyssey where the book’s Penelope figure goes off to fight in the American Civil War while Odysseus stays at home on the farm, is vividly realised and involving – all the more so because it is based on fact: many women did disguise themselves as men and go off to fight.
Doris Betts’ 1973 short story collection ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is both a great read but also interesting for the refreshingly frank way she deals with issues – this is a book written by a Southern author when segregation was still very recent.

One disappointment for me was Christian Kiefer’s ‘The Animals’ – I absolutely loved his 2012 debut ‘The Infinite Tides’ which took well-worn ideas but made them seem fresh by taking an unusual approach (his main character was an astronaut!). Alas, the new one, whilst I enjoyed it, took well-worn ideas and wore them a little thinner: all the way through I was thinking ‘oh, that’s like in such-a-book’, and the metaphors are a little over-worked (a former gambling addict who gets involved in crime starts a new life running a wildlife rescue centre – is he rescuing the animals or himself? animals in cages vs. freedom etc.). Still, he’s a fine writer and the quality of the prose is undeniable – I’ll put this one down to Difficult Second Novel Syndrome and hope his next book will be a return to form.

Anyway, have a great Easter and a good April of reading.

David, I’m so pleased I was able to bring ‘Scorper’ to your attention. I think you’ll enjoy most of it, but I’d be interested to see how you get on with the more ghostly elements of it.

I agree with you on Sarah Hall. Haweswater is one of my all-time favourites, but although I can see her writing is improving with time, I think the overall impact of each book is reducing 🙁

I haven’t heard of ‘The Ballad of Desmond Kale’ but it sounds fantastic. I love that period of history. I’ve noted down the title and will try to get hold of a copy soon.

I haven’t tried Kiefer’s books, but it is sad to hear about more authors whose second novels don’t deliver. Debuts are almost always the best!

I hope you have a wonderful April!

I’m so glad you liked I Am Radar. You are, in fact, the only person I know who has. I had such high hopes for it, but just couldn’t get through it. Larsen has a great reputation, but his books never pan out for me. I’m going to back and read your review in more detail.

Tanya, I haven’t seen much praise for ‘I Am Radar’ yet – I suspect its length is putting people off. It’s a shame as it has so much to offer, but I can understand why it isn’t for everyone. Hopefully my review will explain why I loved it so much. Have a wonderful April!

I’d love to read Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – I’ve been hearing good things about it lately and it sounds pretty interesting. I hope you have a great April – your March sounds like it was a great reading month!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *