Saturday, 3 May 2014

April: What I Read, What I'm Reading

Another month down already - how time flies - and even though I've been a bit better on the blogging front in April, I've quite enjoyed doing these monthly wrap-ups, so I think I might carry on with them for a while.  Since I'm always a bit behind on my reviewing, and I've finally learned that it's not compulsory to review EVERYTHING I read, this feels like a nice compromise.  I can talk about the books I've been reading even if I don't end up reviewing them all, which takes the pressure off a bit without me having to skimp on doing what I started this book blog to do - spreading the book love and tempting all you lot to go and read them!  Anyway, it's been a great reading month for me - THREE five star reads, a couple more that weren't far off, and an unprecedented NINE books in total - so let's get right in there!
~ What I Read ~

Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs: The Left Bank World of Shakespeare and Co. 
by Jeremy Mercer
Yes, I FINALLY reread this book and you got the review I've been promising pretty much since I started my blog!  It was a great choice to get me back into reading more regularly and widely again, given its focus on books, bookselling and the bohemian literary world; it was my third time reading it and every single time it's given me a huge motivation boost, so... yay Paris!  I wrote a kind of 'three different stages in life, three equally wonderful reading experiences' review about how my friendship with this book has evolved, which you can read here.  Needless to say, I loved it more than ever and gave it a happy 5 stars! 

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs
I... had mixed feelings about this one.  On the one hand, the creepier elements of the novel - the hollows and wights, and the utterly chilling moment with the bomb, which has been the stuff of my nightmares for years - were wonderfully scary and made my skin crawl in a way I haven't really experienced since I read Long Lankin back in 2011.  On the other hand, the Peculiars weren't nearly as X-Men-awesome as I'd hoped, and sometimes it felt like Riggs was trying a bit too hard to match their characters to the photographs he'd collected.  The Miss Whatever-Bird-Name thing got a bit ridiculous at times too, rich though the ymbryne mythology might have been.  I liked the novel, it freaked me out nicely, but somehow I don't feel an immediate urge to read Hollow City anytime soon.  3 and a half stars.

To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
Ohhhh, this book was love.  LOVE, PEOPLE.  I finally read it, for the first time, after well over ten years of it sitting staring at me from my bookshelves, and... it was worth the wait.  I also watched the movie, and pulled both together for a double rave review which you can read here.  I fell in love with the characters (and want to marry Atticus, obviously), I cried quite a bit, and even though it started quite slowly, by the time I hit around the 70-page mark I was completely engrossed in Scout's funny, innocent, moving and completely wonderful narrative.  A very deserving 5 stars.

The Outsiders
by S.E. Hinton
I don't really know where to start when it comes to talking about this one - the book WAS my teenage years, and the movie was a big part of my Hinton obsession too.  The angst, the testosterone, the rough-edged and yet completely irresistible characters... I felt like I'd found a soulmate in Ponyboy Curtis when I first read his story at age 14 or so.  I would have given it five stars, but I know it so well now that it had lost some of its suspense and shock value, obviously.  Four and a half stars, then?  I STILL LOVE IT.

The Library of Unrequited Love
by Sophie Divry
This little novella was okay - basically a librarian monologuing to a guy who's accidentally been locked in the basement all night, filling in the time until the library opens and he can leave - with some interesting thoughts on library culture and life in general, but ultimately I think it's going to prove very rapidly forgettable.  3 stars, maybe - I'm glad I got it from the library instead of shelling out £7 to buy it!

The New Hunger (Warm Bodies 0.5)
by Isaac Marion
I read this during the most recent Dewey's readathon, and it was the undisputed high point of the day.  I absolutely loved Warm Bodies when I read it early last year, but I didn't really expect that much from this prequel.  I WAS WRONG.  If anything, I maybe liked it even BETTER than WB, because it has all the wonderful writing and endearing characters and horribly compelling zombieness, only WITHOUT the wacked-out ending, and WITH the squee-inducing fact that you know how these characters interact later and it makes everything meaningful.  I haven't 'happy-eeked' so much since Attachments.  It's amazing that Marion can make me love M and R this much when they eat brains, y'know?  Another 5-star read!

And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie
I read this one for the readathon too, mostly anyway - I was so hooked I carried on reading for a couple of hours after the day was officially over to finish the last 50 pages!  This (possibly) most beloved of Christie's novels definitely lived up to expectations, with the claustrophobic island setting and the 'one of us, one of us!' creepiness, although the fact that I guessed one of the 'how?' plot twists did take the suspense down a notch.  I hadn't worked out who or why though, so there was still plenty to nod wisely over at the end.  Four stars for my first Christie in YEARS - I'll definitely be picking up more now!

Robin Ince's Bad Book Club
by Robin Ince
I picked this up on a whim after chortling my way through a segment about it on a TV Book Club episode ages ago, and happily my instinct was right - it was so much fun to read!  Basically Robin Ince likes to pick up bad, weird and cheesy books in charity shops and jumble sales, and this is the result: a wander through the world of sheikhs and their mistresses, man-eating crabs, terrible poetry, testosterone-drenched thrillers, bizarre New Age lifestyle guides, crap autobiographies and anything else that catches his fancy.  He's got a very dry sense of humour and his affection for these 'bad books' has actually ADDED one or two titles to my wishlist! 4 stars.

The Double
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Aaaaand so to the last book I finished this month, picked up from the library because the new Richard Ayoade-directed Eisenberg-and-Wasikowska movie is coming out and IT LOOKS SO TRIPPILY AWESOME.  The book, on the other hand (my first Dostoyevsky, no less) was... well, definitely trippy.  Not that awesome, sadly.  It's chaotic and fractured and although I did enjoy it, and felt very sorry for poor Golyadkin as he slowly went mad, by the end it had become so disjointed and hard to connect with him at all that I was glad to have finished it.  It was only 137 pages, but it took me a long time to read because it was - purposely - so choppy.  Three stars and still very much looking forward to the adaptation, which I think will probably work better for me!
~ What I'm Reading ~

Lady Audley's Secret
by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Yes, May has arrived, and with it comes Alice's readalong of Lady Audley's Secret, which started on Thursday and has already made my week.  I've read it before - at uni - but remember so little that I'm coming into the book with only the occasional vague inkling of what might happen, as some distant memory rattles deep in my brain and points out some detail that rings a bell.  So far it's just as soapy, scandalous and unapologetically cheesy as I remember, and I'm loving every minute of it! 

The Pleasures of the Damned
by Charles Bukowski
I only bought this last month, but I've already dived in and start working my way through the book: a poem over breakfast here, another in an idle five minutes there, a couple in between chapters of Lady Audley's Secret perhaps...  It's extremely accessible poetry, and as always there have been hits and misses so far.  The poem comparing a cocksure young man to a smug tabby cat was a good one; the one listing a million different things before closing with a pointless punchline about a nagging wife wasn't so great.  I'm enjoying them though; it feels good to be diving into some poetry again and I've been meaning to read Bukowski for a long time now!

Aaaand that was April!