Radders

Random Ramblings; books, music, films, other stuff…

January in Books

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I’m a bit up and down when it comes to reading, I’ll go through a phase of being an absolute bookworm and then I’ll be busy with work and get nothing read. My cousin, Louise, last year tried to do the 100 book challenge. I’d have no chance of getting anywhere near this but I’ve set myself the target of reading at least 50 books during 2013. Some of the books I read are based on what the lovely people at Leeds Book Club pick for our reads, others are my own personal choices. I have a LOT of books on my to-read shelf so I’m not allowing myself any book purchases (with the exception of book club choices) until I’ve read them all (yeah, right….) I’ve read six books during January so here are my mini-reviews…

The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

I’d never read this but it’s been sat on my to-read shelf for ages so I was glad when it was chosen for our January read at book club and looked forward to reading it with anticipation. I know this is a set GCSE text and have heard numerous Year 11’s slating it and the fact they had to study it, I put this down to a reluctance to study literature rather than a true reflection on the merits of the book. I was wrong and I’d greatly underestimated their capacity for literary criticism. I just could not get on with this book. It was a decent read but I disliked pretty much all the characters, perhaps with the exception of Gatsby himself who you end up feeling sympathy towards as the plot develops. The whole book seemed to be lacking plot until the last quarter when , bam, thing happens, the end. Hmmmm. (5/10)

The City and the Pillar – Gore Vidal

The first read of 2013 for Book Clubs tri-monthly club. An author I’ve never come across, a book I’ve never heard of…I loved this book and it’s certainly gone onto the (relatively) short list of books I would actively recommend to other readers. Beautiful prose, great plot and a brave author to tackle the issue of homosexuality in 1948. This book explores the notion of “the one that got away” and how you can dedicate your whole life to trying to recreate or seek out a comparable love. My only criticism is that the ending for me was a little melodramatic and unnecessary (although apparently Vidal toned down the ending after his initial ending took heavy criticism for the same reasons). Read it (8.5/10)

Dreams from my Father – Barack Obama

A me choice! I’m a big fan of Obama and picked up a set of three of his books cheap at The Book People. This book doesn’t disappoint. Written way before he was President this is a great memoir of his early life. Theme’s of race, belonging and family throughout. An easy, enjoyable and frank read. Highly recommended (8/10)

The Blackhouse – Peter May

February choice for book club and not a genre which I would normally read. This is a detective murder mystery story set on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. It’s hard to compare this to the other books published in the genre but I enjoyed this book very much. It was easy to read (I devoured it in two days) and I learnt new things about the histories and traditions of the island, May paints a vivid picture of both the geography and the characters. Fast paced and alternating between the present and the past as the threads of the plot are tied together. One small issue; for some reason I found the fact the book was written in the third person difficult. I’m pretty sure such things don’t normally bother me so I can’t really explain why. Good page-turner, I’ll definitely be reading the other 2 books in the trilogy (when I’m allowing myself to buy books, obviously….) (7/10)

The Last Day of a Condemned Man – Victor Hugo

Read this over the same period as ITV broadcasting Inside Death Row with Trevor McDonald. Similar themes and equally thought-provoking. Easy to read yet far from superficial. Written by Hugo as a protest against the death penalty this is a powerful book. Well worth a read. (7/10)

It Has To Be This Way – Anthony Penwill

I picked this up at the amazing Barter Books ages ago. This book accompanies an exhibition which showed at the (also lovely) Baltic. I missed the exhibition but the blurb really caught me. The true story of a woman using testimonies, journals and other documents in an attempt to piece together the reasons for the disappearance of her step sister. Sounds fascinating. In reality I found this hard going. Too many art/ photography explanations that went way over my head and the whole thing just seemed self-indulgent. Ended up speed reading just to get through it. If you’re more of an art connoisseur this may appeal to you more (2/10)

So. On to February….have a few book club reads lined up and a few selected from my to-read pile, the rest remains to be seen.

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