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April in Books

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Still playing catch-up on my 50 book challenge.  April was a hectic month work-wise, demonstrated by the fact that two of these are Book Club choices I read and then failed to make the meetings!

Oh Pioneers! – Willa Cather

Set in the Northern States this is a story of early 20th century pioneers.  I adored the language and imagery of this novel; Cather totally brings the landscape to life.  I really struggled, however, to connect with the characters.  Cather centralises the book around the central female character and all the male characters are portrayed in a pretty negative light.  I think this is probably why I struggled with this novel so much.  The descriptive writing is great but it wasn’t enough to hold my interest.  All very bland and uninspiring.  A short review and a disappointing 4/10

The L-Shaped Room – Lynn Reid Banks

A book I picked up on my last trip to the amazing Barter Books based purely on the blurb. The central plot here is an unplanned and illegitimate pregnancy in the 1950s.  I really enjoyed this book, after being utterly unable to connect to Cather’s characters, Reid Banks were well-formed.  Although the central theme here is the pregnancy, this is a novel about race, romance, family, loneliness and friendship.  Reid Banks completely draws you back to the period and setting of this book.  You feel completely wrapped up in Jane’s story and life, so much so you feel like you’re there in the L-shaped room with her on every step of her  journey.  You are acutely aware whilst reading just how shocking this novel may have been when first published in 1960.  Alongside, you realise just how much of a shift there’s been in society and in the attitudes and rights of women. I’m looking forward to seeking out and watching the film adaptation. Highly recommended 8/10

Death and The Penguin – Andrey Kurkov

I’m always desperately seeking a new favourite author to rival the amazing Haruki Murakami.  I found that recently in bookclub choice by David Wong (review here).  So it was that, yet again, I found myself in a bookshop (there to innocently collect my World Book Night books) breaking my no-new-books-till-you’ve-read-your-to-read-shelf policy.  I managed to restrain myself to two; the sequel to Wong and this novel by Kurkov, which I heard of whilst browsing an “authors similar to Murakami” discussion on Goodreads.  I read this with great anticipation, it’s a relatively short work and I devoured it in two days.  So, similar to Murakami?  Not really.  For me the genius of his books is their surrealism, you never know quite what’s going on or why.  They’re magical, fantastical and utterly absorbing.  This wasn’t quite on that level for me.

Now don’t get me wrong here.  This is a good book.  He has a pet penguin.  What else do you need? In all seriousness, there’s a great plot here, an original story, good character development and an easy to read writing style.  So, I haven’t found someone to rival Murakami and Wong but I have found an author I will definitely go back to.  Well worth a read, particularly if Haruki is too surreal for you. 8/10

The Winter Ghosts – Kate Mosse

No, not the supermodel.  Another of those bookclub choices that gets pulled out of the hat and you already have an opinion on whether you’re going to like it or not.  My initial judgement, in this case, was right.  This wasn’t a book for me.  The positives? It’s as easy read, some good historical references but undeveloped in their significance.  For me the plot was nothing new and there was something a bit of a writing-by-numbers to the whole novel – all a bit formulaic.  I couldn’t connect with the ghost story, I couldn’t believe it (granted this is mea culpa for being a scientific minded old cynic) I didn’t like the central character, found him all a bit wet and pathetic. If you want an easy read, ghost story then this is for you.  If you like your books with meat and substance, stay clear.  5/10

Books read January: 6

Books read February: 2

Books read March: 3                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Books read April: 4

Total books read 15
Books to read : 35 (agh!)


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This entry was posted on May 13, 2013 by in 50 Book Challenge, Books.
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