Reading/Writing Summary for April

I could almost claim 14 books for April – except that one of them has been so massive that I am still reading it, and will be reading it for many months to come! That is, of course, Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji), which I’m reading along with brave Akylina.

greatwarOf the remaining thirteen, I had another epic doorstop of a book: The Great War by Aleksandar Gatalica. You will find the full review on Necessary Fiction website shortly. This website, incidentally, is well worth a look for its thoughtful reviews of lesser-known authors and short story collections, its research and translation notes, and writer-in-residence feature. For now, let me just say this book is an ambitious, sprawling, almost encylopedic collection of stories and characters, from all the different sides fighting the First World War. Touching, humorous and ever so slightly surreal.

Six books were in my preferred genre, crime fiction. If you’ve missed any of the reviews, they are linked below (all except Cry Wolf, which I was not sufficiently enthusiastic about).

Attica Locke: Pleasantville

Rebecca Whitney: The Liar’s Chair

Michael Gregorio: Cry Wolf (Ndrangheta clans penetrating the peaceful areas of Umbria in Italy)

Karin Alvtegen: Betrayal

Tom Rob Smith: Child 44

Sarah Hilary: No Other Darkness

Child44My Crime Fiction Pick of the Month, as hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, is very, very tough, as Child 44, No Other Darkness and Pleasantville are all jostling for position. So this time I think I’ll go for the one that kept me awake all night to finish it, which was Child 44. I saw the film as well this weekend, which simplifies some of the story lines and emphasises perhaps different aspects than I would have (if I’d written the screenplay – the author was not involved in it either). But I enjoyed it, and the actors were really impressive. If you want to see an interesting discussion of book vs. film adaptations, check out Margot’s latest blog post.

Meanwhile, Pleasantville fulfills my North American requirement for the Global Reading Challenge – I don’t often get to read something set in Houston, Texas.

A lot of online poetry this month (after all, it is National Poetry Month for the Americans) and I’ve also started a poetry course organised by the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. But, surprisingly, I haven’t read any poetry collection.

However, I did read a non-fiction book, the funny yet thoughtful essay collection with the irresistible title 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write.

Three of the books I read this month fit into the historical fiction category, but the one I want to highlight is Fire Flowers by Ben Byrne, which gives such a poignant description of post-war Japan, something few of us know about.

Alongside the two translated books (from Swedish and classical Japanese), I also read four books in French (well above my monthly target of 1-2). These were Yasmina Khadra’s L’attentat, Philippe Besson’s La maison atlantique and Virginie Despentes’ Teen Spirit (which I’ve reviewed all together here). I also read Metin Arditi’s rather chilling description of a Swiss boarding-school for boys Loin des bras.

So, all in all, a good month of reading. Although some books felt a bit average, there were quite a few that impressed me. At least I no longer feel obliged to write lengthy book reviews about those I didn’t quite gel with (or even finish them). And I’m pleased that I am spending some time in Genji’s company again. It helps to slow down my world and see things from a very different angle.

In terms of writing, I’ve been less successful. School holidays and business travel have wreaked their usual havoc. I have, however, solved outstanding plot holes and know very clearly where everything is heading now. I have the post-it note wall to prove it! Although I’m still open to allowing my characters to surprise me a little…


So, how has your April been in terms of reading and writing? Any must-read books (dare I ask that question, dare I be tempted)? Anything you felt was overrated or overhyped? Let me know below!





34 thoughts on “Reading/Writing Summary for April”

  1. Wow! You’ve certainly had a busy but productive month. Come Friday I felt April was ‘chaotic’ & I was very happy to see the back of. However, you’ve got me thinking and with hindsight it actually had some good reading & writing factors I’d allowed to be overshadowed.

    I managed 8 novels – 7 of which were by new authors to me Doyle, Ferrante, Sparks, Harvey, Ollikainen – many inspired by bloggers and I’d recommend them all.

    I also managed to write a new piece for my local group & it got a fab reception… It certainly spurred me on for next piece

    I’m still trying to establish some sort of reading & writing routines to feel more productive and get a good balance with life’s demands… not easy!

    1. Ah, that elusive routine… I am far from mastering it myself. Why do you think my blog is called what it’s called?
      I’m glad you had some good reads and lots of new territory to explore. Yes, in retrospect, April has not been great for many of us.

  2. Glad to hear you’ve solved a few tricky plot holes in your writing, it sounds as if you’re making good progress. And you’ve read such a diverse selection of books.

    I’m still playing catch-up with my reviews, so I’ve yet to post any for books read in April! My two (VERY different) reading highlights were Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays, which I’ve been reading with Emma and Dorothy Baker’s Young Man with a Horn – reviews to come. Oh, and a lovely little French novel about love, art and Italy – another one I need to write up. 🙂

    1. You know, some months all the books seem a bit bla and you struggle to pick a best crime read, but this month they were of very high quality indeed!

  3. First, thank you very much for the kind mention, Marina Sofia 🙂 . I’m very happy for you that you’ve worked your way through the plot holes in your story. That can be so difficult, can’t it? I’m impressed!
    You had a good reading month, too, and that’s terrific. So glad you thought Pleasantville was a good ‘un. I think Locke has an awful lot of talent, and I’m hoping to hear more from her.

    1. Well, you know what it’s like with the plotholes… all solved until you get to it in the writing and discover you need something different…
      Speaking of Attica Locke, have you watched Empire at all? She’s main screenplay writer for that and, though it’s not crime, I’m curious to see it.

      1. I haven’t (yet) seen Empire. With Locke as screenwriter, I’m sure it’s probably good; I ought to check it out.

  4. You seem to have had a great reading month! 🙂

    Thank you again for participating in ‘The Tale of Genji’ readalong! It’s such a massive and daunting book but as you had also said, it needs its time to be read and enjoyed 🙂 Let’s hope we both finish it soon enough! 😉

    1. I always start off the month thinking I won’t get to read more than 2-3 books, but then it seems to accelerate. I don’t keep up with the reviews, though!

  5. I am so glad you plumped for Child 44 as I’ve just ordered a copy for Mr Litlove as a holiday present. I’m also taking Pleasantville away with me to read and am looking forward to it enormously. As usual lately, I didn’t feel like I got enough reading or writing done in April. It was a month when I didn’t HAVE to read for SNB and in consequence I dithered horribly over book choice and wasted a lot of time. Oh the perils of sudden freedom!

    1. I always moan about having too many books to review, not being able to choose freely etc. And then, when I do have the freedom, I also dither… Aren’t we funny?

  6. I really loved Child 44 and am looking forward to the movie too. I have started The Farm by Tom Rob Smith as a friend bought me it for Christmas. It’s a fascinating premise!

    1. I liked the premise of The Farm, but was less enamoured by its execution. However, that too is going to be made into a movie – and this time the author himself will be writing the screenplay.

  7. V impressed at your read rate …..despite work and life ! Altho I have read some other books , April has mainly been about Virginia Woolf for me as I’m doing a short course in VW and Modernism . Learning more about her writing and the modernist movement has been a v rewarding experience .

    1. VW is one of my absolute favourites. Who else have you been reading from the Modernist movement – curious to see if I know any of them other than VW?

      1. Well we’ve looked at Katherine Mansfield , Joseph Conrad, D H Lawrence , Joyce and I think this week it’s Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Have you read Ali Smiths How To Be Both ? A great companion piece to Orlando .

        1. All favourites – so clearly I am a Modernist girl at heart! And no, I haven’t read Ali Smith’s How to Be Both, but definitely want to. Hope it appears soon at our local library in English.

        2. *butts in* oh very interested in your comparison of Orlando & How to be Both… Do you recommend reading Orlando before HtbB Helen to appreciate more?

  8. 14 books! When do you sleep? 🙂
    I have a book by Attica Locke on the shelf, I’m looking forward to it.

    I love your post it wall, it looks like inside my head. With juggling with family life, work and all, I feel like my head is a huge board full of “to do” and “don’t forget” post its.

    1. Aaah, the answer is of course, I never sleep! I wake up at about 4 a.m. and start worrying about making doctors’ appointments, taking my car to be repaired, doing the tax return, organising the holidays, preparing my next course etc. etc. The inside of my head is not half as pretty as my post-it wall, I can tell you!

      1. What are you doing at the computer at this of the morning, MS? Surely there’s some more snoozling you could profitably be doing?

        I too tend to wake up at 4am and fret, so you have my sympathies. My own cure is to stay in bed, either in the dark or reading, until eventually I can grab another hour. If I’m lucky a cat climbs aboard and purrs me to sleep, but more often the rotten little toads prefer trying to wake my wife up instead.

        1. I do sometimes read or write a bit (with a cat for company) and then am ready for another snooze. But on a schoolday I need to get up at 6:30 anyway…

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