Thank goodness for the holidays, which allowed me to read (although not necessarily finish) 15 books in December, including a real humdinger doorstopper like Lamentation. I will be reviewing those that fit into the #EU27Project separately if I haven’t already done so (actually, only Rein Raud fits here) but let me give a very quick review of the rest. Without reminding you too much of yellow polka-dot bikinis in this cold, I promise!
Cathy Ace: Wrong Boy
After glamorous international locations in her Cait Morgan series and a United Sleuths of the UK series, Cathy Ace returns to her home turf of Wales and a closed village community, a tale of family secrets, superstitions and dark folklore. Although I thought the plot a tad predictable and the ending overly dramatic, the tangled relationships and beautiful, if eerie landscapes made this an entertaining read. The book will be out January 9th.
Joan Didion: After Henry
The tribute to their editor (the Henry of the title) was very moving, the rest is a collection of essays, largely political, which were interesting but no longer cutting edge (all referring to the 1980s or thereabouts), so I skimmed through them. Not as good as other Joan Didion things I’ve read.
Petra Hammesfahr: The Sinner, transl. John Brownjohn
Reviewed it on Crime Fiction Lover. Interesting to compare and contrast the original German setting with the Americanization of the setting and the script.
S.J.I. Holliday: The Lingering
I don’t believe in ghosts and am not easily scared, so I suppose this wasn’t quite the book for me. I found the ‘cult’ aspect of it interesting though, and done quite well, without exaggerating the negative aspects.
Elif Batuman: The Idiot
I was an overseas student from a country perceived as backward in the 1990s, so I had such high hopes for this one. But it was dull. A lot of ‘she did this… and then she did this… and then they met… and then they talked.’ I just couldn’t be bothered to finish it, but perhaps it picks up towards the end.
C.J. Sansom: Lamentation
Katherine Parr is probably my favourite wife too (of Henry the VIII’s harem), so I enjoyed this from the point of view of time period and content. It is clearly well researched, and there are so many clever little details which fully immerse you in that period, without being overly stiff and pedantic. I enjoyed the characters, the random changes of politics and the depiction of the cruel and crude justice of that period, but I was not bowled over. It was just too long for my taste.
Antonio Manzini: Black Run, transl. Antony Shugaar
The murder plays second fiddle to the story of fish-out-water detective Rocco Schiavone exiled to Val D’Aosta. I loved the descriptions of mountain and snow and how Rocco struggles with his inadequate footwear, but the atmosphere did not quite make up for the lack of plot, real character depth or social analysis.
Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise Longue
An odd little story of time-travel and the frustration of women’s secondary role in society in Victorian times and the so-called present-time setting of the book (I think it is set in the 1920s-30s, although it was published in 1953). Quite claustrophobic and disturbing, quietly terrifying, reminded me of The Yellow Wallpaper and The Turn of the Screw. But it is far more matter-of-fact and droll, with very sharp dialogue throughout.
Claire Fuller: Bitter Orange
Another book that excelled in terms of atmosphere and beautiful descriptions, but the story felt like something I’d read or seen a hundred times before. Notes on a Scandal and The Woman Upstairs spring to mind, and they both appealed to me more.
Lou Sarabadzic: La Vie verticale
One of the most effective and painful descriptions of what it is like to live with OCD, panic attacks, depression and then to undergo treatment when you are between cultures, between languages. Also an interesting ‘choose your own story’ structure, although it doesn’t really matter utimately, as there is no clear plotline or story arc. The structure is deliberately repetitive and circular, because this situation can reoccur, you are never entirely ‘cured’.
M.B. Vincent: Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death
English village cosy, with a dash of romance, although quite a horrific series of murders. It was a very entertaining and quick read, perfectly suited for New Year’s Eve, but not particularly memorable. Like M.C. Beaton but with younger protagonists.
I realise I sound quite curmudgeonly about nearly all of the books this month. I was quite taken by the two books about the Yugoslav War and The Victorian Chaise Longue, but the rest were mostly popcorn and comfort food. However, 2019 has started strong with Scholastique Mukasonga’s The Barefoot Woman.
15 thoughts on “Incy-Wincy Teeny-Weeny Reviews for End of 2018”
I’m amazed at how many books you are able to read. Some interesting books amongst this lot. And certainly some good covers.
I was afraid to read The Lingering because of the spooky side of it but in the end, I thought it was really good! 🙂
Sometimes we do just run into a spate of books that don’t exactly sweep us away, Marina Sofia. That happens to me, too. Still, I’m glad you had a few entertaining reads, and I think that armchair is wonderful, too!
If you read over 120 books a year, I suppose it’s inevitable that you become a bit jaded. I think I’ll prioritise quality over quantity in future.
Mini reviews are a good idea, getting to the essence. Hope you share more excellent reads with us in 2019. Happy New Year.
Useful to note about the Didion…. I read The Victorian Chaise Longue in the early days of my blog and was a bit underwhelmed, tbh – I didn’t find the end delivered particularly well and I wasn’t really that scared!
No, I don’t think it’s meant to be scary, but I found it oppressive. So frightening in that sense. And yes, the ending was rather abrupt and just a tad melodramatic.
You’re probably right, and that oppressive sense was there. I think I just wished she’d developed it a bit more.
Shame you didn’t enjoy your reading so much, but you made some good short reviews out of it!
Who’s behind the Women in translation project you mentioned in your last post, is it you?
I’m glad 2019 has started strong for you after some ‘meh’ experiences. I’d love an armchair like that too!
Sorry there weren’t more outstanding books.
“popcorn and comfort food” : you should create a category named like this.
it’s a mix of my “Beach & Public Transport” and “Sugar without cellulite” 🙂
I need to re-read The Victorian Chaise-Longue – I can’t remember how it ended! It’s the only book I’ve read of this lot. Bitter Orange is on my shelf though – I’ve been putting off reading it.
Marghanita Laski is on my list on authors to try at some point. Was this your first by her or have you read any others? Are there any you would particularly recommend?