December is a tricky month. I’m always in the doldrums after German Literature Month. But it’s the month of long nights – pitch black here at 4 pm – and so December is an ideal opportunity for long, undiluted reading sessions. It’s a couple of years since I abandoned star ratings on the blog at least, but in my head they’re still going strong. I decided to try an experiment, only reviewing 4 or 5 star books with other titles receiving quick commentary in the monthly wrap-up.
That sure cleared up time for reading. I will have completed 14 books by the end of December, only 4 of which I have reviewed. Not that it was a bad reading month even though at one point there was a disaster looming with 3 2-star reads one after another. I will reveal all. It will shock you – it shocked me.
2 star reads
Ali Smith – Winter. All I can say is that the door to appreciation that Autumn left slightly ajar, closed – nay, slammed – shut during Winter. I knew it wasn’t going well, when after 30 pages I decided to re-read Dickens’s A Christmas Carol to get a handle of what was going on. Dickens’s maudling, sentimental Christmas Carol. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t make me like Winter any better either,
The third two-star read – and prepare yourself, this is shock of the year time – is Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I’d been looking forward to re-reading this for James’s All Jane Readalong for ages. Well, this turned into the most tedious book of the year. It was just one inane conversation after another, with one lingering look after another. Move from Kellynch Hall to Bath for more of the same. A little bit of excitement when a silly young girl falls down some steps in Lyme Regis. I’ll stop there before my snarkiness gets the better of me.
Things improved after that, thankfully,
or 3.5 star reads
The Island at the End of Everything – Kiran Millwood Hargrave
More adventure in the South Seas, this time a young-adult historical novel based on effects of the government’s decision to turn Culion Island into a leper colony. An interesting – sometimes fact is stranger than fiction – and moving account of the emotional impact of the policy. Informative and thought-provoking with regard to the disease and the way we view the disabled. Plenty of adventure thrown in for young readers too. Currently shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book of the Year Award.
The Sun is God – Adrian McKinty
Return to the Island of Kabakon which I visited courtesy of Christian Kracht during German Literature Month. I mentioned that not everyone survived their stay on the island of the sun-worshipping cocoivores. McKinty’s novel imagines what would have happened if the authorities had launched an investigation into those mysterious deaths. Entertaining and highly imaginative.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson / Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek – Anthony O’Neill / The Travelling Companion – Ian Rankin
The original, the sequel, and a modern homage to Stevenson’s classic tale. All perfect for long, winter nights. A themed-read post to follow.
The Guesthouse at the Sign of the Teetering Globe – Franziska Du Reventlow
Short stories from the Grande Dame of Bohemian Munich. Reviewed for Shiny New Books.
Magpie Murders – Anthony Horowicz
A homage to Agatha Christie incorporating a deconstruction of the murder mystery genre. Very clever, tongue in cheek in places, naughty in others. Review to follow.
Germanii – Vladislav Hristov
Short poems – translated from Bulgarian into German – of observations by a Bulgarian immigrant to Germany. Review here.
Resurrection Bay – Emma Viskic
Award-winning debut crime novel from Australia. The fact that the P.I is deaf brings in all kinds of new angles, Writing in top gear, from the very first sentence. Review here.
An Edinburgh Sketch Book – Iain Fraser and Anne Fraser Smith
The most beautiful book of the year. Review here.
Elanus – Ursula Poznanski
A thrilling YA novel about a boy, his drone and the problems that ensue when he sees something he shouldn’t, and then does something he shouldn’t. The novel is made more fascinating by the fact that the boy – a stroppy hormonal teenager, actually – isn’t so likeable. Elanus is a perfect blend of Bildungsroman and techno-thriller. I simply could not put it down, reading all 400+ pages in German in just 3 days! Given that Erebos was another 5-star read, Poznanski’s YA output has been added to my completist list and Aquila is on its way to me now. I’m unlikely to review Elanus in full, because there is no English translation. I don’t get it. Question: Why is no-one translating Poznanski for the Anglophone market? Answer most likely: Because not enough people picked up and read Erebos. People, I urge you to go do it now.
2017 Reading Statistics
YTD 107 Read, 8 Audio Books, 12 DNF
November 2017 14 Read 2 DNF
A little slicing and dicing of those numbers feels appropriate now we’ve reached the end of the year.
1) English:11 foreign languages 58:57 (Includes 5 German originals)
2) German:Other languages 34:23
3) Male:Female 64:46 (Excludes 5 anthologies)
4) Fiction:Non-fiction 110:5
5) Pre-2017 TBR:Acquisitions/Library books 45:70 (I’ll never reduce the TBR at this rate.)
6) Published 2017: Published prior 45:70
7) Top publisher Pushkin Press – 13 titles read
Do those figures provide any clues to the makeup of my best of year list? Maybe, maybe not. All will be revealed tomorrow ….