Tuesday, 7 March 2017

What I've Been Reading Recently

I spent a lot of February struggling with reader's block, but in between the unfinished reads and the unfulfilling struggles with books, I did also manage to read some crackers. Unfortunately, two of my favourite books - The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein and The Upside Of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli - aren't published for another month or two and are thus embargoed, but there were plenty of other books that I enjoyed (and one or two I didn't).

The Chalk Pit*
Elly Griffiths
Rating: *****

A new Ruth Galloway novel is always cause for celebration, and the latest is no exception to the brilliance of this Norfolk-set series. When forensic archeologist Ruth is called in to examine some bones found in an ancient tunnel under Norwich town centre, neither she nor DCI Nelson expect her case to intersect with his investigation into a series of disappearances and murders in Norwich's homeless community. The joy of these books lies less in the detecting - although there are some moments of genuine tension and fear in The Chalk Pit, and there are a number of satisfying twists to the tale - but in the wonderfully real characters. From academic Ruth, the irascible Nelson, eccentric druid Cathbad, his partner and Nelson's DS Judy, to the unreconstructed, McDonalds-munching policeman Cloughie, each character feels more like a friend as the series develops. Combine this with Griffith's wonderful descriptions of the North Norfolk coast, and you have all the ingredients for a perfect crime novel.

The Good People*
Hannah Kent
Rating: ****

Hannah Kent's debut novel, Burial Rites, was my book of 2012 and is consistently my most-recommended title at work. So I had extremely high hopes for this book and they were, for the most part, realised. The Good People moves from the bleak landscapes of 19th century Iceland to the similarly bleak landscapes of 19th century Ireland, and follows three women - widow Nora, her young maid Mary, and local healer and midwife Nance, who is relied upon but distrusted by the villagers. Nora is struggling to raise her disabled grandson in the face of local mutterings: that he's a changeling, that the real Michael has been stolen by the Good People of the forest, that he is bringing bad luck to the settlement. She believes Nance can help her and, such is the power of the writing, that as a reader I believed it too.

Indeed, the wonder (and the horror) of the book lies in Kent's demonstration of how easy it is even for good people to be swept away by belief and superstition; how we can justify terrible acts to ourselves. In this sense, we can understand the 'good people' of the title to refer to the protagonists as well as the fairy folk. The Good People is a haunting, atmospheric and devastating examination of folklore, belief and superstition: very much recommended.

Uprooted
Naomi Novik
Rating: ***

Alex told me about Uprooted and, as her last two recommendations (The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet and Daughter Of Time) have been such great reads, I put it on hold at the library. And it's really hard to explain why I didn't love it, because it had all the ingredients of a great book: Eastern European folklore & fairy tales, magic, plucky young heroine, to name just three. But I found the narrative a little disjointed and never quite connected with the character

Not If I See You First
Eric Lindstrom
Rating: ****

Another recommendation, from Rebs this time, and I absolutely loved it. When she was 7, Parker was in an accident that cost her her mother and her sight. Now 16, she's ballsy and bitchy as hell, determined not to cry over the death of her beloved father 3 months before. Not If I See You First is a brilliant contemporary YA novel. Although it has elements of romance, it's far more about Parker's friendships, which are just brilliant (with the characters of Sarah and Molly being especially well-realised). These teen girls are complex, interesting, witty and fully rounded characters who are just a sheer pleasure to get to know as a reader.

Let The Dead Speak*
Jane Casey
Rating: **
18 year old Chloe returns to the London house she shares with her mother, Kate, to find the house covered in blood and Kate gone. With no body but everything pointing to murder, DS Maeve Kerrigan and her team are called in to investigate, but matters are complicated by her prickly new DC, Georgia, and her fractious relationship with DI Derwent. The mystery itself is satisfactorily twisty, with a great final reveal just when you think it's all solved. However, this is the 7th book in the series but the first I've read, and I think I'd have benefited from starting at the beginning - although it does work as a standalone novel, I found it hard to connect with Kerrigan & Derwent. Their friendship and banter is clearly a central part of the books, but I couldn't get to grips with the nature of their relationship or feel properly invested in them and, by default, the investigation.

 * This title kindly provided for review by the publishers via NetGalley. 

6 comments:

  1. I like the sound of the first one!

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    1. They are SUCH good books, if you haven't already you should definitely start the series.

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  2. Nice round-up. Should the Ruth Galloways be read in order?

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    1. I'd say that to get the most from them, you probably should. They're as much about the characters lives as they are about the mysteries, so it's better to read in order.

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  3. Replies
    1. It was excellent, very thought-provoking.

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