Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Early Summer Round-Up

Phew, what a busy few weeks it has been! In the ever elusive juggle to get the work / life balance right, I've fallen a little behind in my reviews. However, in such busy times the rush hour read is ever important! So here's a sneak peak at my recent reads.

First up is Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, to tie in loosely with June's film theme. It was a nice, easy read and entertaining; I quite enjoyed the fairly unsympathetic lead, as there's nothing like a flawed hero for me. The supporting cast of music shop misfits was also amusing, but I couldn't quite shake the feeling of familiarity throughout. Part of this was from other Hornby works I've read (notably, Juliet, Naked - perhaps a little unfair as High Fidelity came first...) and also the wickedly brilliant The Average American Male from Chad Kultgen (firmly classed in the "I loved it but I shouldn't" category). I guess this highlights what a pioneer Nick Hornby has been of the genre; either way, it's a fun and nostalgic read - one day we shall study this and marvel at a time when people actually made a living from running record shops!

(available in hardcopy, paperback, Kindle and audio formats)

Next up, A.M. Holmes' May We Be Forgiven. I've always loved a family saga since the first time I read Catherine Cookson's Mallen Trilogy (should that be filed under a guilty pleasure? I'd like to think not - give them a read if you haven't already). The first few pages are black comedy of a grand scale; terrible thing after terrible thing happens as the reader watches a family fall apart, and I found myself wondering just how this exciting pace could be sustained through it's length...which was the problem for me. After a great start, I don't think Holmes really maintains a compelling pace as another less conventional family forms from the ruins. The rest of the novel is a series of random episodes as main character Harry seeks redemption, and I felt it become a little too unbelieveable as Harry's unconventional family accrues more members. I did find the last few chapters dragged a little and at times descended into schmaltz, which didn't really fit with its early promise. Overall, OK, but not much more.

(available in hardcopy, paperback, Kindle and audio)

Finally, I got round to reading Gone Girl after much hype. I think I'm probably the last person among friends to have read it so thought I should get round to tackling it. Thrillers are not normally my thing, but this one really had me gripped. A psychological thriller which focuses on the toxic marriage of beautiful Amy and Nick, the story of Amy's disappearance is not all what it seems. This is a novel which twists and turns so subtly that the reader is never sure exactly what's going to happen next and, until the halfway point, you find yourself starting to doubt everything.

Every detail plays its part and I found myself admiring Gillian Flynn's cunning in her craft. Just when you think you've solved it, boom! In comes another curveball. I did find the end slightly disappointing; this for me was another where the first half wasn't quite up to the initial promise and towards the end I guessed where it was going. Still, overall this was a book that's hard to put down and I regret leaving this as long as I did. This was a book that never quite made it into my bag when my train pulled into the station as I desperately tried to eek out the last bit of a chapter on my walk to the office. Fellow pavement strollers, I apologise - but if you gave this book a read, I'm sure you'll understand why!

(available in hardcopy, paperback, Kindle and audio)

So, these are the reads that have gotten me through the hot summer so far; hopefully not quite so many reviews at once next time!