November and December round-up


I got lazy again, so here’s November and December squashed together. 7 books for November, and a bumper 12 for December thanks to the holiday period and a ridiculous number of plane journeys. I’m going to keep it really brief this time.

The North Water by Ian McGuire – 6/10

One of the Man Booker short list nominees. Historical thriller. Pretty good until the climax, which was shoddy and unsatisfying.

Broken Sky by L. A. Weatherly – 4/10

UGH. I’m not having a good time with YA fiction right now. Here we have a typical example of an author getting away with writing a book that isn’t a story in its own right, merely a set up for a series, because their last book sold well. Full ranty review here.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman – 6.5/10

More YA, a bit better this time. A decent follow-up to If I Stay, although nothing special (a bit like a Dairy Milk chocolate bar). Full review here.

Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach – 7/10

A quite-good sort-of thriller about someone impersonating someone else online in order to allow them to go off and commit suicide without hurting their family and friends. The ending was a bit of a damp squib though.

More of Me by Kathryn Evans – 6/10

Another YA that’s got tons of good reviews and has left me feeling like there’s something defective with my taste in literature. Arghh.

The Bear by Claire Cameron – 7/10

This is a book written with guts. A six-year-old girl narrates her parents being killed by a black bear and her and her brother’s survival in the woods. The child’s voice was, inevitably, tiring. But my God, is it heart-wrenching.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – 9/10

I have read better books about WW2 in France, but this one is still incredibly affecting and refreshed horrors in my mind that no one should ever forget.

The World-Ending Fire by Wendell Berry – 9/10

This was quite something. A collection of essays that are often challenging, sometimes way too academic in its writing style, but at other times beautiful, and always vitally important. Berry is a composite of George Monbiot and writer-farmers like John Lewis-Stempel (I read two of his books in 2016); in love with land and nature, disgusted with modernity, and terrified for the future of the planet and humanity. If it is true that we only have a few decades of harvests left, due to our destruction of topsoil everywhere in the world, we are facing apocalypse not just from climate change. Full review here.

Dreamwalker by James Oswald – 5/10

A fantasy that I just did not get on with. And I usually love dragons 😦

Caraval by Stephanie Garber – 6/10

I originally thought favourably of this much-hyped YA fantasy, but now that I’ve fully processed it, I’m not so sure. All a bit shallow in the end. And the romance. Da fuq.

The Lonely Planet Travel Anthology – 10/10

Travel writing vignettes from the likes of Ann Patchett and Alexander McCall. Absolutely bloody wonderful. Full review here.

Unbecoming by Jenny Downham – 7/10

Maturely-written YA, although let down by a character who’s meant to be seventeen but thinks like a twelve-year-old. Weird.

The Circle by Dave Eggers – 9/10

Due to be released as a film with Emma Watson playing the lead (and quite dumb) character. Very, very good, and I wonder if Charlie Brooker stole it a bit for Black Mirror.

The Wild Other by Clover Stroud – 7/10

Memoir of a woman trying to cope with her mother’s accident.

Man Up: Surviving Modern Masculinity by Jack Urwin – 8/10

Thoughtful book about the toxicity of modern masculinity; recommended to all.

The Last Rhinos by Lawrence Anthony – 8/10

Anthony sadly passed away in 2012, but his legend lives on in his books including this one, in which he tried to and sadly did not succeed in saving the last members of a rhino sub-species.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – 6/10

I need someone to tell me what this book is meant to be telling me.

Ten Million Aliens by Simon Barnes – 8/10

I learned so many new things about the natural world, but my God, I never want to read about worms again. There are so many different kinds of worms in the world and I just don’t care.

The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon – 9/10

Yes, the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. A collection of short stories. The one about a base on Mars is the best.


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