2014 Reading Reviews Redux

resists the powerful urge to apologise for lack of blog post, at the top of a new blog post

except I guess I just did…

I wrote on Facebook a while back that I was all set to write a blog post, a book review, when having looked up what the last review I did was I found that I haven’t done one this year! (2014 at the time)

Which is odd. I have read less in 2014, but not nothing. I have felt like I have had less to say, but, again, not nothing.

So here is my catch-up, catch-all review blog post for everything I’ve read in 2014.

I’m basing the below on my memory and my records – which means calibre, which is why the rating is out of five.

Foreplay, Jill Myles, 2 stars – A free short story which is a prequel to the Succubus Diaries. I’d like to say that there was more involved in choosing this than titilation. And there might have been but it was definitely a component. Which is a shame because it’s not (titilating). However it wasn’t much else either. I recall thinking it might work if you knew the characters already. As a teaser for the book it didn’t.

The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion, 4 stars – A comic novel about an autistic man’s search for a wife. I enjoyed it at the time but was aware that the portrayal of autism wasn’t necessarily accurate. It’s faded somewhat now and I was a little surprised at giving it 4 stars.

Save Yourself, Mammal!, Zach Weiner, 3 stars – A collection of comic strips that I got as part of a Humble Bundle of ebooks. I remember finishing it in order to have something to cross off as read. Amusing.

xkcd: volume 0, Randall Munroe, 4 stars – part of the same bundle I think. Much wittier and cleverer.

The Most Dangerous Game, Zach Weiner, 3 stars – see above.

Quiet the Mind, Matthew Johnstone, 4 stars – a short (picture) book about meditation and using it to tackle anxiety and depression. Helpful even if I’ve only used it a couple of times.

A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift, 3 stars – read this after listening to an In Our Time episode on it I think. Clever and witty but one to read to say I’ve read it more than I read it to enjoy it.

The Black Sheep, Julie Cohen, 3 stars – another freebie story that’s an adjunct/teaser to a novel. Can’t remember why I downloaded this. I occasionally get moods where I like the idea of reading a romance novel. This was OK, but as with Foreplay didn’t make me want to pick up the book itself.

Maybe Next Time, Michael Marshall Smith, 3 stars – MMS is one of Melissa’s favourite writers, so I’ve read a few of his books. This is a short story. I honestly can’t remember what it’s about. *goes to check* Ah. Yes a supernatural-ish tale. Vaguely eerie. Not amongst my favourites of his.

Unnatural Time, Julio Angel Ortiz, 2 stars – I downloaded this when the idea of a free ebook was still a novelty for me. Another short story. Can’t really remember it either. I dimly recall a surreal and disorganised tone. Not motivated to go look it up.

Death of a Spaceman, Walter M. Miller Jr., 3 stars – downloaded from Project Gutneberg IIRC. Another short story. I thought it would be a SciFi tale but it’s mostly about a man’s last hours and how he feels about his life. Not bad.

The Disintegration Machine, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 3 stars – part of a “Professor Challenger” Anthology. I was working my way up from the shortest (this) to get to at least The Lost World (2nd longest). Anyhow, this is not bad. The twist was a little predicatable but demonstrates something of the character and personality of Challenger.

Dying, MMS, 3 stars – short story. Again fuzzy is my memory but I’m getting something about a SciFi future and animals.

The Elephant in the Room, Paul Cornell, 3 stars – short story. I read this because a) it’s from the “Wild Cards” universe and I’ve got a book of short stories from that to read (this is not from that) and b) it’s Paul Cornell who’s written one of my favourite Dr Who episodes and a novel I really enjoyed. This wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be. It depicted a relationship between two characters with gifts but, as I recall, not much happens.

The Handover, MMS, 3 stars – short story. Better than some of the other 3 star stories. This was atmospheric, not-quite ghost story about an almost ghost town. I enjoyed the build up but the ending left me a little flat I recall.

The Stronger, August Strindberg, 2 stars – play. I read this because I was re-watching Studio 60 at the time and in one episode a character mentions The Father, and that play, this and two others were part of a collection I downloaded. This was the shortest so I read it first. Can’t remember much – a conversation between two women in a coffee shop?

Heaven and Mel, Joe Ezterhas, 4 stars – allegedly true story about the time this Hollywood writer was going to write a move with Mel Gibson. Well written and gripping. A “kindle single” this was the length of a novella.

Alien Landing: Beppe Grillo, 3 stars – intriguing story of a stand-up comedian/political activist in Italy. My Italian co-worker is a fan so that partly sparked my interest. Another kindle single but shorter.

The Martian, Andy Weir, 3 stars – a novel. Sword and Laser book club pick for May. It was a good read but sagged a bit in the middle. Very science-y fiction about a lone survivor of a manned Mars mission. A little too much technical detail in places. I enjoyed the ending though, it picked up pace there.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North, 4 stars – novel. Story of a man who lives his life over and over and each time remembers his previous lives. An intriguing premise developed well. Humourous in places and good fun.

The Intruders, MMS, 4 stars – a novel. An MMS book I’ve had for a while – since I read Bad Things at least. Galvanised to read it by knowing a TV adaptation was on the way. Enjoyed it a lot. Not quite as much as Bad Things but still good. TV show so far not as good as the book.

Babysitting, Elizabeth Day, 3 stars – a literary short story (I suppose, never quite sure what literary is). Piqued my interest when I was browsing Kindle singles. Not bad, guessed the ending.

Guns, Stephen King, 3 stars – a kindle single. Political essay about American gun culture.

The Playground, Ray Bradbury, 3 stars – a short story. Feels like it should have been an episode of The Twilight Zone (perhaps it was!). Probably fairly ground breaking in its day, felt well-worn to me.

The Rover, Drew Magary, 3 stars – odd little SciFi, humour story about a visitor from another planet. Or is it? Curious tale, strange tone.

Missed Connection, MMS, 3 stars – another MMS short story with a supernatural-ish tone. Always felt like it was about to be better than it was. Not terrible but not of his best, for me.

The Understudy, David Nicholls, 3 stars – a novel about the understudy to a big theatre (and soon to be movie-) star. Amusing and pleasant without being laugh-out-loud funny. I mostly listened to this as an audiobook on a long car journey and it helped the motorway miles be less boring.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn, 4 stars – the book of the film of the book. Bought this when it was recommended on the PCHH podcast a few years ago. Read it now because of the movie (see above re: Intruders). Pleasingly gripping and increasingly bonkers thriller.

Floor Games, H.G. Wells, 1 star – from a collection of his works I bought ages ago and split into separate ebooks myself. Read this to cross off another short piece (<7000 words). It’s a series of thoughts on games to play on the floor with your kids (toy soldiers etc). Of historical or biographical interest only.

Glitch, Hugh Howey, 3 stars – short story. Picked this up even though I struggled a bit with Wool. Wool was OK but not amazing and this was similar though at least it was shorter. A near-future tale of fighting robots and the people who make, maintain them. Some nice character stuff.

Seconds, Brian Lee O’Malley, 4 stars – graphic novel from the author of the Scott Pilgrim series. Not as good as that (which I also re-read this year) but fun, and beautifully drawn.

Speaking of graphic novels, I’ve also been reading various comic-book subscriptions – Saga, Alex and Ada, Sex Criminals, Satellite Sam, Lazarus and Miracle Man – though looking at that list makes me realise that I’m behind on almost all and may cull a couple unless/until I catch up.

And that’s it. A lot of shorter stuff but a few novels. More of a single author, MMS, than I would have thought. A couple of embarassing choices. Shocking how little has stayed with me – but that’s more about my memory these days. Overall though, pleasing that I have actually read quite a bit.

Oh – nearly forgot:

Expecting Someone Taller, Tom Holt, 5 stars – read this on a duvet day when I was feeling down. I was encouraged that I read most of it in a day, and that I really enjoyed it. So that feeling/worry I get sometimes that I’m too jaded and foggy-minded and short attention-spanned to be able to read and enjoy books these days is clearly wrong. I just need to find the right ones. It helps that this is an old favourite – despite being, well I won’t call it a guilty pleasure because I don’t feel guilt – let’s say it’s a book that I enjoy despite recognising its objective quality is not as high as the pleasure it brings me might suggest.

Actually on that realisation – that this was in fact one of my favourite books on the unarguable metric that I can pick it up, re-read it (quickly) and get a lot of comfort joy from it – made me think how few other books are in that category. I briefly thought of re-reading some of the highest scoring books from the last few years, but not many immediately appeal, even though I enjoyed them at the time. Others that do fit this category would be A World Out of Time and High Fidelity.

In terms of reading goals I patently failed at the Triple Dog Dare challenge. I also failed at my Goodreads challenge of 40 books – even with GR counting some of the short works above as a single “book” I only managed 28. I’ve set the 2015 challenge to 25, which given my current reading rate should be a stretch but then it is a challenge. I think I’ll try to go back to blogging reviews because I think it’s helpful for the challenge and frankly, helpful for me in feeling I’ve achieved something. Whether I’ll think about cutting back TBRs etc I’m not sure. I have bought more and read less this last year which is not the best (though as vices go, buying ebooks you don’t read isn’t the worst I could have).

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1 Response to 2014 Reading Reviews Redux

  1. Pingback: 2015 Reading Round-up 3 – the Books | Only Mostly Dead

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