I blame the fact that I’ve read twenty-six books in the past three months on having too many long drives across Europe on business and the irresistible convenience of having the Audible app on my phone. I had a great time so I thought I’d share the best and the most disappointing reads that this Spring brought me.
Best Read of the Quarter
This has to go to Kate Atkinson’s “Life After Life” which is the most extraordinary novel that I’ve read all year.
I was already a fan of Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brody books, so I picked this up despite the fact that neither the plot (endlessly reliving a life) or the period (mostly World War II) appealed.
I was astonished at how well written it was and how absorbed I became in it.
I’m looking forward to the sequel (which actually runs in parallel from a different person’s point of view) “A God In Ruins”.
Best New Finds of the Quarter
“Norwegian By Night” by Derek Miller, caught me by surprise. I’d expect an Nordic Noir thriller with an American twist. What I got was both more fun and more literary than that.
“Norwegian By Night” is an insight into the mind, memories and dreams of an eighty-three year old man, Sheldon Horowitz, using what’s left of his life to come to grips with his past while trying to do the right thing in the present.
It is beautifully written. The characters are memorable and very human, even the killers. Even though its themes: freedom and tolerance, guilt and hope, grief and forgiveness and above all, love, are huge and daunting, they are handled with a light touch that keeps them real and may make you weep.
It is a wonderful horror novel that reminds me of Stephen King at his best (which, for me, means “It” or “The Shining”).
Joe Hill knows how to build a story slowly while keeping the reader’s full attention. His iconography is original and chilling. His heroes are flawed. His villains are credibly evil. It’s a great read. I hope he writes many more like this.
Best New Series of the Quarter
I first encountered Carrie Vaughn as one of the few bright spots in a mostly dull anthology called “Hex Appeal” . When I saw that she had a series of books about a werewolf call Kitty Norville, running a radio talk show called The Midnight Hour, “The show that isn’t afraid of the dark or the people who live there”, I decided to give it a go, despite the terrible cover art.
It is one of the most original takes I’ve read on shape shifters. It’s also witty and well paced and has an engaging heroine. I’ve recently finished book three in the series and I’m still keen for more.
Biggest Disappointment of the Quarter
Originally, I thought this spot would be taken by Lee Child’s “The Hard Way – Jack Reacher #10″ but then I realised that, although it was bad, I wasn’t that disappointed. Some Jack Reacher books are like that.
I’ve chosen Daryl Gregory’s “We Are All Completely Fine” because I liked it a lot right up to the point where it wimped out and stopped without really finishing.
I don’t know what went wrong here. Daryl Gregory writes well and the story he set up was intriguing but it didn’t go anywhere.
It seemed to me that he gave up on what could have been a great novel and left me with a disappointing novella that had made me hungry and then denied me the opportunity to sate myself.