Books readReviews

What I Read in June

I’ve been getting lazy about reading lately, what with one thing and another. Up until the year before last, I was regularly reading at least 70 or 80 (sometimes even 90) books a year. But last year it dropped, for no good reason, and the start of this year has also been pretty dismal (although there has been at least one good reason for that). So I’ve decided to make a concerted effort to start reading properly again. For one thing, I really can’t pretend to be a writer myself if I don’t read much. More importantly, it’s good for you. I genuinely feel better when I read regularly.

The other thing I’ve got lazy about is reviewing books. I did set up a YouTube channel last year, but I didn’t manage to keep that going for very long – although perhaps I’ll give it another go one day. I also get very anxious about choosing a star rating on places like Amazon and GoodReads and I tend to go into chronic overthinking mode.

So this is what I’m going to do from now on. At the start of each month I’m going to post a picture of what I’ve read in the preceding month, with a sentence or two (nothing more) on each. Let’s hope that doesn’t prove too ambitious.

Anyway, this month I read eight books:

Ruin’s Wake by Patrick Edwards – I was fortunate to be on the same critique group on my MA course as Paddy, so I had a ringside seat as this debut novel of his emerged into life. It’s possible that I’m biased, but I think it’s magnificent: an epic tale, full of believable characters, great themes, some terrific world-building and some really interesting ideas.

Thunderball by Ian Fleming – A few years back I began a sporadic project to read all of the James Bond novels. I’m not entirely sure why, but now I’ve started, I’m damned well going to finish. I have to say that the first few aren’t – in my opinion – terribly well written. But by the time we get to Thunderball (number nine in the series), things have got somewhat better – provided, that is, you’re prepared to turn a blind eye to the casual sexism and racism – and this was an entertaining read.

Of Wee Sweetie Mice and Men by Colin Bateman – This is the follow-up to the splendid Divorcing Jack, which I read back in 2017. Not quite as good as the first one, but still quite a fun read. My only criticism is the same one as I had of Divorcing Jack, in that some of the things that happen to people in it, both good and bad, don’t feel truly earned. I wonder if it derives from Bateman’s background as a journalist during the Troubles. Or maybe I’m just being over-moral.

Embers of War by Gareth Powell – Epic bit of space opera, first part of a trilogy. This doesn’t have a dominant central character like Ack-Ack Macaque (although Trouble Dog, the sentient retired battleship, is nicely odd), but nonetheless it’s an absorbing read. I’ll be ordering the next book in the series, Fleet of Knives, soon.

Nothing to Worry About by Vanessa Gebbie – The queen of flash on top form here. By turns bizarre, funny and profound. Everything flash fiction ought to be, and yet so often falls short.

How to be Right by James O’Brien – Entertaining lightning guided tour of the issues of the day, from Brexit to Trump, conducted by everyone’s favourite liberal shock jock. Also, a crash course in dialectic for klutzes like me who are brilliant at thinking up the perfect comeback – three days too late.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – Oh, where has Elizabeth Strout been all my life? Come to that, where has Olive Kitteridge been? Wonderful, wonderful book, and straight into my top ten favourites. Top ten? Top three!

What a Life! by EV Lucas and George MorrowBizarre exercise in early 20th century surrealism. Get it at Abebooks for a quid or so and have one of the most enjoyable hours of your life. I laughed out loud several times.

Feel free to chip in the comments if you disagree or even if you agree.

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