What I've Been Reading Recently

Monday or Tuesday by Virginia Woolf
A tiny collection of stories which I read in a couple of hours. It took me a little while to get used to Woolf's style (again. I went through the same thing with her novels) and I'm not sure I was always getting the point but it was beautifully written...

Indiscretion by Charles Dubow
You know this story already: a charming, award-winning author has an affair with a younger woman; it backfires. There's nothing new here and, to be honest, the characters are a bit lacking in... well... character. But there's something engrossing about it. It's like watching a TV movie on a rainy afternoon. But go and make a cup of tea instead of bothering to watch the end credits read the lengthy epilogue.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Oh no, I'm about to make another film analogy. What has happened to my ability to critique books as books?! I picked this at random the week before Christmas - only to discover that it's actually set the week before Christmas. Narrator, Georgie is spending the festive period away from her husband and kids - and nobody is happy about this. To make matters worse, her husband won't answer his mobile and, when she calls his landline, she finds herself being connected to him... in 1998. She can't tell whether she's having a breakdown or has a magic, time travelling telephone - and, for most of the book, nor could I. But what I can tell you is this: when I got to the end, I felt like I'd just watched the squishiest, sweetest, most perfect Christmas movie and I wanted to share it with all my friends.

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh
I'm pretty sure I read this because of another blogger's review but I can't find the post so: thanks to whoever recommended it. 100-ish years into the future, beautiful women who die young are frozen and kept in storage for rich men to buy as wives. When a musician accidentally kills someone and lands her on ice, he and a handful of new friends become concerned about the ethics of the whole enterprise. Sci-fi blended with feminism blended with good old fashioned romantic drama, this is one I really enjoyed.

The World According to Bob by James Bowen (and some ghostwriter named Garry)
Part of my annual Christmas haul of novelty cat books. I got the first Bob book last year which told the true story of a recovering drug addict being adopted by a ginger cat and being inspired to sort his life out as a result. It was quite a touching story. This book continues to be touching although a lot less actually happens in it - mostly it's just anecdotes about how cute the cat, Bob, is. Still, there's nothing wrong with gushing about cute cats, right?

Cat out of Hell by Lynne Truss
More Christmas cat book haul. Some evil immortal talking cats are killing off any humans who find out about their abilities. That's about it. I would have liked this to have either been much shorter (it has about a short story's worth of plot) or much longer (it could have been expanded so much) but it was a quick, easy read and a break from my usual tastes.

Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse by David Mitchell
A collection of columns written in a fairly world weary but reasonable tone, rather than as rants. They were a bit hit or miss but over all enjoyable with the occasional brilliantly funny turn of phrase.

Diving Belles by Lucy Wood
A lovely set of short stories, all with a hint of the magical about them - a village where it's accepted that sometimes people turn into standing stones; women travelling underwater to visit missing sailors; spirits keeping watch over houses as residents come and go. The stories are more about feelings than plots and they're all absolutely beautiful.

The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte
Not my usual sort of book at all, I read this for an online group and tried to approach it with an open mind (instead of rolling eyes). So, on the bad side: about 90% of the book is waffle; it could have been trimmed right down into a 1,500 word blog post and still been a little bit rambly. On the good side: I agree with the premise that goals should be based on the emotional outcome you want to achieve rather than other people's definitions of success; I also quite enjoyed answering all the questions about the good and the bad in my life right now and having a bit of a think about the things which matter. But do you need to spend all that money on the book? Nah, there are plenty of blogs which cover this stuff for free.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine
I'm always a little nervous about reading the autobiographies of people whose music or films I've admired for the same reason I'm not keen on DVD extras: too often the super-cool, super-smart, super-funny illusion is shattered. That did not happen with Viv Albertine's book. She writes with what is often painful honesty about everything from her teenage years through her depression, her struggles with infertility right up to her present day life as a divorcée, mother and artist. There's no need to have any idea who The Slits were or who Albertine is to enjoy this book - if you have any interest in punk musicians and evolving lives, this is worth a read.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce
(c/o Curtis Brown - thanks, CB Book Group!)
This is the companion novel to the The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry which I haven't read; I was worried that that might be a problem but the new novel stands on its own. It's the story of Queenie, who is living in a respite centre, dying of cancer. As the end nears, she starts to write a letter to the man she fell in love with several decades earlier - she never told him she loved him and she blames herself for a tragedy which occurred in his life; she has spent the intervening years tending a garden by the sea. The younger Queenie is an interesting, independent woman who knows how to stick up for herself; in the respite centre, it's rewarding to see her open herself up to the nuns and the other patients; I was less taken with the decades in between. This is beautifully written, though, and one to pick up when you're feeling unashamedly sentimental.

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  2. Ha ha! If you want to retaliate with some recommendations of your own, feel free!

  3. I like the sound of a few of these, thanks! I enjoyed the first Bob book too, he does have a great charm at capturing the enigmatic ginger cat. :-)

  4. If you read any of them, let me know what you think. :)

  5. My book group chose A Streetcat Named Bob a few years ago and I just couldn't cope with how badly written it was! I stick to Tom Cox (My Sad Cat) for my cat-related books now. Other than that, I've read a good few of these and liked them - Clothes Clothes..., Landline, the David Mitchell one, which I'm really enjoying, and am about to start the Rachel Joyce on your recommendation (just have to finish The Ship first - will be interested to hear what others think of it, finding it a bit of a chore so far)

  6. Yes, I did get annoyed (with Bob books) that they were written in a stereotypical "not very educated street person" kind of way - especially as there was clearly a competent ghostwriter doing a lot of the work!

    Did you also get The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes? It's also about somebody dying in a cancer hospice (what are CBBookGroup trying to do to me?!?!) but I prefer it - it's clarifying what it was that didn't quite feel right about the Rachel Joyce (I'll tell you once you've finished it). I'll be curious to hear what you make of them.

  7. No, I didn't get that one - I got Us, the Rachel Joyce, and another one the name of which escapes me, something to do with Alice? Have you started The Ship yet? I'll be interested to hear what other people think of it. I was not impressed!

  8. I'm five chapters in - curious where the plot is headed but finding the writing style hard going.


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