I read twelve books in January, which is a personal best, with an average rating of 4.5 stars – so it was an extremely good reading month for me. Below are mini reviews for each book (excluding book club picks and ones with longer reviews to come).
Rip Van Winkle and Other Stories by Washington Irving
This is a collection of short stories, each of which is supposedly based on an element of Dutch-American folklore. My least favourite story was actually the title one, I felt it was quite anecdotal and a little bit misogynist – we’re supposed to feel sorry for Rip because his wife is always mad at him, but if he could be bothered to help around the house she wouldn’t be! I enjoyed ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ the most as this was the story that felt most true to the folkloric nature of the stories, whilst also providing a ‘rational’ explanation. The folklore aspect was definitely my favourite part as I haven’t read many American legends before.
The Final Reckoning by Robin Jarvis
This is the final book in Jarvis’ Deptford Mice triology and while the previous books were dark this one is truly brutal. The Final Reckoning goes deeper into the series’ mythology than the other titles, though I still would’ve liked more detail on how the magical elements work. I loved the return of the grumpy but wise Starwife and while I can’t exactly say the ending was satisfying I do think it fits perfectly with the series harsh but optimistic tone.
The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb by R. L. Stine
Please note I’m rating on a curve for the Goosebumps series here, which are practically a genre of their own given how numerous they are. The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb subverts several of the Goosebumps tropes established thus far in the series (supernatural evil, useless adults) and it’s great to see some diversity in the series with a whole cast of Egyptian characters.
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
This is a re-read for me as I want 2017 to be the year I finally tackle The Lord of the Rings. I think I actually enjoyed it more this time. A super magical read.
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
I still wasn’t sold on this series when I finished Northern Lights, even though I enjoyed that book more than the first time I read it, but after barely making it few the first few chapters a few years ago this time this is the one that really hooked me. I enjoyed Will as a protagonist more than Lyra, he was very resourceful and sympathetic. I also loved the move into alternate worlds and the further exploration of Dust. This feels like a cross over with sci-fi rather than the straight fantasy of the first book.
Tourist Season by Carl Hiaasen
I’ve read several of Hiaasen’s other novels, but never this one which is his first. Like all his novels it’s a crime story based around eco-terrorists and journalists. Hiaasen has this Florida noir style of storytelling that I really enjoy and his books revel in the sweaty, sleazy underbelly of a ‘tropical paradise’.
About A Boy by Nick Hornby
I read this in just a day even though it’s about 300 pages, so I found it a very easy read. Like the film, which I saw long enough ago to not remember much of the plot, it was enjoyable but I think pretty forgettable. I also disliked Marcus’ sudden transformation at the very end which erased all his weirdness.
The Tragedy of Mr Morn by Vladimir Nabokov
It’s hard to review this one because unfortunately some of the pages have not survived, and unfortunately those pages are right near the end, leaving the ending feeling quite disjointed. Mr Morn is Nabokov’s first major work, though it was never published or performed in his lifetime. I’ve only read Lolita before, but this has the same beautiful, lyrical writing. The dialogue is purposefully a little disconnected with several characters trailing off at times or talking about completely different things. The story is a fairy-tale style political allegory about a peaceful kingdom challenged by a nihilistic revolutionary. Nabokov’s gorgeous writing means I loved it, but this is not one for everyone I think.