Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Books: December Fifty Two in Fifty Two

"What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening whenever she turned and the days weren't long enough for the reading she wanted to do" 
Alan Bennett
16. Ken Follett, Edge of Eternity. 3/5
I started this book in September. No, really. It's a stonking 864 pages, so it was always going to be a long haul but I was expecting to race through it. I'm a fan of Follet, I find his books are very readable, so I was really disappointed that Edge of Eternity, the third in a trilogy, didn't follow suit
Set mainly in the 1960s and 70s, it focuses on the social and political changes in the USA - the civil rights movement and the Kennedy legacy, with short dips in and out of Russia and Germany. I think this is the main reason I didn't enjoy it so much. Unlike the previous two in the trilogy, this book was less about the social changes and more about the politics, which made it harder to relate to and a bit more of a slog. Saying that - it brought me to angry tears at several points, and the weaving of real characters into the plot as fictional likenesses (e.g Alexander Solzenitsyn) was clever.
Enjoyable because it was part of the trilogy and I learnt a lot about 20th century history in a relaxed way - but not on the same level as the phenomenal first two. 

17. Jane Harris, Gillespie and I. 3/5
Another long one - about 20 hours as an audiobook. I'd heard great things about it but it didn't capture my attention until I was half way through. 
Our narrator, Harriet, befriends the Gillespie family quite suddenly and becomes a firm fixture in their lives. I could't quite work out how she could worm her way in so quickly, and I found her a bit of an unusual character. Desperately lonely, and living in a new city with no friends, it's not surprising that she clings on to every friendship possible, even when it's not completely sure if she's welcome. There was something unnerving about her though... 
It's hard to review this without giving away a massive spoiler - but - if you're a fan of a false narrator (think Gone Girl, only less irritating and more Victorian) and a gothic undertones it's worth a read. I'd suggest the book though rather than audio, as I suspect I missed quite a few "clues" by not completely concentrating.

18. Antony Horowitz, Moriarty. 4/5.
Ooh, how I love a Sherlock Holmes spin off. Although I didn't actually "love" the last Antony Horowitz one, if I'm honest. It just felt a bit... forced and overdramatic. I much preferred Moriarty, probably because neither Holmes or Watson feature in it.
In the aftermath of the Reichenbach Falls, we are introduced to Frederick Chase, an American private investigator who befriends Scotland Yard man Althelney Jones. Together, they begin an investigation into the seedy London underworld - which has rapidly begun to be infiltrated by New York gangsters after the demise of Moriarty. It's a cracking adventure, fast paced and fun with an element of the unusual - and with a cracking couple of plot twists. I really enjoyed it. 

19. Jessie Burton, The Miniaturist. 5/5.
I started reading this a few days before it was crowned "book of the year" after waiting for it a the library for several months. Ohh it was worth the wait. 
When Nella marries and moves to Amsterdam she is excited about her new life. Her husband presents her with a wedding gift of a miniature house, much to the disapproval of her new sister-in-law - a beautiful replica of her new home. As Nella begins to populate the miniature, dark and unnerving things start to happen, and secrets emerge. 
I loved this book. I couldn't wait for my lunch break to devour a bit more. It was creepy and dark without being overbearing, and the slow steady characterisation helped to unravel the story. I was so disappointed when it was over - the praise wasn't for nothing. 

20. Helen Fielding, Mad About The Boy. 3/5.
The third in the Bridget Jones series, it picks up over ten years after the second book left off. Having missed the newspaper column in the 2000s, I was a bit worried I wouldn't have a clue what was going on, but the column seemed to go completely unreferenced and the book plunged in to life for Bridget in 2014.
There were things I didn't like about it. Bridget has aged at the same rate as the books (rather than the films which came ten years later) so we meet her at age 51, with two young children in tow. I don't know why, but this just didn't work for me. It didn't seem quite right having her attend 60th birthday parties. There was no Shazzer. There was no Bridget's dad. Or Mark. 
But - it was a really warm tale about life after bereavement. It was funny and relatable (even if you're 20 years younger with no kids), and an enjoyable bedtime read. One of the best "female" books I've read in a while. 

21. Agatha Christie, The Secret Adversary. 2/5.
I had such high hopes - an Agatha Christie I've not read! Turns out there's a reason for that. The first Tommy and Tuppence adventure was less of a murder mystery and more of an attempt at an interwar spy novel, but without the charm of more famous tales from the period. Set after the First World War, it starts with Tommy and Tuppence bumping into each other, having first made friends in a military hospital. Unemployed and bored, they decide to get involved in "adventures and mysteries" - and are rapidly embroiled in complicated mysteries involving a ship, some Americans and a judge who may or may not be a wrong 'un. 
I listened to this as an audiobook and was really quickly bored by it, finding myself drifting out of concentration as it got more far fetched. It passed a day cleaning the house in anticipation of the holidays, but I won't be rushing to find any more of the series. Poirots and Marples for me!


  1. I love this series Gwen. I think I'm going to start my own challenge, today seems like a good day for such resolutions. Which library in Edinburgh do you usually go to?

    1. I mostly use their online site - it's a fantastic download for eReaders and audiobooks service that recommends others you might enjoy. All for free!

  2. Ooh I keep hearing good things about The Miniaturist, I'll need to get a copy. And I'm a bit apprehensive about reading the latest Bridget book...I've heard good and not so good things about it so I keep putting it off! :)

    1. I put it off for ages too, then saw part of one of the films on telly and remembered I had it on my eReader.
      Definitely go for The Miniaturist! I'm recommending it to everyone!

  3. I loved Gillespie and I. I have Mad about the Boy in my pile, and The MinMiniaturiwill be bought with a Waterstones voucher.

    I've read mixed reviews of Moriarty, but I like Horowitz's writing and this review has convinced me to get it.

    Are you going to do 52 in 52 again? There are as a year where I did a 100 book challenge and went over - I'm lucky if I read two books a month now.

    1. I think I would have enjoyed Gillespie and I if I'd read it rather than listened to it.

      I think Moriarty was enjoyable because it was a related to Holmes book rather than a Holmes - fans expecting Watson to narrate would be disapointed but that is why I liked it!

      I started my 52 in 52 in September (slightly randomly) so I'm still going with it - but I am really enjoying reading so might keep going with it next year too!

  4. Moriarty and The Miniaturist are going straight on my to read list! And I should check what the deal is with my library and ebooks. You do great reviews Gwen!

  5. I agree with you entirely about Horowitz's first Holmes novel - Moriarty was SO much better. And glad you liked The Miniaturist too, it's one of my books of the year for sure.