- Ok. January's first book was...I'm not sure I can say it. Oh dear. It was Twilight: breaking dawn. I am thoroughly ashamed of myself, and I have no excuses! I read the first book when I was at my parents' house last Christmas (my sister has them all), and this year I read books three and four. I don't know what it is about these books that is so compelling. Because they're absolute rubbish. I mean, total and utter tripe. But once you start, you (or at least I) can't stop. I cannot stand slaggy Bella. A nothingy, clingy, wussy idiot of a girl. And such a bad role model for young girls. I cannot understand how she managed to get two boys to fall so helplessly in love with her. Edward is creepily possessive. Jacob is somewhat more likeable, but his obsession with Bella...please. Star rating: *** (only because it is so addictive)
- Number two is the rather more respectable Brideshead Revisited. I read this for my book group which meets once a month in Crouch End. I liked it, although I feel I missed out a little as I had to speed read it (I got distracted by Twilight). I probably wouldn't read it again though, and it hasn't inspired me to read any more Waugh. Star rating: ***
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being. In a word - unbearable. Oh how I dislike this book. I read it once a few years ago and have had to re-read for book group. I am always curious to re-read books I had a strong reaction to, to see if my feelings have changed over time. In this case - nope. Some interesting ideas put forward, so is probably a good "book group book", but the style puts me off. Star rating: *
- Drawing Blood by Poppy Z Brite. Another book group read. I hated this book. HATED it. It made me gag on several occasions, and some pages I had to skip as they were just too gross. That says it all really. Will not be reading another one of Ms Brite's books...! In fact, I think it is the worst book I have ever read. Ever. Goodness me, I've not been very positive about any of my 2011 reads so far, I'm not normally so negative, honest! Star rating: -----
Updated to add: my book group generally liked this book, so I am in a minority...I just couldn't handle the bodily substances. If you've read it you'll know what I mean.
- Engleby by Sebastian Faulks. Loved it. It was one of those books that you really have to dig around in for clues and keep your wits about you, as the narrator isn't entirely reliable. I raced through it as I wanted to know what happened, and I was very tempted to turn it straight back to the first page and re-read immediately. First fantastic read of 2011, yay! Star rating: ****
- Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. Again - loved it. I had no idea that there were 'tunnelers' during WW1 and that a whole other war was being fought underground in no mans land. Matt ridiculed me for my ignorance but then I read the introduction and Sebastian Faulks only found out about it before writing Birdsong so I didn't feel too bad! The descriptions are something that will stay with me for a long time. I think it's an important book, a reminder of the sacrifice of WW1, which I think tends to be overshadowed (for my generation at any rate) by WW2, and really piqued my curiosity as I know pitifully little about it. Star rating: *****
- The Yacoubian Building - another book group choice - ok, a bit dull. Star rating: **
- The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins. Been wanting to read this since university when I studied the detective novel. Worth the wait, loved it, although a tad predictible to the modern eye!
- One Day - David Nichols - on Karen and Jane's recommendation (and just about everyone else I spoke to) I read this - loved it. Thanks for suggesting it guys!
- A Case of Knives - Candia McWilliam. This was another book group choice and I enjoyed it very much. There is a lot going on, and I think it would benefit from a re-read to really get the most from it.
- Oscar and Lucinda - if you have not read this book, I urge you to read it - absolutely loved it, favourite book this year so far without a doubt.
- Revolutionary Road - excellent, definitely recommend.
- The Beggar's Opera by John Gay - a re-read from university, went to see it in Regent's Park Open Air Theatre so wanted to refresh my memory before I went. Very enjoyable but glad I'd refreshed myself of the story.
- Love and Summer by William Trevor - again, really liked this book - unexpected and refreshingly told.
- At Swim Two Birds by Flann O'Brien - very odd book, one that I've started a few times but never quite got round to finishing. Ended up really enjoying it after I got through the Finn McCool Sweeney saga...*yawn*
- Engleby - Sebastian Faulks - a re-read from Jan, for book group this time!
****Hmm I feel something may have gone awry this summer, I'm sure there must be some books I'm forgetting...dammit!****
- The Cellist of Sarajevo - LOVED this - it was a book group choice and I wasn't really expecting to like it, it being a Richard and Judy book n'all (snob - although in fairness I have liked many R&J books) - but it was great.
- Pale Fire - Vladimir Nabokov - this is a book I read in uni and really enjoyed. 10 years (wow) later I decided to give it a re-read and it definitely stands up to a re-read. One of the most unusual books (in style) that I have read, excellent!
- Turn of the Screw - a re-read but v much enjoyed - although was the only person in book group to think the ghosts were a figment of the governess's imagination!
- Wise children - Angela Carter - I may have read this before October, but I have been rather remiss in updating this. Loved it - recommend. Not as heavy on the magical realism as her others so if that's not your thing a good one to try.
Um. I'm sure I read something.
- Perfume - I liked this, but it made me feel disgusted to be human! Not sure that was the point.
- Watermelon - Marian Keyes. Re-read. Perfect Christmas reading when the telly is blaring and people keep talking to you.
- 31 Dream Street - Lisa Jewell. See above.
- A friend of the family - Lisa Jewell. See above.