Vinegar Girl - Anne Tyler


Anne Tyler is a novelist without equal but even she has her off-books. This retelling of 'The Taming of the Shrew' as an amiable romance among socially awkward characters may feature her signature sharp observation but lacked bite and conviction. I wonder if it even started out as a Shakespearean update but was adapted to be one on request.

The Ghost Fields - Elly Griffiths


The Ghost Story, more like, in the sense of it being hardly there. As this series goes on, it becomes more like a soap opera and less like a tightly plotted set of murder mysteries. There was only one candidate for the murder(s) this time, which killed the suspense, and even that took a back seat to the tedium of the characters' relationships. Disappointing.

Etiquette and Espionage - Gail Carriger


The first odd thing is that the cover is almost sexy but actually the content is the sort of thing my 8-year-old reads. The second odd thing is that it tries so hard to be steampunk cute that it loses most of the charm it's aiming for. And the third odd, but common, thing is that it's determinedly 'first in the series' and therefore is more of a prologue than a self-contained story. Disappointing.

The Outcast Dead - Elly Griffiths


By this point in the series, you'd expect to feel some emotional investment in the characters but neither they nor the story are particularly memorable in this sixth book. But I'll keep reading the series purely for the local interest.

The Nothing Girl - Jodi Taylor


A fairly standard cutesy romcom, enlivened by the narrator's mentor, an invisible talking horse, but unfortunately that disappears two-thirds of the way through. Well written but its distractingly self-published feel could have been solved with a decent structural edit.

Empire of Ivory - Naomi Novik


Temeraire is as appealing a dragon as you can imagine, so it's a shame that his rather dull human handler/companion Laurence gets most of the page time. Still, the alternative history is diverting even if the story itself isn't and the lack of proofreading too distracting in places.

The Devil's Novice - Ellis Peters


Brother C does his usual thing in the usual fashion. Not much happens (which is surprising for a murder mystery) but the landscape descriptions are beautiful. Enjoyable if undemanding.

Claire deWitt and the Bohemian Highway - Sara Gran


Most fictional detectives are dysfunctional but it's a wonder Claire deWitt can do any detection at all. That's the real mystery, as Claire enters a downward spiral of drugs and a tenuous hold on reality. It's certainly an interesting and unusual read, and one that's probably pretty layered beneath all the confusion.

Breaking Away - Anna Gavalda


Points gained for a good, colloquial translation (for once) of a rather forgettable snapshot of four irritating, self-entitled siblings. I think the reader is expected to be on their side, but they were all so selfish that I didn't care. Interestingly French atmosphere, though.

Love, Rosie/Where Rainbows End - Cecelia Ahern


I thought it was high time I read a Cecelia Ahern book and it was just as I expected - readable and undemanding chick lit. Though I wonder if my take-home message that the book was about lives wasted for no reason whatsoever is the one that's intended.

Medicus - Ruth Downie


What it lacked in immersive historical veracity, it made up for in joie de vivre. It's no Cadfael but it was a fun mystery in an unusual setting. And sometimes that's just fine.

The Sanctuary Sparrow - Ellis Peters


Not a particularly mysterious mystery, as it was obvious whodunnit from early on. But the descriptions, characterisation and historical detail are spot on, as usual, making it enjoyable if not memorable.

The Girl With All the Gifts - MR Carey


As derivative zombie thrillers go, this was quite a page turner, at least at first. The second half sagged a little with its own self-importance.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair - Joël Dicker


Books in translation and books about books always ring my warning bells. Sure enough, the stilted, unnatural dialogue clunked away as poorly edited translations do, and the writing about writing about writing was tediously self-indulgent. The story was OK if you're into overblown thrillers but 'book of the year'? I don't think so.

I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith


I first read this years ago and apparently loved it so recently thought it would be a good audiobook to stop me from getting bored on a long car journey. Well, maybe I'm older and bitterer now but I couldn't decide whether it's indulgently twee or deliberately open to oppositional readings. I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt and suspect that readers don't have to be entirely sympathetic to this family of self-indulgent, narcissist idlers.