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 either 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.

The Tortoise and the Hare - Elizabeth Jenkins


I ordered this from the library on a whim, after reading several glowing reviews. It's certainly of its time (late 1940s/early 1950s) and, to modern readers, the main character can be maddeningly passive as her awful husband blatantly takes up with another woman. But modern minds could also view it as a fairly convincing account of emotional abuse that causes depression and loss of self-confidence. It is beautifully written (if oddly edited) and rather intriguing in its account of class behaviour.

Merivel: A man of his time - Rose Tremain


Tremain's books are always varied - if you don't like one, there's always another completely different story to try. But here, unusually, is a sequel. I read Restoration years ago - before I started my reviews, it seems - and remember little but it didn't matter much. Merivel is such a vivid character, strangely sympathetic despite - or because of - his many flaws, and doing the best he can with the times and means given to him. It's both a tragic and hopeful book - much like Restoration, actually.

H is for Hawk - Helen Macdonald

Didn't finish

I persisted with this book as the author does with her hawk, hoping I'd get on with it if I just tried harder. But there comes a point when you have to admit you're bored and unengaged and you just need to fly free.

The Road to Little Dribbling - Bill Bryson


Bill Bryson is one of the very few authors to make me laugh out loud and bore anyone around me with choice phrases. After lending this book to my mum and her partner, it seems I'm not the only one. But it did seem a rather a filler between more meaty volumes (though after writing the history of the universe, it's unclear how much more meat is available to Bryson), and a little incoherent - but great fun and slightly insightful all the same.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet - Becky Chambers


Yes, it's written well enough, and the space-worlds and characters are carefully thought out. It's nice to have a generally upbeat story... but should a good book really be 'nice'? Shouldn't it be a little challenging, a little subversive, a little less derivative, a lot less, well, twee? I enjoyed it well enough but I doubt if I'll remember it in a month or two.

The Chimes - Anna Smaill


Reading a book about how music sounds is never going to quite work. Reading a retro-futuristic dystopian book about how types of music that don't exist sound is never going to work at all. Hampering characters with no memories is also going to make rounding them out a tad challenging. All in all, this reads more like an undeveloped first draft - or a heavily cut draft of a much longer book.

The Loney - Andrew Michael Hurley


With great hype comes great disappointment and this follows that well-trodden path (across the abandoned beaches and into the twisted local community, fanned with the poisoned winds of misplaced religious fervour). No discernible terror, very little drama and, of course, a frustratingly vague resolution. Hmm. Did I miss something?

Great cover, though.