Tropic of Serpents - Marie Brennan


Much of the same, really. Notable mostly for its detailed, self-contained alternative world.

A Natural History of Dragons - Marie Brennan


The fabulous cover artwork sums up the ethos of this series - a 19th century steampunk world like - but not quite like - our own. A feisty heroine finding her place in a male society, wild dragons determinedly different to those of Naomi Novak's books and derring-do galore. Even if, on reflection, not much actually happens...

Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell


Yes, this is the famous '10,000 hours' book, and it makes that case engagingly, if not particularly convincingly. Basically, [spoiler!] success is a mixture of hard work and luck. And this book is a mixture of repeatable anecdotes and forgettable links.

The Shining - Stephen King

Didn't finish

Somehow I've got through my reading career without encountering any Stephen King. And this novel has moments of brilliance, both in terms of the quality of the writing and the psychological disquiet. But it was so hard-going that I forced myself to read it in small batches until I realised I really didn't have to. Will I read more King? Hmm, maybe, but there are many other writers I'd rather try first.

The House of Mirth - Edith Wharton


There were plenty of houses but there wasn't much mirth. The style itself is hardgoing these days, and the self-sabotaging heroine so much the product of another time that is was hard to sympathise with her plight. Still, it's one of those classics that I can now drop into conversation when I next find myself discussing the commodification of women in early 20th century America.

Strange Weather in Tokyo - Hiromi Kawakami


Popular on Netflix at the moment are various gentle Japanese dramas focusing on bar and restaurant culture. This fits in very well with that genre - two lonely people gradually become closer as they drink sake and enjoy various dishes together. A little spice is added by protaganist making no excuse for being rather contrary and difficult, and the plot unfolding through a series of slightly disjointed vignettes - the story rings a little truer as a result.

Death of Anton - Alan Melville


A rather delightful lost classic, set during a very specific period of time. Interesting protagonists and some striking turns of phrase make its obscurity rather unjust.

Rebel of the Sands - Alwyn Thomas


Although there are too many characters and confusing political and cultural backstories, at heart this is an exciting adventure story with a(nother) strong female protagonist. I do wish that books setting themselves up for a sequel finished properly, though.

My Name is Lucy Barton - Elizabeth Strout


People rave about Elizabeth Strout's writing so maybe I missed the point. A self-consciously clever and self-referential book, with a lot left unsaid but (as Billy Joel put it much more effectively) I don't want to work that hard.

The Muse - Jessie Burton


Attentive readers may remember that I wasn't too keen on Burton's previous book but this was slightly better. So the two historical periods didn't gel too well, the 'twist', such as it was, predictable, and the ending yet again tailed off to nothing, but at least I didn't fall asleep this time.

The Magicians - Lev Grossman


Poorly structured and full of plot holes it might be, but entertaining it definitely is.

Eileen - Ottessa Moshfegh


I read this because it was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and the acclaim seems well-deserved. Oddly sinister, piling up the squalid yet mundane details, it ratchets the suspense with its intriguing unreliable (or maybe extremely honest) narrator. Very clever, if not exactly entertaining.

Dead Man's Ransom - Ellis Peters


Who shot the sheriff? Well, no-one because it's 1141. But who suffocated him? Who cares? Cadfael will find out and the lovers will be together. Utterly forgettable, unfortunately.

The Woman in Blue - Elly Griffiths


I know I said this series is underwhelming but how could I resist one about a village 5 miles from me? Or an alternative-reality version of that village, anyway. As it happens, this one was a bit better than the previous couple, even if still more soap opera than thriller, and even if the murderer seems to have been picked at random (Christie-like) from the cast of characters.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson


The idea of reading this was shamelessly stolen from Becks but I'm grateful to her as it would otherwise have passed me by. This grotesque, tragic yet also strangely upbeat novel is a little, twisted treasure that makes me wonder what was really going on within its smug counterpart, 'I Capture the Castle'.