January Books Round-up

Looking for something to read? Here's what the Strictly team's noses have been stuck into this month.

First up is Slam by Nick Hornby. This is a small but beautifully formed YA novel, written in the voice of the teenaged protagonist who finds himself a Father. And when I say in voice, I mean it. Not one word from any other POV, not a comma to hint at authorial intrusion. Funny, painful, entertaining. Perfect.

Next is Tokyo by Mo Hayder. This is not one of her latest, but easily her best. She masterfully blends a past narrative set during the Nanking massacre, with the story of a troubled young woman searching for a lost piece of film in present day Tokyo. This author again uses first person, unerring POV to haunting effect. The result is frightening and thrilling.

Caroline R
I'm currently reading Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George M Gould and Walter L Pyle. It's the first ebook I've read on my iPod Touch and I really like this format – it's convenient to have it in my pocket and read a few pages here and there. And I do read it in the bath – I mean, since when was it a good idea to drop a normal book in the bath anyway?

I'm also still making stately progress through Roy Porter's Flesh in the Age of Reason – I've been reading this on and off for about a year.

I have recently finished reading ‘Just the Three of Us’ by Clare Dowling. This is the story of an affair told, by alternate chapters, through the eyes of the wife and mistress. Dowling’s writing is extremely funny yet perceptive and shows the pain caused to all parties by adultery. What’s more, both plotlines are compulsive. An excellent read.

With my youngest, I am currently reading ‘The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories’. What a beautifully illustrated book containing one short story for every day of the year. These biblical tales are told in an entertaining but authentic way, and would suit children of all ages.

I first read Cane River by Lalita Tademy after picking it up in a branch of Barnes and Noble, which had an impressive array of African-American literature. It follows four generations of women born into a hierarchical plantation environment along the Louisiana river. The character Elisabeth notices a 'bleaching of the line' as her daughter Suzette, then her granddaughter Philomene and finally her great-granddaughter Emily bear the illegitimate offspring of the area's white French planters.

And staying on the river theme (purely co-incidental that my novel is called A River to Cross!) I first read this book as a nine-year-old. In Lynne Reid Banks' One More River spoiled teen Lesley moves with her parents from Canada to an Israeli kibbutz because her father feels that the family has lost any sense of what it means to be Jewish. Much of the novel is set before, during and immediately after the Six-Day War period and follows Lesley's efforts to adjust, as well as addressing her growing friendship with an Arab boy.

I'm guilty. Waterstones lures me in with their 3 for 2 offers and on
Monday I succumbed in order to buy the latest book club book 'The Book
Thief' (Watch this space) While there, I saw Jenn Asworth's debut novel
'A Kind of Intimacy' which I'm currently loving when I should be loving
the book club book. The complex main character of Annie has me
enthralled. I'm not even sure I like her, but I do feel sorry for her
and want to know both what has happened to her in her past, and what's
going to happen as the story unfolds. A beautifully written and unusual tale.

Marian Keyes latest novel (I am a HUGE fan - when I grow up I want to
morph into MK) The Brightest Star In The Sky has released to unusually
mixed reviews. Someone, something is visiting 66 Star Street's residents
- able to slip in and out of their homes easily. The paranormal (is
it??) twist keeps the reader guessing who/what this is until the last
few pages. Vintage Keyes in parts with wonderful laugh out loud moments, insightful glimpses into people's characters, characters I cared about but... for me - there was just too much going on.

I'm 'book-hopping' at the moment. I have three on the go, with two more on the starting-line. I read each book at different times of day. I'm three-quarters through 'Attitudes of Gratitude' by MJ Ryan - fabulous non-fiction and very thought provoking. Then, for daytime reading at work, I've just started Clare George's novel, 'The Evangelist' - about truth, consciousness, science and religion. In bed at night, I'm reading 'Always and Forever' (women's fiction) by Cathy Kelly. And I'm saving two novels for my holiday as special treats: both are by Strictly 'regulars'. Rosy Thornton's 'Hearts and Minds' and Rebecca Connell's 'The Art of Losing'. Does anyone else read different kinds of books at different times of day, or is it just me??

Caroline G
Don’t you love it when you ‘discover’ a new author? I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of Liz Jenson when I picked up The Rapture [yup, on a three for two..] but found her latest to be fabulously written, highly intelligent and extremely thought-provoking. Set in a near future ridden with freakish weather, it is about a psychologist recovering from a terrible accident, who is sent to work with a disturbed teenager. When the teenager starts predicting a series of natural disasters, the question arises: is she foreseeing them or making them occur? The book has compelling things to say about climate change and religious fundamentalism, while managing to include a love story to boot. A fantastic read.


Administrator said...

Some great suggestions there which reflect how diverse the SW team is!

Anyone commenting, please do tell us what you are reading at the mo...

Essie Fox said...

I'm reading The Suspicions of Mr Whicher - a factual story of a Victorian murder that reads like a thriller.

National interest in the event led to a growth in 'detective' novels such as those sensations written by Wilkie Collins, and even Charles Dickens based a detective on Mr Whicher.

Not really for fun but well written and very clever.

Rosalind Adam said...

I heard Caroline's choice, The Rapture, on Radio 4 and found it compelling. I've just finished reading Miss Garnett's Angel by Sally Vickers which is a must for anyone who loves Venice although I felt a bit let down by the ending.

Caroline Green said...

I've heard so much about Miss Garnett's Angel and really must give it a go. I couldn;'t get on with The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, VV...I'm not sure why. I've heard many good things about it.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

I felt similarly about Miss Garnet. Beautifully atmospheric but I hated the ending.

Gillian McDade said...

I'm off to order The Rapture right now on Amazon! I've heard so many good things about it - it's time to read the book :)

Fionnuala said...

You know hte 3 4 2 I mentioned?I also bought The Rapture.... Guess what I'll be doing asap?!

Ann said...

Great suggestions. My next trip to the bookstore has just been scheduled for this evening. Lots of books to purchase.

Caroline Green said...

Great! I'm hoping Liz Jensen will pay me a commission now ;)

Lynsey Dalladay said...


I love your book suggestions and noticed Mo Hayder in there. If you'd be interested in reviewing any other Transworld titles let me know. You can find me on twitter.
Thank you,

Lynsey Dalladay