What I’ve Read: December

books reviews december

After a couple of months of abandoning reading almost completely, I’ve managed to get back into it with the Christmas break away from work – although those long days I’d anticipated reading for hours and hours on seemed to quickly get filled, so it hasn’t been quite as much as I’d hoped! I originally set my Goodreads 2014 challenge at 65 books, since I’d read 62 the year before, and 65 was the next logical number to me. I’d forgotten to take into account though that I’d ended up reading a lot extra because that year was the year of gallbladder illness and operations! So in the end, I knocked it down to 52 (to match one per week of the year), but only actually read 50, better than none I suppose! So this year, I’ve set my 2015 target at 50 to match last year’s – we’ll see how it goes. Unlike last year, we don’t have any holidays planned yet, although we’re in the process of sorting one out for September, so hopefully my reading time will get squeezed in then.
Anyway, on with December’s books:

A Study in Scarlet review

A Study In Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Arthur Conan Doyle – 6/10 (Kindle version)

I don’t like to admit when I’m taken in by things that are hugely popular, but I have to admit, I was taken in the BBC’s version of Sherlock, but only recently! I’m certain I watched at least part of an episode when it was first aired, but Ben and I only sat down recently and watched our way through it all recently, and I’m obsessed! I’m ashamed to admit though, that I’d never so much as read an Arthur Conan Doyle short story – a thing which needed to be rectified! I downloaded the full collection of Sherlock Holmes to my Kindle and decided to read through every story contained within slowly, starting at the very beginning, to see if the Sherlock portrayed in the series is true to the original.
And I wasn’t disappointed at all by the characters and the story I found in this. The first Sherlock episode is based on A Study In Scarlet, but obviously with all the modern twists (“A Study In Pink”). Holmes and Watson came across just as I’d imagined they would in writing, and I’m really pleased to see that the series kept true to their characterisation in the books. But, and this was a big but for me, the story was great all the way up to the point where you get the “back story” – something that isn’t interpreted in the modern version. It rambles for almost half the story about the background of the “villain” and how he came to be who he is today in old time Utah as part of the Mormons – while I love a bit of a back story, it was far too much for me! I ended up bored and skimmed through pages and pages of it, hoping to get back to Victorian London soon. I am looking forward to my next Sherlock story though.
A Winter Book review

A Winter Book by Tove Jansson – 6/10 (Kindle version)

This was our chosen Book Club read for the winter months – we like to try and be a bit seasonal around Christmas! It was another book of short stories, which I always enjoy because you can just pick the book up and start off at a whole new story. The problem was that I started the book quite a while back, then no one else got a chance to read it (aside from Charley who read a bit), so I forgot a lot of it, since there are quite a few stories!
Tove Jansson is also the creator of the Moomins and is from Finland, so I knew the stories would be entirely different to what I normally read. They are both taken from and inspired by her childhood – stories that seem to be everyday, picking up in the middle of nothing, and often ending, as short stories do, in what seem to be the middle of nothing too. They show the world shown from a unique perspective through a child’s eyes. To be honest, some didn’t mean a lot to me and I didn’t find them all particularly interesting, but others, such as the iceberg one, were lovely. It was definitely a good book to pick up and read to get a look at a different culture through different eyes.
The Vines review

The Vines by Christopher Rice – 6/10 (Kindle version)

This was a NetGalley read – I was taken in by the description talking about a restored plantation house near New Orleans and mentions of the supernatural, plus the fact that the author is a New York Times bestseller. We visited an old plantation house years ago near Charleston, and I was taken by the history, so I thought this would interest me.
While the background was good, the storyline itself wasn’t so great. Spoilt rich girl sees her husband with someone else at her party, gets angry, awakens something supernatural beneath her house, and everything turns into chaos. Obviously there is more to the story than that, but it didn’t really keep me gripped – possibly the fact that there was too much action?! I felt like the story reached its peak a long way before the end, so the rest seemed to keep adding on for me. Despite this, I did enjoy reading it and finding out what was going on – I can’t resist a bit of history especially when it’s combined with supernatural aspects!
The Girl on the Train review

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – 8.5/10 (Kindle version)

This was another advance copy from NetGalley and will be available to buy on the 15th January, so make sure to remember that (or pre-order it!) if you like the sound of it!
I read the blurb for The Girl on the Train on NetGalley and clicked to request it as quickly as possible. Why? Because it was compared to Gone Girl and had been reviewed very positively by S. J. Watson, author of another of my favourites, Before I Go To Sleep. In the past I’ve chosen books based on their apparent similarities to old favourites – sometimes I’m disappointed, sometimes not; this time it was definitely a not disappointed.
The story is told from varying points of view, but our main character is Rachel – a woman who commutes daily on the train into London, watching the commuters around her and staring at the houses as she passes. There is one in particular that has always piqued her interest where the train stops at a signal every day, and the people that live there interest her even more, in fact she gives them names and imagines the perfect life they have. It isn’t until one day when she sees something that turns this imaginary life on its head that we realise all is not as it seems, even (or perhaps especially) in Rachel’s life. She feels its her duty to report what she’s seen to the police, but it only serves to make things worse for her, dragging her ex-husband with his new wife and baby into the picture too.
There is of course the twist you always expect in a psychological thriller, and while it wasn’t for me as huge as the likes of a Gillian Flynn novel, it was definitely still a good one. The characters in the book are fascinating because not one of them was particularly likable, and at different times you suspect them all of different things. And of course, it’s one of those books you can’t describe without giving anything away , so I’ll try to be brief – this was a very good read, one of my favourites in a long time, and I’d definitely recommend it. It isn’t yet available for another week, but if you’re interested, pre-order it so you don’t forget!!
Vivian versus the Apocalypse

Vivian Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle – 8/10 (Kindle version)

A couple of months ago, I had a Waterstones gift card so I decided to buy a few “real” books as opposed to Kindle books for once, and this was one of them – it was strange to read a real book again, but I got through this in about 24 hours in the end as a combination of liking the book and having some free time!
Vivian Versus the Apocalypse is a young adult novel set in the near future in an almost dystopian type world – yep, one of my favourite kinds of books! The Church of America has slowly taken over most of North America, taking over not only religion but also many commercial aspects of life including food and clothing. People are divided into groups of Believers and Non Believers, until the day of the “Rapture” comes, and everyone starts to rethink what they believed in. The story follows Vivian Apple who wakes up on the morning at the start of the Apocalypse to find two holes in the ceiling above her Believer parents’ beds, and that they, along with a few thousand others, have disappeared, seemingly to heaven as the prophet had predicted. The nation is thrown into chaos – was he really right? Vivian sets off on a journey with her friend Harp, and stranger they meet called Peter, and eventually an old Believer friend, now heavily pregnant, Edie, to find answers and family across America. Of course, we have all the usual aspects of a world thrown into turmoil and revolting tribes of people calling themselves the New Orphans.
I did really enjoy this book – despite it being a fairly heavy subject (end of the world and all that), it was an easy read to get through. As you’d expect, not all is as it might seem, but you’d need to read it to find that out!

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