May Round-Up

Considering the fact that I spent most of month either away on holiday or preparing for it, I think I did quite well with my reading – 6 books and one short story.

Things started off badly with the dreadfully dull Strindberg’s Star by Jan Wallentin. Avoid.

Edie Investigates” was a charming eShort from Nick Harkaway. It introduces Edie Banister, a major character from Harkaway’s novel Angelmaker.  She’s a retired spy, now in her eighties, but totally defying all your expectations of little old ladies.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was perhaps by best read this month, and undoubtedly one of the best new books I’ve read this year. It’s a dark, demented psychological thriller about a marriage, a missing wife, and the husband who’s soon suspected of killing her. A very smart, surprising read, and utterly compelling.

The only thing that could rival Gone Girl as my best read this month is one of my favourite books – Perfume by Patrick Süskind. I re-read it to complete two different reading challenge tasks, and because I’ve been meaning to re-read it for a long time. It’s as brilliant as ever. I’ve seen the movie a few times since last I read the novel, so it was also interesting to note the differences. I also thought it would be a good holiday read for my Paris trip, since part of the novel is set in Paris (albeit a much older and stinkier version). I read the last few pages sitting on the Trocadero, waiting for the light show to start on the Eiffel Tower.

I finished Amped by Daniel H. Wilson last night. I jumped at the chance to review it after hearing all the hype about Robocalypse, Wilson’s first novel. Unfortunately, there’s nothing new or particularly exciting about Amped,  where American society turns against people who have ‘amplified’ abilities thanks to cybernetic implants. Conservatives fear and hate the amps and deem them non-human, leading to terrible oppression and civil conflict. It’s a familiar story, and Wilson does nothing innovative, so it’s average at best. Review to follow.

There are two other books I read this month. The first is Design as Art by Bruno Munari. I bought this and another book on art at the famous Shakespeare and Company in Paris (more on that in another post). This came after a visit to Centre Pompidou, a stunning modern art gallery that left me both awed and confused, hence the books on art. Design on Art has a series of easy-to-read essays that provided a few basic insights into modern art, which I really appreciated. On the downside, some of the essays are little more than lists of stuff rounded off with a minor point that Munari wanted to make about design. All in all, it balanced out to an average read.

I’ve had an eBook edition of The Beggars’ Signwriters by Louis Greenberg for a few months, but when I got the wonderful opportunity of meeting him for dinner in Paris, I wanted to read his book asap! (By the way – dinner with an author in Paris, how awesome is that! And Louis is a very nice guy.) It’s one of those books that’s almost impossible to properly sum up in a few words, and the blurb doesn’t do it justice. It follows the intertwined lives of South Africans living in Melville, Joburg, but also takes us to London, where two artists and a writer live and work for a few years. The novel explores personal relationships and modern art without binding itself to any definitive plot. I’m quite fond of novels that meander in this way, and although there were parts of The Beggars’ Signwriters that I didn’t like as much as others, I found the book as a whole to be a soothing, reflective read. I wanted to talk to Louis a bit more about the book than I did, but in person I’m dreadfully shy about that sort of thing, and I’m not sure if authors are always keen on those conversations… Anyway, no review for now because it was one of my leisure reads and I didn’t take notes, but maybe another time.

I couldn’t sleep last night, so after finishing Amped I jumped right in to what will be my first read for June – Kingdom of Strangers by Zoë Ferraris. It’s a murder-mystery set in Saudi Arabia, where the extreme social restrictions inhibit the lives of the characters – especially women – and the investigation itself, when notions of honour and propriety come before police procedure. It’s very good so far. I’ve got other good things lined up for June, but more on that later.

What did you read this past month? Anything you’d recommend?

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