Saturday, 1 February 2014

January: What I Read, What I'm Reading

One of the things I've really been enjoying about my recent headfirst dive into the world of BookTube is the way vloggers can just chat about what they've been reading recently without having to necessarily delve into everything at length.  I like the way they can share their TBR piles gleefully and describe what books they've been buying and reading, and their monthly wrap-ups in which they share their books for the month all in one go.  Given that I'm definitely not feeling like reviewing much at the moment, and box sets are taking up more space in my life than books, I thought I'd follow the BookTube lead and do a January round-up of what I read and what I bought.  I hope you like it!
~ What I Read ~
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
by Holly Black
This was my first Holly Black novel, and I really enjoyed it.  It takes every vampire novel you've ever read, old and new, scrambles everything up and lays it out with a fresh new twist.  The writing's excellent, the characters are interesting, the setting is very intriguing, and the romance between Tana and Gavriel is just the right balance between old-school seduction and modern flirtation.  I gave it 4 stars, and you can read my review here.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter
by Jeff Lindsay
The first book in the Dexter series, which is maybe better known for its TV incarnation starring Michael C. Hall.  I didn't really expect that much from this, especially after a couple of people mentioned they didn't rate it much.  So I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I loved it - I loved the unique premise, I loved Dexter's voice and the pitch black humour, I loved the insight into a sociopathic mind... it was fascinating.  I gave it 4.5 stars and you can read my review here.

Casino Royale
by Ian Fleming
Another first-in-series, this time the first of the iconic 007 James Bond novels.  I've read a couple of the others already, but I didn't rate this one much.  I knew the outline of the plot already, thanks to the movie - but the movie was better.  The characters are so flat in the novels, and setting aside the 'but CONTEXT!' argument, Bond is a stone-cold bastard.  There's no humour in him, no spark to offset his arrogance.  I gave it 2.5 stars.

Opium: Reality's Dark Dream
by Thomas Dormandy
I'd been reading this one way before the New Year, but I finally cracked on in January and finished it during Bout of Books.  It's not the lightest of history books, but it made up for it by being absolutely fascinating.  It's incredible to think how one humble substance from one humble flower has literally shaped our entire history, from medicine to literature, and continues to have an enormous effect on world economics, politics and health.  The modern chapters were perhaps the most jaw-dropping (about heroin, obviously), because I had NO IDEA of the sheer scale of the heroin trade.  I gave this book 4 stars.

The Day of the Triffids
by John Wyndham
This is another one of those books where I thought I knew the general deal, but I didn't really.  I already knew that most of the world is blinded by some sort of freak meteor shower; the big surprise was that triffids are already a big presence on the planet before the dystopian element begins, and that they're bio-engineered plants, not aliens.  Despite the havoc they wreak, they're really just one more problem for the few who can still see.  It's the blindness that's the main focal point, and the way both sighted and sightless have to find their own ways to survive in this new landscape.  Beautifully written and an intriguing premise - I gave it 4 stars and you can read my review here.

Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins
Yup, I finally read Anna!  It's about time I read it, because I won my copy so long ago.  It's a signed American hardcover, and as I was reading more stuff kept falling out of it - a signed bookmark and a bunch of leaflets from the event.  Very cool.  It's a lovely, funny YA contemporary novel about a girl whose father ships her off to an American boarding school in Paris, where she gets to know the city, makes new friends and falls head over heels for a seriously crushworthy young man who seems to be taking a shine to her too.  Shame he's taken...  BUT FOR HOW LONG?  Sweet, funny, evocative, romantic, a bit Rainbow Rowell-esque... I gave it 4 stars!
~ What I'm Reading ~
Right now I'm reading Lightning Rods by Helen deWitt, a bizarre American satire about a salesman who decides that an amazing way to increase office productivity and reduce sexual harassment lawsuits would be... to install anonymous sex playthings in every office.  That is, people who work in the office doing regular office stuff, but also play an added role as outlets for sexual tension.  I'm not entirely sure yet how this is meant to be completely anonymous for both parties, but the rather odd protagonist is determined that this is a product that will make his fortune.  The hints at his future fame suggest that this will, in fact, be the case, so I'll be interested to find out where the hell this strange premise is going...

Aaaand that was January!