Playing Catch Up….

My 20 Books of Summer challenge may look like a complete disaster at the moment, but things are not quite as bad as they seem. My reading is going well, it’s just the reviewing that I don’t seem to have the time for!

We are just back from a rainy week in the West of Ireland and I’m playing catch up with all aspects of my life, so I’ve decided to just do a few flash reviews of what I’ve been reading and get back up to date on my challenge. I would love to do longer reviews of some of these books but sometimes you just have to be realistic about what you can and can’t do!

No 669 The Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt

The blurb for The Dead of Summer calls it a ‘thrilling raw crime novel’. Well, it’s a crime novel alright but raw and thrilling? Not so much.

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Set on the Swedish island of Gotland, a young father Peter Bovide is shot during his camping holiday on a morning jog. Police commissioner Anders Knutas is on holiday too, so it falls to his assistant Karin Jacobsson to lead the investigation until he returns. Both the police and the local press, led by TV reporter Johann Berg are at a loss as to the perpetrator until a second murder hints that they have been looking in the wrong direction.

The crime at the centre of The Dead of Summer isn’t the most exciting and the use of a flashback narrative means most readers will guess the identity of the killer by about two-thirds of the way through. A lot of the book focuses on the characters relationships but this are either predictable or not fully explored. The writing is a little workmanlike, but that may be down to translation and I may have had more of an emotional investment if there was a clear main protagonist (as it is there are three) or if I had read the other four books in the series.

It got the job done, but it was a forgettable read.

20 Books of Summer: 7/20

Number Read: 78

Number Remaining: 668

No 668 Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgeway

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This is the book I wish I could devote a really long review to because I loved it. I loved it so much. It is my book of the year so far and I can’t imagine anything bettering it. Hawthorn & Child are two detectives who investigate the shooting of a man in a London street. He claims to have been shot by a car. An old vintage car and that is all he can remember. So begins a woozy, otherworldly series of interconnected stories in which Hawthorn & Child may or may not appear. A man believes Tony Blair has poisoned him. A couple can only communicate through writing in a notebook. A young man takes a baby hostage and Hawthorn tries to make sense of his life.  Ridgeway has fashioned a crime novel with no real crime, a detective story that doesn’t really focus on the detectives and a novel that may be a short story collection or a short story collection that may be a novel. The only problem I had with Hawthorn & Child was that it wasn’t longer. If I have time I may give it a full review at the end of the summer, but for now, all I’ll say is read it.

20 Books of Summer: 8/20

Number Read: 79

Number Remaining: 667

No 667 Life by Keith Richards

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This hugely entertaining autobiography which charts Richards’ life from working class London childhood to global superstardom with one of the world’s biggest bands is an incredibly amusing, insightful and often sobering read. I like The Rolling Stones but often thought Keith was the caricature of the rock n’roll lifestyle and not much more. The book explores his love and knowledge of music (blues in particular) in great depth, his massive drug habit, his questionable parenting skills and his fractious relationship with both Brian Jones and Mick Jagger. What comes across most in Life is that for Keith, the image of the drug taking, crazy rock musician is something that he has both cultivated and come out the other side of, but that at the end of the day, it is all about the music.

People say, ‘Why don’t you give it up?’ I can’t retire until I croak. I don’t think they quite understand what I get out of this. I’m not just doing this for the money or for you. I’m doing it for me.

20 Books of Summer: 9/20

Number Read: 80

Number Remaining: 666

No 666 This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You by Jon McGregor

It’s a very beautiful world. It’s a shame what will happen

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In Jon McGregor’s novels, he explores how the small unanticipated moments of our existence can have a devastating outcome on our lives. In this collection of his short stories, he uses this skill to stunning effect, the stories littered with events that come out of nowhere – accidents, meetings, and moments of rash judgments.

A group of school leavers in a car discuss setting up a bespoke snack business until a moment of inattention threatens their futures. A young man knocks down and kills a man and buries his body in an attempt to keep his own life on track. A young student survives an accident when a sugar beet smashes through her windscreen, only to potentially find herself in more danger. In the stunning ‘A Wave and A Call’ a young man snorkels with friends on a foreign holiday, only to find himself floating further out to sea.

There is an apocalyptic nature to some of the stories as in ‘If It Keeps on Raining’ where a man is building a treehouse to save himself from a coming flood and throughout all the stories there is a sense of nature being a force greater than we can withstand. There is also some humour, particularly in The Chicken and The Egg, where a man develops a phobia of cracking open an egg

If he does find himself in an unavoidable egg breaking scenario, the tension is almost literally palpable

The book explores lives fractured, interrupted and sent off course with a beautiful poetic prose that is both grounded and otherworldly. The stories in this collection are lingering, unsettling and quite, quite brilliant.

20 Books of Summer: 10/20

Number Read: 81

Number Remaining: 665

No 665 The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? By Edward Albee

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In The Goat or Who is Sylvia? Edward Albee uses bestiality as the discussion point rather than the true subject of his play about Martin, a world-famous architect at the top of his game who has the rather unfortunate problem of having fallen deeply in love with a goat called Sylvia. The play takes the form of a Greek tragedy and the goat becomes a metaphor for any unacceptable act or desire that produces revulsion within society when revealed. The play is oddly funny – particularly when Martin describes the beauty of Sylvia’s eyes – but by the end the laughs peter out, mainly in the face of the pain of Martin’s wife Stevie, who asks

How can you love me when you love so much less?

Bill Pullman and Mercedes Ruehl in the US Premiere of The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?

Bill Pullman and Mercedes Ruehl in the US Premiere of The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?

Albee is certainly no stranger to controversy and here he brings it in spades, but the ending is somewhat sanitised given all that has gone before. The Goat may stick in the mind for the content, but it doesn’t stay there like ‘Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?’

20 Books of Summer: 11/20

Number Read: 82

Number Remaining: 664

So, 9 books left and 4 weeks to read them. Tough, but still doable!

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25 thoughts on “Playing Catch Up….

  1. Woohoo! I loved reading about those books at once!
    Both Hawthorn & Child and This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You sound the best to me. I have added them to my list. Good luck with your last 9 books, but, really, you’ve already done well! 🙂

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  2. Lol. I’m having the same issue: the reading is going okay, but the reviewing… not so much. I’m going to have extra time these next couple weeks so I’m hoping to pick it back up. Hawthorn & Child sounds interesting…I look forward to hearing more about it if you write a full review.

    Regarding your 746 book challenge, do you have a list of new books in the back of your mind that you’re looking forward to? Just scanned a list of recent releases today and my queue gained 4 new books. (So long as I don’t buy them on sight, it’s a minor issue.) I really admire your self-control in sticking to your list!!

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    • I allow myself books as gifts so my husband already has a list of books he is under strict orders to buy me for my birthday – which is in November!! Although, our 10 year wedding anniversary is coming up this month, so I am tempted to give him another list 🙂

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    • You know when you love a book so much and you just want to gush about it? That’s how I feel. I don’t want to write a half hearted review because I don’t have time to explore what made it such a wonderful read.

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  3. Hawthorn and Child sounds great. I love novels that play with perspective and understanding like this: thanks for the rec!

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  4. I’m lagging behind with writing my reviews as well. Sometimes it’s hard to put into words how you’ve felt about a certain book. Your #8 and #10 appeal to me; I’ll have to check them out. Good luck with your remaining 9! You can do it!

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  5. I’m not in much better shape either with @20BooksOfSummer, Cathy. I have twelve done. But of the five books currently in progress, only one is on my list. Several group reads which I can’t put off came to light after I made my list. Aaargh.

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  6. My challenge stalled a little as well during the kids school holidays – I have 6.5 books to go. I should manage that, although there are a couple of longer books in that mix!

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  7. Pingback: Rearview Mirror: August 2015 | The Aroma of Books

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