The Killing Floor

I’ve heard a lot about these books over the years. One of the things I know is that there are lots of them, hence my slight reluctance in diving into a big franchise. This first book grabbed me though and I must say I can now see what all the hype is about. I had almost expected it to be a bit trashy and simplistic. What I uncovered was a sophisticated, interesting, well written and well paced thriller. 

It seems as if it has created a bit of a niche for itself. Part detective novel, part action thriller. A combination that is melded into a hugely enjoyable read and one that means I will be steadily working my through these books. 

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair

I had picked up one of his other books which looked quite good but I thought I would read this first as it was one of his earlier books and had good reviews. I loved it. This is a real gem. Following the story of a frustrated novelist trying to write his second book, he finds out his mentor has become embroiled in a murder scandal and he sets out to prove him innocent and to simultaneously write his masterpiece in the process. 

The setting for this novel is part of its biggest appeals to me – the New England small town vibe drew me right in. Not to mention the depiction of a writer’s lifestyle which obviously appeals to me greatly too. The story, the characters, the twists and turns and the way it is all wrapped up make it a proper novel. It’s right up there for me and I would highly recommend. 

The Secret Network of Nature

An interesting account of nature’s symbiotic tendencies that is obviously well informed. There are some excellent titbits in there; things that I didn’t know and that were genuinely interesting. However, it’s a bit tree heavy and at times it slightly loses its way in terms of direction and purpose. In fairness to him, it is translated from German and this definitely comes across. I hadn’t realised this at first and was taken aback by how much it reads like a primary school project. Once you get past that, it’s alright but there’s better books out there. 

The Way of Kings

I don’t usually read fantasy books but, having read another title a while back, I’ve had a bit of a hankering. However, most of them, this one being no exception, are a bit of investment in terms of time. In other words, they’re all pretty epic. So I did my research on this one. Having said that I was still hesitant about diving into something like this. 

I had nothing to worry about. I was enthralled by this book. It is fantastical, sprawling, otherwordley, inventive, and wise. But more than that, it was just written brilliantly well. I am unlucky enough to have read Game of Thrones – a tedious, slow, at times shocking and ultimately a bit bleak as a set of books.

This first of several books is opposite to that in almost every way. It is very long but at no point was I counting the pages to the end. It flowed superbly and I was quite taken aback by how much I liked it. The only problem is, I’m not sure anything else will be able to follow this within the fantasy genre, aside from its sequels of course. 

I got this after some research as I was hankering for something along the same lines and, crucially, as good as The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. 

While this was good, it didn’t reach the heights of the aforementioned. It feels as if it needed a few more rounds of editing. The details seem a bit chaotic and muddled at points and it wasn’t quite as clever as the cover and testimonials might suggest. It betrays the author’s legal background as well. It is written from the perspective of one character but the direction of much of the dialogue contrives to fall back on quite detailed legal theory in situations where it simply wouldn’t happen in reality. Which does break the fourth wall somewhat. 

Still, perhaps I’m being a bit harsh. It was a fun read and certainly not the worst book I’ve ever read. While it didn’t quite hit the mark that propels it into the same league as Stuart Turton’s first novel, it’s still worth a read. 

Inherent Vice

This was a gift so not one I would usually have bought for myself. If I’m honest, it was a real slog. The writing style was difficult to follow. It jumps around and I wouldn’t be surprised if certain narcotics were involved in the writing process. Clunky dialogue, weighed down with indecipherable slang, a plot that jumps around aimlessly and descriptions of characters that are admittedly in places very good but in others, non-existent.  It’s just a bit of a mess. And a long one at that.

Apparently there’s a film. Go figure. 

The Twyford Code

I was a little cautious about this one as Janice Hallett’s first book, The Appeal, though a refreshingly original concept, didn’t quite hit the mark for me. If I’m honest, it dragged a bit and I was suspicious that this one might fall into the same bracket. However, the code element to this one (I love a good code or puzzle-type story) enticed me in for another go. 

I’m glad I returned for more because this book was much better. An adjustment to the original concept – from emails and texts from multiple different characters, to a more concise and flowing voice note transcription from one character – has made all the difference. It is more clever and well thought out. There are twists and turns and overall, a thoroughly enjoyable novel. Good for a Sunday afternoon. Would recommend. 

Madly, Deeply

I was looking forward to this as the concept seemed new to me and intriguing. The subject was similarly appealing – Rickman has always interested me.

As I began the book, I immediately became concerned that it was not going to be a good one. Diary entries in shorthand with name drops all over the place, some doubtless impressive but the majority obscure (at least to me) and often events discussed without any context. To my mind, that’s on the guy who edited it. More notes on the films or projects he was working on at the time would have been helpful.

However, as I read on, I got used to the structure and felt myself sinking into Rickman’s life. It begins in the mid 90s and so I found myself thinking about what I was doing in the moments he describes and how totally separate my life was from his. Once you get into it, it really becomes quite immersive and rather emotional considering some of the names he writes about are no longer with us.

The end became one of foreboding anticipation and sure enough it left me feeling quite emotional. Biographical accounts spanning a life-time can certainly cause one to look inwardly (Any Human Heart) and throughout the course of these diaries, I experienced a similar sort of reflection.

Ready Player Two

This book has taken me a couple of years to pick up, not in small part due to my trepidation in light of the negative reviews. Ready Player One is one of my favourite books of all time and I desperately didn’t want it ruined by reading a shoddy sequel. Having read Ernest Cline’s appalling ‘Armada’, I was worried that this would be of a similar quality. Hence its long stay on my shelf, untouched. 

However, for whatever reason I went for it and I was massively relieved to find it was actually really good. I disagree with those who say it was terrible. I thoroughly enjoyed it all the way through. Back to the same geeky adventures from the first book. It’s not as groundbreaking of course as the first book but still, I don’t think it deserved the panning it received. 

If pushed to describe in just two words… comfort read.