Books of the month: February 2016

Pick of the month

ThisHouseOfGriefGarnerH25742BDR7_fMy reading dropped off the pace somewhat after January due to a bout of illness and a mix of work and social activities. Although there are a couple of contenders I’m choosing THIS HOUSE OF GRIEF as my favourite read of the month. It’s a book about the tragic real life death of three children at the hands of their father so not my normal fare. But Helen Garner is an astute observer and has an open mind. The book’s ending is too ambiguous for some and its politics not strident enough for others but I liked both those elements. Or if not liked then respect. I am a weary of opinions – everyone seems to have them about everything – even things they can’t possibly know much about. I like that Garner went to the effort of finding out as many facts as she could before forming a view and didn’t attempt to draw any long bows from a single story.

The rest, in reading order 

anything with an asterisk is worth a read

Progress Towards 2016’s Bookish Goals

Challenge Goal Progress
Australian Women Writers Challenge Read 25 eligible books, review at least 20 of them  Read and reviewed 3 books
Reading US Fiction Challenge Read 6 books by new to me authors set in different states of the US  1/6 achieved
Personal – Reduce TBR Have a TBR of 100 or less by the end of 2016 (starting point 145)  TBR = 143 at end of month
Personal – Buy Australian Buy no physical or eBooks from non-Australian stores  So far so good
Personal – Read older books too Participate in at least 6 of the monthly Crimes of the Century challenges hosted at Past Offences  2/6 achieved

I’m still on track for most challenges though I need to up my game on Australian Women Writers and the TBR reduction is not going according to plan at all. Still there’s 8 months of the year left.

My reading of classic crime is throwing up some interesting insights about my likes and dislikes. I don’t know that it has always been this way but I realised during February that the kind of thing people often associate with classic crime – puzzle books – don’t really float my boat. I enjoyed last month’s classic even though it had a puzzle at the centre but it also had a black humour that suited my taste and some really astute observations of human behaviour. This month’s book on the other hand was all about the puzzle (and some pretty dogmatic lecturing from the author).

Looking ahead

I’ve chosen my 1947 book for Crimes of the Century: Mickey Spillane’s I, THE JURY.  To be brutally honest I have low expectations – it’s American, hard-boiled – my least favourite thing (if there’s a mobster in there I really will throw it at the wall). But will balance that out with some more promising (for me) reads including two I just picked up from the library: Julia Keller’s LAST RAGGED BREATH and Hans Olav Lahlum’s SATELLITE PEOPLE. I’ll pick up the pace on my Aussie women writes with Cath Ferla’s GHOST GIRLS and might even get around to Favel Parrett’s second novel which I’ve had on the shelves for ages.

What about you? Did you have a great read during February? Anything good coming up for March? 

This entry was posted in Anita Nair, Antti Tuomainen, books of the month, Dorothy L. Sayers, Helen Garner (Aus), Jean Harrod. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Books of the month: February 2016

  1. My favorite read in Feb was vintage – The Torn Letter (1941 US) by Edwin Balmer. It’s a bit Mary Robert Rinehart-ish, without the hysteria. In some hands, the plot device of a character, here June Stranton, sitting on a jury and slowly realizing that she knows who the real killer is could be trite, but here it is not. Balmer’s writing is crisp and June is an emotionally intelligent heroine. If Balmer sounds familiar, you may have read the SF classic, When Worlds Collide, 1933, which he wrote with Philip Wylie. A film based on the novel was released in 1951.

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  2. Sorry to hear you’ve been ill, Bernadette. I hope you’re on the mend now. I’ve been wanting to read This House of Grief for a while now. A lot of people I trust tell me it’s an excellent book. Time to move it, I suspect, from ‘on the radar’ to, ‘No, really! Read this!’

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  3. Patti Abbott says:

    Well I have been reading ALL THE LIGHT YOU CANNOT SEE all month for my book group. It is written in short chapters and that seems to have slowed me down as well. Amazing book but I can’t say I loved it as much as most people do. Doerr is especially skilled at description.

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    • That’s interesting Patti – that book was one of 5 selected as best books of the year by a local TV-based book club that I watch – one of the guest readers caused a bit of a controversy because she didn’t finish the book (only the second time ever in the show’s history) – she could see what was admirable about it but she thought it too awful in terms of subject matter to continue (and she is an investigative reporter who has tackled some tough subjects)


  4. vicky blake says:

    I’ve read the Vegetarian by Han Kang and The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud. Both well worth a read. For work I’ve been reading a play written by the American war correspondents Martha Gellhorn and Virginia Cowles. It’s a comedy set in Italy during 1944 and is called Love Goes to Press.

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  5. kathy d. says:

    I am glad to read your review, although I think I’ll stay away from a story deeply entrenched in grief of that magnitude.
    I have started Nair’s book and will put the Keller and Lahlum on my groaning TBR list (sigh). I haven’t had much reading time lately. So these books are piling up around me.

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  6. Deborah says:

    I have to admit I’ve stayed away from This House of Grief as well, but enjoyed Garner’s other work.

    I had a good reading month in February – in terms of quality (not quantity) with some great books. Hope March continues that way!


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