Books of the month: February 2016

Pick of the month

SweetOnePeterDocker23590_fI had a really great month’s reading during March and have struggled to pick just one favourite. But the book which I think will stay with me for the longest time is Peter Docker’s SWEET ONE which takes as its starting point a fictionalised version of the real death several years ago of an Aboriginal man in police custody. Sadly that is not an uncommon event in Australia but this particular death – in which the man was essentially baked to death in the holding bay of a van while being driven between two rural locations – was particularly gruesome both in its individual circumstances and what it conveyed to the world about the state of indigenous affairs in Australia.

The rest, in reading order 

  • *Julia Keller LAST RAGGED BREATH (a great author really hits her stride)
  • *Cath Ferla GHOST GIRLS (worryingly authentic tale of foreign students in Australia being treated horribly)
  • Mickey Spillane I, THE JURY (my classic this month and a truly awful reading experience)
  • *C.J. Sansom DISSOLUTION (I’m the last person on earth to discover Sansom’s skill)
  • *Hans Olav Lahlum SATELLITE PEOPLE (tremendously engaging Norwegian whodunnit tribute to Agatha Christie)
  • *Ellery Adams A KILLER COLLECTION (a fun cosy that doesn’t patronise readers)
  • Elly Griffiths THE WOMAN IN BLUE (didn’t review because I couldn’t think of anything to say other than “if you like the series, read it; otherwise I don’t imagine you’d start here“)
  • *Janice Simpson MURDER IN MT MARTHA (fact and fiction meet when the author imagines what might have happened in a real life murder case from the 1950’s)

I don’t normally talk about unfinished books here but I did give up on one book this month that I feel the need to discuss. It was Kim Zupan’s THE PLOUGHMEN which has received universal acclaim and which I was very keen to read. I tried and tried to like it but every time I picked it up I would find myself reading a page or two then my mind would wander to somewhere else. I can’t really put a finger on why…perhaps the fact that one half of the story is a killer’s and I’m kind of over that (though to be fair the book is not full of violent thoughts or descriptions). Or perhaps it was the descriptive passages…there are a lot of them and I wasn’t able to visualise the places being described. I couldn’t really get a handle on either of the main characters either. I didn’t particularly like or dislike either of them…they were both a bit grey for me. I gave up at around page 70 when I realised I’d been carrying the book for more than a week and not read as much as I would normally do in a day. I think I have two categories of books I don’t finish: some that I think are just bad/not for me and some that I think are probably great but there’s something wrong with me for not ‘getting it’. THE PLOUGHMEN fell into that category for me.

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 5 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  3/6 achieved

With a quarter of the year over I’m only really on target for two of my five goals though hope is not lost for the rest. I did attempt to read another book for the US Fiction Challenge (the aforementioned THE PLOUGHMEN) but will have to go back to the drawing board on that one. I need to get my skates on with my reading of Australian women writers but have just picked up two from the library so that’s good. And unless I give a whole swag of books away I can see that reducing my TBR to less than 100 is going to be the most challenging challenge of all.

As predicted last month I was not impressed with Mickey Spillane’s I, THE JURY which I read for my Crimes of the Century contribution though the book actually managed to be worse than I imagined it might be. There isn’t a bigotry it doesn’t display and its protagonist and resolution are preposterous.  I won’t be heading down that particular literary path again but at least now I can say, with feeling, that I know I don’t like this kind of fiction rather than just assuming

Looking ahead

My book club has chosen to read Hideo Yokoyama’s SIX FOUR for our April discussion. 640 pages of Japanese crime story in translation! I’ll admit I’m daunted – especially as all the Japanese crime novels I’ve read have been on the grim side – but I’m going to give it a go. Other than that I have books by Amanda Ortlepp and Aoiffe Clifford to read for the AWW challenge as well as a book from Minnesota for the Reading USA fiction challenge. In audio I’m finally getting around to reading Adrian McKinty’s GUN STREET GIRL. I’ve had it for yonks but was perversely put off because the series to which it belongs was originally meant to be a trilogy and this is the fourth book.

What about you? Did you have a great read during March? Anything good coming up for April?  Where do you stand on the question of books you don’t finish reading? Do you do it? If so, does it ever worry you that you’re at fault?

This entry was posted in books of the month, C.J. Sansom, Cath Ferla (Aus), Ellery Adams, Elly Griffiths, Hans Olav Lahlum, Janice Simpson (Aus), Julia Keller, Mickey Spillane, Peter Docker (Aus). Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Books of the month: February 2016

  1. I remember your review of Sweet, Bernadette, and thought at the time that it sounded like a powerful read. Thank you for reminding me of it. And it does look as though you’ve had a good reading month; glad to see it. Oh, and about Mickey Spillane? Very influential, of course, but I’m not a huge fan, myself…

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  2. kathy d. says:

    I agree about A Last Ragged Breath which I read about here and zipped through, very good. I read Betty Boo by Argentinian writer, Claudia Pineiro, which was beyond my comfort zone — and, in smallish print with barely any paragraphs! I thought I was losing my eyesight, and could only read 10-15 pages a day. But it was worth it. There are underlying political and social messages beneath the murder mystery.
    I read some books I wish I hadn’t, but I’ll be judicious and not mention them.
    I’m now in the middle of Kaaberbol and Friis’ last Nina Borg book which is OK, The Considerate Killer, but I think the plot device of going back and forth between past events and the present annoys me in general. I think this will end up being a good read; it’s the last in this series.
    I will read Satellite People.
    I have so many books on my TBR list, and I’m watching too many dvd’s, but I will
    try to meet my goals.
    What books by Australian women do you recommend that I try to find — or should I
    just go to Fair Dinkum Crime. (You put up a list awhile ago, which I have to find.)

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  3. tracybham says:

    I have not read C. J. Sansom’s Dissolution yet, but I do have it around here somewhere and your post convinced me I need to get to it. Satellite People also sounds good and I will have to look into that author.

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