Season's Readings: February 2016

After making a great start to my reading year, I was hoping to continue the good work in February. Unfortunately things have slowed down a bit (mainly as I have fallen back into my very bad habit of conking out on the sofa after tea then waking up and going straight to bed). However, I have managed to read a few books this month, so it's progress at least. Read on to find out more...

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
This was a Kindle freebie and, as I quite liked the recent TV series and was trying to save a bit of money, I thought I'd try it. I'm a big fan of historical fiction anyway but actually enjoyed this a lot more than I thought. It's the first in a saga following Uhtred, heir to Bebbanburg in Northumbria, as his homeland is invaded by Vikings and he has to choose whether to side with them or with the Saxons in Wessex. I actually preferred the book to the TV series as it goes into much more depth, particularly with Uhtred; yes he's arrogant and entitled and self-centred, but the amount of detail as to why he's like that makes him strangely likeable and you find yourself rooting for him. The descriptions of the battle scenes are good too - although they're short and over very quickly you feel fully immersed in a wall of noise and sweat and blood and, when it's all over, strangely more bonded to Uhtred, as though you've come through something together. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series now!

The Lake District Murder by John Bude
My mum got me this for Christmas and it's awakened a love of classic crime fiction. As the title suggests, it focuses on Inspector Meredith who's called out to a suicide at a garage in the Lake District, yet rapidly realises that there has been foul play. The story is really well-crafted; there are red herrings (as any good mystery should have) but equally it feels tight and that everything, even Meredith's wrong turns, is constantly driving the plot forward. Granted there were a couple of deus ex machina moments towards the ending but the finale is utterly brilliant. It really evokes the landscape up there as well; I went on regular trips to the Lake District when I was young and the book's descriptions ring very true to my memories of the scenery. I feel a new classic crime reading challenge coming on...

The Fever by Megan Abbott
I've been intrigued by the idea of mass hysteria for a while so was interested to see what The Fever's take on it would be. It's set in a high school where, one by one, female students fall victim to a mysterious illness, and told from the perspectives of three members of the Nash family - teenage daughter Deenie, her hockey star older brother Eli and their father, a teacher at the school. Whilst it was incredibly readable and I raced through it, it was also slightly frustrating, with lots of cryptic sentences that felt like attempts to be deep and meaningful but ended up being a bit too try-hard. The ending seemed rushed too, with no real proper explanation. That said, some of the allusions to vampirism were interesting and the descriptions of the scenery were very well written,

The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh
My husband lent me this one and in a bid to economise (are we sensing a theme here?) I decided to give it a go. I am the first to admit I am not a maths person but I found this really easy to read - provided you have a basic recollection of GCSE mathematics then you should be OK with it. The chapters are short and self-contained as well which means it's easy enough to dip in and out of. That said, the format does get a bit repetitive after a while and I didn't feel I learned anything new from it. An interesting way to see how maths has been worked into The Simpsons over the years but unless you're a hardcore fan then I can't recommend it I'm afraid.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
It's a cliché to say a book is so good it makes you miss your stop, but that's exactly what happened to me with And Then There Were None. (I was meant to go from New Cross Gate to Lewisham. I ended up in Borough.) I watched the TV adaptation over Christmas and had been keen to read some Agatha Christie for a while, so as this is a stand-alone book it seemed the perfect place to start. Even though I knew how it ended, it's definitely worth reading as the characters are so well-drawn, even those who only appear fleetingly. I also loved the way it flitted back and forth between each character, really burrowing into their thoughts and revealing little snippets of their backstory. It is the kind of book that, when you finish it, it makes you desperately hungry for more whilst wanting to hug yourself because you love it so much. So, so, so, so good. Even if you're not a mystery fan I really recommend you read this - it's my book of the year so far.

Total books read in February: Five
Total books read in 2016 so far: Eight - 20% of target

So maybe not as impressive as last month, but I feel I'm doing quite well, especially as I'm ahead of schedule on Goodreads. Now here's hoping I can hold steady in March...

What have you read in February?

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