Reading Challenge 2013: The Result

You may remember that I decided to set myself the fairly ambitious target of reading 52 books in 2013. In an effort to finish the things I start, or at least report on them, I can tell you that I managed to read 36 books in the year. Considering the international move, and the fact that I discovered some new hobbies during that time,  and any other excuses I can think up, I don’t think that’s a bad result.
I don’t think I’ll set myself a new challenge this year. I have the ability to turn anything I enjoy into a chore, and I don’t want to do that with reading – the thing I do to switch off. It was a fun challenge, and forced me to read some books which had languished on my shelf for years, and turned out to be excellent.
This year is more about reading because I want to. Since my bookshelves can’t support the number of books currently in my possession, I will be making the effort to pass books on to people once I’ve finished with them, so hopefully they can find a new audience to love them as much as me. Want a randomly selected book from my library? Get in touch!

Bare Bones by Kathy Reichs

This is a Kathy Reichs novel. Narrative, speech, everything:

Snap. Snappety snap snap snap. Snappety snap. Snap. 

This is me writing an angry email:

Clack. Clackety clack clack clack. Clackety clack. Clack. 

What I draw from the similarities is that Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist extraordinaire makes Reichs angry. I can’t say I blame her. Either that or she doesn’t know what a semi colon is.

Tempe Brennan is holier than thou. Especially when thou is Detective Slidell, who she thinks is a swamp monster. Or words to that effect. Considering how bitchy she is about the appearance of everyone she meets (the ladies in particular), it’s confusing that she gets so upset when other people do the same thing. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Tempe is also a recovering alcoholic, which explains the amount of diet coke she gets through. I presume Reichs gets paid per placement. Oh, and she rolls her eyes a lot – because she’s basically a stroppy teenager.

Out of interest, how do you pronounce Tempe? Temp? Tempé? I’m guessing the former, but why bother with the e?

The story itself is formulaic enough not to deserve much mention. It was an impressive feat to make so many characters and so many loose ends link together in such an obvious and forced manner. Occasionally there was an interesting science section. More often there was a dull science section, or Tempe explaining something sciencey to someone with the help of her personal motto – KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid! – I nearly shredded the book when I heard that gem.

The thing that interested me most in the story was the personal relationships and their lack of depth. Tempe has a daughter, who seems quite spiteful. Tempe warns her that her life could be in danger after she receives threatening emails. Daughter storms off in a huff and goes on holiday without telling mum.

Tempe also has a Canadian boyfriend. Or rather, a guy she’s worked with for ten years, who she’s decided to try hooking up with. It took them ten years to get to this stage because they talk in sentences consisting of a maximum of five words. Mostly cracking shit jokes. I’m a bit suspicious of the boyfriend actually. Even after sleeping together and expressing their mutual interest in being together, she continues to refer to him by his surname. Also, at the end he says “s’il vous plaît”, not “s’il te plaît”. Very formal for someone so close. He’s probably just after a visa.

I’m going to leave this here before it gets too clack clackety clack clack clackety clack. 

Through a Glass, Darkly by Donna Leon

This is, I think, the third Commissario Brunetti book I’ve read, and I think it’s the worst of that trio. This doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s not bad. Venice remains as much at the forefront as ever, and the snippets of Brunetti’s home life are as warming as I have come to expect.

However, the storyline let this one down a little. It’s about the environment, which isn’t really something I read about to relax. Leon manages to keep my interest in quite a dry subject because her writing style always strikes me as so intimate; I really feel like I’m there, in Venice, stressing about the pollution from Marghera with the rest of them.

The murder didn’t take place till about half way through, and this further reinforced the impression that this book is really just about the environment. I suppose you could class the murder of the lagoon by the chemical waste as the initial murder, if you were feeling that way inclined.

In the end, the final factor which leads me to give this book only 4/5 is that the crime really became a part of the background, and I didn’t get the details I was circling around in a vulture like fashion, waiting for.

It still made me want to return to Venice though, and given my complicated feelings towards Italy, I think that certainly justifies my score. That and the fact that I hoovered it up in three days.

A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

At the end of this book, Martin added a page of acknowledgements, stating that “This one was a bitch”. It was a bit of a bitch to read as well.
Don’t get me wrong; the story was as fascinating as ever, and the general feeling of Lord of the Rings meets The Tudors remains. It’s well written, and transports you completely to another world. But it’s massive. Epic. And this only covers half of the characters; the next one in the series is going to cover the rest of them over the same period.
I noticed that this one included some changes in style compared to the previous books, more slang words which are just that little bit different from our own, but close enough not to be annoying. I’ve found that the writing style has really improved as the series has gone on – it didn’t really appeal to me at the start of the first book, and now I’m involved. Forever. Despite the fact that I can’t remember half the people’s names.
I really like the habit of just killing off the characters with no regard for how important they are, or how much influence they have on the story. It’s like real life: chaotic and interesting.
As with all of this series, I’m keen to read the next one, but I know I’m going to have to wait as I don’t think I can deal with the pressure of another long book right now. Soon, soon.
I can’t find a decent picture of the book, so lets just have my favourite, The Hound instead. 

The Expats by Chris Pavone (spoilers)

This contains multiple spoilers, so don’t read it if you have any intention of reading this book in the future. Or, if you do, don’t blame me.
Kate Moore is a working mother, struggling to make ends meet, to raise children, to keep a spark in her marriage… and to maintain an increasingly unbearable life-defining secret. So when her husband is offered a lucrative job in Luxembourg, she jumps at the chance to leave behind her double life and start anew. 
She reinvents herself as an expat mum, filling her days with play-dates and coffee mornings. Then another American couple arrives and it’s not long before Kate becomes suspicious that these people are not who they say they are, and that her on past is catching up with her.
“The Expats,” I cried, “I’m an expat!”
And with that, I walked out of Fnac with quite a disappointing book. Admittedly not as disappointing as you’d imagine a book about an expat mum to be. 
Kate’s secret is that she is an ex CIA agent. She used to be a spy. I always assumed that spies earned quite good money, so I’m not sure I understand how she’s struggling to make ends meet. Her husband works in IT, which is also generally pretty well paid. 
A lot of time in this book is spent listening to Kate decide whether or not to tell her husband about her old job, which I found a bit confusing since they hadn’t lifted her security clearance, or whatever it’s called, so she couldn’t. We also hear repeatedly about how she’s never going to investigate him again, she promised herself that when they got married. Cue investigations into her husband. 
For an ex spy, Kate is pretty stupid. It takes her an extraordinary amount of time to work out that there’s something suspicious about her new BFF, Julia, and her husband, Pervy Bill. She spends her days complaining about how much work it is to bring up the kids and not have a job, and how Boring Dexter, her husband, doesn’t do anything to help (except working long hours to bring home the bacon). I’ve been a stay at home expat partner, I know it’s not easy, but I never screeched at my boyfriend that he never explained to me what his job was. I’ve screeched at him for many things, but not that. 
Dexter’s shoes were muddy. Very muddy – caked on the bottom, spattered up top. It had been raining all day, steadily, but Kate didn’t imagine that the landscape of downtown Brussels included expanses of wet soil through which Dexter would have to trudge on his way to the bank offices.
 – Actually Kate, you’d be surprised. The cobblestones are held in place with sand, which leads to really dirty shoes when it rains. Which it does quite often. 
She stared at the muddy shoes, trying to avoid suspecting him. She’d promised herself that she would set aside suspicion after she married him.
 – Yeah, we’ve heard that already. Five times or so. 
Eventually, everyone comes clean – Dexter tells her what he’s been up to, she tells him she was in the CIA. Julia and Bill (FBI, as it turns out) have conveniently disappeared at this point). For some reason, Kate forgives Dexter for being such a lying little shit. 
Two years later, it turns out that Julia was conning Dexter, and Bill was just conning everyone (or possibly in love with Julia, it wasn’t clear and, by this point, I didn’t care). Kate records all these confessions (which is really just her speaking as she’s finally figured stuff out) so the CIA can arrest the FBI, give her a new job and let Dexter off (I’m sad that this is how justice works). Anyway, turns out Julia’s flipping PREGANT! Kate can’t bear the thought of her frenemy going to prison with a bébé so she tells them to run. End of book. 
Would have been better if it had been about when she was a spy.