February didn’t make me shiver

One of my goals when starting this blog was to prompt me to write something about every book I read in the hope that I would remember them more clearly (I choose to believe my failing memory is due to the number of books I read rather than my advancing years). For the most part I’m pretty good about reviewing what I’ve read but this month I have well and truly dropped the ball. Partly this is due too real life getting in the way and partly due to the books not demanding me to write about them. I have hit a period of books that are neither very good nor very bad and am feeling a bit hard done by as a result (I know, I know it’s a first world problem).

Charles Todd’s THE CONFESSION is the 14th book in the Ian Rutledge historical series and has a strong opening in which a man walks into Rutledge’s Scotland Yard office and confesses to murdering his cousin several years earlier. When the confessor himself is killed a couple of weeks later Rutledge starts an investigation which takes him to a horrid little town (the name of which I have forgotten) where a swag of horrid people try to hide things from Rutledge the outsider. There follows a somewhat confusing story involving assumed identities and wartime criminal activity and if you paid me money I couldn’t tell you the outcome of the story and it’s only 3 weeks since I finished the book. I’ve really enjoyed the other books in this series but this one felt a little flat to me. Even that cover looks dull right?

I had high hopes for M.J. McGrath’s WHITE HEAT, a debut novel set in the Canadian Arctic written by an English woman who has spent a lot of time in the region. She has published a non-fiction book about Inuit families who were ‘incentivised’ to move to the barely habitable High Arctic by the government which wanted people living in the far northern territories during the Cold War years and who have been ignored and abandoned since the threat from the evil Russians has disappeared. McGrath uses her obviously extensive knowledge of the people and the area as a backdrop to a thriller in which part time teacher and part time hunting guide Edie Kiglatuk takes some tourists on a hunt where one of them is shot and dies. The local elders arrange for the incident to be dismissed as an accident but Edie is perturbed by some anomalies in the evidence she found at the scene. When a relative of hers dies in questionable circumstances she is spurred to investigate properly. This book didn’t engage me as much as it has other readers. I did enjoy the character of Edie but found the mystery element of the book somewhat rambling and for large chunks of the novel I felt a little too much like I was being lectured at.

Helene Tursten’s NIGHT ROUNDS centres on the investigation into the murder of a nurse in a small private hospital in Sweden. I was happy enough to listen to the audio book while it was meandering along but almost as soon as I had finished it the details started to seep from my brain. It is a perfectly serviceable police procedural, with a modicum of social commentary thrown in for good measure, but it didn’t fully engage me and in another few weeks I doubt I’ll be able to tell you a single thing about it.

My comfort reading for the month was another Dick Francis audio book narrated by Tony Britton who I adore as a reader (if I win the lottery I’m going to hire him to read all my books to me). The book, WILD HORSES, did exactly what you’d expect from a Dick Francis book so I can’t say this one disappointed me. The protagonist is a young-ish film director who is making a film based on a death that occurred in the racing fraternity some years earlier and someone will go to great lengths for the film not to be made. I did enjoy the depiction of the process of making a movie even (Francis has a knack for making things I have no interest in seem engaging) but I found the mystery a bit easy to solve (or perhaps I remember it from years ago when I must have read the book in print form).

To top it off there are some other half-finished books we will speak of no more and I am still plodding through the Sara Paretsky book I wrote about last week (good lord it gets more patronising by the paragraph).

So I am looking around for something to jolt my reading back into high gear. To that end I am re-reading Christos Tsiolkas’ THE SLAP at the moment because I heard an interview with the author which made me wonder if I’d been unfair to the book the first time I read it (when I hated it). And tomorrow I’m picking up Gail Jones’ FIVE BELLS from the library (astute observers will notice that neither of these is crime fiction).

What do you do when you hit a reading slump? What’s your ONE recommendation that will make me love reading again?

This entry was posted in Charles Todd, Christos Tsiolkas (Aus), Dick Francis, Helene Tursten, M.J. McGrath, mini review. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to February didn’t make me shiver

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Bernadette – I’m sorry to hear you’ve hit a reading slump. I’ve had that happen, too, and it is hard to kick-start one’s love of reading again. And I know just what you mean about completely forgetting the details of a mediocre book; the more mediocre, the more quickly. When that happens to me, I find that trying a completely new-to-me author can help. I know, it sounds counterintuitive but sometimes I find some real gems. And at least it can re-awaken me a little.
    And by the way, I love the title of your post – very clever :-).


  2. Norman says:

    Bernadette, it seems you are going through a temporary rough patch. I expect that you have read most of the outstanding books I could recommend [The Boy in the Suitcase, Outrage] but perhaps you should move away from crime fiction and read something completely different. Nothing too dramatic, something light…..

    I haven’t read it myself but James Lanchester’s Capital [over 500 pages] about people living in a London Street was devoured in two nights by my wife, who is a demanding reader. A book that isn’t well researched gets thrown around very quickly! I duck. 😉
    It might not be as good if you haven’t lived in London.

    Hope you find your way out of this reading slump. 🙂


  3. Maxine says:

    I’ve hit a few books I haven’t been able to get into recently, either because they are mediocre or because they haven’t engaged my attention. If I haven’t got anything around I feel enthusiastic about, I scour the blog reviews or ask reviewers, so I’ve just acquired Bone and Cane by David Belbin via asking Sharon Wheeler who I just discovered is on twitter (@lartonmedia) what she’s read lately that’s good, and have ordered the first in a series based on a review today on Bill Seles’s blog as I usually like legal mysteries.
    Books I’ve read this month that are good (if you haven’t read them already!) are two by Peter May (The Blackhouse and The Lewis Man), Bloodland by Alan Glynn, Dead Scared by S J Bolton and a couple of others that I know you have read.
    Good luck with the reading slump – maybe Norman’s idea is the best- when I went through this last year I read a lot of Anthony Trollope which I enjoyed a lot.


  4. Sarah says:

    Sorry about the reading slump Bernadette. I have read quite a few good books in February and I will second Maxine’s Peter May recommendation.
    I would love to hear what you think of ‘The Slap’. Without wishing to be too British, I found some of the language a bit, er, crude!


  5. Jose Ignacio says:

    To answer your question Bernadette, I think Montalbano is a safe bet. It has worked for me under similar circumstances.


  6. Rebecca says:

    Sometimes I just need a break from reading and catch up on TV shows on DVD or streaming. That usually works for me. Good luck!


  7. Keishon says:

    Sorry to see you are going through a rough patch there. Reading slumps suck. I’d recommend Colin Cotterill to you only because I’m reading his latest. The ONE book I would recommend to you Bernadette would be one you’ve read already, The Cold, Cold Ground (I think). Loved that one. Norman’s advice sounds like a good one.


  8. Bernadette, I think you found your own solution: reading outside your preferred genre.

    I’ve been reading for Bookdout’s Eclectic Reader’s challenge as well as the Australian women writers challenge and, because of this, I have recently picked up historical romance (Geraldine Brooks), historical fiction/women’s fiction (Rosalie Ham), contemporary women’s fiction (Lisa Heidke), literary fiction (Gail Jones, Favel Parrett, Melanie Joosten), Young Adult (Eva Hornung), Fantasy (Margo Lanagan) and children’s (Tansy Rayner Roberts).

    I’ve still been reading some crime (PM Newton & Angela Savage), but I was surprised at how refreshing I found the change of writing style and focus of the other genres. I’d even be willing to read some graphic novels, manga or ebook apps if that helped recharge my enthusiasm. I hope you find the change reviving, too.


  9. Beth2 says:

    Bernadette, it might be a first world problem but it a serious one for a committed reader! I agree, too, youv’e probably found your own solution, but to me personally, it seems a painful one. I listen and read and watch everything that is said about The Slap because I am fascinated by it. I hated the book, our book group had THE most animated discussion about it and still we thought it Worthy but definitely not A Favourite. The people are so unlikeable, and not even dear Melbourne (the city) came over pleasantly. No doubt this is all due to my own advancing years. So, Bernadette, I hope a bookshop new to you, or one those wonderful recommendations above will do the trick. Rereading something beautifully written (maybe Peter Temple’s Broken Shore) always does the trick for me.


  10. Kathy D. says:

    I second Norman’s suggestion. If I need a break or a change of pace, I grab a Montalbano book. Or I go to a safe series, like the Martin Beck one or even a Sue Grafton. I also go to a Rex Stout featuring Nero Wolfe or Archie Goodwin, because they are witty and smarty — but I know this series is not to everyone’s liking. Or I pick up a Donna Leon book. I find these are always quick and satisfying reads. There’s always Corinna Chapman, but I’m sure you’ve read all of these.


  11. Barbara says:

    I have three solutions for my own reading slumps. First, I try a completely different genre which sort of rattles my brain into realignment or something. Second, I try to find a book I haven’t read by an author I’ve always loved. If those don’t work, I get drastic and swear off books for a week or so. After a period of the drivel on TV, I’ll read anything and be happy. 😀


  12. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    Hmm, The Slap and Five Bells would not cure me of a reading slump – both are heavy going though for different reasons. I’d suggest you try something lighthearted, maybe a cozy or comedy mystery, or just take a break for a few days.
    I hope your mojo returns



    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with all the posts in some fashion. When I hit that slump, I take some time off, change the genre, read a bit slower and return to a favored writer, of which there has be be a few. For me right now that’s Lee Child. I have a dozen I can pull off the shelf. Also, I try to find an entirely new writer, that generally helps too.


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  14. Gigistar says:

    Hi! Happy to tackle this interesting topic in my first post, here. I’ve gone through that kind of spells myself. My best advice to you would be to select something that you think can have the same characteristics as your favorite reads.
    Or maybe: ask yourself what kind of plot or setting or character you’d like to read about, and then go hunting for something that seems to fit that frame. The internet should help you out a lot in that selection.
    Another solution that worked for me was: reading something that almost universally is considered as a GREAT read (like…5 full stars on Amazon according to tons of reviews). That has never failed with me so far.
    Off the top of my head I’d recommend something fast and nasty, eg INTENSITY by Dean Koontz. sort of old but in the remote case you don’t know it…
    Luigi (from Rome, Italy)


    • Luigi, Just had to add to your comment: Intensity is a book that has stuck in my mind for years: so visceral and truly scary. One of my all-time favourites in its genre. Certainly not light reading though!


      • Gigistar says:

        eh eh eh, you’re right, not light but certainly something to jolt you back into reading-mode big time! Being an old-time Koontz reader with more than 30 of his books on my shelves, this title is definitely in my personal top-5 out of his whole production.


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