Books I’ve Been Reading Lately

I decided to set some reading goals after all. I’m aiming for a total of 40 books this year which will be a real stretch. I’m also going to try and read one classic a month. I’m currently 2 books ahead of schedule and some great books over the last couple of months has certainly helped.


This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab

Victoria Schwab is a masterful fantasy writer and one of my favourites. She creates great worlds, characters and plots. This Savage Song is set in a dystopian America where people’s violent deeds have taken shape and formed monsters.  Most are the stuff of nightmares but August is a rare ‘Sunai’ who looks like a teenage boy and only feeds on the souls of sinners.  He becomes an unlikely ally of Kate, a girl who is trying very hard to be something she’s not in order to gain the approval of her Kingpin father. I enjoyed This Savage Song despite usually find dystopians too distressing. However, I’m reticient about reading the second part of the duology, His Dark Duet because I hear it’s absolutely heart-breaking. We’ll see if I can brave it at some point soon. 4/5


Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted won a number of awards when it came out in 2014 but I was mainly drawn to it because it has a dark fairy-tale theme.  The plot revolves around a valley where a seventeen year-old girl is taken by the Dragon every ten years. It’s not a spoiler to reveal that the Dragon is actually a wizard. He is tasked with the duty of holding back the evil wood which threatens to swallow every village in the valley and beyond. The latest girl he has taken to his tower, Agnieszka, turns out to have gifts of her own and might just remind the Dragon of his humanity after centuries of detachment. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t the 5 star read I thought It’d be. The Dragon annoyed me immensely at the start and his character wasn’t really developed. Beautifully written and a gorgeous setting though. 3.75/5


Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This a strange and beguiling little book at just 173 pages. Eleanor West (whose perfume incidentally smells of dandelions and ginger snaps) runs a home for teenagers who’ve stumbled through doorways to other worlds but aren’t believed by their families. These places can be anywhere from Fairyland to the Underworld, but none of the children want to return, so when they do, they long to find a way back “home”.  It sounds dark and creepy – which it is – but it’s also quirky, humorous in parts and nicely written. Most of all though, I loved the idea of these doors appearing for the children out of need and sympathy. 4/5


The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The writing here is stunning to the point of hypnotic. It’s a gently moving plot but whenever I picked it up, I didn’t want to put it down again. I’ve rarely come across such beautiful, lyrical prose that is pitched just right, never overdone. The Bear and the Nightingale is the tale of a girl in medieval Rus’ with “second sight” who can see the old spirits living in the house and forest, but which the new Priest has made the rest of the villagers turn their backs on, with potentially disastrous consequences.

I adored the setting at the edge of the wilderness where the winters are all encompassing. The atmosphere Arden conjures is so vivid and yet dream-like. I also loved the main character, Vasya, for her openness, free-spirit and kind heart. This is the perfect book to read wrapped up on a cold, dark night and I’ve just started the sequel, The Girl in the Tower. 4.6/5


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

This 2017 novel is a complete gem. It’s tragicomic in the best way. I would go from smiling broadly to being troubled as we get more and more dark glimpses into Eleanor’s past. Overall though it’s a life-affirming read with lots of little references to everyday life in Britain. Eleanor lives alone in Glasgow and although she works in an office, she avoids talking to anyone. She tells herself she likes it this way because most people are inane idiots. However, it soon becomes apparent that Eleanor is very far from fine. Then a chance event throws her regularly into the path of the affable IT guy, Raymond.  I have so much love for Eleanor and this book, I can’t do anything but give it 5/5.


The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was no doubt a genius and it’s terrible that he was born into an era which essentially condemned him to death because of his sexuality. His cleverness radiates from the page.  I knew it was the story of man whose portrait ages while he stays youthful, but I didn’t realise the painting also reflects the state of his soul. The beautiful Dorian’s “friend” Lord Henry irritated me immensely with the way he constantly shows off his intellect and I started to think Wilde must have been the same. I enjoyed the book a lot more when I read that in his autobiography, Wilde said Lord Henry was what the world thought he was like, while in reality, he was akin to the much more reticent painter, Basil Hallward. The Picture of Dorian Gray is essentially a morality tale and watching an innocent become so thoroughly corrupted isn’t to my taste. Although I can appreciate it’s a great work, in terms of personal enjoyment I’m giving it 3.75/5


Have you read a book you’d give five stars to this year? Can you recommend another book set in Russia?



Filed under Book Review

14 responses to “Books I’ve Been Reading Lately

  1. I love your ratings! 3.75/5 and 4.6/5 😀 There are nuances here. 😉
    I haven’t read anything I’d give 5 stars to, but I’m quite enjoying the Sanguine series by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell.


  2. Bee

    Great reviews – now I feel I must read Eleanor Oliphant. I loved Uprooted too. My favourite book so far this year has been Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor – beautiful, lyrical writing. It has an almost hypnotic feel as it follows a year in the countryside. His first book ‘If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things’ is also amazing.


    • Ooh thanks for the tip, Bee. I love lyrical writing and the hypnotic feel of following the countryside over a year does appeal.
      I really hope you enjoy Eleanor O if you pick It up.


  3. Eleanor Oliphant rules!! A friend of mine was having a rough weekend, and she escaped to her bed for an eight hour binge read of it – I thrust my copy into her hand basically – then emerged feeling much better! It is completely absorbing and as heartwarming as it is also troubling along the way.

    Otherwise, I’d give Ian McEwan’s Saturday five stars out of books I have read lately. Am re-reading Nabokov’s Lolita at the moment – extraordinarily literary. I am curious about Dorian Gray now, even though you weren’t too sure about it.

    I set myself a target of 12 books this year, haha. I think I should manage that. 😉


    • Ah what a good friend you are, V. I can’t think of anything better to read while stuck in bed.
      I’m sure you’d really enjoy Dorian Gray. There’s a lot of lovely detail re the decor of the time plus it’s great to see how the wealthy lived in London. You wouldn’t be bothered by the dark side of human nature either with all your experience of crime novels!
      Yes, I’m rather regretting the 40 books target as I’m already feeling the pressure. It will be a lot less next year.


  4. Lady Jane Grey

    No, sadly no five stars here at LJG‘s one woman book club 😕
    I can only offer the opposite, a monumental disappointment : J.D. Vance‘s Hillbilly Elegy – I don’t know why it was so celebrated ?!
    I cannot decide what’s worse, the writing style or the content…

    I think I‘m going to re-read Dorian Gray – thanks, T. !


    • You kbow, M I’m very wary of celebrated books in literary circles because I’ve found they can be lauded because they appeal to literary types and are not actually a good read. I’m sorry you’ve been disappointed.
      Enjoy rereading Dorian Gray. It is a great work and I loved all the little references to scent and perfumery. I have decided Oscar was one of us 🙂


  5. I am loving Eleanor Oliphant so much that unlike the binge reader I am rationing it. I don’t want it to ever end. I take very little time for reading as of late. I’m either too tired or too pumped to concentrate. Not happy about that. I set no reading goals, nope. I am still reading (slowly) Johann Hari’s Chasing the Scream. History of the war on drugs. It’s excellent. It also makes me very angry – the dire consequences of the ridiculous drug prohibition. From the deaths of the famous, Billie Holiday, to name but one, to the thousands of kids caught up in the drug wars, caused by the prohibition. I will reread Dorian Gray. It is even on my shelf. And check out the McEwan book. Hugs. xxxxx


    • It says something that you are rationing out Eleanor O! You really want friends to enjoy a book they pick up because of you.
      I’ve learnt a lot through Russell Brand about how crazy the war on drugs is and that addiction should be treated as an illness and not a crime or some kind or sin.


  6. Hayley

    Loved Elinor Oliphant too fab book have been recommending it to everyone. I’m back reading books in a big way and have just read the secret History by Donna Tart which I found unput downable so 5 stars for me. No Russian ones to recommend I’m afraid but have added bear and nightingale to my list. Love book posts.


    • Hayley, I have to give The Secret History a try. Thanks for the encouragement.
      Lovely to hear from another Eleanor O fan! I never reread books but I will that one.
      Hope you enjoy The Bear and the Nightingale if you get to it. I’m totally entranced by it and the sequel.


  7. Hey Tara,
    I can’t seem to force myself to read. Still have A Suitable Boy on the burner but even picking it up has become a thing so I let it sit there and languish.
    Portia x


    • Ah Portia that’s too bad. I’d set aside A Suitable Boy if you’re in a reading slump. Try something like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (I sent you a copy) . It’s an easy read and set in the 80s 🙂


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