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Welcome to May’s Reading Roundup! Here in Australia, the crisp Autumn days are quickly giving way to soggy Winter afternoons (goodbye every dry pair of socks I own), and out there in the rest of the world, you’re having…whatever weather you get while we’re suffering down here? Sunshine? Bottle that up and send some to me- now on with the reviews!
Whispers Under Ground was an…interesting installment in the Rivers of London series. For those who are new to these reading roundups, I’ve been working my way through these books with my monthly Audible credits, and as I mentioned last month, this book features poor narrator Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (who is normally excellent) really struggling with the American accent. It also feels a little less focused than previous books in the series – while protagonist Peter Grant is tracking down a murder in the London Underground (and also meeting up with one of my favourite groups of ‘other folk’ so far) I didn’t find myself as gripped by the mystery as I have been. That being said, all of the books by Ben Aaronovitch so far have been so good that the bar is unfairly high.
I first discovered Annihilation after watching the movie on Netflix, purely because of the oddity of Natalie Portman being involved in a straight-to-streaming project. The premise is reasonably simple – a team of scientists (all female, woo!) are sent in to investigate a strange ‘zone’ that has appeared, where the laws of nature don’t seem to apply. While the film was beautiful, even as I was watching it I was thinking – I bet I would really like the book that inspired this a lot more. Which is why it’s interesting that the book barely resembles the film at all. At all! Even director Alex Garland (of Ex Machina fame) says:
…the film is really like a dream of the book
So where Annihilation: The Film focuses on the strangeness of the world and the tensions of that experience, Annihilation: The Book is a stripped-back, almost existential study of the mind of one person as the world around her falls apart. These characters are nameless and drop like flies in a series of events that are completely unrelated to the movie. Even if you caught Annihilation on Netflix (or in the cinema, for any Americans reading), reading the book is going to give you a completely different experience. If you’ve already read it, I would love to hear what you thought!
The Diary of a Bookseller was an absolutely impulsive purchase based firstly on the cover (how inviting does this bookshop look?) and secondly on my impressions after a casual page-flip. If you’ve ever read Bridget Jones’ Diary and found yourself craving some more bookish content, then this is the TBR for you! Shaun Bythell runs a second-hand bookshop in the tiny Wigtown, Scotland – the largest second hand bookshop in Scotland, apparently. Once you get past the first chapter or so (which weren’t really to my taste), you get to the good stuff – day after day of diary entries, book recommendations and various other bookish adventures. It’s voyeuristic and oddly addicting – I lost hours to ‘just one more chapter’. Shaun is a candid narrator, and as someone with a solid background in customer service, his biting observations of the many people who cross his threshold are absolutely delicious. Whether you’re looking for your latest Summer read or something to curl up with by the fire, I can’t recommend The Diary of a Bookseller enough – it’s the ultimate nerdy bookish indulgence.
Bookclub time! And this month’s book was something a little out of the ordinary for us – short stories! This is a genre that I don’t read a lot of – the last one I can recall was this amazing collection of adult short stories by Roald Dahl. The Unfinished World and Other Stories is full of fantastical worlds that all still seem very grounded in some sort of reality. They are lush, evocative, and occasionally disturbing. I also found it difficult to read more than one or two at a time before I needed a break to process, which made this slim (and beautiful) book a much longer read than I expected. Unfinished World deserves to be treated like a daily meditation – savour one story at a time before moving on to the next.
The saga continues! Fortunately, it seems like the American accent is gone in Broken Homes and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is back on firmer ground with his narration – his Scottish Doctor is becoming a firm favourite of mine. At this stage, poor apprentice wizard slash Police Constable Peter Grant is juggling a number of seemingly-unrelated cases, so I’m looking forward to (hopefully) watching them intertwine.
I know. But I’ve actually picked this one up again! And I do really enjoy the language when I get into the swing of it. Keep your eyes peeled for this bad boy in next months completed roundup (fingers crossed).
What have you been reading this month? Comment below to share your favourite, I’m always looking for recommendations!
You can check out some of my earlier Reading Roundups here: