A Month in Books: December

Hi again, hope you all had a lovely festive period; eating plenty of food and spending time with the people you love. December was a pretty good reading month; largely due to the fact that I travelled home and then down to my grandparents so got plenty of reading done.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (2014, Canongate)
I really wanted to love this book as Jen Campbell, one of my favourite people to get book recommendations from, loves it. It’s the story of Peter, a Christian missionary given the mission of a lifetime when he is sent to another country to spread the word of God amongst an alien species. This comes at the cost of leaving his beloved wife Bea behind in an apparently rapidly deteriorating world. Faber’s worldbuilding of the new planet and its various inhabitants is really excellent and felt as three-dimensional as it could do. However, I just really struggled to warm to Peter as a protagonist. He has zero empathy for anyone outside his immediate life and some of his actions and thoughts about other people are pretty far from Christian (although I’m not sure if this was Faber’s point). To be honest, I wished I was with Bea on Earth; the glimpses of her story we were given seemed far more interesting, as did her back story. Yet, there was some really interesting bits about faith and the final line of the novel nearly made me cry-so Faber is certainly able to pack a punch when he wants to.

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith (2014, Simon & Schuster)
I picked this up on my Kindle pretty soon after it came out, and was pushed to read it after mostly enjoying London Spy (as mentioned here), which was written by Tom Rob Smith. The Farm begins with Daniel receiving a call from his Dad, Chris, who recently retired to Sweden saying that his mother had become ill. Whilst Daniel is on the way to the airport to fly out, he gets a call from his Mum, Tilde, saying that she is not at all ill and accusing Chris of being involved in a pretty awful plot in Sweden. The novel is basically Tilde explaining her ‘investigation’ into the goings on in the small Swedish community she moved to, and Daniel trying to figure out what to believe. It’s fairly compelling and Rob Smith is great at building a sense of place throughout. However, I felt that ultimately the ending kind of petered out which was a bit disappointing.

To the Nines/Princess Mia by Meg Cabot (2007, Macmillan)
As I’ve probably mentioned before, I’m trying to finally finish this series so that I can read the new instalment Royal Wedding which Cabot released this year, featuring a grown-up Mia. To the Nines is probably the best one that I’ve read ‘as an adult’ so far. I don’t want to give too much away about what has happened, but this one in particular explores depression very well and sees Mia beginning to really find herself. There’s still things that I find frustrating about the series but I’m looking forward to finishing it in the New Year.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (2015, Picador)
This is a fantastic non-fiction book which focuses on what happens to people who get ‘shamed’ in the new era of social media justice. It explores what makes people get involved in these shamings and why some people come out relatively unscathed, whilst others are deeply traumatised by their experience. You can read Ronson’s article about Justine Sacco here, which will give you a taste of what the book is like. It’s really one that has made me think about my behaviour online.


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