Touching the Void - Joe Simpson


The best thing about this book is the title - although the French title (La Mort Suspendue) is even better. Yes, it's a tale of survival against all the odds, but emotionless, repetitive descriptions of experiences and mountains I couldn't visualise meant the hills never came alive for me in the first place.

The Party - Elizabeth Day


On the one hand, it's well written and engaging. On the other, there's something that doesn't quite work - though whether that's the hoary old stalker/friend trope, the slightly wooden characters or rather flat ending, I can't decide.

Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan


Just as badly written and poorly edited and stupidly fun as you'd expect.

The Stone Circle - Elly Griffiths


I know I've just read a not-very-good Griffiths novel but this was there waiting for me in the library. And actually it wasn't too bad - better than some of the more recent books in this series. Admittedly, that's hardly glowing praise but it was engaging enough (once I ignore the factually inaccurate local references). And the covers are great.

The Stranger Diaries - Elly Griffiths


This reads more like an under-edited first novel than the latest from a prolific novelist. Narrative, plot and characterisation make little sense, although it's entertaining enough.

Once Upon a River - Diane Setterfield


This is as cheesy as an Oxford Blue but I do like something to savour, even if at times it's crumbly and over-ripe. It's otherwise notable for the majority of characters being good and decent, which doesn't happen much in fiction as it doesn't often make a good and decent story, but somehow it works here.

Dark Matter - Blake Crouch


Ridiculous multi-universe, quasi-quantum, badly characterised thriller that still manages to be oddly engaging.

The Infinite Blacktop - Sara Gran


This sequel to the equally weird Bohemian Highway manages to be both lyrical and ridiculous, with an extra hit of philosophy (although it's not at all shocking, as promised on the cover). It does make you suspect that this shady, drug-fuelled life is the unglamorous, unspoken context of other private detective novels.

Jane and Prudence - Barbara Pym


I love Barbara Pym and her barbed wit but this, while likeable, was instantly forgettable.

The Rainmaker - John Grisham


Who knew insurance law could be so fascinating? I loved this. At least, I loved the first 95% of it. Let's not talk about the ending.

How to Build a Girl - Caitlin Moran


Being the same age as the narrator, a '90s indie-kid and a long-time fan of Caitlin Moran, I'm basically the target audience for this (officially not but clearly very) semi-autobiographical novel. So imagine my disappointment to discover that it isn't actually very good. Goes to show that pithy journalism doesn't automatically translate into witty fiction, emotional connection and three-dimensional characters.

The Edge of Nowhere - Elizabeth George


Clunky prose, irrational characters and a plot whose twist is that there's very little plot somehow combine to create a charming and engaging YA novel. The most enjoyable badly written book I've read for some time.

The Last of the Greenwoods - Clare Morrall

Didn't finish

That's two novels running I couldn't finish - at least they were both library books. This one was particularly disappointing, as I enjoyed Morrall's When the Floods Came. But this was so dull and laboured that I realised I didn't care what mysteries might be revealed if I read on. Great cover, though.

Elijah's Mermaid - Essie Fox

Didn't finish

I was hoping to have a short mermaid season (a short season of  mermaid book reviews, not a season of not-very-tall mermaids - how can you measure their height if they don't stand up?). But this was unreadable so never mind.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock - Imogen Hermes Gowar


I like a quirky, historical romp and this is indeed both quirky and rompy. What sets it apart, though, is the quality of the writing: lyrical, layered prose with few of the usual jarring cliches. Yes, some of the characters are a little sketchy, and it could have done with a little structural support for its meandering plot, but in general both fun and thought-provoking.