- Any Human Face – Charles Lambert. Crime novel set in ‘the Rome that tourists don’t see’. Which, pretty much makes it anywhere, really. It was fine, but the bits I really liked were the sub-plot stuff. I want to know more about Alina! More on Alex and Roger! Oh, I guess we’re back to the photos.
- The Somnambulist – Essie Fox. I’m abandoning this at p. 261 because it is melodramatic awfulness conveying no real sense of the period it’s supposed to be set in. And the heroine is a nitwit and the other characters are made from cheap cardboard. And I’ve read versions of the same thing at least 3,759 times before. I want my fucking money back but I wouldn’t sell this to anyone.
- Diary of a Nobody – George and Weedon Grossmith. Ah, bless Charles Pooter and the long-suffering Carrie.
- Blindfold Games – Alan Ross. I seem to be reading an awful lot about cricket, and how the wonders of cricket can be expressed in poetry. But we’re building up to WWII.
- Georgette Heyer: Biography of a Bestseller – Jennifer Kloester. It has taken me a week to drag myself through this not very weighty item, all the while feeling very sorry for Heyer that she hasn’t had a better biographer. The only reason I finished the book was that I wanted some of the information in it to be transferred to my head; but I resented that actually reading it was the only way for that to happen. As it turns out, Heyer doesn’t provide much material for a biographer to work on, and when the writer is as dull and plodding as Kloester she could use all the help she can get. Stick to the novels.
- The Risk of Darkness – Susan Hill. Book the third in the DCI Simon Serrailler series, and jolly good too. I like the way the series is unfolding and not just in the stock ways, either. Lots of good characters who get as much attention as Serrailler.
- Before I Go to Sleep – SJ Watson. Not a bad debut mystery thriller; the destination becomes obvious but the journey is still good.
- Detection Unlimited – Georgette Heyer.
- Death in the Stocks – Georgette Heyer.
- The Duke’s Children – Anthony Trollope. So far, I am feeling very sorry for the Duke, who is a jolly decent old stick. I hope his children buck their ideas up. So, now I’ve finished this, I’m thinking old Planty Pall is going to wind up pretty happy with Frank and Isobel joining the family. And I suspect even Gerald will turn out ok. The question is – what can follow the last of the Pallisers?
- Uncivil Seasons – Michael Malone. As a fill in re-read, but damn, I’d forgotten how good Malone is. Probably because I found his last novel, The Four Corners of the Sky, very disappointing. Can’t go wrong with Justin and Cuddy, though.
- Angelmaker – Nick Harkaway.
- The Lottery – Shirley Jackson. Book of short stories, and good lord that woman knows creepy.
- The Evolution of Inanimate Objects – Harry Karlinsky.
- 11/22/63 – AKA That Stephen King book that has an American style date as its title, making it impossible for me to remember. But I’m enjoying it, nonetheless. It seemed to take me an age to read this, and I put it down to the fact that I’m not all that interested in Kennedy’s assassination. So I enjoyed this for the writing and the sub-plots but in honesty I’d have preferred a novel about the town of Jodie, with Deke and Ellie, Jake/George and Sadie. I thought they were such great characters.
- First Lady – Michael Malone.
- Time’s Witness – Michael Malone.
- Nights at the Circus – Angela Carter. For book club and about the first book I’ve read for it that I’ve liked. Fevvers is a great character, hatched not born, spinning her own fairy tales of which to be heroine, creating her own fate, child and maiden to Lizzie’s crone. A confidence trickster whose glory is renewed by its reflection from those around her.
- The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch. Another book club book. It’s been years since I read any Murdoch, and I like this so far. The narrator is such an awful, pompous ass I am really hoping he’ll get some kind of comeuppance.
- Raffles: The Amateur Cracksman – A.W.Hornung. Just dipped in again because I was in between books. Realised that there is something disturbingly amoral about Raffles, and for all he’s the gentleman thief, he’s not to be trusted an inch.
- The Vows of Silence – Susan Hill. There were times when I almost didn’t want to keep reading, didn’t want to know about any more murders because the vignettes of the victims made them so real. They could have gone off to have novels of their own, so there’s a real sense of lives brutally cut short. In this one, a gunman is terrorising the women of Lafferton, while Simon is also dealing with a family tragedy. Again, Hill does that thing where she keeps her plot lines neatly balanced between the personal and the professional.
- The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes.
- The Snow Child – Eowyn Ivey. Marvellous sense of place, loved the retelling of the fairy story and enjoyed how the story balanced on the magical realism line.
- Riddley Walker – Russell Hoban.
- Crampton Hodnet – Barbara Pym. Quick re-read while wondering what to read next. I’d forgotten how funny it is, and how spot on about North Oxford.
- Bone & Cane – David Belbin. Which was fine but I didn’t love it, and I didn’t really buy the relationship between Nick and Sarah. The whole early Blair thing was good but the sum of the novel wasn’t enough for me to want to read more. Can definitely see this as a TV series, though.
- The Outcast – Sadie Jones. Large print, wide spaced on thick paper to bulk out the book, which if anything, could have done with being shorter. It was ok, but however relentlessly miserable you’ve got to read real 50s novels for the genuine sense of inescapable claustrophobia.
- The Mystery of the Butcher’s Shop – Gladys Mitchell. I forced myself through this but didn’t like any of the characters (least of all Mrs Bradley) and the murder was entirely far-fetched. Mitchell goes on the pile of classic crime I don’t like, along with Ngaio Marsh.
- The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets – Eva Rice. Galloped through this, all the while feeling as though I’d read it before. Mostly because it’s entirely derivative, so pretty much, I have. But there’s a host of books do the ‘quirky heroine comes of age in the 50s’ thing better and less forgettably.
- The One You Really Want – Jill Mansell. Of the 5 books I read last week, this was the one I enjoyed most while I was reading. Mansell is becoming my default writer of chicklit. I’ve read 4 or 5 and they are reliably good, with real characters and just the right level of unbelievable romance about them. Pure froth, and that’s exactly what I needed.
- Gaudy Night – DL Sayers. And yes, I have read this a bazillion times but it was one of those days when Peter Wimsey is exactly the right company. And I still envy Harriet her ivory chessmen and am gutted that they are trashed. Also, I play a secret game of measuring my literateness by the number of quotes I can recognise in a Wimsey novel. It is not many. I am not very literate. Sigh.
- The Parasol Protectorate – Gail Carriger. This book was rubbish, but even more annoyingly it didn’t need to be quite so rubbish. If the author had canned the whole faux 19th century thing, it might have worked much better and I wouldn’t have been subjected to her leaden attempts at amusing, coy or, Gods help me, amusingly coy 19th century style prose. It’s as though she couldn’t bear to let go of the idea of the parasol, and then had to find an historical setting so she could include it. Other than that, werewolfy, vampirey nonsense, with a squabbling couple at the center who have all the emotional maturity of grapefruit.
- Every Contact Leaves a Trace – Elanor Dymott. I thought this was great. Richard’s wife, Rachel, is brutally murdered one night when they’re visiting their old Oxford college. The novel is both Richard’s attempts to find out what happened, and also to come to terms with it. It’s told in a mostly first person narrative, in long sentences, with a seeming rambling structure that actually holds together very well. Stories unfold, loop round on each other, intertwine and meander quite definitely to their end point.
- Busman’s Honeymoon – DL Sayers. Well, obviously, having just re-read Gaudy Night!
- Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett. Gosh, it’s been ages since I read a Pratchett. There was a time when I was a regular but I gave up around Moving Pictures, I think. So I borrowed this from a friend on a whim, and it was delightful. I’d forgotten that TP is just downright good with words, and wordplay. More Pratchett, please!
- Rivers of London – Ben Aaronivich. A detective story with a bit of magic to it, you say? Oh, go on then. Peter Grant, just off being a probationary constable and therefore lowest of the low in the Met, is standing watch over a murder scene in Covent Garden one night when he sees a ghost. Who witnessed the murder. Cue a fair amount of supernatural activity + regular policing and all put together reasonably well. Plus, one of the heroes got seriously hurt in a not-the-usual-plot-direction kind of way, and when authors are willing to do that to their main characters they’re usually going to do other interesting stuff as well.
- Moon over Soho – Ben Aaronovitch. So that was enough to make me read book 2 in the series (of course it’s a series), in which it turns out that something is feeding off jazz musicians in Soho and in which the evil magician who may be the Big Baddy for some novels to come is introduced.
- The Pledge – Friedrich Durranmatt.
- Pilcrow – Adam Mars-Jones. Which I found out about here: http://dovegreyreader.typepad.com/dovegreyreader_scribbles/2012/03/-pilcrow-adam-mars-jones.html, and then @john_self chimed in, so that was that. It was terrific, such a solid and sustained piece of writing that I have to keep reminding myself it’s fiction. I’ve read less convincing autiobiographies. You’d think that a book that started with its protagonist, John Cromer, on complete bed rest for a couple of years would be dull, and yet I found it a page turner from the start. The best news is, there are two more volumes to come.
- Sword of Honour – Evelyn Waugh. I have the all-in-one Penguin Classic hardback edition, so it’s difficult for me to tell where the breaks in the trilogy are. I’m just reading the whole thing straight through, and it’s a triumph of that sort of dark comedy, to which military bureaucracy lends itself so well and easily. And yet I can’t quite figure out Guy Crouchback, who is a thoroughly decent chap and at the same time, almost a cypher around whom stuff happens, without it ever really happening to him. (In which respect he’s much like Nicholas in A Dance to the Music of Time.) Anyway, this is much better war Waugh than Brideshead. Does Guy have the same remoteness as Charles Ryder? I think he might.
- They – Rudyard Kipling. This is a collection of three stories of suspense and I haven’t done it justice. For a start, I gulped it down one lunchtime and I had trouble adjusting to Kipling’s style after Waugh’s. So I will have to go back at some point. Of the three stories, though, ‘They’ was my favourite, although it was obvious from the outset what the twist was.
- North & South – Elizabeth Gaskell. I must read more Gaskell, because I like her writing. This was chiefly good for the north-south split and the descriptions of life in a mill town. Could have done without the tiresomely inevitable love story bit of it.
- The Shadows in the Street – Susan Hill (audio). I lost a reading week somewhere after Sword of Honour, and just remembered it was because I was listening to this instead. Book 5 in the DCI Simon Serrailler series, and they are proving consistently good, even if I did guess the murderer.
- The Art of Fielding – Chad Harbach. Which I read on a ‘plane and was good but not great, and I didn’t think really went anywhere in the end. (And I’m finding that about some contemporary American fiction at the moment: this, Admission, The Marriage Plot. It does what it does competently-to-very-well, but that’s it.)
- Harriet – Elizabeth Jenkins. Based on a real life murder, known at the time as the Penge murder, this beat out both A Handful of Dust and Frost in May for a literary prize. I’ve read both and that’s stiff competition. This was chilling, particularly so in the way that the murderers slide towards their crime of starving Harriet (and her child), each step that goes unchallenged by their tacit complicity making it easier to take the next step.
- Bulldog Drummond – Sapper. A filler, I was finding it very hard to find something to follow Sword of Honour.
- Bring up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel. I’m 25 pp in and pissed off that I have to go to work instead of staying in my hotel room until I’ve finished it. As with Wolf Hall, just immediately gripping. Update: loved it; find Thomas Cromwell fascinating.
- More Like Her – Liza Palmer. Ok, but I think it could have benefited from slowing down. Everything (the friendships, relationships, increased self-awareness) happened so fast it seemed unbelievable.
- After the Party – Lisa Jewell. Which I’ve been avoiding reading because it’s the sequel to Ralph’s Party, which I know I really enjoyed. Turns out, I read it so long ago I barely remembered anything about it. Reliable Jewell, chicklit with some oomph to it.
- Danny, the Champion of the World – Roald Dahl. There are loads of pheasants round here. Trying my hand at poaching would be bad, right?
- Palladian – Elizabeth Taylor.
- The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles. I liked the writing more than the story, which was disaffection turns to death and madness. And I had a real problem with the third part, [spoilers ahead!] in which Kit runs away into the desert and seems to come to terms remarkably swiftly with her ensuing rape. Or is it supposed to be a measure of her madness and the extent of her collapse? [end of spoilers] Even allowing for the 1949 pub date, it jarred. I’d read more Bowles, though.
- Mountains of the Mind – Robert Macfarlane. Adept and readable history of the development of the Western fascination with mountains, interspersed with the author’s personal reflections on his own mountain climbing exploits. So he really knows what he’s talking about.
- London Belongs to Me – Norman Collins.
- The Uninvited Guests – Sadie Jones.
- The Whole Day Through – Patrick Gale. Which I bought because I like books in which all the activity happens in one day; after all, when you take thoughts and emotions into a day, sometimes it can feel like a lifetime. I really liked this, and the way it swerved unexpectedly, from the simple action of a letter being posted.
- A Cab at the Door – V.S. Pritchett. On balance, I’m glad I picked this up second hand from Blackwell’s and didn’t fork out the price of the Slightly Foxed edition. I mean, yes, it was interesting to read about growing up poor in pre-WWI London, and with ghastly parents to boot. But Pritchett is such a whiner.
- Lolly Willowes – Sylvia Townsend-Warner. Re-read, but good because I then went walking slap in the middle of Lolly’s territory.
- Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? – Jeanette Winterson. One of those books that I should have read with a pencil to hand so I could mark passages, but fortunately, it’s short enough I can go back and find them. So much packed into a slight volume. Dark and funny and sad and resonant.
- Notes from an Exhibition – Patrick Gale. With which I was obsessed and so grabbed at any opportunity to read a page, a paragraph, a sentence. I loved the structure and the incomplete unfolding of the characters’ lives, diving into bits that weren’t necessarily connected except by Rachel as wife, mother or primarily, as artist; who was herself so selfish and inwardly focused that it wouldn’t occur to her to share except through her art.
- The Cherry Tree – Adrian Bell. Completing the trilogy I started last year. I still think Corduroy is the best volume but in the end I did like this one. Wonderful writing about the countryside.
- Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man – Siegfried Sassoon. One of those books that I’ve been seeing in bookshops for years and thinking ‘I must read that’. So I finally picked it up in my last trawl at Blackwells. And it was well worth the read, despite the fact that I know nothing about riding, hunting or cricket and any actual catching of foxes was incidental to the joy of riding. Not sure I can face the rest of the trilogy because WWI breaks my heart, but maybe.
- Dusty Answer – Rosamond Lehmann. Her first novel, and a slightly scandalous best seller in its day. I wonder what it was like living in a time when, you know, actual literature sold really well? (In 90 years’ time will someone be looking back fondly on the literariness of Fifty Shades? Shudder.) Anyway, I found this an oddly sad and unhopeful coming of age story, sort of lonely at the core and with no real signs that the heroine, Judith, is going to be allowed to be happy. Then again, it was written in 1926 and the shadow of WWI hangs over most of the characters. it’s not surprising that there’s a dissonance between a romantic young woman and her male peers who lost their youth to the war.
- Ring of Bright Water – Gavin Maxwell. Which is billed as all about the otters, but really they don’t come into it until the second half, and are a welcome leavening touch. Although I also get the sense that Maxwell himself is interesting enough if he’d reveal a bit more. He could certainly chuck in the odd surprise along the lines of ‘Anyway, I popped off to spend some time with Wilfred Thesiger and the Marsh Arabs…’. I’m sorry, what? Or, ‘some years ago I built a world-class collection of wild geese which went to form the basis of Slimbridge…’ As you do. The otters are the stars of the show, though, joyful creatures.
- Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn. I don’t know where you’d find another pair of such fucked up, unreliable narrators, except perhaps in another Gillian Flynn book. And that’s a compliment. You can’t trust either of them an inch, and every word they say has to be sifted and weighed, and then you do that again when you get the counterpoint story. Unravelling of a happy marriage, or uncovering of a mutual, multi-layered web of deceit?
- Maskerade – Terry Pratchett. Borrowed it, read it, returned it the same day and then borrowed the next one. I do love Granny Weatherwax.
- Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett. And the problem (or not) with Pratchett is that he’s terribly addictive and I could so easily fall straight into a few weeks of reading nothing else. This would be great but I’d have very little chance of adjusting to the real world when I came out of the reading fug, and it’s hard enough anyway. So, I am rationing myself and it’s back to Isherwood’s Berlin Stories.
- Berlin Stories – Christopher Isherwood.
- Alys, Always – Harriet Lane. So, our creepy heroine and narrator, Frances, finds the eponymous Alys in the wreckage of her car, and parlays the dead woman’s last words into a connection with the bereaved family. One glimpse of their comfortable life is enough to set Frances off on a plan to have a bit of that for herself. She doesn’t reveal much about herself and she keeps her cards close, so although I thought I knew where this was going, I wasn’t entirely sure, because Frances is disturbing enough that it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if she slipped completely off balance (and, after all, I have recently read Gone Girl). No spoilers, and I kind of felt as though the second half drifted a little because the tension wound down, but I still had to know what happened.
- A Mystery for Ninepence – Phyllis Gegan. Nostalgia re-read of the same Collins Seagull club hb I had as a kid. A total bargain for 4 quid. Not quite as gripping as I remembered it, but then presumably it used to take me longer than 75 minutes to read it.
- A Question of Proof – Nicholas Blake. My first introduction to amateur detective Nigel Strangeways, and probably my last encounter. I didn’t hate it the way I hated the Gladys Mitchell I read earlier in the year, I just didn’t find it particularly interesting, or care about the murders, or take to Nigel himself. And I’m a bit miffed that I paid 8.99 for a reissued paperback that had been badly proofread. Bad Vintage!
- The Old Ways – Robert MacFarlane. So I half liked this, and half found it really self-indulgent. But the bits I enjoyed were really good, so it kind of balanced out.
- Broken Harbour – Tana French. As I was reading this I thought about how deceptively well written it was, in that it’s possible to glide over so damn many well crafted sentences because they don’t get in the way. I found this the weakest of her novels to date, which is to praise with faint damns because French being weak is aspirational for other writers. Still, it didn’t quite come off for me; but again, I really wonder how I’d have felt if I hadn’t read Gone Girl, which basically has me distrusting every seemingly straightforward narrative and happy wife.
- The Forrests – Emily Perkins. Bought this on the strength of Novel about My Wife, and am rather struggling with it (as can be seen by the fact that I read the two above in between cracking on with this.) Abandoned, on the grounds that it’s just very, very dull.
- Murder Must Advertise – Dorothy L Sayers. Quick palate cleanser, before moving on to…
- Some Kind of Fairy Tale – Graham Joyce. Meh. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t publishable quality either.
- Master & Commander – Patrick O’Brian. Still struggled through the first 100pp, which contains more nautical information than I am remotely interested in. It’s a good job I knew about the goodness ahead.
- The Worm Forgives the Plough – John Stewart Collis. About 70pp in so far and loving it. Collis is such an engaging, likeable, interested and observant interlocutor. Rather than a straight narrative in the Adrian Bell style, he writes vignettes which frees him up to focus on anything or anyone that catches his fancy.
- Post-Captain – Patrick O’Brian.
- HMS Surprise – Patrick O’Brian. Damn that Villiers woman.
- Moonlight Mile – Dennis Lehane. No spoilers, but I was glad to find out what happened with Patrick & Angie.
- Greenbanks – Dorothy Whipple.
- Republican Party Reptile – PJ O’Rourke.
- The Children of Green Knowe – LM Boston. Really must get the rest of the series one of these days.
- If No One Speaks of Remarkable Things – Jon McGregor. Birthday present from Ms G and not my usual sort of novel, so it took me a while to get into it. I generally like a good, straightforward linear narrative, which I ascribe to the same thing in my head that is baffled by poetry and modern art; and I need the characters to have more distinguishing characteristics if I’m going to be able to identify them. But that’s actually not the point of this novel, which is rather that stuff is happening all around us, all the time, to the people we see in passing every day and barely notice. So I found that the dramatic event to which the book was building was by being represented as a conjoined focus, was simultaneously anticlimactic; the disparate perspectives that temporarily joined up meant that the event (sorry for vagueness, trying to avoid spoilers) still happened at a distance from the reader. And because the parallel narrative had already moved beyond that point and used it as a past point of reference, I felt my distance was doubled. Absolutely effective, but on the whole, I think I prefer immediacy.
- The Mauritius Command – Patrick O’Brian. I love the fact that at the beginning of the month a new O’Brian arrives by post. Sweet, sweet deal with Blackwells.
- It Must Have Been Something I Ate – Jeffrey Steingarten. A collection of essays that he wrote for Vogue and which seemed to hit the spot when I needed something bite-sized and none too taxing for Frankfurt Book Fair (so when he started digging into the chemical stuff, I skim read or moved on). Steingarten is a bit precious and name-dropping, and his editor needs to slap him down about using ! , but mostly he’s amusing and he does write well about food. Probably best served in monthly portions rather than read consecutively, and I think I come down more on the side of Elizabeth David’s practicality over Steingarten’s gourmandish rhapsodizing. You will simply never get me to care that much even about hot chocolate, let alone multiple varieties of salt, but I may give his potato gratin recipe a try.
- Strong Poison – Dorothy L Sayers. Spot the comfort reading…
- The Talisman Ring – Georgette Heyer.
- The Reluctant Widow – Georgette Heyer.
- Charity Girl – Georgette Heyer.
- Desolation Island – Patrick O’Brian.
- White Boots – Noel Streatfeild.
- Girls in White Dresses – Lauren Close. Which got good reviews as being very funny as far as I can tell, but I’m finding leaden. She writes about things that ought to be amusing, but somehow they’re not. Hmm.
- Standing in Another Man’s Grave – Ian Rankin. Ah, happy place. I think that was a very good Rebus novel, with John himself sitting awkwardly on the outer edge of modern policing and yet still getting results. That must have really pissed off Malcolm Fox, but I don’t like him anyway. Nice to see Big Ger slightly losing his touch as well. Feels as though Darryl’s got mileage, so I hope that there is more Rebus to come. Let’s face it, he’s not retiring.
- Cedilla – Adam Mars-Jones. The sequel to Pilcrow, and just as engrossing.
- The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins. Because, Penguin were doing a flash sale on Twitter, and therefore I got 40% off the clothbound hardback. It is a thing of beauty and joy, so much so that I would carry it with me just for a glimpse of prettiness during my days. Even if I didn’t lurve it completely for its novelistic brilliance.
- The Fortunes of War – Patrick O’Brian.
- The Shadow of Night – Deborah Harkness. Wow, this was boring, thank the gods I bought it half price. Harkness is one of those authors who sacrifices plot and pace for the sake of cramming in Every. Single. Detail of the historical research she’s done, and just about every historical character too. I’ll definitely be skipping vol 3 when it’s out.
- The Man in the Picture – Susan Hill. Ooh, spookiness. My favourite kind of ghost story and kudos for easing four (count ’em, four) separate narratives into one slim book, without the pace or the prevailing sense of unease letting up at all. Nicely done.
- The Matchmaker – Stella Gibbons. Just started it, and it’s going to be fine but not up to Cold Comfort Farm. But then, nothing else I’ve read by Gibbons has been, although I live in hope. Update: Really, I finished this out of duty but I can’t say I give a toss about any of the characters. I think Alda is supposed to be charming but she’s not, Jean is a wimp, Sylvia is ghastly. And none of them come alive on the page. It’s like flat champagne.
- Lonely Hearts – John Harvey. So, I was sick and couldn’t think or concentrate, which meant that comfortable re-reads were the order of the day. Hence the list of Harveys that follows. Gotta say, though, Charlie Resnick is good company if you’re sick.
- Rough Treatment – John Harvey.
- Cutting Edge – John Harvey.
- Off Minor – John Harvey.
- Wasted Years – John Harvey.
- Linnets and Valerians – Elizabeth Goudge. Also a re-read.
- Maddy Alone – Pamela Browne. V excited to find this, and the rest of the series, back in print because I loved The Swish of the Curtain. This wasn’t as good but I think I’d have loved it if I’d read it at the right age. I’m pretty sure I’ll still read the rest out of a sense of completeness.
- A Perfectly Good Man – Patrick Gale. Damn, but the boy can write. This is the third of his novels I’ve read, and I like his episodic, non-linear structure that moves back and forth through time and across characters. The novel is like patchwork and you don’t get the complete story about anyone, and maybe not even all the important bits; which feels right, because that’s life. The story is built up indirectly, approached sideways on, which means the trajectory is uncertain and what seems tangential might be central.
- Green Rider – Kirsten Britain. My Christmas plan of reading the complete Malory Towers set went awry when I left it too late to buy the set. So, instead, I turned to fantasy for my Christmas Day trash read. Feisty female character, quest, bit of magic. Perfectly acceptable, didn’t require any brain engagement, wasn’t painfully badly written (ok, other than the odd sentence) and I’ve no desire to read further. That’s a win.