I often wonder if I will ever reach the end of my 'to-read' list - which currently stands at around the 200 books mark. With new books being published all the time on top of all the old classics that I've never gotten around to reading, it seems pretty impossible. I'm hoping that my goal of reading 100 books in 2015 will put at least a bit of a dent in it. The trouble is that re-reading books is often just as good, if not better, than reading them for the first time - there are so many that I've read once but want to delve into further, whether it's to find something as yet undiscovered, or to revisit the comforting things I know are held there. Book-reading-wise, it will have to be the journey, not the destination, that really matters.
Peaches for Monsieur le Curé, Joanne Harris
I have now finished the 'Chocolat' series as it stands, but my hunger for more of Vianne Rocher's adventures is definitely not satisfied. I absolutely adored these set of books - more than I even imagined I would. The wonderful characters, the mouth-watering descriptions of food, the slight touch of magic, I am totally gripped. Somehow Joanne Harris manages to weave the perfect story - keeping me on edge for page after page as I long for a happy ending for my favourite characters, and for a less-happy one for those I dislike. Absolutely perfect.
Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
I first read this book in a Booker Prize class a few years back, and whilst there's no denying that this is a brilliant novel, I didn't enjoy it as much this second time around. I think it's the tired stereotype of the ageing literature professor, who somehow manages to seduce his beautiful student and then tries to make the encounter seem deep and meaningful. I've read that character too many times and I don't care for him. That said, this book is incredibly artful - it's set in post-Apartheid South Africa and deals with some pretty hefty stuff, like the possibility of redemption, the realities of violence, personal shame, animal rights. It's packed in. There are moments of sheer brilliance as he snatches the book away from being a purely political book - which, given the subject matter, it could easily become - into something greater but I can't help wishing the story was told from his daughter's perspective, throughout. She was the far more interesting character.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Another re-read for me - I've been meaning to pick this book up again since the movie was released because I'd mostly forgotten it, and it's always better to read the book before you see the movie. As I remembered, the language is stunning, the picture painted of Gatsby's decadent, fabulous and yet shallow parties is inspired and the ending tragic. However, I found that the pace was a little fast and some of the revelations a little too convenient - it felt like it was over before it really began. Which is perhaps reminiscent of the very Jazz Age that it critiques, but I would have preferred things to be a little more drawn out.
Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen
This was the first novel that Austen completed for publication, although I believe it wasn't published properly until after her death. It certainly doesn't feel as nuanced as Pride & Prejudice, and the main character, whilst charming in her lack of negative characteristics, is also intensely irritating as a result. This book is a classic comedy of manners, critiquing high society and the 'marriage market' of Austen's day but, whilst the hero is one of Austen's better ones, the romance feels a little forced and the circumstances that lead to the ending are quite far-fetched. I'll definitely be sticking to her more popular novels in the future.
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
How did I miss this book when I was a child? It's absolutely glorious! Such a sweet, heart-warming tale - if there ever was a happy ending of a book then this is it. I don't have much more to say than that - if you haven't read it, you really must.
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
This is another instance where I have been holding off on watching the movie until I've read the book, and I'm glad I waited because I loved this book! I borrowed the whole set off my sister at Christmas and read the whole first instalment on New Year's Day. I'm not usually a young adult fan, but this was totally riveting. The characters are excellent and I love how they defy the usual stereotypes, with Katniss being the slightly-surly hero and Peeta being the charming, loved-up one. I was totally gripped until the very last page, and I am so ready to read the next ones!