Fair warning – these are all really highly rated. Not because I’ve become soft(!), I’ve just been really lucky with book choices, of late.
Book: “Where the Crawdads sing”
Author: Delia Owens
Plot: Kya (the Marsh Girl) is abandoned by her family as a child and lives a solitary and wild life. She stands accused of murder.
Positives: the place and the people were so vivid – certainly helped along by an excellent audio performance. It felt fantastical and credible in equal measures.
Negatives: it took me three attempts to get into it but I can put my finger on why. I’m very glad I persevered.
Book: “The ballad of songbirds and snakes”
Author: Suzanne Collins
Source: Harback and Audible
Plot: it’s the 10th Hunger Games, the introduction of mentors, gambling and gifts. We are presented with Snow’s origin story.
Positives: it’s clever. Just like Atwood’s “The Testaments,” it doesn’t cause any seismic plot holes or negatively affect the original trilogy. Somehow, I preferred it as a prequel (compared to “The Testaments”). The characterisation is great… as a fan, I know where Snow ends up so I was surprised to find him a sympathetic protagonist. Also, unlike HBO’s awful handling of Daenerys Targaryen, his decline is authentic and believable.
Negatives: none. I was very satisfied.
Book: “Once upon a river”
Author: Diane Setterfield
Source: Amazon Kindle
Plot: Hmm. It’s a bit tricky to summarise but, essentially, it’s set in the past on the Thames. In the middle of the night, a stranger staggers into a riverside pub, holding the corpse of a young girl. A few hours later, the girl breathes and wakes up. From here, the story focusses on figuring out who she is.
Positives: I really like the interwoven, snaking plot… like a main river and it’s subsidiaries. I worried there’d be no satisfactory conclusion but, pleasingly, this wasn’t the case.
Negatives: it certainly taps into some clichéd tropes about race but they’re most likely accurate for the era it’s conveying. I was left a little unsure by its approach, particularly as it’s a pretty foregrounded feature.
Book: “The seven deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle”
Author: Stuart Turton
Source: Audible (last year)
Plot: yup… can’t tell you! But imagine a Poirot / Inception hybrid and you’ll be close.
Positives: once you start figuring out what’s going on, you feel really smart! It’s very cinematic in its scope, depiction of place and character. I loved the plot twists (there are many); I would stay in the car to listen to the end of the chapter because I was hooked.
Negatives: some readers might not enjoy the repetition, which is a plot device, but I was a fan.
Author: Kelly Yang
Plot: it’s the exploration of young people in the American school system but primarily from the point of view of parachutes (minors sent to live in the USA to study).
Positives: it’s honest and enlightening. It taught me a great deal about what life and education can be like for parachutes (whose experiences I’d never considered), 2nd generation immigrants and those from low income families. I knew the system was rigged but I didn’t know to what extent – this book teaches without forcibly teaching. It’s also brilliantly written and I really like the dual narrative.
Negatives: I guess some people will argue it has too positive and uplifting an ending but I’d counter-argue that, as a YA book, I’m pleased it has the kind of ending that might encourage others who have been abused to speak up. There’s value in that.