My book reading has definitely slowed down with all the academic reading and writing. I have four books simultaneously on the go: two audiobooks, one book and one ebook. Plus two more on my immediate TBR (to-be-read) pile. As I don’t settle down that well to work until the right side of noon, maybe I should start using my mornings for fiction?
Book: “Skulduggery Pleasant”
Author: Derek Landy
Plot: it’s essentially a fantastical whodunnit with a teenage protagonist. They save the world, naturally.
Positives: it’s really funny, dry and sarcastic, plus the main protagonist is sassy and clever. Rupert Degas, the narrator / performer, is also excellent. It’s set in Dublin and it’s refreshing to have a YA novel based somewhere closer to home with familiar culture, clothes and language – lots of the books I recommend to younger readers are American. Moreover, Landy has written brilliantly believable, strong, female characters.
Negatives: obviously some of it is far fetched but not irritatingly so. I’m reading the second one the Kindle; I’m keen to see if they end up disappointingly formulaic.
Book: “Midnight Sun”
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Plot: it’s “Twilight”… surely you’ve read it or watched the film? Clumsy human falls in love with controlling and self-controlled vampire. He sparkles in the sun. Don’t come at me for reading it – we’re all allowed to read something
trashy light and easy sometimes!
Positives: the “Twilight” series are my go-to books if I’m under the weather. Sofa, duvet, listen to them, on repeat, as audiobooks. Yes, I know they’re flawed. Yes, I’m aware that “Twilight” fan-fiction led to “50 Shades of Grey”. But I don’t care. Back to “Midnight Sun”… it’s a retelling of “Twilight” from Edward’s point of view. It was enjoyable because you get to essentially re-read a
guilty pleasure familiar book but with new angles and details.
Negatives: it’s a little over-seasoned in the angst and self-loathing department.
Book: “Finding my voice”
Author: Nadiya Hussain
Plot: well, it’s an autobiography so it tells us all about Hussain’s life to date.
Positives: Hussain has organised her autobiography by her many roles: daughter, sister, granddaughter, wife, daughter-in-law, Ma, earner, cook, username and woman. It’s a brilliant and refreshing structure. It’s honest, philosophical, sometimes profound and utterly illuminating.
Negatives: I find Hussain’s voice really relaxing, which is to say, I had to give up trying to listen to this at bed time because I nodded off really quickly and had to re-listen to whole chapters!
Book: “A Court of Frost and Starlight”
Author: Sarah J Maas
Plot: it’s advertised as book 3.1 so sort of a novella inserted into the series as book 4 is due soon. It details the lives of the series’ protagonists in the year-ish following the victory of book 3. I’m trying to be a little sketchy in case others don’t want the plot ruined!
Positives: it’s really unusual in that it details with the actual rebuild, challenges and leadership issues after a crisis and perceived victory. It’s not often I’ve seen PTSD and grief like this in fantasy books and films, which generally finish at the point of good overcoming evil. It’s a little like Tony Stark’s existential crisis in the Marvel series when he realises the collateral damage caused by the Avengers trying to do good. Maas doesn’t tie it all up in a neat bow either.
Negatives: I’ve recently read some criticism of Maas’ work and how it subscribes to typical gender and classist (for want of a better term) stereotypes, within a fantasy setting. To be fair, I think they’re reasonably accurate concerns.
Author: Darren Charlton
Plot: a coming of age tale in a post-apocalyptic, zombified world. Yup, that old chestnut.
Positives: I like that it throws you straight in and it takes a little while to get your bearings and adjust to this version of the world. There are a couple of pleasing twists, good LGBT content and the setting is brilliant and alarming.
Negatives: it was too short or maybe it should have been two books. At some points, the character and plot development feels very and then, and then, and then rushed. I always feel that scramble affects plausibility, which in turn can be problematic for futuristic-dystopian stories.