Fated – Alex Verus Novel 1 – Benedict Jacka – 21.05.22

Cursed – Alex Verus Novel 2 – Benedict Jacka – 25.06.22

Amazon was always suggesting Benedict Jacka books to me, I guess because I read Ben Aaronovitch and Sarah Painter, so when books one and two in this series were going cheep, I gave them a go.

Well, I like the series so far, the main character, Alex Verus has a magical artifacts shop in London – mostly knickknacks for tourists but some actual magical things for the discerning. It’s an Urban Fantasy, in that there is a magical subculture within the ‘real world’ and Alex is a person with magical ability. He has completed his apprenticeship, but is still somewhat on the fringes of magical society, as his power doesn’t seem obviously great (although I think it’s pretty awesome). He is able to foresee the immediate future (or possible immediate futures) which makes him very good at avoiding attacks, and also cracking combination locks as he just has to imagine all the different attempts until he sees a future in which he opens the lock.

There is politics aplenty between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ wizards and the lines are blurred between the definitions. Also Alex takes on a young apprentice and the relationship he has with her is interesting.

I will look out for more books in the series going cheep and buy and read them when they are.

The Last Smile in Sunder City: Fetch Phillips Book 1

– Luke Arnold   – 10.05.22

I liked this magical noir novel – full of affectionate homage to the well worn tropes of ‘rough around the edges but with a heart of gold’ grumbling, alcoholic, down on his luck but sticking up for the little guy, private detective, with the twist being that his clientele are strictly non-human. Sunder City exists in a world rocked by the recent war between humans and magical creatures, and since the magical creatures have all lost their magic, they are struggling to survive.

It is darkly humorous, and I am looking forward to reading more in the series, but I’m waiting until they go down in price a bit.

The Cruel Prince – Holly Black (AUDIOBOOK) – 16.05.22

The Wicked King – Holly Black (AUDIOBOOK) – 20.05.22

The Queen of Nothing: The Folk of the Air, Book 3 – Holly Black, Caitlin Kelly, et al. (AUDIOBOOK) -23.05.22

I think I bought the second audiobook in this series on sale for not much money, and started listening not realising it was the second in a trilogy although it was quite obvious when I did start listening that I was missing something! So I bought the first (having enjoyed The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and The Darkest Part of The Forest, and being a fan of modern faerie tales) and wasn’t sure at first if it wasn’t too American Teen fiction -y for my taste. Still, I kept listening and finished the first part, then listened to the second part, and then bought and listened to the third part (it would be rude not to!) and found myself invested in the characters and what happened to them. Overall, I’m not sure that I loved the series, but then I’m not the target audience, and I clearly liked it enough to finish all three books. I did like how it ended.

God Bless You, Mr Rosewater – Kurt Vonnegut (AUDIOBOOK) – 06. 05.22

I do love Kurt Vonnegut even thought his books are often very strange, which this one definitely was. Full of satire, social commentary and dark, antiestablishment humour, the book had me laughing out loud, as well as feeling sad and moved and sometimes just bemused. Although first published in 1965 (I think) the book is still very relevant.

Sea Of Tranquillity – Emily St. John Mandel (AUDIOBOOK) – 04.04.22

I love Emily St. John Mandel’s writing, especially Station Eleven, and read this book soon after watching and loving the TV adaptation of Station Eleven. I had been less sure about loving The Glass Hotel, but for me, this book is a return to form for the writer. It is a time travel/parallel universe/is everything actually a simulation? type novel, but typical of Emily St. John Mandel it is written in a beautiful and thoughtful literary style. There are nods to living through Covid with lockdowns and vaccines etc, but how could living through that not seep into a writer’s work at this time?

I’m stealing a passage from an Amazon review because I think it says it better than I could:

‘Within it’s pages it tackles a breathtaking number of philosophical questions. These range from the validity and importance of Simulation Theory, the ethical ramifications of time travel, the seemingly impossible and everlasting battle between bureaucracy and humanity and the inability of the two to coexist, and the importance of constancy of character within the separately fluid nature of our lives.’

A very satisfying and rich read – I love the way the stories fit together in such a cohesive final product.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong – 03.05.22

This book is written with such beauty and poetry even though it touches on tough issues. It is a series of letters written by a son to his illiterate mother. Raised by his mother and grandmother, immigrants to America from Vietnam, ‘Little Dog’ remembers moments of joy and also fear. The Women both suffer from the trauma they have lived through in the war and are sometimes violent towards the boy. Add to that the bullying he suffers from other children for being different – a non English speaking Asian and also gay. It’s a coming of age story and a poem to life and family.

A Catalogue of Catastrophe: Chronicles of St Mary’s, Book 13

 – Jodi Taylor (AUDIOBOOK) – 03.05.22

I have tried a couple of other time travel books recently, which have only gone to remind me that nobody does it as well as Jodi Taylor!

Max jumping through time to stop the bad guys and save the world – with humour and irreverent fun. What more do I need to say.

If you are new to the series, do go back to the beginning and read them in order. And then read everything else which Jodi Taylor has written. Your life will be better for it.

The Mermaid of Black Conch Bay – Monique Roffey – 01.05.22 (BOOKGROUP)

This was my book group read for May, and Sheila (our leader) had just completed a course at Queen’s University on Women Writers, which covered this book so she was able to share some nuggets of inspiration about the many layers of meaning to this magical realism fable. Set on a Caribbean Island, the story follows a local fisherman and an ancient mermaid who liked to listen to him singing on his boat. When she is caught by American tourists and strung up on the harbour pier like a prize fish, he rescues her and hides her in his house. The book covers all kinds of issues like colonialism and racism and classism as well as the harmful ways women can be treated by men and by other women. We liked the beautiful writing, told from different perspectives and different points in time which added complexity and interest and we found the story thoughtful, beautiful and sad.

I also liked how I still had the lovely Caribbean voice of Ingrid Persaud in my head from recently listening to Love After Love, to aid my interior monologue as I read!

The Comfort Book – Matt Haig –(AUDIOBOOK) – 25.04.22

I love Matt Haig, so much that I actually read his self-help type books even thought I hate self-help books usually. I listened to this on the way to my second physiotherapy appointment for my back pain. Since my Covid confinement, I’ve had a really bad back, which my GP thinks is due to a flare up of my autoimmune arthritis brought on both from having Covid, and from lying about for three weeks while being ill causing all my joints to stiffen up.

At my first appointment, the physiotherapist gave me some exercises, and a very nice massage and suggested various things including trying some mindful meditation. I’m cynical about such things, but I searched on YouTube for meditation for chronic pain, and gave it a go. Well, it just made me proper cross! The mindfulness lady firstly told me to thank my chronic pain for being me faithful companion for so long. Ha! No. I will not and do no thank my pain. It is bad. Then she said, now, put the pain in a backpack and wear it on you back, contained and mindfully. Now, take the backpack off, and walk away from it. Good grief – if only I’d known that a cure for my chronic disease was so simple (sarcastic). I know that the mind is a powerful tool and real physical changes can happen because of mental attitude but that was just trite twaddle.

So I gave up on mindful meditations for chronic pain. I know I’m going off topic here, but the point is that Matt Haig’s book is not trite twaddle. He doesn’t claim any instant cure for mental health problems, in fact I saw a recent social media post of his where he said he is currently in a bad place struggling with negative feelings. The book is just a nice comforting diversion to think about happy things and smile a bit. Which even I believe is a good thing. So I arrived at my physio appointment smiling, and feeling much better – thanks Matt Haig!

Amongst Our Weapons (Rivers of London Book ) – Ben Aaronovitch – (AUDIOBOOK) – 24.04.22

I really enjoyed this new instalment of the Rivers of London series – lots of fondly humorous nods to classic fantasy like Tolkien and Harry Potter with magic rings of power and WWII ghosts and the excitement of Peter’s partner Bev’s pregnancy and the birth of the twins. Can’t wait for the next one!