Honeycomb – Joanne Harris (AUDIOBOOK) – 03.07.22

I enjoyed listening to these beautiful and lyrical, if dark and cautionary adult fairy tales read perfectly by the author, Joanne Harris. The stories stood alone but also interweaved into one narrative whole and were full of the fey folk mythology that I love, with some twists by Joanne Harris incorporating the insect world into the magical realms, and lots of wry and intelligent political commentary and allegory woven through. Loved it.

The Sudden Appearance of Hope – Claire North – 26.06.22

When I finished reading this book, I rattled off a string of superlatives in my head of how wonderful it was (since as always I’m super late in writing this up, I can’t remember the half of them) something like: beautiful, poetic, gripping, relatable, intelligent, thoughtful, devastating, fun, amazing… (and so on – you get the picture!).

The plot is similar to another book which I very much enjoyed, ‘The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue’. In both cases, the title character is forgettable. I don’t mean that the book is boring – far from it. The premise of the story is that people forget their encounters with Hope as soon as they stop seeing her. As a lifelong introvert, I have often thought this should be my superpower – but in fact it makes it impossible to have a job, or relationships, or rent or buy a house. Hope must become a criminal in order to live, and she’s good at it. Luckily she is able to have an internet presence and a lot of the plot of the book is based around the profiling and shaping of people by the internet companies. Typical of Claire North (I have become a massive Claire North fan in recent times!) the story is very thought provoking and deep and I loved it.

Yestertime: A Novel of Time Travel (Yestertime Series Book 1)

– Andrew Cunningham – 20.06.22

This book has thousands of great reviews and Amazon, which confounds me because I thought it was one of the worst written books I’ve ever read (or almost read – I gave up at 80% – you’d think having got that far I’d see it through, but no, it was so bad and not getting any better, I literally couldn’t take any more).

I don’t like writing bad reviews, because I know from experience as a writer that reading them can be upsetting, but since Andrew Cunningham has so many five stars and since such a tiny number of people read my reviews anyway, I think I can vent on here.

I thought the writing was clunky and unsubtle and the writing structure was boring and linear (ironic for a time travel book!). I didn’t like or care for any of the characters and giving up at 80% was just a relief.

The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes – 14.06.22

I watched TV adaptation of this novel first, with Elizabeth Moss and loved it. In the TV series, Elizabeth Moss’s character survives a vicious attack and is convinced that she was the victim of a serial killer, a conviction which the police initially at least don’t take seriously. In the TV series, since the attack, her character seems to switch between parallel realities with small or big changes (from a different hairstyle, to being married or having a different career) but is always working towards solving the mystery of the killer, evidence of whom crops up in archives from different eras in time.

After watching the show, I still had questions and wanted to delve deeper, so I bought the book to read. Well, The book, like the show follows the character who survived the attack, and her quest to unearth the truth, in both the book and the show there is a time travelling murderer, and a mysterious house that controls the narrative, but in the book there are no parallel universe switches, which disappointed me because that was one of the things I really likes about the show.

I did enjoy reading the book, but it’s hard to judge it on its own merit since I came to it expecting something else.

This One Sky Day – Leone Ross – 08.06.22

This is a beautiful, magical, surreal, though provoking, funny, lovely book. Set in an imaginary part of the Caribbean, whose inhabitants have individual special skills, often magical it follows a chef’s quest to create a perfect wedding feast, although that is incidental really to all the other things that are going on. In this gloriously vibrant setting, real life problems of unrequited love, miscommunications, difficult family relationships, drug addiction (the gentler narcotic is eating live butterflies, but eating moths is the serious dark addiction) exploitation of indigenous people, or poorer classes are explored. One of the most memorable happenings is when every woman’s external sexual parts fall off. The women are initially alarmed and worried, anxious about practical issues like infection etc, and how they react to this part of themselves being a separate thing they can hold and look at. The men don’t take it very seriously which is commented on my one woman with ‘imagine how they would react if all their penises fell off!’

I enjoyed it very much, and talked about it to the girls in my book group, even thought it wasn’t a book we had read together.

The Vinyl Detective – Attack and Decay – Andrew Cartmel (AUDIOBOOK) – 04.06.22

In this latest installment of The Vinyl Detective, the gang go to Sweden in search of a rare Death Metal album, and murder and mayhem ensues.

The series still makes me laugh and there are lots of wee things I like about the characters – how they love cats and are foody and so nerdy about records.

Fun.

A Woman Made of Snow – Elizabeth Gifford – 29.05.22

I found this to be an intriguing and enjoyable historical fiction novel. The story takes place in two time streams – the more modern being in 1949 and the earlier in the 18 hundreds. A woman who wants to be taken seriously as a modern intelligent person finds herself as a stay at home mother living in the shadow of her difficult mother-in-law. She is tasked with sorting through the documents found in the old family home, and when after a storm a body is unearthed the mysteries they hint at deepen.

The other story follows the family ancestor, a medical student who drunkenly agrees to be the ships surgeon on a whaling vessel headed for the arctic and the gruelling voyage he endures and the aftermath of that.

I found the book interesting – as you would expect with historical fiction there was classism, racism and sexism in spades, which our characters had to deal with, but the book also tackles timeless issues of love and family relationships and the blessing and trials that come with these things.

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.