Ahh, February. The first month where I didn’t have any judging work remaining. I’ve been judging non-stop since July last year and it was an odd feeling. At least until I looked to my review pile and jumped straight back into reading ‘work’.
Still, I managed to read mostly for pleasure. In the end I managed to read 14 as it still seemed to be a slump month somehow. A slump which, strangely enough, also swamped my book buddies River and Sam.
This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl (and her parents, friends, and John Green), which I mentioned in my January post of currently reading. This is a confronting read, though I would have liked to get to know Esther more while reading it. We hear a lot from her parents and a few friends who say the different she caused for their lives, and how the treatment went each step of the way, but by the end I didn’t know Esther as well as I assumed I would. I would have liked to see more of her personality. This remains an important and worthy book but it felt more like a personal eulogy best kept between friends and family.
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson was a very, very slow book to get into. I actually started it while I was in London last year back in October, and it just wasn’t gripping me. During my reading slump in February I forced myself through it a bit more as if I wasn’t reading, at least I could rely on Sanderson to know what to expect rather than possibly ‘ruin’ an ‘unknown’ author for myself when it’s really the slump at fault. It eventually paces up to be an enjoyable novel overall, and it leaves you very, very interested for the second.
The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey was my first review book for the year! It was a worthy adversary, a very decent zombie book in the current deluge of zombie books. This was unique and had characters you don’t exactly enjoy, but are certainly invested in pretty quickly. I love a good dystopian, and this had the added bonus of being set near London. Highly recommended for someone who wants something a little different, especially if you want a zombie novel that does its own thing.
A Very Singular Guild by Catherine Jinks is another juvenile novel, a series I became acquainted with whilst judging in the Children’s Book Council. This series is pretty darn fun, and mostly readable for adults too if you’re okay with reading something easy and light. It’s a book that writes the accents in the dialogue, but I feel it does it well. I found this latest instalment not as engaging as the previous, but still good.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart was another book I read when struggling out of my slump. What a strange book! There’s not much I can say on it really, as it’s one of those books that’s far too easy to spoil. It didn’t make me cry, but it is a book that is making people cry. It’s odd. It’s unique. It was a very quick yet lasting read and I highly recommend it.
Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner is a book I’ve been meaning to read for oh so long. I met the author at Brighton’s World Fantasy Con last November, and told myself sternly that I would at least have read it before I return to England for Worldcon in August. And there, I’ve done so. You can see why it’s on so many Must Read Fantasy books because it’s such a turning point for when it was written, and has such a distant and distinct style even now. I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, but that could have been the remnants of my awful reading slump.
Double Share by Nathan Lowell was a disappointment, I must say. I’ve highly enjoyed the previous books in this series which often did so very well even though nothing was ever really happening in them. This one though… it’s left a sour taste in my mouth, and I’m disappointed in the author. There’s institutionalised female abuse and rape that’s been ignored or unresolved until the MC comes along, who suddenly seems like such a Gary Stu in this instalment. In previous novels his abilities are handled much better – in this, it’s simply weak writing. He fixes everything far too easily somehow, and everyone is suddenly magically better, the perpetuators seemingly get on with their lives without any great justice served on their sorry asses… and overall… this was just a depressing and lacking novel.
Liquid Gold by Tansy Rayner Roberts takes us to happier things. I read this series completely out of order thanks to judging the third in the series. This is an enjoyable series, even though Tansy wrote it quite a fair while ago and her writing we know and love from today has moved on into a different direction since then. This has been edited and re-released, but you can still tell it’s early work. And it’s good. Tansy isn’t afraid to be different with her characters, plot direction and the subtle hints she drops within her work. It’s refreshing to read an author who has opinions and manages to deliver them eloquently. I’m going to miss the world of Mocklore now :(
The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu is a book I discovered at World Fantasy Con in Brighton when Scott Lynch gave part of his reading time to Wesley. It was worth it. Wesley has such a fun and different series to share with us all, that combines humour with the slight desperation of an overweight geek who is pretty miserable with life. Who hasn’t dreamed, even if it were only once or just for a few moments, of being discovered by someone or something and trained up for Something. In this case, it’s to be a secret agent. Aliens are involved and they’re pretty sassy. We have female characters who are worthwhile and competent, and we have a main character who is hard to dislike. I’m looking forward to when I’ve caught up with my review work to get stuck into the second book!
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu is a book I discovered after Sam got me to read The Real Boy by the same author. I have to say, I prefer tRB more, but only slightly. Ursu really is the Queen of writing children who are still discovering who they are, on that awkward cusp of still being children yet not allowed to act like children anymore because it isn’t ‘cool’. She also handles disabilities so delicately you’re not even sure whether they’re disabled characters or not, and that’s not the focus of the story – not by far. She twirls in folklore with a twist, and plants the seed of hope with the reader.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor was part of my re-read when I received Dreams of Gods and Monsters to review and started reading it, only to discover that I really needed to get back into the whole world first! I had forgotten details of Ziri for example. At the start I was annoyed with myself because one of the most-anticipated books of the year had arrived and yet I couldn’t start reading it yet – then I fell into the story and loved it even more on my third read through. It made me feel like I was overcome with shudders all the way through reading. She has such a talent for making you feel the love between her characters like no one else I’ve ever read.
Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor was of course next, and just as excellent. It is amazing seeing where this novel turns to and how the characters develop. Laini has a talent for making unlikely things believable, which gives her more options to work with. This is a series that keeps getting better – though the first book will always remain special to me.
Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor was everything we could have hoped for. It surpassed expectations and goodness was it hard to receive because it is so hard to do it justice. This. Was. Amazing. We get to see so much more for the worlds and characters involved, and most importantly, it ties everything up satisfyingly in the end. What a journey! Thank you, a thousand times over, Laini Taylor. You have accomplished something spectacular with this series.
Written in Red by Anne Bishop was a book I didn’t expect to love. I think I read it on Tehani’s recommendation, or simply because I saw that she had read it, and our reading tastes are generally similar. So it has vampires and werewolves in it (or at least creatures we usually title that way by similar attributes), but in this novel Bishop weaves a lot more in besides, handles it all darn well, and then also puts in things that we don’t normally see. This was a re-read as I’ve just received book two for review!
Next in my list to read shall be Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop which I have for review. My now-retired boss has loaned me The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan so I really should read that as quickly as possible… and other review books I’ve currently got awaiting are The Visitors by Sally Beauman, The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty (which will require a re-read of The Colour of White, first!), and Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman. Phew!
This is a little disappointing for my list of books I’m aiming to read in 2014 as I’ve only crossed six off the list (of 74) but it’s been a busy month for review books and I decided I simply had to re-read previous books in order to fully appreciate the novel. It’s been a joy. I honestly think I’m enjoying the books even more on a re-read so hurray for that.
Bring on March!