Thursday, 2 February 2017

What I've Been Reading Recently

I've made a good start to 2017, racing through 20 books in January and loving many of them. I'm no longer blogging every book I read as it was too onerous a task, but I've started using Goodreads to keep a record (feel free to friend me on there if you want a nosy at some of the other books I'm reading).

The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet & A Closed And Common Orbit
Becky Chambers
Rating: *****
These books are astonishingly good. Chambers creates a fully realised universe complete with varied alien species, a complex political back-story and, most importantly, entirely believable and relatable characters (even when said characters have tentacles or scales). The first book takes an episodic form, with the reader getting to know the crew of the tunnelling spaceship, The Wayfarer, as they embark upon a long journey to, yes, a small and angry planet. Eschewing the usual Big Bads and battles of sci-fi literature and instead focusing on the characters and their stories, The Long Way... is also admirably diverse in terms of race, gender & sexuality, and all the more enjoyable for it. A Closed & Common Orbit was a wonderful follow-up focusing on the AI Lovecraft and Pepper, two minor characters from the first book, and asking some big questions about what makes a person a person.

Juliet Takes A Breath*
Gabby Rivera
Rating: *****
Bronx-born and bred Juliet is getting to grips with her summer internship in Portland, Oregon (where she'll be working for iconic feminist author Hawthorne Brisbane), all while figuring out how to come out to her family, what the hell a preferred gender pronoun is, why she's not getting the answers she wants from White Feminism. Oh, and how to breathe. Juliet Takes A Breath was the queer, Latinx, intersectional feminist coming-of-age novel of my dreams: moving, political, angry, funny, and damn wonderful. Read it!

The Daughter Of Time
Josephine Tey
Rating: *****
Alex has been encouraging me to read this for bloody ages and I've no idea why I resisted so long, because it is absolutely brilliant. The Daughter Of Time begins with Inspector Grant laid up in bed with a broken leg. Encouraged by a friend to find something to pass the time, he lights on a postcard of a portrait of Richard III and decides to investigate the story of one of history's most notorious kings. Namely: can Grant reconcile the mild-mannered-looking man of the portrait with the accusations of child killing levelled at Richard?
The Muse
Jessie Burton
Rating: ***
I found a signed hardback copy of The Muse for 50p in a Leeds charity shop and obviously snapped it up. I loved The Miniaturist, so was interested to find out how Burton would follow such an atmospheric and richly descriptive book. Not awfully well, was the answer. The Muse follows dual timelines - Trinidadian immigrant Odelle in 1960s London, and artist Olive in Spain in 1936 - but while I was gripped by Odell's story, I couldn't take to Olive nor to the story told through her eyes at all.

Her Every Fear*
Peter Swanson
Rating: *
Still traumatised after a brutal attack by an ex-boyfriend years earlier, Kate Priddy makes an uncharacteristically bold decision when her cousin, Corbin, suggests an apartment swap, and she moves from London to Boston. However, arriving at his building she finds that his neighbour, Audrey, has been murdered. Comparisons to Hitchcock - and particularly Rear Window - abound in reviews of Her Every Fear, and the similarities are obvious as the plot revolves around a peeping tom. But this, for me, was one of the key problems with the book: the peeping tom character is presented as almost wholly unproblematic and (SPOILER) a good romantic choice for Kate. Because girls just love an obsessive stalker as a love interest, amirite ladies? More importantly, Her Every Fear felt derivative and predictable. As the plot developed, I found myself skimming pages until I reached the dénouement, which unfolded exactly as I'd forseen. This came as a disappointment after his wonderfully plotted and genuinely shocking The Kind Worth Killing: if you are looking for a truly unique and well written thriller, I suggest you look to that book rather than Her Every Fear.

The Clockwork Sparrow & The Painted Dragon*
Katherine Woodfine
Rating: ***
I'd seen the Sinclair Mysteries series compared to the wonderful Wells & Wong mysteries by Robin Stevens, so when I spotted the first book in a charity shop for £1 - and subsequently got the new title from NetGalley - I was keen to read them. Set in Edwardian London, with the action focusing on the young employees of grand new department store Sinclairs, they're jolly romps of the kind I loved when I was 10. They worked less well for me as an adult reader than the superlatively plotted Wells & Wong books, but you'll still be rooting for our heroines Sophie and Lil as they race across rooftops, foil dastardly plans, and escape from locked cellars.

* This book was kindly provided by the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

14 comments:

  1. Wow, 20 books! And I was impressed with my 12 and a half (the half was one I started last year).

    The cover of The Muse looks so pretty!

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    1. It's such a gorgeous cover, it makes me feel bad that I didn't enjoy the book much.

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  2. Yes! The Daughter of Time! I love that book. It sparked a long term fascination with Richard III and with whether or not history is portrayed accurately. The Becky Chambers books sound interesting. They might be good choices for my science fiction loving son.

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    1. It was SO good, i cannot believe it took me so long to read it as I have a long-held fascination with the Tudor era (and of course he is immediately pre-Tudor) and I love classic crime, so it was pretty much the perfect book for me.

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  3. Some of those sound interesting! I will go off to Goodreads now and add you, I always like to find new people there!

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  4. I really didn't like the Miniaturist so I have been studiously avoiding the Muse! The Sinclair mysteries are brilliant! Ooooh, I want to read the new one!!! I loved the Clockwork Sparrow AND the Jewellled Moth!!!! Want to read the new one! Aaaaand, I'd definitely like to read the Becky Chambers one!

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    1. I wanted to love the Sinclair Mysteries more than I did - I think I've been spoilt by the brilliance of the Wells & Wong books!

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  5. That is an impressive amount of reading! I loved The Miniaturist so will have to give The Muse a go at some point this year.

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  6. Juliet Takes a Breath sounds really interesting. I also loved Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, and can't wait to read the next one in the series. Like Kezzie, though, I wasn't a fan of The Miniaturist, so I think I'll definitely skip The Muse. If you like Becky Chambers, by the way, you might want to try The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu. There are a few spaceship stories in there, and his characterization is excellent.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation, I'll take a look. I would thoroughly recommend Juliet Takes A Breath; while it's not the most sophisticated of novels it had so much heart and joy about it.

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  7. Oh I loved Becky Chambers books, I can't wait for the third one to come out... whenever that will be!

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  8. Those Becky Chambers books are on my to read list!

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  9. 20 books in a month! You're a machine. Off to add you on Goodreads

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