I’ve had some fine reading this week, with four novels and two novellas completed and the next three books started. Probably the best part of the week was that I’ve read two new-to-me authors that I’m excited by. My reading is running a little ahead of my reviewing at the moment but I’ll probably have blacked out my Bingo card by the end of the week and I can catch up then.
Here’s what I completed this week:
I had started “Dawn” by Octavia Butler for the Diverse Voices square. It’s a fine book and I will finish it but, in my undisciplined way, I got tempted by something new and shiny and found myself read Victor LaValle’s novella “The Ballad Of Black Tom” instead.
This is a very impressive piece, with many layers to it and all of them good. I have his novel “The Changeling” in my TBR pile and I’ll be getting to it as soon as I can.
“Silence Fallen”, the tenth Mercy Thompson book, turned out to be full of firsts: the first time Mercy has been to Europe, the first time sections of the story are told from Adam’s point of view and the first time that the Patricia Briggs has gone with a not-entirely-linear timeline. It mostly worked. It was nice to have a fresh approach but while enjoyed Adam, I found myself missing the opportunity to spend more time with Mercy.
I’m now a firm fan of Jim Hine’s Princess series. “The Mermaid’s Madness”, the second book in the series was bit darker and less joyous than the first book but none the worse for it.
It made a great read for the “Fear The Drowning Deep” square which sadly hasn’t been called yet but will give me two bingos when it is.
I’m still forming an opinion on Alice Hoffman’s”The Rules Of Magic”. The story of three magically-gifted siblings growing into adulthood and coming to terms with their difference and the curse that seems to accompany it was full of strong characters and great moments. The way the story was told was a little more arms-length than I would have liked it to be. Perhaps too much tell and not enough show? I’m going to let it settle in my memory before I decide. What I have decided is that I will read “Practical Magic” which this is the prequel to.
As many people had told me it would be, “The Elementals” by Michael McDowell was a wonderfully atmospheric and very Southern book. It’s filled with scenes that would make wonderful cinema. It has one of the most interesting and believable father-daughter relationships I’ve read, a wonderful ability to make lassitude sinister and some very scary sources of evil. I was delighted to discover that I have many more Michael McDowell horror novels to read. I’ll be starting in on the Black Water series later this year.
Reading Wilkie Collins always reminds me of how far the popular imagination has moved since his day. The ghost in “Mrs Zant and The Ghost” is barely more than a suggestion. This isn’t horrifying by modern standards of slash and splatter.
Yet, allow yourself to imagine it actually happening to you, to find yourself confronted with such a presence and it becomes enough to change how you see the world. It’s Collins’ gift to help even someone with a palette as jaded as mine, taste that delicate shock.
I’ve started another three books (one audiobook, one ebook and one beautifully produced paperback) that will almost complete my bingo card over the next few days.
I’m struggling a little with “The Last Children Of Tokyo”. It’s a beautiful book to look at and the ideas are original and credible but my ignorance of Japan means that I have to put in extra effort to understand some of the contrast between Japan as it is today and as it’s projected to be in the book. Still, the writing has a gentle clarity that I’m enjoying so I will persist with it.
I’ve barely started Stephen King’s “Joyland” but I’m already enjoying the richly textured world that King is building. I’ve never liked fairgrounds much but a behind-the-scenes view is intriguing and setting the story in the seventies adds a patina of nostalgia.
My most recent read is an original take on ghosts. “What Haunts Me” by Margaret Millmore. The central ideas are that ghosts are capable of harming people and that, for reasons yet to be explained, our hero can make ghosts go away. The writing style is intimate and informal in a way that is quite modern in phrasing but has a storytelling approach that is reminiscent of the nineteenth century.