May: spell the month in books challenge

I’ve seen a few book bloggers set themselves the challenge of spelling the month using the first letters of book titles and I thought I’d give it a try for April, May and June.

I’ve spelt May with the title of genre books that I rated as five-star reads and which I’m happy to recommend as books that are worth your time.

Magic For Liars (2019) was a delightfully different take on the Murder In A School For Magic trope by asking:

What if magic was not just real but taken for granted? The province of a gifted elite to be sure but still just another thread in American society. 

Now imagine that you’re one a pair of twin sisters and you have no magic and your sister has so much of it that everything is effortless for her and no matter how hard you work, you can never have what she has. What would it be like to grow up like that, with a mirror-image sister who reflects not the you that you’ve become but the you who you could have been if only you’d been the one born with magic?

Finally, imagine that, in your mundane life, you’ve become a competent Private Investigator, albeit on a diet of cheating spouses and insurance fraudsters, and then you are invited by the head of the prestigious magic school at which your estranged sister teaches, to investigate a suspicious death on campus. Who would you be when your world and your sister’s world had to co-exist?

The answer in Ivy Gamble’s case is that she would be who she has always been, someone who habitually lies to herself and others.

‘Magic For Liars’ is a vine that flourishes on the trellis of a good mystery while providing a deeply personal first-person account that focuses not so much on the woman who died or even on finding the person who killed her, but on Ivy Gambles’ internal conflicts: the lies she chooses to tell herself and others, the life she wants but can’t have, the toxic mixture of love, hate, jealousy and resentment that characterises her relationship with her sister and the pain and instability that comes from her unanchored sense of identity.

Ancillary Justice (2013) is the first book in one of my favourite Science Fiction trilogies. It is astonishingly good.

It won just about every prize there is: Hugo Award for Best Novel (2014)Nebula Award for Best Novel (2013)Locus Award for Best First Novel (2014)Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel (2014)British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel (2013) 

The one that surprised me most was the Locus Award for Best First Novel. How could a book this accomplished be a first novel?

The other two books in the Imperial Radch trilogy, Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy were just as good.

If you haven’t tried this series yet, you have a treat ahead of you. I recommend the audiobook version. Adjoa Andoh’s narration perfectly captures the calm, often introspective, strangeness of the book.

Yard Work (2020), is a short story written by . David Koepp, who wrote Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, and Mission: Impossible, and narrated by Kevin Bacon.

It tells the story of retired Judge, Herman Calvert, who is eighty-eight-years-old and is deeply frustrated to find himself a widower, living alone in a house by a lake in upstate New York. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He was supposed to have died first and this house had been designed for his wife to live in after he’d gone.

I identified with the judge’s belligerent unwillingness to accept his own limitations, his irritation at needing help with things, and his bloodyminded determination not let the forest reclaim the space where he and his wife spent their summers with their children.

The muscle of the story comes from the judges struggle to cut back and burn out an invasive, fast-growing species of creeper which is taking over the land and threatening to choke the life out of a tree he planted for his wife.

The invasive species turns out to have some not entirely natural malice behind it that makes it a truly threatening and disquieting adversary. The judge’s struggle is fierce, focused and bloody and causes his daughter serious concern about his physical and mental well-being.

‘Yard Work’ well-crafted story, populated with believable people and laced with just enough supernatural threat to keep the tension up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s