Hello and here I am again with a reading roundup. Yes, I know it’s been ages since I rounded up my reading. My new role has been keeping me very, very busy, which is good, I guess. I’d still rather be reading though!
Despite being so busy, there are seven books I’d like to discuss with you which I’ve read since my last roundup. I’m not sure if it was just because I was tired, but sadly very few of them really rang my bell. More of them were good, but no cigar.
The first book I read was Furthermore by Shatter Me author Tahereh Mafi. This is Mafi’s first foray into middle grade and tells the story of young Alice who must venture into the world of Furthermore to rescue her father. I really loved the writing style in Furthermore – Mafi’s descriptions were lyrical and gorgeous. Unusually, Mafi regularly breaks the fourth wall in this novel to give the author’s viewpoint on Alice’s reactions, which I adored. It reminded me of Noel Langley’s Land of Green Ginger which was one of my favourite books as a child because of a similar technique. It’s worth reading this book simply for the chapter titles as well – they were a real treat. In the end though I gave Furthermore only three and a half stars out of five for one reason alone. The style of whimsy in this book, reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, is one that I personally really don’t enjoy. I prefer my fantasy to have more rules. That is a purely personal opinion and one you may not share.
One of the books that I did very much enjoy was Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. I really should have picked up that one sooner. This was one I picked up the sample from Amazon and was immediately hooked. Don’t you just love when that happens? I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Wil Wheaton. I loved everything about this book. The plot, the pacing, the characters and the narration were all excellent, and I’m a sucker for a treasure hunt across virtual reality. Some of the Eighties’ pop culture references passed me by, but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book. I gave Ready Player One five stars out of five.
Replica by Lauren Oliver is a book I picked up at BEA earlier this year and it was moved up my TBR by the Epic Reads Firsts which gives a preview of the first five chapters. The formatting of this book is the most interesting thing about it. The story is told from two perspectives; Gemma’s and Lyra’s. The hard copy is flippable with each girl’s story making one half of the novel. You can either read each perspective straight through before swapping to the other or you can alternate, reading one chapter from each girl’s point of view. I chose to alternate, and was very impressed by the way the two stories dovetail together. Oliver has clearly put a lot of work into the timeline and the way the information is put across. I understand the audiobook has a similar feature where you can choose how to listen. I’m still considering buying it to check it out.
However, while the format was novel and well done, neither the characters nor the storyline really gripped me. I understand a sequel is in the works and the ending is certainly open ended, but I’ve not yet decided if I’ll continue the series. I gave Replica three and a half stars out of five.
Next up was The Swan Riders by Erin Bow, the sequel to The Scorpion Rules. The Scorpion Rules had a kick ass ending and I was excited to find out what was going to happen next to Greta, Talis and their companions. The complexity really ramps up in this book and it requires a fair amount of concentration to keep up with who is who, who’s in love with whom, who’s human, who’s AI and who’s a bit of both, and what a particular character’s motivation is at any given point in the story. For this reason, I think if I’d been less busy at work and more able to concentrate on it, I’d have enjoyed it more. This is a case where the audiobook might have helped a lot as well as I’m sure the narrator Madeleine Maby would have helped clarify what personality any given character is portraying at the time. I gave The Swan Riders four stars out of five.
Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom was the second book I absolutely devoured this month. This is the second and final book in the Six of Crows duology. I’d been looking forward to it, but not quite counting down the hours until it hit my Audible download queue, even after a quick review of Six of Crows. That changed when I got into it. I found myself super invested in all Bardugo’s wonderful characters and rooting for them. Bardugo is a master of show, don’t tell when it comes to her characters. The reader must often read between the lines for what’s really going on with them and what their feelings and motivations are. That significantly increased my investment in their stories. As the conclusion to the duology Crooked Kingdom was a wonderful ending. I listened to Crooked Kingdom in audiobook format – the narrator list reads like a who’s who of YA narration and every single PoV was fantastically narrated. I gave Cooked Kingdom five stars out of five.
Those of you who have followed my reviews know that I do enjoy Rick Riordan’s writing so I was very much looking forward to The Hammer of Thor, the second in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series. While I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped. Again, maybe it’s because I was tired from work, and I’m also very familiar with Riordan’s humour now. While I found the character of Alex very interesting and nicely written, and I admire Riordan for tackling transgender issues, at times I felt I was reading A Very Special Episode of Magnus Chase. I felt he could have got the point across in a more subtle manner. I also didn’t feel particularly invested in the story this time around. I gave The Hammer of Thor three stars out of five.
The final book I listened to in the last few weeks was The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne. This is a short novella in his Iron Druid series this time told from the perspective of the druid’s Irish wolfhound, Oberon. Now, Oberon is one of my favourite characters in the series and I was especially excited to have a novella from his perspective. I chose to listen to this in audiobook because of Luke Daniels’s wonderful narration. I really enjoy his Oberon voice, however I was distracted by concern that using that voice for such an extended period of time would be painful for him! I also found that Oberon is best used as seasoning – a little of him is wonderful, but I’m not certain I’d want to hear a whole novel from his perspective again. I gave The Purloined Poodle four stars out of five.
So here you have it, what I’ve been reading/listening to over the last few weeks. Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments.