Another reading round-up! I typically try to read as much as possible over the summer, even though I'll never again reach the dizzying heights of my 1-week-9-books beach holiday of 2009...those were the days! In this installment, I discovered the works of V.E. Schwab, zipped through Cursed Child, and even read a book by someone I actually KNOW. Here we go...
J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
How can I write about this without giving away spoilers? Suffice to say, this is not the Potter we're used to, predominantly down to the format - I think I would always choose full-on novels rather than dramatic screenplays, although theatre is not without its charm (I adored Macbeth, for example).
I think my main issue with Cursed Child is that it's designed to be acted out, and I don't think people will get the same enjoyment from it without seeing it performed. Obviously given the current situation it's impossible for everyone to see it and therefore, I think, impossible for everyone to fully appreciate it. I was fortunate to see a preview performance before reading the play, so it held a lot more charm for me as I was able to visualise the scenes as I had seen them. I imagine someone new to the story would have a totally different, perhaps more negative experience and I think that's quite sad.
Anyway! The characters are utterly lovable, especially the next generation - I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Scorpius is my new favourite? The plot itself manages to be complicated without replicating the intricacy of the novels, and I definitely raised my eyebrows a few times as it didn't feel like classic Rowling (of course, given it was a joint project, this was to be expected!). As an unashamed fan-fiction reader, there were a few moments that felt a little too familiar - but to make up for these, there were plenty of moments of utter hilarity, as well as a particular scene that had me sobbing my heart out. Overall, I enjoyed reading the story, but I really think my enjoyment was affected by my familiarity with the play - it's the performance that makes this story truly magical.
A Darker Shade of Magic
A Gathering of Shadows
I read both of these fantasy novels in quick succession, so in hindsight they have blurred into one! There's magicians, travelling between worlds, a teeny hint at romance and a kick-ass pirate thief heroine - what more do you need? They may not make my top 10 but I will be picking up the sequel to find out what happens to Kell and Lila (Delilah Bard - has there ever been a more wonderful name?)
This Savage Song
Reading this straight after the previous books was a bit of a letdown - it felt just a tad too generic YA dystopian novel. Although I liked the central relationship and the two protagonists, as well as the monster theory and attributes, it all just felt a little rushed and underdeveloped, as though I was reading a screenplay rather than a novel. The final scene definitely gave me the impression it was written for the screen and set up a sequel perfectly. Overall, this was not a bad book per se but would recommend checking out Schwab's other novels before picking this one up as it could put you off her writing.
Now Vicious was so much better than This Savage Song - perhaps because it's aimed at a slightly older audience. It reminded me a bit of the tone in "Preacher", applied to an X-Men storyline - the final result is quite a violent but interesting concept, pitting two ex-friends with opposing stances against one another. I really liked the idea of people obtaining powers following near-death experiences, and there isn't really an unlikable character in the book (although Serena comes close...) If you prefer your novels firmly rooted in a familiar world, with a bit of a twist, this is for you.
God, I read these quickly. I raced through them in two days, in fact - there's just something about the protagonist Joe and his twisted little mind that had me hooked! I first heard about You during my Girl On The Train phase, put it on my TBR list and picked it up with the sequel shortly before my France holiday. I like a good thriller, and I like an unreliable narrator, and both of these have these qualities in absolute spades. Kepnes really has developed a wonderful voice for Joe and fleshes his character out to the extent I found myself rooting for him, even though he's a total sociopath! They're very modern novels, with references to Facebook and Twitter (and actually it's somewhat alarming how easily the characters can be stalked online), and although I just knew things couldn't end well I couldn't stop myself from turning every page.
David Mitchell has been a firm favourite of mine ever since I first picked up Cloud Atlas many years ago. Since then I've steadily gone on to collect everything he's ever published and Slade House was no exception. This is an amalgamation of a murder mystery and sort-of-ghost story, beginning in the 70s and moving forward through the decades to present day. One thing I love about Mitchell's work is how he weaves in familiar characters from all his novels, embedding the story firmly in the world he has created. He is also a master at writing different voices, all resoundingly authentic. Slade House had a creepier undertone than his usual work, almost Gaiman-esque at points (never a bad thing!), and it's a quick read too, perfect for an afternoon on the sofa!
When a book reminds you of several other favourites it's always a good sign! Reading this brought to mind elements from Johannes Cabal, The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters and The Beekeeper's Apprentice - in fact the main character in Resurgence definitely reminded me of the lovely Mary Russell in Laurie King's Holmes spin offs. Mary Dane is a young woman from a wealthy family who wants nothing more than to fly planes, rather than marrying well and following the path her parents have designed for her. After a freak accident, she is spirited away by the Secret Service to a hidden airship, where adventure awaits... This really was a fun read, although a little slow to start; the rest of the book definitely made up with action on every page!
What were your holiday reads this year? Please pop any recommendations in the comments - I'm always happy to add to my list!