This post is quite ridiculously late, but for a good reason. An old friend from South Africa came to stay with us in Addis Ababa for a week and we did a lot of sight-seeing, so I haven’t had much time for reading or writing. However, my friend Niecole from the book blog Fantasmagoriese started doing a monthly round-up of the books she’d read, and she inspired me to do the same.
January proved to be an enthusiastic start to the year, and a wonderful reading month in general. I read nine books and finished a tenth in the first hour of February. I also managed to stick to a regular schedule for the blog, posting two articles a week. It’s a schedule I immediately failed to stick to this month, but I’ll try and do a few extra posts to make up for it 🙂 NetGalley was particularly good to me, and I requested and received some lovely eARCs, some of which you can check out in my most recent Up For Review post.
I was lucky to read four excellent eARCs last month. I started the year off with The Whisperer by Donato Carrisi, a creepy thriller about a brilliant, unconventional serial killer. Then I found an absolute sf gem in Enormity, where author W.G. Marshall took a rather pulpy idea and crafted a vividly written, multi-layered and compelling novel out of it. It’s the kind of weird, stylish genre fiction that I love. My review of Enormity was also by far my most popular post for the month.
Another beauty – of a different sort – was A.S. Byatt’s retelling of Norse mythology in Ragnarok. It was exquisite – a book to collect and read many times over. Since I’d started the month off with a great book, it was fitting that I should end it in the same way. At midnight on the 31st, I was finishing off The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, an inventive, intriguing fantasy mystery about secret organisation that handles the many supernatural threats in Britain. The Rook was well-crafted and filled with quirky humour – glowing review to follow soon.
In between the top-rated novels were a few good if not great ones. I finally got around to reading some ARCs I’ve had for a good few months, including Fantastic Women, a collection of surreal short fiction by women, and space opera Prador Moon by Neal Asher, which introduced me both to the Polity universe and to Asher’s work in general.
My friend Barbara and I read and discussed Diana Wynne Jones’s The Spellcoats in our Goodreads bookclub, The South African Booklovers. Everything I’d read by Jones before had been wonderful, so I was keen to try more. Sadly, The Spellcoats wasn’t quite the novel I’d hoped it to be, but it served as a nice review break, where I could just read and chat about it without taking notes and drafting a mini-essay. I went back to reviewing with Erebos by Ursula Poznanski, a YA novel about an addictive RPG that manipulates players lives in the real world. I loved the premise, but the game itself wasn’t convincing enough for me. Luckily, it was at least a decent thriller.
Unfortunately there were also some duds, sadly both indie. Thieves at Heart by Tristan J. Tarwater had plenty of potential, with decent writing (despite many careless errors) and a strong main character, but it had virtually no plot and meandered rather tediously. However, it was infinitely better than the other indie novel I read in January, This Devil’s Dice by a South African writing duo calling themselves Jackson Spence. The novel completely wasted an interesting premise and was composed of the most torturous purple prose, but more on that when I post the review.
So, all in all, a good range of brilliant reads covering several genres – psychological crime thriller, sci fi, mythology and fantasy – interspersed with some solid reads that had a more balanced combination of strong and weak features. Two books were bad, but only one of them made me want to scream. Nevertheless, the number of exciting new books I received was more than enough to make up for any disappointments. Now that things have gone back to normal, I’m eager to get back to that ARC pile.