April Round-Up

April was a pretty productive reading and reviewing month. I managed to read 8 books, and I’d actually have finished more if it wasn’t for a little snag…

Anyway, first to be read this month was the very popular military sf novel Germline  by T.C. McCarthy, first in a series known as The Subterrene War. I’d received the sequel, Exogene, on NetGalley, so in order to review that I bought Germline. Not really my thing unfortunately. There was loads of action, but coupled with paper-thin characters and a lack of world-building it was a bit of a bore.

Westlake Soul by Rio Youers was a short, somewhat experimental novel narrated by a 23-year-old surfer named Westlake Soul who is in a vegetative state after a surfing accident. He no longer has any control over his body, but the brain ‘damage’ turned him into a genius with the ability to project his soul/mind beyond his body. With these powers, Westlake sees himself as a superhero, especially since he has a supervillain to battle – Dr Quietus, an incarnation of death. The novel had its flaws, but it could also be very touching, particularly when we see Westlake’s family struggling to deal with his condition. So I didn’t love it, but I enjoyed it, and I admired what the author was able to do with the story.

Faustus Resurrectus by Thomas Morrissey is an occult thriller based on the myth of Faustus – the man who sold his soul to the devil in return for earthly knowledge and power. A madman commits a series of murders in preparation for a ritual to resurrect Faustus, and thereby take revenge on those that wronged him, and claim the power he feels he should wield. Occult scholar Donovan Graham assists the NYPD in the serial killer case, but gets pulled in deeper than expected. There’s a lot of cool stuff about the occult and performing arcane rituals, and on the whole it’s a good read. The author is also planning to turn this into a series featuring Donovan Graham.

I had a great time reading local YA zombie novel Death of a Saint by Lily Herne, the second book in the Mall Rats series. I wasn’t all that keen on the first book, Deadlands, so this one was a wonderful surprise. The characters and writing were much stronger than in Deadlands, and that drew me in and had me devouring the book in a very short time. It also uses one of my favourite YA stories – the journey. The Mall Rats series will be published in the UK next year, and it’s always exciting to see local genre fiction getting an international audience.

My leisure read for April was Dissolution by C.J. Sansom, the first in  series of historical mystery novels featuring the hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake. I read it with a friend who was pretty disappointed in it, finding it to be far too similar to The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, but totally inferior to it. I hadn’t read the Eco though, and I thought Dissolution was a good read and an entertaining history lesson.

Then on to something completely different – the seedy, violent urban fantasy Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, featuring the jaded, foul-mouthed Miriam Black. When Miriam touches someone she can see exactly when and how they’re going to die. She knows it’s pointless to try and save anyone, but then she meets a trucker named Louis who’s going to die just because he tried to help her. For his sake, she’s going to try and stop fate. Good, brutal writing and an interesting story.

My next read was a much softer one – the steampunk-ish YA The Peculiars  by Maureen Doyle McQuerry. It’s a coming-of-age story laced with themes of prejudice and imperialism, but it’s spoiled by the main character Lena, who tends to be really stupid and ungrateful.

My last read was the lovely Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge. It features modern takes on fairytales, written in short prose poems. They’re funny, disturbing, violent and insightful, full of themes and subtleties that I think would be better-appreciated by adults. Review to follow closer to the publication date (10 July 2012).

I’d intended to read two more books this month – The Croning, a horror novel by Laird Barron, and Strindberg’s Star, a Dan-Brown style mystery by Swedish journalist Jan Wallentin. Unfortunately, with The Croning, the publishers sent me the wrong eBook, and haven’t replied to any of my requests for the right one, so I might not be reviewing that at all. I’d made up a nice reading schedule that I’d managed to stick to, and not having the next book totally threw me off track. I could have just moved on to the next book, but for whatever reason I just didn’t feel like it, and I wasted a few days. Eventually I started Strindberg’s Star. My intention was to have finished it by now, but it’s boring. Less than glowing review to follow, once I manage to reach the end.

Anyway, I’m off for now. Happy Worker’s Day/May Day to everyone for tomorrow – I hope you can enjoy some time off!

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