July/August Round-up

You may have noticed that there was no round-up last month – I was away and just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) maintain my blogging routine, so I’m way behind on pretty much everything related to Violin in a Void. In an attempt to catch up a little, I’m doing a double round-up of recent reads and reviews.

I posted my review of Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson, a very good fusion of sci fi and Islamic mythology, with some wonderfully written characters. Unfortunately, I think I under-appreciated this novel, as some of the sf aspects were lost on me.

My first read for July was Waiting for Godalming by Robert Rankin, which I read for a reading challenge where I needed a book with a teacup on the cover. Luckily for me it was a short book because it was also a fairly shit, and the blurb was quite possibly the most misleading blurb I’ve ever read. I didn’t even bother putting the cover in my roundup picture, although admittedly that was because the file was really small and awkward to work with.

The next novel, God Save the Queen by Kate Locke, was much better but by no means great. It’s set in 2012, but in a version of England where a plague turned the British aristocracy into vampires, werewolves and goblins. Queen Victoria has been on the throne for 175 years, and Britain is a still a colonial power. It’s a decent action novel with a bit of mystery and romance, but the major downfall is that these things take precedence over worldbuilding, so it’s sloppy. Also, “lieutenant” is intentionally misspelled as “leftenant” presumably because the book is meant to cater to American audiences.

Advent by James Treadwell is an elegant, complex YA fantasy novel about magic, couched in mythology. It has some flaws in terms of plot, but one of the things I loved about it is that it’s a wonderful piece of rich, old-fashioned storytelling with the kind of fictional spaces you just want to disappear into. I had some issues with the magic system in the novel, so I posed my questions to the author on the Conversation page of his website. Scroll down to ‘Good Questions’ for my question and his thought-provoking answer. Advent might not be the easiest book to read, but I’m very pleased that minds like this are writing YA. I look forward to the sequel.

Sadly, I went from good YA to crap YA when I read Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas (pen name for Lex Hrabe and Thomas Voorhies) about a group of teenagers who are trapped in their school when it’s quarantined following an inexplicable bio catastrophe. The teenagers get infected with some weird virus that makes them all lethal to children an adults. It’s rushed, implausible, and the worldbuilding is so lazy.

Next, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I was intrigued by this when it came out, but I was eventually dissuaded with talk of romance and the fact that it became so popular. I do not have a good record with romance or popular fiction – it tends to be too conventional for me, and the hype leaves me disappointed. This time I am happy to say I was completely wrong. The Night Circus is utterly enchanting, and I even liked the romance. I considered reviewing it, but then decided I just wanted to relax and savour it. Recommended.

Finally, the excellent God’s War by Kameron Hurley. I’ve raved about this in a few posts already, so I won’t say much more. The only thing that bugged about reviewing this was that, for some reason, Night Shade Books didn’t provide a Kindle option, so I had to read a time-limited pdf on my pc and write notes and quotes in longhand. I loved the writing, so I took down a lot of quotes.

August! The last winter month, thank god. I love boots, coats, thick socks and snuggling up, but now I miss the sun and not having to wear five layers of clothing. I read another five books, for this (hopefully) last month of freezing my ass off.

First, Cape of Slaves by Sam Roth (pseudonym for Dorothy Dyer and Rosamund Haden). Disappointing South African middle-grade/YA novel about time travel. At least it was very short.

Then, because I was on holiday and feeling very lazy and distracted, I read a YA paranormal romance. I figured it would be quick and easy to read, which it was. It was also mildly entertaining, and that is the end of the good things I have to say about Unearthly by Cynthia Hand.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn was a birthday present from a friend. I wanted it after reading Gone Girl by the same author. Sharp Objects isn’t as good, but it’s even more messed up. Gillian Flynn has some crazy stuff going on in that head of hers. I like it.

I posted my review of Railsea by China Miéville yesterday. Definitely one of his most entertaining, charming novels.

And if I’m not too lazy, then next week I will post my review of literary horror novel The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle. ‘Literary horror’ seems to mean, in part, that it’s not actually scary, at least not in the ways you expect horror to be scary. However, it is a novel about fear. You’ll see what I mean later.

In the meantime, happy reading!

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