So, I’m feeling sorry for myself, curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea and feeling rather rotten. What a good time to sit down with you all and talk books!
I’ve had a really great start to the reading year already, with a bit of variety too. I didn’t get as much reading done this January (6) compared to last year (13!), but things have been a little busier for me filled with several changes. Two of the 6 books are also over 600 pages, so I think it’s not too bad going!
Anyway, let’s get on with it, shall we?
A Court of Mist and Fury and A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas
So I read the second and third books in this series back-to-back. I have said over on my Instagram a couple of times that I was not expecting to love these so much. Starting out as a Beauty and the Beast retelling with dark faeries, this series then takes on a different turn and completely captured me. The characters are really what drives these books, and the relationships between them all, along with their secrets and desires, was just the best thing to slip into. Action-packed too, and filled with some badass women, this is an unexpected new love of mine. I know not everyone loves Maas’ writing, but I was pleasantly surprised and captured by it. It is entirely possible I’ll be writing up a post around the first novel – A Court of Thorns and Roses – with some Beauty and the Beast discussion thrown in.
Dunbar by Edward St Aubyn
Time for something a bit different! It’s so easy to get caught in a slump after reading something you loved for so long, so I took a completely different turn to stop that from happening!
Dunbar is the latest in the Hogarth Shakespeare series, endeavouring to bring Shakespeare’s plays into a contemporary setting by some of today’s finest novelists. This is the King Lear story, and was quite a literal retelling of the original play. I loved the writing; St Aubyn’s prose is lyrical and pulls you into Dunbar’s descent into madness. His chapters were definitely the more interesting ones, and I could have done with a lot more of that than the slightly odd chapters with Dunbar’s scheming daughters. They lacked the depth I wanted and felt they deserved in a modern retelling, and in some places it felt like corners had been cut in the narrative around Dunbar, when they could have been fleshed out in just a few extra pages. Still, a good read and another great addition to the collection.
Saga Vol. 3 by Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples
This is an incredibly popular graphic novel series and it is easy to see why. Filled with beautiful illustrations, a fun and dynamic Romeo and Juliet style story, humour and gore, great representation and diversity, and Lying Cat, who is definitely one of my favourite characters. Vol 3 didn’t quite grab me as much as the previous two, possibly because it was a while between reading volumes, but I still love it. Now to get my hands on the next one…
The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan
Set in a fascinating post apocalyptic world, where humans either live on islands and value all things earth and land – landlockers – or on the sea – damplings – this is a lyrical magical realism novel that follows women who are trying to find and connect to family when they feel like they don’t belong.
The world-building really is fantastic in this book, and the intricacies of what Logan has developed is beautiful and wistful. I think the issue I have with The Gracekeepers is that I made it to the end of the novel feeling like I’d missed something. There were certain elements within the book – the dancing bear and the hint at mermaids – that were set up but not really given either enough depth or enough explanation for me to feel that they were necessary to the plot. Bear is a huge part of North’s life, and yet he is mostly reduced to a partially formed idea at the side of the action. I wonder if Logan was trying to do too much in too short a space, or if the book was just too short to fully articulate everything. That being said, it is a very atmospheric book with some truly heartbreaking moments which make it well worth a read.
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
Here, we start entering into ‘book of the year’ territory. Winner of the Bailey’s Prize in 2016, this novel is a brutal, Irish, gut-punch of a book that I revisit in random moments throughout the day in a strange kind of daze. Set in Cork, it follows drug dealers, gang leaders, drunks, prostitutes and the, frankly, bloody brilliant Maureen, mother of one of Cork’s most dangerous gang leaders. It is dark and darkly funny, but in a way that is just so honest it’s almost painful. Every character has their own story, their own justifications for why they do the things they do, all set against a turbulent city in an equally turbulent country. It is a book about Ireland, whilst also being about the messed-up situations we can find ourselves in: the roiling cascade of mistakes and trying to make amends that end up defining parts or all of our lives. Ryan and Maureen are fabulous central characters, connecting and connected by the the narrative as a whole. My heart ached for Ryan, and Maureen’s dialogue just left me breathless. Stunning.
That’s it! All the books I read in January. Let me know your thoughts down below 🙂