February was a light month in terms of reading/reviewing books, but there were a few highlights! Let’s take a look.
So first of all, February might have been a short month but it’s honestly felt like it lasted forever. Having my dad end up in hospital twice in the space of a few weeks did not help; it has been a stressful month around here. Dad is generally OK now, however, and I’ve slowly but surely begun to reclaim my writing headspace.
Now if I can just manage to survive the snowpocalypse that’s presently slapping the UK around, I should be back on track soon!
Meanwhile, here’s what I saw and did, and read, in February.
Tremontaine: S3E9 – Sword and Spirit by Karen Lord
Blood Binds The Pack by Alex Wells – 5/5
Look, if you haven’t yet discovered the weird, wild and wonderful writings of Alex Wells, then I’m going to be a bit ahead of you here, because this is a sequel to their first novel, Hunger Makes The Wolf, and it is SO UNBELIEVABLY AMAZING YOU GUYS. It’s got desert landscapes and biker witches and magic and creepy magic-using ‘Weathermen’ and the fight for laborer’s rights and SO MANY FEELINGS and AAAAAH.
At several points while reading this book, I got actual chills, the likes of which I haven’t felt since I first read Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. Alex Wells works magic with words. Simple as that.
Go forth, get it, read it, and then come back and tell me how much you loved it and how right I was. I promise not to be (too) smug about it.
(My copy of this book was an ARC received from the publisher.)
Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones – 5/5
Another sequel, this one following up JJ’s debut novel Wintersong, which I’ve reviewed here.
If Wintersong set a high bar in my affections, then Shadowsong didn’t just reach it or even raise it. It took hold of the bar, smashed me in the feelings with it, then tossed it over one shoulder and went its own way. It is darker, more serious, and bolder in some ways than Wintersong, because it goes a step further in tackling the themes of mental illness that are raised in the act of focusing on protagonists such as these. We get to know Liesl far better here, but we also get to know her brother Josef better, and there’s no sugar-coating the issues these two have to face. Not all is well after the events in Wintersong, and there’s no shying away from that fallout here. It’s a brave approach on the author’s part, and it pays off (painfully) well. This one’s going to stay with me for a long time yet, I imagine.
The Secret of Vesalius by Jordi Llobregat – 4/5
Another book from my ARC pile! Historical murder-mystery fiction this time, set in 19th century Barcelona. The story begins a few days before the opening of the 1888 World Fair, and dives fairly deep into some impressively creepy territory. Gruesome murders dovetail with a cryptic mystery involving the works of the 16th century anatomist Vesalius, and if that reminds you of The Da Vinci Code … well, it does follow a pretty similar template – but it has the benefit of a plot twist or two that genuinely did surprise me, and I did enjoy the historical/scientific elements, even if a pinch of salt is required. But (call me cynical) that’s probably par for the course with historical fiction; The Secret of Vesalius is nonetheless a solid, engaging effort. Several hours well spent!
Our group-reading jaunt through the Chronicles of Prydain continue, though the third volume, The Castle of Llyr, left much to be desired. Given the expectation that we would get to spend more time with Eilonwy on this outing, I think we were all a bit disappointed when she spent most of the book absent (read: kidnapped and hidden away). The story focuses more on Taran’s effort to rescue her, and while it’s not a bad story – we do get to square off again with the previously, and unnervingly, absent wicked queen, Achren – I still have most of the usual misgivings. There’s not quite enough book here to really satisfy me, which is a shame because I am enjoying these books! I just wish there was more meat on their bones.
But there was a rather intriguing twist where Achren was concerned at the end of this book, and despite the disappointing lack of actual Eilonwy page time, I’m still invested in whatever’s coming next. So the group read will continue on with Taran Wanderer, and the usual reviews will hopefully also resume soon!
What Else Is There?
YOU GUYS. I am excited about this. I’ve started my reading now so hopefully there will be plenty of reviewing action here, to say the least! We’re planning challenges and Twitter chats and general FUN GALORE, and YOU’RE ALL INVITED. Bring your own booze, or tea, or cakes, or dragon hoards. Or, heck! Bring all of it. See you in May!