Yes, this is a sneaky attempt to post my last two Book A Day collections… only… a fair whack late… but it has been one hell of a busy summer. It’ll be non-stop until the middle of October, I fear, and then WHAM, NaNoWriMo. I’m looking forward to it this year, I think, and have no idea what I might attempt to write yet. Though I failed to hit 50k last year, I’m hoping to do better in 2014 and it has really taken the pressure off, as I came through a defeat and shock horror didn’t die of shame.
Back to the books…
Day 15 – Favourite Fictional Father
Father Chains (Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora)
There was a lot of love for Atticus Finch, and for Moominpapa as well, but for me the only choice is Father Chains. He’s a Father in the priestly sense – but not for the god you think! – as well as looking after the child criminals he’s training up to be the best conmen Camorr has ever (not) seen.
He clearly cares for the boys, but he doesn’t take any of their bullshit either. Chains appears in flashbacks in Lies, but it’s clear his influence still lingers… He’s a bit of a mystery; he served in the Duke’s regiment, so he knows how to fight, but he is also an intelligent and articulate man who knows a handful of languages as well as academic mathematics, court etiquette, haute cuisine and espionage. We get the impression he learned a lot of this stuff for the sake of the con, and not because he necessarily wanted to, and in Lies we never get to really see his ultimate motivations, just that he definitely has some and that something in his past is pushing him on.
I’m glad Lynch has put together a couple of short stories about the past adventures of Father Chains so that we can learn more about him.
Day 16 – Can’t believe more people haven’t read…
John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things
I picked up this book on a whim at WH Smith once, and as usual the unplanned choices come out as winners. I have blogged about TBOLT before, in comparison to The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, and as far as I’m concerned, TBOLT comes out of top. Connolly has created a mini-Bildungsroman where a boy must go to a fae realm to rescue his baby brother and that fae realm is really creepy!
What I love about it is the way Connolly twists existing fairy tales: Snow White’s dwarves hate her and are Communists, Red Riding Hood and the wolf created a race of halfbreeds by luring other girls to lie with wolves, there are monsters to be slain and an evil trickster to defeat… plus there is this unsettling undercurrent that comes from the boy, David, wondering if his protector knight is gay. The book is set during WW2 in the human world, where homosexuality was a dirty, secret thing, and David can only work from the preconceptions his father has told him (the usual homosexual/paedophile conflation for the most part) so he becomes suspicious of their friendship and there’s a real twist of the knife in the reader’s heart about it (in mine anyway!). It is an excellent book and one I heartily recommend to you all.
Day 17 – Future classic
Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies
Erin Morgernstern, The Night Circus
David Benioff, City of Thieves
Yes, I picked three. Warm Bodies has already been made into a film, of course, but the original story itself is worth a read. It’s part Catcher in the Rye, part Frankenstein, part Les Belles Images (yes, I have read Simone de Beauvoir) and all of those are classics, so it shouldn’t take long… I think it would be an excellent book to study in schools or sixth form in the future (Gooooooooove!!) as a critique of consumerism, social isolation, and the fear of future mindlessness of “2dayz youff”.
City of Thieves is the (fictional) memoir of a Russian in 1942, in the winter (that famous winter that was the death of so many German soldiers and turned the tide of the war in the East), written by the soldier’s grandson. The story takes place over a week and takes many bizarre turns – there is danger and real desperation of course – and it is in many places hilarious. It isn’t quite a shaggy-dog story, but as a “buddy movie”, “road trip” sort of book set in another time and place, it could one day be a new Of Mice and Men.
The Night Circus is a difficult book to explain, and a quick straw poll of those I know who have read it gives it mixed reviews. Rivka wasn’t keen, but I love it. It has all the obstacles-to-love and class issues of Wuthering Heights or Persuasion, but with the added bonus of being set in a magical circus. I KNOW. The story builds slowly, with a lot of time to admire the scenery, which usually drives me bonkers (Thomas Hardy!!!!) but hey, magical circus! Using illusion-filled tents to court your soulmate… who doesn’t want that?! It isn’t just a romance, though, there’s the magical duel side of it as well, and the mechanics of the circus itself. Gorgeously rendered in black and white with splashes of red.
Day 18 – Bought on a Recommendation
Andrew Mayne, Public Enemy Zero
I cannot help but read this book all in one go every time I read it. Even though I have now read it four or five times, I still get just as sucked in to Mitch’s story and the thrill of the chase. As the title suggests, the protagonist, Mad Mitch, is Public Enemy No.1 and also a “patient zero”, except his weird disease doesn’t affect him but rather turns everyone around him into a rage zombie intent on literally tearing him apart. It is a what-is-the-government-secretly-testing-on-us, bio-terrorism, race-against-time, classic mid-nineties thriller action film book. I am so glad someone told me to read it.
Day 19 – Still can’t stop talking about…
Rivka Spicer, Marked
I reviewed this book a while back, and yes it was written by my flatmate. Rivka writes all kinds of books but the one I’m most eagerly awaiting is the book after Marked, because I really want to see how it resolves itself. Marked is the second book in Rivka’s series about a young female witch with enormous power, and the Establishment of witches, and the way they try to control her. I figure if I drop enough hints around the house, it’ll get bumped up her writing schedule.
Day 20 – Favourite cover art
Josh Kirby Discworld covers
Parchement covered Abercrombie
UK hardback of Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Again, I picked three. While I also like the Paul Kidby Discworld art, the amazingly detailed Kirby covers are a major part of the scene setting for the books. The cartoon grotesque, the striking colours, and the attention to detail give you a super punch before you even open the book. I know he worked on a lot more besides those covers, to me Josh Kirby is Discworld just as much as Pratchett is.
I love the simplicity of the parchment cover editions of the Joe Abercrombie First Law series. They are simple but that sets them apart from the usual warrior-on-the-cover of most fantasy (and of the Chris McGrath versions. Grrr.) novels and they look so classy! Good job on that front, whoever managed to push the concept through.
The UK editions of Laini Taylor’s trilogy are beautiful. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is my favourite, though. It is covered with long, delicate, textured, glimmering feathers. It is perfect for the book. The blue and smoke colour palette combines with the fronds of the feathers and the mood of umbra that suffuses the story. Plus, it’s about angels.
Day 21 – Summer read
Terry Pratchett, anything Discworld
I have a preference for the middle third of the Discworld series, around Witches Abroad to The fifth Elephant because that’s when he really hit stride, in my opinion. Jingo and Feet of Clay are my two ultimate favourites. You can pick up a Discworld book and happily spend hours at the beach, in the garden, on a train… they’re easy to read but not without weight. Don’t read too much Vimes in one go though, or you will end up Knurd.
Week four hopefully out before Christmas! She says, only half joking…