Hello! I was meant to post this on Sunday but was too busy reading. I am literally a caricature of myself. Anyway, three weeks of The Reading Quest have passed and I’ve only got one to go. If you read my previous post, you’ll know that I have finished my Mage character’s pathway and am now a Knight. There’s only four books for this quest, as I’ve already read the first one as part of the Mage quest (they share the “First Book Of A Series” prompt). I’m already one down, so I’m fairly confident that I’m going to be able to manage to finish up this quest as well. If you want more detail on my provisional TBR for the Knight’s quest, it’s in my previous post – although I’ve already changed one of them.
I have completed four books this week, one of which I was nearly done with at the end of last week.
The First Book Of A Series: We Are Legion: We Are Bob (Audiobook)
I changed this from a side quest to one of my main reads when I found out that it was the first in the Bobiverse series as opposed to a standalone as I’d originally thought. Just to speed things along a bit (plus I REALLY wanted to read the new Anthony Horowitz).
HP: 28 in total (4 this week)
A Book Set In A Different World: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
HP: 46 in total (41 this week)
Side Quest – Animal Companion: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
A Book With A Verb In The Title: The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
Books in Progress
I was going to read Kid Got Shot by Simon Mason because I literally thought there were no books on my shelf with a weapon on the cover. I was a bit reluctant to read something that I’d specifically bought for the challenge though, because the whole point of this was to be a TBR shelf-clearing kind of exercise. I’d looked hopefully/despairingly at The Diabolic several times before I actually realised that the bottom of the butterfly is made of knives. I’m so observant.
This is set in a futuristic sci-fi world where humanoid creatures are specifically bred for different purposes. Diabolics are bred to be bonded with one specific human and to protect them above all else.
HP so far: 4
So? What Did I Think?
We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor (Audiobook)
This is one of those rare books that has been a huge success as an audiobook as opposed to in print. It starts off with Bob Johansen selling his software company for a rather large sum of money and using some of it (as you do) to get himself cryogenically frozen after his death until technology has moved on far enough to bring him back. Then, he’s hit by a bus crossing the road and wakes up 100 years later to find that he’s a state-owned artificial intelligence program, aka a “Replicant”, tasked with controlling an interstellar probe with the intention of seeking out planets fit for human habitation. The trouble is, other countries have launched their own probes and the universe has become a pretty competitive and dangerous place to be.
I felt that this took huge inspiration from Andy Weir’s The Martian. It was clearly trying for a similar, irreverent style of humour and even the narrator sounded the same (it wasn’t the same narrator – I checked). The explanations of the technology used to construct the probes, build machinery and battle other hostile Replicants were well thought out but edged towards confusing. I’m not scientifically minded AT ALL and while some of the explanations in The Martian went over my head, the humour meant that I didn’t mind so much. With this audiobook though, I felt the humour didn’t quite hit the same note. Another slightly confusing point was that part of Bob’s mission is to make copies of himself so more of the universe can be discovered and habitable planets can be found more quickly. Cue innumerable Bobs, all with their own personalities and missions. After trying to keep track of so many Bobs my eyes started crossing, so thank goodness that the story eventually settled into three main perspectives, all of which were quite interesting and I enjoyed seeing where each of them would go. It was what the newspaper critics would call a “delightful romp” or something stupid like that. It wasn’t earthshattering for me, there were a couple of parts where I lost interest slightly, but it was all very good fun and good humoured and I quite enjoyed the ride.
Star Rating: 3.75/5 (really enjoyable, but I couldn’t quite stretch it to 4!)
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
I’m going to do a full review of this because I want to gush, so I’ll keep it short here. This. Was. Amazing. It’s set in a world inspired by a historic Italy, which has three suns meaning that night only falls every two and a half years (hence, Nevernight). It follows a 16-year-old girl called Mia Corvere, who is seeking entrance to the notorious Red Church to train as an assassin in order to avenge the death of her family six years previously. There, she will learn from master assassins in the hope of eventually being initiated as a Blade – the best assassins in existence.
If you are looking for a gentle fantasy with some nice magic, don’t pick this book up. It is violent, it is brutal, there is death in abundance. And yet there is a lot of humour too, which mostly takes the form of sarcasm and witty turn of phrase. There are people with different abilities – Mia is a darkin, meaning that she can control and communicate with shadows. There are also characters who can work flesh like clay and control blood. There are lessons in fighting and thievery and poison and secrets. The trainee assassins, or acolytes, become wary friends and even lovers, aware that they’re in competition and yet brought together by their shared experiences. There are secrets and lies and twists and turns that I didn’t get because I never get those kinds of things, but hey. Even though it took me a good 80-100 pages to get into properly (mostly because I was thrown by the footnotes, which is how Kristoff seems to convey a lot of his world-building and history, something I’ve never experienced before), after that it just flew. Godsgrave, the second in the series, is out on 7 September. I will go missing for a couple of days.
Star Rating: 5/5
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (Audiobook)
This novel follows Vasilisa Petrovna, a bright and spirited nobleman’s daughter living in the northern reaches of Russia. The book is heavily inspired by Russian fairytales, particularly a tale told to Vasilisa and her siblings about Frost, demon of winter. All her life, Vasilisa has been able to see the sprites and spirits that guard their home and the surrounding forest, when nobody else can. When her father brings home a new wife from Moscow and a new priest also arrives to take his place in the village, they forbid the traditional rituals to honour the household spirits and try to impose their devout Christianity on the villagers instead. However, these rituals to honour the old spirits have been the only thing keeping evil at bay. As misfortunes rain down upon the village, only Vasilisa can save her loved ones from the evil and horror that stalks the night – although it may be too late.
OK, so things I liked. I loved the clearly well-researched influence of Russian folklore and fairytales, and indeed the prose read like a fairytale, simply told yet lyrical and evocative. It reminded me of Uprooted by Naomi Novik and also a book that I adored as a child called North Child by Edith Pattou, both of which were heavily folklore inspired. I also really enjoyed this almost tug-of-war between the old spirits and traditional rituals and the very devout, Orthodox Christianity upheld by Vasilisa’s stepmother and Father Constantine. It was also really interesting to read of Vasilisa’s struggles with being a rather wild, rebellious young woman in a society where the options for young women were a bit thin on the ground, to say the least, being as they were a) get married or b) live out life as a nun in a convent. There were a few things I wasn’t so keen on. A couple of times I seemed to find myself at a certain plot point without much of an idea how I got there. I don’t know whether I missed things in the audiobook or if it was just fairytale whimsy, but everything just felt a bit vague. Also, while the narrator’s Russian accent was really good, she was curiously expressionless at lot of the time and there was a certain repetitiveness to the way she spoke that irritated me a bit. There was little distinction between people’s voices and it just could have been better. That said, it was still highly unique and enjoyable fantasy story.
Star Rating: 3.5/5
The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
This is a typical whodunit mystery featuring a rather fashionably dislikeable private detective, you know the sort. Except it’s not typical, because Anthony Horowitz has written himself into the narrative as a character. Literally, it’s a first-person perspective novel with Anthony Horowitz himself, as a writer, written in as a kind of Dr Watson character to the detective’s Sherlock Holmes. In his last mystery book, Horowitz was also really innovative in playing with the cosy crime genre, including an entire novel within the main book, and here again he’s done something that feels really different. Not only is it a really great murder mystery in its own right (I probably don’t even have to say I didn’t guess who did it), but it talks a lot about Anthony Horowitz’s career and writing, almost like a mini memoir, which I was equally fascinated by (I feel that as readers we are often oddly surprised to remember that behind our favourite books are actual people who write them for a living).
The mystery opens with the murder of a wealthy woman who, in a weird coincidence (or are there ever coincidences?) had visited a funeral parlour to arrange her funeral just six hours previously. She has a famous actor for a son, has had arguments with a few different people and was involved in a hit-and-run 10 years previously in which a boy was killed and another left brain damaged. So plenty of people have juicy motives. Cue the involvement of Hawthorne, an ex-policeman with a secret past who’s been hired as a consultant by the police to advise on the case. Hawthorne then approaches Anthony Horowitz to see if he’ll write a true crime book about the case. It was just really great, I flew through it and loved the way Horowitz occasionally dropped really tantalising hints like, “be assured that the rest of it, including the clue which would indicate, quite clearly, the identity of the killer, is spot on.” This was in reference to a chapter he’d already written, which I then reread several times, searching for the clue (still didn’t get it). Although the mystery itself was wrapped up nicely, I still find myself thinking about this one now because I keep wondering how much of the autobiographical part was real and how much was made up to fit with the story? The blurring between memoir and fiction was my very favourite part of this story and any novel that can leave me scratching my head days later is a good one in my book (no pun intended).
Star Rating: 4.5/5
Plans for the Coming Week
I’ll be working on completing the Knight, which I’m pretty optimistic I’ll be able to do. I’m going to continue with The Diabolic and then there are only two books left for me to complete before the quest is over(!) which will be:
About a woman whose child goes missing. 10 years later, she has a new husband, is pregnant and finally feels as though she is moving on. Until she receives a phone call from a police officer who tells her that her son, now 16, has been found.
Very excited because this is narrated by Joanne Frogatt, aka Anna from Downton Abbey. It’s Audible’s thriller of the year and it looks like they’ve chucked everything at it so I’m expecting great things.
A Book That Has A TV/Movie Adaptation: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
This needs no introduction. I’m slightly horrified I still haven’t read it yet.
If I have time, I’ll start on the Rogue pathway – we’ll see! Until next time!