K is for … Katherines are the best!

A friend recommended I try Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Mysteries for my “K” book. And now I’m going to recommend you try them, too, because they are excellent. YA, crime and history all rolled into one.

Kitty made for an excellent protagonist, resourceful, smart and loyal. There were lots of twists and I kept swinging one way and another about who had “dunnit”. I got it wrong – but I usually do!

Click for the preview.

And because I’d bought the two-book boxset (simple economics, that: each book was £1.49 versus two for .98) I moved straight on to Kitty Peck and The Child of Ill-Fortune. That required more suspension of disbelief since I didn’t find Kitty convincing as the heir to a criminal empire to begin with, but – oh my – that ending!

I know I’m biased because I’m a Katy, but this Katherine is definitely a cut above the rest!

I’ve got another name for my “L” book – check back next week to see how I get on with a YA addition to the Pride & Prejudice universe, Lydia: The Wild Child of Pride & Prejudice.

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J is for … Just call me a quitter

I tried, I swear I did. J looked like it was going to become another H for me. I started a couple of books but they really weren’t to my taste. So I then cast about for recoemmendations. My excellent mother made the excellent suggestion that I read Jane Eyre.

Now, for some background on this, I have two degrees in English and the number of works of classic literature that I have NOT read is surprisingly legion. In mitigation I will point out that there is an awful lot of very fine, well-regarded literature out there in the English cannon. I don’t think I’ve been slacking. I’ve even started Jane Eyre several times, I’ve just never been about to get past that dreadful boarding school. I even tried watching the film a couple of years ago and fell at the same hurdle. It’s too dreary for words.

So, fabulous, here was a fine opportunity and a motive to fill this aching gap in my literary knowledge. I skipped the first few chapters to avoid the horrible school and settled down ready for things to become interesting.

Cover of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre

It was even more dull than this cover. I’m not even going to link to Amazon because if you want to read this book it’s my duty to save you from yourself.

Oh, how I wish they had! Why is this a classic? Whyever do people like it? Jane and Rochester are held up as icons of romance – they should be in therapy.

I struggled to see the appeal on any level. Was it the impenetrable prose that never feared to use twenty words where one would have sufficed? Perhaps it was Rochester’s breathtaking arrogance and superciliousness; his callous treatment of both the poor mad wife and Jane herself; or simply the fact that he spoke like no human being I’ve ever heard of. Maybe readers are seduced by Jane’s casual racism, or the fact that she has nothing good to say about anyone save herself. Or they are simply swept away by the romance of the most bizarre marriage proposal I’ve ever heard where the intended bride changes during the conversation.

I tried, I really did. But I abandoned it at 70% and consider I’ve done far more than my duty. I can’t wait to move on to my K book.

So, berate me, readers, and tell me (if you can) why Jane Eyre is a classic that deserves my respect!

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I is for … Indulgent re-reading

After the drama of last week’s H read, I decided to relax this week and allowed myself to indulge in a re-read.

Steven Gould’s Jumper series is one of my absolute favourite books. Jumper would certainly go with me to a desert island, and the follow-up, Impulse, is equally delightful, telling the story of original jumper Davy’s daughter, Cent (short for Millicent, after her mother).

impulse-cover

Sci-fi at its very best.

This must be my fourth or fifth re-reading of Impulse, and it was as much as joy as every other time. I was sad to finish – but it’s there on my shelf, ready to be picked up next time I need it.

I’m very tempted to make Jumper my next, ‘J’ read, but that would be a bit too indulgent. So tune in next week to see what I do choose.

How about you – Are you a re-reader? Is there a book (or two) that you always fall back on when you want a satisfying read?

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H is for … Hard to Find

I’ll confess, I was starting to panic, dear reader. I finished my G book, the fabulous Goldfish Boy, and I had no H book lined up. Searching Amazon got me nowhere. Then, in the space of two days, newsletters I’m subscribed to recommended TWO books that started with a H. Brilliant, I thought. Yeah…not so much… I tried, I really did, but neither turned out to be my kind of thing (and no, I’m not going to name them because I’m sure their authors worked very hard on them; it’s not their fault they weren’t to my taste).

So I have had to cheat. Another friend raved about Rachel E. Carter’s books on Facebook, and I stopped to look because of the GORGEOUS covers. And then I downloaded Non-Heir because it was close enough to an H and I was desperate, plus it was free, which meant I wouldn’t have lost anything if it had turned out to be the worse offence against literature I’d ever set my eyes upon.

black-mage-series-rachel-e-carter

Oh my giddy aunt, it’s delicious. It’s pretty dark (there is a lot of violence, not particularly bloody or gruesomely described, but distinctly gratuitous – these are not nice people) and I am loving it. Rachel E. Carter has gained a fan (just a shame the first in the series begins with ‘F’, so it might have to wait for my summer holiday now, but … ooh, four books to vanish into. That’s my kind of holiday!).

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G is for … Gorgeous Goldfish

This was recommended to me the significant 12-year-old in my life, and I – a YA-loving adult – utterly fell in love with it.

goldfish-boy-cover

Diverse writing and writing about mental illness is “on trend” right now (a good thing, imo), and The Goldfish Boy deserves all the success it gets. It’s a very convincing account of a boy with OCD. I especially loved (and ached for) the moments when he could see how ridiculous his behaviour was – but that insight wasn’t enough to enable him to stop it. Also fabulous was the way the cast of characters reflected what a very wide range there is within the “normal” label. Difference is all around and nothing to be feared here.

The highest accolade I can ever give a book is when it engages my involuntary emotions – when I laugh or cry or gasp. The Goldfish Boy did so. Matty is heartbreaking, without becoming an object of pity.

This has set the bar high for my next read – check in next week to see what I’ve found for my ‘H’ read.

 

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F is for … Fabulous Fantasy

Last week I read an entire series. This week I finished another. Now, that’s making me sound like some kind of a superwoman who can read four or five books a week. I so wish that was true, but unfortunately I can’t read quite that fast (damn you, real life!).

In actual fact, I’ve been reading Kelly St Clare’s Tainted Accords series on and off since I first discovered her last year. I only had the final one outstanding, and since they all begin “Fantasy of…” I decided my alphabet challenge was the perfect opportunity to round it all off.

Kelly St Clare's Tainted Accords series

Click to check out first in the series, Fantasy of Frost

If you enjoy reading fantasy I recommend these. Olina is a fabulous character and the books are a tremendous romp across two worlds. They are all good (once more, there’ll be a review on the Paisley Piranha site shortly), but I think the one I read this week, the final Fantasy of Freedom was best of the lot, an absolute cracker.

So, all’s going well on my alphabet challenge so far. I’ve managed at least a book a week, which I’m pleased about. Next is a book recommended to me – and an actual ink and paper book (I don’t read many of those these days). Check back next week to see how I got on with The Goldfish Boy.

 

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E is for … Elementary, my dears!

My “E” pick was the Elementals series by Michelle Madow. I was really pleased that I’d got a bit ahead of myself where my schedule’s concerned, so I had chance to read this series in one, glorious gulp (I got through them in a week; not that I’m boasting or anything. Ahem). It’s a cracking YA-take on the Olympian gods, with their teen descendants charged with saving the world.

Elementals boxset graphic

Elementals is a smashing read (click on the graphic to check it out), but I don’t want to focus on the book today as I’ll be writing a review on the Paisley Piranhas site next week (do check it out if you’re interested in reviews and recommendations for YA books).

What occurred to me about my Alphabet Challenge this week is how some letters seem to be vastly more popular than others when it comes to titles. I’m noting down potentials as I go through and getting my reading lined up in a manner that’s most unusual for me, which is bringing up patterns I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

I could have read about six “C” books; there are two I want to read for both “N” and “M”; and I could fill my “S” slot roughly eight times over (check back later in the year to find out what wins!).

Of course, it’s no surprise that X, Y and Z are proving harder to fill (oddly enough, Q is presenting no problem because “Queen” is starting to overtake “Girl” as the word you absolutely have to have in your title these days *starts plotting a “Queen” book…*) I am, though, surprised that “H”, “I” and “K” don’t seem to crop up very much as title openers in books I come across (rather than actively searching).

So, if you have any recommendations (YA preferred, but I do read outside my genre now and then), please let me know!

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D is for … demons in Regency London

Well, my reading challenge is making my reading matter varied, if nothing else.

Cover of Alison Goodman's Dark Days Club

Click to try it for yourself

This week’s read, The Dark Days Club, was plucked out of my TBR pile, where it had been languishing for months. I think we got off to a bad start due to a misunderstanding. I was browsing in Waterstones when I saw it, picked it up to read the first few pages and liked it. For some reason (I can’t even begin to fathom the workings of my mind at this distance) I didn’t buy it, so I went home empty-handed.

Next day or so I decided I did want it, so went on Amazon and merrily typed in the title “Dark Deeds Society” – blank. No entries. Well, that can’t be right, I thought, but since I couldn’t remember the name of the author I was stuck.

So it wasn’t until I got back to Waterstones that I managed to get hold of a copy. (As an aside – people are always telling me that Amazon isn’t a book shop, it’s a search engine – the most sophisticated search engine in the world. Huh. Really? When it can’t fathom I mean Dark Days Club when I type Dark Deeds Society.?Colour me unimpressed.)

And then it just sat on my bookshelf until I knew I’d need a “D” book and picked it up.

I don’t know why it took me so long because it was excellent. Reminded me a little of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but with real depth of character and not much silliness. If you enjoyed that (I caught the film over Christmas) I definitely recommend this.

Join me next week to find out about my “E” read – can I get through a boxset in ten days?

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C is for … Cor, I liked this one!

Another random find this week. For my ‘C’ read I picked Madeline Freeman’s Crystal Magic from the whole of Amazon.

Cover of Madeline Freeman's Crystal Magic

Click to start reading

This merged things I like with things I often don’t. It’s got magic in it – big tick from me, and unexplained eerie powers – now you’re talking! It also has a US High School setting, which often leaves me cold because I find them rather incomprehensible. And, believe me, I understand the strange paradox in my brain over that – suspend disbelief about portals to other worlds, elemental powers and witch abilities passed down through the generations? No problem; believe that every High School class in the US is split between the brainboxes, the nerds and the jocks – nope, no can do.

But I’m disgressing. Any which way, Crystal Magic gave me an entirely comprehensible High School setting, along with excellent characters who took stereotypes and twisted them into something new, added weird powers for the heroine to figure out, and ended with a KILLER twist which is the best thing I’ve read for a while.

I’m delighted to have come across this one. If you like magic, friendships and time-space paradoxes, this is one for you!

Check in next week for my thoughts on my D read – The Dark Days Club.

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B is for … barely a story

Okay, that’s rather unkind, but there is a danger this post may turn into a slight rant.

My “B” book selection was BR Paulson’s Barely Alive. Now, one thing I’m loving about this challenge is that I’m finding all kinds of new and wonderful things. Barely Alive was pitched as a zombie romance – now, maybe that’s your go-to genre, but I was tickled to begin with by the idea that zombie romance is even a thing. How wonderfully diverse literature is growing, in topic if nothing else.

A lovely pile of novels

Loving my bookish challenge!

And actually, I thoroughly enjoyed Barely Alive. The zombie-ness was easy to suspend disbelief over (I know almost no science so I didn’t even try to pick holes in the virus that created the zombies) and the romance was low-key (appropriate when flesh-eating monsters are on the loose, I think) and convincing.

My beef came with the ending. There is a series, which is fine, but whether it’s a stand-alone book or a series in the vein of Bella Forrest with 37 books to work your way through, it is my absolute conviction that each book should tell its own story: beginning, middle and end.

I don’t even mind open endings where you have to exercise a bit of imagination about next steps for the characters as they head out of the pages and into the sunset, but Barely Alive cut off in the middle of the story with all plot arcs still underway and unresolved, which just left me grumpy, I’m sorry to say.

So am I Mrs Grumblepants, or am I right to be annoyed? Do you mind an unresolved story, or should the endings be tied up? Let me know in the comments.

Check back next week to see how I got on with my C book – Crystal Magic by Madeline Freeman.

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