I recall I said something to the effect that there had never been a month like April in the whole of my life – except that May was exactly the same. Eerily so. Staying at home and seeing no one else, other than Himself. Though we did drive across to my daughter’s house and deliver her bike, so she could also cycle with the children. It was bittersweet seeing them after such a long time and I’m hoping this month, with the easing of the lockdown, I might once more be able to be a regular visitor, again. The weather continues to behave as if we are in July or August, further skewing the sense of abnormality. But thank goodness for books and writing projects!
I read fifteen books in May, but as I also broke off to read a couple of my own books on editing runs, that did impact on my general reading time. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my selection, so there were no DNFs. They were:
Oranges and Lemons – Book 17 of the Bryant and May: Peculiar Crimes Unit series by Christopher Fowler
The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North – see my review
Hammered – Book 1 of the Jenny Casey series by Elizabeth Bear
The Physicians of Vilnoc – Book 8 of the Penric and Desdemona series by Lois McMaster Bujold – see my review
Relatively Strange – Book 1 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik – this is my outstanding read of the month
AUDIOBOOK Starsight – Book 2 of the Skyward series by Brandon Sanderson
The Valhalla Call – Book 4 of the Hayden War Cycle by Evan Currie
Even Stranger – Book 2 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
Stranger Still – Book 3 of the Strange series by Marilyn Messik
The City of Brass – Book 1 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakrobarty
The Kingdom of Copper – Book 2 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakrobarty
AUDIOBOOK The Fire Court – Book 2 of the Marwood and Lovett series by Andrew Taylor – this is my outstanding audiobook read of the month
Night’s Tooth – Tales of the River Vine novella by Jean Lee
Gravity is Heartless – Book 1 of the Heartless series by Sarah Lahey
The Obsidian Tower – Book 1 of the Rooks and Ruin series by Melissa Caruso
I finished the first draft of my Wordmanship Handbook – How to Write Convincing Characters, which went really well. While I had intended this to be part of a series, I decided that if I found it too much of a trudge, then it would be a standalone, but it ended up being quite a lot of fun to write. So during the year I am hoping to write at least another book in the Wordmanship series. The handbook aspect of it – with a quick checklist so an author can tick off possible issues as they go, either during the writing phase, or during an editing run – ended up being about the right length, too.
I then turned back to Mantivore Warrior to do the first editing pass. This is always slightly nerve-wracking. Once I’ve gained a bit of distance, I can work out whether it’s a hot mess, or if it hangs together. And as it is the first book that I thoroughly plotted before I started, I was keen to see how it held up. And I’m delighted – those fixes I put in last month strengthened the overall narrative, so there was only one major addition and then it was a question of smoothing the prose and looking for mistakes.
So once again, it’s been a wonderful writing month. Overall, I wrote just under 43,000 words in May, with just over 15,500 on the blog, and just under 26,000 on my writing projects.
The big event during May was Wyrd and Wonder 2020, which I discovered thanks to Tammy from Books, Bones and Buffy. It was about alll things fantastical and I really enjoyed taking part. Huge thanks go to Imyril of There’s Always Room for One More, Lisa from Dear Geek Place and Jorie Loves a Story for all their hard work and effort throughout May to make this such a success.
I hope everyone is managing to keep well and healthy, both physically and mentally – the situation has been a strain on everyone, not helped by some dodgy decisions by those in charge. Take care and stay safe.x
This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.
Weatherwise, it was a week of two halves and I have once again been delighting in being able to take my tea and lunch breaks out in the garden during the last few days. The lilacs and weigelia are in full bloom right now, as is that lovely bronze flower (gazania, I think!), while my purple smoke tree is putting out vibrant purple leaves that sing in the sunshine.
It was my son’s birthday on Thursday. It was lovely being able to chat to him and be reassured that in California he is keeping safe and well. It’s hard when all this is going on and he’s so far away…
On Friday and Saturday, I was part of a virtual writing retreat, which was very successful and I made plenty of progress on my How-To book on Characterisation. It is continuing today, but I’m not taking part as it is my sister’s birthday. A year ago, we were at the Chewton Glen Hotel together – where did the time go? And thank goodness it wasn’t this year we were due to be there… We are popping round this morning with her presents and a wrapped cake, all appropriately socially distanced, in readiness for a virtual birthday party this afternoon. And a shout out to all the mothers across the Pond at this difficult time – I recall only too well how hard it was back in March to not be able to spend family time on this special day. Take care and stay safe.x
Last week I read:
Oranges and Lemons – Book 17 of the Bryant and May: Peculiar Crimes Unit by Christopher Fowler
One Sunday morning, the outspoken Speaker of the House of Commons steps out of his front door only to be crushed under a mountain of citrus fruit. Bizarre accident or something more sinister? The government needs to know because here’s a man whose knowledge of parliament’s biggest secret could put the future of the government at stake?
It should be the perfect case for Bryant & May and the Peculiar Crimes Unit, but unfortunately one detective is in hospital, the other is missing and the staff have all been dismissed. It seems the PCU is no more. But events escalate: a series of brutal crimes seemingly linked to an old English folk-song threatens the very foundation of London society and suddenly the PCU is offered a reprieve and are back in (temporary) business!
This was a quirky read and no mistake. While I enjoyed the murder mystery and many of the characters, I did feel the sheer eccentricity of the writing compromised the pacing at times. Review to follow.
The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North
South Africa in the 1880s. A young and naive English doctor by the name of William Abbey witnesses the lynching of a local boy by the white colonists. As the child dies, his mother curses William.
William begins to understand what the curse means when the shadow of the dead boy starts following him across the world. It never stops, never rests. It can cross oceans and mountains. And if it catches him, the person he loves most in the world will die.
Another remarkable book from this inventive and thought-provoking writer. One of the angriest books I’ve read in a while…
Hammered – Book 1 of the Jenny Casey series by Elizabeth Bear
Once Jenny Casey was somebody’s daughter. Once she was somebody’s enemy. Now the former Canadian special forces warrior lives on the hellish streets of Hartford, Connecticut, in the year 2062. Racked with pain, hiding from the government she served, running with a crime lord so she can save a life or two, Jenny is a month shy of fifty, and her artificially reconstructed body has started to unravel. But she is far from forgotten. A government scientist needs the perfect subject for a high-stakes project and has Jenny in his sights. Suddenly Jenny Casey is a pawn in a furious battle, waged in the corridors of the Internet, on the streets of battered cities, and in the complex wirings of her half-man-made nervous system. And she needs to gain control of the game before a brave new future spins completely out of control.
After reading Ancestral Night earlier this year, I was delighted to find another series by this talented author. I loved this complex, twisting tale and am very keen to read the next book in the series. Review to follow.
My posts last week:
*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of After Seth by Caron Garrod
Friday Face-off featuring Requiem For a Wren by Nevil Shute
*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North
Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Empire of Gold – Book 3 by the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty
Review of NETGALLEY arc Witch Dust by Marilyn Messik
Sunday Post – 10th May 2020
Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
April Book Reviews https://mythsofthemirror.com/2020/04/30/april-book-reviews/ Imagine my surprise and pleasure when I saw Diana’s fabulous review of Running Out of Space!
Timeless Woodland Picture from the Time of Lockdown https://ailishsinclair.com/2020/05/timeless-woodland-pictures-from-the-time-of-lockdown/ The mist gives these pictures a sense of the fantastic…
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern https://bookforager.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/the-starless-sea-by-erin-morgenstern/ I don’t normally include book reviews in this roundup – but this one is different…
10 of the best poems about the future https://interestingliterature.com/2020/05/future-poems-prophecies/ I think many of us are looking forward now – so this article might be of interest…
Giving Your Story the Time of Day https://writerunboxed.com/2020/05/04/giving-your-story-the-time-of-day/ Some tips on ensuring your keep your narrative time straight…
Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.
I enjoy Claire North’s writing – see my reviews of The Sudden Appearance of Hope, Touch and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. So I was delighted when I was approved to read this intriguing offering. I will be linking this review to the Wyrd and Wonder 2020 event, featuring all kinds of fantasy.
BLURB: South Africa in the 1880s. A young and naive English doctor by the name of William Abbey witnesses the lynching of a local boy by the white colonists. As the child dies, his mother curses William. William begins to understand what the curse means when the shadow of the dead boy starts following him across the world. It never stops, never rests. It can cross oceans and mountains. And if it catches him, the person he loves most in the world will die.
Every book North has written under this current pen name – see my review for A Madness of Angels – Book 1 of The Midnight Mayor by Kate Griffin – has ostensibly been a standalone. However, there is a theme developing here. Individuals who, by luck or some kind of genetic predisposition, find themselves coping with an unusual trait that takes them beyond everyday life and into the realms of the paranormal. William is another of these unfortunates – having been cursed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time – and when his shadow approaches, he divines the truth of those around him. And as his shadow gets ever closer, he is forced to babble that truth aloud.
This adventure stretches from the 1880s, and ends in 1914 in a field hospital during World War I, so you won’t be surprised to discover that it isn’t long before William’s unique ability draws down attention from the British Empire intelligence services and their department Nineteen. In return for keeping William on the move, so that his shadow is never able to completely catch up with him, he goes where they send him and learns the truth from ambassadors, princelings, other agents all around the world. It gives North an ideal opportunity to chart some of the political shenanigans that goes on during that turbulent time, which she does in impressive detail.
This is, indeed, an impressive book. The prose is impassioned and elegant, the character caught up in a horrible situation so that he is so far out of his comfort zone, he is almost drowning. And yes, if you’re sensing a but, you’re right. I didn’t really like William all that much. I didn’t like anyone all that much. While I sympathised with him intellectually, I simply found him too annoyingly wet and steeped so deeply in his own self-loathing, that I was unable to truly bond with him. And that’s a real shame, because the book is a magnificent achievement. I don’t think I’ve encountered a more impassioned and literate critique of our social value system, both then and now.
I just wish there had been a few more shafts of light and humour, which I know North is capable of writing brilliantly – because by the time I was two-thirds of the way through this one, I was conscious that I’d become a bit numbed to the ceaseless acts of violence against the poor and powerless. That might just mean I’m a really shallow person, but my sense is that if that burning anger against the social injustice of the capitalist, elitist mindset had been just a bit less intense, then there would have been room for me to jump on board, too. I’m also not a fan of the ending.
I’m conscious this sounds like one long moan – but if someone offers me the chance to read her next book, I’ll take it like a shot. North is a remarkable talent, who sees the world in a particular way and although I often find the journey alongside her uncomfortable, there is too much to admire to want to miss it. Recommended for fans of magic realism adventures with a literary edge. The ebook arc copy of The Pursuit of William Abbey was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.