Shall we chat about books?
My reading speed slowed considerably during the end of last semester and the holidays, but I did finish a few books, which I will discuss in no particular order.
The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah
Hannah also wrote The Nightingale, a hugely successful World War II-era novel set in France, and a book which possibly every book club in America at one point read. This book is quite different, yet told in the same forthright manner as The Nightingale. It’s set in the 1970’s and features a family living off the grid outside Homer, Alaska. While the unforgiving Alaskan landscape could provide ample tension for the story, it is merely a player in the story of a mentally-unstable, alcoholic, and severely abusive father to the book’s teenage main character, Lenora, known as Leni. The relentlessness of her family’s turmoil made this a difficult, yet engaging story of living amid danger–both within and without one’s home. Survival is a major theme of this tale.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
This is Morton’s first novel in several years, and while I really don’t like the trope-y title, it was a pretty good read. As she always does, Morton weaves her story with many characters residing in various time periods, who are all connected by a big old English country house. I feel that all her books should be made into films, mostly so I can SEE FOR MYSELF these houses. I love old architecture and period pieces and drama. The end. The level of character/time period weaving in this book is next-level and was a tad confusing for me, at times. I would have benefited from an outline of characters as an appendix. It’s that complex. The story resembles her other books in that she follows mostly female characters who face loss, poverty, and various freak accidents which shift the course of their lives toward tragedy. I mean, she’s not going to win awards for this, but its quality is leaps above the 2.5 Hallmark Christmas movies I watched last month.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
This is the first book in the much heralded Broken Earth fantasy series. I just kept hearing about these books, so I took a giant leap and purchased them en masse. This can be a tragic move if one ends up not being a fan. It is a genius move if it turns out you’re sucked in and MUST read them all, ASAP. I’ve finished the first book and have this to say:
- It’s creative. This is post-apocalyptic in the sense that it isn’t humans destroying each other, but it’s the earth actually making life physically pretty uninhabitable with the advent of “seasons,” which create centuries of ash and severe seismic activity.
- Jemisin is a skilled writer, maintaining suspense and exposing depth in the characters. Did I like the characters a whole lot? No. Did I read until the end? Yes.
- And yet….I wasn’t in love with it. I kind of had to force myself to sit down and consume it in chunks. I’m not sure if I will finish the series. I just don’t know if I care THAT much. Also, it’s January. And bleak. And I need really engaging/chipper/colorful stories. The moral of this review is: don’t buy the entire series up front, mkay. FYI, this book contains salty language/some sexuality.
The Half-Drowned King and The Sea Queen by Linnea Hartsuyker
I’m apparently a weirdo because books about ninth century Vikings are my thing. These are the first two books in a trilogy which are kinda brutal (Vikings, remember), but also really humanizing to these warring characters. These books remind me of The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell, which have been made into a series which has been on Netflix, of late. That story was set in England, though. These books take place mostly in Norway and enchant me in an otherworldly kind of way. Don’t ask me why I like stories about medieval warrior culture. I just do. And in a similar vein, there’s:
Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young
This one is YA, and I LOVED IT. It’s so exciting and beautifully written. It draws liberally from Norse mythology and brings all other parts of Viking life (in addition to raiding and fighting) to life. I found this one randomly at the library and was like, “THIS IS THE BEST KIND OF BOOK WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE I’M GOING TO PUT MY LIFE ON HOLD WHILE I INHALE THIS WHOLE THING.” But again, I’ve learned that not everyone loves what I love, and you may not dig it.
What are the zippiest/best/funniest/most engaging books you have recently read?