I haven’t written a blog in a while, and (once again) I’ve been reminded that writing them from time to time might help get my novel published (perhaps not the most… well, novel, advice in the world, but what would I know? – I just like to write funny stories).
Anyway… short of any profound insights, I thought I’d just share part of my reading list from the past few weeks; maybe a book (or two) will excite your interest.
The God is Not Willing: The First Tale of Witness – Steven Erikson
Hands up here – I have to say I’m a massive fan of Steven Erikson and last year re-read The Malazan Book of the Fallen, which is by far my favourite fantasy series, so I can’t claim to be the most impartial judge of whether or not The God is Not Willing is a good read.
I loved it (but I was also going too); all the nods and in-references to the older stories were great, the writing style was familiar and free-flowing, and the plot had all the elements that I was hoping for.
If I were put on my objective hat, however, and to imagine I knew nothing of the Malazan world, I think I’d suggest the plot was very ABC and spent a little too much time dwelling on past events, rather than using the available word count to drive the plot further forward.
As every Fant/Sci-FI reader knows though, when you’re so deep into a series you love, objectivity goes out of the window, and my fingers are already itching for The Second Tale of the Witness.
Mordew – Alex Pheby
I actually wrote a blog about this book because it got me deep thinking.
I won’t cover the same ground again here – in short, it’s alright but could (and might) be better – you’ll be able to find the review on this site (should you so wish)
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
A re-read (actually the third time I’ve read this book). It’s great writing, magical being the perfect word to describe the novel, which is a story of love, envy and hope.
The Night Circus is a book I always recommend to younger readers, who cut their teeth as children on the stories of Harry James Potter.
It strikes perfectly along the fault line of Magic-Realism and leaves the reader with that ‘maybe, just maybe’ feeling, which is the secret of great books of this sort.
Billy Summers – Stephen King
I have boundless admiration for Stephen King, his gifts as a writer, his thoughts on the subject and the prolific nature of his writing… well, the man just brings a beautiful balance of natural ability, work ethic and experience to his writing.
All that said, I haven’t felt compelled to read one of his books in a long time; my tastes have just developed in different directions from my teenage reading, and I don’t generally read books just because I respect the name on the cover.
I bought Billy Summers on a whim and am pleased to say I really enjoyed it. More crime than the horror (or fantasy) style most commonly associated with SK, which just reinforced an idea I’ve long held that he could write in literally any style and with great success.
The Silmarillion – JJR Tolkien
Bitterly disappointed – in myself.
LOTR, as everyone knows, sits at the high table of great fantasy writing. It’s great in a way that’s beyond my ability to express. The Silmarillion is not. I’ve avoided reading it for all these years because I knew it would annoy me.
My frustration is that it’s not a true story; it’s a collection of incredibly detailed and beautifully written notes that I have to believe were to be the building blocks of a world in which a series of amazing stories would have unfolded (with the LOTR standing as evidence of the same).
I’m sure lots of people have enjoyed The Silmarillion, but I’ve always known I would not, and regret trying.
Heaven – Mieko Kawakami
Bold statement time – If I read a better book in 2022, I will be very surprised; if I read a more powerful book, I’ll be utterly astounded.
The writing is beautiful, the use of language simple with not a word wasted, which perfectly draws you into the mind and world of the character’s, and just captures the imagination perfectly.
I’m relatively new to Meiko Kawakami (Breasts and Eggs is the only other work of hers I’ve come across so far), but most reviewers make comparisons with the great Haruki Murakami.
Bold Statement (Part 2) – Right now, I’d suggest that Heaven is a match for anything of Murakami’s.
I’m going to stick to no spoilers, but what more could I possibly say? – This novel should be on every bookworms shelf.
Legend – David Gemmell
A chap I work with recommended David Gemmell to me, so I figured I’d give him a go.
Legend is alright light fantasy. It doesn’t do anything particularly unexpected and runs as though completed on a pre-formatted template.
No criticism at all, sometimes the mind needs to unwind, and Legend was a fine evening read – I’ll certainly read more Gemmell if I happen upon him on my travels.
Pompeii – Robert Harris
I really can’t say I enjoyed Pompeii, which feels strange because I’ve very much enjoyed Robert Harris’s writing in the past.
I’ll again avoid spoilers, but to my mind, the book just feels like a poorly written history of events rather than being a true novel.
My problem with that is, it wasn’t what I signed up for.
I’ve read histories of the Roman empire many times, and as historical periods go, it’s a real golden age of interest and innovation.
Pompeii just forgets that it’s supposed to be a novel and, unlike the period it represents, there’s little innovation or intrigue.
I’m sure plenty of people loved Pompeii (it’s one of those novels that makes you feel smarter for reading it), but it wasn’t the book for me.
The Book of Illusions – Paul Auster
A total reversal here because I can’t say that I’ve really enjoyed Paul Auster’s writing in the past; The Books of Illusions really sparked within me, and I couldn’t put it down.
The writing is great, more skill than I can describe (especially without spoilers), and I enjoyed The Book of Illusion from the first page to the last; so good, in fact, that I plan to revisit the Auster books I have on my shelf, to see if I missed something on previous readings (in particular The New York Trilogy, which I read when I was probably too young).
I’m always up for chatting about books and in particular I’d love to connect with other readers of Mieko Kawakami, to sound out shared ideas on her writing. You can find me on Twitter or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org