Inkdeath, Cornelia Funke
By far the best in the trilogy. I throughly enjoyed this, likely owing to the level of anxiety caused by so many perils. Peril is the operative word here. Every chapter, every page, with enough breathing space not to exhaust the reader. The writer has created a universe that will stay in the mind long after it’s finished. The only negatives are a few flaws. I wasn’t able to connect with Dustfinger to the extent I did in the other books, but I still loved him enough to overlook this. And Meggie didn’t seem to have such a starring role. It’s also hard to see Mo change so much. Still, the tension carries this book and makes it my favourite of the three.
What Moves the Dead, T.Kingfisher
I can’t help finding this a tough book to review. On the one hand, it’s excellent. The author is definitely a storyteller and there’s nothing wrong with the writing. I might have also thought this original had I not read Mexican Gothic — a fact the author eludes to at the end by admitting to shelving this book for a good long while because of the other book’s publication. Sometimes timing is everything, but that’s no fault of the author. This book also isn’t as deep, in part because it’s short, but it’s unfair to compare the two as both are equally enjoyable and I suggest reading both. The problem is, I didn’t find it all that creepy, but I admit I don’t scare easily. This is a retelling of the Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, though I didn’t realise that when I bought it. Having read both, I didn’t feel the connection. Alex is an interesting main character, but I didn’t feel that who Alex is had much to do with the outcome of the story. A fun, quick read that left me feeling something was lacking. But I now want to read more by the author and that’s never a bad outcome.
Cloudstreet, Tim Winton
A critically acclaimed glimpse into Australian life from 1944 to 64 featuring two families, the Lambs and the Pickles, brought together in one house. Emotionally, I flipped between love and hate every few turns of the pages. I detest books with no speech marks and even considering the author’s style, I don’t see why he didn’t use the correct punctuation. It wasn’t always immediately clear who was saying what, which I found to be an enormous distraction. Not often, but still annoying. It’s rather tell instead of show, but there’s a rhythm to the narrative that makes this work. As to the story… I loved it in places, loathed it in others. When I loved it, the book was wonderful. When I didn’t, I felt utterly bored. Some characters don’t serve the story, and neither do some of the supernatural elements. Sometimes the story is magical, but other times insufferable as we wander through these lives with no apparent direction or real purpose. I wish I found it as wonderful as others do, because when I loved it, that love was real, but I found it to be too much of a rollercoaster ride with too many dips way down low. Therefore, I’m not knocking anyone who adores this book — not that I would, anyway. Let people love what they love and there’s much to love here. There are some sumptuous sentences, but I think an abiding like of stepping into a life to visit without expectation of an efficacious outcome.
Swan Song (audio), Robert McCammon, read by Tom Stechschulte
The easiest way to describe this book is as an epic analogy against war, especially nuclear war. One can’t help think of Stephen King’s The Stand while reading this, and, I imagine, vice versa, once having read both, but each deserves their own place on anyone’s bookshelves. I can’t say everything I want to say without giving away the plot and outcome, but I’m not sure the anti-hero attempt quite works for me, maybe because it seems so sudden and brief. Sadly, the outcome speaks so eloquently, showing us with a painful foresight that some people may never change, even though hope runs throughout. There was a moment where I rolled my eyes when they get to their final destination and who they find there, but that soon dissipated when the author flipped the story defying my expectations. A head hopping but absorbing narrative worthy of recognition.
A Man Called Ove (audio), Fredrik Backman, read by Joan Walker
Having recently watched A Man Called Otto based on this book, I revisited this story by listening to the audio. I loved reading the novel and still have it on my shelves. The audio did nothing to disappoint. At first glance, one might wonder why they’d want to read the story of a grumpy old man, but Ove is not all he seems and his life is one to be celebrated. One thing the book does better than the film is give us his wife’s point of view. We get to learn of the qualities she saw in him, long before a new family moves into the neighbourhood. We also learn more about his background. If you liked the book, there’s no reason not to enjoy the story in other formats. If you’ve only seen the film, watch or listen to the book, and enjoy how Ove touches the lives of others.
Sleeping Beauties, Stephen King and Owen King
Definitely an epic, this doorstop of a book slowly sets the scene of a world without women as they succumb to a strange plague. Like all King novels, this is heavily character driven. Though I would struggle to choose parts to cut, the book feels overly long. I struggled to continue with it in many places, especially once we learn what happens to the women after they’re cocooned, which was when my interest wavered even though I’d survived a communicative fox and other strange creatures appearing, which I saw no reason for. By then I’d invested too much to give up, but this took me ages to finish and I sometimes felt I was turning each page through sheer will. What people get from this will depend on their experiences. Let’s just say I’ve excellent reasons to want to return home, so my viewpoint is no doubt influenced by that choice. The book’s expertly composed, well thought out, and immersive, but I spent much of it wondering if there was a point. Had women written this, I can imagine an outcry that it’s an attack on men… and in that exact sentence is perhaps the point of the book, but while it’s an interesting topic to explore, I found the innate message somewhat flawed. Yes, it examines much of what’s wrong with the world, but I struggle to believe a world ran by women would work better; the same ridiculous power struggles often rise to the fore, no matter who is in charge. This novel is entertaining in parts, not so much in others. It’s explorative. It’s needlessly overlong, not scary, and anyone expecting the usual Stephen King novel may find they are disappointed (or pleased) that it’s not. However, I now want to read something else by Owen King.