Sunday, 12 August 2012

On Your Marks...

It being approximately halfway through the year and also summer season, I thought it was about time to collect together a list of a couple of the books I’ve read so far this year and haven’t had chance previously to post a comprehensive review for.

Michelle Hodkin's The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – the story of a girl calling herself Mara (although that is not her real name) who wakes up in hospital with no memory of how she got there following an accident she can no longer remember which resulted in the deaths of her friends, although she herself remained unharmed.  A spooky supernatural mystery with a romantic sub-plot.  (YA/fantasy/horror/romance/spec fic.)

Margo Lanagan's The Brides of Rollrock Island (known as Sea Hearts in Australia) – a novella about an island community prone to intermarriage with selkies who are “persuaded” into their human form by the witchcraft of the local seal-witch, Misskaella.  Bleak and compelling.  The narrative is provided from multiple perspectives.  (Fantasy/spec fic.)

Caitlin R. Kiernan's The Drowning Girl – a complex first person narrative by India Morgan Phelps (“Imp”), a schizophrenic woman, who struggles to unravel her encounters with what may be mythical creatures or, alternatively, symptomatic of her illness.  Intricate and raises as many questions as it answers.  A study of an unreliable narrator and mental illness, as well as being a consideration of the nature of truth.  Ambiguous and haunting in its conclusion.  An adult read. (Horror/spec fic.)

Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars – a collection of four novellas, all dealing with the issue of retribution.  1922 is the murder confession of Wilfred Leland James; Big Driver deals with a mystery writer’s encounter with a stranger during a back road shortcut on her way home.  Fair Extension documents a deal with an individual who sells a variety of differing extensions – for which there is always a price.  A Good Marriage queries the extent to which we can know another person – “even those we love the most”.  Darcy Anderson discovers a box under a worktable whilst her husband is away on a business trip and realises he isn’t the man she had thought he was – just as he is heading home.  Harsh and thought provoking, grisly and graphic illustrations of human behaviour.  Fair Extension represents the most overt reference to the supernatural here. (Horror/novella/collection.)

Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall – which scarcely needs any introduction.  The fictionalised biography documenting the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell within the court of Henry VIII of England which has now been followed by a second part within what is intended to be a trilogy, Bring Up The Bodies.  Winner of the Man Booker Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award.  (Historical fiction.)

Donna Tartt's The Secret History – one I’ve been meaning to get around to reading for a while, given I’d seen a number of positive reviews.  A novel concerning a group of classics students at an elite Amercial college and a Bacchanal which ultimately resembles a Greek tragedy in some respects.  To say much more would compromise the impact of the narrative.  One to experience yourself.  (Contemporary fiction.)

Jo Walton's Among Others – another one I’d heard quite a bit of buzz about before I had the opportunity to read it.  This is one written for anyone who has ever sought consolation or solace between the pages of a book – the narrator, Morwenna Phelps (“Mori”) finds her haven via a local library’s science fiction book club.  Play count the insider references on your way through the narrative – there are an impressive number to note.  This aside, Mori advises us (via her diary entries) she is a girl capable of talking to fairies.  Similarly to The Drowning Girl, it is for the reader to decide whether this is a psychological tool designed to offer comfort from the narrator’s less interesting “real” life or represents a true account of Mori’s suggested powers.  (YA/fantasy/spec fic.)

Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger – a ghost story set in post-war rural Warwickshire in which a doctor is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall, home to the Ayres family for over two centuries.  Slow building, subtle narrative centred around poltergeist activity.  (Contemporary fiction/supernatural.)

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