Bookish & Writerly Recaps: August & September 2017

Oh, hi, didn’t see you there. Just here for my *ahem* two-monthly recap, which is a two-monther on purpose, and not at all a result of me neglecting my blog/life/general adult responsibilities.

:)

Let’s get to it.

What I’ve been writing

Non-work-related things I have written in the last two months:

  • Cute messages for Nate on our kitchen whiteboard
  • Grocery lists
  • This blog post (eventually)

Aaaaand that’s about it. But I am considering possibly, potentially, oh-god-probably-not-but-maybe attempting NaNoWriMo again in November…

I’m still afraid that this story I’ve been sitting on for so long isn’t going to work, isn’t The One, isn’t worth the risk of wasted time. But the thing is that I still think about it. I still take down little notes whenever they pop into my head. And I still dream about making it happen. So I think that’s probably gotta count for something, right?

Anyway, though, at least I’ve been smashing out the writing when it comes to my beloved Writer’s Edit! Here’s what I’ve been yammering on about the last couple of months over there:

writing

What I’ve been reading

My reading game has picked up slightly, although Goodreads is still side-eyeing me about being one book behind schedule. (Nope, sorry, two books behind – just checked and the number has literally increased while I’ve been writing this. Excellent.)

I read six books throughout August and September, but I think that’s actually pretty good because most of them were BIG. If I had to fight someone armed only with Assassin’s Quest in one hand and It in the other, I’d feel pretty confident because those are some HEFTY TOMES.

Anyway, I’ve decided to try a new way of mini-reviewing my reads this time around, inspired by the lovely Kyra Thomsen, who often reviews things with short pros and cons lists on her Goodreads account.

I do not like reviewing books. I’m bad at it. I can’t even commit to star ratings on my Goodreads page. It’s all too much for me. So to make things a bit easier when I recap what I’ve read each month, I thought I’d give pros and cons a go.

(TBH in the future I’ll probably wind up just listing what I’ve read next to pictures of the covers and leaving it at that, or even just linking to my Goodreads and being like ‘Whatever go see for yourself’, but for now at least I’m still trying.)

reading

Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb

Pros:

  • Omfg I just love this series. So. Much. I love the language, the story, the immersive world-building and most of all, the characters. Fitz is a sweet baby angel, and Nighteyes even more so. Their relationship is so unique and lovely, and Fitz is such a tragic and flawed but fundamentally good character… I also adore Verity and Kettricken and, of course, the wonderful Fool.
  • This final volume went in quite a different direction than I expected. I’ve seen a lot of people whinge about it and say they hated it, but I actually liked it. It took me by surprise.
  • I still enjoyed the slower pace in this book. That’s another common complaint I’ve seen about the series, but I never once got bored or lamented the lack of action and big fight scenes. I do love those, of course, but as I said when I first read Assassin’s Apprentice, it’s refreshing to read something different.
  • Woman knows how to write a good last line. See also: Royal Assassin.

Assassin's Quest

Cons:

  • This isn’t necessarily a con, but this took me a long time to read – this whole series did. They’re quite long as is, but the prose is also quite dense. The only time it was a problem was when I just wanted to know what happened and found it hard to speed-read!
  • The ending was sad, but I understand it. [SPOILER ALERT] Fitz was never going to get the girl, be the big famous hero, live a normal life. And much as I’d have loved him to, I think it would have cheapened the series a bit. Props to Ms Hobb for taking the direction I’m sure she knew she needed to take.
  • NO MORE FITZ AND THE FOOL FOR A WHILE, gah. I just wanted to dive straight into their next series after I finished this, but I’ve been advised by Hobb fans that I should just read in order, which means it’ll be a while til I see my fave duo again. Definitely looking forward to reading every book set in this glorious world, though!

 

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Pros

  • It was nice to change my pace and genre again and pick up some lit fic (is this lit fic? Historical fic? Who knows anymore) by one of my favourite authors. I’m slowly working my way through Margaret Atwood’s back catalogue after adoring The Handmaid’s Tale and really enjoying the MaddAddam series. Plus I’m super keen to watch the upcoming Netflix adaptation of this after Hulu did such an incredible job adapting Handmaid.
  • Alias Grace also fit my interest in true crime – it’s based on a real-life old-timey murder case, yaaaaaasss. It had everything I wanted: a possibly unreliable narrator, a back-and-forth timeline, even a weird supernatural element. Good stuff.
  • Margaret Atwood’s mastery of language is something I find myself appreciating anew every time I read her work. Her imagery, her clever turn of phrase, and in this book the way she nailed the style of writing for the time, are all endlessly impressive.

Alias Grace

Cons

  • While I understand the ambiguity of the denouement, and of the ‘murderess’ (or is she?) Grace Marks herself, I did reeeeeeeeeally want to know what actually happened – but of course, it’s a true story, and in real life no one really knows either. I don’t want to give anything away here, so go read about the case (and also read this book plz).
  • I can’t really think of any other cons! Either it was that good or it’s been that long since I read it that I can’t remember any. (Yes, another reason why this recap is supposed to be monthly.)

 

It by Stephen King

Pros

  • I was interested in reading this before the movie came out, and I’m glad I did. I’d really like to read more of Stephen King’s stuff – this is the only thing of his I’ve read other than Pet Sematary (which I don’t remember really liking) and On Writing (which I loved). I admire him as a writer; I really enjoyed his style in this book, and I’m also a big fan of his methods, his dedication and his general prolific-ness.
  • loved the characterisation of the kids. They’re gorgeous, and he really captured the spirit of adolescence – of kids on their summer break, the kinds of conversations they have, the shit they get up to. (Not that fighting an evil shape-shifting clown is your average American kid’s summer activity, but you know what I mean.)
  • I also liked the structure of the past and present timelines, and how both halves of the story were interwoven to lead up to the big reveals and endings simultaneously. I really enjoy that kind of storytelling. (Side note: the movie adaptation made a great choice in sticking to one timeline for Chapter One, saving the adults’ side of the story for the next film. It also did a great job shifting the setting so the kids’ part was set in the 80s, rather than the 50s as it is in the book. You should go see it [It], it’s [It‘s] a lot of fun.)

It

Cons

  • If you’ve read the book, you know what my first con is going to be. THAT scene towards the end. I’m sorry, Stephen, but what in the actual f? How on earth did that get by your editor and your publisher? And why in the name of Pennywise the Dancing Clown would YOU include it in the first place? If you ever think of putting a similar scene in future books, friend, I advise that you take a moment. Reconsider your choices. Reconsider them very carefully because what the FU
  • You know what, for a horror book, this wasn’t actually as scary as I’d anticipated. I’m by no means well-read in the genre, but I think I’m yet to come across a book that really scares me on the page as I’m reading. This was creepy and shocking and all that, but I wasn’t as scared as I’d anticipated I would be. (The movie, on the other hand – lol boy did I make some funny noises and leap out of my seat a lot.)
  • This book is LOOOOOOOOOOOONG. I’m talking 1200+ pages long. Too long. It could have done with a tighter edit, I felt (and not just because of point one above).

 

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

Pros

  • Look, I’ll start this off by saying I’ll read anything SJM writes. I’m a big ol’ fangirl in that respect. Despite the problems they may have, I always enjoy her books. They’re easy reads and they’re fun fantasy and this one was no different. It’s the very definition of binge-worthy and I finished it in like two days.
  • I loved the setting, the palace, the city, the healers. I still enjoy the world of this series and loved the chance to see more of it in this book.
  • I really liked Yrene, and was especially glad she was a POV character. It was refreshing to read a POV from someone who’s not a tough warrior lady like Aelin, Manon, Nesryn etc. all are. Don’t get me wrong, I love tough warrior ladies, but it’s nice to read from the perspective of someone a little different for a change.

Tower of Dawn

Cons

  • My first con can be found on the back cover: ‘Contains mature content. Not suitable for younger readers.‘ *eyes roll out of head and onto the floor* Sarah, look. I know you’ve discovered you love writing smut, and that you feel you’re pretty good at it. But does every single one of your books from now on need to revolve around everyone’s *shudder* velvet-wrapped steel? I appreciated the fact that there was nowhere near as much Mills & Boon sexytime in this as in Empire of Storms or the ACOTAR series, but still, I’d honestly rather there be none at all OK byeeeeeeeeeee.
  • Like Stephen, I think Sarah could probably do with a more assertive editor. First of all, the fact that this is an entire 600+ page novel, instead of the novella that was planned, I feel is unnecessary. And that feeling was reinforced while I was reading – I got the impression that her editors kind of just let her go now. This could have done with some reining in to make it a little sharper and tighter.
  • This book was the first time I really noticed (and was jarred by) the endless Aelin praising. I know it’s all through the rest of the series, but it really seems to stand out in this one, I think because Aelin herself isn’t in it. I love her as a character, I do, but if I have to hear one more time how fierce and powerful she is, I might need to pick my eyes up off the floor where they rolled earlier and pop them back in so I can roll them again. (Ew)

 

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Pros

  • I thoroughly enjoyed Nevernight and was super keen to continue with Godsgrave, so preordered this baby and smashed it out very quickly. Highly binge-readable and SO MUCH ACTION that I felt like I was watching a movie, constantly on the edge of my seat.
  • I really like the world this is set in – it reads like fantastical, OTT historical fiction for an alternate-universe Ancient Rome/Venice, and I frickin love it.
  • The twists and turns were wonderful. Oh, you thought this? But this instead! And now this instead of that! Ahhhhhh! *head explodes* That ending was wonderful, as well. The most cliffhangery of cliffhangers.
  • The prose was more toned down than Nevernight, I thought – I remember thinking NN was a little overboard at times, but I didn’t get that feeling as much in Godsgrave, instead enjoying the writing.

Godsgrave

Cons

  • Sometimes I think it gets a bit too smart for itself. Not only in the meta/self-referential footnotes used throughout, which occasionally drew me a bit too far out of the moment, but also in the dialogue, which is often a bit one-liner-y. But hey, it’s all in good fun.
  • Not really a con, but I guess worth chatting about, given my thoughts on Sarah J. Maas above. This series is smutty on occasion too, but unlike SJM’s stuff, at least it has been since the beginning! I have mixed feelings about smut in fantasy – at the risk of sounding like a big ol’ prude, I’ve never really read a detailed sex scene that I’ve felt really contributed something essential to the story. But I didn’t mind the ones in Godsgrave – while there were far too many descriptions of heaving breasts, there was thankfully no velvet-wrapped steel in sight.

 

Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Pros

  • Wow – what a series. Mark Lawrence has fast grown into one of my A-list fantasy authors, with this series and the first instalment of Book of the Ancestor rating super highly with me. I enjoyed this third and final volume of The Broken Empire just as much as I did the first two books.
  • Jorg has REALLY grown on me, as I think he was intended to do. You start reading Prince of Thorns going ‘Oh, wow, I dislike this kid immensely, ugh’ and by the end of Emperor you’re on his side – if not 100%, at least as much as you can be. He’s not a good person; it wouldn’t have been as good a series if he was. But he’s not the completely soulless, heartless piece of crap you take him for in the beginning, especially not once you understand why he is the way he is. Overall, he’s one of the most interesting, complex and refreshing characters I’ve read in some time.
  • The humour throughout this book, and the entire series, has really stood out to me (in a good way) and been thoroughly enjoyable. It’s not in-your-face; it often just comes directly from Jorg’s first-person narration, which is another testament to his character. Basically, Jorg is the best thing about this series (closely followed by the intriguing setting and the backstory involved in it).

Emperor of Thorns

Cons

  • I found a few aspects a little confusing, particularly those to do with the Builders, and with the ending. Not sure if that’s because I’m a bit dim or if they’re intended not to be entirely clear. I think I’d just need to read it again to understand the Builders better, though, and without being spoilery, I’d probably conclude that the ending is meant to be a bit hard to understand. Now that I think about it, it was a good way to explore something that’s pretty unexplorable and inexplicable. (Vague enough for you?)
  • I thought it all ended a bit too quickly. The last few scenes seemed to speed up an immeasurable amount, and before I knew it it was over. But again, I think that might have been a deliberate choice. I was a bit dissatisfied with a few things that were left unresolved, though – especially those with a lot of buildup, like the whole situation with Katherine, the question of what would happen to Chella, etc. I don’t mind a few loose ends left up to the reader’s imagination, but the quick way this book ended seemed to make those loose ends stand out a bit more.

***

My god. This pros and cons style was supposed to be shorter and simpler, and I think I’ve gone in the exact opposite direction. Maybe it’s just because I had two months of books to catch up on… Any feedback that those two, possibly even three readers out there might have, it’d be much appreciated! ;)

Anyway, until next time – hope you have a wonderful month. xx

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5 thoughts on “Bookish & Writerly Recaps: August & September 2017

  1. Thanks for your post, I really enjoyed reading it :)
    I liked your book reviews, I am exactly the same, reviewing is so difficult and I can never find a star rating I feel happy with so I don’t review very often (usually only when I am super excited about a book and want to waffle on for a bit).

    Good luck with your novel, don’t worry about wasting time or if it isn’t the ‘one’. If it excites you just go for it. And if it doesn’t excite you then let it go and find a new idea that does. :) That’s what works for me anyway! :)

    Thanks for the post.

    • You’re welcome Poppy – thanks so much for reading! Super glad to hear you enjoyed it. And also glad to hear I’m not alone on the review front!

      Thanks so much for your kind words about the novel as well. I absolutely need to just take your advice and get stuck back in. :)

      All the best with your writing/reading and thanks again for taking the time to comment!

      Claire x

  2. Pingback: Bookish & Writerly Recaps: October 2017 | Paperback Bird

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