January & February Wrap-Up

My reading year didn’t exactly get off to a great start (at least in terms of quantity); I only managed to finish two books in January, both of which I wrote full reviews for, which is why I decided to hold off for another month on posting this wrap-up. February was a lot more promising. 😊 In total, over the last two months, I got through four excellent novels, two graphic novels, and an audiobook! (I re-started my Audible subscription, and it’s amazing! 💕 Though I’m finding it very difficult to be patient while I wait for my next credit…)

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. A novel about a young woman called Rosemary, who one day came home after staying with her grandparents to find that her sister Fern was gone. The book deals mainly with how what happened with Fern affected their family over the years… This was such a fascinating story! I really wanted to write a review of it, but wasn’t sure how to go about it without spoiling a plot twist that really makes this book what it is. But even beyond the twist, this is an excellent novel; I really enjoyed Rosemary’s perspective, and her relationships with her parents and siblings, and Fern’s part in the story was heartbreaking in places. 😥 The non-linear narrative greatly increased the effectiveness of the story as well, and I had a great time trying to puzzle out everything that had happened to Rosemary’s family, while she herself danced around the subject, leaving little breadcrumbs for us to follow.Grayson Volume 1: Agents of Spyral by Tim Seeley & Tom King. The first in a DCU-based comic series, wherein Dick Grayson (a.k.a. Nightwing, a.k.a. the first Robin) is undercover in the mysterious organisation Spyral, and reporting to Batman on their activities. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this more if I were up-to-date on the Nightwing series (which I believe this is supposed to follow on from), but as it was I found the plotline pretty incoherent, the characters (including Dick) boring, and the artwork not compelling enough to make up for the book’s flaws… I was initially quite excited by the appearance of Helena Bertinelli, but sadly in the New 52, she seems to have traded in her Huntress persona to become the bland Spyral agent known as Matron. 😑 It’s a shame, because my fondness for the Robins (all of them) makes me predisposed to like their solo titles, but doubt I’ll be continuing with this one.Wolf-Speaker by Tamora Pierce. The second book in the Immortals quartet, which is part of Pierce’s Tortall universe – wherein Daine is called upon by her old wolf friends to negotiate with the local humans on their behalf, and discovers a sinister plot against the king and queen while she’s there. The Immortals is a familiar (and beloved) story to me, but this was my first time listening to the audiobook version of it – which was excellent! The voice acting really brought all the characters to life, and although the difference in speed between Pierce’s narration and the rest of the cast’s speech took was a little jarring at first, I got used to it quickly – and (on principle) I do like it when authors narrate their own books… 😊4 stars

BOOKS I ALREADY POSTED REVIEWS FOR:

 
 

[EDIT (31/7/19): Changed rating of Wolf-Speaker from 5 stars to 4, as I am in the process of re-assessing my ratings.]

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Review: A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond (Spoiler-Free)

Claire and Ella are the best of friends, and always will be, and not even Ella’s disapproving parents are going to stand between them. But when Claire introduces Ella to Orpheus – a wanderer with an unworldly talent for music – she begins to fear that their romance may be taking Ella down a path which will separate them forever.

A Song for Ella Grey is a retelling of the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, but set in the modern-day North of England, and focusing on the tale from the perspective of Ella’s (who takes the role of Eurydice) best friend Claire. I’m familiar with the original myth, but I don’t know it inside out, so I can’t comment on any specific changes Almond may have made to the narrative. From what I do know of the story, however, this seems to be a very faithful retelling (barring the modern setting, of course). I also found the choice of Claire as a narrator interesting because it gave us a somewhat sinister view of Orpheus; while Claire is not immune to the draw Orpheus seems to have over all living things (and many non-living ones, too), her admiration of him is tempered by her feeling that he poses some sort of threat to Ella…

The relationship between Claire and Ella, and how it contrasts with Orpheus and Ella’s relationship, is probably my favourite thing about this book. While the Orpheus/Ella dynamic is very clearly defined, (although it’s never outright stated) there are also strong indications that Claire’s feelings for Ella are not strictly platonic, which makes the objectivity of her narration somewhat doubtful. It’s difficult to tell how much of her suspicion of Orpheus is due to her seeing something in him that the rest of the characters aren’t able to see, and how much is just her fear that she is losing Ella. And despite the original myth being entirely about the love between Orpheus and Eurydice, Almond’s portrayal makes it clear that Claire’s love for Ella is no less powerful than Orpheus’.

I also really loved the magical atmosphere in this book; it’s nothing particularly unusual in a David Almond book, but that’s more of a compliment to all his other books than a criticism of this one. The characters talk early on about trying to bring Greece to Northumberland, and although they’re mainly talking about warmth and sunshine, I believe that they did succeed in bringing the otherworldly feeling of the ancient Greek myths there  – as is evidenced by Orpheus’ presence in the first place. Almond’s use of dialect was occasionally a little overdone, but I was mostly able to ignore it, since I was so invested in the story and the characters.

I doubt that any David Almond book will ever make me feel the same wonder that I felt when I first read Skellig and Heaven Eyes (two of my favourite books), but I will always love the beautiful way that he crafts his stories, and – flaws and all – A Song for Ella Grey is no exception to that. I’d recommend this for mythology lovers and magical realism fans, or to anyone who really enjoys Neil Gaiman’s writing, as his books are often quite similar in tone to David Almond’s (though Almond’s books tend to skew a little bit younger).

May Haul

May haulMay wasn’t too bad a month in terms of book-buying: I bought nine books overall (only eight are in the picture), five of which were part of a box-set, while the other four were second-hand, and therefore not too much of a strain on my wallet. 😉 That said, I am now on a book-buying ban until there’s some more free space on my TBR shelf – as it is, I have a 17-high pile of books in front of it that I need to either read or make room for ASAP. ^^’

1) Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. The first book in the Wicked Lovely series… I bought the second book in April, not realising that it was a sequel, so of course I had to go online and seek out (a matching edition of) this one straight away! 😛 I’m hoping to read this soon, so I can move on to Ink Exchange, which actually appeals to me a bit more.

2) The Singing by Alison Croggon. The fourth book in the Books of Pellinor series, most of which I bought second-hand a while ago, but haven’t touched yet. I believe I now have the whole series (except for the recent prequel), so I’ll probably be marathoning these at some point.

3) A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond. One of the more recent novels from the author of two of my favourite books – Heaven Eyes and Skellig. I’ve had my eye on this book for a while, and was debating whether or not to buy it new, so when it showed up at the second-hand bookshop where I work (looking almost like new), I took it as a sign. 😉

4) Dune by Frank Herbert. The first book in the Dune series, which is a sci-fi epic. I’ve actually been listening to (and really enjoying) this as an audiobook, but I always find it difficult to remember names if I don’t know how to spell them, so of course I needed to look at the book, too. Surprisingly, my library didn’t have a copy ( ❓ ), but I managed to pick up this (incredibly battered) edition pretty cheaply.

5) The Stolen Throne, The Calling & Asunder by David GaiderLast Flight by Liane MercielThe Masked Empire by Patrick Weekes. The whole collection of Dragon Age spin-off novels, which I bought as a box-set from Amazon mainly so that I would get free postage for Wicked Lovely… but also because I really, really wanted to read them. (You thought you’d heard the end of my Dragon Age ramblings, didn’t you? No such luck! I am still obsessed! 😈 ) The Stolen Throne is the one that’s missing from the photo, as I’ve forced my cousin to borrow it, and I’m currently reading The Calling, which is (so far) even better than The Stolen Throne!