May Wrap-Up

May was a slightly quieter month for me in terms of books, since I’ve been pretty busy with work, and I also (finally! XD ) received my pre-order of Fire Emblem: Fates, so I’ve been playing that every spare second. 😛 That said, I did manage to finish five books, and get through a good portion of a sixth (which I’m really enjoying, by the way), so I am content. 🙂

Libba Bray//A Great & Terrible BeautyA Great & Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. A gothic novel set in a London boarding school for girls in the late 1800s, and follows a teenage girl called Gemma Doyle, who – along with a small group of friends – gets involved with an alluring, but incredibly dangerous form of witchcraft, and a mysterious organisation only known as The Order. I can definitely see from reading this why Libba Bray is such a popular author; she writes really beautifully, and I could really feel the sinister atmosphere of Spence Academy and the mysteries that Gemma was trying to unravel. However, I wasn’t able to get particularly attached to the characters, and the story never really managed to grab me until near the end of the book – which is why took me quite a while to finish… It did improve a lot as it went on, however, and the ending was very tense and dramatic.3 stars

Libba Bray//Rebel AngelsRebel Angels by Libba Bray. The sequel to A Great & Terrible Beauty, which follows Gemma and her friends over the Christmas holiday. Obviously I can’t say too much about the plot, but I enjoyed seeing more of their lives outside Spence. There was one chapter from Kartik’s perspective, which was interesting, though I really want to know more about the Rakshana. I’m still not a huge fan of either Ann or Felicity, but they were both much more sympathetic characters in this book… Lastly, the plot itself had a slow start, but got really exciting towards the end of the book, with twists flying in every direction (though not all of them were entirely unexpected).4 starsDavid Gaider//The Stolen ThroneThe Stolen Throne by David Gaider. A prequel to the video game Dragon Age: Origins, which tells the story of the exiled King Maric’s first meeting with Loghain, the man who would become his most trusted friend and advisor, and the war they fought to return him to the throne of Ferelden. This is a great read for any fan of the Dragon Age series of games, so naturally I really enjoyed it. The narration wasn’t always fantastic, but that’s somewhat to be expected coming from an author who usually writes scripts rather than novels, but it was more than made up for by the wonderful plot and dialogue. I was also a bit disappointed that my hopes of seeing a more sympathetic side of Loghain (who was quite thoroughly villainised in the games) never really came to fruition, despite half the story being told from his perspective… even his friendship with Maric seemed to be something that he resented more than anything else… I did really like Maric himself, though, as well as both Rowan and Katriel, two characters who were only ever mentioned in the games.3 stars

Eleanor Updale//The Last MinuteThe Last Minute by Eleanor Updale. The story of a busy street in a normal English town during the lead-up to Christmas, which counts down the seconds to a horrific explosion. This book was excellently written, and really interesting – and it was also my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for May, so you can read all my thoughts on it here! 😉4 starsTheresa Tomlinson//The Tribute BrideThe Tribute Bride by Theresa Tomlinson. A historical novel set in the Anglo-Saxon period, during the founding of Northumbria. The book follows a Deiran princess called Acha, who’s sent away to the neighbouring kingdom of Bernicia as a peace-weaver bride to the fearsome King Athelfrid, when a flood ruins her father’s crops, leaving him unable to pay the tribute that Athelfrid demands. This was another interesting book, though I had some mixed feelings about it in terms of characterisation and writing style… But, again, I’ve written a full review, in which I’ve discussed all the details.3 stars

Library Scavenger Hunt: May

This month’s challenge was another that I thought would be easy, but actually proved quite tough – to read a book with a timepiece on the cover. Firstly, because my search ended up having to be spread over two library visits, due to not-getting-there-early-enough-the-first-time, but also because I simply wasn’t able to find anything… :/ Strange, right? Disregarding the fact that a “timepiece” could be a whole load of different things, aren’t clocks a common theme for book covers? I’m sure I’ve seen a hundred of them before. But of course they always elude me when I’m searching for them specifically. ^^’ Anyway, this is what I eventually ended up checking out:

THE LAST MINUTE
Eleanor Updale

Eleanor Updale//The Last MinuteOne minute life in Heathwick was completely normal, with the exception of some extremely inconvenient roadworks causing a massive traffic jam on the main road; the next minute, it was… not. A massive explosion kills sixty-five people, and injures dozens more, and speculation as to its origins run rampant. This book is a countdown, second by second, of the lives of the people in Heathwick in the minute leading up to the explosion, showing us snapshots of a few (or, in many cases the last) seconds of their lives.

There are a lot of people in this book: A young mother expecting her second child; a worker in a café; a politician who’s cheating on his wife; a reluctant teacher supervising a school trip… and so on. Many of them don’t really stand out all that much – and in fact, I can’t even remember a lot of their names – but there were a couple that I enjoyed reading about. In particular, I liked Deanna and Paul, the young lovers, as well as the retired actress Lotte. I also eventually grew quite fond of Matey – a homeless man who likes to tell stories – and I would’ve liked to have heard the punchline of his (very long) joke.

The huge cast of characters (and the second-by-second format) also provide the book’s greatest flaw, though: It’s quite difficult to follow everything that’s going on. This many different (mostly unrelated) storylines are a lot to keep track of, and the confusion isn’t helped by the fact that the story is divided up by time, rather than by plotline, so we jump between different characters rapidly, often switching scenes mid-sentence…

On the other hand, this format really increased the dramatic tension. It didn’t help me to connect with any of the characters, but it really emphasised how quickly time was running out for them. Individually, none of the storylines were all that interesting, and the book probably would’ve been quite boring if it had followed each character up to the explosion, and then gone back and started again with someone else. Instead, what this book delivers is a really great sense of the town itself as a character, with its various different parts all contributing to a bigger whole.

One last note: I don’t know if this is Updale’s doing or her publisher’s (David Fickling Books), but the maps in this book are genius. There’s one at the beginning that shows the layout of Heathwick High Street, which isn’t that extraordinary, but it’s shown again at the end of the book, with little person-shaped markers for everyone who died… It’s pretty harrowing.4 stars

[Find out more about the Library Scavenger Hunt by following this link!]