Showing posts with label Val McDermid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Val McDermid. Show all posts

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

My Year in Books 2018: April

I'm doing alright with this New Year's Resolution business! Didn't get as much time to read in April as previously, as it's been a pretty hectic month, but still found some snatches of time to read a couple of novels for pleasure. And I'm still sticking to my word count for reviews as well. This is probably the best I've ever done with a resolution!

Here are the links to my previous posts from January, February and March. And here are the books I read in April.

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (2008; translated by Lucia Graves, 2009)

One thing I’m trying to do with this New Year’s resolution is catch up with the books I’ve borrowed over the past couple of years, then never read. This is another loan from my mother-in-law – though, like The Liar last month, it’s not the sort of thing we normally share. The Angel’s Game definitely has supernatural undertones, but it’s more ‘literary fiction’ than I normally go for. Set in Barcelona in the 1920s, the book tells the story of a struggling writer, David Martín, who begins his career at a newspaper after his father is killed. As David excels in the world of pulp serial fiction, he dreams of writing a ‘real’ novel. Dogged by failure, he’s approached by a mysterious French publisher who makes him an offer that seems too good to be true. The premise had me totally hooked, but I found the novel patchy. Some chapters/sequences were captivating and evocative, but much of the book was drawn-out and tedious. In places, it was rather repetitive and, as with a lot of men’s literary fiction, the presentation of women was awful (we’re only a couple of chapters in before the first Manic Pixie Dream Girl appears, and oh boy! is the protagonist’s mum to blame for a lot). That said, those captivating sequences kept me reading, and I did love the house that is the setting for much of the novel, so it wasn’t all bad. I’m on the fence as to whether this is a recommendation though.

Fall of Night by Rachel Caine (2013)

Fall of Night is the fourteenth and penultimate book in Caine’s Morganville Vampires YA series. I’ve been a fan of the series for a while – I’d go as far as to say the books are the best YA vampire books I’ve read – but I never got round to reading the last two books in the series (collateral damage in my ‘no time to read for pleasure’ situation). It’s been a few years since I read the thirteenth book (Bitter Blood), but it was surprisingly easy to get back into the series. At the end of Bitter Blood, protagonist Claire Danvers had finally helped her uneasy vampire allies defeat the various foes attacking the small Texas town of Morganville, and she’s played her part in setting a new era of human/vampire relations in motion. As a reward, she’s been given permission by head vampire and town founder to leave the town and pursue her studies at MIT (something Claire has dreamed of since she first rocked up in Morganville in the first book). Of course, things aren’t really what they seem and Claire has more enemies (human and vampire) to face. As with the rest of the series, the books feature a likable heroine, with a great team of sidekicks, and vampires that are more three-dimensional than in (perhaps) any other YA series. It’s a fun read, but I’d suggest reading the rest of the series first – so you’re familiar with the characters and the rules of their quirky vampiric town.

Daylighters by Rachel Caine (2013)

I followed Fall of Night straightaway with Daylighters, the fifteenth and final book in Caine’s series. Morganville Vampires is an interesting series in that most books follow on immediately from their predecessor, with some ending on a mid-action cliffhanger. Fall of Night and Daylighters work like this, with the shock ending of the former being the dramatic opening scene of the latter. It’s an aspect of the series that encourages binge reading, and I’ve read quite a few of the books back-to-back. Without spoiling the plot of Fall of Night, I’ll say that Daylighters sees Claire and her (human and vampire) friends return to Morganville after their brief sojourn in Cambridge (the one in Massachusetts) to find that things are very different to when they left – there is, of course, one final battle to be faced. While there were certain aspects of this book I loved – it has all the chemistry of the previous titles, and a certain supernatural creature (sort of) makes its long-awaited appearance in the series – it is a little let down by its continuity, which was really apparent reading it straight after Fall of Night. The problem is that the events of Fall of Night clearly took place over the course of a single week, but several months seem to have passed in Morganville. I did enjoy Daylighters, but this niggle annoyed me, as the rest of the series was pretty tight on chronology and continuity. Not my favourite Morganville book, but still a fun read.

The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid (2014)

The last book I read this month was Val McDermid’s The Skeleton Road. I’ve read quite a few of McDermid’s books, and I’ve enjoyed almost all the ones I’ve read so far (the only one I haven’t liked was A Darker Domain). I picked this one up in a bookshop while we were away and didn’t have any preconceptions about it. I hadn’t clocked that it was in the same series as A Darker Domain, and to be honest I didn’t even notice it had the same detective until I came to write this review! This tells you something about how McDermid does series fiction – it’s not always necessary to read the books in the order they were published, as most of them work as standalones as well as instalments. The Skeleton Road is the third novel to feature Karen Pirie, a cold case detective, and this book begins with the discovery of a decades-old body on the roof of an old school in Edinburgh. The first challenge for the detective is to identify the body, and there isn’t much for her to go on. Interweaving narratives introduce other storylines and characters: a man is killed in his apartment in Crete, a university professor worries about the fate of her Croatian lover, who left her eight years earlier, an International Criminal Tribunal prepares to wrap up its search for Balkan war criminals. The pleasure here is seeing how everything fits together, but also how the characters handle the various revelations.