This seems like a good time to mention that I have already exceeded my reading challenge that I set for myself. Last year I read 62 books. I figured I would increase that by a little, so I set it for 75 books. Apparently this was entirely too small of a number. By the beginning of July, I had hit 75. I’m already rounding the bend on 84. According to Goodreads, I’m actually 37 books ahead of schedule. Next time I know better and I will challenge myself a little more appropriately!
I’ve also been kicking around the idea of reading 30 books that people say I should read before I hit 30 (which is a little over a year from now). There are quite a few lists, including some from Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Refinery29. I’ve been thinking of theming it to books by women authors everyone should read, but I don’t know yet. If you have any suggestions, please share!
Anyway, here’s another round of mini-reviews, this time featuring some fictional works.
- Touch by Claire North – I absolutely loved The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, which is why I couldn’t wait to pick up Touch. In Touch, Claire North creates a world where some have the ability to jump into a person’s body and live their life, be it for a few seconds or for a lifetime. Kepler is one such being. But now a shadowy organization is on the hunt for beings like Kepler, who must make difficult choices to survive. While it was a lot slower getting into this novel than her first, I still love North’s style. I ultimately enjoyed the book, though I seem to have trouble remembering how it actually ended.
- A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Kell is a magician, but he is unique in his world because he is one of the few who can travel to other worlds. He lives in Red London, an advanced world of magic and prosperity. He travels as an emissary to Grey London, which is devoid of magic and similar to our own London of King George III’s time, and White London, a dying London that has magic but the life is draining out of it and its people. A Grey London street girl falls in with Kell and ends up aiding him as he seeks to maintain balance between good magic and bad magic, and between the three Londons, one of which is simmering to overrun and rule the other two. I loved Schwab’s world-building and the characters of Kell and Lila (the street rat). I look forward to future installments!
- The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl – You might have guessed by now that if a novel features books in any way, I’m there. So a book titled The Last Bookaneer was an easy yes. The premise is that in the age before copyright, book pirates roamed the high seas, stealing manuscripts and selling them for profit. As the new copyright law gets passed, a rumor that a dying Robert Louis Stevenson labours over a new novel brings out the last two bookaneers to battle it out for supremacy. While I found the language hard to read at first, the adventure eventually pulled me in and had me waiting on the edge of my seat to see who would win out.
- The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack – Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist whose paintings were each inspired by a vivid dream. When a young woman sees her own nightmares in his painting, the two are drawn together to right a wrong committed over and over by past selves over the centuries. Sometimes I read a book and am shocked by how perfectly an author chooses their words or describes a character’s thoughts. This was one of those books. It also reminded me of David Mitchell’s work thanks to its focus on how a person’s actions can echo through the ages and affect lives, although the plot is a lot more straightforward than Cloud Atlas or The Bone Clocks.
- The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston – This was the year of time. Whether the book traveled into the future or past, or stories separated by centuries were told concurrently, I have found enjoyment out of reading about how our lives are interconnected. In The Silver Witch, a potter grapples with her husband’s death as she tries to put her life back together in the home in the Scottish Highlands they had just moved into when he died. When she suddenly has visions of a woman dressed in ancient clothes of the region, she finds unexpected powers that make her a target. As she traces the mystery woman and her history, she must dig deep to find the strength to overcome her inner pain and childhood fears to survive. I picked this book up on a whim, but ended up greatly enjoying the mix of ancient perspectives and current setting. A great book for those who enjoyed the magic and time-bending elements of the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness but prefer a shorter, stand-alone narrative.
- The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi – In the future, water is sparse and communities protect their sources (and steal other sources) with merciless violence and mercenaries called “water knives.” Huge cities have died and others have flourished because of their access to water. Bacigalupi introduces us to three people in this wasteland: a Texas refugee eking out a living in Phoenix, where there is no water, a reporter following the story of the dying city of Phoenix, and an ex-con turned water knife for a Las Vegas water utility. The story moves at a brisk pace, picking up different narrative threads that are then smartly woven together by the author into a thrilling race against time. For once, this apocalyptic scenario is completely believable, unlike those that involve zombies, and it offers a great argument for the value of science fiction.
- The Fold by Peter Clines – With the narrative pacing, scientific details, and unexpected twists of a classic Michael Crichton thriller (think Jurassic Park or Prey), Peter Clines offers a great science fiction novel about the race to produce a Star Trek-style transporter and what happens when scientists don’t completely understand the implications of their discovery. Any other details would give away the excellent twists, so if you enjoy science fiction that seems possible and is filled with plausible scientific details, or if you are grappling with serious Michael Crichton withdrawal, give this novel a try.