Winter has settled over New Zealand like a wet wool blanket, cold and scratchy and damp all the way through. We’ve had the fire cranking in the Great Hall most nights, and since we are trying to cut back on the amount of TV we’re watching, I’ve been reading a bit in the evenings instead.
You can see from my list below that the wintery nights are giving me a lust for the literary gothic in all its forms. My reading tastes are quite diverse – gothic horror, YA, fantasy, dystopian, mysteries, memoir, hard science fiction, I love them all. Here are some of the books I’ve been devouring over the last month.
The Folcroft Ghosts, Darcy Coates
Darcy Coates is an amazing writer who proves how well you can do when you take one thing you’re good at and just do it again and again. Darcy writes haunted house horror with a gothic style and a distinct flair of her own. She excels at creating suspense and creating characters you care about deeply who are far from stupid. The Folcroft Ghosts was Darcy at her finest. Fifteen-year-old Tara and her brother Kyle have to go live with their estranged grandparents in a remote mountain house after their mother ends up in a coma. Of course, their new home has some other inhabitants…
A Line in the Dark, Malinda Yo
A YA psychological thriller about friendship, love, obsession, and rumors. Has a weird POV shift in the middle. I see why it was done now that I’ve finished the book, but it’s quite jarring. What I LOVED about this book is that this is an LGBT book that’s not about coming out, which is too common I think for books in this genre. A lot of the characters aren’t 100% likable, but they feel very real. I also loved the Asian-American cultural aspects portrayed with subtlety and grace and without feeling like lip-service. The twist at the end was very twisty. The main character writes a comic that I really wish was real because it sounds awesome. A bit of fun, and I would read more by the author.
Mortal Engines, Philip Reeve
The Cantankerous Drummer Husband picked up a battered copy of Mortal Engines from a secondhand bookshop in Salisbury ten years ago, intrigued by the concept of ‘Municipal Darwinism.’ He then proceeded to read most of it aloud to me because I couldn’t wait for him to finish it to find out what happened.
With the movie coming out at the end of this year, I had to pick this up off my bookshelf to remind myself what happened. This is actually the first print book I’ve read in a couple of years, apart from some research books I’ve read chapters of. It’s just as awesome as I remember. Stunning concept, captivating characters, beautiful story.
Educated, Tara Westover
Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. She spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected.
She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn’t exist.
As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. At sixteen Tara decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge would take her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. This book is about the power of learning, and about how education can separate us. It was absolutely stunning, uncomfortable and sometimes viscerally terrifying at times (the father is a health and safety nightmare), and an amazing story of resilience and self-determination.
I LOVED Educated. If you want a good memoir, I thoroughly recommend it.
Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
This might be the best science fiction book I’ve ever read.
“The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.”
That’s the first line. It only gets better. In two years bits of the moon will rain down on earth, destroying all life. What do humans do? They launch as many spacecraft into orbit as possible and attach them to the International Space Station, so a small population can ride out the Hard Rain and continue the human race.
But humans, of course, are humans – capable of both bountiful intelligence and unimaginable stupidity, impossible kindness and unfathomable cruelty. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that everyone makes the EXACT mistakes they’d make in reality, and we end up with the same human race we’ve always had.
Seveneves is long. I’ve been reading it since March, 10 minutes at a time. I find it hard to binge-read long books because I always feel like I’m making no progress, and so nothing that happens in the next fifty pages could be that big a deal in the scheme of things since there’s so much to go.
If you dug The Martian and anything Heinlein wrote, you will love this.
Consort of Pain, Eva Chase
The third book in the Witch’s Consorts Series, which gives a classic gothic setup a reverse harem spin. A little like my Briarwood series, book 3 sees Rose and her boys on the run away from her home. We got a lot of answers to lingering questions about what’s been going on in the witching world in this book, and learn why Rose’s father wants to bind her magic so he can control it. There’s an uneasy truce, but it means Rose is going to have to battle something even more powerful than the Witching Council if she wants a future with her boys. Eva’s books are always a pleasure.
The Silent Companions, Laura Purcell
Some doors are locked for a reason…
I get a lot of book recommendations from the Haute Macabre Stacked column – those ladies have a similar taste for the stylishly bleak and literary gothic. The Silent Companions was a recommendation for May, and I immediately one-clicked it onto my Kindle. I’m 50% through and not disappointed, although it is tense reading for just before bed. Unreliable narrators, madness, a bleak house in the English countryside shunned by superstitious villagers, and creepy children… what’s not to love?
What are you reading right now? Recommend me some awesome stuff. I’m particularly keen to dive into some really interesting non-fiction, memoir, and biography.