February Reads

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February has flown by in a flurry of novel-finishing (finally), querying (ARGH!),  socialising,  and planning for future writing projects. I still managed to cram in three books, and all of them were wonderful.

Since this is the last post of the month, it’s worth mentioning that my posting schedule is set to change from March onwards. I’m planning on posting an extra story each week, and increasing my blogs from monthly to weekly. No, I don’t really have the time, but I can forgo sleep and sanity, right?

When I first started posting fiction here on the regular last summer, I wasn’t wholly convinced I’d manage to maintain two stories each week, but whaddya know – I did it! And I love it. So why not do more? Eventually I’d like to move to daily posts, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, right? I might give daily posts a trial run a little later in the year to test the waters.

So, you can now expect a new short story every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and a new blog post every Sunday. I’ll be continuing with these monthly reading round-ups, too.

Now, onto the serious stuff – the books!

A Skinful of Shadows, Frances Hardinge

Oooh, this book is just lovely! The story follows Makepeace, a young girl who has the ability to hoard the souls of dead of folk inside her mind. Set during the English Civil War, we follow Makepeace’s journey as she does all she can to escape from the clutches of an evil family who plan to use her as a vessel for the ghosts of their long-dead ancestors.

I believe A Skinful of Shadows is marketed as a middle grade novel, but despite the protagonist’s young years I think it makes a wonderful adult read, too. It’s dark and horrifying in places, but it also offers rich snippets into life in 1600s England, and there were many moments in which it made me laugh out loud. The ghosts that Makepeace carries inside her mind make for some wonderful back and forth dialogue as the poor girl tries to maintain control over her own thoughts and actions.

The story is filled with enthralling twists and turns, and Makepeace herself is so brave and determined that you can’t help but fall in love with her. And with Bear, of course – sweet, protective, terrifying Bear! This was my first foray into Frances Hardinge’s work and I can’t wait to read more.

Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants is the first in the Themis Files series, which follows the discovery of an enormous metal robot which could never have been crafted by human hands. The story is told via a series of interviews, logs, and newspaper reports, which make it an incredibly pacey and fascinating read.

There’s a mysterious interviewer who acts a lot like a puppet-master as research into the robot takes place, and it’s tough to understand whether his motives are good or bad. As increasing numbers of secrets are unveiled and twists revealed, we find ourselves questioning not only where the robot came from, but also the reliability of everyone involved. And the cliffhanger at the end? Painfully gripping. And I have to wait two whole months until the sequel is released. I want it now!

The Woman Who Stole My Life, Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes has a YouTube channel and every time she posts a video it brightens my day. She makes me laugh, she teaches me wise things, and her dulcet Dublin tones soothe my soul. But I’m ashamed to say that I’d never read any of her books, until now. I don’t read tonnes of women’s fiction which is probably why I’d neglected her novels, despite her being a household name and just so bloody lovely. Now, though, whenever I’m looking for a cosy read, I will turn to Marian.

The Woman Who Stole My Life is about Stella Sweeney, whose life was put on hold when she developed Guillain-Barre syndrome and become locked inside her own body. Stella is forty, fed up, and completely taken for granted by her family. Then her luck changes, and an opportunity comes along that could completely transform her life.

Stella’s story is both funny and heartbreaking, and I was hooked by her light, engaging narration right from the start. Although she was charming she wasn’t always completely likeable, but that’s something I like in a protagonist. There were other characters I loved to hate, particularly Ryan, Stella’s obnoxious ex-husband. I really enjoyed the portrayal of adolescence in Stella’s kids, Betsy and Jeffrey. Jeffrey was an angsty little git alright. However, we saw enough hints of his caring nature to see that he wasn’t a total bastard, but rather a vulnerable kid who was trying to figure himself out amid the raging teenage hormones.

My only complaint with The Woman Who Stole My Life was the way in which the novel jumped around in time; I felt it would have been just as effective to tell Stella’s story from beginning to end, as it happened. Nonetheless, I was engrossed in the book the whole way through, despite it being a pretty lengthy read, and I’m really excited to catch up with all of Marian’s other books.

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