It’s time for another round up of books I have recently lain aside. Given that I now have a default policy of not finishing books that I lose interest in, I unsurprisingly find that I DNF a lot more books than I did previously. I certainly don’t feel guilty about this, but I do like to make you aware of some of these books because even though they didn’t hold my attention, it doesn’t mean they won’t hold yours.
First up, we have Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott which we received for review from Hachette Australia. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
The town of Rotherweird stands alone – there are no guidebooks, despite the fascinating and diverse architectural styles cramming the narrow streets, the avant garde science and offbeat customs. Cast adrift from the rest of England by Elizabeth I, Rotherweird’s independence is subject to one disturbing condition: nobody, but nobody, studies the town or its history.
For beneath the enchanting surface lurks a secret so dark that it must never be rediscovered, still less reused.
But secrets have a way of leaking out.
Two inquisitive outsiders have arrived: Jonah Oblong, to teach modern history at Rotherweird School (nothing local and nothingbefore 1800), and the sinister billionaire Sir Veronal Slickstone, who has somehow got permission to renovate the town’s long-derelict Manor House.
Slickstone and Oblong, though driven by conflicting motives, both strive to connect past and present, until they and their allies are drawn into a race against time – and each other. The consequences will be lethal and apocalyptic.
Welcome to Rotherweird!
I started off very much enjoying this one but made the decision to lay it aside at chapter seven, after 133 pages. The narrative style was engaging, the characters quirky and there was a twist quite early on that I didn’t expect that opened up a completely new direction for what I thought this book was going to be. By chapter seven though, I was having trouble keeping the characters straight and remembering exactly who was who and who was allied to whom and things were moving just a little too slowly to encourage me to keep on plodding away.
I do think this book has a lot of potential for presenting an original story, but I didn’t have the concentration required at this point to make a framework for what was happening as I read. This one will definitely appeal to those who enjoy small-town intrigue, historical mystery and other worlds rolled into one.
Next, we have nonfiction zombie explanatory tome, Living with the Living Dead: The Wisdom of the Zombie Apocalypse by Greg Garrett, which we received for review from the publisher via Netgalley. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
When humankind faces what it perceives as a threat to its very existence, a macabre thing happens in art, literature, and culture: corpses begin to stand up and walk around. The dead walked in the fourteenth century, when the Black Death and other catastrophes roiled Europe. They walked in images from World War I, when a generation died horribly in the trenches. They walked in art inspired by the Holocaust and by the atomic attacks on Japan. Now, in the early twenty-first century, the dead walk in stories of the zombie apocalypse, some of the most ubiquitous narratives of post-9/11 Western culture. Zombies appear in popular movies and television shows, comics and graphic novels, fiction, games, art, and in material culture including pinball machines, zombie runs, and lottery tickets.
The zombie apocalypse, Greg Garrett shows us, has become an archetypal narrative for the contemporary world, in part because zombies can stand in for any of a variety of global threats, from terrorism to Ebola, from economic uncertainty to ecological destruction. But this zombie narrative also brings us emotional and spiritual comfort. These apocalyptic stories, in which the world has been turned upside down and protagonists face the prospect of an imminent and grisly death, can also offer us wisdom about living in a community, present us with real-world ethical solutions, and invite us into conversation about the value and costs of survival. We may indeed be living with the living dead these days, but through the stories we consume and the games we play, we are paradoxically learning what it means to be fully alive.
I put this one down after 40% simply because I felt the author had done his job too well, and I had heard enough on the topic that I agreed with. The book highlights the ways in which the imagery of the undead often accompanies moments in history that trigger instability and a sense of doom. The book focuses on different aspects of the human experience that are highlighted by the zombie apocalypse narrative – the strength of community, for instance – and does this by examining the themes and events common to various iconic zombie-related pop cultural phenomenon of recent history. These include The Walking Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and the satirical Shaun of the Dead. I imagine hardcore fans of these stories will get a new perspective as they watch after reading this book. Even though, of the shows featured, I had only seen Shaun of the Dead (and that a long while ago), it didn’t hinder my engagement with the points the author was trying to make.
The author himself notes that he makes some of his points from a Christian perspective and while this didn’t bother me particularly, it may not be to everyone’s taste. The biggest problem I had with the book was that the author made his point so well during the introductory first chapter that I didn’t really feel the need to read to the end of the book! If you have a burning interest in pop culture phenomena and how these influence and in turn, are influenced by wider world events, you should find something to keep you amused here.
Next is The Book of Whispers by Kimberley Starr, a historical YA fantasy novel that we received from the publisher via Netgalley. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Tuscany, 1096 AD. Luca, young heir to the title of Conte de Falconi, sees demons. Since no one else can see them, Luca must keep quiet about what he sees.
Luca also has dreams—dreams that sometimes predict the future. Luca sees his father murdered in one such dream and vows to stop it coming true. Even if he has to go against his father’s wishes and follow him on the great pilgrimage to capture the Holy Lands.
When Luca is given an ancient book that holds some inscrutable power, he knows he’s been thrown into an adventure that will lead to places beyond his understanding. But with the help of Suzan, the beautiful girl he rescues from the desert, he will realise his true quest: to defeat the forces of man and demon that wish to destroy the world.
When I requested this I remember thinking, “Should I?” and it turns out I probably shouldn’t. I put this down at 11% simply because I felt there was too much telling, with a first person narrator, and not enough showing, and the narrative style was quite staid, as it often is with historical novels of this era. I was quite interested in the demon element, but after 10% of the story the demons haven’t done anything except hang around and so my interest wasn’t piqued in the way that it might have been. If you enjoy historical fiction set in the medieval era this may be more to your tastes than mine.
Finally, we have early chapter book Clementine Loves Red by Krystyna Bolgar which we received from the publisher via Netgalley for review. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
It’s the end of the holidays for Mark, Annie and Pudding (real name: Derek). They’ve
spent the summer in a cottage on the edge of a forest in the countryside, but they haven’t had any really exciting adventures to tell their classmates back at school…
Until, on their final visit to see the Frog King of a nearby pond, they find a frightened young girl crying in the woods. The curiously named Macadamia tells them she has lost Clementine, and so the three children set out on a quest to find her.
But they are not the only ones looking for Clementine, and a storm is approaching, bringing with it a night full of surprises…
I’ve only just now noted that this story is actually a translation from the original Polish and that knowledge beforehand would have gone a long way to atoning for some of the oddness of the story. I put this one down after 37% simply because I was a bit bored and couldn’t really be bothered ploughing on to the end. The story is straightforward enough, though the translation has rendered the narrative style a bit too offhandedly, in that the characters don’t seem particularly invested in finding the mysterious “Clementine” or even having discovered a kid named Macadamia in the woods.
The illustrations are simple line drawings and didn’t add much to my reading experience. I think this was just a case of reader and story not matching up and I’m sure others will enjoy this lighthearted adventure.
So there you are: four books that I decided not to finish. Have you read any of these? Do they sound like they might be your cup of tea? Let me know!
Until next time,