Since I’ve found that I read faster than I can get around to writing full reviews of each book, I prefer to do mini reviews that reflect my gut reactions rather than being too analytical. All titles are linked to their Goodreads pages.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
I had heard of this book. I knew there was a film. I knew there were beautifully illustrated editions. But I didn’t know what it was about. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have read this book, because Conor’s mum is dying of cancer, and so was mine at the time I read it. I never expected a fictional monster to be the one to tell me what I needed to hear, but that’s the power of truly great storytelling. As the monster tells us, “Stories are important. They can be more important than anything, if they carry the truth.” This beautiful story carries more than just truth. It carries compassion, hope and the comfort of knowing that it’s okay to let go. Patrick Ness has done an incredible job. If I could give it more than 5 stars, I would.
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
I really hate giving books bad reviews, but I honestly can’t find anything good to say about this one. I don’t mind books that combine different genres (science fiction and fantasy in this case), but this one was a mess of poorly connected concepts that either didn’t make sense, didn’t flow well together, or were just weird for the sake of it. The writing itself was very poor and I found myself frequently either cringing or frowning with some of the dialogue and amateurish metaphors (the sex scene was one of the worst examples of this and read like it was written by an inexperienced teenager who had read too many badly written fan fiction stories, despite the characters involved being experienced adults). The overall narrative didn’t flow well at all and events seemed to jump around without explanation or clear connections. I’m someone who feels the need to always finish a book, even if I’m not enjoying it, so I stuck it out for the whole 430 pages, but unfortunately this one will not be staying in my collection.
The Blackbird Singularity by Matt Wilven
Every so often I like to read a book about mental health to increase my understanding of conditions I don’t have personal experience with. This one was a very well written account of one man’s life with bipolar disorder and the effects of his decision to stop taking his medication after discovering that his wife is pregnant with their second child – an emotional revelation given that their first son died. This decision allows him to forge ahead with his creative writing and to feel things more vividly than before, but it also causes problems with his marriage and other areas of his life. There are times when you’re not sure if what you’re reading is real or part of Vince’s delusions. Sometimes he isn’t aware of the distinction himself, although he accepts that he can’t always trust his perceptions. This kind of narrative gives a great insight into what it’s like to live with bipolar. It reminded me of The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer.
Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
Considering that I read this less than 3 weeks after my mother’s death, I was expecting this book to resonate with me. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it at all. It’s experimental in terms of narrative style and word choice, and, for want of a better term, it was just too weird for me to feel any emotional connection with it. The concept was very interesting and a unique way of exploring the complex concept of grief, but the execution of the idea just didn’t work for me. Considering that I’m still in the early stages of processing my own grief, I’m willing to accept the possibility that I’m not in the right frame of mind to appreciate or fully engage with this book, so I may give it another read in the future.