Hello lovely people!
I hope you’ve all been enjoying the warm weather or, if you’re like me, staying inside where it’s nice and cool.
I’m slowly writing some posts out in advance (key word is slooowly) so that I can reach a point where I’m posting more than once a month. Until I feel like I have enough content I’m going to stick to the TBR and Wrap Up’s but at least I finally feel like I’m moving in the right direction!
At the end of June I excitedly announced that I’d read 3 books (this is a lot for me at the moment) so I’m even more excited to say that I read 4 in July.
For this amazeballs achievement I’m going to let Kermit hang out here for another week.
At first I wasn’t sure of whether I would enjoy The Fifth Season.
The opening chapter had a ‘hit you in the face with its awesomeness’ beginning and so I knew that this was going to be something different. Then more points of view were immediately introduced and I got hecka confused.
I was also instantly confuddled by the world they lived in with the mention of the stills, the orogenes, and the stone eaters. So I went from ‘this is something else’ to ‘do I understand where this something is going?’ pretty dang quickly.
But when I reached a Syenite chapter (although not the first from her POV) the penny dropped and boy did it drop hard. It was at that point that I realised how special this book is, not just in terms of its characterisation and writing (both of which are fantastic) but for how richly imaginative the world is and how intricately plotted N.K. Jemisin made it all.
If you find yourself struggling with the start – press ahead. When the realisation of what’s going on reaches you, you’ll realise how clever this book is.
I don’t often do re-reads but considering I read The Bloody Chamber over 15 years ago I figured that was enough time to leave it before second viewing!
Fifteen years on and it’s still an amazing collection of short stories. If you like your fairy tale retellings on the dark, sensual and feminist side than this is one for you. If you don’t like your prose to be particularly descriptive and overly flourished then it isn’t.
Sometimes the writing veers into ‘too much’ for me in terms of its lyricism but the stories and their themes of violence and reclaiming female sexuality are spot on with what fairy tales were originally all about.
This contains one of the only Bluebeard retelling’s I’ve managed to find -‘The Bloody Chamber’ – and also a Red Riding Hood retelling ‘The Company of Wolves’ which is all about the titular character taking control of her destiny in a gloriously disturbing way.
Going from one retelling short story collection to another. With most short story anthologies you tend to get a collection of hits and misses but sadly this one was mostly filled with misses.
The Merry Spinster isn’t just fairy tale retellings which does add a unique spin for the collection and here we get Bible stories, folklore and children’s stories thrown into the mix.
I enjoyed ‘The Daughter Cells,’ a creepy retelling of The Little Mermaid and ‘The Rabbit,’ an even creepier version of The Velveteen Rabbit (oh what is real indeed) but that was it. The remainder were trying to be clever and in trying to be clever ended up becoming confusing.
Many of the stories didn’t use one source material for inspiration but two or three or even five. If you’re looking at writing a full length novel then using multiple pieces for your retelling would work but not in a form which needs to be as succinct as possible.
Aside from the two I mentioned and possibly one more which I’d really have to think on, the other tales were forgettable and I ended up skimming through the last ones as quickly as possible.
What to say about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes?!
Firstly, I adored The Hunger Games trilogy and I think in creating Katniss Everdeen, Suzanne Collins has cemented her place in literary history. Katniss became the blueprint for a tonne of YA protagonists but none could capture her complexity and determination.
I’m a Katniss stan. This is painfully obvious if you’ve followed my blog before.
Secondly, I had faith that Suzanne Collins was writing this for a reason and I still maintain that she was. This is no ‘money grab’ where I see authors squeeze out books for a series they’ve long since fallen out of love with or where they re-hash the same book with different covers just for money.
No, I believe this was written because the author had something to say about human nature and she took a philosophical approach to consider whether human behaviour was inherently destructive without remedy.
Thirdly, I didn’t mind that this was a villain origin story for Snow because I like a good villain origin story.
This wasn’t one of them.
Look, Snow is no Katniss (that’s always been the point) and topping THG was never going to happen but sadly with ABOSAS it didn’t reach the base.
The pace is painfully slow, the plot is minimal, and the character development with Snow is non existent. He starts off as a unempathetic, vain, ambitious, human being and he stays that way. It’s just at the end he can add murderer to the list too. Yet someone he remains incredibly dull because a lot of what he thinks and feels just comes across as frat boy whinging.
The call forwards are a nice touch (mentions of the roses, the mockingjay birds and Snow’s detestation of them, and a familiar song or two) and I really enjoyed when they end up in District 12 but that’s about it.
In fact, if I circle around and consider it I only liked those bits because they connected us, however far apart in time, to our future Girl on Fire.
Oh, I did also like the fact that every single District 12 victor has comforted a dying tribute in the arena. That’s an understated moment I feel needs to be mentioned.
This would have been a one star review if it wasn’t for the second half of Part 3 which started to ramp in tension and action. Not Part 3 mind you. Just the second half of it i.e. a sixth of the book.
Sorry Suzanne, but hey – at least you gave us Katniss!
- The Fifth Season – 4 stars
- The Bloody Chamber – 4 stars
- The Merry Spinster – 1 star
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – 2 stars
July was a month of two halves and unfortunately brought my average down to 2.75. I’ll round it up to 3 because I’m feeling generous.
Last month’s approach of not setting myself a goal seemed to work so I’m going to stick with it for August.
However I did decide that I need some sort of selection process and I’ve gone with the dullest one I think of – alphabetical!
I’m on the ‘B’s as I have no A’s and currently have this on my nightstand as next in line to read!
Still in lockdown but easing at a slow and measured pace.
I had a week off in July and for the first time since Christmas I went to see my parents in their garden and sat a respectful social distance away. My dad had to shield for reasons relating to age and medical conditions so as much as I wanted to see them sooner, I was being especially cautious.
I also saw my best friend for the first time since January and we ate cake and drank tea and frankly I could have cried at how lovely and normal it was.
I ended up participating in the NYC Flash Fiction Challenge (Round 1) and submitted my 1000 word piece in the required 48 hours. I received ‘eraser’ as the object, ‘farmer’s market’ as location and ‘Romantic Comedy’ as genre. This is the fourth time I’ve been randomly assigned something with comedy.
We’ll see how it goes.
I ended up having a panic attack for the first time in months and I think it was due to the news that lockdown was being lifted. I won’t go into details but it just shows how mental health is a complex thing.
I’ve started to blog hop a bit more and finally comment on blog posts for the first time in forever – yay! It’s not much for the moment but it’s a start to easing my way forward on all counts!
How was your July?
What’s lockdown looking like for you at the moment? Any plans for that to change?
Let me know if you’ve read any of the books mentioned and what your thoughts are!
See you soon xxx