Sometime in July, the newspapers publish lists of books to read over the summer, generally recommended either by their own reviewers or by prominent figures in the world of publishing. For obvious reasons, these tend to focus on newly published books, although this year I spotted an article which also listed older works alongside the new stuff. I very rarely read newly published fiction, partly for reasons of budget, but also because there are so many other works to explore. As I was travelling so much this summer, I was away from my bookshelves and therefore managed to read a wonderful variety of books lent to me by others. A brief summary:
The Night Watch, Sergei Lukyanenko
Not to be confused with Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch, this is a Russian fantasy novel, the first of a series. I really enjoyed it – it’s dark and gritty in places, violent on occasion, but a very different kind of fantasy to those I usually read. I read it on holiday on Islay, but I think it would be much more suited to the dark nights of autumn or winter, rather than during the long, light evenings of a Scottish summer.
The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey
Josephine Tey wrote murder mysteries in a similar vein to Dorothy L. Sayers or Ngaio Marsh. This is a very gentle book and a very different kind of mystery and I absolutely loved it. Inspector Alan Grant, protagonist of some of Tey’s other work, is bedridden with a broken leg and becomes fascinated with the character of Richard III. Tey has some interesting things to say about academic study as an investigation and the parallels with that and police investigation, presenting academic study as an exciting pursuit of the truth, as well as reflecting on our perception of history and its accuracy.
Deep Secret, Diana Wynne Jones
Despite being a fan of fantasy literature from a young age, I didn’t come across Diana Wynne Jones until a friend introduced me to her work a few years ago. Deep Secret features relatable characters, and is wonderfully quirky and inventive.
Power of Three, Diana Wynne Jones
There was a little surprise in this novel which I enjoyed a great deal. To say too much more would be to spoil it. A great adventure story.
The Book of Three, Lloyd Alexander
This is the first in the Chronicles of Prydain series and was silly in the best way. Any book that has an oracular pig has got to be worth a look.
The Spellcoats, Diana Wynne Jones
Interweaving themes of belonging, growing up and storytelling, this was a really thought-provoking book, in which stories are woven rather than written.
Sorcery and Cecelia: Or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot, Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
This was absolutely delightful and perfect for holiday reading. This is Georgette Heyer meets fantasy literature and is reminiscent of some of Susanna Clarke’s work, although more light-hearted. I enjoyed the depiction of the friendship between the two protagonists, as well as the narration of their growing romances. It also made me crave hot chocolate.
Sylvester, Georgette Heyer
This was fairly standard Georgette Heyer – a regency romance with a highly individual heroine and some misunderstandings along the way. Perfect bedtime story.