A Reader Reports: Hot Streak

Hello, and welcome to the second instalment of A Reader Reports, which is very much what the title promises. I’ve had an absolutely wonderful streak of books lately – so much so that I’m a bit worried about what’s coming next, in case it doesn’t live up to its predecessors. The Fabulous Four, in the order I read them, are:

Shadows on the Moon, by Zoë Marriott

I flicked this one open quite casually, thinking that I might just browse a little before saving it it for a while. Then I read the first paragraph: “On my fourteenth birthday when the sakura was in full bloom, the men came to kill us. We saw them come, Aimi and me. We were excited, because we did not know how to be frightened. We had never seen soldiers before.” But it’s not just a tense, fast-paced adventure story. Zoë re-tells the Cinderella story in a way that makes Suzume, the main character, a real heroine: determined, resourceful, intelligent, and brave. She folds into the story cultural details about a country that resembles, but is not, feudal Japan. And she plays with the idea of what it means to be exotic with witty, thoughtful results.

Jane Austen: A Life, by Claire Tomalin

I’ve raved about Claire Tomalin here before, so I’ll keep this brief. I cannot imagine a more sensitive, satisfying exploration of Jane Austen’s elusive life story. Tomalin fills in the gaps gently, suggests enticing possibilities, and offers a thoroughly convincing theory for Austen’s quiet period. She also reads the novels with authority and her argument about Sense and Sensibility (until now my least-favourite Austen novel; Tomalin claims it’s a conflicted debate about propriety and Romanticism, which intrigues me) makes me want to re-read it more attentively.

Plain Kate, by Erin Bow

This book just won – and entirely deserved to win – the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award! It’s a stunner of a novel about an orphaned carver girl, the Plain Kate of the title. The novel is a fairy tale, a ghost story, a coming-of-age tale, and a meditation on family, all told in beautifully precise and elegant prose. And did I mention the talking cat? I cried myself to a  pulp reading this and the world is a better place for its existence.

Faith Fox, by Jane Gardam

I love Jane Gardam’s work. She’s a ruthless observer of human weakness, yet affectionate towards the ridiculousness of her characters’ behaviour. She creates absurd situations with outrageous levels of coincidence, yet they feel absolutely realistic at the same time. Faith Fox is a baby whose mother dies in childbirth, setting off a series of actions and reactions – Faith is just the catalyst. As always with Gardam, it’s not about the plot at all; instead, I revel in her language, her astoundingly precise and surprising characterization, and her gift of being able to see into so many different times and places and minds with such clarity.

Whew. So. What have you been reading?

P. S. I bought Shadows on the Moon and Plain Kate with my own money; Jane Austen and Faith Fox were gifts from my husband, who is also clearly on a hot streak.

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18 Responses to “A Reader Reports: Hot Streak”

  1. Wheee! Thanks so much – peer reviews are extra special :D

  2. Helenabean says:

    my mum ordered me some ruth rendell books after we tried one of those ‘if you like this book, try this” websites and typed in the agency. some pretty good suggestions came up! :)

    have you read or heard of the hunger games?

  3. Mara A. says:

    I don’t even know where to start with the books I have read lately – there’s too many! But the two that pop immediately to mind are:

    “Kat, Incorrigible” by Stephanie Burgis (if you like Jane Austen mixed with magic; hilarious)
    “The Near Witch” by Victoria Schwab (very weird, but super good)

    I am currently reading “The Seance” by Iain Lawrence, “City of Orphans” by Avi, and I am anxiously awaiting my copy of “David by Mary Hoffman to come in.

  4. rayray says:

    I am currently reading False princess,
    I am going to get The Mark of the Golden Dragon and Entice tomorrow, and this morning i finished Princess Ben.

  5. Radha says:

    Sadly, I’m not reading anything right now- but I think I’ll like Shadows on the Moon a lot. And by the way, I just saw the American cover for The Traitor and the Tunnel and I absolutely LOVE it!!!! :D

  6. PLAIN KATE nearly broke me. I was a teary, snotty mess by the end of that one. So beautiful.

    Do you have a Kate Gardam title to rec for one who hasn’t read her before? An “intro to Kate Gardam” novel? She sounds delightful!

  7. Oops, I meant JANE Gardam. Bah!

  8. Ying says:

    Everyone! Zoë, you’re so welcome; I’m waiting on of The Swan Kingdom, next. Helenabean, I’ve heard of The Hunger Games but not read it. Would you recommend? And I’m ok with Rendell but not passionate about her. Have you read Dorothy L. Sayers, if you’re looking for more detective fiction? Mara, I’m so glad you enjoyed Kat, Incorrigible; I loved it, too! And The Near Witch is on my TBR list. Rayray, I’ve never even heard of any of those books; shame on me. Which one should I start with? And Radha, thank you! I adore it, too, and will post it officially next week. (Your comment was the first I’d heard of its going public. Eep!) Sonia, I know: I cannot believe I cried about a talking cat, but there it is. For Jane Gardam, try Old Filth. It was my first Gardam novel – plucked at random from a used bookstore because I liked the cover and the first page.

  9. rayray says:

    i think you should first read…the Bloody Jack series.
    the mark of the golden dragon is the newest in the series.

  10. rayray says:

    OMG!!!
    the cover looks so cool!are you also going to post the photo shoots?

  11. Ying says:

    Thanks! I don’t have photo shoot pics for this cover, but will double-check with Candlewick just in case. Thanks for reminding me!

  12. JaneE says:

    I’ll have to check all these books out. They sound really good! I’ve been reading ‘Vanity Fair’ lately- been trying to finish it all summer- but that’s about it. I’ve kind of been starved for books lately…haven’t been to the library in weeks! :P

    Can’t WAIT for ‘The Traitor’!! :D

  13. rayray says:

    Ur welcome!
    Are you going to come to the tri cities in your tour?

  14. Ying says:

    I’m afraid I won’t be touring this book, rayray, but I am panning online festivities!

  15. Guneet says:

    Shadows on the Moon sounds interesting. I know I’m replying REALLY lste but whatever. I don’t stay on one book too long because I finish in one day. Currently I’m reading Paranormalcy by Keirsten White. AMAZING book! All Paranormal things like mermaids, fairies, vampires, blah blah -all in one!

  16. Ying says:

    I’ve heard great things about Paranormalcy!

  17. Guneet says:

    Where is your recent book blog post? I’m looking for it but I can’t find it. Can you please tell me where to access your recent book blog posts? I’m not good at this technology mumbo-jumbo.

  18. Ying says:

    Said like a true crotchety old geezer! See the tag cloud (the list of words at the left side of the main page)? Click on “reading” to automatically search for all posts tagged “reading”. Like so: http://yslee.com/tag/a-reader-reports/

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