I have another bingo! Four corners and the centre square, to be exact.
I'm now up to 28 books read in total this year (2018 reading list), and only need to fill another 6 squares on the bingo to get a blackout. But with only two months left I might be cutting it fine! Meep!
But anyway, on with the latest book reviews.
Wolf Brother, by Michelle Paver. Fills the 'childrens or YA' square.
Wolf Brother is book 1 of The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. I found books 1 - 5 in a charity shop last year and bought them all, but had never got round to reading them until now.
The story is about Torak, and his adventures with a wolf cub companion and a girl called Renn who has been selected as a mage-in-training but who actually wants to be a hunter. I'll be honest - it's heavy on the tropes. Young orphan boy discovers he has mysterious powers (he can talk to wolves, among other things), there's a prophesy about him, there are dangerous secrets in his father's past, he has to risk his life on a dangerous mission, etc etc. So far so Harry Potter/Luke Skywalker/ take your pick of fantasy heroes.
What drew me to this series, though, was the setting. It's set 6000 years in the past, which puts it in the late Mesolithic of north west Europe. Torak lives in a prehistoric hunter-gatherer society where the forest still covers the land, where farming and pottery and metal tools and permanent settlement are still hundreds, even thousands, of years away. And I have to say, it really works. Paver has obviously done her research, and it shows. I could really believe this is how Mesolithic people might have lived, thought, and believed, and their relationship with the land and the world around them. Every plant, every animal, every stream, river, mountain and tree have spirits which must be respected, and while life is not exactly a horrendous brutal struggle for survival, it's certainly not easy either.
In case you hadn't guessed, I really enjoyed this book. Tropishness aside, I liked the characters, I enjoyed the story, and I loved the setting and how real it felt. I started the book on a Friday afternoon, and had finished it by Saturday afternoon the next day, and within an hour of finishing book 1 I'd started reading book 2.
Even more exciting, a quick bit of googling has informed me that when Paver finished the 6 book Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, she then went on to write another series set in the ancient Greek Bronze Age, which I immediately decided I absolutely have to read. But not until I've finished The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness first, of course.
Nothing is Ordinary, by Viv Apple. Fills the 'poetry or play' square.
The author of this book is someone who I have been friends with for over ten years, we both go to Nottingham Writers' Club, and Viv has been a committee member and vice president of the club for many years, and she is is a very talented poet, as well as an enthusiastic advocate for writing poetry. She put together this collection of her poems into a book to raise money for the Mechanics Institute, which is the building where we hold our NWC meetings.
The book itself is collected into sections; Growing Up, Nature, things like that, and a lot of the poems have a distinct 'nostalgia' feel to them as they hark back to memories of childhood in the war and post-war years, or first crushes. I'll be honest, the poems are generally good, but there weren't that many which were particularly memorable. But that said, poetry isn't really my thing. I do occasionally attempt to write poetry for the club competitions, but the best result I've ever had was third place, and I don't usually even manage that. So I'm impressed with anyone who can produce an entire book of poems. But it's not really my thing, and I might not have bothered reading it if it wasn't to fill the square. Shhhh, don't tell Viv I said that!
Strain, by Amelia C Gormley. Fills the 'romance' square.
This was a M/M romance e-book that I'd bought for my kindle ages ago and never got round to reading (I went through a phase of downloading loads of M/M e-books, and then discovered why some of them were so cheap, so the others languished unread for a while). It's a post-apocalyptic zombie setting, and tells the story of Rhys, a young man who gets discovered by a squad of soldiers right after it's too late for them to save him - he has been bitten and will soon be infected with the zombie-making strain of a pathogen. However, the soldiers offer him a way to survive. They are all super-soldiers, deliberately infected with something that makes them extra strong and tough, etc, and as Rhys has only just been bitten, if they can infect him with the alpha strain it might over-ride the beta strain, and prevent him from becoming a zombie. To do this, however, he needs to have sex with as many of the soldiers as possible. As often as possible. For weeks, possibly months, until they know whether it has worked or not.
What follows is essentially an extended 'fuck-or-die' scenario, with an awful lot of dub-con, bordering on non-con at times. There is a developing relationship between Rhys and one of the soldiers in particular, but the word 'romance' might be pushing the description a tad! The situation is made more complicated by the presence of Jacob, a not very nice young man who had been hiding with Rhys before the soldiers found them, and who is also in the same position of having been bitten and being 'saved' by the soldiers. And later, the arrival of an old friend (for 'friend' read 'first crush') of Rhys', who he had believed to be dead, makes his current situation even more angsty.
It's not exactly the height of sophisticated literature, but sometimes what you really want is a story that reads like a extremely long hurt/comfort fanfic with original characters and a not very complicated plot. This was another book that I read in two days flat, so it was obviously doing something right to keep me reading. I seem to remember I'd had plans for that Sunday, but ended up reading all morning and much of the afternoon and didn't stop until the book was finished.
lj book bingo card 2018