A bagful of reviews: the latest from the TBR

a pack of lies coverA Pack Of Lies by Jo Thomas

This is the second in the Elkie Bernstein trilogy, the first being 25 Ways To Kill A Werewolf. The story picks up where the previous one left off, and follows the results of Elkie’s self-defense and Ben’s games. I won’t say too much about the plot but there’s a couple of fun new characters, some additional complications, and Elkie does not have an easy time of it…

I have to admit, this one isn’t as good as the first – not that it’s bad! But it lacks the focus and the linear plotline of the first, and delves more into the psychology and political side of things. I occasionally struggled to understand some of the supporting character’s motivations and follow the implications of various revelations, primarily when it came to Olsen and Conn. However, Elkie’s relationship with her mother and with the girls was brilliantly done, and her continuous floundering is both sympathetic and amusing; I was always on her side. It’s a good sequel to 25 Ways and I’m definitely going to pick up the third one when it comes out in late 2016.

Fangirl coverFangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I’ve got a friend who raves about this book; she wasn’t entirely sure I’d like it, but thought I SHOULD read it. So I read it. It’s sweet, and cute, and funny. It’s about growing up and changing and accepting who you are and what you like. It’s about falling in love and falling into your writing and living in multiple worlds. It’s about being yourself.

But, while I enjoyed it…it didn’t make me squeak, and it’s not a must-read-again. I can sort of see why my friend loves it so much; it’s an explanation and a validation of fanfiction, of love for other people’s work, for sticking up for your own geeky loves and accepting that yes, you are weird and nerdy and THAT’S OK. But I didn’t need that confirmation, damnit; I’m know I’m weird and happy being weird!

The one thing I didn’t like was the Simon Snow additions; I pretty much skipped all of them. I felt that actually, I wanted to read the Simon Snow books first, and then I’d understand the context – after all, it’s pretty hard to get context from Harry/Ron fanfic if you don’t know that Harry and Ron don’t get together in the actual Harry Potter books, and don’t have the entire background of that series to use as context. Does that make sense? But anyway, I got why the sections were there, but they weren’t much use to me in reading Fangirl as a story.

I want to read Attachments, but I’m not sure I’ll enjoy Carry On – which I think is essentially the Simon Snow books! I’ll definitely keep an eye out for more of Rowell’s writing; the style is incredibly easy to read and the characters are sweet. It was a lovely read, and one that’s definitely close to home for a lot of people who inhabit imaginary worlds that are sometimes more real than the one they actually live in.

Annabel Scheme coverAnnabel Scheme by Robin Sloan

I read Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore as an online story and absolutely loved it, and since then I’ve kept a sporadic eye on Sloan. Penumbra has now been published, but he’s got plenty of other writing on his website, one of which is Annabel Scheme – although it is also available in Kindle version.

It’s a fun story; detective, mystery, futuristic. Scheme is on the trail of mysterious events, accompanied by an AI in her earring (who narrates the story) and I love that as the mystery deepens, so does Scheme’s connection to everything.

The world’s weird, crazy, and generally amazing – Sloan is brilliant at worldbuilding and giving just enough information to flesh it out, but not more than we need. The pacing’s excellent too – he reminds me a lot of China Mieville, both in weirdness and excellent writing! In essence, if you want a Sherlock Holmes-style short story that’s got a touch of sci-fi, a touch of pathos and a lot of excellent storytelling, pick this up.

Also, go pick up Penumbra. That’s one of my favourite short stories ever; it changes how you view the world, information and connections, and lingers in your head long after you’ve finished reading it.

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