What I’ve Been Reading Recently – Rhian
I’ve had plenty to be excited about these last few months – sizzling debuts, new titles from old favourites, all from the usual wild smattering of genres and sections. It’s just more fun that way!
I’ve never been much of a classic Sci-Fi fan, but I was introduced to Becky Chambers a few years ago, and I am so excited about the direction that the Sci-Fi is evolving in. The Galaxy and the Ground Within was, of course, incredible. She’s nailed the cozy, character-driven fiction that just so happens to be about aliens. Winter’s Orbit is building on that legacy – it’s much more of a romance that just so happens to take place in space. I love the richness that a futuristic setting can give these characters, and the philosophical and ideological edge these novels have. It’s Sci-Fi that doesn’t react to the horror of the world we live in by building on it, but dares to hope what out futures could be.
The Heiress (April 8th), too, is something of a romance. A Pride and Prejudice spin-off (will I ever stop reading these? Of course not), it suggests that Lady Anne de Bourgh was raised on laudanum. The first half is dark, gothic and slow, but it develops into a bildungsroman and lesbian romance. It was lovely and sweet, but left me wanting for something truly dark. The Hazards of Love (March 30th) stepped up to that mark. The first eleven collected volumes of a webcomic, it’s about a teenager who gives their name to a cat in exchange for a wish, only for the cat to steal their name and their body, and cast them into the Bright World. Think Mexican Gothic, an art style with thick dark lines and bright, almost sickly colour, and a twisty, double-crossing plot. Nothing is as it seems. Nobody is on your side.
Speaking of, The Girls I’ve Been is a YA Thriller (15+) and the fastest book I’ve read in months. Told forwards and backwards at the same time, when Nora finds herself caught up in a bank robbery, her life starts to unravel. The daughter of a con artist, she has done what she had to in order to survive – and she’s about to have to do it again, if she wants her ex-boyfriend and her new girlfriend to make it out alive. And while I haven’t technically finished it yet, I am wholeheartedly recommending Plain Bad Heroines for a similarly gothic, thriller-y vibe. Told by an omniscient narrator with a wry sense of humour and an as-yet-unknown role of their own in the story, this book is deliberately unravelling several stories in tandem. In the modern day, two actresses are trying to film their horror movie, based on a book called The Happenings of Brookhants, which in turn is based on the now mythical story of five girls who all died at Brookhants school in the early 1900’s in horrifying and mysterious circumstances, and the book they in turn were obsessed with. It’s incredibly ambitious, and I’m loving it.
The Lamplighters, too, has a sense of the bleak about it. Fascinating and twisty, it’s playing as much with style as it is story. I’m always fascinated with fiction based on true stories, and in this case, I loved the new slant on a decades-old mystery. If you want a book that makes you shiver, this is one that I read with the light on.
Having read a surprising amount of gothic books, I was very excited to have a change of pace and pick up I Belong Here, due to publish on April 29th. I wasn’t initially won over by the written style, but once she started describing her impressions of the Pennines, I was sold. This is intensely personal nature-writing, more than half memoir, told in places so viscerally that going back to its pages felt like going out walking myself.
– March 2021
All books on this list
- I Belong HereAnita Sethi£16.99
- Plain Bad HeroinesEmily M. Danforth£14.99
- The Galaxy, and the Ground WithinBecky Chambers£16.99
- The Girls I’ve BeenTess Sharpe£7.99
- Winter’s OrbitEverina Maxwell£8.99
- The Hazards of LoveStan Stanley, Stan Stanley£17.99
- The HeiressMolly Greeley£16.99
- The LamplightersEmma Stonex£14.99