Seven Blades in Black by Sam Sykes - Sam Sykes' prose *swaggers*. That's the most important thing to know about this book and for many people, the biggest selling point. Sykes' writing rivals Abercrombie's finest when it comes to portraying the sardonic and cynical. It brings Sal the Cacophony, its protagonist and first person narrator, to vivid more than life.
SSBiB's strength is also however its achilles heel. Because we're always with that strong voice, it can get wearing. Because Sal's personality is so prevalent, readers aren't able to gloss over if they don't like her. And after a while, I realise I didn't. It didn't matter to me whether Sal succeeded or not. So this is a book I won't be finishing.
That doesn't mean nobody else will enjoy it. Lots of people will, and that Abercrombie comparison is a good measuring stick for whether you're one of them. And I'm certainly interested in trying Sykes' work again; maybe on a different day I'd have taken to Sal.
Lord of Midnight by Cassandra Clare - I'm not utterly sure why I picked out Cassandra Clare's work out of the many YA books in the library; I knew I wanted something different for me but there was a lot of different for me there. In any case, I picked it up and am very happy I did, for what Lord of Midnight offered was pretty familiar. It's a book about interesting characters with big hearts and interesting flaws trying to keep their world safe; the same as the fantasy I grew up with.
Okay, yes its in an UF world with Vampires and Faeries rather than a semi-mythical one with knights and dragons, but that's not the important part. The important part is that it captured a type of story I miss and don't find enough of. I didn't really get that so much from the next book in the series but even so I will be returning to Cassandra Clare for more fun twisty emotional feel-good action fantasy at some point in the future.
The King In Yellow by Robert W Chambers - This has been a long, long read for me, as if often the case with older reads. They are reads that demand attention and a certain shift in mindset. A lot of the old supernatural horror - in my opinion at least - requires a level of unease with a chaotic world that doesn't really seem to exist for most people today. Oh, we hate how chaotic the world is, but it's our normal. The slow inexplicable realisation that things no longer make sense is kind of the day to day. Maybe that's just my idiosyncratic take on it, but it seems to be mirrored in what I've heard at least some say.
In any case, once the mindset's adjusted, its full of tension. It's also well written, imaginative and generally entertaining. However, the further I got through, the more critical I felt. Maybe I just got bored with the style, maybe (and probably) the back half of the book isn't as strong. It's still worth grabbing for those who like the subtle horror of Lovecraft or reading the genre's history, but for me I'd have probably been happier only reading half of it.
Voice in the Night by Andrea Camilleri - When I first discovered the Inspector Montalbano books, I went through every single one I could find translated in about a month. More-ish is an understatement. I feel an ass for calling a book 'muscular' but it fits here - Camilleri's (translated) prose and storytelling is powerful, straightforwards and visceral. It forces its way into your brain and grumbles and snaps all its frustrations about the world there, but with so much charm and ruefulness that it's a pleasure. Voice in the Night isn't my favourite of the series - Montalbano's main foil seems to be Catarella, who's never my favourite in the books - but its still rather good. The whole series is.
What Does This Button Do by Bruce Dickinson - I once tried fencing for a year and in that time, I was taught by a man who'd done a fair bit of fencing with Bruce Dickinson. It was a lot of fun and I wish now I'd kept it up (I went with a friend where I was drifting out of the friendship and was worried about the stress on my gimpy ankle). Anyway, this book is also a lot of fun - Dickinson's lived about three lives to everybody else's one - but the parts about Iron Maiden are very much skirted over. It's a bit like ordering a steak dinner and finding that the chips, the sauce, the everything else is wonderful and the steak's a bit small and ordinary. You still enjoy yourself, but feel gypped. I recommend the book to anyone interested in the man, or even just interested in restless high achievers - but walk in beware.