What I Read Over the Holidays
The Christmas & New Year period in New Zealand (& pretty much throughout the Southern Hemisphere) is also the summer holidays so definitely time to double down on reading material when you head away.
Here are four titles I read and enjoyed while also enjoying the break.
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy; YA
I’ve read a few Maggie Stiefvater novels now and I think this may just be my favourite, although I liked The Raven Boys a lot as well. The supernatural element in The Scorpio Races are Capaill Uisce — the waterhorses of Celtic legend and I really enjoyed the coming-of-age tale Ms Stiefvater wove around them. Great worldbuilding, engaging characters, and a plot that kept me turning the pages — what more could you ask of a holiday read?
Genre: Folktale Retelling; YA
As indicated in my Just Arrived post last year, I was lucky enough to receive an ARC (advance reader copy) of this title, which is a YA Fantasy debut (out tomorrow, on the 17th January in fact!) based on the retelling of several Russian folktales, most particularly that of Frost and the Bear of Winter. I enjoyed the book’s delving into Russian folklore, the interweaving of history and fantasy in the story, and the strength, intelligence and determination of the heroine, Vasilisa.
Genre: Contemporary Realism
In September I was honoured to appear at the inaugural National Writers’ Forum (NWF) and even more honoured to meet and hear the keynote speaker, Chris Cleave. The Other Hand, aka Little Bee, is his New York Times bestselling novel about what it means to be a refugee, arguably one of the major issues of our time. The Other Hand is very well written and the subject matter compelling, but it is definitely not for the faint hearted. While not the unremittingly grim slog of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, the book nonetheless challenges the reader’s complacency and there is no happy ever after. No surprises there, though: this is realism and the book is about a refugee and the conditions that create refugees.
Genre: Dystopia; YA
Way back in 2012 I was very impressed by Jane Higgins’ debut novel, The Bridge. The sequel, Havoc, came out in 2015, and it’s a case of “shame on me” that I’ve only just gotten around to reading it. I have to say, though, that the story was worth the wait. I loved the characters in the first book and they only get better in this second instalment, as does the Dystopian worldbuilding and the way the plot plays out. This is a story with gravitas, too, when it comes to the youthful protagonists making their way in a divided world. If you haven’t read it yet, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed — but definitely read The Bridge first.
i) The Scorpio Races, paperback edition, 404 pp, Scholastic 2013: purchased;
ii) The Bear And the Nightingale, ARC, 312 pp, Del Rey 2017: received via my publisher;
iii) The Other Hand, paperback edition, 374 pp, Sceptre 2009: purchased;
iv) Havoc, paperback edition, 342 pp, Text Publishing 2015, purchased.