Friday, 12 February 2016

Books for 2016

It’s shaping up to be a banner year for reading, a banner year. Already I’ve got a pretty hefty hit-list of books-to-read in 2016, and here are some that I’ve been looking forward to the most:

Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley (Publishing June 2016)
I’m not convinced on this publishing date because it’s been bumped around a lot – believe me, I know, I’ve been waiting for this book for ages – but I hold out hope. A sequel to The Rook, this picks up on my favourite amnesiac bureaucrat, Myfanwy Thomas, the Rook in a super-secret chess-based organisation called The Checquy that protects Britain from supernatural threats. This latest turn focuses on The Grafters, a time-old foe of the Checquy that started to rumble in the distance at the end of the last book (that’s not a spoiler, not really) and is now flexing its muscles once more. The Rook was a good mix of humour, action and mystery, with the supernatural element slotting in perfectly into our world, and I'm hoping for much of the same but with more world expansion.

Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb
This came out last summer, and usually the lure of another FitzChivalry Farseer novel is so great, I normally would’ve read this already. However, I’ve been put off by the high ebook price – it’s been hovering around the £9.99 mark and I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much on an ebook. I’ve elected not to buy the hardback either because a Robin Hobb averages around 690 pages, based on the 8 books of hers that I’ve read so far, and that’s just too hefty for me these days. So, regrettably, thus far my only option has been to wait for the paperback to come out (July 2016) and the ebook price to drop accordingly. Time has lessened my desperation to read this book, but Hobb is so consistently excellent with her stories, characterisation and settings, that I know as soon as I start reading this next volume in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, I’ll  be hard-pressed to put it back down.

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch (Publishing June 2016)
Due out in November last year but for some reason pushed back to June 2016, I’m especially impatient for the latest instalment in Peter Grant’s supernatural crime-fighting series (he’s in no way related to the Checquy – though that’s a cross-over I’d welcome). Moving the action back to London after a rural turn in Foxglove Summer, Peter is investigating some blood-based magic haunting the mansions of Mayfair, near where the Tyburn Gallows once saw London’s criminals dance their last. I’m hoping for a return from Lady Ty, goddess of the Tyburn River, maybe another look at the Faceless Man, who was ominously absent from the last book, and much more Nightingale.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Going to start on a tangent here but I will get back on subject soon, trust me: one of my favourite scenes in the Harry Potter novels comes in The Deathly Hallows, when Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts and hear what the rest of the school has been doing in their absence: even crowd-fleshing characters like Terry Boot get a name-check, and it’s one of those moments when you realise it isn’t just about the trio, everyone is fighting this war – it just so happens that Harry, Ron and Hermione have better tools and more knowledge about how to win it. So Ness’ story, which focuses on a group of friends who live in the same town as a similarly-gifted group, but have no powers themselves, really appeals purely because it’s not about the superheroes, but about the people who, in another story, by another author, would be assigned the one-liners and bit-parts.

The Ballroom by Anna Hope (Publishing February 2016)
I can’t quite recall why, or indeed when, this title made it's way on to my radar, but since I’ve picked up on it I've begun to think it might be a prize-contender. Set in a Yorkshire asylum in 1911, the male and female inmates are kept separate from each other except for one night a week when they come together in the ballroom to dance, and this is where the principle characters, Ella and John, meet. On the surface I think it sounds like it might be primarily a romance, but the setting suggests there will be more to it than that, and I’m expecting it to be unsettling and haunting.

The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown by Vaseem Khan (Publishing May 2016)
I listened to the first book in the Baby Ganesh Agency series, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, at the end of last year on audiobook and I just loved it – the setting, the characters and the plot were not exactly revolutionary, but put together so well that the lack of originality - bar Ganesh the elephant - wasn't missed. As my mother perfectly summed up, it’s inoffensive, simple, good fun, and sometimes that’s all you really want from a book. I’m particularly looking forward to this next instalment, which will see Inspector Chopra investigating the seemingly-impossible-but-nevertheless-accomplished theft of the Koh-i-Noor diamond, with his elephant companion to assist in the case-solving.

The Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser
I only just found out about this the day before it published and I can’t believe it took me so long to clock it, because it’s RIGHT up my street – a new retelling of the Trojan War, but this time from the perspective of women in the story. Now I’ll be the first to admit – there’s no end of re-imaginings of the Iliad knocking about (just off the top of my head – Troy by Adele Geras, which looked at sisters living inside the palace of Troy during the war; The Troy Trilogy by David and Stella Gemmell, and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, which was about the fabled love story of Achilles and Patroclus). But there are so many retellings because it’s such a fantastic story – a Trojan prince carries off the wife of a King of Greece, refuses to give her back and so begins a war that lasted a decade and ended the age of heroes, and I’m not tired of them yet.

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
This was an entirely unexpected sequel, which makes it all the more appealing to me - I thought we were finished with Joe, the anti-hero of 2014's You. Joe  has decided to leave New York after all the, hmm-how-shall-I-put-it, unpleasantness with Beck, and has moved to LA after falling madly, obsessively in love with a new woman. But has Joe met his match in the anti-Beck? I’m hoping – I’m certain – that we won’t get a rehash of You, but I am definitely intrigued to see just what happened to Joe after the events of You, and if he really got away with it all. Incidentally, if you haven’t read You yet, get on it immediately – it was one of my favourites of 2014, and there are few books out there that will unnerve you as much, or make you more paranoid about Twitter.

And finally...
The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (Publishing November 2016)
Anyone who reads this blog regularly (hi guys *waves*) will already have noticed I am a BIG fan of the Tearling series, and I am – quite frankly – devastated that I have to wait until November before the concluding volume comes out. The blurb on the early pre-order pages isn’t giving much away, and the cover hasn't been revealed yet - not that the covers of the first two books reveal much as it is - but from the sounds of it, the action will pick up where The Invasion of the Tearling left off, which means that the Mace – Queen Kelsea’s right-hand man – is going to have a lot of work to do. 

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