Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books in which the bookish community discover and share books that all have a common theme. Previously, the meme has focused on a range of different characters (witches and werewolves), genres (thrillers, detectives and re-tellings) and thoughts about the industry and life as a bookworm, and many more.
Please read and share, comment on and discuss this week’s topic!
Previous Top Five Topics
- 22nd August 2020: Young Adult Books
- 29th August 2020: Detective Fiction
- 12th September 2020: Science Fiction
- 19th September 2020: Award Winners
- 26th September 2020: Guilty Pleasure Reads
- 25th October 2020: Books on my Wishlist
This is an interesting topic: the cliched image of the writer is of the loner sat hunched over the keyboard of a typewriter, chain smoking as they bash out their great novel… or perhaps a loner hunched over a keyboard surrounded by cats and transforming coffee into words.
But in any case, a loner, writing seems to be perceived as an isolated individual business.
And whilst there are some great books out there written by married couples and teams of authors, some of them (would I say most of them) that I have read are less successful. At times they feel like two voices in conflict rather than in concert.
So coming up are five of the better and worse examples you might want to consider.
A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd
She had the characters, a premise, and a beginning. What she didn’t have, unfortunately, was time.—Patrick Ness, in the Author’s Note to A Monster Calls
Oh, everything about this novel is heartbreaking! Conor O’Malley is a character who you clasp to you like a precious child and the trauma of being a carer for a fatally ill mother breaks my heart every time.
And that line “I did not come to heal her, the monster said. I came to heal you“! I cannot read that without a lump in my throat.
And the fact that the story was begun by Dowd before she herself died of breast cancer and completed by Ness just layers another tragedy on top of it.
Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Just look at these names! How could this be anything other than hilarious and sublime and fun and touchingly humane and thoughtful… Pratchett. Gaiman. The end of the world.
Aziraphale and Crowley and the Hell Hound and Adam and Anathema and Tadfield…
An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards.
The Long Earth series, Terry Prachett and Stephen Baxter
Another Pratchett, although reading this felt that Sir Terry may have taken a back seat to Stephen Baxter.
I remember enjoying it – the sudden discovery of multiple earths, multiverses, being explored in a dirigible navigated by an AI, if I remember rightly! A little formless and directionless, was the impression left on me, not unlike the motion of a balloon I guess.
It was an enjoyable enough premise that I read another couple in the series but then let it fall away…
But then science is nothing but a series of questions that lead to more questions.
The Hypnotist, Lars Kepler (Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril and Alexander Ahndoril)
My recollection of this is a little hazy too: it was a perfectly serviceable Nordic-crime thriller. I remember a lot of cold and ice and snow, some sexual betrayal between husband and wife – and written by a husband and wife team one wonders what sort of confession the novel was at times! – and more snow and darkness.
I did not regret the time I spent reading it; nor did I buy any other novels in the series.
The Lying Room, Nicci French (Nicci Gerrard and Sean French)
Unlike The Hypnotist, I sort of did regret the time spent reading this novel – it was one of my first NetGalley ARCs and I felt obliged – and have chosen not to delve any further into Nicci French’s novels.
Mediocre would have been a compliment!
At every level it jarred: the characters were dull and unconvincing; the police were meandering; the plot absurd – woman finds the man she is having an affair with murdered and just cleans away the evidence of her affair and leaves, leaving nothing for forensics to find!
And the writing? Every detail of who liked what for breakfast was laid out for us. And it seemed (it cannot be statistically true surely) that every single sentence – every single one – was subject-verb-object with no variety or interest!
I hope you have enjoyed my recollections of books written by two authors and I look forward to hearing any comments – am I being too harsh on Nicci French?
Again, a David Mitchell book is an event, and a thing of beauty! But the music industry is not my natural setting and again I was caught between this and another book – Daisy Jones and the Six in this case – and Daisy Jones was read first. This time, because it was nominated on a book club I was part of.
Bonus: The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch
They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he’s part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.
Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich – they’re the only ones worth stealing from – but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.
This one has been on my TBR for years. Literally years. I have heard nothing but praise for it, but so far have never quite got around to reading it! Go figure!
So, there we go: a range of books that I got in 2020 – save for the Scott Lynch – and do regret not reading during the year. Is regret the right word? Probably not to be honest: I do not regret the reading that I did do last year at all. But these are books that I would like to find time to catch up with this year – before prize season hits us again!
Pop in the comments below your thoughts on these – maybe let me know which I should read first!
Upcoming Top Five Topics
- November 21st, 2020 — Books with 2 Authors
- November 28th, 2020 — Cover Buys
- December 5th, 2020 — Apocalyptic Books
- December 12th, 2020 — Water on the Cover
- December 19th, 2020 — Famous Authors
- December 26th, 2020 — 2021 Releases