Top of the Pile

Like avid readers everywhere I have the most enormous piles of books scattered liberally throughout my house. Occasionally I feel overwhelmed by the number of books I want to read compared to the amount of time I have to read them in. Generally though I am very quickly distracted from this unhappy thinking by another book I am sent or just happen to spot.  I do try to keep track of what’s in the ‘to read’ pile(s) by noting down publication dates of books that I am lucky enough to get advance copies, and by keeping a notebook of books I buy and acquire (thanks Dad!). I also arrange and rearrange stacks of books in the order that I want to read them. All of which I enjoy doing; I like a system. Today, however, I am going one step further. I am putting the four books that have reached the top of the reading pile on my blog. I know this is in no way original, but it looks like the kind of fun I want to join in with. So I will.

First up is a book I received yesterday. It is my final novel in the Transworld Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. So far I have been transported to Tudor, Norman and Stuart England, and loved every minute. For my fourth choice I have something completely different. Across a Bridge of Dreams by Lesley Downer is set in nineteenth-century Japan. It is a story of forbidden romance set against a backdrop of huge social and economic change. I know next to nothing about Japan in the 1870s so am very much looking forward to being taken somewhere new.

The story is based on the true ‘last samurai’ tale, and Lesley Downer has lived in Japan so I think, and hope, it will be very atmospheric. The cover is gorgeous too!

The next two on my list are officially categorised as teen fiction. Even though more adults are reading this category now there is still a little bit of looking down on it. I’ve worked in the children’s section at Waterstones off and on for over 15 years and have seen massive changes in the genre. When I was a teenager myself I read one American teen series and a couple of Judy Blume’s. By the age of fourteen however there was nothing really of any interest for me. Now, however there are lots of really amazing novels aimed at the 14+ age group, and many of them stand up well against adult fiction on storytelling and style. I don’t think teenagers should only read from the teen fiction section, but nor do I think that adults should never read from it.

The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke is due out in October from Strange Chemistry. This will be the fourth book I have read from the new imprint of Angry Robot. The first three were all great: Poltergeeks, Shift, and my favourite so far Blackwood by Gwenda Bond. I know there are some very good reviews of The Assassin’s Curse out there already, but I’m going to read the book myself first before I read what other people think. No particular reason, it’s just the way I fancy doing it this time. I like the sound of the story; a young woman runs away from an arranged marriage, gets involved in some curse magic and has some hair-raising adventures. Oh, and she is a pirate. Sounds fab to me.

Elizabeth George is a very well-known and respected crime writer, but this is her first foray into teen fiction. The Edge of Nowhere is the first in what will be the Saratoga Woods series. It also has a girl on the run, this time from an abusive stepfather and her own eerie ability to hear what people are thinking. It is set on George’s home turf, Whidbey Island in Washington state. It comes out late next week, and I hope to have read and reviewed for publication (fingers crossed).

Last up of my fab four is another adult novel. The Yellow Birds is getting some rave reviews so I must say a big ‘thank you’ to my boss for giving me his proof copy. I’m a little apprehensive about starting it, because I can get a bit emotionally involved with war narratives. Kevin Powers is a veteran of the second Gulf War, and this is, as he puts it, his reminder of what it was like. Although I think it will be challenging to read, I want to very much. I wonder if it will join some of my most favourite books, which are also about war? Catch-22, All Quiet on the Western Front, and August 1914 are all masterpieces of twentieth-century literature, I would be happy to add another to that list…

Well, they should keep me busy for the next week or so. If only I didn’t have to go to work!

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