What I'm Reading

Life's got excitingly busy recently, with work developments and travel plans all coming together around the same time. I'm off to D.C. today - my first trip there - for what I'm sure will be high jinx and, if we can manage it, shenanigans.

I've been busy reading, too. I like reading a variety of books - different genres, different styles, different audiences - and often do so in different ways. Certain books I read on the bus into NYC. Certain one I keep at home. Others I read for a time, let sit untouched for months, and then dive back into again. It's a way of reading that works for me - it's not for everyone, I know - and I like the spread.

So what's been on the cards this week?

First up is Lev Grossman's THE MAGICIANS, following a recommendation from a London bookseller I started following on Twitter - and that only happened because she's friends with my agent. These things happen, but finding new books is amazing however it transpires.

It was sold to me as adult Narnia meets adult Harry Potter, and honestly, that's a bang on description, yet still not enough to quite cover it all. The blurb for this one is:

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery. 

He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.

The magic is dark, believable and somehow still not the real focus for the novel, which is fun to see. It does sound very HP-esque - a magic school, a 'yer a wizard, 'Arry! Quentin!' moment - but the focus on the kids' realistic reactions, emotional lives, sex drives and near nihilist approach to life after education makes this a much meatier, more original book. I got the sequel, THE MAGICIAN KING, out the library straight away. (Side note: How amazing are libraries? I walked in, did a quick search on the catalog, and five minutes later walked out with the book for free. That's real magic.)

The second book is one that I have, in fact, just finished; Alexander McCall Smith's BERTIE PLAYS THE BLUES, the latest in the continuing 44 Scotland Street series:

I've gone on about these a bit before, but honestly, they're some of the most relaxing stories I've read. The tranquil, gentile lives of middle class Scotland - hardly sounds like award wining stuff, eh? - but the human touches, the twists of fate, and the fact I find myself getting annoyed when bad stuff doesn't happen to the bad characters, all comes together to make this a series I will diligently keep on reading. Blurb for this one:

Domestic bliss seems in short supply at 44 Scotland Street. Over at the Pollocks, dad, Stuart, is harbouring a secret about a secret society and Bertie is feeling kind of blue. Having had enough of his neurotic hot-housing mother, he puts himself up for adoption on eBay. Will he go to the highest bidder or will he have to take matters into his own hands? Will the lovelorn Big Lou find true love on the internet? And will Angus Lordie and Domenica make it up the aisle? Catch up with all your favourite faces down in 44 Scotland Street as we follow their daily pursuit of a little happiness.

So, very different to the above, but that can be a good thing.

Next up: BREADCRUMBS, by Anne Ursu.

This one, I've only just started - rather suspect the main action hasn't happened yet, since I'm roughly two chapters in - so no comments to make yet, except that it sounds great:

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn't help it - Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn't fit anywhere else. 

And then, one day, it was over. Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to boys and girls at this age, Hazel had read enough stories to know that it's never that simple. And it turns out, she was right. Jack's heart had been frozen, and he was taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now, it's up to Hazel to venture into the woods after him. Hazel finds, however, that these woods are nothing like what she's read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn't the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel...

I shall certainly let you fine folk know how it goes.

There are more books, of course - always more - but these three have taken up more of my time than any others this last week.

Them and the writing. The new book is growing, slowly but surely. More to come...



  1. Breadcrumbs seems pretty interesting. I think I'll have to put that book in the queue. I'm reading "The Guardian" by Nicholas Sparks right now and, as predicted, I cried within the first 8 pages! Amazing how much of an effect writing can have. Have a great time in DC!

  2. Thanks, hope to. I'll let you know about Breadcrumbs.

  3. Thanks for this post. I'm totally intrigued by The Magicians and Breadcrumbs. Will have to check them out!