April 2020 Reading Wrap Up – Part Two [Books]

April 2020 2

January  / February / March Part 1 / March Part 2 / April Part 1

Welcome to my April Reading Wrap Up, Part 2! Like March, I read a lot in April. 18 books in total. I’ve hit a little bit of a reading slump in May, so hopefully May’s Wrap Up won’t need 2 parts to go through. But anyway, here are the other 9 books read in the second month of lock down.

Bone Harvest – James Brogden

bone harvestMy Review

I really liked this book. Brogden’s novel spans decades, starting with World War I and coming right up to a now alternative 2020 where Covid-19 doesn’t exist. Instead, all these characters have to worry about are the VE Day Celebrations. Or at least they think so. This novel really hit a couple of sweet spots, and I really do recommend it.

The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, Volume 1

twilight zone

My Review

This was a very enjoyable listening experience. These radio dramas are fully casted, and contain multiple stories, all of which had that strong Twilight Zone feel to them. I only came to this show fairly recently, but I absolutely love anything to do with it (Tower of Terror is a ride I refused to go on when we went to Florida, because I was five and terrified, and was my second favourite ride visiting Disney Paris) including this audio production.

The Seven Endless Forests – April Tucholke

seven endless

My Review

This had all the makings of a book I wanted to love. Female led fantasy based around the King Arthur legend, I was sold. Unfortunately, the book itself wasn’t that great. It rambled, a lot, and there was little to resemble King Arthur’s story found in the pages. This one definitely wasn’t for me.

Catalyst – Tracy Richardson

catalyst

Review Coming Soon

This was a book I read for one of the Write Reads blog tours. Unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy this one. It took some really interesting ideas and felt like it simplified them too much. And presented simple ‘solutions’ to the main crises’ we’re facing today. Was a little disappointed, but keep an eye out for the blog tour, as I’m sure other bloggers felt differently from me.

Shades of Magic, Volume 1: The Steel Prince – V.E. Schwab

shades of magic steel prince

My Review

I don’t know which situation I would prefer: always having a few Schwab books to read, or being completely caught up and eagerly awaiting the next one. Either way, just like with Vicious, I knew picking up this graphic novel I would love it. I haven’t come across a Schwab book I didn’t like. If you’ve read the Shades of Magic trilogy, I highly recommend jumping into The Steel Prince.

Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds: The Musical Drama – H.G. Wells

war of the worlds

My Review

Another great listening experience! Though sadly there is no singing in this one. It was still very enjoyable though, and the cast involved was excellent. I definitely recommend this one, as the soundtrack is amazing.

Tiger Queen – Annie Sullivan

tiger queen

My Review

I enjoyed this one. It was a fun, easy read that had be completely hooked. A good YA novel, that maybe leans a little too much on various tropes, and could have done with stronger female characters, but overall, like I said, it was enjoyable.

Dark Ends – Edited by Clayton Snyder

dark ends

Review coming soon on Dead Head Reviews

This is an absolutely brilliant dark fantasy anthology, and one I really suggest picking up. This anthology is made up of novelettes, many set in worlds already created by the writers. Which is great because with every story I definitely found myself wanting more.

The Deception of Kathryn Vask – Mark Steensland

the deception
My Review

My final book for this month. The Deception of Kathryn Vask is a fantastic, tight play that I can easily imagine on stage, and will hopefully one day get to see on stage, too. My review is nothing but glowing praise for Steensland, and recommendations to keep an eye out for this one.

And that is it for April! How did your month go? I seem to be going through books faster than I realise at the moment, though it has calmed down for May. I’m also reading slightly longer stuff this month, and listening to American Gods on Audible which is really long. I amended my Goodreads Goal to 75, after hitting the 50 mark, and I’m currently on 55 so I’m pretty happy with that.

Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds [Books]

war of the worldsYep, another Audible Drama. Going into this, I expected something…different. I really should have read more about this version before getting it. What I wanted was, essentially, an audio version of the musical, though I suppose that would technically just be the album then, wouldn’t it?

Anyway. That aside, and putting away my disappointment at not hearing Michael Sheen singing, this is actually a fantastic audio drama. The cast is brilliant, especially Sheen as the main character. He carries us through the story, and makes the narration sound natural rather than, well, narration.

The music really does add to the drama, underscoring the action and dialogue and at times, providing further clues as to what might be happening. Most of the music here will be familiar, even if you’ve never actually listened to Jeff Wayne’s soundtrack, some of the songs have still wedged themselves in. And it works really well here.

This is a really great production. I think overall full cast audio works brilliantly in general, and it’s really used to full effect here. Even though the story is just told through dialogue and sound effects, it becomes really easy to picture the scenes of destruction around the characters, to see the crowds in London as they flee their villages, and to see the huge crater housing the alien invaders at the beginning.

War of the Worlds is a timeless classic with endless adaptations. But what struck me most about this one was how relevant it feels, especially now. True, the apocalypse, it seems, doesn’t quite happen as Wells imagined it, though there are very good parallels. There are those who refuse to believe what is actually happening, until they maybe see it with their own eyes. Those in charge try to insist on life carrying on as normal until it’s almost too late. One character is convinced his ultimate vision of the world will be what saves humanity – a hypermasculine vision where the strong survive and the ‘weak’ are discarded, only to find himself unable to even take the first steps in pursuing his dream.

Listening to this, the threat feels real, the reactions feel real, and the tension is handled wonderfully. It’s a really brilliant audio production with a really strong cast. It might not have actual singing in it, but I can always listen to the album for that.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Volume Two – Alan Moore [Books]

league vol 2It took me a long time to get around to reading The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and now I’m two volumes in I feel deeply invested in this mash of classic genre characters. For those who aren’t aware, the first volume introduces us to the core group of characters, pulled from works like Dracula, The Invisible Man, and Jekyll & Hyde.

If you’ve seen the 2003 film, you might have some idea of the characters encountered, but honestly from what I can remember of that film, it’s really not a great adaptation. If you want something a touch closer to the tone, style, and characterisation found within the graphic novel, Penny Dreadful is a much better choice.

The group is made up of Mina Murray, Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Hawley Griffin, and Henry Jekyll. Other characters from classic genre fiction are pulled in to serve various purposes, and the second volume follows the core characters as they battle against an invasion force from Mars.

This volume feels a bit darker than the first. From the moment we meet Griffin in the first volume, we know he’s a POS, a fact which is emphasised and really comes to play in this volume. From what I can remember of the first, the plot mainly revolves around gathering the League, and a plot against London. In this volume, the threat feels larger.

Not only that, but we get to see more of the characters, good and bad sides, as they are separated in order to find a way to end the war. Mina isn’t perhaps as formidable and powerful as she feels in the first volume, but the events that transpire almost push her to breaking point – and, fair warning, there are some graphic scenes regarding this. Not to mention each character feels as if their death is waiting, very close with the Martians seemingly unstoppable attacks.

This feels like a fitting sequel to the first volume, and pushes the events along nicely, leaving the reader with the sense of time passing as the century comes to a close.

There was one element I wasn’t too fussed on. At the end of the first volume is a story, giving the reader an idea of what Quartermain had been up to, prior to the events of the graphic novel. It was entertaining and interesting. At the back of this volume is a sort of traveller’s guide to interesting places around the world, mixed in with some glimpses as to what the League members might have got up to, both before and after the events in both volume one and volume two.

And it dragged. There are some interesting nods there to other classical works – such as a group going down a rabbit hole after a young girl disappeared, only to reappear sprouting nonsense about a strange land. The guide is worldwide, but it felt like it was too much information relayed in a really dry way.

The best parts of the guide were, without a doubt, the moments we dropped back in with Murray and Quartermain. Where we got to witness what happened to them after leaving London, and I suspect these were designed to plant the seed for the next volume in the series.

Overall, I think if you’re already read and enjoyed Volume One, Volume Two is worth picking up. It adds to the characters, and it has some brilliant references to other works that’ll make readers smile, as well as the interesting take on War of the Worlds.