05 Jul June Reads | 4 Short Reviews
July then eh? MY BIRTH MONTH. THE BEST MONTH.
I hate to be someone who comments on how quickly the year is going by but goddamn, we’re more than half way through 2017 and my 24th birthday is rapidly approaching. Gulp.
It’s been a while since I did a book post. June started out so well, devouring two books in the space of two weeks. A pretty big feat for a slow reader like myself.
But then I started a new, full time job and finding the time to fit in reading became increasingly tricky. I’m still trying to get to grips with my new routine and where reading fits into it, but basically, I thought I’d have a lot more reading done by now than I do, whoops.
Despite not exactly being your quintessential “summer reads” I read most of the below sitting out in the back garden soaking in the rare glimpses of sunshine Belfast was blessed with. Then realising hours later that I didn’t put on enough suncream and had gotten quite burnt (this happened twice, TWICE.)
All I can say is that I place some of the blame for my sun scorched skin on how great these books were at monopolising my attention.
Anyway, without further preamble, June reads: have at it.
The Gunslinger (Book 1 in The Dark Tower series) by Stephen King
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
This is the famous opening line to what has been described as Stephen King’s “magnum opus.”
Inspired by both The Lord of the Rings and old Western films such as “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” The Gunslinger welcomes us into King’s fantasy world of The Dark Tower and we enter it, tentatively, and full of questions.
Written in a very simplistic but succinct and deft style, you are spurred from page to page by events that present us with with more questions than answers.
As we traverse an almost barren, nameless desert with our protagonist, Roland (The Gunslinger) we get flashbacks to his mysterious past and a sprinkling of other-worldliness as we try and get our bearings. However, King is sparing with details that land us on an assured explanation of the mysterious Man in Black, or the odd flashbacks that the boy, Jake, has of a world familiar to ours. There is a continuous sense of dislocation and disorientation throughout.
I devoured this novel in less than a week. It isn’t really that impressive. It’s a short novel. Let’s pretend it’s impressive though, okay?
Reminding me at points of The Hobbit and also McCarthy’s The Road, the ambition of The Gunslinger is driven by that first line – it is centralised on a journey. What the point of the journey is remains to be seen, but you can be damn sure it’ll be pretty deep stuff to do with time and the universe. But, we’ll have to just read the second novel The Drawing of the Three in our quest for those elusive answers.
Or y’know, you could wait til the film is out and see Matthew McConaughey on the big screen as the Man In Black (I know that’s what I’ll primarily be attending for.)
The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley
Let’s get one thing straight: horror is my thang. I feel an irresistible pull towards the creepy, the mysterious and the haunted. Anything about demons, ghosts, murders, mysteries, disappearances, and I’m all over that shit.
Anyway, after taking an accidental break from horror novels, I finally ordered myself The Loney, a book I’d had my eye on for while.
Set in a grim little seaside area in England, Coldbarrow, the Loney is the name of a particular “wild and useless piece of English coastline.” The Smith family (consisting of “Mummer” “Farther” the eldest son “Hanny” who is mute, and the youngest son who we simply know as “Smith”) visit the Loney each Easter with their parish priest and other members of the congregation.
The novel begins with Coldbarrow making news headlines. A child’s body is washed up along the shoreline of the Loney. Our narrator reflects back on his final visit to there as a teenager in the seventies, years and years earlier.
A generous serving of devout Catholicism, peculiar activities from country folk and a tide that seems to have a life of its own; The Loney is An American Werewolf in London meets Daphne du Maurier.
Andrew Michael Hurley has a fantastic technique for building a particularly familiar sense of listlessness, bleakness and dread. The thrashing waves and brooding skies have a constant presence, building up a very Gothic feel. Reflecting back, it felt as though the entire novel was conveyed in shades of grey and black, with a very drawn out, unshakeable hopelessness shrouding all action.
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
I don’t know about you but this particular book has been all over my IG newsfeed the past few months. It has a very eye-catching, Instagrammable front cover to be fair.
I’m not actually finished this book, but I’m throwing it in here anyway because I’ve spent so much of June reading it.
I thought I was going to LOVE The Essex Serpent. And while I haven’t hated it or anything, I just haven’t fallen right into its pages the way I did with The Gunslinger and The Loney.
There isn’t a whole lot of action in it thus far. It reminds me a bit of an Austen novel, lots of delightfully perceptive descriptions of people, their quirks and their interactions. I particularly enjoy the way Perry’s writing shifts succinctly from one character’s perspective to another, almost unperceived. I just feel as though a balance hasn’t been struck between the momentum of the story and the building up of characters within the story.
I’m not sure where The Essex Serpent is going to go but perhaps you’ll hear my post-read thoughts in July reads, eh?
Paper Girls Vol. 2 by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
I’m pretty new to graphic novels but Paper Girls is definitely one of my favourites. Along with Harrow County. My problem with them is that they’re just too damn short and over all too soon. I’m just getting settled in and then I suddenly have a few pages left.
Scott got me Paper Girls Vol 2 as a Christmas present. I’ve had it stashed away since then waiting for the right time to treat myself. After 6 months I figured it was high time I delved back in.
What I love about Paper Girls is the particular mood that the artwork conveys. I reviewed Paper Girls Vol 1 in my September Reads, and mentioned that I specifically enjoyed the sense of early morning conveyed through the soft pinks and purples of dawn.
The whole of Vol 2 is painted in purples, pinks and blues. It’s superb at pinning down the overall mood but also at lending the graphic novel a very unique aesthetic. It’s perhaps a bit of an odd thing to comment on but I wanted to ensure that I went beyond gushing that I RLY LIKE THE ARTWORK, IT’S NICE.
I didn’t enjoy Vol. 2 as much as Vol. 1. I think it’s because we are very much finding our feet and trying to fully figure out what happened to the girls and why. The answer, although alluded to in places, is gonna be pretty damn weird. We’re only on Vol. 2 though, I’m definitely still invested in the story.
Have you read any of my June reads? What did you think?