Hey! Watcha Readin’: 09/10/19

Updates

Another week, another batch of books to talk about! Thanks for stopping by for this week’s Hey! Watcha Readin’ and as ever I’ll be using WWW Wednesday hosted by Taking on a World of Words. If you want to take part answer the questions below and get chatting about the books we’re all reading.

What did you recently finish reading?
What are you currently reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Recently Finished: THE ROSEWATER INSURRECTION by Tade Thompson
I hadn’t realised quite how much time had passed since this was released and was horrified (but excited) to see that the final instalment of the Wormwood series was set for release on October 15th and I hadn’t got round to THE ROSEWATER INSURRECTION yet! These books are a ground-breakingly imaginative take on the alien invasion genre with so much going on, from scientifically plausible telepathy, biopunk noir spy thrills and reanimated pseudo-zombies it’s hard not to go off about everything I love about them right now. Keep an eye out for full reviews of both ROSEWATER and THE ROSEWATER INSURRECTION during Wormwood Weekend, this Saturday and Sunday!

Currently Reading: PET SEMATARY by Stephen King
This was my girlfriend’s book club book this month and I’ve used that as an opportunity to dip my toes further into the horror genre at this, the spookiest time of year. If you’ve read any of my previous updates you’ll know I was raised on a steady diet of inappropriately terrifying horror films from a young age, but that never really crossed over into reading horror books and I’ve been making some effort to put that to rights lately. I recently read the first issue of the graphic novel LOCKE AND KEY, which was fantastic and had me clamouring for more horror literature. I’m enjoying PET SEMATARY, zooming through it at an alarming rate. I read CARRIE earlier this year and thought it was an interesting story, if not very well executed, but with PET SEMATARY you can tell King had improved as a writer, even if I’d still liken it to literary candy floss. I can definitely see why he’s such a commercially successful writer.

Fun fact: Joe Hill is actually Stephen King’s son

Next Read: SWORD OF DESTINY by Andrzej Sapkowski
This is a late bonus addition to my reading plan this month because I have the ambitious goal of reading all The Witcher books before the upcoming Netflix series is released in December. Including SWORD OF DESTINY, I have five more to read before then, so good luck to me. This book is a second run of short stories about the adventures of the monster hunter Geralt of Rivia and follows on from the first collection called THE LAST WISH (read the review here), which I had a few issues with, but definitely enjoyed enough to keep me reading.

That’s all for now. I’m still looking for great horror reads so hit me up with your best Halloween horror recommendations!

That’s what I’ve got planned this week.
What are you folks reading?

Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned?
Get involved with WWW Wednesday either on your own blog or in the comments!

Review: THE LAST WISH by Andrzej Sapkowski

Book Reviews

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
LIKED IT

The Last Wish is a series of short stories that introduce us to the dark, brutish world of Geralt of Rivia. Geralt is a witcher, a mutant trained to hunt the multitude of monsters and fiends that plague the land. He’s currently recovering from a near fatal wound at a temple of the goddess Melitele and Sapkowski uses this as a framing device to allow Geralt to look back on the battles and adventures that brought him there.

There’s a definite Brothers Grimm vibe to the stories and a lot of the monsters are inspired by dark fairytales and Eastern European folklore. There are stories about a sinister, violent Snow White, a dark take on Beauty and the Beast and a nod to Rumpelstiltskin. The world-building isn’t extensive; instead each story is largely self-contained and we’re given tantalising snippets and hints of things I hope will be expanded on in later books.

While some of the side characters are somewhat forgetable, a few others just burst out of the page and the sorceress Yennefer is my favourite. There’s definitely a lot of unchallenged sexism and misogyny in this book, which means it’s not going to be for everyone, but in that setting Yennefer is a women who succeeds in imposing her will on the world without being overpowered or overruled by men.

And Geralt himself exemplifies everything about my favourite kinds of grimdark character. He’s flawed and conflicted, he lives in a world with little cause for hope and yet still strives to do good (most of the time), even if it is a thankless and Sisyphean task. He ostensibly works for money, but I found his imperfect morality and loosely-defined code of ethics a fragile, flickering source of light in an otherwise grim setting.

And Geralt’s world is bleak. Sapkowski introduces us to a ruling class of scheming nobles who care nothing for the peasants they rule over; bitter, vindictive elves oppressed by despotic humans and an untamed wilderness where travellers are ruthlessly murdered by monsters and men alike.

This isn’t a world of black and white morals. There is no good versus evil, no human bastions of virtue and honour fighting a brave struggle against the forces of darkness. Geralt is a monster hunter, but often the real monsters are the people he encounters every day, the people who abuse what power they have to oppress others and excuse or cover up their behaviour by pointing to the beasts and monsters Geralt is hired to kill.

“People,” Geralt turned his head, “like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves. When they get blind-drunk, cheat, steal, beat their wives, starve an old woman, when they kill a trapped fox with an axe or riddle the last existing unicorn with arrows, they like to think that the Bane entering cottages at daybreak is more monstrous than they are. They feel better then. They find it easier to live.”

All that said, the book wasn’t perfect.

I found some of the fight scenes to be overly-descriptive without adding anything to the narrative and a lot of the lore was delivered in clunky dialogue that I didn’t find particularly believable. I got the impression that a fair amount of that can be excused as poor translation rather than bad writing, but I thought there were elements of The Last Wish that just weren’t written very well.

Despite some flaws, I’m still looking forward to reading the next collection of short stories before moving on to the full length novels, where I’m excited to see how the lore is expanded. Geralt and Yennefer are fascinating characters and I can’t wait to see how their tentative relationship develops.

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Hey! Watcha Readin’: 25/09/19

Updates

So I just read Caitlin’s Weekly Reading Check-In over at Realms of My Mind and I love the idea of a weekly reading update as a way to boost some beloved book talk!

There’s this great thing called WWW Wednesday hosted by Taking on a World of Words that I urge you to check out.

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading: THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy
I picked this up cos I was having a bad day and was actually looking through my TBR for something lighthearted and uplifting (haha I know right?). Anyway, looking through that list made me realise I barely read any lighthearted and uplifting fiction. My book world is full of cynical, jaded characters sometimes trying to do good things in bleak, grim as fuck settings. So I thought “Whatever, I may as well lean into it and hey, my day could be worse – I could be one of these guys!” I’m not very far into The Road, but can confirm this is about as bleak as it gets. Good book so far, more thoughts to follow no doubt.

Recently Finished: THE LAST WISH by Andrzej Sapkowski
This is the first instalment in The Witcher series. I’m hoping to read as many of the books before the Netflix series hits our screens (which I am BEYOND excited about by the way). If you’re not familiar with The Witcher franchise, the stories follow the exploits of a monster hunter called Geralt of Rivia as he travels the lands seeking out the beasts and fiends that plague the realm. The Last Wish is a series of short stories that introduce us to the key people and places of Geralt’s world, offering tantalising bits of worldbuilding that have me hooked even if this isn’t one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’ll have a full review up later this week, but I’m excited to read the next instalment.

Next Read: ROSEWATER by Tade Thompson
This will be a re-read for me in the wake of the final book in Tade’s Wormwood trilogy set for release in October. If you haven’t read Rosewater yet then OMG what on earth are you doing reading my inane ramblings? Just go buy it now and come back to thank me later. One of my favourite reads of 2018, Rosewater is on the cutting edge of science fiction and tells the story of Kaaro, a Nigerian government agent with a criminal past living in a town grown up around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome. It’s honestly sublime and I’m even more excited to read it a second time.

What are you folks reading?
Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned?
Get involved with WWW Wednesday either on your own blog or in the comments!