Reading Diaries: Legends, Betrayal, and Revenge

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Welcome back to WWAC’s Reading Diaries, an informal chat about the books we’ve been loving — and not loving — in the past month.

Hamlet's Hit Points, Robin D. LawSarah: I’m currently reading Hamlet’s Hit Points by Robin D. Laws. It’s a book on breaking story beats down in order to be better at role-playing and telling stories in general. It analyzes Hamlet, Dr. No, and Casablanca as examples. It’s a really dense read, so I’m going a little slower than usual. It’s not dense word-wise but concept-wise. There’s a lot to take in and think about.

I’m also reading Revenge of the Pen Monkey by Chuck Wendig when my brain isn’t up to Hamlet’s Hit Points. It’s good writing advice interspersed with hilariously foul language. I’m also listening to Impulse by Steven Gould, which is about a family with the ability to teleport set in the modern world, and just finished the Dangerous Women anthology, which was soooo disappointing I’m rolling my eyes right now just thinking about it.

Christa: I love Chuck Wendig. He never fails to make me laugh.

Currently I’m really struggling through Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. One of the big problems with it is that it contains a novel within a novel, and neither is well developed. I also find his depiction of the publishing world really frustrating. And both protagonists are really frustrating. The whole novel is just frustrating. Which is really too bad because I’ve heard good things about his earlier work but this one just isn’t working for me.

On the bright side however, I just finished Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, which I really enjoyed. It was super creepy and disturbing, the perfect pre-Halloween read. It was my first Joe Hill book but I will definitely be going out to pick up Horns and N0S4A2. And I finally finished Marie Lu’s Legend series. I know many readers are tired of dystopian novels but if you haven’t given this series a shot yet you’re missing out. Lu’s world building is fantastic in its complexity. And she never does quite what you expect her too. I can’t wait to start her new series, The Young Elites, once I finish/give up on Afterworlds.

Heart-Shaped Box, Joe HillSarah: I’m glad to hear that about the Joe Hill book. I’ve been wanting to read Heart Shaped Box, and since the movie adaption of Horns is now out…I’ll also keep an eye out for Lu’s work.

Angel: I’m working my way through Mortal Heart by R.L. LaFevers and absolutely loving it. Most of the novels I’ve read lately have used the third-person POV, so Annith’s first person narrative feels refreshing. This series (His Fair Assassins) has surprised me at every turn, and is one of the few series over the last three years that has not gone down in quality, IMO.

Christa, I’ll be starting The Young Elites after I finish Mortal Heart! Though I haven’t read her previous books, so this will be my first experience of Marie Lu’s work. A lot of trusted reader friends have recommended her books to me though, so I have faith I’ll enjoy it.

Kayleigh: I’ve been steadily going through my stack of Hard Case Crime novels, a series that publishes new crime fiction alongside reprints of lost pulp fiction gems of the past. My most recent read is Fright by Cornell Woolrich (author of Rear Window), the story of a young businessman who gradually goes mad with paranoia after murdering a blackmailer. It’s a decent page-turner, but a bit overlong. One interesting aspect of the book is that it’s set in 1915, which gives it a very different feel from other Hard Case Crime books that seem to be perpetually stuck in the hardboiled, gun-toting mid-twentieth century. It could almost be a Boardwalk Empire prequel.

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, Tom ReissMai: Recently I finished reading The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, by Tom Reiss. Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie (1762-1806) was a mixed race aristocrat who took the surname of his slave mother when he joined the army at the dawn of the French Revolution. As Alex Dumas, his career went through a meteoric rise and fall; though still the highest ranking person of color ever to serve in a continental US army (depressing!), he died young and left his widow and children in poverty, unable to secure a pension due to a Napoleonic grudge (even more depressing!) Though the General’s life has faded into obscurity, his swashbuckling exploits live on in the novels of his son. This was an odd pick for me because I’ve never actually read any of the Dumas canon (I don’t think Wishbone episodes count, somehow) — but I can attest that this book is highly readable even without that literary background.

I also just finished Harry Potter et le Prisonnier d’Azkaban, continuing my readthrough of the series in French. Since I read these books so many times as a kid it’s been great for fine-tuning my reading comprehension and vocabulary — but maybe I should take a leap of faith and try Le comte de Monte Cristo next?

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