Part 1 of 2: My July Reading List… Is A Bit Of A Mess

July was busy and my reading list was ambitious. Lots of plans mixed with thick books meant I did not read as much as I had hoped. Not to mention I was still finishing off June’s reading list. So my theme for July has been split into two, with part 2 taking place right now for the month of August.

But what is the theme for July/August and how did that land me with such long reads? Well, I decided to focus on the works of two authors because I did not have enough books in my collection by each of them individually to build up my July reading list. Turns out that wasn’t a problem. Still, I present to you part 1 of Catriona Ward and Joe Hill!

But first, I had some fucked up shit to finish…

The Cipher by Kathe Koja: Based on what I learned about this story in one of The Great Courses from Audible, I honestly expected this story to be more disturbing. And that’s not to say it wasn’t disturbing at all. The story was bleak, the characters unlikable (in a good way), and everything was downright depressing.

But my takeaway from this was that everything was gross. I felt like I would catch a disease, or at least some nasty germs, just from reading the eBook. If I saw the characters in public – especially Nicholas – I would not want to touch them. I feel like his whole flat – the main setting of the novel – must have smelled horrific. The world Koja created was so dingy and I loved that she took me there.

Sundial by Catriona Ward: This one could have held its own in the June lineup for fucked up shit. If you love dogs, maybe don’t read this one.

The story is half domestic thriller and half sci-fi thriller, and both halves of the story are very strong. Most importantly, they made me uncomfortable. However, I felt the connection between the stories of the past and present flimsy at times. Yes, Ward tied everything together without a plot hole in sight, but the tone of the two separate narratives were… well, too separate.

Both stories would have been great on their own, but there were moments when I felt that they belonged in separate books.

Bonus: Joe Hill Audible Sessions: So this one technically isn’t an audiobook, even though it is on Audible. I wanted to listen to this interview with Joe Hill because I don’t know that much about him or his work (yet).

But why would that be important? Surely I don’t do that for every author. No, but not every author is the son of Stephen King. And if you’ve seen my book collection, you know that I’m both a Stephen King fan and collector.

It was a great intro to Joe Hill to get a peek inside his mind before starting to read his books.

Little Eve by Catriona Ward: One thing that I’ve noticed about Ward is that she is fond of snakes. Snakes feature as characters and plot devices in her work, and she describes things with snake-like language. But this book features more snakes than the rest. Between that at the cult at the heart of the story, I expected to fall madly in love with this book.

Unfortunately, it fell short. Given some of the disturbing and uncomfortable moments in Sundial, I expected the same level of terror from Little Eve. And yes, there were a handful of moments that fit the bill, but I didn’t find this one as impactful. I really wanted to be shocked and horrified reading this, but I just found it okay.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill: Reading my first Joe Hill novel I could absolutely see traces of Stephen King. This is most definitely a world I could see King coming up with. Yet, it was not a carbon copy of his work. Hill has his own tone, his own voice, and his own flare.

Although I adored the story and the characters, my favourite part was actually the choice to divide and name the chapters based on location. And the transition between some of those chapters was phenomenal.

Although I have yet to watch the TV series, and therefore cannot comment on Zachary Quinto’s performance, reading this I pictured Willem Dafoe in the role of Manx and that is a head-cannon casting choice I cannot get out of my head. Even though the show doesn’t feature Dafoe, I am still eager to watch it.

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward: Another recurring trope in Wards work is her love of a twist ending. I’ve been able to spot them all a mile away, but they’re still satisfying when they happen. And this one got me good. Initially, the twist was different from (but still close to) my original theory, so I thought I got it slightly wrong. But then my patience was rewarded with a second twist that confirmed my original guess.

Another thing Ward does in all of her stories is weave together multiple viewpoints and time periods and I found that this novel was where she executed that the most effectively. The combined narratives of all of the different characters was the most cohesive, and I think that is why this is my favourite story by Catriona Ward so far. Well, that and cats are very important in the story, so I guess that makes me biased.

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