The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I honestly knew less than nothing about this book before I started reading it. I had heard of it, of course, but I had it in mind that it was a children’s book and was probably some kind of whimsical urban fantasy piece, like a Wes Anderson movie, about some sort of night time dog.

Obviously, for some reason, it hadn’t registered in my brain that the dog on the cover has a garden fork sticking out of it. But I guess that just goes to show that I’m not as observant as Christopher, the protagonist of this book.

Christopher is quite severely autistic, and the book is presented as a novel that he has written (with a little help from his teacher, Siobhan). Therefore we see the events through his eyes and his unique perspective. Given that this perspective includes an inability to make things up that haven’t happened, I think that the author’s ability to see things from a perspective uniquely alien from that of someone who makes a living doing just that, is to be commended. The representation of autism isn’t perfect, although there are as many different experiences of autism as there are autistic people, but it is very good.

Now, I am not autistic and my father didn’t lie to me about my mother being dead and then kill a dog, but a lot of this book hit very close to home for me. My mother left when I was in my teens and I had to travel to London on the train by myself, and get the tube on my own, to see her. I don’t know, I found it a little strange to be identifying with this severely autistic boy, but here we are. I found myself in absolute floods of tears at times, as I found parts of this book to be truly heart breaking.

Is Christopher annoying at times? Undoubtedly, but that’s kind of the point. His quirks and habits are interesting at first, but you become increasingly frustrated with them…with him…and wish that he’d just get on with things rather than hyper-focusing on a road sign or whatever. But despite that he’s still the same endearing, likeable character. You find yourself feeling just as anxious as he is about whether or not he’ll get to sit his A-level maths exam. Or, at least, I did.

I agree with some other people that the ending is slightly anticlimactic, but then it has to be. There’s no miracle cure for being Christopher (because, ultimately, he doesn’t need fixing, he just needs people to understand that he’s different) and there’s no miracle fix for his messed up family. But Christopher, his father and his mother have all grown and learned things by the end of the book. And, well, that’s what matters. I don’t need some trite “and they all lived happily ever after” ending. Christopher still faces some big challenges in the years ahead and I find myself wondering how he met those challenges, and hoping that he made it to university.

There was a lot about this book I did not like and did not enjoy…mainly the way it made me feel, the way it dragged up certain memories from my past and reminded me of a time in my life when I was learning things about my parents I didn’t want to know and having to travel to London on my own (which is something I actually loved as a teenager and still love today…but the anxiety was also real). But, ultimately, I’m glad I read this book. It’s a good book and it made me think and feel, and that’s what good books do.

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Queen’s Peril by E.K. Johnston

Queen's Peril (Star Wars)Queen’s Peril by E.K. Johnston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wasn’t expecting this to be better than Queen’s Shadow, which I loved, but it was. It was so much better.

I also wasn’t expecting it to be so wonderfully open about the feelings the handmaidens, and Padme herself, developed for each other. To the point that I find myself weirdly annoyed that I know that Anakin comes along and so Padme and Sabe don’t end up together.

Also, teenage girls getting their first period in an embarrassing way has become something of a theme in the media I’ve been consuming lately, having recently also watched The Craft: Legacy and The Queen’s Gambit. But it was refreshing to see it covered here, in a Star Wars book. And, really, while it may have made some male readers uncomfortable, it’s a book about a group of adolescent girls, for it not to come up would have been absurd.

I particularly loved the way the invasion of Naboo essentially comes out of nowhere and completely derails the plot. It felt very real, and very disorienting. Suddenly a story about a group of young girls getting to know each other and build political ties with the other planets in their system becomes a story about torture and pain and loss.

This leaves me wanting more from EK Johnston, although another book about the handmaidens seems unlikely (is there room for one set between Epsiodes II and III? Where, perhaps, Sabe deals with her jealousy of Anakin and the handmaidens have to pretend they don’t know about Padme and Anakin’s marriage? Perhaps… I’d also like to see Johnston tackle the as yet untold story of Obi-Wan and Satine’s romance. And maybe we could finally learn the truth about Korkie Kryze…?

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Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski

Sword of Destiny (The Witcher, #0.75)Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was initially disappointed that this second collection of Witcher short stories included less stories that are longer…simply because I don’t get a lot of time to read prose books and found the first volume a quick and easy read because the stories were so short. I was also initially a little put off because this volume doesn’t include interludes between each story that connect the whole thing into a cohesive narrative.

And then I started reading it and discovered that I love it.

I wasn’t sure if I’d continue into the novels but the moment I finished this I ordered the first proper novel, because it left me wanting more, and certainly wanting to read more about Geralt’s bond with Ciri.

If you’ve watched the series, this book only includes one story that made it into that, but what the last couple of stories do is explain a lot of what was going on in the series (especially the Ciri stuff). I do like the series, a lot, but would definitely recommend that anyone who enjoyed watching it should read the books…they’re a lot better.

Now, I’m going to impatiently wait for my copy of Blood Of Elves to arrive…

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FCBD 2020: X-Men/Dark Ages #1 by Jonathan Hickman

FCBD 2020: X-Men/Dark Ages #1FCBD 2020: X-Men/Dark Ages #1 by Jonathan Hickman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Absolutely loved the X Of Swords teaser…it hadn’t occurred to me that it could be read as Ten of Swords and that it might be a tarot reference (but maybe I’m an idiot…or maybe I’ve been reading the X-Men for so long that an X is always just an X to me). Very excited to see any X-Men story include Opal Luna Saturnyne, who, of course, has been showing up in the pages of Excalibur recently. And it only makes sense that any sword related X-Men event would include Excalibur. The art is absolutely gorgeous and the writer, by Hickman, is as obtuse as you’d expect it to be when teasing an upcoming event.

As for the second story, well, that’s the reason I’ve only given this three stars. I guess the idea of the power going out in the Marvel Universe is a fairly interesting one, but the execution of this story was just a little…off. I mean…having Tony lose a foot just seemed a bit much. He’s not just going to be able to grow his foot back. Although, that said, he recently grew his entire body back in his own book, so what do I know? But, just generally, something like this needs a grittier art style, in my opinion.

All that said, I can see from the other GoodReads reviews of this book that most people loved the Dark Ages tease and hated the X Of Swords tease, so it’s all subjective, innit?

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Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston

Queen's Shadow (Star Wars)Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel I should make it clear that, essentially, nothing happens here. There’s virtually no action, aside from a brief space battle towards the end. There’s a LOT of politics, a lot talking, a lot of lengthy descriptions of what Padme and her handmaidens are wearing, and lots and lots of political intrigue.

And it’s wonderful.

Beautifully written and incredibly compelling, and despite that fact that there’s really not going on…there’s really a lot going on…at least there is in Padme and Sabe’s heads. And that’s where we spend a lot of this book, examining their thoughts, feelings and motivations.

There’s a lot here to reward fans of both the Prequels and the Clone Wars, which was greatly appreciated as a fan of both.

So, in short, if you like space battles, laser swords and blaster fights, this might not be the book for you. But if you love Padme Amidala, the Prequels and the Clone Wars then this is almost certainly essential reading.

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