I've enjoyed quite a variety this month, which has been quite pleasant. Below are my thoughts.
Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson
This is the first novel I have read from this series, in which Upson has taken the real life crime writer Josephine Tey as her heroine and detective character. This is not the first in the series but I would say it has encouraged me to consider picking up others in the series as well.
Set partly in the 1930s and partly in the 1950s, the story is about a group of actors gathering for a meeting in the Welsh pleasure village of Portmeirion. Not just any meeting; a gathering instigated by the rising star of British film directing, Mr Alfred Hitchcock. Josephine Tey, together with her friend Archie Penrose, a Police Inspector, are also in attendance, as Hitchcock wants to negotiate for the film rights to one of Josephine's books.
What follows is more of a study in character connections than in crime thriller; it doesn't spoil the book to say that no actual murder is committed until at least half way through. However, what comes before is a tense and intertwined narrative, which reveals that each of those gathered, and some of the locals, have secrets which they are keen to hide from the others.
The book is full of twists and turns, with an interesting commentary about the nature of right and wrong, strength and sacrifice. All in all, a well crafted crime novel indeed.
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
I imagine for many, this needs no introduction; indeed, I picked this up because it is a classic of the graphic novel genre and I felt I should experience it for myself.
Set in a slightly alternate America, in which costumed superheroes became a popular real life sensation in the 1940s and 50s, it follows a group of heroes in 1985 as, seemingly, a killer walks amongst them. Delving back and forth between time zones and featuring both graphic novel and prose sections to highlight each characters back story, this is a much more in depth novel - for it is a novel, I would say, from the size and complexity - than I was expecting.
I am glad I have read it. It dealt with a lot of interesting themes, including how crime isn't always black and white, the threat of increasing human understanding of technology and nuclear power, and the terrible cost of war. I can see how it is a masterpiece of this genre, but I felt fairly ambivalent once I'd finished the final page, and I won't be rushing to see the film any time soon.
The Maze Runner by James Dasher
I've read the Hunger Games, Battle Royale, Delirium; I know the drill for a lot of these YA dystopian novels by now. I was keen to try out the Maze Runner as I had heard a lot of Booktubers discussing it, so when I saw it in the library I picked it up.
The story revolves around Thomas, who wakes up in a box with no idea who he is, or where he is from, except knowledge of his name. He soon finds himself thrown into a strange area full of teenage boys, who live in the centre of a giant maze. The boys raise their own food and a select few spend their days running through the Maze, searching for a clue to a way out, avoiding staying out at night for fear of being caught by the evil monster/machines that lurk outside.
Inevitably, Thomas' arrival, followed by the arrival shortly after of a young girl to the clearing, are the catalyst for a climax in the boys' existence in the Maze world and lead to a lot of drama, action and adventure as they try to escape from the Maze and confront their captors.
I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I hoped I would. Perhaps as it is YA, the writing is not always very sophisticated and I found myself getting frustrated with that. The conclusion to this novel (Book 1 of 3), left at a cliffhanger, should have meant I was anxious to move onto Book 2 as soon as possible. However, I'm still on the fence about that.
Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen
This was one of those beautiful Little Black Classics from Penguin - a snip at 80 pence, and well worth those pennies.
For all its terrible subject matter, I really enjoyed this little collection of Owen's poetry. It covered all different aspects of war; from the cheers of your neighbours as you leave home, to the full horror of the trenches; to the loss of life, and the half life of those who were crippled. Some of the poems are pure horror; some have an aching humour to them which brings out the sadness of the situation all the more.
For those interested, 2 of my particular favourites were The Inspection and The Parable of the Old Man and the Young.