So as part of The Broke and the Bookish‘s weekly meme, Top Ten Tuesday, here is my Top 4 List of New-To-Me Favourite Authors that I’ve read in 2015. I would have done a Top Ten, but it occurs to me that I didn’t actually read that many new authors that I really loved this year! This is will hopefully be rectified next year.
1. The Rivers of London series, Ben Aaronovitch
I’d seen Rivers of London often when browsing the Sci-Fi & Fantasy section, mainly because the book covers are awesome and eye-catching and super attractive – but I’d never picked it up until this year. (This is also published as Midnight Riot in the US, where the original cover is deceptively more ‘crime novel’ and far less pretty, though they have updated the cover to fit with series now.)
MAN AM I GLAD I DID.
Aaronovitch’s series is probably one of the most addictive I’d read in a long time. Think police-procedural, with all those wonderful behind the scene terms, meets urban fantasy. I have to add some of Aaronovitch’s books are not for younger readers, especially Moon Over Soho, and he’s not afraid to go a bit grotesque in some of his descriptions, but this helps balance the magical aspects in a dose of reality.
Aaronovitch also takes well known supernatural creatures and builds on them with his own interpretations and with the context of urban London in mind. I always love to see how writer’s twist common myths like this and his approach is one of the most original I’ve seen in a while. Without spoilers, I’ll just say his take on the Thames lost rivers is one of the most interesting aspects of the series. Also his interpretation of magic, and Peter’s investigations into it (Finally, someone going ‘but wait, how does this work?!’) while sometimes vague, is also really detailed and obviously well planned out.
Another strength of Aaronovitch’s writing is how clearly he knows and how well he writes about his experience of London. Most of the books are set in and around London, and the best part is his knowledge of it’s secrets, e.g. the underground Rivers. Though I know barely anything about London, his knowledge of setting really brought the world to life for me. Try not to get too bogged down in looking up place names or maps though, as it could easily be overwhelming.
I’d say if you were a fan of Harry Potter but always wondered what the grittier side of magic was like, give Aaronovitch a go. Or if you love Doctor Who but were also excited about Torchwood as the more adult version (trivia: Aaronovitch wrote two episodes of Doctor Who for the classic series, Remembrance of the Daleks and Battlefield, and also wrote the novelisation of Remembrance of the Daleks. This is Sylvester McCoy’s era, which wasn’t the greatest in my opinion, but it does have Ace, who is awesome.)
If you breeze through the whole series and are waiting anxiously for the next book like me, there is also a series of e-book graphic novels, Rivers of London: Body Work, published by Titan Comics (YAY). So far there’s only issue #1 and #2 out, and they’re very quick reads, but good to tide you over.
The series was also optioned for a UK TV series back in 2013, but I haven’t heard anything since. Read the article here.
2. Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey
I read this book on holiday with my family back in March and I could not put it down.
Here’s some of the summary from Goodreads:
Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory—and her grip on everyday life. Yet she refuses to forget her best friend Elizabeth, whom she is convinced is missing and in terrible danger.
But no one will listen to Maud—not her frustrated daughter, Helen, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not Elizabeth’s mercurial son, Peter. Armed with handwritten notes she leaves for herself and an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth needs her help, Maud resolves to discover the truth and save her beloved friend.
I would say the strength of this book, or at least the part that really resonated with me, was the way that she constructed Maud’s narrative. You really get inside her head and empathise with the frustration she feels with aging, her memory and her grip on reality. At the beginning of the book there’s a scene involving cans of peach slices, which really connected with me as my grandma’s memory and ability to communicate has deteriorated quite rapidly over the years. I found myself rooting for Maud throughout the novel and it is definitely one that gets you thinking and stays with you after the book is over.
In regards to plot, the answer to the mystery of Elizabeth’s disappearance is suggested quite early on in the novel, but this is where the double mystery element comes in; though the reader knows what Maud forgets, you still don’t know the cause of her sister’s disappearance. While I did want to know what happened to Sukey, I would say I read on more because I wanted Maud to know what happened, and how everything worked out. I got very involved in Maud’s relationship with her family and particularly her daughter, mainly due to Healey’s rendering of Maud’s point of view, and the way she exploits the reader’s ability to understand the situation far more than Maud herself.
I read this very soon after reading the Girl on the Train, which also plays around with unreliable narration (and was another one I couldn’t put down) and I found it was actually a nice complement to that. If you’re a fan of mystery/thrillers with an emotional core, this is probably for you. I think based on this I will definitely pick up anything else Healey writes in the future.
3. Nimona, Noelle Stevenson
Goodreads summary here.
I bought Nimona on a whim, again while on the same holiday. I’d heard about the web-comic but never read it in it’s entirety. Since finishing Nimona I’ve been Noelle Stevenson obsessed (as you can probably tell by all the Lumberjanes issues in my 2015 challenge list).
I think the best thing about Nimona is Nimona. Stevenson goes out of her way to create a character that acknowledges all the common tropes of ‘likeable female character’ and turns them on it’s head. She and Lord Blackheart are both villains, Nimona has some serious problems with murderous rampages, and yet you really get to love her. It’s what always makes a good character and a good villain; they have a compelling argument for their cause. They’re shown to be human, to have vulnerabilities you empathise with. This is what makes a character a person.
Another strength is the relationship between Nimona and Lord Blackheart. There’s comedy, a little bit of disgust at the start, but also genuine affection. Stevenson plays on the whole mentor/student, father/daughter relationship trope and moulds it into real friendship. Blackheart is another well rounded character, and the way their relationship affects their development as characters is one of the core strengths of the novel.
As for the illustration, Stevenson’s work is as always fun, cartoonish and filled with plenty of visual jokes, but also renders character expression and emotion really effectively. It’s not too text heavy, and though the colours can be quite dark it has some great scenes.
If you’re a fan of books like Fangirl and Carry On (Rowell’s quote is on the front cover), and subversive YA fiction then check this out. I’m already addicted to Lumberjanes so her future work will definitely be a must read.
4. A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
Goodreads summary here.
I picked this up while I was volunteering at Oxfam one afternoon. Firstly, the cover is really pretty and the idea of an author finishing another author’s work intrigued me. I’ve never read any Siobhan Dowd, so I can’t comment on Ness’s rendering of her idea, but this story was really touching.
What resonated with me, again, was the character. Conor’s struggles at school and with his mother’s illness were touchingly written. His interactions with the Monster were as interesting as his daily life. Ness plays around with reader expectations with the stories that the Monster tells, in order to feed into a larger lesson about life as a whole. Overall, the book was one of those interesting mixes of depressing-but-ultimately-uplifting, and definitely stayed with me after I finished it.
I did also read Ness’s The Rest of Us Just Live Here after this, but as this was the first book and was in some ways better I thought I’d talk about this one. Ness has quickly become one of my favourite authors because of this book and I plan to read far more of his work.
An illustrated edition has also been released, which you can check out here, and a teaser trailer for the film was also recently released (!!!) which you can view here. Put on a jumper first, Liam Neeson’s voice will give you chills.
Bonus: Patrick Ness’s twitter is a daily source of joy.
If you’re planning to pick up any of these books or have already read them, let me know what you think in the comments!
Until the next Top Ten Tuesday, where I’ll be talking about The Top Ten Best Books I’ve Read in 2015… there may be some crossover.