The last month was much slower than usual for reading, mostly because I spent the best part of the month working my way steadily through one novel, fitting a couple of other quick reads around it.
A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers
This is the second novel in a sci-fi series, following on from The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, which I read in January.
It follows The Wayfarer, a spaceship navigating the galaxy to carry out drilling jobs, with its motley crew of humans and alien species.
After the events of the first novel, the story picks up with the ship’s mechanical tech Pepper and its AI Lovelace, now confined to an illegal simulant body after an accident on board the ship. The two women head to Pepper’s home planet, where they struggle to build a life for Lovey who remembers nothing of her past life and decides to start again with a new name, Sidra.
In A Closed and Common Orbit, the story moves away from The Wayfarer and the rest of the crew, focusing entirely on Sidra and Pepper. As it progresses, the reader is introduced to Pepper’s haunting backstory, which draws another parallel with the human – AI relationship, revealing she has a particular insight into Sidra’s condition.
It took me most of the month to read this, not because it was bad or boring, but because the writing is quite dense and lyrical and the story is character rather than plot driven. In this series the characters and the universe they inhabit is so thoughtfully draw that you can’t help but be engaged with the story and moved by it.
This book particularly explores the idea of what it means to be an outsider and to build a different kind of family, with a unique bond that can survive all kinds of trouble and pain.
Even if science-fiction isn’t your thing, this series works on a much deeper, more human level and makes for a great read.
The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion, by Elle Luna
I bought this on a whim last year after coming across it online. It’s a beautifully illustrated book designed to inspire you to follow your dreams, helping you to make the choices that will move you from the work you ‘should’ do to the work you ‘must’ do, for your own wellbeing and passions.
“All too often we feel that we are not living the fullness of our lives because we are not expressing the fullness of our gifts.”
There are lots of lovely little soundbites and motivating quotes that will get you thinking about your passions and how to follow them. Much of this book is written for people who don’t necessarily know what they’re good at or what they want to do, so you don’t have to have a specific dream to find it useful.
It’s the kind of book that you can dip in and out of with ease. I read it in a couple of short sittings as I was looking for inspiration for my novel and it did help me connect with the mind-set I needed to start writing. I’ll definitely come back to this book again and again.
Apples, by Richard Milward
Set in my hometown of Middlesbrough, Apples follows a group of teens from a rundown estate as they drink, smoke and party their way through their last year at school. It deals with a huge range of issues from teen pregnancy to domestic violence and manages to be hard-hitting while also being quite upbeat, thanks mostly to the writing style.
I first read this about 10 years ago when it originally came out and decided to re-read it after the author, Richard Milward, came along to speak at a writing workshop I was at.
The book has a very strong sense of place and being from Middlesbrough it’s easy to picture exactly where the action is taking place, with the street names and nightclubs all being real places. Despite the difficult subject matter, it was a slightly nostalgic read for me this time round, as most of the bars and clubs named were around when I was going out regularly at college.
Milward has spoken about how he was influenced by Irvine Welsh and you do get that feeling from his work and the way in which it’s written. He plays with form, for example writing one chapter backwards as it’s from the point-of-view of a dyslexic character, and another chapter is written from the POV of a passing butterfly.
It’s a tough read in places, but captures the essence of what it’s like to be from a difficult background and use drink and drugs as a way of obliterating that and seeking a better life.
What have you been reading this summer?
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