Sadly, my reading list has had to take a back seat since this time last month, what with baby, new house et al. In fact, I can't think of a single book I've managed to finish – or at least, not one I'd be willing to present to you under the title Recommended Reads. So instead, here are a few of the books on my list for which I have high hopes. If you've read any of them and they didn't live up to your expectations, please let me know below. I need some way to prioritise :-)
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I'm actually halfway through this and enjoying it so far. On a technical level, the only problem I've noticed is an irritating abundance of mistimed participial phrases*, but the rest of the writing is good enough that I can (mostly) ignore that. And the protagonist, Victoria, achieves a refreshing balance between difficult and empathetic. She's not one of those irritating female protagonists whose 'flaws' are nothing to do with character, merely incidental features tacked on to avoid the accusation of Mary Sue-ism – you know, like being clumsy or tone-deaf or beautiful-but-unkempt, which are all 'faults' designed to make the character kookily endearing rather than convincingly human. Instead, Victoria is a realistically troubled and awkward young woman whose past experiences have led her to detach herself from other people. Not everything she does is likeable. Not every choice she makes is sensible. Yet despite that (or perhaps because of it), I find myself rooting for her. I just hope the conclusion of the novel lives up to what I've read so far.
Missing You by Louise Douglas. I enjoyed Douglas's previous book, The Love of My Life, enough to give this one a try (though I found TLoML's ending – the emotional climax to which the entire story arc had been building – to be rather a let-down). No idea what to expect from Missing You, but the blurb promises a dark secret at the core of the novel. And I always like a dark secret.
The People's Queen by Vanora Bennett. I picked this book up from my local supermarket for a pound. (Which is ridiculous, and makes me feel guilty for paying so little in return for an author's hard work – as well as all that paper and ink – but that's another discussion for another day.) I don't read a great deal of straight historical fiction (historical fantasy being another matter), but I liked Bennett's Queen of Silks, and I'm willing to give this one a try to see whether it was just the subject matter that appealed to me in Silks (because I'm a sucker for stories centred around Richard III) or the author's style.**
A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge. I have heard great things about Hardinge, chiefly that she is a brilliant but under-appreciated writer of YA fantasy fiction. The preview pages of A Face Like Glass, her latest novel, did nothing to contradict that impression, and so I've pre-ordered it. I'll keep my fingers crossed that here may be an author who can fill the gap Diana Wynne Jones has left in my life.
It strikes me that for a fantasy writer and enthusiast, I haven't recommended much in the way of speculative fiction since I started the Recommended Reads slot. I must try to remedy that next month. Watch this space!
* That is, constructions like 'Tipping the glass to access the last dregs, I replaced it on the counter', where it would be pretty damn tricky to do both simultaneously.
** To be read in a Chandler Bing voice: Could I use any more parentheses?