Short Stories, Bonus Content and Bookish Misc of 2021; Part One

Title in white on orange skyline

And here we are, with another post on the theme of bookish “stuff” that doesn’t feel like it fits anywhere else! I’m still not particularly happy with the title, but as I can’t think of anything else, the title is staying. This first post is nearly all novellas as there’s little actionable bonus content in what I’m reading (reading club questions don’t count!)


ON THE MERITS OF UNNATURALNESS, by Samantha Shannon

Genre: Fantasy/"epic dystopia"
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 3.5 stars
Series: companion to THE BONE SEASON
Book cover for ON THE MERITS OF UNNATURALNESS: title in red on beige

Being me, I did a full re-read of THE BONE SEASON books ahead of the release of THE MASK FALLING, and decided it was about time I read the pamphlet that is so often referred to in the books themselves.

It was an interesting read – a LOT of world building, basically, as it outlines the various different types of clairvoyants in the world. You can really sense the snootiness of the “author” as they look down on certain types of clairvoyants for assorted reasons and decide who is the most powerful and which are trifling. It’s also obvious how much research Samantha Shannon did into different types of clairvoyance found in literature and traditions from around the world, full of lots of snippet about more bizarre practices you probably wouldn’t have heard of!

However, it’s not really got a narrative, and is basically an info-dump about the world, so it’s not a riveting read – more an interesting read that broadens the world for one familiar with the stories.


KILL JOY, by Holly Jackson

Genre: Thriller/Mystery
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: WBD prequel novella
Book cover for KILL JOY: title in black on a broken plate next to a blood-splattered napkin

I adore the A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER series – they are just such addictive, stunning books and I cannot wait for the final (!!) instalment this summer, AS GOOD AS DEAD. Naturally, I was very excited when a Word Book Day novella was announced. This is a prequel, a murder-mystery dinner game Pip and her friends attend for Conner’s birthday ahead of her deciding what her EPQ topic will be.

It was so much fun – briskly paced and with lots of shocks and scares as if it was a real murder mystery. However it comes without the big stakes of “there is actually a murderer to find”, which helped give it a more relaxed atmosphere (even though Pip, naturally, took it very seriously!) I read this in one afternoon, to relax after a very frustrating assignment, and it really did the trick.


THE DEEP-SEA DUKE, by Lauren James

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Age Range: YA - written for those with reading difficulties
Star Rating:
Series: yes - second book
Book cover for THE DEEP-SEA DUKE: title surrounded by seaweed

THE DEEP-SEA DUKE is another fun, quick read set in an inventive universe. Lauren James has clearly had so much fun creating the world of Hydrox and Ada in particular (she’s an alien race that grows into a planet eventually).

There are some really fun linguistic world building (particularly in a book that’s only 17k long so has to be really sparse). For example, it’s “starlight” not “sunlight”, as the stars the planets orbit aren’t called “the Sun”! It’s small details like this that really show how much care was put into creating this book.

By a funny coincidence, I read this just after another climate-change book (THE FOREVER SEA). THE DEEP-SEA DUKE is a lot more obvious about the theme and message, which isn’t my favourite style. However, given the word count restrictions on a book like this and the fact it is designed for children who struggle to read (so may find thematic comprehension less easy), then it makes sense to be more obvious.

To me, the romance came out of nowhere. It was sweet when it happened, but I’d read Hugo’s preceding thoughts as ones of friendship worries (given there didn’t feel like much from Dorian’s side). Thus, I was very surprised when Dorian proposed and kissed him. My friend says the romance was very much set up throughout and that it’s just my un-romantically inclined brain not noticing, so take of that what you will!


THREE MEMORIES, by Brigid Kemmerer

Book cover for A VOW SO BOLD AND DEADLY: title in silver on red trees

In the back of the Waterstones edition of A VOW SO BOLD AND DEADLY, there are three memories from Lilith’s perspective. These might also be in some US special edition, but this is the only UK edition to contain these. Lilith is the series’ villain, though I do love how the human conflict actually drives the later books, and these three memories are essentially her villain origin story.

I really appreciated, in the series, that Lilith was mostly just bad – no big sob story beyond a brief mention of the oppression of her people driving her to destroy the royals. It just fun to see a woman want power and take it, to have grown past primarily wanting to get revenge. These brief snippets, while interesting to get a glimpse into her personality, felt like they undid that a little.


What bonus content and novellas have you read so far this year?

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