I thought for this week’s blog I would pop up two book recommendations. I moved last year and ended up doing a lot of re-reading of different series (mainly fantasy). It felt comforting and easy and there were days where it felt nicer to read for a couple of hours than binge whatever I was bingeing at the time (although there was plenty of that as well). Books have always been a kind of escape for me and there is such a singular pleasure when I discover a new one that captures my imagination so completed I almost feel addicted to its pages.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
After re-reading many different fantasy books (I have lots of those recommendations too), this one came to me from my Dad and my reading of it fell in the betwixt times (those odd days between December 25th and January 1st). I buried myself in blankets and stayed within reach of bowl of Christmas chocolates and I roared through this story.
The Priory of the Orange Tree takes place across multiple lands and has four narrators. The first 50 pages felt overwhelming because there is so much to learn about the politics and history of this world. However, once you get into - wow does it fly. Its story on the surface is not too different (a monster was changed many years ago and now it is threatening to be free and our heroes must come together to stop it) but wow below the surface it expands in a way that is unforeseeable and so exciting.
My favourite aspect of this book was that in this world - despite the many countries being monarchies and king/queendoms) - there is not gendered aspect to hereditary titles. Whichever child is born first becomes the king/queen, duke/duchess, count etc. Women rule equally to men. It’s not even a question. The book doesn’t even address it. It’s normal. Although such a small thing, I found it so refreshing. The same is applied to relationships - there is no gendered attraction. Companionship (as marriage is called in the book) is between two people in all the countries and that’s it. That’s the end of this totally non-issue. It was a little shocking to me that in 2024 I found this take so refreshing. But it really was.
Playwriting by Stephen Jeffreys
I thought I would pop one creative suggestion on here. I am really not one to read acting books. I don’t know why but I have always found them a slog to get through (although I do get through them, sometimes). However, as I turned back to writing towards the end of last year, I was overwhelmed by the idea of writing a play that had more than two people in it and a somewhat more complicated timeline and plot. I have found this book not only supremely helpful but also SO compelling. It is a good read. I am entertained. I find it stimulating as well as educational. Again, this might seem like a low bar but so many books about writing can (ironically) be very boring. This one has whisked me a long and I find its approach to be attainable and the opposite of snobbish. Highly recommend if you are starting out or if you are an expert but want a refresher or just some inspiration.