Sakerfalcon devours books in 2012
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I've so enjoyed lurking on people's reading journal threads over the last year that I decided to start one of my own. I look forward to reading your comments, feedback and recommendations if you find my musings interesting ;-)
I read a lot of fantasy/SF, children's/YA books, and literature by women, especially that published by Virago Press. This year I am also trying to read more non-fiction, as I was a bit pathetic at that last year. I have huge tbr piles that I will be attempting to reduce, rather than acquiring too many more books. I doubt I will be very successful at this . . .
My first book finished in 2012 was Survival by Julie E. Czerneda, which was an excellent read. Czerneda was a new author to me in 2011, when I read A thousand words for stranger. Large sections of Survival were set in a future Pacific NorthWest, among biological researchers, whose interactions were a lot of fun to read. But she also writes aliens and otherworldly enviroments convincingly too. I expect I will be reading more by her this year.
Well, I'm glad a stumbled on to this journal! And, Busifer, I am not following you around on purpose! Is this near your bedtime? This is my morning and I should be sorting out stuff in the basement.
These books sound interesting, the Survival books. I think I will request them from the library. I've read A Thousand Words for Stranger a long time ago.
Good morning to you both :)
#4 - It's about 4:20 PM where I am and I really should transcribe some interviews but I seem to procrastinate ;-)
Still some time to go before I'm off to bed!
Once I finish the Miles Vorkosigan books I'll start in on some of Czerneda's books. Unless I can get a hold of In the Company of Others beforehand. I don't want to start another series just yet but a stand alone would be just fine. I read some of Czerneda's short fiction last year and fell in love. I agree, she writes aliens very convincingly.
So I'm torn. I'll miss Miles when he's gone, but I can't wait to start A Thousand Words for Stranger
Hello everyone, thanks for stopping by!
>6: Czerneda seems to stick to trilogies, although 2 of those are linked. From reading reviews, I found that A thousand words for stranger and Survival can both stand alone despite being the opening titles of trilogies. I certainly found both to have enough resolution that I don't feel I need to rush into the next book.
I still have to catch up with most of the Vorkosigan books; I started with A civil campaign and loved it, but it seems to be so different to the rest of the series that I'm worried they won't seem as great.
I'm currently reading The peregrine as part of my resolve to read more non-fiction this year. As I love nature and birds in particular, this seemed like a good one to start with.
Because I can't read just one thing at a time, I'm also part way through The ships of air, book 2 of The fall of Ile-Rien by Martha Wells. It's taken me a a while to get into it, but I'm just starting to get hooked. I do like that the characters for the most part refuse to conform to the obvious stereotypes, but instead are very real and don't do what you might expect.
I also have to find my copy of At Mrs Lippincote's and start reading it for the Virago Modern Classics group read.
Re 5: I noticed I got my Czerneda titles mixed and co-mingled. All fixed now.
Hi, I'm new here. I'm also an author. My book is a a juvenile/young adult fantasy novel. I find it quite hard to write my own reviews, so I hope that if someone out there sees this, might help out in reading or recommending my novelette. Thanks!
By the way, I'm currently reading Steve Job's biography, so I don't know, for some his life might seem as fantastic though...
I finished a few books over the weekend.
The ships of air took me a while to get into, but eventually I was hooked. I like that the characters are believably flawed, and don't usually do what you, or the other characters, expect. People's actions are true to their personality, rather than just serving the plot. The alternative 1920s type technology is fun, and the ocean liner (based on the Queen Mary) is a great setting that the author exploits successfully. I've now moved on to book 3 of the trilogy, The gate of gods.
The anvil of the world was my first read by Kage Baker, who seems to be very popular here on LT. I'd like to find some of her Company series (SF), but started with one of her fantasy titles. This was fun! It's really three linked novellas which follow the ex-assassin Smith as he seeks to leave his past behind and start some respectable venture. His first try is as a caravan master travelling to the coast with a mixed cargo and motley crew of guards and passengers. Many of these feature in the rest of the book. I think my favourite section was the 2nd, where Smith is running a hotel at a seaside resort. How many fantasies are set in a hotel?!! Based on this, there should be more! If you like a colourful cast of characters, humour and settings that are reminiscent of Jack Vance, then I recommend this.
I used to be a big fan of Valdemar, but eventually found the books to be too preachy and predictable, as well as using too many italics to emphasise points that didn't need it. I still miss the world though, so have started to read the anthologies based there. I've been dipping into Sword of ice lately, which is a mixture in terms of quality, but successful in that nothing outstays its welcome. Many of the authors write better prose than Lackey, and most stay faithful to the themes of the original novels.
Finally, I finished The girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making by Catherynne Valente. LOVED this! Anyone who likes Alice in Wonderland or the Oz books should check this out. Quirky, thoughtful, exciting, full of wonderful characters - it's much too good to keep for the children!
I've decided that this is the year I start reading C. J Cherryh. I've been lurking on the related thread here at the Dragon, and reading people's comments with interest. She certainly seems to be a favourite with many of you whose tastes I share. This Saturday I visited Forbidden Planet, the huge fantasy and SF shop in London, and picked up the two Chanur omnibuses (omnibi?!) and hope to start soon.
Still reading The peregrine (this one may take a while) and At Mrs Lippincote's, which I hope to finish soon.
I've never read Cherryh either. I keep meaning to but can't figure out where to start.
In the Company of Others is still my all time favorite by Julie E. Czerneda, and I've read them all to date. It's been favorably compared to CJ Cherryh's Downbelow Station.
A grand mix of the pressures of space station survival and an influx of refugees - and something other.
In these two novels, Cherryh carries the wide view political sweep, while Czerneda tends to focus more tightly on a smaller group of individuals, and the wider sweep impacting them. Both are excellent reads.
Chanur series is a good place to start with Cherryh, I think - she does have standalones as well if you want a smaller bite.
I finished reading At Mrs Lippincote's last night, for the Virago Modern Classics Elizabeth Taylor (not that one!) group read. This was her first novel and it is a subtle, understated portrait of an officer's wife, her family and connections during WWII. Her husband has been posted to a provincial town, and through her attempts to settle into a new place, we realise how unsuited she and her husband are, and how trapped she is in her situation. There is no great drama in the novel, and nothing is spelled out for us, yet the characters and their lives are lingering in my mind as I wonder what lies in store for them beyond the scenes we have seen.
Interested to hear how Peregrine works out. That might be something for me to add to my short non-fiction list for this year.
I'm currently stalled on Julie C waiting for her publisher to get the ebooks out in the right order. Honestly who thinks that having ebooks 1 and 3 available without no 2 is good for anyone?! Julie is fairly active on FB, and working on a new novel.
Yay more Cherryh fans!
Just finished The hotel under the sand by Kage Baker. It's a charming story in the tradition of the Oz books about a clever, brave girl who is swept away from all she knows and falls into adventure. Unlike Dorothy though, the heroine knows she can't go home again, which adds some poignancy to the fun. Recommended if you like Oz, Alice in Wonderland, or The girl who circumnavigated Fairyland.
I also finished The gate of gods, part 3 of Martha Wells' Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy. If I hadn't owned all three books when I started, I would probably not have read on after the first one, as it didn't grab me. But I would have missed out on a great read - books 2 and 3 really took off plot-wise, and the character interactions became fascinating to watch. In the end I was sorry to leave them, but am looking forward to trying Wells' The cloud roads when I can afford to order a copy :-/ And I think the Fall of Ile-Rien will be even more rewarding as a reread - if my tbr pile even gets down to a manageable size ...
Back to The peregrine, a difficult book to read on the train, but very suited to the chill wintry weather we are having at the moment.
>17: I can imagine how annoying that is about the ebooks. It's bad enough when the library is missing a volume, but for the publisher to be the culprit . . . I see Czerneda has a fantasy novel being released this spring, that might be interesting.
You just made me order The Hotel Under the Sand. I've never read any Baker, and this sounds like a lovely place to start.
I like the sound of Kage Baker too. I'll keep an eye out. I have read most of Czernada, although I did find Survival a bit more work than many of her other books.
I hope you enjoy the Chanur books - that whole series first got me hooked on SF and it is a good place to start with CJ Cherryh - some of her work is a bit challenging, I find. If you have any interest in linguistics, I would recommend the Foreigner series too.
LizzieD had mentioned Elizabeth Taylor as worth a try too. *heads off to the library catalogue*
20: I hope you enjoy it! I know I'll be rereading it, and recommending it to friends with daughters.
21: Most of us in the Virago group are reading a book a month by Taylor; there are dedicated threads if you are interested.
I've just started the first Chanur book - only 2 chapters in and I'm hooked. I had to catch the later train to work today because of it!
This weekend I finished a couple more books. Texas gothic was a fun YA read, a ghost story set in the hill country of Texas. The heroine and her sister come from a family of benign witches (the type who make herbal remedies that really work - that sort of thing), and fall in with a young rancher and a group of anthropology students while minding their aunt's farm for the summer. Unlike many of the YA paranormal books out there, this one is refreshingly down to earth and angst-free; it also features a strong streak of humour. There is a romance, of course, but although this starts with instant attraction, it takes a while (and a lot of bickering) before becoming more. No insta-love here, and no love triangles either (my least-favourite trope).
Diane Duane has become one of my favourite authors (it took a while as I'm not a fan of the Young Wizard books, which were my introduction to her work), and I just finished Omnitopia Dawn, the first book in her latest series. This was fun; I liked the cast of characters and really cared about their fates. The VR world around which the action takes places was drawn in great detail (sometimes a bit too much for me, as I am not very computer literate), and I liked the idea that certain players can get picked to create their own worlds with the game. I'll be looking for book 2 when it comes out in paperback.
Dark Eden by Chris Beckett. I read an excellent review of this new novel on the Wertzone blog, and when I saw a copy at the library the next day, it seemed like Fate! So it jumped the queue to become my read-at-work book. The story takes place on a planet where it is always night, the only light source being a spiral galaxy overhead. Flora and fauna have evolved to create light (and heat) to compensate. This setting fascinated me and is what drew me to the book. A colony of humans eke out a living at hunter-gatherer level on the planet; they are descendents of a pair of astronauts stranded about 160 years ago. The story concerns the conflict between the traditionalists who believe that the colony must stay in the same place despite having used up the food sources and running out of space, because of a promise that earthmen will return for them, and some of the young people who see the need to change and adapt and try to spread over the planet in search of new resources. A variety of narrative voices provide a nuanced picture of the motivations of each group, although the individual voices are not terribly distinct from one another in style. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, especially as the conflict is shown in shades of grey; even the "hero'"'s motives are questionable, as some of the other characters point out.
This weekend I finished The pride of Chanur, and launched straight into Chanur's Venture. It's safe to say I enjoyed it a lot :-) The dynamics among the hani were fascinating, but what really struck me was how vulnerable Tully appeared when viewed from the alien pov. I had to keep reminding myself that he was also human like me and those I encounter every day. Every time he used his "best word - friend", I felt all protective! I'm really looking forward to the rest of the saga, and to more of Cherryh's work.
Mu current work read is Child of a rainless year by Jane Lindskold. So far it is gorgeous, just the sort of thing I like. The author has slowly built up a complete picture of the protagonist and her world, and only now that I'm a good way in are the mysteries starting to reveal themselves. It's making want to take off and go to the South Western USA and eat good Mexican food!
>26: I bought both the omnibus volumes when I saw them at the shop :-) Your reviews of Cherryh's books are excellent, btw, and are part of what encouraged me to start this series.
I read Cinder this weekend, and really enjoyed it, although maybe not quite as much as I thought I would. The Cinderella story retold in a future world of cyborgs, androids and a post-WWIV world sounded like a real win to me, and it has had rave reviews. But I found Cinder a little bit flat as a heroine for me, and I guessed the big reveal quite early on. But I loved the android Iko, and hope we are able to see her again in the sequels, and I thought the world building was intriguing. The technicalities of Cinder's cyborg nature were well-handled, and overall I do recommend the book especially to fans of YA lit and retold fairy tales.
I also read Forever, to finish up the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. It was okay, I like that Stiefvater didn't tie everything up into a perfect happy ending, but I felt that the characters lacked urgency as regards the wolf hunt. They know they only have 14 days in which to act, but instead on working on their plan, they are busy doing other things. I know for dramatic reasons the plan had to intersect with the hunt, but I thought in real life, they wouldn't have risked cutting it so close. All in all, this trilogy was not as bad as the first book made me think, but it's still not one I will go back to.
It was a quiet night at work yesterday, so I managed to finish two more books.
The peregrine is my first non-fiction book of the year, and by rushing to finish it before the month's end I feel I rather short-changed it. It is a beautifully written book that deserves to be lingered over and (IMO) savoured in short chunks. Baker spent 10 winters observing the wildlife, and especially the titular peregrine, in the countryside around his home in Essex. He condensed those observations into a diary of one winter, which I suspect is why you read of days with an unbelievable number of amazing bird and animal sightings. What I loved about the book (in addition to the gorgeously poetic prose) is that nature comes first; Baker is in the book only as an observer. I've tried reading some of the "new" nature writers, who Baker inspired, and found myself wading through pages of their thoughts and feelings, rather than reports of what they are seeing. Baker, however, seems to be just one element in the landscape that he describes so clearly, and over time, he realises that he is being observed in his turn as the birds he loves become aware of his presence. I could say so much more about this book, but will resist rambling on any more! Having read this, I will go back and give MacFarlane and co another try.
My other book was Child of a rainless year by Jane Lindskold. I'd tried and failed to read one of her "Wolf" fantasy series before, but this caught my eye when it popped up as an LT recommendation. It is a slow-burner, a rich portrait of a person and a place in which secrets are gradually revealed as the details accumulate. It's really a slice of life with a dollop of magical realism, and will suit those who don't need an action-packed plot. What happens in the book is low-key - an elementary school art teacher repaints an old house, researches the disappearance of her mother, explores the town she left as a child 40+ years ago, and discovers something magical about said house and town - but it all adds up to a satisfying resolution. Recommended if you want a rich, quiet read that immerses you in a specific place and a woman's life. There are lots of descriptions of food that may make you hungry though!
Looking at the books I've read so far this month, fantasy and SF have dominated the field. I'm going to make an effort to mix in more "mundane" books from now on, and am starting The sweetness at the bottom of the pie as my current work read. (Although you could say a book that features an eleven year old crime solver and chemistry genius in an idyllic English village is as much a fantasy as, say, anything by Tolkein or Hobb!)
Heh, Sweetness is certainly fantasy, but very nice classic murder mystery stuff, too. Hope you enjoy it. I discovered Flavia last year and am a devoted follower, although I think I read somewhere that her creator only planned to write five books about her.
I've got the first Flavia book on my ereader. Just waiting for the mood to hit me to read it. Readers seem to be split, some enjoying her precociousness, others wanting to smack her. Hoping I'm one of the former.
>30, 31: I finished Sweetness this weekend and found it a fun romp, which however needs a large pinch of salt (no pun intended). Flavia manages to be both engaging and irritating, although by the end the engaging side won out. However, she is just too knowledgeable for an 11 year old, and the way that everyone just opens up and tells her what she needs to know is a bit too convenient. But I was really pleasantly surprised at how few North Americanisms crept in to the text, and at the well-written, often funny, dialogue. (The author is Canadian and had never visited the UK before writing the book.) If I see any of the sequels at the library or used bookshop I will definitely pick them up. MrsLee, I see there are currently 6 titles in the series listed here on LT :-)
I also finished Chanur's Venture, the middle volume in my omnibus edition. What a fun ride that was - and what a cliffhanger! I can't wait to find out how Pyanfar and the crew will get out of this situation, which is getting more complicated by the minute.
My next non-genre work read is Carpentaria by Alexis Wright.
#32 - I was wondering about the North American thing. I wouldn't catch anything off if I tried. :)
>34: I thought the dialogue in particular was really, really well done. It's tough to write it well even in a setting you are familiar with, let alone a foreign one.
Just finished Blood red road, one of the current range of YA dystopian titles. This one, like the Chaos walking trilogy, is written in a Southern/Western US dialect, which I found easy to read and never contrived. The heroine Saba is like Katniss from the Hunger Games in her physical toughness and determination, right down to a plot development that requires her to literally fight for her life. In fact, there is no shortage of strong females in this book, from a band of amazon-types called the Free Hawks, to an older woman who has made a life for herself in a harsh environment, to Saba's younger sister Emmi. Emmi may be my favourite character in the book; Saba tells us she is a pest and a clingy nuisance, but as the story progresses we see that she is just as strong and determined as her sister, albeit in different ways. The book's first half is, IMO, stronger than the second, which includes the seemingly obligatory romance. At least Saba doesn't turn into a Bella when her man comes along.
There were only 2 things that I found annoying about this book: the heartstone, which didn't fit into an otherwise non-magical setting, and the villain.
SPOILER ALERT: the trope of the villain who still isn't dead despite being crushed by a wagon, set on fire, shot in the chest, etc is one I find really irritating and unbelievable. (No, I don't watch Bond films!)
Recommended if you like adventures set in a bleak future, probably post-apocalyptic, with very strong characters.
Thank you for sending me a link to your reading log! I am definitely going to follow yours... so many interesting books! And your comments on each are very useful for me, because then I know if it's a book that could interest me or not.
By the way, I feel like a slowpoke reader next to you. :-D
I need to find a way to optimize my reading time or else my own log will progress way too slowly. And the TBR pile shows no signs of getting any smaller...
I work in a library and often have the late shift which is very quiet, so that is why I have a lot of time to read and can fly through books. Yet, my tbr pile never shrinks!
I finished The kif strike back this weekend. I couldn't stop reading once I hit the final few chapters and can't wait to get back to Pyanfar and the crew when I get home this evening! The hani are wonderful, but the methane-breathing species are just so truly alien and fascinating. I wonder if we will ever figure them out . . .
And I am so curious as to what Skkukkukt's role will be in the events to come! Part of why the books are so gripping is that motivations are so difficult for the reader and the hani to figure out.
Yes, definitely so. And some of them will not figure things out until it is waay too late... and others will benefit in unexpected ways!
Well, I've had my first disappointment of the year. Carpentaria was one of those books that I could tell was a really good one in every way as I was reading it - but it just wasn't for me. It's rather a rambling narrative, long stretches of which I found myself skimming. Then suddenly it becomes very vivid and I would be gripped by an incident or a character's story for a while, until things became vague again - like an image blurring in and out of focus. Characters come and go and things are often left unresolved, which I don't always mind as that is like real life, but here it seemed as though some stuff was just forgotten about. I found the prose a bit heavy going, but liked the way she described the land and the sense of the spiritual landscape as well as the physical. I guess overall I liked the book well enough, but I wanted to love it, and I also feel as though I just didn't "get it". Oh well.
Next up on my non-genre list is The snow child, which is set in Alaska, so a total change of scenery from hot, wet north Queensland. I think technically Snow Child is magical realism, but as that tends to get shelved with general fiction I'm not counting it as fantasy!
The snow child was a lovely read, very atmospheric and one I found hard to put down, in spite of knowing how things were going to end. The story is based on the Russian folk tale Snegurochka, of an older, childless couple who make a child out of snow who then comes to life. Different versions of the tale vary in details, but in all of them, the child disappears/dies at the end. Here, the author has set the tale in 1920s Alaska, and the couple are homesteaders who seek a life where they will not be surrounded by children who remind them of their grief. The fairy tale is referenced early in the book, so we know roughly how things will end, but the book is as much about the growth of the main characters, particularly Mabel, and their relationship with the harsh land they have come to. My favourite section of the book took place during the summer, when the snow child was actually absent. Mabel's husband has injured himself so Mabel must take on all the farm work, with the help of a neighbouring family. They already feel affection for her, but this grows to respect as they see her determination to learn and shoulder her burdens. And Mabel comes to respect herself, and to feel at home in the land, as she never did when she restricted her work to the house. In the end, we are still unsure of the exact nature of Faina, the snow child - was she real, or truly a supernatural being? But that is as it should be. Recommended to you if you like a historical setting, characters who grow and learn over time, and a touch of supernatural mystery.
I have read The good women of China years ago... it became quite famous in Brazil... but for some reason I forgot all about it! Usually I can remember almost all books I read, but this one has been deleted from my brain. Perhaps it was because this book was a college assignment, not a pleasure read...
I think I have been using my book to escape reality a bit, so lately I have been reading more fantasy, sci-fi and historical novels than anything else...
>46: I can understand that, I think I've forgotten most of what I read for class, except for the novels! I'm making an effort to mix up my reading this year and include more non-fiction and general fiction; otherwise it would all be F & SF and children's literature!
The good women of China was a very worthwhile, but harrowing read. A woman's lot in C20th China was not, apparently, a very happy one if the stories related here are typical. Some of the cases could have taken place anywhere in the world (abuse by family members; betrayal by spouse), but much of the violence against women seemed to result either from the Cultural Revolution (gang rape by soldiers during "Political Study" group), or from the remoteness and lack of communication in such a vast country (the slow death of earthquake victims; the villagers of Shouting Hill). Not an enjoyable read, but a necessary one.
I'm now reading The Tripods trilogy, in tribute to John Christopher who died recently. I had to read the first book in secondary school, before I appreciated SF, and have to say I am enjoying it a lot more this time around. It is very much of its time though (60s) in lacking female characters. But the aliens are truly alien and the plot is gripping and fast moving.
This weekend I ended up with a fair amount of uninterrupted reading time :-) I was able to finish Chanur's homecoming, which had me frantically turning pages to the end. I loved how, as the plot progressed through the series, the crew of the Pride grew more and more unorthodox with the addition of each non-female-hani member. Following the interactions between sexes and species was perhaps my favourite aspect of the books. I also liked how in this volume we got to see more about Pyanfar and Khym's marriage, which was very touching. I still have Chanur's Legacy to read, and I am looking forward to it as Hilfy might be my favourite character, but I think I will save it until later in the year. The thought of having no more Chanur to enjoy is a sad one and I want to put off that moment for a while!
I enjoyed the Tripods trilogy, despite the lack of female characters. The plot and the alien world were enthralling enough that I didn't mind the rather flat characters - actually, it made a nice change to read a YA book where the characters got on with things rather than wallowing in thoughts and feelings for pages on end! The middle book was my favourite of the three as much of the action takes place in the alien city, but I appreciated the very end of the trilogy which is certainly not a "happy ever after" resolution.
To break up the SF, I sneaked in a quick children's book, Thimble summer by Elizabeth Enright. This is a lovely nostalgic read about a girl's life on her family's farm in Wisconsin during the Depression.
My current commuting/work book is Cryptonomicon; I really want to start Reamde but can't face carrying that huge hardback to work. Besides, Crypto has been on my shelf for longer. At home, I've started The prefect by Alistair Reynolds; I love his Revelation Space novels and this is the only one I haven't read before.
How do you like Cryptonomicon? I loved it and have reread it a couple of times but I readily admit that there are passages that I haven't read one single time - just eyed and flipped over... ;-)
I like most all of Cherryh but my favorites are the Mri trilogy, also known as The Faded Sun:
The Faded Sun: Kesrith
The Faded Sun: Shon'Jir
The Faded Sun: Kutath
and the Morgaine Cycle:
Gate of Ivrel
Well of Shiuan
Fires of Azeroth
This was a good read and since we live in the same area I can say it was very true to life as well. Contact us if you are ever in New Mexico!
I finished The prefect by Alastair Reynolds this Sunday. It's the last of his novels set in the world of Revelation Space that I had to read (still have the short stories to look forward to) and was just as good as the others. I love the author's vision of the future in deep space, with a variety of habitats and post-human communities and lifestyles. Within this world, his characters are well-drawn and easy to relate to, not the flat stereotypes one sometimes finds in SF (I've also just read Ringworld . . . nuff said!). The plot of this one is basically a police procedural, where what seems like a basic investigation builds into a battle to save thousands of communities and cultures from destruction. My only complaint about the book was that the traitor character was too easily believed by his colleagues, who never questioned his stories and claims; I felt that his word wouldn't have been accepted with the lack of debate shown.
In total contrast, I also read Jennings goes to school, which was hilarious, very different from the girls' school stories I grew up reading. It made me laugh out loud in several places, which is a rare thing.
Read and loved Polar City blues by Katharine Kerr, another police procedural in space. Excellent worldbuilding, compelling characters and a twisty, multi-stranded plot kept me hooked to the end of this one. I did find the romance rather unconvincing and unnecessary, but it was a minor part of the book thankfully. I enjoyed this almost as much as Palace, which is one of my all-time favourite SF reads.
On the YA front, I read Glass houses, the first Morganville vampires book, in a morning. Liked the characters, liked the college setting, and loved that vampires are evil again! The girl who is in a relationship with a vampire is seen as a fool who is endangering herself - as indeed she is (well, unless there is a twist in later books . . .) I'll look for some more of these at the library - because everyone needs some popcorn in their reading diet ;-)
I'm about 150 pages from the end of Cryptonomicon; it's a rare book that takes me this long to finish, but this is a dense, absorbing read that can't be skimmed. It is very, very good though.
Am also about half way through The wise man's fear, which I started slowly as it's such a huge hardback and has to be read sitting on the sofa (usually I read while commuting or in bed). Now that Kvothe has left the Arcanum and gone to Vintas, I'm finding that I'm staying on the sofa longer just to find out what happens next!
My read-in-bed book is another YA, Guardian of the dead. This is set in New Zealand and mixes Maori myths and spirits with contemporary teenage life. I stayed up way too late last night, and expect to do so again tonight as this is one of those "just one more chapter" books.
Polar City Blues was a great read. I had a harder time getting into Polar City Nightmare, which I didn't actually finish. I'm not sure if I just wasn't in the mood or all the baseball talk was making me lose interest. I've had Palace on the shelves for a while now. My husband really enjoyed it but for some reason I never read it. Considering how much I've enjoyed most of Kerr's other books I really should get to it.
>55: I am trying to be patient and wait for the paperback of the new Reynolds. Fortunately I still have some of his non-Rev Space novels to read until then.
>56: After finishing Polar City Blues I was all set to order Nightmare, but I think I'll wait, based on your comment, and tackle some more of Mount Tbr for a while.
Finished Cryptonomicon on a slow evening at work. It was a very good read, and I certainly learned a ton about cryptography and the Pacific theatre of WWII, but I'm not sure I will want to reread it the way I do Stephenson's other books. Busifer, yes, there were passages that caused my eyes to glaze! Turing's bicycle wheel/chain was one, and many of the encryption and computer programming sections managed to lose me too. For all that, I really enjoyed the different characters and their storylines. But I didn't love the book the way I did Anathem, which was one of my top 10 reads from 2011.
I followed that monster with a quick and easy refresher, Time to depart, number 7 in Lindsey Davis's Falco series of mysteries set in the Ancient Roman world. I must confess to a bit of a book crush on Falco, and I love the details of life in the Roman world. There are always plenty of colourful characters, including a number of feisty women. I'm not a big mystery reader, but I am certainly hooked on this particular series.
My current work read is Kinshu, a small Japanese novel told in letters between a woman and man who divorced 10 years previously. So far it is exquisite, and I am having to slow down to take in and enjoy the poetic imagery.
Still on Guardian of the dead and Wise man's fear at home, with Riddle master next up.
With Anathem he really passed the threshold and became a mature author, imho, which might seem an odd thing to say about someone who have written epics such as he has, but it is my definite opinion. I'm not sure I would had liked Cryptonomicon as much as I did had I read it after Anathem or Reamde. But I have read all his books since Snow Crash as they got released (the older stuff I read later and it didn't impress).
>58: That's a good observation; Anathem is certainly a more cohesive book than Cryptonomicon, although partly that is because it doesn't jump between timeframes. But I felt I got to know even the minor characters in Anathem, whereas some of those in Crypto never really came alive for me - Amy especially. That said, others were brilliantly drawn, so . . .
I'm currently reading the Riddle Master trilogy, for Morphy's group read. It's taken me several attempts over a number of years to get through the first book, but I did finally enjoy it this time round. I agree with various people's complaints that Morgon's waffling and constant turning back from his quest gets annoying - but I feel that it reflects his sense of responsibility towards his people as their ruler. He worries that he didn't have a chance to mend his swineherd's leaky roof, for example. I'm now into the second volume, which is much more compelling - all I'll say so far is Girl Power - hooray!
Last week I read Swimming by Nicola Keegan, which seems to have had mixed reviews on here. I enjoyed it though. The prose is almost but not quite stream of consciousness in places, and sometimes the literary tricks didn't quite work for me, but overall I enjoyed the narrative voice and the portrait of a troubled young woman who strives for excellent in the pool to escape from family troubles. Although she achieves glory, this is almost glossed over as the real story is of Pip's inner journey, and the novel charts her fall in as much detail as her rise. I think several reviewers wanted the book to end on a high note, but I felt it needed to continue as it did and tell the whole story.
I realised that I finished Kinshu and never wrote it up. It would have been very easy to read this fast, so compelling was the gradual revealing of the characters' stories. After their divorce 10 years ago, the couple have had no contact with each other until a chance meeting at a holiday resort. They begin a correspondence through which they both find some closure and the ability to move on with their lives. Things end more positively for the man than for the woman, but there is hope that once she has taken action and put herself on a new path that she will find fulfilment. I very highly recommend this quiet little book to those who are interested in contemporary Japan and in human relationships.
I'm still reading Heir of sea and fire. It is very good but I find I need to pay attention to the prose, so it's not good when I am tired. I didn't read it at all last week, after an evening when I realised I had read and failed to take in a whole chapter.
My current work book is Ready player one, which so many Dragoneers have raved about. I was thrilled to find a like-new copy at a second-hand bookshop last week and I had to start it right away. So far I'm loving it!
>62: I started out reading the Deverry books, but now I actually prefer Kerr's SF. Wish she'd write some more, but I think her latest book is UF, which is not my cup of tea. That said, she is probably one of the few writers who might get me to try it.
This week I finished Ready player one, which I think will end up being one of my favourite books of 2012. Loved the characters, plot and worldbuilding, despite not being a gamer. It was hard to put this down and think of less important things, like work, or getting off the train at the right stop . . . ;-)
I also read and enjoyed Fledgling by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. This is the first I've read of their Liaden books, and I think I'll be tracking down some of the others. Theo is an engaging heroine, and her story would make a good read for a YA looking to get into SF. We are given enough glimpses of the wider universe to see that it is well thought out and intriguing, but not so much that it was confusing to a new reader like me. Also, there are cats in this book. Nuff said :)
I've now returned to my quest to read more non-genre books, and am reading To the is-land, the first volume of Janet Frame's autobiography. It tells of a childhood as part of a poor family in New Zealand, but rather than straightforwardly recounting her experiences, she builds up a more sensory picture of life, with lots of mentions of flora and fauna and popular songs of the day. I've read a couple of Frame's novels before, both of which drew on her experiences of mental illness, and I'm finding it interesting to read of her childhood and to see how this too influenced her fiction.
Ready Player One is sitting by my chair to be read soon. I gave it to my son for Christmas and he loved it.
I thought Ready Player One was a good read but not extraordinarily so. More a trifle than a seriously important/good/intriguing/thought-provoking/inspiring/well-written/clever read.
But it is worth reading, none-the-less :)
Busifer, I agree with you. It was great fun to read and hugely entertaining, but not literature. I don't believe it was meant to be more than a diversion, with an added message about the importance of finding value in real life and not always trying to escape into fantasy. As such, I think it succeeded. MrsLee, I hope you enjoy it when you get to it!
I've just finished a YA title, Soul enchilada , and loved it. The main character is a feisty 18-y-o Latina/African American girl whose tough life gets more difficult when she finds out that her dead grandfather sold her soul to the devil in order to buy the car of his dreams. There's lots of humour, snarkiness and local colour in the book, and Bug is an awesome heroine. Though there is romance, her personality and priorities do not change because of it, and things never get sappy - in fact, she and her man are more likely to be bickering than making out. Warning - you will probably experience cravings for pizza and Tex-Mex food while reading this book!
I finally finished the Riddle Master trilogy by Patricia McKillip for Morphy's monthy magical reads. I did enjoy the book in the end, but it was a slog in parts. Most of the characters were excellent, with even small players standing out, and I liked the sense of the land as having this ancient history and mythology. But McKillip rarely tells us anything straight out - we are only given hints and glimpses of things, which meant that if I wasn't paying close attention I got lost having missed something important. Unlike most of McKillip's books, I liked rather than loved this one.
Still reading To the is-land and loving it, and at home have started Fortress in the eye of time, although the Foreigner series is calling my name. . .!
Fortress in the Eye of Time is just wonderful! The series only gets better as it goes, I've loved it.
If you are going to read the Liaden universe books, and if you continue with the trilogy beginning with Fledgeling, it will DEFINITELY spoil some luscious plot points in the series, entire.
I do recommend that you go back and start with Agent of Change, the journey in publication order is well worth it! This series of books are wonderfully pleasurable light reads, all.
I'm already enjoying Fortress; it has some of the same atmosphere that I love about Patricia McKillip's writing - a crumbling, overgrown fortress in a forest, strange magics, and mysterious forces with unknown agendas. It's beautifully written too, without being flowery.
Oh dear, I see I shall have to give in to the temptation to collect more of the Liaden books. LibraryThing is very bad for my bank account!
I finished To the is-land on my way home last night. It really is very fine autobiographical wiriting that conjures up a specific time and place (New Zealand in the inter-war years). She tells of the things that made an impact on her as a child - nature, popular music, fairy tales - which she gives as much weight as the deaths of family members and her brother's epilepsy. I like that she doesn't analyse what she tells us - there are no asides such as "This was the beginnning of my interest in - " or "Little did I know but this was to be . . ." I've started on the second volume already, An angel at my table which starts with Frame going to Teacher Training College.
#69 - well yank that book outta there, it's way too good a book to languish unread! (and it's short!)
If Sakerfalcon gets the title (heh, do it! do it! egg, egg, egg!) - we can have a mini read fest. There are some wonderfully quixotic things in this series that are just good clean light FUN! The sort I return to when things get stressed. You do know that there is an omnibus edition of the first few volumes? It may still be in print....or available somewhere.
And I've re-read the Fortress series within the past year, so that is pretty fresh in mind, too. If you already love it now, it will truly become incredible, later! Cherryh did some very daring stuff, building a character with total innocence - what lies in store is like nothing else in fantasy and it's been - to my mind - utterly and completely overlooked by the larger picture. I cannot figure why - there is NO reason for this work to be so obscure. Hopefully you'll find (as I did) that it well deserves a wider audience.
And I won't put you off Foreigner - I love that series with a passion, too!
>71: I like that idea! But it will have to wait until I have more money to order the books - the Baen reprints of the omnibuses are available on amazon, I see.
I've finished all three volumes of Janet Frame's Autobiography and I have to say that they blew me away. Such fine writing that evokes other times and places in a way that brings them to life and, although Frame tells of some terrible experiences (most notably, being misdiagnosed with schizophrenia and spending 8 years in various mental hospitals), the books never become a misery-fest. Seeing her grow both as a woman and a writer is truly satisfying; I felt I had lived her life alongside her, rather than with some autobiographies which feel more like a documentation of the writer's achievements. Highly, highly recommended.
I've also read a "Golden Age" mystery, The rising of the moon by Gladys Mitchell. This was written in 1945 and features Mrs Bradley, the Home Office psychologist who featured in about 30 books by Mitchell. In this one she doesn't appear until half way through the book, when we have already had the stage set by the two boys through whose eyes we see events. Unfortunately I guessed who the murderer was right from the start, but it didn't diminish my enjoyment of the book, which excelled in showing us a glimpse of English small town life that has long since passed.
I'm still enjoying Fortress in the eye of time; I'll take it to my parents' house for Easter when I should have time to finish it. It is very, very good so far.
My latest commuting read is The pillow book of Sei Shonagon, which is a fascinating look at court life in Heian-era Japan.
#72 "the Baen reprints of the omnibuses are available " -ooh of the Linden books? I've been meaning to get inot these for some time, I have an odd mid series book waiting for me to find the beginning....
I too love Fortress, although I tend to think the first is the best, but Janny hits the nail onthe head with "Cherryh did some very daring stuff, building a character with total innocence - what lies in store is like nothing else in fantasy"
I also loved Ready Player One. As you say there's nothing too deep in it. But it is really really excellent candy.
I *loved* the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagan and you are right that it is perfect for commuter reading. I particularly enjoyed her gift for crafting short lists of observations. Very, very nice; she's like a Heian-era blogger, isn't she?
Heh! - Fortress in the Eye of Time - great book. Told ya.
As for the sequels - your mileage may vary - but I thought the series got better and better as it went. When I did my recent re-read, I picked up a whole lot of stuff I likely missed on first read, years ago. There's a tremendous amount of tension built up as she defines the magic deeper, and adds more edge to the political/historical layers. The only HUGE regret I have is that she didn't get the chance to write the last book, she doesn't leave abusive cliffhangers, mind, but it's plain she had a finale in store. I can only hope she'll do it some day. Word is, if her Closed Circle effort builds enough success...
#74 - I love the Liaden books - they are a lot of fun and a sweet and welcome relief from tension and the prevalent trend toward dystopias. I've followed the series since they first came out, and disappeared as quickly, from Ballantine. It is wonderful to see Baen picking them up. As usual with authors doing originally unusual things/not thrown on the high budget release track - seems to take time for them to be discovered.
>75, 76: Yes, that is a perfect description of Shonagon! I love her lists of "Annoying things", "Embarrassing things" etc, the anecdotes of daily life at the court of the Empress, and the details of plants and birds. C10th century Japan is a world as foreign and fantastic as any in SF & F, although its inhabitants have much in common with us.
>74, 77: I will be buying the Baen Liaden omnibuses (should that be omnibi?!) as soon as I have some spare cash. My enjoyment of Fledgling combined with Janny's enthusiasm has convinced me :-) Unfortunately I have to replace a lot of my outdoor gear (boots, shoes, platypus) this month, so I may have to wait till I get some birthday money in May.
I'm staying at my parents' house for the four-day Easter weekend (Fri-Mon) so I should get a lot of reading done in between singing at church services. The weather is supposed not to be great, so it's a perfect excuse to curl up with some good books!
Well, I didn't get as much reading done as I'd expected this weekend, and while I managed to finish two books, neither were the ones I was in the middle of!
I had borrowed Gogo monster from the library, as it is another manga by the creator of Tekkonkinkreet which I thought was excellent. This too was not your usual manga - no big-eyed girls or distracting screentones here. It follows a year in the life of Yuki, a middle-school boy who is convinced that his school is being taken over by the "Others", malevolent beings who can only be held in check by a greater power called Super Star. Is this real, or a figment of Yuki's imagination? Even by the end, one isn't sure, which fits with the dreamlike pace and art. I enjoyed this a lot, but it isn't for those who like a clear plot and definite answers.
I also read The city and the city by China Mieville, after following the thread on NPR's "Magical worlds for adults" story. It's been sitting on my shelf ever since it was released, so this was the push I needed to read it. I shouldn't have waited so long, it was terrific. I can't think of anything to say that hasn't been said already - noir, Kafka-esque, all the obvious adjectives have been used already. I loved the idea of the interlocked but rigorously separated cities, navigated by Borlu as he seeks to solve an increasingly complicated crime. If this is magical realism, it is weighted more on the realism side in my opinion. It's a totally different book from the Bas Lag novels, so if you didn't like those you just might enjoy this.
I really do hope to finish Fortress in the eye of time soon, I'm within sight of the end! And I am still loving Sei Shonagon's insights into life in Heian-era Japan which are a wonderful escape from my suburban train journey.
As I'd hoped, I had time to finish Fortress this weekend. Wow - this book really immerses the reader in another world, one that the author takes time to build up one detail at a time. I can see that this would really annoy someone who wants to cut straight to the plot, but I loved it. The book starts in close-up, with Tristen and Mauryl at Ynefel, then gradually pans out as Tristen is driven from the fortress into the outside world. Other character viewpoints are added, and more is revealed about the history, magic and politics of the world. Tristen is a fascinating character, as he is a total blank slate - everything is new to him, from the arc of a bird in flight, to the intrigues of nobles. Right from the start the book reminded me of McKillip's work, although without the ornate prose (which would be a bit much for me in a book as lengthy as Fortress). I will definitely be tracking down the sequels.
I also finished The pillow book of Sei Shonagon, which I loved. I've long been interested in Japanese history and culture so this was like catnip for me! The short sections kept me reading "just one more", and I enjoyed the rather random mix of court anecdotes, descriptions of nature, and personal responses to the people and things of everyday life at the time. While Heian-era Japan is a totally different world to the one in which I live, many of Shonagon's observations struck a chord with me. Here is just one:
"Fashionable, good-looking people do seem to dress in a most inconvenient way!"
I think this all the time as I walk through London when going to work :-)
I've just begun reading a novel by Dodie Smith (who also wrote I capture the castle and 101 Dalmations), called It ends with revelations. It's about an actor and his wife who meet an MP and his two daughters while they are all in a provincial town for the Festival. So far the characters are engaging and I look forward to seeing what will happen to them.
Hmn, I might need to add the Fortress books to my list. I have not read any of CJ's fantasy - I'm not that big on the fantasy genre and there are so many books out there waiting to be read. But priorities can change ;)
>81: If you do give it a try, I look forward to hearing your reaction. It does contain some of the common tropes of fantasy - quasi-Mediaeval setting, monarchy, naive youngster who has to find his way in the world (although Tristen is not the usual "pig boy"), battles with swords and magic - but Cherryh finds new ways to use them to create something quite different from the norm.
Finished It ends with revelations and am trying to figure out my reaction to the book. It is told from the viewpoint of Jill, who is married to an actor, and follows what happens after they meet a widowed MP and his two daughters. Everything seems nice and sunny on the surface, but as the book goes along we see secrets revealed, and our perceptions of characters and our sympathies shift with each chapter. Much of the book refers to the theatre, and a lot of the dialogue seemed to me as though it could have come from a play - the characters do talk a lot about their thoughts and feelings. The ending came as a bit of a shock to me, and I felt myself getting quite angry at how other people basically arrange Jill's future for her - this is a 34 year old woman, not a young girl! A couple of characters who I had greatly liked up to that point suddenly appeared to be absolute monsters! The implied outcome at the end of the book is the one that many readers will have hoped for from the start, but it is how it comes to pass that makes it bittersweet. I'm quite sure that this is what Smith intended, but it did surprise me after the essential niceness of the build up. Recommended, although the discussion of homosexuality seems a bit dated in some ways.
Now I'm reading Thousand cranes by Yasunari Kawabata, which I expect to finish later today (it is very short), and will then move on to Dreams of my Russian summers by Andrei Makine. I'm still feeling indecisive as to my next genre read, and have been flitting a bit from one book to another for the last couple of evenings.
C J Cherry's fantasies are every bit as solid and well done as her SF - and her ability to play complex political factions against each other is a common thread in some of them. (The Fortress series only gets better, and Tristen, more complex as a totally unique fantasy hero).
I've enjoyed both fantasy and SF from this author in equal measure. The ideas are as strong as the characters (an SF characteristic) and the worlds and magic are wonderful/a cut above the average.
Don't expect any Tolkien clone fantasy from this author. It is not the usual copycat fare, at all.
It is definitely fun to see this work being read and discovered for what it is - it ought to be toward the top of the list in the field. I can hope one day it will be.
#83 - I certainly agree with you that she's not appreciated at her true value - which I think is among the very cream of authors, inside genre or not - but she walk her own way and not everyone likes that. I for one thinks her SF nothing but brilliant. Me not reading her fantasy has nothing to do with rational decision-making other than that I read very slowly, partly because of recurrent migraines, and that I'd rather use my time reading books from a variety of authors rather than from a few ;-)
Have really enjoyed this thread. Sakerfalcon, what is required to keep a reading journal? Is it simply a place where we can express our thoughts on what we're currently reading without a lot of rules or structure?
I might like to start something like this myself.
>85: Welcome, and thanks for commenting! Basically, yes. The 75 books challenge group is where most people keep their reading journals, but the sheer volume there seems overwhelming. So, many Green Dragon members have started to list their reading here in the group, where it is easier to follow everyone. I'm not very good at writing proper reviews, but wanted a place to write my thoughts and reactions to what I read, so this seemed like a good way to do so. And I've found that in some cases these ramblings turn into a review! I hope you do decide to start a journal, as judging by your comments on other threads you always seem to be reading interesting books and giving thoughtful reactions to them.
>83, 84: I've only read Chanur and the first fortress book so far from Cherryh, but I already admire the depth that she puts into each setting and its characters and society. Chanur is fast paced and action packed, whereas Fortress is slow to build and almost meditative, but both have the same richness and solidity. I'm excited that there is so much more of her work for me to discover :-)
I read Delirium, one of the hottest of the millions of YA dystopian books out there, at the weekend, and found it rather "meh". I can't think why a government would choose to eradicate love, rather than, say, hate. Sure, people can act violently and irrationally out of love, but far more often out of hatred or prejudice. Lena was the fairly typical good -girl-who's-always-played-by-the rules heroine (Matched, anyone?), with the rebellious best friend (Uglies, anyone?), who suddenly has her eyes opened by the first boy she really talks to in her life. And she seems to find it quite easy to sneak around without getting caught, despite supposedly constant surveillance. I'm also really, really not a fan of present tense narrative, which seems to be very popular in current YA.
I finally managed to finish The wise man's fear as well, which was much more enjoyable! I agree with the many reviewers who found the Felurian section overlong and self-indulgent, and I was also not enamoured of the interlude with the Adem. But still I always looked forward to a chance to pick the book up. It was like spending time with old friends; you may not do anything earth shatteringly exciting but just being with them is good. I am wondering how Rothfuss will manage to wrap up the "past" story in one more book though, as plot-wise we are not much further on from where we were at the end of The name of the wind. Needless to say, I am eagerly awaiting Book 3.
My current commuting book is Dreams of my Russian summers, which is just so-so at the moment. The narrator is precocious and dull. At home I am reading Polar City nightmare and The islanders, both of which are more compelling than Dreams.
It's been quiet at work this week, so lots of time to read.
Dreams of my Russian summers didn't really improve, so I ended up skimming it. Part of the problem is that I was interested in Russia, but the narrator was obssessed with France and the fact that he is part-French but living in Russia. His boyhood memories are too precocious and over-analysed and he sees all external events in relation to himself. The only parts I found compelling were the few chapters where his French grandmother's life story is related directly, without obviously interpretation from the narrator.
I finished Thousand cranes a while ago, and really liked it. While there is a plot, I think the point of the book was to explore the characters and their world, which is beautifully drawn and symbolised through the use of the tea ceremony.
Because I skimmed Dreams, I had time to read Life among the savages by Shirley Jackson the same evening. This, unfortunately, was another disappointment. I had expected something sharper-edged from Jackson, but this was rather cutesy. It was like having an aquaintance tell you stories about her kids that she thinks are endearing and hilarious, but don't quite come across that way to you the listener. I know that other people have really enjoyed this memoir though, so obviously it just isn't for me.
Finally, a book I enjoyed unequivocably! The islanders by Christopher Priest. This SF (?) novel is written as a gazeteer to a fictional archipelago, interspersed with a few sections that seem like short stories. So it's rather a patchwork, although the same names and places and themes crop up throughout and we are able to piece together some stories as the book progresses. It doesn't tie together neatly at the end, and although some questions are answered, there is no guarantee that the answers given are correct. I could see this driving some readers crazy, but I liked it. I couldn't put the book down, so fascinated was I by the world that Priest builds up and the glimpses of people's lives and stories. I will definitely be seeking out The dream archipelago and The affirmation now, to see more of the islands.
My next work book is totally different - The way things are by E. M. Delafield, a novel from the early C20th published by Virago. It's a domestic novel, about a woman who begins to wonder if she is really as happy as people tell her she should be with marriage and motherhood. So far a nice light touch from the author has prevented this becoming cliched and angst-ridden.
jillmwo, I loved The islanders and highly recommend it, if the things I noted above about the structure won't annoy you. It has given me wanderlust - but fortunately I will be off to the Hebrides in a week's time!
I really enjoyed The way things are, as I expected I would, being a fan of Delafield. I could relate to Laura in her awkwardness with the servants - I don't have a cleaner because I'd feel I should clean my place before they arrived! - and in her doubts about her marriage. That said, she did dither rather, and it was obvious from the start what the outcome of her dilemma would be (not that that is a bad thing, as the journey to get to that end was interesting). I especially enjoyed the glimpses of Laura's neighbours and their own intrigues, as well as those of her sister.
Now I am reading another Virago about an unsatisfactory marriage, The little Ottleys by Ada Leverson, which is wonderful so far. It's more obviously satirical than than the Delafield, and the character of Bruce Ottley makes Alfred look like a devoted and attentive husband!
I also enjoyed Polar City nightmare, which was my "at home" read this week. I had planned to put off reading this for a while, but found that my mind kept being drawn back to the worlds of Hagar and Sarah, and I wanted to read more about them. It was very good, perhaps a few too many twists in the plot to keep straight, but the worldbuilding was just as compelling as in the first novel. I will definitely be rereading both books, and wishing for more (probably futilely).
My next SF & F read will be Tea with the black dragon, for the GD group read. I'm really looking forward to this one.
>91: The Emily Eden is one of many books on my shelves that are waiting to be read. I expect to remedy that soon, as I am thoroughly enjoying the Ottleys.
I finished The little Ottleys last week, and loved it. It's now one of my top 10 books from Virago Press. At the end of the second volume, I was so frustrated by Edith's decision - but of course, had she done what I wanted her to, there would have been no need for a third book. And it did work out more perfectly in the end. All the characters were well drawn, the Edwardian society setting was fascinating, and the humour sharp and wonderful. The book reminded me strongly of E.F. Benson's Dodo trilogy, which I now need to reread. But I shall take Marissa's advice and follow up with The semi-attached couple when I get back from my holiday.
In SF, I read Yellow blue tibia by Adam Roberts. It is written as though by an elderly Russian SF writer, and tells of events from 1946 - 1986, which may or may not include an alien invasion. Konstantin, our narrator, crosses timelines into alternate dimensions, encountering a cast of colourful and unusual characters who include American Scientologists, KGB agents, and a taxi driver with Asperger's syndrome. Roberts channels the world-weary, ironic Russian voice to perfection, and despite feeling that the first 3/4 of the book were stronger than the ending, I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
I've started The windup girl, encouraged by good reports from Busifer and other in the GD. I like the Thai setting and am finding the author's vision of the future intriguing.
My non-SF/F book is Period piece, a memoir by the artist and printmaker Gwen Raverat of her childhood in late C19th/early C20th Cambridge (UK). It is humorous and provides an interesting look into middle class society of the time.
Edited to add: I forgot to mention reading Tea with the black dragon for Morphy's Magical Monthly Reads. What a delightful little book! I loved Martha and Mayland and their delicate courtship, which takes place as they try to solve the mystery surrounding Martha's daughter's disappearance. Although I found said daughter to be unsympathetic, she and all the characters were well-drawn, my favourite being Fred of Friendly Computers. I will read the companion book soon.
Alright! Fine! Between yours and maggie's comments, I've put Tea with the Black Dragon on my wishlist. *Hrmph!*
> MrsLee: Oh yes, do read it, it's only short :)
Finished The windup girl which, after a slow start, I ended up enjoying (if one can say that of so dark a book). It does feature my least-favourite thing, present-tense narration, which I rarely feel adds anything to a book, and didn't in this case either. But I liked the author's vision of a post-climate change, post-fossil fuel world and the political scheming that takes place. And on a frivolous note, I adore the Cheshires!
I'm off on holiday for a week from tomorrow, and at the moment my planned reading is the following:
Use of weapons by Iain M Banks
The testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers
Skippy dies by Paul Murray.
This is subject to change however, as I haven't started packing yet.
Oh! Use of Weapons! It was my entry to The Culture, even though I after putting it down - and enjoying the ride - thought I'd never read one of his books again, I was so horrified by the ending. Something (his tone and language, I think) drew me back in and it didn't take long before I had read one more. And one more...
Lent it to a colleague who also went on to read more of them.
>94 I hope you'll like it--it's a quick read, and despite being dated, a sweet one.
Well, I did bring the books listed above on my holiday with me, but only had time to finish Use of weapons. For some reason, I didn't enjoy it as much as the other Culture novels I've read; I didn't find the characters as engaging, and it was too episodic overall. There was some good stuff in it, but as a whole it didn't quite work for me. Perhaps it will be better on a second read - though when that will happen I can't foresee! I have Surface detail on Mount Tbr, so will try and get to that later this year.
I had to spend a lot of time on trains this weekend, so was able to read The testament of Jessie Lamb, which has just won the Arthur C. Clarke award (and was longlisted for the Booker - how many books achieve both?!) I've seen reviews from Booker readers dismissing it as YA and "just" genre fiction, but as a reader who enjoys both those categories, I thought this was a very good book. It's set in the very near future, and imagines a world in which a virus kills any woman who gets pregnant. The title character is a 15 y-o girl who decides to sacrifice herself to try and bear a healthy child, and who narrates the story. (I think this is why people judged the book to be YA. I certainly think teens would enjoy the book, but to me it was superior in style to most of the current YA dystopian stuff out there at the moment.) I found it thought-provoking and well-written, and difficult to put down. Readers who enjoy Margaret Atwood's spec fic would probably like this.
I'm still reading Period piece on my commute, and thoroughly enjoying it. Raverat is not only a wry and sharp observer in her prose, but also in the witty illustrations with which she adorns the text. Her family were Darwins and Wedgewoods, and contained more than its fair share of eccentric and colourful characters.
Next up will be Skippy dies; I've started it already and it's good so far, albeit disturbing; I'm glad I don't have children, especially ones in their teens because I would be horrified to think they were getting up to the sorts of things as those in this novel!
I'm also rereading Araminta Station, because sometimes I just need a dose of Vance!
Period piece remained a delightful read to the end. One of the best, and best illustrated, memoirs I've read. Although nostalgic in parts, Raverat is never dewy-eyed and is quick to point out the difficulties and restraints of her childhood as well as the fun and games. She has a great sense of humour too.
I finished Skippy dies, and found it to be a good, quite fast, read. It's set in a Dublin Catholic boys' school and follows the lives of some of the boarders and staff. There were digressions into string theory and Irish involvement in WWI, but as they grew out of characters' interests and conversations I didn't find these parts intrusive or excessive. The WWI stuff I actually found fascinating, as it was previously unknown to me. The amount of teenage sexuality and drug use was very unsettling, perhaps because it seemed realistic in its portrayal. In the end, I found I was emotionally involved by the characters and cared about their fates, which for me is the mark of a good book.
Now I'm reading Wolf Hall; as the sequel is now in shops, it seemed about time to start the first book!
Wolf Hall is still my main book-in-progress; I'm really enjoying it. It requires some concentration, but is rewarding.
I had time to finish a YA novel, Throat by R.A. Nelson. It's a vampire book, but one where vampires are (mostly) antagonists, and certainly not objects of desire - how refreshing! However, ultimately I found it disappointing. I really wanted to love this one - girl with epilepsy is attacked by a vampire and has a seizure, which affects the process of the turning so she ends up a sort of human/vampire hybrid. But about halfway through, the author started putting ellipses into all the dialogue . . . resulting in all the characters . . . speaking . . . like this . . . for no apparent reason. It really got on my nerves. However, there were some very cool scenes where the usual gender tropes were reversed - because Emma has amazing strength and speed she sends her boyfriend to wait in safety while she fights off the attacking vampires! And I have to admire Emma as a gutsy, very human heroine, who makes bad decisions but learns from them, and who never tries to be something she isn't in order to impress the guy she likes. But overall, this wasn't nearly as good as Days of Little Texas by the same author, which I read and loved last year.
I've also started rereading The neverending story in preparation for June's GD group read. So far it's as good as I remember.
Finished Wolf Hall, which was a very good read. Mantel's habit of always referring to Cromwell as "he" got very annoying, but wasn't as confusing as I'd feared it would be. I just couldn't see the point of it, unless it was to make it clear that this is a Literary Novel not just historical fiction. Despite that, and despite knowing the ultimate fates of all the characters, I found this a gripping read and am looking forward to finding the sequel at the library. It was good to read the saga of the Tudors from an unusual viewpoint, and interesting to see Cromwell as sympathetic and More as not - usually it is the other way round.
I also read a couple of volumes of manga, catching up with some series I'm following. Bunny drop is a slice-of-life story about a single guy who finds himself adopting his grandfather's previously-unknown love child when said grandfather dies. It's both funny and thoughtful, showing how 6-y-o Rin and 30something Daichi both grow up and grow together as they get to know each other. I read volume 4, which mostly rounds off the storyline, although I gather future volumes jump ahead 10 years and focus on Rin as a highschooler. This is a gentle, charming manga that I'd recommend to anyone who likes character based stories about unconventional families.
The other manga I read was A bride's story, volume 3. This is another slice-of-life story, but set in C19th Central Asia. It's one of the most detailed and beautifully drawn mangas I've ever come across, and the amount of research put into it must have been incredible. The first two volumes focus on Amir, a 20 y-o woman who's been married to a 12 y-o boy, and shows her settling in to life in his village and family. A British anthropologist is a side character, but as Amir's storyline resolves, we follow the anthropologist on his further travels and his encounter with a another bride. I'm guessing the author is going to use this character to tell a variety of stories from the region. I love it, and it has a special relevance to me as I've been to Central Asia, so many of the details of the herder culture are familiar.
I'm currently reading The semi-attached couple and the semi-detached house, recommended to me by Marissa as a good companion read to The little Ottleys, which I loved. So far, Semi-attached is all that I hoped it would be - a sharply-observed portrait of marriage and society among the upper classes.
My fantasy book is The book of transformations, book 3 of Mark Charan Newton's Legends of the Red Sun sequence. I've really enjoyed this series so far, it's very much in the vein of Mieville and Vandermeer, although less assured than their work. But Newton is still young and there is a lot of potential for the future.
And I'm still rereading The neverending story, which is a real trip down Memory Lane for me!
I'll end here before this becomes The neverending post!
I'm glad you're enjoying the Emily Eden! What struck me about those books was how modern they felt in tone...that and the fact that she was a lifelong spinster. :)
Well, I have a new item to add to my list of Virago favourites! Both The semi-attached couple and the semi-detached house were wonderful - I couldn't stop smiling as I read the last 2 or 3 chapters of House. I agree with those who say that these are books to read when you wish Jane Austen had written more novels. They share her sharply observant view of society and are filled with characters you will love or loathe.
The semi-attached couple focuses on Helen and Teviot, newly married after just 2 months of courtship. Helen is very young and still strongly attached to her family, something Teviot cannot understand. Naturally, misunderstandings occur, and matters are not helped by crowds of "friends" and visitors, including the ghastly Lady Portmore. I thought the introduction in my edition took too harsh a view of Mrs Douglas, who despite being jealous and critical does have good in her.
The semi-detached house follows a few months in the lives of Blanche and her sister Aileen, and their next-door neighbours the Hopkinsons. The Hopkinsons are not of the same social class as most of the other characters, but their warm-heartedness and sincerity is shown to be more important than money and titles. Several courtships take place, some villainous types get their come-uppance, and all ends happily. I cannot recommend these two short novels highly enough to anyone who enjoys the work of Jane Austen, or similar classic writers. Thank you Marissa, and everyone else who suggested I read this!
I really enjoyed my reread of The neverending story, maybe because my expectations had lowered in the years since I read it as a child. I didn't think the descriptions of places such as Perilin the Night Forest and the Desert of Many Colours would be as vivid as I remembered - but they were. And Grograman was awesome! I had very clear memories of Bastian becoming a brat when he gets to Fantastica, which I didn't like on first reading - I wanted him to be a good hero all through. But as an adult I can see that he had to go through that in order to discover who he really is and what his priorities are. Yes, it's very much a children's book with a Message, but the wonder and whimsy of Fantastica make it stand out for me.
I've also read Fires of the faithful, a fantasy that I found very compelling despite its use of some familiar tropes - inexperienced heroine becomes the leader of a rebellion to overthrow a tyrannical theocracy. But this is a world where those who can't use magic are abnormal and/or treated with suspicion; our heroine doesn't have any special powers, just common sense and courage; and music plays an important part in the story. The world is a sort of Renaissance Italy with schools of music and magic - our heroine was at a music school so I especially enjoyed those sections. It's told in first-person narrative voice which I love when done well, as this book was. I'm looking forward to the second book, Turning the storm, which completes the story - the books do not stand alone.
My commuting book is another Virago - Cindie by Jean Devanny. It's an Australian historical novel set on a sugar plantation in Queensland. The first chapter was good, very atmospheric descriptions of the environment, and interesting characters.
I'm also rereading Dune and planning to start the first Liaden book soon - Agent of change, I think it is. (I don't have the book with me.)
I also liked that Bastian had growth. So many heroes start out squeaky clean. It was refreshing to see some mud on the face of a hero.
The book of transformations was a good read, up to the standard set by the earlier books in the series. The dying sun setting is compelling, and the city of Villjamur where most of the action takes place is a fascinating and well-drawn setting. This volume has an almost entirely new cast of characters from the previous two books, but is very much a bridge to events drawing together in the fourth and final story. That said, enough of the story arcs are concluded to make this a satisfying read.
Cindie was a terrifically atmospheric read, vivid in its depiction of the life and landscape of turn-of-the-century North Queensland. The heroine, Cindie, could be accused of being something of a Mary Sue, in that she is successful at whatever she turns her hand to, but she achieves results through hard work and stubborness in the face of conflict. Her opponent and foil is Blanche, her mistress and the wife of the plantation owner, who is a fish out of water in this hard life. Issues of race and labour are at the forefront of the novel, but it never becomes didactic or dry - in fact there is a generous dose of melodrama throughout. It's a great read especially if you are interested in Australia and its history.
Currently reading :
From the dust returned in honour of the late Ray Bradbury,
Turning the storm as I can't wait to find out what happens after the events of Fires of the faithful
and am about to start
Gentlemen prefer blondes as my commuting book.
Finished Gentlemen prefer blondes and its sequel. I enjoyed them, but not as much as I'd expected. They are short books, but still seemed too long for the material. But they were the inspiration for one of my favourite films, so I can forgive a lot!
Turning the storm was a very satisfying conclusion to the story begun in Fires of the faithful. The worldbuilding stayed strong, the characters showed growth, and the story didn't end when the battle was over - it carried on to show some of the difficulties of starting a new regime. I really loved these two books and would happily read more about this world and its people.
From the dust returned was lovely; I liked the blend of the spooky and the wistful, and the bizarre cast of characters. Uncle Einar may have been my favourite, but all were at least intriguing.
Since my last update, I've had a lot of time for reading (it's always slow in the summer at work), so I've also finished:
Among others by Jo Walton - just wonderful! It combines so many of my favourite things: an outsider heroine, boarding school, SF, and a deep love for books, reading and libraries. I liked the way the supernatural element blended into the real-world setting, and the realisation of the consequences of doing magic. The book truly deserves all the praise it has garnered.
Arcadia by Lauren Groff. Liked the story and characters, did not enjoy the prose. I have a strong dislike of books told in the present tense for no apparent reason, and this was one such. Margaret Atwood is one of the only authors I read who uses present tense narration well; in other cases it just doesn't add anything to the story, for me. Still, the hippie commune setting was fascinating, Bit was a very likeable protagonist, and I liked the way the author carried the story into the near future.
Intrusion by Ken MacLeod. Very, very good 1984ish dystopian novel. It's actually scarier than 1984 to me, because I can see the society in the book evolving directly from the government we have now - it's the nanny state taken to extremes. It raises issues of personal choice, rights and freedoms through a group of characters who represent varying opinions. There is also a strand of pure SF that gradually entwines itself into the main plot, to create a gripping whole.
I also finished my reread of Dune and will progress to Dune Messiah soon.
ETA: My current book in progress (just started) is The man who rained by Ali Shaw.
Don't do it. Dune is great. It all goes downhill from there.
I've recently finished Agent of Change. I wasn't blown away by it. There a sort of Vorsargian feel to it, but lacking the pure spark of Miles to drive it, it lags somewhat. Too much headswapping* I think.
*a morphy term that I've shamelessly stolen meaning whent he author writes from several characters POVs and keeps switching between them.
Hmm, I'll put the Dune sequels on hold for a bit. I do want to try more Liaden books though, as I loved Fledgling.
I finished The man who rained by Ali Shaw, and liked it less than I expected. I think my expectations were too high as I loved his first novel, The girl with glass feet. I didn't find the characters as engaging in TMWR, and didn't care as much about their situtation. The setting was quite good, but not as wonderful as that of the earlier book. I liked the way the weather manifested itself physically - eg. sunbeams as canaries - but the titular premise failed to move or engage me. I'll look for more of Shaw's work though, based on the strength of his first book.
I indulged myself with a quick pony book this week, The horsemasters by Don Stanford. Unlike most such books, this one was new to me rather than something I read as a child. It focuses on a group of students undergoing a rigorous course leading to an examination in riding instruction and stable management. The characters, both human and equine, were varied and sympathetic, and the book was instructive without being overly didactic. I saw this mentioned on another site, but it was the enthusiastic review from our own MerryMary here on LT that gave me the final push to order the book! I'm very glad I did, it was an excellent read.
The next book in the Virago group read was Angel by Elizabeth Taylor. The writer was born 100 years ago this year, so we are reading a novel a month by her. (Conveniently, she wrote 12!) I finished the book last night and really enjoyed it. The experience was akin to that of reading The custom of the country in that we observe the life of an anti-heroine who brings destruction to those around her. But in Angel we see the subsequent downward slide as well as the triumphant rise to the top. I wanted to slap Angel in the scene where she says to a woman, "If you cannot control your dog you must keep him indoors" - when her own dog has just killed the woman's smaller one! Yet despite scenes like this, I felt that Taylor, through Theo, showed some admiration for Angel's tenacity and total fidelity to her vision, ghastly though it was. I think Angel may have been the E. L. James of her (fictional) day!
I've just started reading Glister by John Burnside, a thriller that I think is going to have a touch of the supernatural to it. So far it is very atmospheric in a creepy, decaying sort of way.
At home I'm reading The immortal rules, a YA supernatural book that is not gripping me the way I'd hoped. I started it weeks ago and am only half way through. It's not bad though, and I want to finish it, just not urgently.
Thanks, Sakerfalcon. I'm glad you liked The Horsemasters. I am always delighted when I can recommend something I love.
It's been a while since I updated, so I have several books to log.
Glister was a very dark read, not really for me although I liked the decaying setting. But nasty adolescent behaviour is not something I enjoy reading about.
The immortal rules was a disappointment too. It contained a lot of ingrediants that I like - a strong heroine, a male love-interest who is not the controlling, Edward-type of guy, a bleak post-disaster dystopian world, and nasty supernatural creatures - but somehow they didn't add up in a satisfactory way. I thought that a girl who was forced to become a vampire when she has loathed them all her life would have more struggles coming to terms with events, but it actually seemed a bit easy to be convincing. I did like the vampire who turned her, and wish he'd stuck around for longer. I shan't look for future installments.
The lark in the morn and The lark on the wing were quick but wonderful reads, focusing on the character of Kit Haverard and her struggle to find her place in life and realise her goal of becoming a singer. I'd recommend them to anyone who likes old-fashioned girls' books, with an emphasis on music and faith (the author and her characters are Quakers and the books are never preachy despite religion being a strong part of them).
I also read and enjoyed Agent of change, which I'd been looking forward to since Janny recommended it earlier this year. It's not as assured a novel as Fledgling, a later book in the series, but that's to be expected. I enjoyed the characters and their adventures, and LOVED the turtles! I agree with reading_fox that it's not as rewarding as the Vorkosigan books, but it was a fun read and I'm looking forward to devouring the rest of the Liaden books and exploring the universe some more. Thanks, JannyWurts, for urging me to read these!
My current commuting book is Her fearful symmetry, but I haven't actually started it yet. I expect I'll have lots of time to get into it at work this evening.
Forgot to mention that at home I'm reading Fortress of eagles, before I forget what happened in the first book (Fortress in the eye of time).
Now I'm going to go away and look up the next title in the Liaden series :-)
Finished Her fearful symmetry, it was a quick read. I enjoyed it, but boy, what a messed-up cast of characters! One reviewer described it as a novel about various forms of obsessive love, which I would agree with. There are two pairs of twin sisters with love/hate bonds, Robert, who can't get over his dead lover, and Martin, crippled by OCD, who longs for the wife who left him. Of these, Martin seems the most healthy emotionally (and is overall the most likeable), which says a lot about the others! The sense of place - Highgate Cemetery and London generally - is really atmospheric, and the ghost story rather disturbing. A good read, though be warned - a kitten was harmed in the making of this book.
Now I'm going to try and read some non-fiction, something I have failed at this year. I've brought Sisters of fortune to work with me and hope to get into it this evening.
I've got Sisters of Fortune in my TBR mountain--looking forward to hear what you think.
>113: The Dune sequels really seem to polarise people. I have the 2nd, 3rd and 4th books from the charity shop, so if I end up in the "they're awful!" camp, at least I won't have wasted a lot of money on them.
>114: I've been fascinated by this part of American women's history since reading Edith Wharton. I didn't know much about this book before acquiring it, so I'm interested to see that the Caton sisters lived several decades earlier than Wharton's heroines (and Consuelo Vanderbilt, who I've also read about).
I didn't get to God Emperor of Dune. Liked the first book but the 2nd and 3rd were icks and quit there. Looks like I should have held on for one more book. It's been so long since I read the first three, though, that I doubt I'll go back to the series.
Well, this week I did read Dune Messiah, which didn't take long because I'm afraid I had to start skimming it. Too much talking and rambling on, leading to events which seemed as though they should have been totally preventable. Thanks for the good reports of God Emperor, I'll try and make it that far at least.
Since I last posted, I've read the next book in the Falco series of mysteries, A dying light in Corduba. I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as earlier installments - it seemed a little bit too long. But Falco and Helena are always a delight to read about, and Davis captures the nuances of Ancient Roman society to a tee.
While on holiday in France, I read a couple of novels by Rosamond Lehmann, as it is RL reading week in the Virago Modern Classics group. I chose The ballad and the source and its sequel A sea-grape tree. Both are narrated by Rebecca, who is a girl of 10-14 in Ballad, and in her early 30s in the sequel. But the focus of the books is the mysterious, charismatic figure of Sibyl Jardine, who has a tremendous impact on everyone she comes into contact with. Her story is told to Rebecca through dialogue, by an old nursemaid, Sibyl herself, and her grandaughter Maisie. Gradually we, with Rebecca, piece together Mrs Jardine's life and the many secrets and scandals in her past. A sea-grape tree finds Rebecca alone after a failed love affair, thrown into a close circle of British expats on an idyllic Caribbean island, where, we learn, no other than Mrs Jardine lived for the last years of her life. Even after her death, her influence haunts Rebecca and enables her to (perhaps) take charge of her life and move on. I've found it very difficult to describe these books, but they are wonderful and subtle character studies, with a great sense of place and time. All the characters are well drawn, not just Sibyl and Rebecca, and their own stories are fascinating. Lehmann's better-known novel, Invitation to the waltz, is a more accessible introduction to her writing, but The ballad and the source is an incredibly rewarding read. (A sea-grape tree won't make much sense without having read The ballad and the source first.)
I'm still reading Sisters of fortune and very much enjoying it. The first section follows the sisters' lives in Maryland and Washington, and is a fascinating picture of the society and politics of the day (late C18th/early C19th). It's great to read of politically aware, intelligent women making their mark in society.
At home I'm still reading Fortress of eagles, which is very good high fantasy.
Sisters of fortune was an excellent read. The four Caton sisters were different enough in personality and outlook on life that each of their stories was interesting to follow (although I did skim the chapter focusing on Bess's stock market dealings). They lived during a fascinating period of history in Europe and the USA, and the book keeps a good balance between the big picture of the historical period and the details of the sisters' lives and doings. Recommended if you are interested in late C18th/early to mid C19th history especially the lives of women at this time.
Last night I finished Fortress of eagles, which was an excellent follow-up to Fortress in the eye of time. Like the first, it is slow and detailed, focusing more on character growth and interactions than on dramatic events. This book is an excellent depiction of the burden of power - how even a king frequently has his hands tied by political and diplomatic necessity, and can't give in to his own wants. Tristen continues to grow in knowledge and awareness of the world around him, and to use his powers in different ways. These books are not easy reads and won't suit someone who prefers a very plot-based, action-filled read. But I am loving them, and must get my hands on the third book soon!
As Fortress required a lot of concentration, I turned to The secret history to read on the train. Amazingly I've never read this before, despite the hype and enthusiasm surrounding it. I found it very hard to put down, despite the characters being rather unlikeable, because I was so caught up in the setting and plot. I do like books set in schools and colleges, so this was right up my alley. Richard's account of his bitterly cold winter spent alone in town was utterly compelling, as much so as the actual murder plot. I'm glad I finally got around to reading this one!
My current commuting book is Rumour of heaven, which I'm reading as part of All Virago - All August. It's about 3 children who've grown up in a remote country house with their reclusive father, cut off from society and thus rather odd characters. Some strangers rent a nearby cottage, and I'm finding out what happens when they all encounter each other.
Still trying to decide what to start next at home.
I've finished Rumour of heaven. While an interesting read, I have to agree with the general opinion that Beatrix was not as good a novelist as her sister. The strongest part of the book for me was the opening, which describes the mother's descent into madness and the family's retreat to a remote country house. After that, the action skips ahead some years to when the children are in their teens, and outsiders come to invade their sanctuary. For me, Lehmann is at her best when describing the lonely countryside and the changing seasons which provide a vivid background to the story. But Rosamond better portrayed the legacy of madness in The ballad and the source. Still, I'll rate Rumour with 3 1/2 stars.
I also read a short MG book, All alone in the universe. It's a sweet, low-key novel about a girl who realises that her best friend is going off with another girl and they don't want her company. It's an experience most of us have been through at some time, and the author accurately portrays the range of emotions and reactions to it. The books also includes little doodles that supplement the text and add charm to the narrative. It's a companion to the Newbery medal-winning Criss cross, which I recently picked up in a charity bookshop. I decided to read Universe first though as it has the same heroine but at a younger age. It's lovely, and I recommend it to young girls or their mothers.
I've also read In a summer season for the Virago Elizabeth Taylor group read. It's typical of Taylor's novels in that it builds up the story through short but telling scenes in which the characters interact, but the author leaves us to put the pieces together and interpret them. The main character is Kate, a 40something widow recently married to a much younger man, and the book is an examination of their marriage and the reactions to it from those around them. As this is set in the late 50s/early 60s, those reactions are very judgemental, putting both Kate and Dermot on the defensive, to the detriment of their relationship. As always, Taylor includes a wonderful cast of secondary characters, including Kate's daughter, who has a crush on the local curate, her aunt Ethel, who despite never having married is fascinated by sex and writes long letters to her friend analysing what she sees of Kate's marriage, and the languid, always ravenous, Araminta, daughter of an old family friend who himself has an important role to play in events. The drama plays out slowly and subtly, until the shocking ending. I really enjoyed the book.
Next up is The stone angel, and I also have Embassytown checked out from the library so will try and read that soon too.
Two more books finished, which took me longer than usual to read because I couldn't stop watching the Olympics!
Rosa and the veil of gold is an excellent urban fantasy of the Charles de Lint variety - no sexy vampires, but everyday people drawn into a dangerous parallel world of myth and legend. Although the author is Australian, the book is set in Russia and steeped in Russian history and folklore. The main characters are two woman and a man - but there is no love triangle (hooray!) - and the women are braver and more decisive than the man. I especially loved Em, the emotionally cold American researcher. Rosa's tendency to feel sexually attracted to *every* man she meets got a bit old, but I admired her strength of mind and persistence despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Daniel is a gentle, kind man, but he needs a push to get going and is rescued by the female characters on several occasions, which is a nice change. I loved this book and highly recommend it to fans of CDL and Emma Bull.
I just finished The stone angel too, a classic of Canadian fiction. In it, 90-year-old Hagar Shipley looks back on her life - childhood, marriage, children, separation from her husband, and the loss of her younger son. In the present day, she is struggling to maintain her independence and dignity in the face of her aging body's betrayals and her son and daughter-in-law's pity. Hagar is a fascinating character - incredibly hard emotionally, with rarely a kind or tender word for anyone. She is tough and expects everyone around her to be the same. I especially enjoyed the sections she narrates in the present, where she tells us her frustration at others fussing around and making decisions for her, while at the same time showing us their point of view too. It's incredibly well done, I'm not even sure how Laurence manages it - to show us a character through the eyes of others, when that character is a first-person narrator. Hagar should be unsympathetic, and I'm sure she would be pretty unlikeable in person, but nevertheless I was caught up in her story and wished that she could have let herself be truly happy in her life.
Now I'm going to move on to Embassytown, and will be choosing another Virago for my commute - perhaps The orchid house.
Uhm, is Rosa and the Veil of Gold the same as Veil of Gold by Kim Wilkins? I don't like romance (as a genre) so I've been shying away from a lot of urban fantasy because they all seem to be romance pretending to be fantasy. How do you rate it, given that criteria?
>123: Yes, it's the same book. I don't like romance either, and there is not much in this book. Daniel and Rosa are ex-lovers; he wants them to get back together but she doesn't. They spend most of the book apart. It's really a quest story in another world that lies alongside our own. This really isn't like most of what gets called Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance at the bookshop. I suppose Contemporary Fantasy would be a better term, as most of this book isn't even set in a city! I will still be avoiding most of the UF/PNR section as it doesn't appeal to me either. Hope this was helpful. If you do decide to try the book, I will interested to hear what you think.
Finished Embassytown which, despite excellent worldbuilding, has to rank as my least favourite Mieville novel (although I haven't read Kraken yet. The first half of the book was excellent, as it uses flashbacks interspersed with current events to build up to crisis point. This was utterly gripping. But once the crisis occurs, the book seemed to lose momentum as the characters dithered and made useless plans to try to fix things. By the end I was skimming. It was a shame as I really loved the SF setting and concepts Mieville created, and would like to read a better story set in this world.
I'm 2/3 through The orchid house, a Virago novel set on the island of Dominica. The author writes vivid descriptions of the lush yet stifling atmosphere which is the background for the story of three grown sisters returning to their home after years abroad. Of course there is a man whom they all loved when they were young, and all have brought baggage with them. I'm enjoying it so far.
I'm also halfway through a totally awesome MG/YA fantasy-adventure type novel, Twilight robbery, which is a wild romp through an alternate C18th world. The heroine is 12 y-o Mosca Mye who, with her homicidal pet goose, falls into dastardly plots involving kidnap, extortion and other nefarious doings. Mosca and her unscrupulous boss both love words and language, as the author does too, and the extremely literate prose is a delight to read. Mosca, her world and her complicated adventures remind me very much of Joan Aiken and her James III series which follows Dido Twite, a heroine with an amoral streak very similar to Mosca's. Twilight Robbery is a sequel to Fly by night which was also wonderful.
I hope to finish in time to return the book to the library on Friday, and my next SF/F read will be Foreigner, as Busifer and others have recommended it so highly!
Regarding Foreigner I will warn you that there no less than two preludes before the story proper start. I almost quit before I got to it and only prevailed because I complained about it here and 'Fox told me it would be great if I only persisted.
He was right.
Sakerfalcon, I was just about to post this to my own reading thread, but I will tell you first. I'm about a third of the way into Foreigner and I am finding *very* interesting as a first contact story (one where the humans don't really have the upper hand in the game). Cherryh is very good at presenting aliens who think in truly alien fashion. Busifer is right about the two preludes but I really am enjoying the book now that I'm really into it. Pull it to the top of your TBR pile!
When you've finished foreigner there's a GD reading thread about it - probably a bit deep in the archives, but should be linked from the GD home page.
I've fallen behind and have several books to write up.
The orchid house was a very atmospheric novel set on Dominica after WWI. The depiction of life on the island with its mix of races and classes was really well done and very interesting, but the central story of the three sisters re-encountering the man they all loved was a bit cliched. I couldn't understand what they all saw in him - he was selfish and spoilt and content to live off others like a parasite. I know he was suffering from TB, but this didn't make him any more sympathetic. The other characters were all very interesting and compelling though, even the sisters once you got past their infatuation with the parasite. And the island was almost a character in itself with its unpredictable weather, lush foliage and stifling humidity.
Twilight robbery was delightful, a wonderful read. Hardinge should be as revered as Joan Aiken and Diana Wynne Jones, both of whose work is comparable in quality and spirit. If you're looking for a great MG/YA read with a terrific female lead, start with Fly by night and then this one.
I've also finished two more Viragos for the All August-All Virago challenge. Pirates at play is a witty novel about high society in England and Italy, and its encounter with the bourgeois family of the Pope's dentist - the beautiful Vica, her four handsome brothers and the fifth brother who is brilliant but "almost a dwarf". These are the Pirates of the title, in their loyalty to each other but general disregard for others. Throw in an equally beautiful English girl from a noble family, an Italian Princess seeking a good marriage for her son and various social climbing servants and you have an interesting and enjoyable romp through the various social classes.
The other Virago was The ha-ha, a novel narrated by a woman who is mentally ill (possibly schizophrenia) and living in an institution. It's obviously comparable to the work of Janet Frame, and is as compelling a portrayal of mental illness. Josephine has difficulty relating to others; she finds that other people talk and leave "gaps" that she doesn't know how to fill. This often leads to her laughing uncontrollably. It sounds like a minor problem, but when seen from the inside, as we do in the novel, one can tell how crippling this can be. It's a very short but powerful book.
I also read and finished Foreigner. I thought it was very well done as an exploration of communication and miscommunication, understanding and misunderstanding of the sort that we find even in our world between different cultures. Take this to a far future alien world and you multiply the situation exponentially. That said, I didn't always find it a compelling read; the narration was very introspective and lots of it was reporting the thoughts that whirl through Bren's mind (understandable as he doesn't have anyone to whom he can articulate them) which got repetitive at times. I liked best the parts set at the castle when he is unsure why he is there, who he can trust, and what is going to happen. The atevi are certainly very alien, yet despite being incredibly tall, dark and alien in profile, they are clearly closer to humanity physically than I expected - I guess this is partly why Bren lets himself like them and expects more human responses from them. It strongly reminded me of a passage at the opening of Mary Gentle's novel Golden witchbreed, where the narrator says,
"For my part, I prefer aliens that look alien. Then when they ritually eat their first-born, or turn arthropod halfway through their life-cycle, it isn't so much of a shock. You expect it. Humanoid aliens, they're trouble."
The atevi are not humanoid, but close enough to make trouble if you expect human behaviour from them, clearly. I'll look for more in the series, but on the whole I prefered the Chanur books, and will be trying Downbelow station for my next exploration of Cherryh's work.
Now I'm trying to finish my last Virago for the month, The hearing trumpet, a novel by the Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington. It is wonderful so far, and yes, surreal.
I haven't read a proper Fantasy novel in a while, so I think I'm going to try Living with ghosts by Kari Sperring. The title suggests it's an Urban Fantasy, but it looks more comparable to what I've read of Carol Berg's work.
#131 - Just so you know that Downbelow Station was written to provide context and backdrop for a whole universe. It sometimes can be perceived as dense or overly complex. The reward is the experience it adds to books such as Hellburner (definitely a fave, though it could had benefited from some stringent copy-editing) and it's prequel Heavy Time, to Merchanter's Luck and Tripoint. Et al.
Not to mention Cyteen.
However, on my third reread just now I think Downbelow Station horrible but very very good.
If I had to chose favourite suite of CJ books I'd be hard pressed between Chanur and the Company Wars books.
And then I do enjoy the Foreigner series immensely, too.
I managed to finish The hearing trumpet in time for it to count as an AV/AA book. I really enjoyed it, despite finding the ending rather confusing - but then, it is a surrealist novel so I think I'd be a bit worried if I understood the whole thing. It's very funny and stars a whole crowd of feisty old ladies - how often does that happen?! It's set at the weirdest nursing home ever, where the residents live in a variety of dwellings, which include one shaped like a toadstool which one enters by climbing a ladder, and another shaped like a piece of birthday cake. I adored the book and am already looking forward to rereading it in the future.
I've also read a couple more Liaden novels, Local custom and Scout's progress. Local custom was a bit too much of a romance novel for me to love it, although I really liked the mature academic heroine rather than a young kickass type. Scout's progress, though, I loved. I'm a sucker for an underdog heroine who must learn to use her strengths and see that she is appreciated and is a valuable person. Aelliana is very sympathetic, and I like her character arc. I also appreciated the understated romance - it is obvious to the reader that the two characters will get together, but they themselves don't consciously see each other in a romantic light until almost the end of the book. No insta-love - hooray! I still have some more of the earlier books to read, but I'm really looking forward to Mouse and dragon when I get there, which seems to continue Aelliana's story.
I haven't had much time to get into Living with ghosts, but will try to get beyond chapter 1 this weekend!
I've just started Cloudstreet as my work read, something which has been on my tbr pile for a while.
I don't seem to have been able to concentrate on reading in the last couple of weeks, which is almost unheard of for me. I did however finish Cloudstreet, which I really enjoyed. The characters all seemed very vivid and true to life in that at times you wanted to both hug and smack them depending what they had just done. It's the story of two families who end up living in the same house in the city after misfortune strikes. The Pickles' own the house, but are a rather dissolute bunch, apart from the daughter Rose. The Lambs are hardworking and determined to make a success of the grocery store they open in their half of the house. The book follows the two families over 20 years during the '50s and '60s through good times and bad. While I did laugh in places, I would not describe the book as "hilarious" as the cover copy proclaimed - but maybe that's because I find things like chronic gambling and alcoholism to be depressing and find it hard to see humour in them. This could have been a real downer of a book, but even during dark times there is always hope shining through, as the characters persevere until change comes. There is a touch of magical realism too, which you can almost ignore if that's not your thing. It's a very good read, and well deserving of its status as a modern classic.
I haven't picked up Living with ghosts again yet.
I borrowed Paul Gallico's Love of seven dolls from a friend and read that as it's very short. Given that the relationship at its centre is so very twisted and disturbing, I should not have loved this as much as I did. But it is almost a fairytale in its depiction of the power of love to redeem the darkest evil.
I found 2312 at the library and am reading that. It's very absorbing so far, although I don't terribly like the main character - for someone who is about 200 years old she is incredibly immature and self-centred. But the worldbuilding is amazing, and while many reviewers seem to find the lists and extracts included annoying, I'm enjoying them. This is my first novel by KSR, and if I continue to like it I will look for the Mars trilogy.
I'm also reading The town in bloom, a light novel by Dodie Smith, set in the world of the theatre in 1920s (?) London. It's a lot of fun so far.
2312 was a very good read. I can totally understand how the sections of lists and extracts have annoyed people, but I found most (not all) of them to be interesting and to flesh out the future world and society. While I never did grow to like Swan, the protagonist, I enjoyed all the other characters, and loved KSR's vision of the solar system 300 years from now. I have to say though, that travelling in an elevator for 5 days while Philip Glass operas play in the background would drive me insane!
The town in bloom was a fun read, steeped in theatrical atmosphere and period detail. It follows the lives of three young women as they seek to find careers and love in 1920s London. Mouse is the first-person narrator, and we see her audaciously gatecrash an audition as she seeks to get an acting job any way she can. But the usual story of the plucky, talented young actress struggling to the top is given an unusual twist - Mouse can't actually act at all, as those around her recognise. Instead, she is given a secretarial job at the theatre, and it is from this perspective that we see all the backstage drama, toil and intrigue. While not as good as Smith's more famous novel, I capture the castle, it is still a good read and contains its own insights and a fascinating portrait of friendships between women.
I've also managed to acquire and read Andrey Kurkov's Death and the penguin and its sequel Penguin lost. I really enjoyed these two laconic Ukrainian novels, which follow the life of Viktor and his penguin Mischa as they are drawn into the underworld of gangsters and corrupt politicians. I have not cared so much about the fate of a character as I did for Mischa in a very long time. I had to read the sequel immediately as his fate is left on a cliffhanger at the end of the first book. While superficially these novels are thrillers, really they are about loneliness and humanity and the connections that form between people (and penguins). They are short, quick reads, and I highly recommend them.
Now I've started reading Curse of the mistwraith for Morphy's Magical Monthly Reads. I'm only about 50 pages in, but I'm already intrigued by the characters and looking forward to picking the book up again on my lunch break.
Did you know that there was a movie, Lili, starring Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrer, based on that Gallico novel?
>137: Most of the reviewers seem to prefer the first Penguin book, but I thought the sequel was just as strong, and the section set in Chechnya is especially good. Do pick it up! (I've just realised that is an awful pun to those of us in the UK - it was unintentional I swear!)
>138: Yes, I looked it up on amazon but it seems to be hard to get in the UK at the moment. I'll keep checking back though. I love Leslie Caron. I have the OCR of the musical Carnival, also based on the novel, the liner notes to which include a fascinating history of the various incarnations of the story and its adaptations.
I'm really getting into Mistwraith; but perhaps it's not the best book to read on the train as I find it hard to stop reading when it's time to get off!
At home I've started reading Summer Knight, the 4th Harry Dresden book. Most urban fantasy doesn't really appeal to me (too much sex and not enough plot) but I do like this series.
I'm glad you've made it to the 4th Dresden novel. I thought they just got better and better after the third.
>140: I loved Summer knight! I'd been warned that the series didn't get good until this book, so was pleasantly surprised when I enjoyed the first couple that I read. But this one really was a cut above. I have Death masks to read soon, then a big gap - I just don't find this series at the used bookshop, and the library only has the most recent volumes.
I read Elizabeth Taylor's The wedding group for the Virago Modern Classics group read. It was a fast read, with compelling characters. In it, the naive, sheltered Cressy leaves her home in the artistic commune where her grandfather rules over his family, in search of a life in the modern world of shop-bought clothes and fast-food restaurants. She meets the self-satisfied journalist David and they marry. But Cressy is utterly incompetent, and David's mother Midge is determined not to be left alone by her son's marriage. Unlike in many books with this scenario, Midge knows better than to fight against the marriage and her new daughter-in-law; instead she indulges Cressy's whims and desires to tie her, and thus David, ever closer. These characters could easily have been made caricatures, but Taylor makes them well-rounded and real, so that we care about how their situation will pan out. I really enjoyed the book.
Still reading Curse of the mistwraith and loving the detailed worldbuilding and conflicted characters.
I finished Curse of the mistwraith and very much enjoyed it, for the same reasons that I enjoyed Fortress in the eye of time. Both books are written in rich prose, and slowly build to reveal a complex world and characters with very real motivations. It's not so good if you are tired or in the mood for something easy to skim, but very rewarding when you have the mental energy. I liked that the sorcerers are far from omniscient or omnipotent, and in fact their imperfect knowledge causes disaster for their world. The half-brothers who are our protagonists are well-drawn and interesting to follow, as are the many side characters. I've written a more detailed response on the thread dedicated to the group read.
I also read a couple of contemporary YA novels, at those times when I was not in the mood to concentrate on Mistwraith. Pink by Lili Wilkinson was a fun read about a girl who is out as a lesbian, but not sure if that is actually her identity. Ava transfers to a new school and gets involved with some different social groups there, all the while trying to figure out who she is and what she wants from life. She makes some spectacular mistakes with people and risks losing some of her new friends, but all ends well - perhaps things are a bit too easily resolved, but it is charming. The details of her work on the backstage crew are a nice touch.
Derby girl (made into the film Whip it) is all about the sport of Roller Derby, which I didn't know much about. Our heroine Bliss feels stifled in her small Texas hometown, with her mother wanting to fulfill her own beauty pageant dreams through her daughter. Bliss joins a roller derby team in secret and finds satisfaction through being part of the team. There's also a romance, but it never takes over the book and is definitely not a case of "OMG we're soulmates and going to be together forever even though we're only 16 now". Bliss's behaviour is not always admirable - she takes her best friend for granted and treats her pretty badly for a while - but she's always an engaging and snarky narrator.
I'm currently reading Master and god by Lindsay Davis - not one of her Falco mysteries, but a straight historical novel about the Emperor Domitian. Unfortunately, it's not terribly good. Davis tells to the extent of seeming to quote textbooks at the reader, rather than showing us her characters and setting. There are only about 5 short conversations in the first 100 pages. I'll finish it, but only so I can discuss it with a friend.
A better book in progress is The spirit lens by Carol Berg. I really liked her Lighthouse Duology when I read it last year, and have been looking forward to more of her books.
I'm also about to start The call of Cthulhu and Emily the strange as Hallowe'en is getting nearer!
What's the publication date on that Lindsay Davis title? Was it one of her earliest?
>144: It's actually her most recent - 2011. Unless it is something she wrote early on and has resurrected. I don't remember The course of honour having the same issues - in fact, I adored it. A friend told me that Davis is planning to start a spin-off from the Falco series, which I hope will be up to the usual standard.
I ended up skimming Master and god, as it didn't improve. The whole book was a lesson in why a writer should show rather than tell. I felt as though I were watching puppets through a screen, rather than living through events with them. There was the odd flash of Davis's usual irreverent humour, but it felt forced and out of place amid the dry info-dumping and distant narration of the story. Very disappointing.
I needed a break after that, so turned to Jasper Fforde's YA novel, The last dragonslayer. That was more like it! Great characters who I cared about, a gripping plot, lots of clever humour and sly references for the sharp-eyed; this was a real winner for me. It reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones novels, especially those set in an alternate UK, as this is. Highly recommended.
I'm enjoying The spirit lens, although I only have time read it late at night so it is progressing slowly. I love the way Berg builds her world and introduces her characters, accumulating lots of small details to reveal a bigger picture. I like the interaction between the three principal characters who must co-operate to find out who is conspiring to kill the King and committing some very nasty magic in the attempt. The setting has a Renaissance Italian/French feel to it, rather than the usual Mediaeval McFantasyland. And there are no pigboys here either. Some people will find her books too slow, but they work for me.
The Lovecraft stories are interesting to read - some are rather cheesy, others gross, some truly disturbing. The fit perfectly with the misty, damp autumn weather that we are having at the moment.
I've also been reading The family Fang, an excellent contemporary novel about a very dysfunctional family of artists. I love it!
I managed to finish several books, due to a quieter than usual weekend.
The spirit lens was excellent, with great worldbuilding, interesting characters and a twisty plot. I'm eager to hold of the rest of the trilogy and re-immerse myself in the world of Sabria and its politics.
>146: Janny, I can see that I'm also going to have to seek out the Jennifer Roberson books, as we seem to have similar taste in fantasy reads! *sigh*
The family Fang was hugely enjoyable, a slightly disturbing but humorous take on life in a dysfuntional family. Camille and Caleb Fang are performance artists who use their two children Annie and Buster (AKA Child A and Child B) to create Happenings in shopping malls and similar places. Needless to say, neither Annie or Buster grow up to be terribly well-balanced, and this story starts when their lives have imploded and forced them to return home. Chapters alternate between the present and flashbacks which focus on some of the family's "artworks". This was a fun read that didn't take itself too seriously.
I had checked out a couple of Hallowe'en-y books from the library this month, and have been enjoying reading along with the season. Hide me among the graves is a ghost/vampire novel set in Victorian London, featuring the Rosetti family (poet Christina, painter Dante Gabriel and their siblings) along with some engaging fictional characters. The smoky, grimy city is vivdly portrayed and the book as a whole is very atmospheric. The "vampires" are more like succbi/incubi than is traditional, and they are definitely evil, albeit attractive because of the creative abilities they grant to their victims. I did find that the novel dragged a bit though, and the storyline of "good characters must overcome evil and put it to rest" had to be repeated several times before events were finally resolved - the downside of structuring a novel around historical figures whose life stories need to be adhered to. It was a good read though, and I'll look for more of Tim Powers' books.
My other library read is the graphic novel Beasts of burden, about a group of dogs (and one cat) who fight against the paranormal and supernatural evil that invades their small town. It sounds cheesy; it isn't. While the animals are cute, the evil is real and bad things happen to characters in each chapter. There is a lot of gore too, though it's never gratuitous. This is one for older teens, not children. I first saw this book in the window of a graphic novel (BD) shop in Lille, in its French translation, and made a note to myself to check it out. I'm glad I did. The art is gorgeous and the animals are well characterised and never lose their essential dog- (or cat-) ness. I just have a couple more stories to read, and I may end up buying a copy for myself to keep.
I've just started rereading The historian for the GD monthly fantasy read, which I'm looking forward to as I enjoyed the book when I read it years ago. I found the stub of a plane ticket in the book, which must date back to the last time I read it!
And at home I'm reading Darkborn, a fantasy novel set in a world where half the population can only exist in darkness, and the other half in light, due to a curse. Looking forward to seeing where this one goes.
Oh, definitely, I think you would love Roberson!
And - hehe - do you want the whole list of others?
>148: *puts fingers in ears* la la la not listening, not list -- oh, go on then!
Well, I did enjoy my reread of the Historian, but found that I had to suspend disbelief more consciously this time round. Only one copy of Dracula in the university library, and going to the bookshop for a second copy didn't occur to the characters? Hmmm. And there are too many coincidences - random person we've just met is *also* looking for Draculya! Wow! But I liked the characters, especially the supporting cast such as Turgut and Aunt Eva, and I love that the novel never turns into a cheesy romance (Discovery of witches, I'm looking at you). The vampires are nasty, no question. I did find myself wondering if there was a better way to have told the story though, which would have avoided reading endless letters recording the narrative from the past.
I really enjoyed Darkborn, although I had to keep reminding myself that the characters couldn't actually see anything and relied on sound and other senses, including a type of echolocation that the author calls "sonning". I never felt the disorientation that I think I should have at following characters with such different perceptions. But I was intrigued by the plot and enjoyed getting to know the characters, who grew and changed as they became caught up in the events of the plot. I also liked the setting, which was a sort of Regency/Victorian - ish society, rather than faux-Mediaeval castles. I have the second book of the trilogy somewhere in my flat, and need to dig it out soon as I am keen to know what happens next (although the author didn't leave us with any egregious cliffhangers, thank goodness). I hope there'll be some narrative from the pov of some of the Lightborn characters this time to provide contrast.
Since then I've been in a bit of a reading funk, unable to settle on any one book. I did read the latest volume of Yotsuba&!, one of my favourite manga series. It's a slice of life story about a 5 year old girl and her adoptive father, and the everyday adventures and discoveries she experiences. It's cute withut being cloying, and beautifully drawn.
Your trouble with The Historian was my trouble with James Lee Burke's Billy Bob series. I loved the books, they were fun reads, and I enjoyed the main characters. However, evvvvverything is one big coincidence! He runs into someone, and then it turns out they need help, and then he runs into some other person and it turns out there's some connection to the other one & the crime, and so forth, with nearly everyone he meets/everything he does. I ignored it as best I could, because they were otherwise quite enjoyable, but urgh it was frustrating! lol
Darkborn sounds interesting...I think I need to go have a look at it...
I just looked back at my posted response to The Historian and my biggest irritation with it was that it wandered. It wasn't particularly gothic (someething that I want from any vampire tale I read) and just seemed like a bit of a travelogue.
I'm tending to skim over the travelogue parts of The Historian. Okay, that seems like a good quarter of the book at times, but what can I say?
>154: Yes, you will be skipping a lot of pages! Have to admit, you will not miss too much in the way of plot ....
>151: I can overlook coincidences in a book as long as I am enjoying everything else about it. If it's full of other annoyances though, to the charity shop (or back to the library) it goes.
>153: I agree with you, yet I still found it an enjoyable read. I liked the atmosphere and the people they meet on their travels, so I wanted to keep reading. I think I'm just a sucker for books set in libraries and archives!
>152: If you do read Darkborn, I look forward to your thoughts on it. I would recommend not thinking too hard about the logistics of the worldbuilding though; I'm sure there are holes to be found!
I forgot to list Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont among my recent reads. This is the November Elizabeth Taylor group read in the VMC group, and what a wonderful little book it is. Mrs Palfrey, an elderly widow, takes up residence at the Claremont Hotel in Kensington, a slightly seedy place that is home to a handful of other older people who are not yet ready to go into a nursing home, but can't or don't want to live with other relatives. It would have been easy for Taylor to have made these characters into pitiful or grotesque caricatures, but as always, she has made them more complex than that. The process of aging is seen both from within, through Mrs Palfrey and her companions, and from without, through the figure of Ludo the young writer, and some of the various relations who reluctantly turn up to do their duty by the old folks. It is a poignant read, yet I didn't find it depressing. I highly recommend it; I think it is my favourite of all of Taylor's books that I've read this year.
At work I'm reading Eden's outcasts, a double biography of Bronson and Louisa May Alcott.
I found Song of the quarkbeast, sequel to The last dragonslayer, at the library yesterday, so I'm hoping that a dose of Jasper Fforde's humour will get me out of my reading slump.
Some more books finished this week; reading slump seems to be over!
Quarkbeast was just as much fun as the first book in the trilogy; we get to learn more about the wonderful characters and their bizarre world, which is an alternate version of the UK. The plot is twisty and, while there is a hook for the next book, Fforde does not leave us with a cliffhanger. Good stuff.
I read another YA title this weekend, When you reach me, which won the Newbery medal a couple of years ago. I wanted to read it because it is closely linked to A wrinkle in time, both thematically and by direct references in the narrative. It's the favourite book of the main character, a 12 year old girl who is dealing with changing friendships, strange people in the neighbourhood, and random notes which are mysteriously appearing in her books and clothes. There is time travel involved, but the SF aspects of the book never take over; it's primarily a story about starting to grow up and form mature friendships as one finds one's place in the world. It was really well done, and I'd recommend it especially to anyone who loved MLE's books.
I chose to read Eden's outcasts because I've always loved Louisa May Alcott's books and wanted to read about the author. Last year I read a bio of her by Harriet Reisen, and became especially interested in the links her family had to the Transcendentalist movement, and their experimental commune at Fruitlands. Eden's Outcasts is a double biography of Louisa and her father Bronson, which offered the wider persepective that I sought. It certainly lived up to my expectations of a detailed treatment of the Alcotts' place in the movement and their friendships with such luminaries as Emerson, Thoreau, the Peabody sisters and Hawthorne, and was a very well drawn (if more sympathetic than I would have been) portrait of Bronson. It was a good examination of Louisa's life too, going into a lot of detail about her relationships with her mother and sisters as well as the bond with her father, but I felt it skimped on coverage of her novels. The March family books, An old-fashioned girl, Hospital sketches, Moods and Work were dealt with in some depth, but all the rest were either mentioned only in passing, or omitted entirely. I'd be the first to admit that they are not great books, but they deserve some examination. Still, I enjoyed it and it will make me read some more books from and about this period of literary and social history.
I've also read Stone, an SF novel by Adam Roberts. It reminded me a lot of Banks' Culture novels, being set in a galaxy-wide, seemingly utopian society where people seem to have endless leisure and spend their time engaging in bizarre social and sexual practices. The book is narrated by a mass murderer to the Stone of the title, as she recounts how she committed the destruction of 60,000 people, the entire population of a planet, and why. It doesn't quite manage to make her sympathetic, but comes close enough to be disturbing. I enjoyed it, and will be trying to find more of Roberts' backlist.
Now I'm about to start reading The snow leopard, in preparation for my trip next year, and am rereading Llyn Flewelling's Nightrunners books, starting with Luck in the shadows.
I have The Peabody Sisters, and will move it up the tbr pile. It's a hardback edition, which is why I haven't read it before (have owned it for years). American Bloomsbury sounds interesting, but one or two of the reviews have put me off. Still, if I can find a used copy I will pick it up.
(incidentally, WHY are the first touchstone options for American Bloomsbury linked to the Harry Potter books??!!)
Yes, I bumped into that too--I think because Bloomsbury was their UK publisher.
As it was announced that Boris Strugatsky died recently, I decided it was about time to read Roadside picnic, which has been sitting on my shelf for a while now. It's a short book, but intense. It imagines that our world was visited briefly by aliens who left behind them Zones of contaminated land in 6 spots around the world. The book is set in an afflicted town in Canada, and we see how the mysterious Zone affects the lives of all who live nearby. The main character is a Stalker, someone who goes into the Zone in search of the mysterious artefacts that were left behind, which can be sold for a lot of money. The depiction of the Zone is masterful - a bleak wasteland, haunted by potentially deadly phenomena and areas where the rules of physics don't seem to apply. This is a book that would, I think, appeal to people who don't usually read SF, as it is not about why the aliens came, where they went, or speculations as to their nature; rather it is about the lives of ordinary people living in a place which is barren and physically dangerous, and why they might choose to stay there. I recommend it highly.
I've been enjoying my reread of the Nightrunner books, and am currently part way through Traitor's Moon. After that, I will be onto the next 3 in the series which are new to me.
I also found time to read a YA novel, Falling to ash. Despite being a vampire book, it was very good, with an engaging heroine who is snarky, but not too much, and confused at being a vampire but never whiny or angsty. The Boston setting is good, and the plot rattles along nicely without long pauses for swoony insta-love (as happens too often in YA). There is a sort-of romance, but it doesn't quite happen and never takes over the story. I'd read a related short story with the same characters in the collection The eternal kiss and enjoyed it, and was glad that the novel lived up to its promise.
The snow leopard is a fascinating read when it is talking about the geography and wildlife of the Himalayas, but less good when the author is talking about his spiritual journey. It should be meaningful but comes over as self-absorbed. I certainly hope that when I make my trip to this region there will be fewer blisters and leaky tents than the author describes!
I ending up enjoying The snow leopard a lot more than I expected. The first quarter/third of the book is taken up with Matthiessen rambling on about his philosophical and pseudo-scientific theories and being very self-consciously "Spiritual", which I didn't have a lot of patience with. But as he drew closer to Inner Dolpo, he focused more on the landscape and wildlife and his spiritual observations came out of what he saw and experienced so they felt more natural and sincere. The author was certainly honest - he shows himself at his worst and admits the times he misjudges people which I appreciated (while not wanting to spend any time with him myself!). I can see why this is the must-read book for anyone with an interest in the Himalaya region, and would certainly recommend it, with the caveat of the tedious, self-absorbed stuff to wade through at the start.
Am now about to start War with the newts, part of my latest haul from the library.
"War with Newts" We've had a couple of those here in the Green Dragon. Ahhh, good times. ;)
You did better than I with Snow Leopard. I don't even think I got as far as to be able to Pearl Rule it at 50 pages. I don't like to read about people navel gazing.
>163 :-) LOL!
>164: I came this close to giving up early on, as I share your feelings about navel gazing. I only persevered because I'll be visiting a similar part of the world next year and this is a recommended read. I might find myself rereading the back half of the book one day, if Mount Tbr ever gets down to a manageable size.
Honestly, The Snow Leopard had been on my shelf waiting to be read for so very long (purchased solely on the basis of recommendations rather than any real interest on my part), I finally decided that I was not ever going to get around to it and passed it on unread. Based on what you say, I'm thinking it was still the right decision.
Finished War with the newts, which was an interesting read but not something I think I'll come back to. It's told in different narratives, newspaper clippings and scientific reports, some of which are entertaining and others which outstay their welcome. I think I'd have got more from the book if I knew more about Czech politics at the time it was written - political satire is largely lost on me (though yes, I did get the allusions to the Nazis).
In YA, I enjoyed Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. I'd only read a short story by her before, but was struck by its humour and refusal to take teenage angst seriously, so when I found this new book of hers at the library I decided to give it a go. It was an excellent read - full of snappy dialogue and strong but realistic female characters who are friends with each other!!! This was so refreshing in a world where too many books have either a lone woman character, or show women as rivals competing for the man. I wasn't as keen on the male characters, and the plot was a bit predictable, but it made a nice change to have a book of this sort (YA paranormal) set in England rather than the US. Recommended for its humour and awesome female protagonists.
I've also finished Shadows return and The white road, books 4 and 5 of Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner series. I was dubious about Shadows to start with, as I'd read some negative reviews that said it wasn't as good as the original 3 novels, and I found the first few chapters to be slow going. But once the plot kicked in, it was a terrific read, one that I could hardly put down. Alec and Seregil are really put through the mill in this one, but we see them grow and their relationship develop and change. White Road is a direct sequel to the events of Shadows, but I found it less exciting - there is a lot of travelling in the various narrative strands - although very good at showing the emotional consequences of events in the earlier book. We also learn about the Hazadrielfaie and Rethanoi peoples, which fleshes out the world some more. I still have Casket of souls, the most recent installment in the series, on the tbr pile, which I'll get to soon.
I started reading Joe Abercrombie's Red country, which I got from the library. It's a mashup of low fantasy and Western, which works really well with Joe's trademark grittiness. I'm enjoying the characters and their adventures, but am afraid that the ones I like and am rooting for are going to be revealed as morally degenerate bastards by the end of the book!
I interrupted that to read The quantum thief, as it had to go back to the library sooner than Red Country. I decided to give it a try after reading Busifer's thoughts on it and the sequel. I enjoyed it on the whole, especially the setting of the city of Oubliette, but have to confess that I didn't know what was going on some of the time. It's a rare case where I wished for more info-dumping! I did see parallels to the work of Iain M Banks and Al Reynolds, and also some elements in common with Adam Roberts' Stone, a recent read that also features a criminal being broken out of jail in order to commit another crime for a shadowy figure. I will look for the sequel.
So I'm about to continue with Red country, and am reading The good the bad and the undead at home for light evening relief after work.
Hmm, looks like all my recent reading has been the polar opposite of the Snow Leopard!
The good the bad and the undead was a fun, lightweight read despite making me want to smack the heroine a lot of the time. She is hasty and jumps to unfounded conclusions based on her prejudices, and makes things harder for those around her. But I like the humour and worldbuilding and most of the supporting characters, and I gather that Rachel shows more maturity in later books so I'll keep reading.
I also read The autumn castle by Kim Wilkins, which is a portal fantasy that moves between Berlin and a fairy kingdom. It has a strong flavour of Grimms' tales, complete with a witch called Hexebart, in all their original darkness. I loved it just as much as Rosa and the veil of gold, which I read earlier this year. The characters are flawed and compelling, and the evil is very nasty (if a bit over the top in parts). Highly recommended if you like the Charles de Lint type of urban fantasy.
Still wading through Red country and enjoying Abercrombie's usual black humour amid the grittiness.
My final book completed in 2012 was The soul mirror by Carol Berg, an excellent sequel to The spirit lens which I read earlier in the year. This really is a great trilogy so far, set in a plausible Renaissance-type world where reason and magic co-exist uneasily, and where politics and religion are driving forces that characters cannot avoid. I loved our narrator, Anne, and following her entry into court life with all its deceptions and challenges as she must work out who she can trust. I've ordered the sequel as I want to get back into this world asap!
That's all for 2012 then; thank you everyone for reading and commenting, and for the numerous recommendations I've gleaned from you all. You are not helping my tbr pile to get any smaller, but the books on it are getting better :-) Looking forward to doing this again in 2013!
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