What have I been reading lately?

Two months of books to list – I really need to remember to post these lists rather than writing, saving and forgetting. March started out badly, but improved a lot and April was filled with classics.

March books

The Affinity Bridge – George Mann: It had all the elements of a good book, so why wasn’t it? This is the first time my “wow, great cover art” technique of choosing new authors has seriously failed me. The book had some great ideas (steampunk Victoriana, gothic mysteries etc.) but the writing was just flat. The characters were a bit cardboardy. The writer did the same thing that I’m trying to train myself out of: over-explaining every tiny thing and chucking info-dumps around left, right and centre. In short, a book that I don’t feel the need to return to and had to work hard to finish.

Dragonheart – Todd McCaffrey: Going back to Pern is always fun, particularly when I’m meeting some new characters or getting to know characters that have only been referenced lightly before. This one takes place at the same time as another of the recent Pern stories, but it focuses on a newly Impressed rider and her gold dragon with only hints at the actions of the charcters in the other book. The new characters are interesting and I love seeing Pern in the intermediary stage between the Landing and the period centuries later when Pern rediscovers that history. It’s not the strongest book in the series, but Todd McCaffrey is settling in well and I think he’s made the right choice to set his stories in a different period in Pern’s history from what his mother wrote. It was a book that pulled me in and kept me turning the pages, perfect for a lazy weekend of reading with a big mug of tea.

Black Sails, Fast Ships – various: I’ve only read half the stories because I find that I can only read about pirates for so long, but so far I’ve really enjoyed this. It’s a collection of short stories about pirates. Not just the kind in 18th century sailing ships – the authors are from many different genres and likewise they’ve interpreted the pirate idea in dozens of way. As with any anthology there are a couple of clunkers, but there are also some total gems. Elizabeth Bear’s contribution stands out as one of the best so far (unsurprising, I love her stuff) and the last one that I read before putting it down about high-tech pirates haunted by the souls of ancient pirates was just brilliant. I’ll be returning to this when I’m a little less pirated-out.

Accidental Sorcerer – K.E. Mills: One that I picked up in England because the cover looked good and the back jacket blurb sounded fun. Overall, I enjoyed this one a lot and will be picking up the sequels. It’s not perfect, but it is compelling and fun. The story starts out very light and humorous, but becomes much darker in places so it’s a more meaty book than it first appears. The only imperfection is that the transition between light and dark could have been handled more smoothly. There are a few places that are a bit jarring. The ideas, characters and settings were great and for the most part well executed so this definitely an author that I’d like to return to.

Fool Moon – Jim Butcher: The second Dresden novel and I really enjoyed it. This one is definitely ‘the werewolf one’, with lots of variety in the monsters and lots of people who aren’t quite what they seem to be. Dresden is a great character and one of the rare ones that I can cope with in first person. It’s not deep reading, but it is a lot of fun.

Fifth Years at Malory Towers – Enid Blyton: This was an unintentional re-read because I forgot that I had read this one. It was a fun re-read, though. Blyton’s weak point is that her characters never really age. They are in the fifth year, around 16 years old, but I would not have known this if it had not been stated. Darrell and co. certainly do not show any more maturity than they had in their first year. Elinor M Brent-Dyer has her faults, but her characters do grow and change so that the Joey we meet in the first Chalet School book has grown and matured when she finally becomes Head Girl. Blyton’s books probably work well for younger girls (I have friends who’s daughters will be six or seven next year and I think Malory Towers will be perfect for them) but they would be quickly outgrown by most girls.

April books

All the Windwracked Stars – Elizabeth Bear: This was an excellent book and a good start to the month’s reading. Bear is one of those writers who gets better with each book and never re-hashes ideas, so each book is quite different from the last. In this book I discovered that she writes bleak brilliantly. It’s about the end of the world, with Norse mythology mixed in, and unlike many end of the world books this isn’t about big, epic ends. This is the slow death of a world so it’s bleak and quite disturbing in places. This is fiction, though, so there is hope in places. Definitely worth reading, but perhaps not good as bedtime reading.

Pawn of Prophecy – David Eddings: I needed something lighter as my bedtime reading after giving myself some disturbed nights with the Bear book. When you need that then the best thing is to re-vist an old favourite. I still love these books and opening the covers is like having a great holiday with old dear friends. These books are popular for a reason: they’re not Shakespeare, but they’re fun, absorbing and filled with great characters. His later books have been essentially re-telling the same stories, but he did it best in the Belgariad and Mallorean series.

Spirit – Gwyneth Jones: The first in my stack of award-nominated books to read through. This one was nominated for the Arthur C Clarke and I can immediately see why. It’s not the easiest book at the start – she plunges you right into the world she’s created without stopping for much explanation along the way – but it rolls along and draws you in very quickly. At heart, this book is a retelling of the Count of Monte Cristo in a sci-fi setting. There are some very weird and cool ideas. I’m not familar with Dumas’ original so I suspect there are parallels that I missed, but this was still an excllent read. It’s also another one that isn’t good pre-bed reading!

Queen of Sorcery – David Eddings: The second Belgariad book and perfect pick-me-up from reading more difficult fare during the day.

The City and the City – China Mieville: Another nominee, for both the Arthur C. Clarke and the Hugo, and an author I’ve been meaning to try for years. Incidentally, this one has won the ACC and I can see why. As with Spirit, the author throws you straight into the world and explains as little as he can, expecting the reader to gradually work things out from context. I found the first couple of chapters hard work and then I was right there in the book, unable to put it down. This is one that I think will benefit from a re-read now that I understand things better. The basic concept is that there are two cities sharing the same physical space, bleeding over in places, and the inhabitants of each city must try to ignore the other city at all times. In the midst of this, there is a murder that may or may not have crossed the borders. It’s a crime novel at heart, with the two cities idea adding an extra dimension that occasionally made my brain hurt (in a good way). Trying to explain it is really difficult because nothing is ever what you think it is, but it’s definitely worth reading.

Magician’s Gambit – David Eddings: OK, I’m on an Eddings kick. So sue me 😀

April was a good month, reading-wise. The new-to-me books were all excellent and I’m loving the chance to revisit a group of beloved old friends. My only regret is that I should have put Eddings aside to concentrate fully on The City and the City because that one needed several really good, intense reading sessions rather than the snatched moments that I managed a lot of the time. However, it’s a book that made me think a lot so it probably wouldn’t have been good bedtime reading. I’m glad that I read the last few chapters in one go, though.

Saturday was a lovely day. I had a big cleaning frenzy in the morning and then refused to feel guilty about spending the entire afternoon on the sofa with a stack of books. It’s been a long time since I did that. This was when I finished The City and the City (I read most of it in April, so it counts!) and then got halfway through Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs. I’ve been watching Bones and enjoying it, so I thought it was time to check out the books that inspired the series.

Apart from the name of Temperance Brennan, the books are completely different from the series. Totally. Not even slightly related. And I’m really enjoying the book anyway. Lots of great scientific detail and book!Tempe is a great character. Apparently I’m on a mystery kick right now – Ruth Rendell is sitting on my to be read pile as well. Then I’ve got two Jim Butcher novels to read and return to a friend before picking out the next award nominee from my stack to read.

Looks like my May (and possibly June) reading is all sorted then!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. michellerowatt
    May 25, 2010 @ 03:36:00

    I’m a Blyton fan but you have a point. Have you visited the Enid Blyton Society – http://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/ – ?


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