First books of the year!

I had a slightly slow start to the year, but then got two brilliant reads that I couldn’t put down so I tore through them really fast. It all adds up to January 13th and four books have been read, with two currently on the go and both more than halfway through.

Here are those books:

1. A Suitable Vengeance – Elizabeth George
This one was an oddity, the fourth book in the series and yet set a couple of years (I think) before the other books. Havers is barely there, because of the setting, and I missed the relationship between Lynley and Havers more than I expected. This is also in the days before the established relationships, so I missed Simon and Deborah together but was also fascinated because this is the story of how they became Simon and Deborah. It’s also the book where we find out a lot of Lynley’s family secrets, the things that shape the man we know in the other books, and we get to see the uglier side of Lynley’s background. As a study of the backgrounds of all the characters and a good mystery (yes, there is a mystery here) it’s a good book but I’ll be glad to get back to the normal time period with the next one.

2. Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
A friend of mine has been raving about the Outlander books ever since I met her, so I though that I should really give this one a go. I’ll start by saying that it’s not a bad book. It’s not a literary masterpiece, but it is a step up from much of the bad writing that haunts certain sectors of the romance genre. Unfortunately, it’s also the kind of book where I danced for joy when I finally got to the end and really wished that I hadn’t stuck with for so long. The plot didn’t really capture me, there was some odd historical inaccuracies that jarred me (rationing in England did not end with the war, it was still in force in the early 50s) considering the amount research done in other areas and I could not engage with the characters enough to care for them. I suspect that this is one where some people are going to love it and other people will be a bit ‘meh’ about it. I fall into the latter camp, unfortunately.

3. Daughter of Time – Joshephine Tey
This was a recommendation from somewhere on 75 books, either a personal thread or the mysteries thread, and I loved it. I finished it last night and can easily see myself re-reading it again because there’s so much lovely historical research detail to go over again. The basic plot is that Inspector Grant has broken his leg and is on enforced bed-rest in hospital while it heals. A friend suggests that he tries his hand at researching a historical mystery and hands him a bunch of portrait re-prints to look at. Grant picks out Richard III, who has a face that does not fit with history’s most notorious murderer, and sets out with the help of a British Museum researcher to work out whether he really did kill the Princes in the Tower. The book was published in 1951 so some of the ideas were familiar to me already (I’m a bit of a medieval history buff) but some of the evidence was new to me and the way that Tey wrote it kept the investigation fascinating throughout. She managed to breathe life into the historical figures despite their existence as academic studies just as vividly as she created her fictional characters. It’s historical research presented in as a good old fashioned mystery and it works brilliantly. I’d recommend it to anyone and it’s a strong contender for going onto my favourite books of 2011 list.

4. Mistborn: The Final Empire – Brandon Sanderson
I read Elantris a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it because Sanderson does such a good job of writing epic fantasy with a bit of a twist. When this trilogy was being discussed on the 75 books threads I decided to give it a try, despite the slightly unpreposessing title, and I’m very glad that I did. The first book is epic, filled with twists and turns, never goes quite where you expected and has both a resolution and some un-resolved things that left me itching for the next book. The characters, particularly Vin, Kelsier and Elend, are beautifully drawn and they are allowed to grow as the book progresses. Sanderson uses Allomancy as his main magic in the book, the ability to ‘burn’ metals for different abilities, and it’s a wonderfully unique system of magic that really enhances the story. If you like epics and high fantasy and you want to read something just a little bit unusual then you should definitely check this one out.

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