The very overdue updated reading post

Hmm, yes, it’s March. Life seems to fly by sometimes. Or more accurately, I get so busy reading that I forget to update this!

To wit: so far this year, I have completed 19 books.

Take a moment, 19 books.

I haven’t read that many books in the space of two months since I was a kid. It’s kind of awesome. I’ve put up the 2012 reads page with the full reviews of all the books, but my highlights follow the break. Not that I’ve had a bunch of clunkers – nope, not a bad book yet if you don’t count the one I deleted viciously from my Kindle three pages in – it’s just that these are the ones that are sticking with me as some of the truly amazing reads.

4. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
This book is already on my list of top 2012 reads. It has been getting rave reviews all over LibraryThing so I was curious to see whether it could live up to the hype. I’m pleased to report that it does! The book has a dream-like quality that pulls the reader in. The writing creates images in the reader’s mind and I found myself feeling like a part of the story and the circus as I read. It’s beautifully written and I discovered that I was deliberately slowing my pace a bit so that I could absorb it all properly. The unusual competition between the main protagonists is the central plot but it is the circus that is really the central character and that is what I became invested in beyond anything else. As the book drew to a close there is a sense of sadness at having to leave the beautiful world that Morgenstern has created even though the story has a good, satisfying end. This is a book that I would recommend in paper form: the design of the book is a factor in the dream world that it creates and it would not feel the same in an ebook. Gorgeous and my first five star read of the year.

11. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
I’m told that this is a series that gets better as it goes on, which is exciting because I really enjoyed this! The characters are engaging, the idea behind it all is interesting, and use of Greek mythology is nicely done. If I had any complaint it is that the pacing verges on frenetic at times, but it kept me engaged and the fast pace and exciting adventure staved off the effect of the info-dumps that first books in a series often have. I will definitely be hunting down the rest of the books in this series.

12. A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
Over the years I have seen a lot of reviews for this series of books, with most of them highlighting the misogynistic society that Martin creates and the presence of rape in the books. Various people recommended the books to me – many of them people that I know don’t read books with bad depictions of women – but it has taken me years to finally decide to see for myself. I expected to be appalled and possibly disgusted. I didn’t expect to find some amazing female characters who are, in many ways, stronger and more vibrant than the male characters. I definitely didn’t expect that the text would condemn the society’s behaviour to women in Martin’s world. In fact, I found the depiction of the female characters much more interesting than what I usually find in epic fantasy and there is a strong message of “this is not right” from them and from some of the male characters. The male characters who are the worst with the misogynist behaviour and casual rape are generally portrayed as not nice characters who are on the wrong side in most of the action. It was a surprisingly refreshing book and I have to admit, I’ve fallen slightly in love with this series. There’s lots of action and the pacing is very good: fast enough to keep everything exciting, but with enough breaks in the action to give the reader time to know the characters. There are some outright nasty characters, but there are far more shades of grey so that I have a lot of sympathy and liking for characters who aren’t particularly good. The world that Martin has created is interesting and the idea of seasons that last years with winter coming adds an undertone of threat to much of it. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I now understand why so many people were urging me to read them. I already have the second book queued up to read and I suspect that I’ll be joining the impatient queues when I’ve read the last one and am waiting for the next installment.

15. Cryoburn – Lois McMaster Bujold
This one is a bittersweet book: it’s a Miles book and I always love those but I knew going in that it would be the last Miles book. In a lot of ways, that is not something I mind much. His story is now finishing in a good place and finding further adventures for him feels like a stretch now, particularly in light of his growing family. So moving on seems right and I’m glad that Bujold told one final story to give us a satisfactory settlement for Miles. At the same time, I’m going to miss him terribly and the final few pages, although necessary, were hard to read. As always with a Miles story, though, there were lots of hijinks along the way, this time with an investigation on a planet that has gone rather crazy for cryo-preservation. The ideas on how a planet can function when few people technically “die” are well-developed and Bujold takes the repercussions to a level that feels both extreme and entirely appropriate. There are adventures, kidnappings, daring escapes, political shenanigans and fun new characters galore. Although I went into this book knowing that I would be sad by the end, the adventure was worth it and I’m quite content with how Bujold has left things. Now, when is the Ivan book that she has promised going to be out?

17. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – N. K. Jemisin
I thoroughly enjoyed this one, which is no surprise having seen it recommended in so many places! The ideas are, on the surface, typical fantasy tropes but Jemisin’s execution and world-building are what really make the difference. She twists ideas of gods and men ruling the world and creates something quite unique. The central character, Yeine, is called to her estranged grandfather’s home and offered the chance to compete to be his heir. Her motivation for doing so begins with revenge for her mother’s death, but the entire story is so much more complex than that. There are betrayals from unexpected directions, romances that aren’t what they seem and the final resolution is breathtaking. Highly recommended and I’ll be looking out for the next book in the trilogy very soon.

19. Timeless – Gail Carriger
This is the last installment in Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series and I’m going to miss these character a great deal. The books have been such fun, with vivid characters that are impossible not to love and a world that I love returning to. Heartless felt a little disjointed in places, but Timeless returns to form and kept me reading eagerly so that I consumed most of it in one sitting! We are finally given some answers to what Alexia’s father was really doing before his death and we are treated to a ripping adventure through Egypt along the way. At the same time, Carriger does not abandon the characters who remain to man the fort in London and some of the London sections may be some of my favourite. It’s the last book so Carriger brings a lot of stories to an end and she ties it all up quite neatly without feeling either contrived or rushed. I had some genuine surprises about the fates of some characters and couldn’t love what she did more. I’m going to miss this series, but she sent it out on a high.

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