August 2013 reads

>> Sunday, September 01, 2013

Lots of books on the list, but quite a few that I'm still in the middle of, so not that many, really. Not surprising, given that a lot of my evening reading time was spent with The Monster aka The Kills, by Richard House. I did listen to a lot of audiobooks though. They were a full half of my reads, mainly because while I was doing stuff pretty much every evening (which is my regular reading time) I had several long train journeys and spent loads of time in the gym (wedding last Friday + Bridesmaid + Strapless dress = Really defined upper body required!).

1 - Shards of Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold: A
review here

Audiobook. I read this ages ago, meaning to read the entire Vorkosigan series (I love everything else I've read by Bujold). I loved this (it was an A-), but strangely enough, never did continue. I'm determined to do it now, so I started back at the beginning again. I loved this even more than the first time. I appreciated the politics and intrigue more, and loved Aral and Cordelia just as much. The audiobook probably helped. It was the version by The Reader's Chair, performed by Carol Cowan and Michael Hanson, as a full-cast dramatisation. It was brilliantly performed. Carol Cowan was particularly good as Cordelia. She sounded a bit older than Cordelia's actual age (in her 40s, rather than her early 30s), but that probably worked even better. She got the sensible, no -nonsense, self-deprecating and profoundly honourable Cordelia perfectly, and I got why this woman is exactly what the equally honourable but less idealistic Aral Vorkosigan needs in his life. I should also note that the audiobook included the short story Aftermaths as a sort of epilogue, which surprised me and left me a bit nonplussed (I kept wondering what on Earth it had to do with the story I'd just listened to). Alas, it did say so in the packaging, now that I check, but I never looked.

2 - The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Mohsin Hamid: A-
review coming soon

Audiobook. Read for my book club in September, earlier than usual. In a cafe in Lahore, a young Pakistani insists on telling his story to a clearly nervous American. We hear about his life in New York, as a successful financial analyst, and what's brought him to his life today. Brilliant and thought-provoking, and I thought the ending was particularly excellent.

3 - Street of the Five Moons, by Elizabeth Peters: B+
original review here

Audiobook. After her introduction in Borrower of the Night, this is the book where Vicky Bliss first comes across John, and the romance which develps into such an amazingly wonderful, romantic one throughout the series gets started. It's a really fun caper, as well, and you get the vicarious enjoyment of travelling to 1970s Rome with Vicky. It's a book that has aged quite well, actually.

4 - The Thief, by Meagan Whalen Turner: B+
review coming soon

Audiobook. A scruffy thief is brought out of jail by the King's advisor for a mission: stealing an object that will change the fate of kingdoms. I loved Gen, the main character, and there are some great twists and turns I never saw coming. I will definitely be reading the rest of the series.

5 - Persuasion, by Jane Austen: B+
review coming soon

Audiobook. This is one I hadn't reread in years. Anne Elliott let herself be persuaded to reject Frederick Wentworth 8 years earlier, and has never stopped loving him. Now he's back. I enjoyed it. The satire is fantastic. The romance is not my favorite of Austen's, but there are some really nice moments.

6 - Harvest, by Jim Crace: B+
review here

Part of my project to read the Man Booker Prize shortlist, and as much of the longlist as possible. Historical fiction, about an isolated village coming into unwanted contact with the outside world. The first half was amazing, but the second half felt less original, and it all got a bit too vague and dreamy.

7 - The Reluctant Nude, by Meg Maguire: B
review coming soon

Romance between a sculptor and a woman posing for a statue for mysterious reasons. I liked it, it felt fresh, but at the same time, the premise felt a bit unnecessarily strange.

8 - Gossip From The Forest, by Sara Maitland: B
review here

Non fiction. The author explores the relationship between Northern European forests and fairytales such as those collected by the Brothers Grimm. Her thesis is that one could only have come from the other, and I found her arguments convincing. I particularly liked her fresh retelling of several fairytales.

9 - The Mystery Woman, by Amanda Quick: C+
review coming soon

Audiobook. Second in trilogy about 3 women investigators in Victorian England. The paranormal aspect of JAK's books has been getting better (no Arcane society, yay!), but this was a bit boring.

10 - The Rapture, by Liz Jensen: C+
review here

Audiobook. Psychologist is assigned the case of a very disturbed teenager, who is convinced that electroshocks allow her to predict future disasters -in an eerily accurate way. I was turning the pages like crazy, really engaged by the plot, but there was a long stretch where the main character made me want to tear my hair out with her self-absorption.

11 - The Suitor, by Mary Balogh: D
review here

Annoying. This is proof that this trend of having novellas or short stories associated to every single title, whether there's a story that needs to be told or not, must die. The story is about the young woman with whom the family of Balogh's next hero try to match him. She doesn't want to marry him, either, as she's in love with someone else. We never see anything of that romance, and the story we do see is boring and pointless.

12 - The Bride Wore Scarlet, by Liz Carlyle: DNF
review coming soon

Disappointing. This series has got this secret society/fraternity in it, and it's all terribly serious and overwrought, and I wasn't feeling it. I also couldn't get interested in the romance. I just wasn't in the mood.

13 - The Kills, by Richard House: still reading
review coming soon

Also part of my Man Booker project. This is a 1000-page beast, made up of 4 separate linked books. So far I've read the first and most of the second. I'm not enjoying it much, to be honest, but I feel like I should get to book 3, which sounds like the most intriguing.

14 - Omens, by Kelley Armstrong: still reading
review coming soon

Start of a new trilogy. The heroine discovers she's adopted and her birth parents are notorious serial killers. In the midst of a huge scandal, she finds herself in a very mysterious small town. I'm liking it so far. I'm still not sure what to expect or what on earth is going on, but that's a good thing.

15 - Sierra Falls, by Veronica Wolff: still reading
review coming soon

Contemporary romance set in an isolated town in the mountains. The heroine works at her parents' inn and dreams of being a sophisticated chef, the hero is the town sheriff. It has a bit of a Virgin River vibe to it, but with possibly a little more edge (but not much). So far my reaction has been somewhat meh, but I'll keep going and see.

16 - World War Z, by Max Brooks: still listening
review coming soon

Audiobook. The subtitle is An Oral History of the Zombie Wars and through vignettes covering all sorts of areas, both thematic and geographic, that's exactly what you get. I thought not having one main character or group of characters to root for might be an issue, but it really hasn't been. I'm loving it so far, and keep trying to draw it out so it doesn't finish.


Darlynne,  1 September 2013 at 15:40  

I felt the same about SHARDS OF HONOR and didn't continue either. Maybe the sheer number of books in the series put me off? I also listened to an audio version and can't figure out why I haven't gone further. Must fix that.

Wasn't WORLD WAR Z great? I had no idea what to expect, but it worked so well and kept me riveted. Haven't seen the movie yet and it will be very different from the book, but supposedly Brad Pitt pulled off something quite good.

I look forward to the rest of your reviews, as always.

Sun,  1 September 2013 at 16:09  

I LOVED the Queen's Thief series. Can't wait to read your review. If you enjoy The Thief, I imagine you'll like the rest of the series even more.

Rosario 2 September 2013 at 06:56  

Darlynne: I think part of it was that in addition to there being lots of books in the series, there's differences between chronological and publication order, and all sorts of short stories published in different omnibus editions, which just feels much too complicated. I've now found a suggested reading order from LMB herself, though, so I'll just go for it.

World War Z (which I keep calling World War "Zed" in my mind -it sounds wrong!) was like nothing I've ever read. I haven't seen the film, either, and I'm not sure I want to. I can't think it could work as well as the book.

Rosario 2 September 2013 at 06:56  

Sun: I assumed the next books would continue Gen's story, so I was very surprised to see the next story has a different narrator. That actually bodes well, I like it that she's doing the unexpected!

Marianne McA,  2 September 2013 at 22:22  

If it's any use to you, I bought the hardback of Bujold's book-before-last (Cryoburn)which came bundled with a CD Rom of (almost all)the series, DRM free.
I had already bought all of the ebooks, including an eARC of Cyroburn so never used it.

It doesn't include Memory (great book) which was omitted by accident, or the latest book, Captain Vorpatril's Alliance; and obviously no use if you want to listen to the series, or read paper copies - but if you'd like it, I can post it over.
(Motivated entirely by self interest - I'd enjoy reading your thoughts on the series.)

Christi e,  4 September 2013 at 01:57  

I'm very interested to see your full review of The Reluctant Nude. I loved the main characters and the relationship that developed. All of McKenna/Maguire's heroes and heroines seem very specific and unique. It's not the same cookie cutter jobs or people over and over. It sounds as if you had the same problems with the book I had- the premise is so over the top for what is really a very grounded and modern romance story. The resolution was also (IMHO) cheesy. Not the relationship resolution but the whole external "problem". Whenever the focus was just on the main couple the story was excellent, when it went into the contrived set up it wasn't. "After Hours" was the first book of hers where everything flowed perfectly from beginning to end. "The Reluctant Nude" is 85% a perfect book.

Rosario 4 September 2013 at 06:20  

Marianne McA: I really, really appreciate the offer, but what sparked the reread was that a friend of mine has all the books in a combination of print and audio (she's got some really old audio versions, too, adapted from cassettes, and if they're anything like this first one, they should be fantastic!). So I have all the books waiting for me, including the copy you sent me of The Warrior's Apprentice some 6 years ago! Thanks again for that, I will definitely get to it this time!

Rosario 4 September 2013 at 06:23  

Christie: Yes, yes, and yes. I completely agree with what you say about The Reluctant Nude. Not quite right, but you can see the seeds of a perfect book in it, and After Hours is it. I will continue to read her earlier books, even if the setups are not perfect, because having those fresh and different characters makes up for it.

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