April 2014 reads

>> Friday, May 02, 2014

A very good month, with several really enjoyable reads.

1 - Asta's Book, by Barbara Vine: A
original review here

This is an old favourite which I found in audiobook format at my library. Barbara Vine is a pseudonym for mystery author Ruth Rendell, who uses that name for her psychological thrillers. This is a bit different from her usual, even under that name. There is quite a lot of psychological insight, but it's not really a thriller. Rather, it's one of my favourite plots: an investigation into secrets of the past.

The present-day protagonist, Anne, is the granddaughter of a Danish woman (the Asta of the title) whose posthumously published diaries have become a sensation. An old acquaintance approaches her because she's making a TV film about a classic turn-of-the-century crime which took place very close to where Asta was living at the time. There are a couple of passing mentions of the family in the diaries, and the woman wonders whether there might be anything else that wasn't published. Anne agrees to look, and that sparks off some fascinating revelations.

It's a wonderful book. The story is told through Anne's investigations, but also through things like crime accounts of the time and, of course, excerpts of the diaries. The latter were amazing. Asta is a brilliantly realised character and her voice was hugely enjoyable. Anne wasn't quite as good a character. She felt quite a bit older than she was supposed to be. Still, that's minor, and I think I enjoyed this even more this time around. It's been long enough that I'd forgotten the details of the final revelations, too, so the mystery element worked just as well as it should.

2 - The Kraken King Parts I, II and III: The Kraken King and the Scribbling Spinster; The Kraken King and the Abominable Worm; and The Kraken King and the Fox's Den, by Meljean Brook: overall grade to be determined at the end, but they're up here on the list for a reason.
review of part 1 here
review of part 2 here
review of part 3 coming soon

The first 3 parts in this 8-part serial. I haven't been particularly tempted by other serials, but I trust Meljean Brook, both to do one properly (i.e. not to just write a book and chop it into bits) and to make the story satisfying to read one installment at a time. So far, this looks like the right decision. I'm really enjoying the story and even liking the format.

3 - Written In Red, by Anne Bishop: B+
review coming soon

Urban fantasy, which I picked up after a couple of people mentioned in one of my monthly wish list posts how excited they were about the sequel. The series is set in a world where humans coexist with the very powerful Others, a mix of shifters, vampires and other paranormal sorts. Our heroine is a seer who has escaped from an institution in which her powers were being exploited and has taken refuge with the Others. Urban fantasy doesn't usually work for me, and I did have some issues with this one, but on the whole, it really, really worked for me and engrossed me completely.

4 - Woman on the Run, by Lisa Marie Rice: B+
original review here

Another reread. This is my absolute favourite by this author, and I reread it regularly. It features an urban, sophisticated heroine who has to go into the Witness Protection programme and is relocated to a remote tiny little rural town. I love the romance (in the same way I love other LMR romances, in spite of myself), but also the way the heroine starts to fit into her new surroundings without it all being made into a big town=bad, small town=good manifesto.

5 - The Quarry, by Iain Banks: B
review coming soon

Read for this month's book club. A man dying of cancer lures a group of old university friends to his crumbling house for a weekend by dangling before them a tape they made years ago, which contains very embarrassing material. We see all this through his 18-year-old son, who's on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. It's a very melancholy book, and one that most at book club didn't much like, but I did. I liked the narration and thought the characters were really well done.

6 - The Janus Stone, by Elly Griffiths: C
review coming soon

Second in a mystery series set in the Norfolk salt marshes with a forensic archeologist heroine. The case concerns the discovery of the headless skeleton of a child under a doorway. There's also much personal drama, including the fact that the heroine and the (very married) police detective had a one-night-stand in the previous book and she's now pregnant. It was a bit meh.

7 - An Unsuitable Husband, by Ros Clarke: DNF
review coming soon

Marriage of convenience plot in a contemporary. I liked some things about it, but the setup was so completely preposterous and silly that I just couldn't keep reading.

8 - The Sum Of All Kisses, by Julia Quinn: still reading
review coming soon

I haven't read Quinn in ages. This one has two protagonists who start out disliking each other (with good reason) but have to spend a lot of time together.

9 - Bolivar: American Liberator, by Marie Arana: still listening
review coming soon

Audiobook, non fiction. It's about the life and times of Simón Bolívar, who's consider the liberator of several countries in the North of South America. There have been a couple of dry-ish spells, but Arana is a good writer, and it's keeping me engaged.

10 - The Lost Night, by Jayne Castle: grade
review coming soon

Latest in Jayne Castle's Harmony paranormal books. Ok so far, nothing special, but then, they haven't been too special lately.


Darlynne,  2 May 2014 at 20:06  

Agreed about The Janus Stone and the entire series. Ruth keeps ending up in trouble, needing to be saved, and that trips my amateur/accidental sleuth alarm. The personal aspect--the affair that results in a pregnancy--simply makes me sad. I don't judge, I feel badly for all involved because they're really nice people and they all pay the price, in one way or another.

BTW: The Vine book is Anna, not Asta, which cracked me up. Have you been reading The Thin Man?

And I can't wait to get my hands on the Kraken. That BN credit will come in handy.

Rosario 3 May 2014 at 07:13  

I keep hoping the Ruth Galloway books are going to be much better than they are. It's all a bit less well done than it should, whether it's the ways characters act in slightly not-quite-human ways or the mysteries that are a bit too obvious.

Re: Asta's Book: Heheh, that's actually the UK title. It was published as Anna's Book in the US, and I used the cover of the print version I have, which I bought years ago from there. I thought it reflected the mood of the book much better than the UK cover, which is just a picture of a book: http://covers.audiobooks.com/images/covers/full/9781408451557.jpg

Are you planning to read the full Kraken King book when it comes out, then?

Darlynne,  3 May 2014 at 15:09  

Asta's Book? I had no idea, which will teach me to read more carefully before opening my mouth. Sorry about that. It's so weird, though, that the character's name was changed for the American edition. It's as if the publisher thought we wouldn't understand or read a book about Asta. Kind of like philosopher vs. sorcerer. *sigh*

I've bought the first Kraken and ordinarily would wait before spending that much money in total on one book. But it's Meljean Brook. I imagine the full collection will be fairly expensive for quite some time; for now, my answer is, maybe/probably.

Rosario 4 May 2014 at 08:26  

Nah, no way you could have known! :D It really is weird that they changed the title, especially because the present-day narrator's name is Anne. That could only have created confusion (well, I didn't have any trouble reading my US version the first time around, but still).

That was the main basis for my decision to give the serial format a try. It's Meljean Brook.

Fernande,  4 May 2014 at 16:00  

Hi Rosario. Woman on the Run is my favourite LMJ as well, I think mostly because the over the top narrative style is balanced by her terrific sense of humour, which unfortunately she appears to be losing in the more recent books. I'm glad you liked Written in Red; I didn't find the sequel quite as engrossing, but still a good read. I'm waiting for the Kraken King to come out all at once...at my advanced age delayed gratification is just too risky.

Rosario 9 May 2014 at 07:06  

Oops, Fernande, completely missed your comment! Yes, the sense of humour is much more prominent here, plus, there's a lot more to the heroine than being in danger and needing rescue, which hasn't been the case in many of her other books.

I'm glad I decided to try The Kraken King like this. One week gaps are just enough, I find. Any longer in between episodes and I would be waiting until they were all out, too!

Post a Comment

Blog template by simplyfabulousbloggertemplates.com

Back to TOP