I’ve recently finished The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. This is definitely not my usual sort of book, but I wanted something quick and light and fun to read on Friday evening and this seemed like a good prospect so I got it on my Kindle and read most of it on Friday night and finished it off on Saturday morning. It reads like a rom com film in book form. The story follows Don, an uptight professor who tries to find an ideal wife and ends up meeting Rosie, who is utterly unsuitable for him on paper but manages to shake up his life. It’s a pretty standard rom com type plot, but I did enjoy it, and it was very funny in places, with great characters. Basically it’s not my usual sort of book, but I was in the right mood for it, so I enjoyed it. It wasn’t anything special, I wouldn’t rave about it, but I would recommend it to anyone looking for this particular style. I’ll be back to reading heavy fantasy novels for the rest of the month, but it was a nice weekend diversion.
I’ve reviewed quite a few of Joe Abercrombie’s books before, so I think it is clear that I am a fan of his writing. Last weekend I went to see him on tour to promote his newest book, Half a King. He did a reading and answered questions and signed books, and it was a very enjoyable event. I have now finished reading the book, which is slightly different from his usual fantasy novels in that this one is a YA book, but it was every bit as good as his usual writing.
The main character of the book is Yarvi, a teenage prince who was born with a damaged hand and is therefore not well regarded by his family as he is not able to train as a warrior. However he is very clever and has trained as a minister instead. His plans go awry however when his father and elder brother are killed, leaving him as an uncertain and ill-prepared king. Things get worse when his own uncle betrays him and tries to kill him in order to claim his throne. Yarvi escapes and swears an oath to take revenge on his uncle and reclaim his rightful position, even if he’s not sure he actually wants to be a king.
I really liked the book a lot. It has a great story, very gripping, and I really enjoyed reading the book. All of Abercrombie’s previous books are set in the same world, but this one has a new setting, which was exciting to read and it was an interesting and well developed fantasy world. The writing is definitely toned down from his adult fantasy, much less gory and violent, but still with plenty of action and sneaky plot twists. The characters too are still excellent, and I especially loved Yarvi.
The book is the first part of a trilogy, although it wraps up the plot nicely by the end and doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, which is something I always appreciate. If you are a fan of Joe Abercrombie then I would definitely recommend it, even if it is a little different from his usual style. For fantasy fans in general, it’s a great read, and again one I would recommend. It’s a great first instalment in Yarvi’s story, and I am definitely looking forward to the rest of the series and seeing what comes next for Yarvi and his friends.
I’ve just finished Inversions by Iain M. Banks, which was the next instalment in my rereading project. This is a strange book, it is science fiction, but reads like fantasy, it is a Culture novel, maybe, but it is one that I really like regardless of its peculiarities.
The book takes place on an alien planet, with a technology level around about the Middle Ages, so it feels like a standard fantasy setting. Sometime prior to the start of the book the planet suffered from a meteor strike which led to chaos and the fall of the old empire. The book has two narrative strands, each taking place in a different part of the planet, in two different remnants of the empire.
One strand follows DeWar, bodyguard to the Protector, the ruler who was responsible for overthrowing the empire of old. He must protect the emperor and uncover the plot against him.
The other strand follows Doctor Vosill, a rare female doctor in the court of the King of a neighbouring country. Her story is told by her young assistant, and she is remarkable in that she comes from a far off land where medicine and science are far more advanced.
As the story goes on it becomes clear, albeit in a subtle way, that both characters are actually aliens from the Culture, who are both in their separate ways intervening in the fate of the planet.
As I said, I really like the book. The setting is great, I really like the blend of the fantasy world with SF elements, it’s really well done. I also like the two different narratives, which both have good plots and complement each other. I also like the way Banks uses his typical unreliable narrators, leaving the reader to unravel the truth.
Overall I think it’s a hugely enjoyable book to read. It’s not one of Banks’ best regarded novels, probably because it is quite different from his usual SF books, but nonetheless it is one that I really like and I definitely rate it highly.
Books Read in June 2014
- The Lions of Al-Rassan – Guy Gavriel Kay
- Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch
- The City – Stella Gemmell
- Warbreaker – Brandon Sanderson
- The Gospel of Loki – Joanne M. Harris
- Throne of the Crescent Moon – Saladin Ahmed
- Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo
- Siege and Storm – Leigh Bardugo
- Ruin and Rising – Leigh Bardugo
- The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith
- Shards of Honour – Lois McMaster Bujold
- Barrayar – Lois McMaster Bujold
Another mixed month. I read 12 books, a couple of which I didn’t like very much, most of which I enjoyed, and a couple of which really stood out. The highlights were Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch and Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson. Next month I’ll be reading the next book in the Scott Lynch series, and probably another Brandon Sanderson novel too. I’m also planning to reread a couple of old favourites, and I have some new books I am looking forward to. So I am hoping July will be a good reading month. June was alright, but July will be better.
This is my review of Shards of Honor and Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold. The two books are occasionally published together in an omnibus called Cordelia’s Honor, although I read them separately on my Kindle.
The books are part of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga series. I know a few people who are big fans of the series, and they have been recommending it to me for years, so I was excited to finally get around to reading these books.
There is some controversy over the reading order of the series, as the books are largely standalone within the series, but featuring many of the same characters over different periods of time. I’ve been told that these two are the best books to start with for the series, and Lois McMaster Bujold seems to have confirmed that herself.
The majority of the books in the Vorkosigan Saga follow Miles Vorkosigan, however these two first books are set further in the past, and follow his parents Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan as they meet, get together, and have Miles. This all takes place during an action-packed plot including exploring an alien planet, fighting in a space war between their two planets, and surviving a military coup and various political manoeuvrings.
I absolutely loved these two books. The plot is great, really fast-paced and action-packed, but also varied as well, it packs a lot into two pretty short books. But it also has great characters and character development, especially Cordelia who I utterly adored, she was just so brilliantly written.
In some ways, especially from the description of the books that I’ve read online, they can seem a bit pulpy or old fashioned at times, and I suppose it does have a fairly classic space opera feel to it in places. However it is also in many ways modern and liberal, in its views towards women, sexuality, reproduction, relationships and so on, which is something that SF does best when it does do it.
I’m aware I’m starting to ramble, so I’ll wrap up now by reiterating that I really enjoyed these books, far more than I perhaps expected to, and I will definitely be reading more of the series in the future. If you like SF then I would highly recommend them, I now understand why Lois McMaster Bujold is such a big name in the genre.
I’ve just finished reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (or as he is better known, JK Rowling). Last year I read Galbraith’s first novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, which I really liked, so I was keen to read this follow up when it was published last week.
It’s a crime novel, and the protagonist is Cormoran Strike, an ex-army private detective with an amputated leg. He is assisted in his investigations by his secretary Robin, who was mistakenly sent to him by a temp agency in the last book, but is proving to be an excellent student. The book is set eight months after The Cuckoo’s Calling, and Strike is benefiting from the fame he gained from solving the Lula Landry murder in that book, with various new clients bringing him work.
One new client is the wife of an author Owen Quine, who has disappeared following some controversy over his newly finished novel Bombyx Mori (the scientific name for the titular silkworm). Strike and Robin investigate Quine’s disappearance, but things take a gruesome turn when he is found murdered, in a manner which matches the death of the autobiographical protagonist of his novel.
As I said when reviewing the first Galbraith book, I am not a regular reader of crime fiction, so I am not well versed in the tropes of the genre or what makes a good crime novel. However I really enjoyed this book. I think the characters are excellent, both Cormoran Strike as the key detective, but also his assistant Robin, who is very relatable. The mystery plot itself was also excellent, with various interesting suspects and a number of twists and turns which kept me hooked right to the revelation of the killer. It was a bit more gruesome in places than I would have liked, but I coped since I don’t read this sort of thing often.
Overall I really enjoyed the book, and I am looking forward to reading more in the series, assuming that Rowling plans to continue writing as Galbraith.
The tickets for the book festival went on sale yesterday, and as always I was up early to book mine. I’ve been going to the book festival for years and it is always a great experience. There are a lot of interesting events and authors appearing this year, however I had to restrain myself as I don’t know what my job situation will be come August, so I didn’t want to book too many events. I managed to get tickets to see Patrick Ness and Haruki Murakami, which I am thrilled about. I ended up not getting tickets to George RR Martin, but I am not too disappointed about that. I am also going to see a few authors appearing in Edinburgh outside the festival, such as Joe Abercrombie this weekend, and Neil Gaiman at the Usher Hall in July. So overall I am looking forward to these various literary events.
I’m on holiday this week. Well I haven’t actually gone on holiday anywhere, but I don’t need to go to work, which is good enough for me. So far I have been hanging out with my boyfriend, who is also on holiday, and we have watched a heroic number of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. Now I have a few days to myself, which I plan to spend lying around reading. Then I’m spending the rest of the weekend back with my boyfriend again, and we’re planning to play Lego Harry Potter until our eyes bleed. Good times.
This week I read the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising. I’d heard good things about this, and I decided to pick it up as the last book just came out, and I was in the mood for some YA fantasy.
The series has an interesting setting, the country of Ravka, which is based on Russia of the early 1800s. It also has an interesting magic system, where Grisha are people who have magical abilities, such as controlling air, controlling fire, healing powers and so on, but each individual only has power in one area.
The two main characters are Alina and Mal, who grew up together in an orphanage, and are now serving together in the army. The country has been devastated by an area called the Fold, where magic gone wrong has resulted in an area of darkness filled with terrible creatures. Mal and Alina are crossing the Fold when they are attacked, and Alina’s Grisha powers are revealed. She has the unique ability to summon and control light, which represents a hope for overcoming the Fold and Ravka’s enemies.
Overall I had a mixed reaction to the books. On one hand I enjoyed reading them, it’s an entertaining story and a good read in the sense of having a compelling plot. However the books really suffered from a lack of worldbuilding and character development. Maybe I’ve just been reading too many big fantasy series lately, but I wanted to know a lot more about the world and the magic. To be fair though I thought the character development did improve as the series went on, and I liked the series more and more with each book. So I don’t want to sound too negative, because overall I did like the books, and I would certainly recommend the series to fans of YA fantasy.
The Kindle is dead, long live the Kindle!
My original Kindle Keyboard packed in after about three years of use, so I picked up a new Kindle as a replacement. It’s just the basic model, but so far it looks pretty good. If I can get as much use out of it as my first Kindle, I will be happy.
For the anti-eReader crowd, as well as the picture of the Kindle, I’ve also stepped back a bit to show off the bookcase that the Kindle is sitting on. That’s just a small fraction of my overall book collection, and a good number of those books were bought after I acquired my Kindle. I read a lot of books, both paper books and eBooks, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Here is a little book haul of books I picked up recently.
Firstly I got the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. I’d heard good things about this, and I decided to pick it up as the last book just came out, and I was in the mood for some YA fantasy.
I also picked up The Girl with All the Gifts by MR Carey and Vicious by VE Scwab. Both of these books are for my SF and Fantasy book group, we’ll be reading them in July. Not necessarily my usual taste, but I’ve heard good things.
I also got Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. I was planning to pick up another of his books anyway as I am working my way through all of his novels. I got this one free from a friend who had a spare review copy.
Last but not least, I obviously had to pick up The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. I read The Cuckoo’s Calling last year and really enjoyed it. I’m going to reread it and then go onto this new book.
I am really excited to read all of these.
I’ve just finished reading Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed. I’d heard great things about this book, and I had been meaning to pick it up for ages. My SF & Fantasy book group ended up opting to read it for this fortnight’s meeting, as we were all enthusiastic about it. I’m really glad that I finally got around to reading it, as I really enjoyed it, I thought it was an excellent book.
It’s a fantasy novel, but with its basis in the myths of the Middle East, rather than the more usual European-influenced fantasy. One of the main character is Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, an elderly ghul hunter. Another character is his young assist Rasheed, a holy warrior. They are tracking an evil sorcerer, and join forces with Zamia, a young tribeswoman who can take the form of a lion.
As I said, I really enjoyed the book. I thought the setting was really interesting, it’s nice to read something a bit different from the usual fantasy setting, and I really liked that. Beyond that, the plot and characters were also excellent, so I really enjoyed the story. It was also nice to read a good fantasy story that was a short, standalone novel, rather than a massive epic series. That being said, I will happily read any sequels to this book that the author has planned. Overall I really enjoyed it and I would definitely recommend it to fantasy readers.