Monthly Archives: December 2011

Books in December

Last day of the year. Feels a little festive – and then again, I never really liked the number 2011. 2012 has much nicer symmetry to it, don’t you think?

As ever, this month was about books. For the first part it was a lot of schoolbooks, but as soon as Christmas holidays started I was very much glued to the lovely blocks of paper. I managed quite a lot of them, compared to previous months, but I also had more leisure time.

So let’s start this thing off.

The latest book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance with Dragons, came out earlier this year, and a friend was good enough to lend me her copy. To my disappointment I did not like this book as well as the previous ones. The various points of views were scattered and did not feel as controlled as before, and we only briefly visit some of the characters from the earlier books. This is, of course, to let the readers know what came of the maddening cliff hangers left in the last book, and my guess is if I had waited for five years to find out I would have been very happy indeed. However, I read the fourth book only a short while ago, so the little bits did nothing for me. I find this to be a doldrums in the series: stagnant and slow.

Published: Harper Voyager 2011 (I read Bantam Books 2011)

Pages: 959

Julia Quinn’s Everything and the Moon, the first book in the Lyndon Sisters series, was meant as a break from doorstopper-sized books, and as such it did its job. It is a Regency romance, and as I happen to be particular about the genre, I did not much like this one.

I will borrow the blurb from the author’s website (http://www.juliaquinn.com):

Seven years ago she broke his heart…

When Robert Kemble stumbles across Victoria Lyndon in hedgerow maze, he can’t believe his eyes. The girl who’d torn him in two, who let him plan on elopement and then left him standing by the side of the road, was suddenly within arm’s reach, and even though his fury still knew no bounds, she was impossible to resist…

Seven years ago he left her all but ruined…

Victoria’s father had told her an earl would never marry a vicar’s daughter, and he was right. Robert had promised her marriage, then danced off to London while she suffered the shame of a foiled elopement. But even though Victoria doesn’t particularly enjoy her new life as a governess, when Robert offers her a job of a different sort—his mistress—she refuses, unable to sacrifice her honor, even for him.

But Robert won’t take no for an answer, and he vows to make her his, through any means possible. Can these star-crossed lovers learn to trust again? And is love really sweeter the second time around?

My misgivings with this book are as follows:

  • Style is not what one expects from a Regency romance. Expressions are at times too modern, and nothing kills the mood like unresearched diction.
  • Victoria is intended as an independent woman, but she often lapses into pathetic pining and the traditional there-is-no-way-he-loves-me.
  • From the first page, the story is very mushy, and overly sweet. I think there were eyes like deep pools, which is unforgivable. (I regret not writing the description down.)
  • Despite the possibility I will be labelled a prude I have to say I do not like sex in my Regency romance, thank you very much. It simply does not fit.
  • The plot gets boring when the truth of what actually happened on the night of their elopement becomes known to Robert – and this happens around the middle of the book.

The only positive comment I have in my notes is that Robert is quite amusing when he cares to be. There was a conversation about hedgehogs living in sin that made me giggle.

I have read the second part of the series, Brighter Than the Sun, which I did like better. That one I can almost recommend.

Published: Avon Books 2007 (I read Piatkus 2009)

Pages: 372

The next books are not in the order I read them but in groups.

I had wanted to read Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin books for a long time and finally borrowed three from a friend: Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Thief, Arsène Lupin vs Sherlock Holmes , and 813.

I love thieves, and Arsène Lupin is the best of them. He is a conman, confident, clever, and uncatchable. He is always cheerful, always wins – and never resorts to killing. That is central in some of Leblanc’s work. If there is a murder, you know it was not Lupin, for he does not need to stoop to violence to get what he wants. (And make no mistake – he will get what he wants.)

All the books I have read so far were charming, and I am going to try and read all of them!

Published: 1907/1908/1910

Translation: Jalmari Finne 1967/ Jalmari Finne 1967/ V. Hämeen-Anttila 1990

Pages: 182/204/426

My holiday project was to read the whole Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. The project was success, and I enjoyed it.

I did not love the books with a passion, but I did like them. I will refrain from saying much about the plot for the fear of giving away too much – just know that there is rebelling against the governmental status quo and looking for the prophesied Hero of Ages. The plot is one of my favourite things about the series. There are clues you can pick up, ignore, or miss, and when you finally think you have things figured out your leads turn out to be red herrings. I prefer a more subtle kind of manipulation than Sanderson’s, the kind I cannot easily detect even after I know the truth. I am not saying that it bothered me much during reading: I went through the books fairly quickly in about ten days.

These books work as a mystery, and that is their charm. There is a lot of telling-not-showing with the minor characters, but I can forgive that simply because Sanderson is not afraid to kill off characters you grow to like.

So for anyone craving for a little brain exercise, I recommend this series.

Actually, read it anyway. It is a nice occupation. The order of books is the Final Empirethe Well of Ascensionthe Hero of Ages. There is also a standalone novel located in the same universe. It came out this year and is called the Alloy of Law. I have not read it yet myself, but I have a feeling it would be better to start with the trilogy.

Published: 2006/2007/2008 (Gollancz 2009)

Pages: 643/763/724

So that is all. I have two more weeks of vacation, and there will definitely be panic reading before school starts again. I’m about that start with Leblanc’s the Hollow Needle, which will b followed by the Countess of Cagliostro.

I also got some books for Christmas – our family agrees beforehand what to get each other so there will be no disappointments, although no surprises either. I got both of the books I had wished for:

Richard Hopton: Pistols at Dawn – A History of Duelling

William Gibson: Brief History of Britain – 1660-1851

I also bought a couple of books last week:

Georgette Heyer: Frederica

J. R. R. Tolkien: the Hobbit

Lots to read! I hope next year will be even fuller of books than this year was – for you all!

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November Reads

It seems to be a mission impossible for me to remember to post on the last day. I will try and correct this, just give me time…

I have been trying to fit reading for pleasure among all the reading for school, and the endeavour has been somewhat successful after I issued the “nine to twelve in the evening is reading time”. This reading time has sadly been invaded by World Film History lectures on Mondays and a couple of Christmas parties towards the end of the month.

But I have had time to read after all. So here are the books and the usual ramblings.

I’d seen Dan Abnett’s Triumff – Her Majesty’s Hero at my usual bookstore one time, and contemplated buying it, but never did. When I wanted it, they didn’t have it anymore. But when I saw it at Forbidden Planet in London I had to get it.

Rupert Triumff is an adventurer recently back from Australia. The year is 2010, and Queen Elizabeth XXX reigns the old fashioned Anglo-Hispanic country of Britain. There is a devious plan to kill her, and Sir Rupert is needed to prevent this disaster – with help from friends, of course.

The back cover promises swashbuckling, but I felt the book fell a little short in that respect. This shortcoming was forgiven, however, because nothing beats a nice conspiracy. Abnett’s style reminded me of Terry Pratchett at times, especially when it came to humour – and this is not a bad thing, since I’ve been a Pratchett fan for years. This book is a nice, easy read that keeps you entertained.

I just wish there had been more swashbuckling.

Published: Angry Robot 2009

Pages: 363

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s Don Quixote part 1 was one of the three required books for Comparative Literature I read this month. It is a story of a man, Don Quixote, who reads too many stories about knights, goes crazy and fancies himself a knight and leaves his home to make a name for himself. With him goes his naïve servant Sancho Panza, and together they run into all sorts of misfortunes. On their travels they hear stories, and slowly these stories are woven together into one storyline.

Had it not been a required read I might have enjoyed it more. Cervantes has clearly done his homework when it comes to the genre of chivalry romance and mocks the clichés throughout the story.

Gustave Doré’s pictures are always charming. The ones in Don Quixote might be my favourites so far.

First published: 1605

Pages: 603

Translation: J. A. Hollo 1927

Next on my list of required reading was Voltaire’s Candide. I expected something very philosophical and, seeing as it is not a very long book, something difficult. Turned out it was a pretty straightforward read. Candide is a young man who falls in love with Cunégonde. After her father finds out Candide is thrown out of the castle and is left to wander the world. He sees many places, meets many people, is reunited with his love and so forth.

I read the book very quickly, perhaps too quickly, because I’m having a hard time summarising it. It did not strike me as anything wonderful, even though I usually enjoy satire. My favourite character was Candide’s teacher Pangloss, who is of the opinion that all is well in the world, even when nothing is well.

This book will benefit from it if you take your tiem reading it and thinking about it. It is not bad, and I dare say it would be much nicer in French. I was distracted by the translation, since the translator was the same as in Don Quixote. The style did not change between books.

First published: 1759

Pages: 135

Translation: J. A. Hollo 1953

The last required book was Johann Wolfgang van Goethe’s the Sorrows of Young Werther, a sentimental epistolary novel from the beginning of the Romantic period. It’s the story of Werther, who falls in love with a married woman and then suffers all kinds of agonies over her. The letters are mostly directed to his friend Wilhelm, to whom he pours out his heart and tells of his sufferings.

This is an amusing book, if you take it the right way. Werther is whiny and dramatic, but the story holds the interest, particularly when we start to glimpse how stressful the situation is to his loved one, the happily married Lotte.

But what I really find charming about this book is not its contents but the reaction it caused when it was published. It became a phenomenon. Showing your feelings, crying of both happiness and sorrow became fashionable, and young men wore the same yellow west and breeches and a blue coat.

Werther is a good read if one is interested in the Romantic tradition. It’s based on feelings and describes beautiful nature and the innocence of childhood – and even if you don’t buy into the setting, you get a few laughs out of it.

First published: 1774

Pages: 208

Translation: Markku Mannila 1992

The last book of this month was Patrick Rothfuss’s the Wise Man’s Fear, the second book in the Kingkiller Chronicles. In the first book, the Name of the Wind, we met the main character Kvothe and heard about his youth. Now we continue from where the story left off – and it’s getting better and better.

I liked this book much more than the first one. I love the Arcanum and Ademre. I like Kvothe’s friends. Simple as that. Rothfuss makes it so easy to fall deep into the world he has created and get completely immersed in the stories he tells. The cultural details in different parts of the Four Corners are fascinating (particularly for someone like me who enjoys the genres of novel of manners and fantasy of manners) and I find myself wanting to send rings to people when I want to see them.

To emphasis how much I liked this book I will say that I don’t know how I can wait for the last part. It cannot be out too soon.

Published: Gollancz 2011

Pages: 994

So that was all for November! I’ve also read Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Richard III for class and some stuff – mostly extracts, short stories and poems – for AmLit, but they do not feature on my list.

The only book I bought this month was Robin McKinley’s Deerskin, which I read a year ago and slowly fell in love with.

Currently I’m reading the latest book in George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series – A Dance with Dragons. I’m making slow but sure progress.

I hope you all have a fun December and a great Christmas!

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