Although my reading time was largely eaten up by work during the last two weeks of June, I managed a respectable amount of books – two of which were on the list, yay!
This month, I’ll do a little twist with this monthly thing. I’m sure it will be easier and more pleasant to you guys if I split the monthly post into a romance and a fantasy/SF/literary post. We’ll see how that works! Here’s the latter, and it will be followed up by the romance books.
Charles Dickens: Great Expectations
Great Expectations (1861) is a favourite among many Dickens readers. In addition to its endearing hero, Pip – a blacksmith’s boy, desperate to escape his humble background – the story is populated by a vivid cast of characters, from the convict Magwitch to Miss Havisham who, jilted long ago, still wears her wedding down and, for revenge, schools the beautiful young Estella in the art of malice towards men.
When Pip receives a legacy and promptly leaves for London to become a gentleman, only then does he begin learning about the gulf between appearances and reality.
(Back cover of the Arcturus edition)
BBC’s wonderful new series of this book was just recently aired here, and I loved it to bits. I’d of course thought of reading this book anyway, but what really pushed me into it was the series.
This is not something I say often, so take notice: the series was better than the book. I know it’s Dickens, and it has merits, but it was a two-week struggle for me. Oliver Twist didn’t give me this kind of trouble. Great Expectations is rambly. It has a lot of bits that seem completely unnecessary, although some of them give a better sense of minor characters. But do we really need to get a better feeling of the minor characters? Not really. I’m most interested in Miss Havisham and Estella, and was hoping that the book would shed more light on them. Didn’t happen, unfortunately, and most of the book I got through by thinking of the series, to make it more interesting. (I mean, Herbert Pocket was played by Harry “Viserys” Lloyd, quite charmingly I might add!)
So if you want to read Dickens, I don’t think this one would impress. I still intend to read David Copperfield, hoping it would be a mix between Expectations and Oliver.
This was also a book off my summer reading list! Hooray!
First published: 1861
Pages: 445 (Arcturus Books)
Douglas Hulick: Among Thieves
Ildrecca is a dangerous city, if you don’t know what you’re doing. It takes a canny hand and a wary eye to run these streets and survive. Fortunately, Drothe has both. He has been a member of the Kin for years, rubbing elbows with thieves and murderers from the dirtiest of alleys to the finest of neighbourhoods. Working for a crime lord, he finds and takes care of trouble inside his boss’s organization – while smuggling relics on the side.
But when his boss orders Drothe to track down whoever is leaning on his organization’s people, he stumbles upon a much bigger mystery. There’s a book, a relic any number of deadly people seem to be looking for – a book that just might bring down emperors and shatter the criminal underworld.
A book now conveniently in Drothe’s hands…
(Back cover of Tor 2010 edition)
In preparation for the second book in Hulick’s series of Tales of the Kin, I reread the first one. I was hoping I would like it more than last time. Nope. It is a good book, and it’s very hard for me to figure out whether there is anything wrong with it. It comes so unbelievably close to breaking the barrier between kinda interesting and totally awesome. In the end, it’s just a little too polished, a little too clinical to really get to me. The story is interesting, the characters relatable and my, do I love the jargon, but something is clearly missing.
However, I do like this book. I’ve given it three stars on Goodreads, and ma teetering on the brink of four. Exciting to see how the second book, Sworn in Steel, will be. I’m hoping it will lose all that keeps me from completely immersing myself into Among Thieves while keeping everything that makes me like the book.
Published: Tor 2011
Eleanor Herman: Sex with the Queen – 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers and Passionate Politics
In royal courts bristling with testosterone—swashbuckling generals, polished courtiers, and virile cardinals—how did repressed regal ladies find happiness?
Anne Boleyn flirted with courtiers; Catherine Howard slept with one. Henry VIII had both of them beheaded.
Catherine the Great had her idiot husband murdered and ruled the Russian empire with a long list of sexy young favorites.
Marie Antoinette fell in love with the handsome Swedish count Axel Fersen, who tried valiantly to rescue her from the guillotine.
Princess Diana gave up her palace bodyguard to enjoy countless love affairs, which tragically led to her early death.
In this impeccably researched, scandalously readable follow-up to her New York Times bestseller Sex with Kings, Eleanor Herman reveals the truth about what has historically gone on behind the closed door of the queen’s boudoir.
I’ve been meaning to read this book forever, and now I finally got around to it. It was vastly entertaining, although I suspect one would have to hold a special place for popular history in their heart to really enjoy it. This book does not offer you solid facts and brutal truths; it’s about love, intrigue and the occasional politics, and concentrates more on the scandal than anything else.
To any Finns who might find themselves interested: the translation is not the best possible, and some word choices are awkward, not to mention some grammatical structures. These don’t spoil the experience too much, but it gets rather annoying when you can see what the original sentence has been, even if it has been an idiomatic expression in English.
But in any case it was an entertaining book, and I think I will read its predecessor, Sex with the King as well.
Published: William Morrow 2005
Translation: Maria Lyytinen (Gummerus 2008)
Patricia Briggs: Cry Wolf
Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack… and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’d learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cornick, the enforcer- and son- of the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life.
Charles insists that not only is Anna his mate, but she is also a rare and valued Omega wolf. And it is Anna’s inner strength and calming presence that will prove invaluable as she and Charles go on the hunt in search of a rogue werewolf- a creature bound in magic so dark that it could threaten all of the pack.
I didn’t think I’d read more Briggs, but my current werewolf kick left me little choice. It wasn’t for nothing – this first book in the Alpha and Omega series suited me much better than the Mercy Thompson series. The unfortunate part is that you apparently need to read Mercy books, at least the first one, to know what’s going on in Alpha and Omega. It’s probably not absolutely necessary, but I think it’s helpful, as Cry Wolf explains but not in much width. One of the reasons I think I might like this series more is the leading lady, Anna, whom I find much more relatable than Mercy. And Mr Alpha, Charles, is nice as well. In other words, the main characters don’t bug me, which is always a good sign. This series is also more about werewolves, seeing as both the main characters are of the species, and it feels better than having a shapeshifter around.
So I would recommend Cry Wolf over Moon Called, although you benefit from reading the latter first. We’ll see if reading the second Mercy book is helpful with reading the next Alpha and Omega book.
Published: Ace 2007
Pages: 307 (Orbit 2009 edition)
Maggie Stiefvater: Shiver
Grace and Sam share a kinship so close they could be lovers or siblings. But they also share a problem. When the temperature slips towards freezing, Sam reverts to his wolf identity and must retreat into the woods to protect his pack. He worries that eventually his human side will fade away and he will be left howling alone at the lonely moon. A stirring supernatural teen romance.
I was in the country when I read this, and boy, did my fingers itch to get to a keyboard so I could type out what I thought! (I have old-fashioned notes for this. A full page of them.)
First of all, there’s an interesting twist to the whole being-a-werewolf thing in this book: temperature. Basically, when the weather gets cold, you turn if you have been bitten. For the summer, you get to be human. Until you get older. This is something I haven’t seen before, and as such it appealed to me.
HOWEVER. The plot progresses slowly, and I felt this series (yes, it’s a trilogy) could have been just put to one book. The love story between the POV-characters Grace and Sam doesn’t feel real, and Grace is probably a cousin to Bella Swan as far as personality is concerned. Sam I liked a whole lot, as well as his father figure Beck. Sam even managed to get a few tears out of me towards the end of the book, which was well done. Unfortunately, this is not enough to make me read the rest of the series. The mysteries left unsolved in the end are not interesting enough, and the chemistries between people are rather predictable.
Next up, a spoiler that I need to get out of system. Only read if you’ve already read the book or have absolutely zero interest in it:
You can’t give meningitis to someone by injecting blood from someone who has it. Meningitis spreads by droplet infection. Also, I don’t think it’s a good idea to inject blood into someone without checking blood type. Not sure what effect a small amount would have, but I wouldn’t do it at all. The point of wanting to someone to get infected with meningitis was to give them a really high fever. I consulted my father the doctor, and he said typhoid fever would be a much better solution.
The point of the spoiler in short: I wish authors did their research. Ugh.
Not going to read the rest of the series. Just not interesting enough. A shame, as I wanted to like it – but just as I’d heard, it’s pretty much just Twilight with werewolves.
Robin McKinley: Sunshine
There hadn’t been any trouble out at the lake for years, and Sunshine just needed a spot where she could be alone with her thoughts. Vampires never entered her mind. Until they found her.
Sunshine has some features that are familiar from my previous experiences with McKinley, most prominently the heavy descriptions and the self-reflection the main character goes through. This book wasn’t exactly like I imagined it would be, but it was good nonetheless. It doesn’t exactly offer anything new on vampires, which was surprisingly… fresh. The vampires are not the point. It’s about the society, and about how Sunshine fits into it, and how she sees and understands herself.
McKinley has a very firm grasp of her craft, and you can trust her books to be quality. Just don’t expect any light conversation or frivolous humor – McKinley makes the latter dry, without losing any of the fun. You’re in good hands if you decide to go with her.
Published: Berkeley Publishing 2003
Pages: 405 (Jove 2004 edition)
So here’s the not-romance books this month! In these ones I’ll also add the “currently reading” and “books purchased” bits, just as usual.
The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
Books bought this month:
Ahem. That’s quite a lot, I know, but my bookstore had 20% off all the paperbacks, so… Yeah. And I got my first salary. And it was my birthday this month (although that got me only one book). And we went second hand book shopping with Kay. So… Yeah. I also bought Redshirts by John Scalzi, but it hasn’t arrived yet. Oh, and I got my dad Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies for his birthday. I’ll read it once he’s done.
So there it is! Next up: the romance post!