Monthly Wrap-Up: March 2014

I’ve been home, nursing a cold for the last few days but, unfortunately, it seems to only get worse. Work has been crazy since January and I actually wish I could go back and help. But I’m not a pretty sight and I hear being able to breathe is considered helpful when trying to be productive. So yeah… I’ll probably be home a few more days. But seeing as my eyes hurt and my head is constantly trying to explode, I didn’t get much reading done either.
But almost all the books I read were wonderful. Because two of them were so outstanding, I put what would otherwise go in “The Best” list to “The Rest”. Just to show you how desperately you need these two favorites… I’m evil.

Books read: 6
Pages read: 1787
Series started:

  • The First Law Trilogy
  • Rat Queens
  • The Southern Reach Trilogy

Series continued:

  • Flavia de Luce

divider1
THE BEST

Katherine Addison – The Goblin Emperor  9/10

goblin emperorThis was easily my favorite novel of the year so far and it has only grown in esteem since I finished it. It’s not an easy novel to get into. The names are complex, the political situation of this goblin kingdom difficult to understand, but damn, is it worth keeping at. I had never read anything by Sarah Monette (Addison is her pseudonym) but this book impressed me so much that I’m torn between wanting to re-read it and reading something else by the author.
I had the good luck of getting a review e-ARC from Tor (thanks again!) but my hardback copy is already pre-ordered. I can’t wait to own the book in all its glory.

Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch – Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery   8,5/10

rat queens sass and sorceryI have fallen head over heels in love with the Rat Queens. This pack of loud, sexual, beautiful, fighting women who hang out with trolls and goblins, are just too good to miss. A recommendation engine thought – because I love Saga – that I woule enjoy this comic too. Well, the fancy math worked this time. This is another one I pre-ordered in hard copy – that usually tells you I really love a book. Only the best and favoritest and prettiest of them get to grace my physical book shelves. I loved everything about this story with the little caveat that some characters could have been better defined. But I expect this to happen in the next volume(s) – so now send me my paper copy so I can re-read this and giggle like a crazy person again.

divider1
THE WORST

One book I didn’t finish although I had very high hopes for it:

Rjurik Davidson – Unwrapped Sky

unwrapped skyMinotaurs, a sunken city in the sea, an assassin, politics… this had everything to completely suck me in. Yet here is another book I couldn’t finish. It suffered from many of the same symptoms as The Waking Engine by David Edison. But while Edison simply seemed to have added characters in order to show off his fancy world building, Davidson shifts perspective between three characters to keep things moving. However, every single chapter starts with pages of exposition, there is little dialogue and not nearly enough world building – especially if the events are supposed to have some emotional impact on the reader. We first have to understand how things work in this place…
The book isn’t without merit however, and I suspect that many people will like it a lot more than I did. I gave up after a third because if I have to force myself to read, there’s something wrong. And – having put the book away – I found I didn’t care what happened to the characters. None of them seemed in a particularly dangerous or interesting situation so if I never find out, no loss. And that’s the biggest flaw for me. If I dislike the characters, that’s good. If I love the characters, that’s great. If I nothing the characters, you’ve lost me.

divider1
THE REST

Alan Bradley – I Am Half-Sick of Shadows  8/10

flavia4The last time I read a Flavia de Luce book was a little more than a year ago and it left me a bit disappointed. Not so this time. This Christmas-flavored murder mystery invites a film crew into the halls of Buckshaw. When murder happens, Flavia has to interrupt concocting a chemical plan to trap Father Christmas red-handed, and solve the mystery. This must have been my favorite Flavia book because of the way it focuses on the family and their strange and strained relationships. It always brings tears to my eyes when Flavia yearns for her dead mother and her sisters are cruel to her. But there are far more funny moments to make up for it. This definitely gives you the giggles.

Joe Abercrombie – The Blade Itself  7,5/10

blade itselfA lot has been said about grimdark and its Overlord, Mr. Abercrombie. Only a few of the horrible things I expected came to pass. Women don’t really get much room in this story, but considering how wonderfully characterised all the male bastards were, how much I cared about these despicable creatures, and how intrigued I was despite a rather meandering plot, I think Lord Grimdark did a lot more things right that he did wrong. And for a first novel, this was truly impressive. I already have the second book prepared for soonish reading.

Jeff Vandermeer – Annihilation  7,5/10

annihilationSee, this is where I feel strange. Two books with the same rating, yet they were so very, very different that it feels unfair to both of them. This was my first Vandermeer book – written by him, rather than edited, that is. And it delivered all the creepiness it promised. I got sucked into this story of an expedition into the mysterious Area X where four women try to figure out… something. You really don’t get a lot of information about anything in this story, but it is all the more fun to guess what could be behind the strange writing on the wall of a tower, why the lighthouse seems so important, and what the fuck is up with the psychologist. The ending fell short for me but I have high hopes for Authority and Acceptance (see, these books I pre-ordered because the covers are too stunning not to own them. Yes, yes I am shallow.)

divider1
Coming up next month

The attentive visitor to my blog will have noticed that I have finally caved and am reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. I have reached the 32% mark and I like it a lot better than Mistborn. It’s epic fantasy the way I would have loved it when I was younger and first discovered it. But I catch myself wanting to go back to the story so frequently that – if you add a Sanderson ending to it – I will probably end up loving the thing.

I also got an e-ARC from the kind people at Mad Norwegian Press. Catherynne M. Valente’s non-fiction essay collection Indistinguishable from Magic is longer than I expected so I’ve only read a quarter of it. But I love it so, so much! She may have left her poetic language at the door but I feel so understood by Valente when it comes to fantasy and wanting it to be real, it almost hurts.

And finally, once I’ve pushed through the last 50 pages, I’ll post my review of Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon. I had had such high hopes for this and while it does deliver on one front, it completely fails on the other. This is supposed to be Okorafor’s answer to District 9 and, as such, I understand what she’s doing. But the narrative is broken into so many little fragments, constantly switching between characters that only show up for a tiny chapter. It kills any pacing there might have been and makes it a slow read. Every time I try to understand a character or feel with them, I get jostled out of it. It’s a strangely dissatisfying experience and even though I want to commend her for her great ideas, the book has ultimately left me cold.

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Monthly Wrap-Up: March 2014

  1. Rabindranauth says:

    When I first saw Unwrapped Sky, it struck me as a simple testament to what seems to be the way of thinking of most modern fantasy authors: the standard tropes are all to be avoided and to succeed you need to create something entirely out of the box. My argument against that general feeling is one name: Michael J. Sullivan. I suspected since then it was a book that wasn’t going to be anything I needed to juggle and make time to read, and your review is pretty much confirmation of my hunch. So thanks!

    Like

  2. Carl V. Anderson says:

    With all the preparation for SFAL3, I only finished one book in March, the latest Flavia de Luce book…and that one I “read” on audio! I did get most of a book read and a few other partials, so I did read, but didn’t accomplish much by way of finishing books.

    Sorry to hear that about The Unwrapped Sky. Its one I’ve really been looking forward to. I’ll give it a try and hope I don’t have the same issues you did with it, but we’ll see. A great cover does not always mean a great book.

    Like

  3. Lina @ bibliophilic geek says:

    I read and reviewed Rat Queens in May and it’s become an instant favourite! I loved the character portrayal, the humour and the artwork! Basically, everything.
    I plan on reading The Final Empire in July and I haven’t read any Brandon Sanderson yet. I hope it’s good.

    Have fun with Catherynne M. Valente’s book! I received the first volume in the Fairlyland series a few weeks ago, and it looks absolutely stunning. Can’t wait to read it.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s