May 27th, 2013

pale reader

Books 97-98: My Dear I Wanted to Tell You and Worth Dying For

Book 97: My Dear I Wanted to Tell You.
Author: Louisa Young, 2011.
Genre: Period Fiction. WWI. War. Romance. Mental Illness.
Other Details: Hardback. 336 pages.

While Riley Purefoy and Peter Locke fight for their country, their survival and their sanity in the trenches of Flanders, Nadine Waveney, Julia Locke and Rose Locke do what they can at home. Beautiful Julia and gentle, eccentric Peter are married: every day Julia prepares for her beloved husband's return. Nadine and Riley, only eighteen when the war starts, and with problems of their own already, want above all to make promises - but how can they when their future is completely out of their hands? And Rose? Well, what did happen to the traditionally brought-up women who lost all hope of marriage, because all the young men are dead? - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

This novel wasn't quite what I had expected in that its focus wasn't on the experience of trench warfare but more upon the aftermath experienced by Riley and Peter as well as how the war and their fates effected Nadine, Julia and Rose back home. Rose, while not waiting for anyone's return, is involved with nursing the wounded in a facility dealing with innovative reconstructive surgery.

While I could appreciate the novel's worth I found I just didn't connect with the characters as much as others in our reading group. It was certainly a well written and researched novel and took a different approach to the repercussions of war, especially in terms of injuries and the ground-breaking techniques that were developed as well as the experience of women. The psychological effects of warfare and waiting were also explored.

It may be that it was too big a subject for such a modest length novel though I feel that the problem was with me rather than the novel as I just wasn't in the mood this week for a serious work of period fiction and with it being a reading group selection I didn't have the luxury of setting it aside for a few days until my mood shifted. However, it was very well received by others in our reading group and generated a great deal of discussion. I understand the author plans it as the first in a trilogy examining the legacy of the Great War. I may well revisit it when the second volume is published.

Book 98: Worth Dying For (Jack Reacher, #15).
Author: Lee Child, 2010.
Genre: Action. Thriller.
Other Details: Hardcover. 410 pages.

On route to Virginia Jack Reacher stops off in a small town in Nebraska that is being effectively run by the Duncan family, who exploit the local populace in an atmosphere of fear and are also involved in some fairly shady dealings with sinister men in other parts of the country. Reacher becomes drawn into the situation and gets to beat up a lot of heavies in the employ of the Duncans. However, when he learns of the unsolved disappearance of a child 25 years earlier, he decides to investigate and bring his own rough justice to the mix. The Duncans also raise the stakes and get their out of town people involved with the goal of 'putting Reacher down'.

This was my first experience of Lee Child's Jack Reacher series and probably my last too even though its page after page of mindless, yet righteous, violence was an easy read and held my attention. However, it just wasn't my kind of escapism even though I can see its appeal as it evokes those old fashioned Westerns in which a mysterious stranger comes to town and sorts out local baddies.

What surprised me was that this was chosen as a selection for my other library reading group and it's hard to imagine a greater contrast with the worthy My Dear I Wanted to Tell You reviewed above, which is more the sort of novel suited to discussion. This was an all-action novel which is fine if that is what you want to read, and sometimes I do, but it seemed inappropriate as a reading group choice as there were no real points to discuss. We did end up talking about the appeal of action novels of various kinds and it was clear that Lee Child did have a few devotees in the group.

Hard Wizardry; Sex Words Wound; Anastasia Incorrigible; Uninvited Bluets

Hard Love, by Ellen Wittlinger
YA novel grounded in zine culture and familial alienation. Significantly more important than I expected it to be.

High Wizardry, by Diane Duane (unabridged audiobook)
I am so in love with this series. So so in love. I can't even say anything coherent because I am in a SWOON.

Sex and Isolation, and Other Essays, by Bruce Benderson
Hm. There were a few essays in here that I adored, a few that made me want to throw the book across the room, and a few more that I just felt meh about. If you're interested in the guy, I recommend starting with The Romanian instead.

Unwritten, vol. 6: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words, and vol. 7: The Wound, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
More and more layers, and more and more sharp edges. <3 <3 <3.
(81, 82)

Anastasia Again, by Lois Lowry (reread)
So marvelous. After the last one I was feeling a bit unsure, but this was as great as I remembered. Looking forward to the rest.

Kat, Incorrigible, by Stephanie Burgis
All the pieces are put together correctly to be something I utterly loved, but instead I just liked it quite well. It did get better once it got more plotful, so I may read the rest in the series eventually.

Bluets, by Maggie Nelson
This book was heaven for me. I read it all in one go over lunch and then I immediately bought a copy for me and two for friends. I will be rereading it again this summer. At least once.

The Uninvited Guests, by Sadie Jones
I was a bit slow to warm up to this, but the Saki reference (a main character named Clovis) was reassuring, so I wasn't surprised to become entranced in fairly short order. It's sort of a parody of the books / mores of Edwardian England, sort of an homage (affectionate parodies being my favorite sort); ie it's a country house farce AND a social novel AND a regency romance AND a supernatural gothic AND a family drama AND AND AND...
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Book 99: Sorcery and the Single Girl by Mindy Klasky

Book 99: Sorcery and the Single Girl (Jane Madison #2) .
Author: Mindy Klasky, 2007.
Genre: Paranormal Romance. Chick-lit. Witchcraft.
Other Details: ebook. 287 pages.

Those TV witches have got it made.... Wiggle a nose. Dinner's on the table! Hop on a broom. Next stop, Tahiti! Unfortunately, nose-wiggling doesn't cut it in real life. So witch or not, Jane Madison must deal with her insane work schedule, best-friend drama and romantic dry spell like everyone else. But now the exclusive Washington Coven wants Jane to join. This could be a dream come true for the magical misfit, or it could be the most humiliating experience of her life. Either way, the crap's gonna hit the cauldron because Jane is about to be tested in ways she's never imagined--and, pass or fail, nothing will ever be the same. - synopsis from publisher's website.

This continues Jane's story begun in Girl's Guide to Witchcraft and was even more fun. I found it a charming story and much more in tune with actual witchcraft practices than many books of the genre, which do tend to access those TV witch tropes of twitching noses and rather unlikely powers. Even though the Jane Madison books pre-date it, this reminded me of the recent UK witchcraft telly box series 'Switch' in terms of novice witches taking the time and effort to learn how to cast spells as well as drawing on the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water and taking into account the Wheel of the Year and Moon phases.

Aside from it getting full marks for its down-to-earth witchcraft practices, it also has all the right ingredients for this kind of warm and fluffy chick-lit. Of course, one of the convenient and tempting aspects of these low priced Kindle ebooks is how simple and guilt-free it is to order the next in the series as you finish one. No shelf space needed!
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Sitting at the table at the game convention, I had some time, and used it to finish reading A Feast for Crows, the fourth installment of the books that comprise A Game of Thrones' canon. Some of the baddies get something of a comeuppance, some of the good folks get screwed (or, get screwed some more), some of the folks who were central to other books seem to have dropped off the continent (though, I gather that they're in the fifth book). Still a good read. I'll start the next one after I finish a couple more books off my Nook.

I also read another Osprey, this one being Osprey Fortress #91: The Fortifications of Ancient Israel and Judah 1200 – 586 BC. Among the places it describes is Megiddo (with some pretty good illustrations); I recall how that site was central to a Michener novel, The Source that I read decades ago...

And just now I finished reading Osprey Elite #185: European Medieval Tactics (1): The Fall and Rise of Cavalry 450 - 1260. I found the illustrations pretty engrossing, and the author explains his premise well.

Book 13- Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

13. Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman. I'm a fast reader but even I did not think I'd finish this 451-page book in a single long weekend. But what can I say? It was hard to put down! Hartman has created a fascinating, detailed world and I'm glad to see that there will be at least a sequel. This story really plays with perceptions, especially our initial perceptions of the people and dragons who inhabit this world. I guarantee at least half of those preliminary conclusions you draw about many of the characters will be incorrect. Seraphina herself is an embodiment of perceptions - how others see her, how she sees herself and how Seraphina fears she will be seen if her secret becomes known. Seraphina is an assistant to the court music conductor, a position she takes after a member of the royal family is killed. She has to strike a balance between keeping her true nature hidden, at a time when her talents as a musician and her skills with deduction are thrusting her in the spotlight. Complicating things is Lucien Kiggs, the captain of the Queen's guard, who serves as an ally, but whose own powers of perception threaten to unravel Seraphina's secret. Regardless, Lucien and Seraphina must sort out the intrigues to keep any more of the royal family from getting killed, as well as the dragon ambassadors and their leader, and to keep the 40-year peace treaty between dragons and humans. That is not an easy task when there are both humans and dragons itching to break the treaty and start a war.

Next book up: Dodger, by Terry Pratchett
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Books 20-23 for 2013

20. Captain's Fury by Jim Butcher. 598 pages.
21. Princeps' Fury by Jim Butcher. 535 pages.
22. First Lord's Fury by Jim Butcher. 691 pages.

Books 4, 5 and 6 of the Codex Alera. Thoroughly enjoyed this second half of the series. Butcher loves to put his characters through the wringer and the ones in this series take some dreadful pastings, which can be hard to read sometimes because he's also very good at making you care about them - there was a point towards the end of the last book when I was hugely choked up at what happened to one of the quite minor characters. However, the stories are very clever and neatly constructed, as is the world in which they're set. The worst things about this series is that it's now finished :(

23. Doctor Who and the Scales of Injustice by Gary Russell. 208 pages.

The Third Doctor and Liz Shaw have another encounter with the Silurians.

I rather got the impression that Gary Russell wanted to take the TV episodes about the Silurians and improve upon them, but unfortunately he isn't a good enough writer to manage that. The tone is all wrong for a Doctor Who story for a start - it's dark and bloody and more like a Daniel Craig era James Bond film which, coming from me, is not a compliment. Worse, Russell commits the basic error of telling rather than showing for far too much of the time - information that should be conveyed to the reader through dialogue or implication is dumped on them in indigestible chunks in the narration. In addition, while I like references to other Doctor Who stories as much as the next fan, Russell seemed to be determined to cram in as many as he possibly could, whether they fit or not.

I got this as a free ebook and I'd say it was worth exactly what I paid for it.

17 Middlemarch

Originally posted by audrey_e at 17 Middlemarch
17 MIDDLEMARCH George Eliot (England, 1874)


The coming-of-age stories of young people in the town of Middlemarch.

My first encounter with George Eliot was years ago with Silas Marner, which made no impression on me. I decided to try again with her most famous novel.
I usually love 19th Century novels, as well as bricks, but this one was just too hard to get through.
I understand what makes Middlemarch acclaimed. It is satirical, witty, and exposes the plight of women in a way that's very much in advanced for its time. But despite its scope and the effectiveness of its language, Eliot's novel feels lifeless. I simply did not care about her characters. Not because they were flawed, but because they did not feel real. It seemed that their sole purpose was to teach the reader a few lessons. And unlike in the books of Thackeray or Dickens, the moral lessons were so obvious and repetitive that they made me regularly roll your eyes at them.
Going back to Thackeray, it is sad to say that Eliot's style is an inferior version of his, since Vanity Fair is far more memorable and subtle (well, subtle compared to Middlemarch that is).