For March, April, and May. This is a long one…
You know how you get in the mood for a book with a particular atmosphere or setting, so when you find one, you grab it even though it doesn’t look like something you’ll like? That’s how I ended up reading The Warrior by Kinley MacGregor. It’s set in Scotland near the time of one of the Crusades and is about a distressed damsel who doesn’t want to be rescued, but finds herself being rescued anyway. I do enjoy historical romance, but this particular brand of them has never appealed to me, and The Warrior was no exception. It did satisfy my Scotland craving, though.
The last time I read The Eye of Tthe World by Robert Jordan, I was in high school. I lost interest around book 5 or 6, but with Brandon Sanderson finishing the series, I wanted to give them another try. An ordinary farm boy who finds himself on the run from dark, mythical forces and surrounded by magic–a classic fantasy plot. Robert Jordan does a lot with this plot, but honestly, I found bits of it rather boring, which is why I stopped reading it in the first place. Before I started this second reading, I explained to an old high school friend that I thought maybe I’d changed enough since high school to get more out of these books. To the idea that I’ve matured since high school, he snorted and said no. I guess he was right.
Then there were the Twilight books, which I talked about a couple posts back.
More magic and mayhem ensure in Con and Conjure, Lisa Shearin’s fifth Raine Benares book. This time, racist elves and goblins intend to start a war with each other, and each wants to use the evil rock of power which has attached itself to an unwilling Raine. A good book like all the others, but not quite as gripping. I think it’s because a major source of tension is missing: in the previous book, Raine made her Mychael vs. Tam decision, and that question no longer hangs in the balance. Having Raine’s ex-fiancee show up at the start of her new romance helps up the tension on that front, but it doesn’t quite reach the previous level of nail-biting suspense.
And then I found a YA historical fantasy series. (Between this and the Twilight books, I was all about the YA this spring, apparently.) A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels by Libba Bray are the first two books in a Victorian fantasy trilogy. I really wanted to like these books, but unfortunately, I thought the main character was a selfish brat and did not find the magic system to be well defined or to make much sense. The only up sides to the books were the well-drawn Victorian setting and Kartik, the Indian young man who helps the snotty protagonist and seems to like her for some reason.
I also read the YA fantasy Graceling by Kristin Cashore. In Cashore’s world, people born with special talents called Graces are feared and ostricized, and none moreso than the girl Graced with killing. This book contained some interesting magical elements and an ending that took me by surprise, but I couldn’t really get into it. Did you ever feel like all the protagonists in a genre of books all start to sound the same after a while? I’m feeling that way with YA. Though to be fair, that might just be because I read so many YA books in a row.
Earlier this year, I read The Orchid Affair by Lauren Wilig. I love all the Pink Carnation books, and while The Orchid Affiar wasn’t my favorite in the series, one of the things I loved about it was the way tension just smolders between the hero and heroine without either of them having to touch the other or say anything that could be construed as seductive. There are just sparks all over the place. It’s a dynamic I want to create between two characters in my time travel novel, so I reread The Orchid Affair to get a feel for how it’s done. I have concluded taht it’s all about creating a sense of awareness. In Willig’s book, Laura and Andre don’t need to touch, not at first. They are just in a constant state of sensitivity to what the other one is doing. It’s a very, very difficult thing to pull off, and she does this so well.
Brandon Sanderson is without a doubt my favorite writer working in the epic fantasy tradition today. I finally got around to reading his standalone novel Warbreaker, which features a host of intricate, fascinating characters and a magic system based on color, of all things. Like all of Sanderson’s books, the magic in Warbreaker takes a few chapters to get used to, but that’s one of the things I love about his work. He challenges your mind and entertains all at the same time, and creates noble and flawed people you can’t help but admire. In addition, Warbreaker features one of the most tender romantic subplots I’ve ever seen. A must-read!
And finally, The Bookman, a debut novel by Lavie Tidhar. I tell you, these author people are crafty. They know that if they put the word “book” in a title, all these bibliophiles are going to say, “Oooh! Me have!” But this is irrelevant, as are most of my ramblings. Allow me to focus. The Bookman is a fine addition to the growing stampunk genre, mixing classic literature, pirates, turn-of-the-century England, marine biology, and a lizard Queen Victoria. In less capable hands, it would read like the script for a bad B movie, but this is a gripping and lovely book. The writing is lush and poetic (which is as it should be, for the main character is a poet). Listen to this:
“Orphan had first met Lucy one day at the bookshop…He fell in love the way trees do, which is to say, forever. It was a love with roots that burrowed deep, entangled, grew together…Orphan loved her the way people do in romantic novels, from the first page, beyond even The End.”
I will be buying the sequel, Camera Obscura, when it comes out for sure.
Yikes, that’s a long post. I’ll try to post month-by-month this summer, rather than lumping them all together. See you soon!