Friday, July 1, 2011

Read in June

I did a lot of reading in June. I'm not going to talk about the summer reading books here, since I wouldn't have read them by choice and I'm probably going to rant about them later. Instead, you get lots and lots of recommendations! Yay!

First of all, Hilari Bell's Knight and Rogue series.  Usually I read the first book of a series and then feel series fatigue and give myself a break before reading the others.  Not here.  I tore through the three books that are currently out one after the other because they were just that good.

The books are, in order:

The Last Knight (Knight and Rogue, #1)
Rogue's Home (Knight and Rogue, #2)
Player's Ruse (Knight and Rogue, #3)

If you like humor with your action and suspense with your fantasy, go read these books now.  The two main characters, knight-errant Michael and his reluctant squire Fisk, are both extremely likable; their symbiotic character development is one of the highlights of the series for me.  More books, please?


I also read Kit's Wilderness, by David Almond.

Kit's Wilderness (Readers Circle)This reminded me of Lord of the Flies set in a mining town with a whole lot more optimism.  Kit was a pretty good main character, lacking in confidence maybe but with a quiet courage that suited the story well.


The best book I read this month was The City of Dreaming Books, by Walter Moers.

The City of Dreaming Books (Zamonia #3)It had me at the premise and kept on delivering past my expectations. Simply the description of the catacombs - underground passageways with books! - had me swooning. Optimus Yarnspinner's narrative was engaging, a matter-of-fact voice whose contrast with the unfamiliar settings/situations enhanced rather than crushed the wonder. It also somewhat dampened the horror of some of the very horrific fixes into which Optimus got himself, but since I have little stomach for terror that was not necessarily a bad thing.

A finer blend of whimsy and action I have not read.  You probably haven't either, so why are you depriving yourself?  Read this book.  Go, go, go.


Hey, look who's trying to be all deep and philosophical?  I was, reading the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

The Meditations of Marcus AureliusThe version I read had only 61 pages. As far as I can see, Marcus Aurelius recommends only a few basic tenets: that to look within yourself is enough, that you can't let obstacles stand in your way, that everything must go according to nature, that death is not to be feared, that arrogance/affectation are bad, that you should not be distracted, etc. However, I disagree that people should have no imagination/passion and that everything individual must be sublimated for the majority.

Oh yeah, I laughed at this passage:
"In the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be present - I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie in the bedclothes and keep myself warm? But this is more pleasant. Dost thou exist then to take thy pleasure, and not at all for action or exertion? Dost thou not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to put in order their several parts of the universe? And art thou unwilling to do the work of a human being, and dost thou not make haste to do that which is according to thy nature?"
To all non-morning people: touche.


Of course, I can only go for so long without plunging straight back into fantasy.  Hence: Ash, by Malinda Lo.

AshDefinitely not a conventional Cinderella tale. This book drew me in with fairy tales (as in, tales of the Fair Folk) and a mysterious atmosphere, but disappointed in other areas. I'd expected to be blown away, but being entertained is good enough.


Dystopia!  This book's been on my sister's shelf for at least five years now, but this was the first time I read Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry.

Gathering Blue (The Giver, #2)Not too remarkable of a book, but I liked it.


So far I've been mostly positive.  But I cannot lie and Eyes Like Stars, by Lisa Mantchev, was not a good book.

Eyes Like Stars (Théâtre Illuminata, #1).All right, I thought this book was great for the first half. But then things started to bother me.  Characters started to bother me, and it's really hard to like a book when the main character does absolutely nothing on her own and the plot rambles and and and...

It's a shame, really: the writing was good but the content disappointed. The premise is so cool; if Bertie hadn't been so inane and useless and whiny, and if the plot had taken a firmer direction, this book could have been so much more impressive. It had everything except what really mattered. If there's a sequel I will read it, because I can't stand the thought of such a premise going to waste.


Talk about subverted expectations.  The first time I read Dianna Wynne Jones' The Merlin Conspiracy, I didn't like it at all.

The Merlin Conspiracy (Magids, #2)Things have changed.

10-year-old me: Computers? In my fantasy book? Sacre bleu!

14-year-old me: Magic + technology = pretty damn cool. Refreshing.

10yom: Multiple magic systems? Booooo.

14yom: Multiple magic systems? Awesome layering effect.

10yom: Roddy and Nick are both unheroic heroes who whine!

14yom: It's interesting how characters who are perfectly sympathetic when viewed from within their own POV can seem difficult or annoying from the other person's POV. Besides, their shortcomings are realistic. And their descriptions of what it's like to be disliked/looked down upon/hated/disdained strike uncomfortably close to home - a sure sign of strong characterization.

10yom: Random plot threads! Digressions! RAEG!

14yom: In the earlier part of the book it is rather difficult to see the big picture. It's only at the end that there's cohesiveness - and, as Nick noted, it's interesting to see how small things caused big changes.

10yom: Why didn't anyone realize [important thing]???

14yom: ...that's a fair point.

10yom: I didn't like the ending line.

14yom: I didn't either.

10yom: This book was boooooring.

14yom: No, it wasn't. It was actually pretty interesting. And you, dear younger self, are a brat.


I picked up the last non-summer-reading book on a whim.  Dust City, by Robert Paul Weston, was quite interesting.  I consider myself lucky to have found it.

Dust CityPremise: world evolved from fairy tales. Awesome.

Characters: not so awesome, but it could have been worse.  The plot was "gripping," as they say, and if you like urban fantasy and are willing to overlook the obvious furry connections this was a pretty good book.

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