xenith: (Bookshelf)
[personal profile] xenith
For a whole year of reading, this is going to be a short post.

Fiction-wise, January was a bad month. I borrowed many books from the library, read the first chapter or less, then took them back. I won't name them. They are probably perfectly good books* for someone who wants to read those books, which I obviously didn't.

Book drought. No fun :(

So come February, I did the only thing I could do, went back to reading old favourites. Somewhere back in mists of time, I went looking for books about thieves. For a popular fantasy, there weren't many books about them. Then. There's a few more about now. One of the very few suggestions was a Middle Grade book, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. It has a young protagonist who is the best at what he does, it's first person it starts with him locked up but he's taken along on a secret project, there is much travelling... it's everything I don't like about fantasy novels all shoved into one little book. But I slogged through it and when I got to the end, I wanted to go back and read it all again. I didn't as it was 2 am and I had things to do when I woke up. Reading it again, and looking for the little clues was interesting.

The Queen of Attolia cover
The next two books (the Queen of Attolia & the King of Attolia) are Young Adult and third person omniscient and they are my favouritest books ever and everyone should read them, if only to study the craft of them. They are definitely books that stand up to rereading. Also, the fifth book was just put out last year and the whole serious was re-released with the best covers. (See image)

Back when I first read them, the Book Fairy sent me book 4, A Conspiracy of Kings, but I couldn't get past the first chapter. This time I just read through it as fast as the previous one. Well, actually I didn't, I was trying to make it last a bit longer but only reading a few chapters each day, so it took me three days to read. Interestingly, the prologue is a bird's eye/camera POV (we see everything but don't get into any character's head) and the rest of the book is a mixture of first person & the usual third omni, but it works.)

Then, as I just said, the fifth book had just been realised. The hardback was available but the paperback wasn't out yet. So I thought hard, no I didn't, I considered it for about three second and bought the hardback. This one focuses on a characters who is a minor character in an earlier book and take places mostly in another country and involves A LOT OF TRAVELLING, the twists were obvious. I'd say it's my least favourite of the series. Still a good book. (Really, I'd read her shopping list, if it had Eugenides in it.)

Also, book six is due out in March :|

Also, of the three books I now have, two have covers in the style above and on in an older style, and two are hardbacks and one is paperback :|

OK having decided I had to go back to reading fantasy novels I tried The City of Brass, by S.A. Chakraborty, which draws on Middle Eastern mythology. It's slow going at first, there's a lot of background and worldbuilding to get through and I was only reading it on the bus, and then after three weeks the library wanted it back. Quite rude.

Over the next few months, for unrelated reasons, I read some of the One Thousand and One Nights. Until I got sick of men falling helplessly in love with women at first site and doing stupid things for them.

City of Brass cover
Finally in October, I got City of Brass again and I could mostly remember all the background & worldbuilding information. Interesting to get back into it after reading Night too. The book picks up towards the middle. One of the main characters and her companion are travelling (sigh) towards the city and as they approach, there's an increase in tension because all these bad things are going to -- no, wait. They arrive. Nothing much happens. MC settles into her new life for the next few chapters. Then, near the end, all these things suddenly happen. The end.. The result is unsatisfactory. It feels like it wants to be two books. The first with their trip to the city and ending with their arrival and SOMETHING HAPPENING. The second book starts with MC's new life and all the things that happen have more room to happen, they're developed out properly and there is foreshadowing and building up of conflict. And THEN the ending would have worked better. Oh well.

Next was This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab, which I'd seen about but not bothered to read because I'd been so disappointed by A Conjuring Of Light, and also the back cover blurb was boring. There's an art to writing back cover blurbs to make them sound nothing like the book they're attached to. It's an art that needs to be lost. Soon. Please.

Anyway, I read Song and enjoyed it. The plot doesn't really do anywhere different but it's a good little character story and it's emotionally engaging. This is what I like in a book. So I read the sequel (two book series), Our Dark Duet and... it was disappointing. It lacks the depth of the previous book, the tension, the emotional engagement. Things happens but no one really cares. It's like Ms Schwab writes the story, goes back to flesh it out, reaches the required word count and stops there. Which is just what I felt about reading A Conjuring of Light. :(

Anyway, now I'm reading Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames. They're getting the band back together! Except the band is a mercenary band. It's fun book that plays with the idea of mercenary bands being treated like rock bands. I didn't have high hopes for this. I thought they'd be spending most of the book travelling (sigh) through the woods where all the bad and dangerous things live and having lots of fights. But no, the first 300 pages they're moving around between towns doing mercenary bands are rock bands things and it's fun and easy to read. Then they start travelling (sigh) through the woods where all the bad and dangerous things live and having lots of fights, and it is less interesting. I assume at some point they stop doing this, if only because the book doesn't many pages left. Still it's a fun read and I might be disappointed when it ends (because I won't be able to read it any more, not disappointed as above).
xenith: (Bookshelf)
[personal profile] xenith

I didn't read much fiction this year, that I can find a record of. Next year I need to go back to recording things as I read them so I can remember what I read. Stars are out of five.

The Soldier's Curse, by Meg & Tom Keneally. Stars: ***

This is a historical mystery, set in Port Macquarie (NSW penal settlement) in the 1820s. Now if you like historical novels with a mystery plot included, and you don't mind the usual tropes being wheeled out, this is a easy to read, entertaining book. If you're looking for an interesting mystery book, it's somewhat ruined by this big arrow pointing out the guilty party from fairly early on. I kept reading in case I was wrong but nope. And once we're informed of who the guilty party is it goes on and on. (Incidentally, if you're into mystery/crime novels from that era, I have one you can read :)

A Darker Shade of Magic & A Gathering of Shadows & the third one, by Victoria Schwab. Stars ****, *****, **

A fantasy trilogy. I borrowed all three from the library but the notifications for the third one have disappeared from my email. That's about how I feel about the third book. I like the first one, loved the second and... found the third one incredibly disappointing. It feels rushed. There are bits in there it doesn't need. But worse, all the stuff that makes the second one so delicious is just not there. A line here or there. Unfortunately, book 2 ends on a cliff-hanger so I can't say if you haven't read them, just read the first two. I live in hope one day she'll edit the third one to bring it up to the standard of the other two. Also, I am keeping an eye out for cheap copies of the first two so I can take them apart (the words not the pages) and look at how they work.

A Murder Unmentioned, Give the Devil His Due & A Dangerous Language, by Sulari Gentill. Stars: ****, ****, ***

This is not a trilogy, but a longer series. Book 6 (A Murder Unmentioned) was in my show bag at the HNSA conference so I read it on the way home. Why would I start with book 6? Because I can. There are references to past events and to some extent it feels like a "here we are with this familiar characters" story but it was easy to just step into the series midway because the stories are self-contained. This is partly (mostly?) because there's no obvious character development/overreaching arcs. There's very little emotional engagement. There's not a lot of depth to them at all, and that includes the plots such as they are. Yet as you can see, I read book 6, and then book 7, and then the latest one (and I note this, because #8 was only released a few weeks ago. It's not often you get a new, never read by anyone else book from the library). That's because what these books do, they do very well. You're following a bunch of friends around on their adventures. Not unlike an episodic TV show, where you sit down each time with some idea of what you'll get and it delivers. So if that's what you like and you're in Australia (they're a bit harder to get overseas), grab a few and read them. Oh, and I should add they're crime novels set in Sydney in the 1930s.


I read Fashioned from Penury: dress as cultural practice in colonial Australia, but I didn't get it finished before the library wanted it back, and I'd read enough to get the gist of what the author was saying. I need more books like that. (How these things differed here to usual/standard stuff. You know what I mean.)


Some books are missing because I can't find them, can't remember what they are, or they're elsewhere so I couldn't take a photo. Also some of these I seem to remember writing about previously, but I can't find where.

I stopped in at Petrarch's during the Crazy Day sale and they had boxes of books 3 for $10? $2 for $8? Something like that. I can't remember what the others were, but that one is lovely big photos of interiors of 19th century Egyptian palaces. Good for inspiration.

The other book is from the other end of the book-buying spectrum. Not easy to find, not at all cheap. It also has big photos, the Sydney police museum exhibition of the same name. Some fascinating early 20th century "crime scene" photos, of a time/place you don't usually see photos from. The photos are available online if you take some time to browse, but large, printed photos are much better.

As I've said before, there's very little written about the history of policing in Australia that isn't about administration etc. So I've read some English-equivalents and then adapted them. The Ascent of the Detective was useful in that regard. A lot about the background of suitable candidates (they tended to be working class but educated (so self-educated often)) and problems they faced and other stuff that would have been applicable to their colonial cousins.

The Secret People of the Palace I picked up for half-price when the secondhand bookshop closed. Useful for building a palace community for fantasy novel.

I got two or three books about Victorian interiors/households, but the others are elsewhere. They might be self-explanatory :)
Ditto with the Hobart book (which is a very nice hardback with dust jacket, not obvious from the photo)

I ended up buying three volumes of London Labour & the London Poor. For some reason I decided I didn't need #4. But #2 doesn't match with #1 and #3. It's taller with an olive spine, & the other two have a bright orange spine, but I can't justify buying a new copy of #2 (and now Wordery don't have it anyway, also why do they have #1 & #3 for $34 and #4 for $16? Are they telling me I need #4?)

Forgotten Voices of Burma turned up in this....

but I can't remember what the second wrapped book was. The Heart of the Sea maybe?

These two represent the books from the Friends of the Library Book Sale. I bought others, I had two bags, but I can't remember what they others are.

One of these was free, one I never got around to reading, one I was reading but left it in a bad place and now it's distorted :( and one is a useful book for finding locations of hotels and things.

Also, acquired these two but they've been mentioned elsewhere.

So that is 2017 in books.


The Little Dog Laughed

January 2019

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