Books that stay with you

Chuck Wendig wrote a blog post the other day about the ten books that stay with you (haunt you?) long after you have put them down.  So I have been thinking about mine…

The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb.  Hobb an incredibly spectacular writer–so much so that it is very difficult to put down her work.  But, the first book in this trilogy–Ship of Magic–is honestly, the first book that I have ever thrown across a room in absolute fury.  Why?  Because I have hardwired issues about abuse of power and it also might have something to do with the main character sharing a very close version of my name.  It felt a bit personal.

Stirring the Mud by Barbara Hurd.  This is a collection of essays about swamps.  While it doesn’t sound particularly appetizing, Hurd is glorious with her language and imagery.  It will invite you to slow down in order to appreciate the natural world and your life a bit more…

The Red and the Black by Stendhal.  I was fourteen when I read this book.  I was in love with the romance of it all–the love and betrayal, the power, the rigid rules of society and the struggle for everyone to fit in.  It is truly a beautifully written piece of literature.

It by Stephen King.  I loved reading Stephen King as a teenager.  I had a deal with my mom that if I earned all A’s in a semester, she would buy me a King book of my choice in hardback–I’ve got quite a few.  But, It.  Since I read this book, I haven’t walked over storm drains (or other weird city-understructure openings of any sort).  In my rational brain, I KNOW there is not a monster waiting there.  But, my little lizard brain says…”What if?”

Desiree by Annemarie Selinko.  This book is about a young girl in love with Napoleon (when he was just a nobody) who eventually became Queen of Sweden.  It is a book about first love and betrayal and the power struggles happening in a nation just after the French Revolution.  As a fourteen year old myself, I was swept up by the drama and the romance of it all.  Highly recommended for any teenage girl–and so much better than Twilight!

The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.  What stayed with me was the harsh realities of being abandoned (left behind on an island) and the innate biological impulse to stay alive.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.  Holy cow!  I never knew Austen was quite this funny and wildly imaginative.  By far the best Austen book I ever read; I had been fooled into believing the sedate, polite and polished stuff was really Austen.  This one feels a bit raw and wildly dramatic in a tongue in cheek way.  I wish all her books had been like this…

Macbeth by Shakespeare.  Seriously?  Witches.  A  mad wife.  Murdering your way to the top of the political ladder.  EPIC AWESOMENESS!  Best Shakespeare play ever.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  I read this on a recommendation of a professor in my Arthurian Romance class (part of my work toward a Medieval Studies minor).  I absolutely loved it.  This book moved the focus away from the male-dominated tales and focused on the women (who are quite frequently mentioned only in passing in the traditional stories).

The Nibelungenlied by unknown.  My mother recommended this book to me (although she read the original in MHGerman).  Like Macbeth, this is a murdery tale.  Wooing.  Power struggles.  Politics.  Treachery.  And, mad revenge like you would NOT believe.  It is not something you can put down until the last body is on the floor…

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Thoughts on the second round…

book of lifeWhen I first read the book, several things REALLY bothered me. Top among them was the fact that in a book that should be tying everything up, Harkness began introducing new threads and characters. Now, as any academic writer can tell you: you NEVER introduce new information in your conclusion!

However, I thought she might be turning this into a series rather than just a trilogy. [I don’t know if it is true, but it seems plausible given the fact that BoL reads more like a transition than an actual ending.] Once that thought sunk in, I wasn’t as irritated by the book on the second read-through.

Things that are still not good:

1. Gallowglass. Never once in SoN did I have the impression that G was more than a loyal, kick-ass friend and ally. Now he has been turned into some pathetic thing and it feels incredibly untrue to the character! It also (unintentionally?) sets Diana up as the “look at how everybody is in love with me” kind of woman–which seems antithetical to who she is.

This felt like Harkness was grasping at straws to either create family tension–which is unnecessary–or that she just wanted to stretch the length of the novel.

2. The anticlimactic everything (or, how there is NOTHING at stake in this book)…

A. Babies. Yeah, she has ’em. Yep, they get names. Blah blah blah. Mostly, they just sit there being part of the background.

B. The Congregation. Seriously? I know writing about board meetings is a bit dull, but essentially Diana walks in, waffles around a bit, and–poof–the end of the covenant. How was this body of people any threat to anyone?

C. Benjamin. He’s the “big bad” and somehow he’s hidden from the Congregation (and the entire deClermont clan) for hundreds of years. And, even though he’s caught Matthew and is doing his level best to breed with captive witches, no one feels in jeopardy (even the tortured Matthew). In the end he just falls away with very little effort.

I’m not sure how Benjamin became the “big bad” for this story. He never seemed like much more than a passing side-thread in either of the other books. And now, in book 3, he is some super-psychopath? It just didn’t work for me.

3. New characters (with new threads to tug…)

Janet Gowdie (conveniently the granddaughter of Benjamin+witch). Fernando (only previously mentioned in Bk 1). The Madison coven folks. The London coven folks. More congregation members. The students working in the lab.

4. Parade of former characters without much import tied to them (basic name dropping to show “I was here”).

Sophie/Nathaniel/baby Margaret/Agatha. Philippe. Emily. Rebecca/Stephen.

5. Minor characters who just show up as plot devices: Chris, Jack, Father Hubbard, Alain, Marthe, Timothy.


What do I think on a second read?

I still think the book isn’t up to scratch–there are too many loose connections that fail to execute the story properly as an end to a trilogy. She needed another year and at least two more serious revisions to get that plot sewn up.

I know I am in the minority (according to most publishing standards), but I would have been much happier to wait for a good book than to sit through one that was published too soon.

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A second chance

book of lifeOK.  I am going to give The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness–the final book her trilogy–a second chance.  I loved the first two!  So I am wondering if maybe I misjudged the whole thing as I raced through it the first time (see my initial reaction on Goodreads).  Was I too hasty?

I don’t want to be angry with this book.  I want it to do everything it should do (and do it well.)

Perhaps reading it through a second time–taking it in slowly–will let me know if I was completely off base.  However, it might just irritate me more to know I was not wrong the first time!

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It’s been a while…

So, let’s play catch-up:

In July, I managed to rip through an impressive amount of books (although few were on my list):

  1. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
  2. Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
  3. Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
  4. Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris
  5. Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris
  6. Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris
  7. All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris
  8. From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
  9. Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris
  10. Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris
  11. Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
  12. Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris
  13. Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
  14. The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness (which also included a re-read of A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night)


Currently, I am reading Jim Butcher’s latest Dresden Files book, Skin Game, which should be completed before the end of the month.


Earlier this year I also completed:

  • Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
  • Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
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Because I never read what I intend to…

So, this one time, I didn’t read the book I was supposed to…and regretted it.

Instead of jumping back in to Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings like I said I would I slapped Terry Goodkind’s newest SOT series book, The Third Kingdom, into my ipod.  Why?  Because I am a dumbass.

Also, I intended to leave off this novel in order to go through the entire series from front to back.

But now, I am stuck remembering why Goodkind’s writing can rub me the wrong way at times.  It isn’t the story that bothers me so much, but the actual presentation of it through the writing.  Sometimes I feel like I am being:  A) tortured with unnecessary repetition; or B) lectured; or C) being held away from the action by narrative explanation instead of being in the action itself (the show v. tell factor).

Even though it irritates me at times, I still like the overall original series (Books 1-11) possibly because it was the first full-blown fantasy series I read.  I’m holding off on this second arc until it is complete before I make a judgment…

I swear I will get to Sanderson eventually…!

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King Solomon’s Mines

I said I’d get around to writing about this.  Don’t hold your breath.

  • Book:  King Solomon’s Mines
  • Author:  H. Rider Haggard
  • Publication year:  1885

King Solomon Mine coverThis book is supposed to be the genesis of all “lost world” genre books.  But, to me, it screams bigoted colonialism which pisses me off in any genre.  I don’t like the view (especially when it is author driven and not just character driven) that anyone–no matter race, gender, or beliefs–should be written off as a simpleton just because of a difference in technology and customs.

Yes.  I could be diplomatic and say Haggard was a creature of his time and values.  Well, times change.  Novels don’t.

If you can get around the arrogant “white man is the superior being” language in the text, the tale isn’t dreadful.  It does feel a bit simple–more like a teenage adventure tale–but there are still twists and turns to be had:  a lost brother, a treasure hunt, treachery, tribal civil war, witches, almost certain death, and stalagmite-bodies of dead kings.  Oh, and–in case you forgot where you were–the obligatory great-white-hunter scene of wanton destruction of animals.

But, as is to be expected to generate hope for any adventuresome reader:

So we left it. Perhaps, in some remote unborn century, a more fortunate explorer may hit upon the “Open Sesame,” and flood the world with gems. But, myself, I doubt it. Somehow, I seem to feel that the tens of millions of pounds’ worth of jewels which lie in the three stone coffers will never shine round the neck of an earthly beauty. They and Foulata’s bones will keep cold company till the end of all things.

Here lies the adventure of King Solomon’s Mines.

  • Did I enjoy this book?  Not in any particular way.
  • Will I read this book again?  That is highly unlikely without a specific reason for doing so.
  • Will I attempt to read more H. Rider Haggard?  I may give it one more shot.

PS.  If you do go digging in to this novel, you might hear the echoes of other adventure stories as you go.  While this book’s attitudes may rub me the wrong way, I do think this book has made serious ripples in the literary pond…

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The Lies of Locke Lamora!

If I could convey my enthusiasm for this book, I might kick you in the shins until you felt compelled to read it.  Or pinching.  Yes, most definitely pinching with squealy-girl screeches.


lies of locke lamoraDetails

  • Book:  The Lies of Locke Lamora
  • Author:  Scott Lynch
  • Publication:  2006

I have been hearing about this book for several years but haven’t gotten around to reading it until now.  What the hell was I thinking?!  However, one great thing about my laziness is that I have two new books in the series to continue…but, like everyone else, will have to wait on the remainder.

This book was beyond excellent.  While it is technically a fantasy novel–and I mean that in the way that says “technically”–because this is a made up world and there are unique creatures and magicians and other curiosities that make a world “real.”  However, the non-recognizable is made commonplace by the fact that this is a story about a heist, a coup, and revenge.  Essentially, it is all about a small gang called the Gentleman Bastards and the lovably devious Locke Lamora in particular.  The fantasy fades into the background…

The interweaving storylines–the past with the present–while not really a new style, seem to be particularly effective for this story.  It made for a rich, full world by filling in little corners and shadows with detail that might not have been there had the story been structured differently.

As I listened to the book, it reminded me of some wild crossbred version of Charles Dickens, The Little Rascals, and those black and white crime movies (think Edward G. Robinson, Peter Lorre, etc.).  The book is witty and amusing and beautifully written.

The audiobook was narrated by Michael Page.  Page uses different voices to separate the characters–which is not always the case when listening to an audiobook–but it works so well with this novel.  Highly recommended.

  • Will I read it again?  Hell, yes.
  • Will I be continuing on to the next two books in the series?  Hell, yes.
  • Do I recommend this book?  With an ever-enthusiastic pinch, a kick in the shin, and a squeal!
  • Thoughts?  Scott Lynch is a brilliant new writer.  I can’t wait to see where he goes next!


On to my next book:  The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

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The SciFi/Fan Plan

I like science fiction and fantasy books–they feel so much more inventive than traditional fiction.  This isn’t so say that there is nothing amazing about classic novels or even modern novels but, on occasion, I need something a bit on the edge of reality if not completely outside it!  

This list is not book-oriented like the Classics Club list.  What I wanted to do is create a list of authors (most of whom I have never read before) and go from there.

Plan:  To read at least one major work or series by every author in this list.

Author List:  This list is by no means comprehensive for this field.  It contains both old and new authors–those I could remember off the top of my head.  In fact, I am sure this will grow much longer as I add writers.   

  1. Adams, Douglas
  2. Ahmed, Saladin
  3. Asimov, Isaac 
  4. Atwood, Margaret
  5. Bradbury, Ray
  6. Bradley, Marion Zimmer
  7. Brett, Peter V.
  8. Brin, David
  9. Brooks, Terry
  10. Bujold, Lois McMaster
  11. Butcher, Jim
  12. Card, Orson Scott
  13. Carey, Jacqueline
  14. Chabon, Michael
  15. Clarke, Arthur C.
  16. Correia, Larry
  17. Dick, Philip K.
  18. Feist, Raymond E.
  19. Fforde, Jasper
  20. Gabaldon, Diana
  21. Gaiman, Neil
  22. Gibson, William
  23. Goodkind, Terry
  24. Grossman, Lev
  25. Harkness, Deborah
  26. Heinlein, Robert
  27. Herbert, Frank
  28. Hobb, Robin
  29. Jemisin, N. K.
  30. Jordan, Robert
  31. Kay, Guy Gavriel
  32. Kowal, Mary Robinette
  33. Lackey, Mercedes
  34. LeGuin, Ursula
  35. Lewis, C. S.
  36. Lynch, Scott
  37. Martin, George R. R.
  38. McCaffrey, Anne
  39. McCarthy, Cormac
  40. McClellan, Brian
  41. Miéville, China
  42. Modesitt, L. E.
  43. Murakami, Haruki
  44. Niffenegger, Audrey
  45. Niven, Larry and Pournelle, Jerry
  46. Novik, Naomi
  47. Peake, Mervyn
  48. Pratchett, Terry
  49. Priest, Cherie
  50. Pullman, Philip
  51. Rice, Anne
  52. Rothfuss, Patrick
  53. Saberhagen, Fred
  54. Sagan, Carl
  55. Sanderson, Brandon
  56. Scalzi, John
  57. Stephenson, Neal
  58. Tolkien, J. R. R.
  59. Verne, Jules
  60. Weeks, Brent
  61. Westerfeld, Scott
  62. White, T. H.
  63. Williams, Tad
  64. Willis, Connie
  65. Zelazny, Roger


Off I go.  I’m currently listening to The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (#36 on the list).  This is the first book in the Gentlemen Bastards series.

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The reading plan…which will be tossed away by February

I can’t stick to a plan for reading.  Why?  Because I read according to my mood.  However, I like to keep trying.  Maybe someday I will be able to do it!

This year I want to stick to the 19th century as much as possible with my Classics Club reads.  I’m not saying I won’t stray from the list, but I’m feeling a bit old fashioned today so these are winning out.

Classics  Goals

  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  • Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • The Red and the Black by Stendhal
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  • Waverly by Sir Walter Scott

However, my main goal is to tackle a lot of science fiction and fantasy books this year.  I’ll talk about that in a different post.  But, a few of the newer contenders being published this year (2014) that I want to grab and will definitely be reading!:

  1. The Book of Life (#3 in All Souls Trilogy) by Deborah Harkness
  2. Words of Radiance (#2 in Stormlight Archive) by Brandon Sanderson
  3. The Crimson Campaign (#2 in Powder Mage Trilogy) by Brian McClellan
  4. Skin Game (#15 in Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher
  5. Magician’s Land (#3 in Magician’s Trilogy) by Lev Grossman


After that…well, we’ll have to see.

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I’ve been away…

Hey folks–

I was absent quite a good chunk of last year.  I couldn’t make myself write (I was even a NaNoWriMo flake!) or read or do much of anything extra-curricular.  Mostly, last year was a survival year.  I made it through and I am determined to make 2014 so much better!

What’s going on right now?

1.  I finished the first book on my classics list in quite some time!  I took on H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines.  I’ll post a review soon.

2.  I am currently listening to Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora on audiobook.  The beginning made me laugh!

3.  I just picked up Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive #1) on Kindle over the holidays.  I’ve only read two chapters in and am intrigued, but am putting it on hold to finish the Lynch book.

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