Monday, May 02, 2011

April book reviews

I read 14 books in April. 4 on the Kindle and 10 dead tree books from the library.

On the Kindle I read

The Folklore of Discworld – which tries to be a comprehensive collection of folklore & myth on Discworld but mostly draws parallels between things on Earth and things on the Disc.
Nothing wrong with that in general, but I was hoping for more Discworld myth & stories than Earth stuff. I could make nearly all those connections myself. I enjoyed it but felt it wasn’t living up to what it could have been.

Anthem for Doomed Youth: A Daisy Dalrymple Mystery (Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries) – I love this series but this book was a bit of a disappointment. It was well written, the familiar characters were there (though why Melanie was I can’t guess). Alec was off on one big mystery Daisy was unable to get tangled in (much to the Superintendent's delight) and there was a smaller one that she was in over her head on (that the Superintendent didn’t hear about until it was over) but it seemed to be missing that spark you get when Daisy & Alec (her CDI husband) work together on something.

The Land of Painted Caves: A Novel (Earth's Children) – And at last, what was possibly the slowest written series in the English language is  over. I read Clan of the Cave Bear in 1982. No spoilers but anyone who has read the series saw the ending coming from 3 books back.. ok, one spoiler – we now know who’s to blame for the rise of the patriarchy.
This book has the feel of Plains of Passage, lots of travel. Ayla is taken by Zelandoni all around France to see all the painted caves as part of her training.  Fewer caves would have been fine. Or perhaps less description of them. Detail overload on the cave paintings. Lots of research went in to it but perhaps every last one of those findings did not need to make it into the narrative.  Also? Jondalar was missing much of the time. Oh he was around… in that vague way secondary characters are around & I think the book suffered from that. Especially since we learn in the last quarter of the book that he has had this whole subplot of his own running since the beginning without word one mentioned until then. I think dragging that plot out into the light early on would have added some needed tension & character development to the story. I’m glad I read it, I needed the closure after 30 years, but it felt lacking somehow.

The Clue of the Twisted Candle  -A Classic Mystery from the Golden Age.  I love 1920s-30s British mysteries. This one is a classic locked room mystery, which are always entertaining in small amounts. It confused me at first because there was a murder & a set up against an innocent person & then a conviction in the first third of the book & I was like “Well, now what?” But then the *real* murder happened (that first murder was just incidental to the plot). I’m not used to such a vast amount of guilt being so incredibly obvious. But HOW did he do it, without the how there will be no conviction! This was a great read & free on Kindle too!

Overall the Kindle reads were rather a disappointment this month, apart from the last one.

I had more success at the library

The Spellman Files: A Novel There are 4 books in this series & I read all 4 of them in a row. If you like Stephanie Plum or Meg Langslow you will like Isabel Spellman. She was born into a family of PIs and has been working for them since she was 15. Unlike Stephanie though, Isabel learns from her mistakes (and they are doozies) & over the 4 books she grows as a person, slowly putting her troublemaking aside, learning to think about others, learning judgment, patience & to trust herself, though she still has issues with men. She refers to them as “ex boyfriend #12” while still dating them since no relationship has lasted more than 3 months. It’s a fun series overall, though her younger sister can be really annoying.

The River Knows – a Regency romance with a mystery thrown in. It was exactly what I expected. I’ve read her books for years & years & I enjoy them for the mind candy

To Defy a King – Historic fiction set at the time of King John & Magna Carta, part of a series. This book focuses on Mahelt Marshall, daughter of William Marshall & her husband Hugh Bigod. They are part of the rebellion against John…eventually…it takes time for Hugh & his family to work around to it, though Mahelt has been anti John since we met her as a child. It is very well done, great research, lots of detail. Loved it.
The Mischief of the Mistletoe: A Pink Carnation Christmas A fun entry in the series. It’s the story of Turnip Fitzhugh, the buffoon of the series, and Arabella Dempsey, who has appeared a couple times in other novels as a shy wallflower. They come together over some trouble with a missing Christmas pudding & end up taking on a murderous spy. Lots of witty repartee & I love witty repartee. I enjoyed it, probably more than the rest because it stayed set in the past, none of the hopping back & forth between the past & the present like the rest of the series.  I like the story about Eloise & Colin but sometimes the hopping back & forth drives me buggy. I have been known to check the books out & read them skipping the modern stuff & then reread them skipping the historic stuff, so I appreciated just having one story to follow in this one

The Forever Queen Emma, queen of Ethelred the Unready & of Cnut, mother to Hardicanute & Edward the Confessor. Great Aunt to William the Conqueror. 50 years as Queen of England, dealing with the Vikings & politics & men being men. A very interesting book about a very intriguing woman. I found it hard sometimes to sympathize with her. She cares more for her crown than her kids & is cruel to them & her 1st husband (though she’s giving as good as she gets where he is concerned) I simply cannot imagine the choices she had to make to keep her sons by Ethelred alive when Cnut came to the throne, but she doesn’t seem to like them very much & to be acting for England rather than as a mother, which I suppose is the price you pay for power.  It was very engrossing, lots of period details, rather heavy on temporary secondary characters with similar names but I highly recommend it if you like historic fiction.

The Third Circle (Arcane Society, Book 4) Regency romance with a supernatural twist. I’m not a fan of the mystical in most books anymore. Once I was. Once I loved it, but apparently I OD’d & now find the mere mention of the paranormal a turn off (oh look ANOTHER vampire/zombie/witch book). But this was ok. I can deal with this level of mystical, its more of an ESP kind of thing. Kind of a weak plot though, the heroine can use stones to help people in various mental ways. There is a particular stone the bad guys want & the good guys want & she wants for herself. You can guess the plot from there I suspect
The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer Oh look! ANOTHER vampire book! I’d been staring at this book on the ‘new books’ shelf for a couple of months now. Being a student of Tudor history I have a hard time turning down any form of Tudor fiction… but vampires? Really? Did you have to go there? But then I hit a lull in book acquisition & ran out of viable options. There was NOTHING TO READ. Or at least nothing that drew me more than this book.
It was not as bad as I feared and I’ll read the next book when it comes out. I can deal with this vampire series. Elizabeth turns out to be the Slayer that England has been waiting for over 1000 years. Her direct ancestoress was Morgaine, the famed vampire slayer of yore. (what? you didn’t know that?) Morgaine failed to slay Mordred (the Vampire King. He became a vampire to defeat his father Arthur) 1000 years ago after the battle where Arthur died (several other slight detail changes in that story) & ended up dying herself while only gravely wounding him. Though apparently she killed off all the other vampires. Mordred has spent the past 1000 years rebuilding his vampire kingdom & waiting for the new Slayer, who he plans to seduce to his side & make his queen. Elizabeth has other ideas. Yeah, it’s a vampire book, no I don’t like vampire books, but I kind of like this one. Vampires are clearly the bad guys, they don’t hog the narrative, Elizabeth is still Elizabeth but with something extra. I can deal with this.

Just as a disclaimer…I OD’d on Anne Rice back in the day. I loved the Lestat books (though Marius was my favorite) and read them over and over and over and well… I feel sort of ‘been there, done that’ about vampires now. Then there were her Witches books. Same thing. So I’m just not that into the current plethora of vampire/zombie/magic books that are saturating the market. I try some every now & then, usually I am disappointed. I got lucky this month.


Helena said...

Discovered Daisy Dalrymple this year and enjoy them as long as I read something else in between - when I read 2 in a row they seemed a bit too much the same

Susan Robinson said...

I can't believe you read 14 in one month... I tried to open one book last night... and lost my interest already. I'll have to check out some of your recommendations there. thanks

ChloƩ said...

Wow, that's a LOT of books! Great job, love that you post reviews!

SciFi Dad said...

I read one of the Auel series (forget which one; just remember calling it caveman porn).

Carole said...

I do like the sound of the Spellman files. I might see if they have those at my local library.