Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger

Another fun installment in this YA urban fantasy and steam punk series.

I’m glad the the little love triangle finally resolved itself in this one. It was not a bad triangle either, but it was obvious to me what the true pairing of this series would be. I find Sophonria interesting still and has matured over the years. So has Carriger as an author. There is a little more introspection from this protagonist when compared to the previous Carriger series.

As the third book, the ending made a significant impact on the characters. Fun stuff. Recommended for those who like light urban fantasy reads.

Read February 19-23, 2015.

A Dance of Dragons by George R. R. Martin

Finally, I’m all caught up to the Song of Fire & Ice series. It’s taken me a couple of years to get through these books. I haven’t rushed through them. I’ve enjoyed reading them for the most part, but I had to space them out. They can be a tiring reads.

Case in point, I found the first half of this one particularly hard. It dragged. There was very little or no action, and I became frustrated with certain characters. It just felt they were spinning in circles. I found this one book even more depressing than the previous ones. It also seemed more violent and there were even more examples of women being treated as chattel or just a means to an end.

I just do not know how Martin is going to finish everyone’s stories in two more books at this rate. I expect there will be more than two books left. Every time he kills a character, another takes their place. I do like a few of these characters, but there are many that I don’t care for. In fact, I forgot about a couple of them especially all the ones who want to marry Dany.

It has been frustrating about how close some of the characters are to each other, but still so far. I think these books could be edited down.

In any case, I enjoy the show too and think they’ve done well adapting this book series. I will also read the next book whenever it comes out. I do want to know what happens to my favourite characters and this “game of thrones.” It has been a long and somewhat rough reading experience, but I’m still going to continue with this series. It’s been entertaining at least.

Read February 10-15, 2015 on Kindle.

A Feast of Crows by George R. R. Martin

I enjoyed this read as I have most of the Song of Fire & Ice series, but I did miss knowing what was going on outside of Westeros.

Having said that, this book started more slowly than the other novels. I did like how female dominated it was. As Cersei, Arya, Sansa, Brienne, and other female characters stories were told. It did make me miss Danerys though. At least there was Jaime who has become one of my favourite characters.

The ending was less cliffhanger-y than the previous books probably because the other half of the book is in Book Five.

In other news, I’m rather proud that I read this in one day. I’ve definitely gotten back into my reading groove with all these good books in the new year.

Read February 9, 2015.

Mr Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas

Another nice installment in the Veronica Mars series. I don’t think I’ve had the experience of watching a TV show, a followup movie, and then its continued book series. It’s a nice journey and good to revisit some characters that I really know. It also allows for a lot of growth and character development.

The mystery kept me interested, but it was really the larger universe and cast of characters that pleased me. The universe of the show has expanded and travelled so much. I find it amusing because I am the exact same age as Veronica and her cohorts, but I’m not really like her. I do like her more than I did when I watched the show though. She is more prickly and less accepting of change though. Her relationships are great and I do enjoy how grey her world is. As a PI, she did have to employ a more seedy way of getting the perpetrator of the book in the end. She did not sacrifice her integrity too much. I’ve appreciated the nuances and the ambiguity of being the universe.

I can hear the voices of the actors when I read the book. I do think it’s harder with Logan because Jason Dohring’s acting choices as Logan were always harder to predict. Secondly, this Logan is very different from the Logan of the original show. He’s grown a lot and the character is explored more in this book.

These books are light even if the mysteries are not. They are definitely enjoyable for me as someone who liked the show and the movie. I hope this book series lasts a long time.

Read February 3-4, 2015 on Kindle.

The Rook by David O’Malley

I inhaled this novel. It’s been a long time since I read a nearly 500 page book in a day, but it’s also been a long time since I’ve been excited by a new series.

This book had all the ingredients to me liking it when I heard about it: Set in the UK. Spies. Supernaturals. Female Protagonist.

Before I gush a bit, I will say what I didn’t love about it. These are minor quibbles, but I’ll get it out of the way. First, the protagonist Myfanwy and most of the major characters are British. Myfanwy doesn’t even travel or seem to even have much of a life outside of work, but there was something not British or English enough about the novel. Around the halfway mark, I read that the author is American/Australian. That explained it. Not to say the British deadpan and dry humor isn’t in the novel. It is, but the characters just did not seem English enough for me. That is a bit mad of me since I am not British.

The second very minor quibble was that I grew tired of reading the italicized chapters after awhile. It served a great purpose, but italic text for more than two pages is annoying to read.

Now for the good bits. This novel has a cracking premise. It has a mystery, a credible strong yet flawed female protagonist, and great world building. This is an adult novel and while there is no overt sexuality (in fact, there isn’t even a romance), there is violence, but it’s not violent for the sake of it. The nature of the supernatural spy agency means the stakes are higher. Certain characters were very creepy though. I cringed once toward the ending when there was the reveal about a certain baby. I had suspected it pages earlier, but it was still disgusting to learn with Myfanwy.

As mentioned earlier, this novel is rare that there was no real strong presence of romance or the possible leading man for her. There was a very faint hint of one, but it’s barely there. Unusual and rather interesting. I hope O’Malley can write a romance as well as he seems to be doing with the female friendships in this novel. I really enjoyed Myfanwy’s relationships with Bronwyn, Shantay, Lady Farrier, Val, and Ingrid.

Some people would find the novel long, but I liked the length. I really felt immersed in the world. With the dialogue and the fast pace, I had no trouble reading it. It’s been a long time since I read a novel this quickly which is a testament to how much I enjoyed it. I’m glad I put this off for several months because I’ll only have to wait until the summer for the sequel.

Good stuff.

Read February 1, 2015.

Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study by George E. Vaillant

This was quite an academic non-fiction read that offered interesting sociological insights though. While the topic is not obscure, the content and style of this work is not suitable for most readers. it does have aspects and deals with: psychology, sociology, gender, culture, alcoholism, health, epidemiology, qualitative research, and the book was motivational at times.

The lives of the men were sometimes very inspiring and fascinating. The author does make a point that optimism, hope, nurture, and good social relationships do enrich our lives. On the opposite ends, alcoholism is one of the worse things for relationships and health.

Every time I picked this book up, I found it difficult to go back because Once I read it more, I was engrossed with the lives of the men in the study and the findings. Lately, I have been doing research work in my job and it’s always been something I like to improve on. I find the focus on questionnaires, blind studies, and other techniques interesting as well. Obviously, this would not be the case for most readers.

The study is also focussed on men who, for the most part, have achieved the best of the best of the world. They are definitely the top 5% of the world in terms of income, education, and opportunities. Not to mention the fact that the study was all male and all Anglo-Saxon or “white”. Still, it’s interesting reading because I think some of the things the study elaborates on is universal.

The message of the book is positive and reinforces my own views about human interactions. It’s a fascinating study and I’m glad I was able to read more about it.

Read January 13-27, 2015

Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman

This was just OK. It was by no means badly written, bad, or even that boring. I just did not find myself finding anything special about the work.

This was my first time reading a Batman novel that was not a graphic novel. I found that towards the ending the writing style did remind me of a comic. I found the dialogue in the 1950s scene a bit too campy and on-the-nose. I did not feel particularly attached to any of the characters, and just enough for Bruce/Batman and Thomas.

What kept me reading was the mystery did keep building and I liked the inclusion of Thomas Wayne’s story. I found the femela characters lacking, particularly Martha who seemed to be a rich girl stereotype and dream girl more than an actual person in her scenes.

I found the plot and ending typical of how the Batman mythos has evolved in film. I would not particularly recommend this to anyone, but it was an alright novel that some Batman fans may enjoy.

Read January 23-25, 2015.

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks

What a lovely tribute to P. G. Wodehouse.

I have read all the Jeeves & Wooster books, but that was many years ago. I enjoyed most them, but they got a bit repetitive after awhile. Bertie would get in a scrape, become engaged to an annoying female, and Jeeves would save the day. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

Faulks did a lovely job of rounding both Jeeves and Bertie out in their last “adventure” here. I really enjoyed the side characters as well. He got the tone of the dialogue right because I could hear Stephen Fry as Jeeves reading things out loud.

I won’t spoil the plot or details, but I think fans of the books would enjoy this unless they were super-canonical and particularly about details. I really liked the ending and I definitely enjoyed this novel.

Read January 19th, 2015.

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

In my eyes, this is a fairly typical Kingsolver novel. It features strong female protagonists and characters, a connection to or metaphors with the land, and a quiet and satisfying ending.

I keep reading Kingsolver’s books because I find her characters to be well drawn out. They are often similar women, but the words and their thoughts seem realistic. They are human. They aren’t perfect, but I often want to be their friend. They have tragedies and in this one, the protagonist is surrounded by it. She makes the best of it with her baby girl Turtle.

These novels aren’t exactly feel good because of the emotional and mental realism of the characters. I can rely in Kingsolver ending the novel with hope and a good resolution. Her endings are not flashy ones. They are candid yet important endings for the characters.

I will continue to read her novels though my favourite book of hers is the nonfiction Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I didn’t really love The Poisonwood Bible as much as everyone else. I do relate to Kingsolver’s ethos with the land and being connected to both people and it.

Read January 12th-13th, 2015.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown

This novel is a gem. It has well drawn characters, action, romance, poignancy, great diction, and it’s just delightful. The story is of a chef who is kidnapped by pirates.

My best friend is a library technician, but I read more than her. She saw a post at her library’s book recommendation board. She said the main character and narrator is similar to the Crane brothers from “Frasier,” a show we both love.

Indeed, Owen Wedgewood does remind me of Frasier Crane with a dash of Niles, but that is just the surface of how fun this book is. It has interesting characters and lots of history points. In fact, the climactic moments of this novel take place in the South China Sea, in the Pearl River Delta, and in Macau which are places I am very familiar with.

The writing is elegant as befitting the narrator who is a master chef. Brown is great at historical fiction and adventure, but he’s a great food writer as well. This novel was almost written for me especially with the character development and romance that happens toward the end.

Sad and tragic things happen in this novel, but it’s not swept under or made mawkish. The writer has a deft touch. Furthermore, I love the vocabulary of the novel. I had to refresh my memory and look up a few words. I really enjoy that as I love words, and I find most novels don’t challenge my vocabulary anymore. This one does and it’s splendid.

If you enjoy pirates, food, and history, I’d highly recommend this novel. This was a great reading start to the new year.

Read January 3-4th, 2015.

Manga Classics: Pride & Prejudice

I read this book awhile back, but I wanted to share it. It’s a fun manga rendition of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I enjoy graphic novels and have read a bit of manga in the past, but I haven’t sought it out. I saw this book had a lot of good ratings.

Manga is known for is humor as well and there are just a few off hand side moments that are not in canon in this novel. They work rather well. Pride and Prejudice does have silly aspects to it and the manga form plays it up. The adaptation is not over the top though and it captures all the important moments from the novel.

This manga is definitely worth the look if you like Pride and Prejudice with some visuals.

Read November 26, 2014.

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

The reception to this book was mixed and not that positive to be honest. I tried going into it unbiased. There are a lot of things about this book that I didn’t like, but strangely, I think it grew on me a little bit by the end.

There were too many characters and I didn’t really feel sympathetic for most of them. It took about a hundred pages before I could tell the characters apart. They all sort of blurred together for me. It took until half way through the book (around 250 pages) that I started feeling a twinge of pathos about one of them.

I enjoy Rowling as a writer. I think she does have weaknesses as a writer exhibited in the Harry Potter books too. She has decent characterization skills, but it wasn’t shown in this novel. Somehow though, I became less indifferent towards the end of the novel. It veered towards being a bit cliche though, but I think she hit some emotional notes correctly.

On the way, I do not regret reading this novel and it was not as bad for me as some readers. I don’t recommend it though. If this was not JKR, I probably wouldn’t be eager to read another novel.

Read November 11-17th, 2014.