Monday, June 17, 2013

Reading Roundup

Title: The Curse of Chalion
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Publisher: HarperCollins (2001)

This is an alternate historical fantasy title (recommended by jmc) centered around the politics of royals and political boundaries. The fantastical comes in the form of a religion that worships five gods who sometimes take notice of the wee mortals just trying to survive. I was completely sucked into the world (Bujold is a champ at world building) and really enjoyed the characters, as well. Interestingly, I predicted an alternate (and darker) ending. Interesting because I don't usually think much on endings (I like to let them come rather than figure them out) and because [SPOILER! Highlight if interested: I swear there is a way more obvious way to count three deaths for Caz and it would have made for a helluvan ending. He would have died in my ending but I always thought he was going to die. It was a huge surprise to me when he didn't.] I don't think of myself as a particularly dark person but I did think this one wrapped up a little too nicely (Caz, I'm sure, would disagree:). The suffering was all in the journey with an ending that felt really shiny with a nice, red bow. Characters and plot, though, are fantastic so there is lots to like here.


Title: Memory, A Civil Campaign
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Publisher: Baen Publishing (1996, 1999)

I often get the Miles Vorkosigan books recommended to me (that series has a lot of fan crossover with megan whalen turner's books) but have never actually been able to finish one. I find myself spending most of my time wishing Cordelia Naismith was around because I'd really rather be reading her adventures. This time I decided to get reinforcements before heading back into the fray (thanks again jmc) and it helped to an extent. I did finish both these titles but I was still mostly wishing I was reading about Cordelia. For whatever reason, Miles just does not grab me like his mother does. I think I have a really hard time relating to rabidly ambitious, must live up to dad/granddad type characters. After pining after Cordelia for two books, I re-read Shards of Honor and Barrayar to get my fix. Reading all four of these fairly close together helped me to realize that I don't care for Barrayar at all (or the types of plots/problems its world allows) and it was really coloring my enjoyment of Memory and A Civil Campaign. So. Perhaps I can get into a Miles title if I just get the right setting. (This is so bizarre for me! I rarely give a series/character this much time if I'm not interested. Guess that's what lots of spare time does for you.:) So, so, so. I read over the series' summaries and would like to try The Vor Game or Ethan of Athos. Sadly, neither title is available at my library so I am going to try again for The Warrior's Apprentice. I think I will just skip the beginning on Barrayar as that's where I lost interest before.

Shards of Honor/Barrayar: recommended
Still not sure on any others...

Title: The Winter Prince
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Atheneum Books (1993)

This is the first book in a series that ties a King Arthur retelling with the kingdom of Aksum (Ethiopia). I read books 2 and 3 in the series and quite liked the Aksum setting but ended up being a little unable to get wholly invested in the characters. Flash forward a few years and I finally decided to pick this one up. Very glad I did. The British setting is not nearly as interesting (to me) but the family dynamics between Artos' children were awesome and I was definitely hooked. I think I'm going to go after books 2 and 3 again and see if more knowledge of the back story helps with the characters.


Title: Court Duel/Crown Duel
Author: Sherwood Smith
Publisher: Firebird (2002), originally published as two titles beginning in 1997

I wanted to like these books! I wanted to like them so much that I actually finished them even though my interest was not high. The first section of the first book really had me hooked but it petered out quickly whenever the h/h action was in play. I think if the romantic subplot had been completely cut from the first novel it would have improved markedly. There's a lot to like here: brave, assertive heroine choosing to fight the good fight for her kingdom; a world populated with males and (gasp!) females in fairly equal numbers (you know, like how biology works); and plenty of intrigue to keep the reader guessing on who exactly the good guys/gals are. But our otherwise smart heroine does some pretty dumb shit. She's young and naive but there is a limit to how many times she can misunderstand the actions of others (mostly just this one other) before she starts to look dumb rather than cautious. It started to feel like an artificial way of creating romantic tension rather than an interesting plot or characterization issue. Anyone read anything else by this author? Should I try again with another title?

not recommended

Title: Any Duchess Will Do
Author: Tessa Dare
Publisher: Avon Books (2013)

I haven't read a new-to-me romance in quite a while. I just can't seem to find anything that holds my interest or inspires me. I saw some good buzz on this one but... meh. Nothing particularly wrong with it but its cloying nature and unrealistic class issues left me cold. I did, however, quite like the hero's mom. Her wit and mentorish role for the heroine make for good times whenever she was on the page.

not recommended

Right now I'm working on the Midsummer Moon audio (I have not adjusted to Shelby's voice!), re-reading the Dreamblood books that I managed to dig out of a box (final move next weekend, yay! all boxes will be unpacked), re-reading The Eagle of the Ninth, and planning my next library raid.

What have you been reading lately?


  1. I'm sorry Memory & A Civil Campaign didn't really work for you. I'm ambivalent about recommending any other books of the series -- the last book, Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, has very little Miles but also very little Cordelia. I enjoyed it as I read but have some reservations about it in retrospect.

    Grover Gardner does a pretty good job with the audiobooks if they are available in NZ.

    On Caz, you've reminded me that I expected the same darker ending the first time I read it and was surprised by the wrap up. I'm used to it now but at the time it was a little bit of a surprise. His book used to be my absolute favorite by Bujold but Paladin of Souls has gradually crept up and tied it for co-favorite.

  2. No worries, jmc, I did finish them so that says something. I actually really fell in love with Ivan (and Alys for that matter) in these titles so I was curious about Vorpatril's Alliance. It's funny about Miles being so obsessed with living up to his paternal line when all I ever think is "you'll never be as cool as your mom." :) Thanks for the audio tip. I will look for them. I also ended up grabbing Brothers in Arms in case...

    I picked up Paladin of Souls and Hallowed Hunt during my library raid and Paladin is up next for reading. Glad to hear the good buzz from you.

  3. There's a scene in Komarr (I think) in which Miles is abruptly reminded how awesome Cordelia is, and has to rethink ever so briefly where he gets his adrenaline junkie habits.

    If you are an Ivan fan, CVA is worth reading to get to see him be competent and appreciated as not an idiot. My issues with it were more about how it fit the series than book-specific content. Also, Alys and Illyan appear.

  4. AnonymousJune 19, 2013

    The only Bujold I've read was 'Paladin of Souls', which I liked, but it didn't blow me away. Perhaps I should give another title a try.
    Like you, I've tried to get into a few Tessa Dare titles because of the stellar reviews I keep coming across, but somehow, I don't seem to manage to make it to the end. I think I'm better served to working my way through the backlist of the likes of Heyer or Kinsale ;)

    On a more serious note: read Shattersnipe's reconciliation (ref. Jemisin speech) yesterday, and I'm still having actual physical stomach pain at the excerpts she (he?) quoted. How has that person not been charged with hate crime? How have literary organizations tolerated his inclusion? I am appalled to think people who share one or the other cultural descent with him might be assumed by others to agree with him. I hope before tarring us with the same (thought) brush, they would allow the possibility or even better, look for evidence that he is not representative. Such as my German mom, who received the YMCA award for combatting racism in her community.


  5. jmc - Turns out I picked up Komarr, too. My tendency to grab books and examine later was obviously at play (ok, it's ALWAYS at play at the library:). Maybe I'll have to read that one for some Cordelia shout outs. And thanks on the CVA info. Currently reading Paladin and really enjoying it.

    Hey Maya - If you try Bujold again and want to stick with her fantasy I really liked the first two sharing knife books; maybe you'd like them. Also, The Curse of Chalion was definitely worth it. You'll get to learn all about Ista's daughter, who is awesome.

    Regarding your serious note: I don't think there is any lumping involved with this situation (or indeed with most other situations like this). I get the impression that highlights of these vile people are simply to remind us all that speaking up is important because silence becomes acceptance. And why jerkoffs like these are allowed to remain in organizations is beyond me. If I ruled the world...