Reading roundup – April 27th 2015

April 27, 2015

It’s always fun to come across a great new series by accident.  A couple of weeks ago, Audible sent me one of their new release by author X emails advising me that book five in Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St Mary’s series had been released.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this series, it’s about time travelling historians, or as I like to think of it, Connie Willis with more tea.  

The premise sounded interesting, so I went to check out the rest of the series on Audible. I was surprised to find that book one was listed as In my library.  It appears Audible had included it as one of their Daily Deals some time ago, and I’d picked it up.  As an aside, it’s definitely worth signing up for those daily deal emails – you can find some excellent deals for $4.

What I liked

The humour.  The humour is very British and, being British born and bred, it really appealed to me.  I also appreciated the references to the copious amounts of tea drunk by the historians!  

The protagonists.  I really enjoyed hearing about Max and her disaster magnet coworkers.  I enjoyed the way she found humour in the most dire situations in which she ends up.  The way the romance was slowly built up was beautifully done and realistic.

The concept.  Time travelling historians.  That pretty much says it all.  I understand from Taylor’s bio that she is particularly interested in history and it shows in the descriptions of the times and places Max and her coworkers visited.  The business model the historians of St Mary’s come up with towards the end of the book is intriguing and should provide fodder for many more stories to come.  The concept of a vengeful “history” seems not quite yet fully fleshed out, but promises good things for future books, if that is the direction Taylor chooses to go.  Alternatively, I rather enjoyed the evil historian antagonist plotline.

Surprising twists. When I first started listening to it, my first thoughts was that this was a very amusing, if light story, but then there were a few twists that raised the stakes for our protagonists and drew me in even more to the story.

The narration.  The audiobook narration was brilliantly provided by Zara Ramm.  She really “got” Max’s voice and  the humour of the story.  I will certainly continue with this series in audiobook format rather than ebook because of the wonderful narration.

What I didn’t like

Unexplained/unlimited time travel.  This for me was one of the biggest weaknesses in the story.  Certainly, Taylor has chosen to focus more on the historical side of time travel rather than the science fiction, so makes no attempt to explain how it works.  That I can live with.  What was more problematic for me was that there appeared to be no limitations on Taylor’s time travel.  They can set the coordinates and go wherever and whenever they wish.  The historians appear to have no fear of disturbing the timeline – aka the grandfather paradox.  As with fantastical magic systems, often what you can’t do can be more interesting than what you can.

Leaving out limitations means there is a whole area of narrative tension left unexplored. This is also what led to my initial thought of light, amusing fluff.  I will say though that there are definite seeds in this first book in the series which indicates this may be addressed more fully in later books.

Despite these few concerns, I loved Just One Damned Thing After Another and gave it five stars out of five.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much I’ve just gone out and purchased the rest of the series.  Go check them out and enjoy.

As I mentioned in my last blog, my husband and I are setting off on a big train trip in a couple of weeks;  we’re doing the ViaRail trans Canada journey on The Canadian.  Being the avid reader that I am, I have been reading some books for advice. 

All Aboard: The Complete North American Train Travel Guide 

One of the main books I read for my research was All Aboard: The Complete North American Train Travel Guide by Jim Loomis.  This is a very detailed guide to train travel in North America and includes everything from tips on how to get the best fare to the facilities you’re likely to have onboard.  Although I have travelled by train many times before, this is my very first long haul train journey and I found this book invaluable.  

Equally importantly, Loomis’ passion for train travel comes across very well and that only served to enhance my excitement for our trip.  

Trans-Canada Rail GuideThe Trans-Canada Rail Guide is more of a traditional travel guide than a how-to of long distance rail travel.  It contains tourist information on the places we will visit on our trip and most interestingly a route map for the train journey indicating places of interest at each point.  My biggest gripe with this book is that it is not available in ebook format – I will have to take the hard copy with me rather than having it on my Kindle.

That’s all for this week.  Back soon. 

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