Hello, and yes I am still here. It’s been two months since my last post. It’s been a challenging couple of months both at work and at home, and so my blogging has very much suffered. Things aren’t going to quieten down in the foreseeable future, so I’ll blog when I can, making no promises. I sincerely apologise to the publishers who have been kind enough to send me ARCs – I suspect that I will not be able to meet my commitments to review these books, but my responsibilities to my employer who pays our bills and family must come first. At this point in time, reading needs to remain an escape without pressure to review.
So onto the books I’ve read in the last couple of months.
[book-info]One of the pure joys of my reading/listening time recently has been the audiobook of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them narrated by Newt Scamander himself, Eddie Redmayne. This was a wonderful surprise – I really wasn’t expecting it to be as entertaining as it was. This is a “revised edition” film tie-in, to include an additional footnote by Scamander commenting on the events of the film and implying more editions will be released as more Fantastic Beasts films are released. It certainly whetted my appetite for more of Mr Scamander’s adventures. The audio edition is described as enhanced for audio with original sound design. This audiobook includes “audio footnotes” which have been treated with a sound effect to differentiate them from the main narration. These includes very subtle sound effects of the various creatures about which Scamander is talking, which really added a lot to the listening experience. What I hadn’t expected was just how funny it would be. I regularly found myself laughing out loud. Who knew that the Loch Ness Monster was actually a publicity hungry kelpie? I suspect this will be a go-to book to put a smile on my face for a long time to come.
As a bonus, proceeds from the sale of the books go to Rowling’s Lumos charity and also the UK’s Comic Relief. A wonderful listen and definitely worth the five stars I gave it.
[book-info number=1]Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection narrated by Stephen Fry was somewhat of an impulse buy for me. Audible just happened to announce the publication on Facebook at a time when I happened to have a spare, unspoken-for Audible credit (a rare occurrence.) I don’t regret it at all. As it happens I don’t have a Sherlock Holmes collection in my library and Stephen Fry’s introduction and narration adds a lot to the stories. His passion for the source material really comes across and who could complain about listening to Fry’s melodious voice for 72 hours? I can’t say I’ve listened to all the stories, but I’ve loved what I’ve listened to so far.
I gave Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection 4 stars.
[book-info number=2]Hachette was kind enough to send me an ARC of Claudia Gray’s upcoming YA sci-fi novel Defy the Stars. Now, I’ve read quite a few of Ms Gray’s novels and really enjoyed them, which is why it’s a real shame I’m having to consign Defy the Stars to my didn’t finish pile. See: introductory remarks. It took me at least three attempts to get beyond the first few chapters of Defy the Stars, and I’m giving up at 50% or so through. Maybe later I’ll be able to pick it up and enjoy it more.
Several choices made by Gray contributed to my struggles with this book. She starts off the book with the sucker punch of stating that the main character will be dead in two weeks. However, she didn’t provide a strong enough reason for me to really care about that. Our protagonist, Noemi, is not an immediately sympathetic character; interesting, sure, kick-ass certainly, but not a character you can root for at least in the beginning. She is first and foremost a soldier. Too many times Gray asked me to suspend my disbelief more than I was prepared to do. Not disbelief in a situation but in how a character would act.
On a positive side, the relationship developed between Noemi and the AI Abel was very well done and I would have enjoyed watching it develop as well as Abel’s growing humanity. The world created by Gray was also – as usual for her – richly detailed and fascinating. These were not enough to convince me to continue the story at this time.
As I did not finish it I will not assign any rating.
[book-info number=3]Norse Mythology, written and narrated by Neil Gaiman, was another book I specifically chose to experience in audiobook format, a choice I would wholeheartedly recommend. In his introduction to the audiobook Gaiman speaks of the oral tradition through which much of the Norse mythology has come down to us. This is clearly something that the production team bore in mind when making the audiobook and I really had the impression of listening to Mr Gaiman narrate his tales around a blazing hearth in the dark of winter.
The tales themselves are fascinating, even though I understand they are somewhat sanitised by Mr Gaiman. Readers of my blog know that I have been following Rick Riordan’s series Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, also based on this set of mythology. It’s been a real treat to see how the same tales have been handled by two extremely talented and very different writers.
I gave Norse Mythology four and a half stars out of five
[book-info number=4]In my intense anticipation of Assassin’s Fate, the final book in Robin Hobb’s Fitz and the Fool trilogy, I realised that there was a whole section of Hobb’s world about which I’ve not read. i’m talking about her Rain Wild Chronicles. I hope to read all four books before Assassin’s Fate is released on May 9th. If you’re interested, check out my initial reread of the Realm of the Elderlings.
As familiar as I am with Hobb’s writing, I knew that the first book in a new series is generally very slow, spending time introducing the characters and their struggles and motivations. That is also true for Dragon Keeper. It sets up the story very satisfactorily, at the expense of slow pacing.
I gave Dragon Keeper three and a half stars out of five. Now onto Dragon Haven!
April is a very quiet month for me in terms of book releases about which I’m excited. Other than the aforementioned Defy the Stars, the other book i”m excited about is Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. This is the first book in a new series set in a different world from The Broken Empire and Red Queen’s War. It centres around a young female protagonist being trained as a killer in a convent. This concept sounds awesome, if reminiscent of Robin LeFevers His Fair Assassin series. In Lawrence’s hands I’m sure it will be wonderful and I can’t wait. Red Sister will be released on April 4th.