Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Reading, Part 1

The nature of the beast is that fantasy books - especially in series - tend to be a lot longer than the average book.  Most of the modern literary fiction I read runs from 200-400 pages, whereas most fantasy books are more like 400-600+ pages.  In audio, the comparison is 9-15 hours as compared to 15-25 hours.  Thus, as I indulge in my favorite genre this summer the actual number of books I'm getting through will probably be lower than usual. 

1.  Cold Magic; 2. Cold Fire; 3. Cold Steel, Kate Elliott - I had wanted to read Cold Magic for a really long time, and am so glad it's what I chose to kick of my summer of fantasy.  I'm truly delighted to report that I was very quickly swept into these books, and became so engrossed that it was truly difficult to put the book down in order to get anything else done for the week or so that I blasted through all three books.  Feisty female characters who I adore, a clearly written and interesting world with enough of a unique spin to set it apart, lots of action, a love affair, magic, a touch of gaslamp....sigh...it's so very me!  My one quibble is that periodically Elliott had to educate the reader about her world, and it came across in somewhat dry and repetitive lessons that broke up the narrative a bit.  Going to totally forgive that, though, because sometimes that's a necessity in world creating.  I truly hated to see the books end - even though our main characters more than earned their happily ever after! 

So when I decided to spend the summer fully immersed in my favorite genre, one of the things I considered was going back and rereading the first four books of Elliott's Crown of Stars series so that I could then finally read the last three books.  (I read the first four before Gillian was born, and never got around to the rest because of the new-mommy reading dry spell I had for a few years.)  Those are some hefty, hefty books (about 650+ pages per book), and I've not truly had time for series for a long while.  But, after reading the Cold Magic books, which have reminded me of why and how much I love Elliott, I do think it's time. 

There is also Elliott's Jaren series.  I adored the first book, but at the time the series was out of print and I couldn't get my hands on the other three books.  Well, now they are available digitally, and so another option is to read that series.  I will say that from what I remember of the first novel of Jaren, it shares some character similarities' with Cold Magic, so it might be best to save this for down the road a bit. 

Then there's a fourth, newer series which I've never tried....and the brilliant Golden Key, which she co-wrote with two of my other favorite women fantasy writers....

Yep...this could be the year that I read all of Elliott's books.

4.  Fool's Assasin, Robin Hobb - I have long adored Robin Hobb's work, and was very excited when I discovered she was writing a new Fitz and the Fool trilogy.  (There are two others, but it's been years since she visited that world.)  I had preordered this for when it was released last summer, but for some reason never got around to it.  It has a slower pace than I remember from Hobb's other books, and was more reflective.  I actually really enjoyed that.  An older Fitz is a good thing.  The second in the series comes out in August, and I can't wait!  (If I hadn't already semi-committed to a summer of Elliott I would totally be rereading Hobb.....)

5.  Cowboy Feng's Space Bar & Grill, Steven Brust - It's an old, old friend, and one whom I haven't visited in way too long.  I love the narrator's voice, I love the intermezzos, I love the characters (even when they aren't fully fleshed out), and I love what it has to say about love.  Seriously, there is a passage in this book that I think about when I reflect about my marriage, and what it has to say is pretty darn profound.  Next up...Brust's Vlad Taltos books, which were part of my entry into the world of fantasy in college!  Dug them out of my crates of books too.....

6.  The Innocent Mage, Karen Miller (audio) - This is a reread for me.  The library doesn't have a lot of great fantasy in it's digital services, and when I discovered that they had this series I had to seriously consider whether or not I wanted to reread it.  On the one hand, Miller's writing is pretty fantastic, with great characters, an awesome world, a solid plot,, and good pacing.  On the other hand, I HATE what happens at the very end of this book, even while I know it's necessary to further the plot for the next one.  I was so annoyed, in fact, when I first read it that I donated it and the second book to the library rather than give the next book a chance.  So I had to think about it...and I'm glad I decided to go for it.  A little bit of time and distance have given me some perspective on that end, and I'm ready to hit the next book.  As a bonus, the narrator is AWESOME!!!!

7.  The Invasion of the Tearling, Erika Johannsen - You might remember that I listened to the audio format of Johannsen's first Tearling book a couple of months ago.  I enjoyed it so much that I immediately preordered the second...and here it is!  I will say that Johannsen really threw me off with her flashbacks to 2048 America, which tended to be a type of everything is completely awful for women dystopia I don't generally like or read. (Her world is set several hundred years after that, in a country that set aside technology and has gone back to the standard fantasy medieval setting with some magic.)  It was offputting, and I set the book aside for a while when I hit the first one.  Truth be told, I set the book aside for a few days each time I hit one of those passages.  Totally get it, still love the books, annoyed that I have to wait another year for the final book in the trilogy...but yeah, some stuff just isn't necessarily my cup of tea, even if it's necessary to the plot.  I will say that Johannsen's Queen Kelsea is one of my favorite new characters in a very long while.  After I read the first book I learned that Emma Watson was responsible for the movie rights being picked up, and I admit I think she's perfect for the role, even if she doesn't quite fit the physical description.