What I Read in February 2018

I finished Oathbringer after reading it for a couple months. I also fell behind at in my reading for class, so I don’t expect to keep being able to get stuff read in the next few months. We’ll see. I hope for at least one book a month.

Oathbringer

Brandon Sanderson

I have been a fan of Sanderson for sometime now, but I am coming to the conclusion that this series isn’t really my thing. Not that there is anything specifically wrong with this book, but am finding it hard to maintain an interest in this setting. I really don’t remember much from one book to the next, which is something I am usually really good at.

This book has the conflict of this series coming into focus. It focuses on Dalinar, the oldest of the protagonists and goes over his long history as essentially his brother, the former king’s attack dog. He was good at fighting and that was what he did. It makes for a hard transition as he tries to build a peaceful coalition as they try to fight the voidbreakers. The other characters get some development as well, with Shallan struggling with coming into her power and Kaladin building a small army that follow in his footsteps. I want to have more to say about this book, but the only parts that really spoke to me were Dalinar’s flashbacks. I really like that conceit, with seeing a character in the present before jumping to the past to see how they became that person. I liked it in the first two books with Shallan and Kaladin, and I liked it here with Dalinar. There are other interesting or cool things that happen in this book, but I bounce off of them like I don’t with Sanderson’s Mistborn books or some others. I wasn’t reading it thinking it was terrible, I was reading it thinking that this kind of book might not be for me anymore.

The Dragon Reborn

Robert Jordan

Oathbringer had me wondering if I still liked epic fantasy. I had also stumbled on a Wheel of Time reread that I really liked. So I pulled out my favorite book in that series. I still love this series and I am pretty sure I still like fantasy, I just don’t know that the Stormlight Archive is going to be a favorite of mine.

What stood out to me the most on this read of The Dragon Reborn is how Jordan does perspective. He uses a very close third person that really gets the reader into the head of the character. To use that perspective effectively, the writer really has to know his characters. It also leads to people who do rereads and podcasts to import the opinions of Jordan’s characters onto the writer himself. It is one of the things I like best about the series. Not the mistakes, those are frustrating, but how well Jordan gets the reader into the characters’ heads.

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What I Read in January 2018

I managed to read three books while on break from school. It was a good start to the year. Maybe I’ll keep some of that momentum going into February. I hope to at least finish Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer.

The Incrementalists

Steven Brust and Skyler White

The first of the books I got for Christmas that I managed to read. I read a Brust book a few months ago and liked it, but this is something completely difference. The Incrementalists is about a secret society that can save their consciousness in a mental garden and after they die combine it with an new person to live on. They try to make the world better by making small, incremental changes. First, the protagonist Phil finds a someone to take his lover Celeste’s consciousness. Then there is a mystery about how exactly Celeste died and why her memories didn’t come through. I liked the idea and the characters, but really wished the book had done more to show what this secret society does. Other than argue with each other, I guess. It is a lot of drama within the group and everything else is kind of vague.

As You Wish

Cary Elwes

This is not a book that I want to give a harsh review to. There is nothing bad about it, there just really isn’t anything there. It is Cary Elwes recounting his time making The Princess Bride. While that is a great movie, and there were a lot of interesting people involved, his recollections are pretty low impact. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy reading it; I love the movie and liked learning every little bit about the production that I did. But this book lacks something to make it into anything other than a curio for super-fans. I guess it is good to learn that making the movie seems to be as positive an experience for the cast as viewing it was for everyone else. It is genuinely heartwarming to read these recollections, but that doesn’t mean the book doesn’t lack the drama that would make it something really memorable to read.

The Beggar King

Oliver Potzsch

This is the third book in Potzsch’s Hangman’s Daughter series. It has some of the same rough spots as the previous two books, the dialogue has a lot of modern turns of phrase for a book set in the 17th century and characters frequently come off as unreasonable. Whether that is on the writer or the translator I can’t say, but those are pretty consistent flaws in what is otherwise an enjoyable adventure/mystery.

The Beggar King starts with Jakob Kuisl, the hangman, going to the city to help his sick sister. When he gets there, he finds her and her husband murdered and he is framed for killing them. While he sits in jail, his daughter Magdalena and her lover Simon fun afoul of people in their hometown and run away to her aunts and to start in a new life in the city. There, they find out the fate of her father and get embroiled in the machinations that led to his arrest as they try to free him. It is a fast moving, fun adventure that goes some strange directions. I don’t know that I’ll remember the details by the end of the year, but I enjoyed reading it.

Ekho

Christophe Arleston and Alessandro Barbucci

This comic has a fun gimmick, even if it did turn out to be a little more risque than I expected. It stars a woman who finds out she is her aunt’s heir in a fantasy mirror world. She is joined by the man who just so happened to be sitting next to her on the plane that she was transported out of. In the world of Ekho, Fourmille, the main character, is possessed by the spirit of those who were murdered until she figures out who killed them. In the first volume that is her aunt. After that, she and her friends move around to new places. They are pulled to new areas in her job as a talent agent. She also moonlights as part of her secretaries burlesque show. It mostly seems to be an excuse for the artist to draw fantasy versions of what he wants, from Marilyn Monroe to Paris, France. Also, boobs. There are lots of boobs. It is a light, fun affair. If new volumes go on sale on comixology again, I’ll likely pick them up. It was fun enough.

What I Read December 2017

Here’s what I read in December: nothing. For the first time since I started doing this on my blog, I have went a month without reading a book. I hope to never do that again. We’ll see. I wasn’t sure I should even write something out, but I decided marking the occasion that I read nothing was worth noting. I finished The Phoenix Guard near the end of last month and just didn’t try to start anything else before the end of the year. I did get Brandon Sanderson’s newest Stormlight Archive tome, Oathbringer, but that is a huge book and I barely got started with it.

What I did read were some old issues of Nintendo Power, which made me incredibly sad and nostalgic. Out of my disorganized collection, I just happened to pick up one of the issues I had as a child, from the days just as the SNES was coming out. I read my issues from that period over and over as a child. The other one I grabbed was the last issue of the magazine. It is still equally satisfying and heartbreaking to read. I do think their list of greatest games covered is nonsense, but there is no way to do that list without it being nonsense.

Next month, hopefully I’ll have something read.

What I Read November

Only one book in November, along with a few comic collections I sped through with the intent of writing a longer piece about them that may or may not happen after finals.

The Phoenix Guards

Steven Brust

This is my first encounter with Brust. I quite liked it and will make a point to chase down some more of his stuff. The Phoenix Guards does very little to explain its setting, which I understand is used in his larger series of which this book is an off shoot, but that doesn’t hamper it too much. What The Phoenix Guards is is an homage to The Three Musketeers. A young man from the country comes to the city to join an elite guard, where he makes some friends and they have adventures. It is good fun, though while I am a fan of most of the setting stuff, I am not as fond of the prose style. It is deliberately styled to read more like Dumas, but that somewhat purposefully stilted was occasionally tiresome. I don’t have that much to say about it overall; it is a very fun romp that doesn’t really inspire any thoughts outside of the simple enjoyment of the adventure.

Thy Kingdom Come Vol 1, 2, 3

Geoff Johns, Alex Ross, Dale Eaglesham, Fernando Pasarin et al.

With Johns and DC getting ready to launch a follow up to probably their best loved story, I got it in my head to revisit the last time that Johns wrote a follow up to another much loved DC story, the Kingdom Come sequel Thy Kingdom Come. In this case, he did it with not only the approval, but the help of one of the collaborators in that first story, Alex Ross co-wrote and drew portions of this story. It was part of Johns Justice Society of America, the relaunched version that is mostly remembered for getting bogged down in this story. I disagree with that assessment; this is a long story but I think most of the individual chapters are very enjoyable. The plot in brief is that the Superman from KC ends up on Earth and teams up with the JSA, fortified with new members reminiscent of characters found in KC, as they deal with the emergence of Gog, the last of the Old Gods that died to make room for Jack Kirby’s Fourth World New Gods. It also deals with the emergence of the new Multiverse, brought back during Infinite Crisis, another time Johns wrote a follow up to a famous DC story. There is a lot going on, and I have more to say that I am saving for an eventual full post about it, but it works as a capstone on Johns’s JSA run, with the only flaw the story that came after it.

What I Read in October 2017

Just one book in October, I don’t have much to say. I don’t have my normal reading time and with all the reading for class I have to do I don’t really have the inclination to do much reading in my free time.

The Well of Lost Plots

Jasper Fforde

I’ve read this before and I always assume a lot of this book happens earlier in the series. This one has Thursday Next spend the whole book in Book World. She is pregnant and forgetting her erased in time husband. She also has to deal with a hostile takeover of the entirety of Book World. I love this series, and I hope Fforde has something new coming soon. It has been too long since I’ve read a new book of his. The therapy session in Wuthering Heights remains one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever read, though it would mean little to someone who isn’t familiar with Wuthering Heights. There is also the perpetually late agent Godot, but luckily they don’t wait for him.

What I Read September 2017

I only finished one book in September, which is looking more and more like the status quo going forward.  This one, and the one I’ve finished so far in October, is a reread.

The Curse of Chalion

Lois McMaster Bujold

I’ve read this several times and it remains one of my favorites.  It is just about the perfect one volume fantasy story. It creates a world that I wouldn’t mind spending more time in, but it tells a complete and thoughtful story within this one book.  I don’t really have anything new to say about it.  It is a very enjoyable and comforting read.  That is why I turned to it for a quick read when I didn’t really have time to do anything else.

Father Brown Mysteries

GK Chesterton

I didn’t complete this, but I did read the first three or four stories on this complete collection, enough to get an idea of what these stories entail.  I am going to keep reading this and will write about it fully when I finish the whole thing.  So far I’ve found them very enjoyable.

Vision Vol. 2

Tom King & Gabriel Walta

Tom King is still fairly new to comics, which is startling to think about considering how great Omega Men, Sheriff of Babylon and now The Vision are.  (That is to say nothing of his excellent work on Batman and Grayson)  He has also had the good fortune to have worked with some excellent artists, and Walta is no exception. I am not really competent to describe art, other than to say that Walta’s work here is really good, more grounded than most superhero art which is perfectly suited to the very human tragedy of this story. The Vision tells a somewhat heartbreaking story of a superhero watching his life and family disintegrate. It plays out like a Shakespearean tragedy; the end result was inevitable but you can’t help but wishing things could turn out differently. It is hard to discuss without spoiling completely. It is great.

What I Read August 2017

Two more Agatha Christie’s for August and I expect that this will be the pace for most of the next couple of years.  All I do for class is read; it makes it hard to find the drive to read for fun.  Still, I can’t imagine I stop reading entirely.

Cat Among the Pigeons

Agatha Christie

A solid Poirot story that reads more like a Marple story.  By that I mean that Poirot doesn’t show up until near the end of the story and mostly just solves the mystery instead of doing any investigating.  This involves intrigue and murder at a girl’s school, as well as Middle Eastern royalty.  A Middle East King, facing revolution, entrusts some gems to a British friend, who hides them among his visiting sister and her daughter’s possessions. When she gets back to school, things take a murderous turn

It works. The two halves don’t quite fit together, and part of the eventual solution seemed come out of nowhere.  I really prefer when the detective is a more active part of the story. The mystery here is fine, but the solving doesn’t quite live up to it.  It is kind of great how the Christie tells you exactly what is going on, yet it is still hard to pinpoint the villain. This one is not a favorite, but it is solid enough.

Passenger to Frankfurt

Agatha Christie

I’ve read some Christie that I thought was not great or was actually rather weak, but until this book I don’t think I’d encountered any of her books that I would call downright bad.  Passenger to Frankfurt, though, is downright bad.  It is strangely formless and scattered, with a lot of grand, if maybe poorly considered, ideas strewn about a plot that makes even the most convoluted and stupid Bond movies look downright intelligible.

Ostensibly, Passenger to Frankfurt is about Stafford Nye, a British foreign official who gets caught up in some international intrigue and espionage.  For the first half that is exactly what happens.  He meets a mysterious woman, he tracks her down again and learns of an important mission, and they head off to exotic locals to prevent disaster.  I guess, anyway.  A little past the midpoint, Nye all but disappears from the book as it becomes a much more general look at a plot to cause anarchy and overthrow Western governments.  There are threads about fake sons of Hitler and lobotomizing super drugs. It is weird as hell and not especially coherent. It is a big miss.

What I Read in July 2017

July was another three book month, and all three were relatively short Agatha Christie books I picked up in a recent binge.  This time I have some excuse for my paltry reading efforts, though.  In the middle of July I made the decision to attend law school.  Well, I had been planning to go to law school for some time, I took the LSAT last March, but in July I decided which law school and that I would be going this fall.  So most of July was spent planning the move and getting ready for school.  That did not leave a lot of time for reading. I am going to guess that the next three years are not going to afford me a lot of time for recreational reading, though there is no chance I stop entirely.  For now, I’ve still got some Agatha Christie that I haven’t finished, and for July I have three of hers that I read.

So Many Steps to Death

Agatha Christie

This is a strange one.  It is kind of a spy thriller, like a Bond book. Only instead of a hyper competent spy at the middle of it, this stars a woman who just so happens to look quite a bit like the wife of a suspected Communist defector who died in an accident.  So she is recruited to take that woman’s place as she goes to meet up with her husband.

It gets into some fully crazy territory, with a secret villain lair hidden as a leper colony and faked plane crashes to cover people’s tracks.  I don’t know that I would call it particularly good.  It is like one of the more ridiculous Bond movies in its plotting, but it moves at a fast enough clip that I ended up enjoying it quite a bit.

Five Little Pigs

Agatha Christie

This is a fun one.  16 years after her mother was convicted of murdering her father, Carla goes to Poirot to ask him to investigate what really happened, since her mother sent her a letter from prison saying that she didn’t do it.  Intrigued, Poirot sets out to investigate the other guests at the house at the time of the murder, uncovering the sordid affairs of all involved.

This is among my favorite of Poirot’s outings.  It sets up a perfectly limited group of suspects and does something of a Rashomon with them, (this book predates Rashomon) letting everyone tell their versions of the story and uncovering lies and reasons for lies with the conflicting takes. When it gets to the end and all is clear, it is just about as satisfying a mystery as I have read. This is a good one.

Sad Cypress

Agatha Christie

Another very good one.  This one does not hide its culprit especially well, but it does hide the motive.  There were only three people there when one of them was murdered; one of the other two is almost certainly the murderer.  And the book gives ample reason to believe that the accused is responsible, though since Poirot is investigating on her behalf it is almost certain that she is not.  So you turn to the other possible suspect, and there is no reason at all to suspect her.  This in a mystery is suspicious in and of itself.

This is one that seems more about the characters than the plot; at least as far Poirot mysteries are concerned.  It gives more intimate details of the lives of it primary characters.  Lots of details that are not primarily related to the case. With the ticking clock of the impending trial as a backdrop, you really feel for some of these characters.  It is really enjoyable.

Final Crisis

Grant Morrison, JG Jones, Doug Mahnke and Others

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but my excitement for the Justice League movie got me to pull the best Justice League vs Darkseid story.  Yeah, I said it, though I expect the movie to take more of its cues from the New 52 origin.  Final Crisis is a beautiful, wonderful mess.  I will write a full review of this book at some point, so I am saving deeper thoughts for that.

What I Read in June 2017

It was a tough month and I didn’t get nearly as much reading done as I would have liked. That is becoming a familiar refrain this year from me. I don’t know what it is, but I am just not getting my reading done. Part of that is how much time I’ve been spending on a few books, like my ill-fated attempt to read all of Dickens. I am going to admit here that I likely won’t get past Nicolas Nickleby this year. As much as I enjoy his novels, they don’t really make for marathon reading. They are too long to get more than one read. I should be catching up on my total for the year with the injection of Agatha Christie I’ve got coming. There was a big Kindle sale and I found a 5 book collection at a used book store, so I’ve got a lot of mystery goodness to get to this summer.

The Dark Monk

Oliver Potzsch

There is an enjoyable mystery/adventure story in here, but the way I read this book really hurt getting to it. First of all, I didn’t read it; I listened to it. It was my next audio book after finishing with the Bosch books I had. As I’ve said before, when you listen to an audio book you are hearing another person’s interpretation of the work. This is generally not a big a deal, but reading lines with the right inflection can turn a line sarcastic or joking when it isn’t necessarily written that way. On top of that, with The Dark Monk the book was also translated from German to English. That is another layer of interpretation, meaning that listening to this book in audio book form means that I was getting something two steps removed from what was originally written.

This book isn’t some great work of art that needs to be exactly the author’s vision to be enjoyed, it is a fun historical adventure, but it does give me a way to excuse some odd things in this book. For a book that seems to take a lot of care for historical accuracy, some of the word choices seem out of place. It is jarring when the dialogue doesn’t seem to match the setting. But that might not be the fault of the author, it might be the translator. Or it might have to do with how it was read. Problems like that crop up just often enough to hamper the experience, but they don’t get in the way of the story.

The story is breezy and enjoyable. This time Simon, Magdalena and Jakob look into a group of bandits terrorizing the countryside and following the trail of a hidden Templar treasure. They have to both avoid the bandits and members of a secret church organization who wants the treasure for themselves. They are joined by the aristocratic sister of a murdered priest, which starts to drive a wedge between Simon and Magdalena. Meanwhile, Jakob is purposefully distracted with torture and executions. It isn’t a perfect story, but it is pretty enjoyable.

A Caribbean Mystery

Agatha Christie

A Miss Marple mystery as she takes a vacation to the Caribbean and gets mixed up in a murder, as she is wont to do. I’ve read the sequel to this book already, though I didn’t realize it until about halfway through. Miss Marple is on vacation at a resort hotel that has several semi-permanent guests. One of them mentions a murder, but quickly shuts his mouth. The next morning he turns up dead of an apparent heart attack. Miss Marple suspects foul play, and that the foul play isn’t finished, but she needs help to uncover the plot before it claims too many lives.

It might just be the order I’ve read her books in, which is to say whatever order I happen across them, but lately I’ve noticed the Marple stories I’ve read have featured a much more active Marple than the first few. She is still one to let others do the footwork and bring her the information. Still, this isn’t one that has her swooping in at the end to solve a mystery that she barely seemed to be aware of before. It creates a compelling group of characters to explore as Marple and her allies sniff out the culprit. I liked it.

They Came to Baghdad

Agatha Christie

This is an odd one. It is kind of a spy novel featuring a protagonist who barely knows they are involved in any sort of intrigue. Victoria Jones flies to Baghdad on a whim after losing her job to follow a man she met one time. She is flighty, but also pretty quick on her feet lying her way through society. There a betrayed secret agent stumbles into her hotel room and dies. His handler employs her to help find who betrayed their man. She meets the man again and starts a relationship as she looks for murderer.

Victoria is a fun character. She is just silly enough to make things fun even as they turn deadly. She stumbles into and out of dangerous situations armed only with her quick wit. No real knowledge or intelligence, just an ability to read people and construct plausible lies. It really works even though the book isn’t exactly filled with surprises. I enjoyed it quite a bit in the end.

What I Read May 2017

Another four book month. I feel like I am falling off of my 60 book goal for the year. Hopefully I can get back on track over the next couple of months. I will be hard if I try to get back into some fantasy, since those books take so long to read. On the other hand, Amazon had a big Kindle sale on Agatha Christie and I picked up quite a few. This month is mostly mysteries, but I hope to have some variety next time around.

The Black Ice

Michael Connolly

The second Harry Bosch novel, The Black Ice follows Harry as he looks into the death of another cop.  His investigation takes him inside the drug trade and down to Mexico.  I read the first book in this series a couple of years ago and picked up the next couple during a Kindle sale, probably when a new season of Bosch was launching on Amazon Prime.  I’m glad I finally got around to reading them.  Or in this case listening to them.

The book is good.  I can’t think of anything truly outstanding about it, but I liked it well enough. It is a finely constructed mystery/thriller.  It starts with an apparent suicide and while Harry is put off investigating that, the John Doe murder case he is working keeps tying itself back into the first case.  And new bodies keep showing up.  Despite being put off by higher ups, Bosch keeps doggedly working the case, even when it takes him down to cartel territory in Mexico.  It is a pretty fun read.

The Concrete Blond

Michael Connolly

This third book proved just a little harder than the second for me to get into, even though once it gets going I think it is the superior book.  This time, Harry is on trial for a shooting he was involved with before the series started.

That trial is what put me off a little bit at the start.  It is hard to sympathize with the protagonist when he is acting indignant about being called to trial over shooting an unarmed man.  He contends that the man, who the police believe was a serial killer, made an aggressive move in the dark when Bosch attempted to apprehend him. As the book has set it up, Bosch made the right choice, but his anger at this even being questioned is really off putting.  Once it becomes clear that they either got the wrong man or there is a copycat, the anger kind of fades, but it still comes off as self-righteous.

Once the book gets into the meat of the investigation, though, it really picks up.  With Bosch concluding quickly that the killer must be someone who was close to the first investigation, it has some fun with him looking into other cops and associated people.  It really flies right along.

Murder at the Vicarage

Agatha Christie

I believe this is the first Miss Marple novel. It isn’t one of Christie’s best. I don’t mean to say it is bad or anything; it is a perfectly adequate mystery. An unlikeable Magistrate is killed and the local vicar teams up with the police, and eventually Miss Marple, to find the person responsible. This is one of those ones where the victim is so singularly unlikeable that it is easy to imagine almost any of the characters being responsible for offing him. His cheating wife, his flippant daughter, the wife’s lover or even the vicar himself. It also starts with a bang, since two characters immediately confess to the crime, though both of their confessions are pretty quickly proven false. An all, I stand by perfectly adequate. This is a finely executed mystery that lacks some spark that would make it truly great.

Triple Threat

Gwenda Bond

On one hand, I am sure I am not the target audience for this book.  It is a sci-fi tinged YA book about a teenage girl going on adventures in the near future, as well as her troubles with friends and boyfriend.  But, I am also kind of directly the target audience because that teenage girl happens to be Lois Lane, so I am already invested in her relationship with her boyfriend Clark and their shady rich friends Alex.  It is also jam packed with references to 90’s Superman characters.  Many a reader who has watched the excellent cartoon from that era would get, some that require a little deeper knowledge of the Man of Steel.

I loved the first two books in the series, but I think this might be the best one yet.  I hope it is not the last. It feels kind of like an ending.  Lois and Clark finally meet when his parents take him on a vacation to Metropolis.  They go to a baseball game, their families have dinner and they stop mad scientists from experimenting on teenage runaways.  It is kind of adorable.  Bond absolutely nails Lois Lane. She is smart and determined, but also reckless.  Even removed from Superman lore, it makes her an entertaining protagonist.  I enjoyed this book for its Superman trivia, but even without any knowledge of the character it is a fun book. It is a perfectly light, enjoyable read.  I can’t wait for more.