I finally got back into a regular reading habit this month so I hope I can maintain it through April during Camp NaNoWriMo. Whilst my reading speed still feels very slow compared to how it used to be, I am getting faster. If that upwards trend continues I’ll be happy even if it’s still slower than I’d like.
This month I finished 3 fiction and 4 non-fiction ebooks, and 1 fiction audio book. I reread 5 non-fiction ebooks and could not finish 1 fiction ebook. Check out the non-fiction in Part 2.
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Night Watch (abridged) by Terry Pratchett, read by Tony Robinson
I really love Tony Robinson’s readings of the Discworld series. I have a soft spot for Stephen Briggs too but he reads the unabridged versions. Since I spend so little time listening to audio, and it’s often in short bursts, it takes too long for me to finish the full versions. I wouldn’t listen to abridged versions of anything I didn’t know well, but I’ve read the Discworld books so many times that I make an exception.
A lot of who I am – my hobbies, my politics, my friends – trace back to my step-father buying me Hogfather for Christmas when I was 10. Night Watch is one of Terry’s best. For a long time I called it my favourite but since his death I have a hard time limiting myself to just one.
Knowing there will be no more Discworld books, I find I have different categories of favourite: for character development, for concept, for jokes, for real world commentary. Every time I reread one it becomes another sort of favourite.
Night Watch has an exciting, well-paced suspense plot and Pratchett’s trademark cynical optimism takes apart a revolution. It’s my favourite.
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Considering urban fantasy is my primary reading genre, it shouldn’t have taken till now for me to start Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series. And it’s entirely because I thought I’d already read (and disliked) it. I’m pretty sure I thought it was Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, which I couldn’t finish, or at least the same sort of book.
They both have protagonists who are rather unique – Mercy is the only coyote raised by wolves and Elena, from Bitten, is the only female werewolf. Both have very patriarchal packs that consider a woman’s role as subservient and whilst they acknowledge it, I’m still bored of that trope. That’s not to say tropes are bad. I read urban fantasy for the tropes, but some of them are just tedious.
Whilst I couldn’t get through Bitten, I finished Moon Called the day I started which is unusual for me now. The good pacing helped but the big thing was that it just didn’t have those WTF immersion breaking moments that so many urban fantasy novels do.
I did feel weird about one thing though: Mercy is part Native American but wholly disconnected from her culture despite her ability being rooted in that heritage. It feels like appropriating the cool bits but not representing the culture you’re mining for gold. I hope that later books might do something about this but I won’t hold my breath.
Dead Spots by Melissa F. Olson (Did Not Finish)
I struggled through this for a while but ultimately I couldn’t stay immersed and gave up. It’s got quite a few good reviews so clearly some people love it. Presumably there’s a great story to discover but I just couldn’t read any longer.
The most jarring issue I had was the info dumping. I want to discover the differences between our world and the one the writer has created but paragraphs of exposition completely break the immersion for me.
It wasn’t just big blocks of info dumping either, there were quite a few conversations that made for tough reading as they went back and forth.
“There’s a pack?” He was already beginning to sound dazed.
“Yes. Our pack is small in proportion to the city’s population, but this isn’t the most werewolf-friendly town, as you might imagine. Better than New York, though.”
“Okay…I’m assuming if werewolves are real, there’s other stuff, too.”
“Yeah,” I said.
“How does it all work?”
“Dude, I don’t know. It just does.”
His voice was skeptical. “Please don’t make me threaten you again. It’s just kind of tacky.”
This exchange goes on to explain how the supernatural evolved in the world. It’s all telling, no showing and it’s one of several such conversations between the protagonist, Scarlett, and Officer Cruz.
I also had to shift gear to adjust my mental reading voice every chapter because Scarlett and Cruz take turns as the point of view character. Swapping between people doesn’t usually bother me, A Song of Ice and Fire is a favourite of mine, so I think my real issue was that Scarlett is written in first person and Cruz in third.
But I finally threw in the towel when Scarlett said, “I’m all for feminism, but there’s something primal and comforting about being engulfed by someone bigger than you.” I hate it when people name drop feminism on completely irrelevant ‘issues’.
Stone Cold Magic by Jayne Faith
The stakes were raised but they were never raised enough to be a real concern. There was very little tension until the final fight and even then I never felt anyone was actually in danger of ending up dead.
I’m also wondering if some of the key scenes – plot points, pinch points – were not where they should be. Even readers who don’t write will develop an awareness of structure, as I cover in my review of Story Engineering. I feel like there was something going wrong with the pacing here that could be attributed to structural issues.
It was an interesting enough story so I kept at it but I was only able to read a few chapters at a time and I rarely had difficulty putting it down. I’ll likely give the next book in the series a try to see if the author hits her stride because there was definitely something to like here.
What did you read this month? Any recommendations for my to-read pile?