Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book Log 2011

My Book Log comprises books I've read for pleasure that year. I've been keeping it with various success for four year now and I hope to include some more substantial reviews in this blog in 2012.

It looks rather pathetic compared to the lists of other people out there but then I don't spend my every waking minute reading - computer games eat decidedly too much of my free time ;)

The format has been optimised for LJ/DW. I'll have to figure out a better way for Blogger, but for now just a straight copy.

Book Log 2011

[fantasy, childrens] 1. C.S. Lewis - The Silver Chair - rather boring on the whole. That's one book in the series that never gripped me.
[fantasy, childrens] 2. C.S. Lewis - The Last Battle - drags a little & has a more simplistic plot than the others, very limited by the choice of location. Religious motives somewhat less annoying than remembered, but on the whole make the book much more boring than it could have been.

[fantasy] 3. Jacqueline Carey - Kushiel's Chosen - audiobook, Anne Flosnik still has a very emotional voice that turns whiny occasionally or sounds like she's trying much too hard to portray emotions. Which isn't bad in itself, but she's taking it too far I. The book itself has a somewhat too predictable plot and a bit too much repetition of the previous book. I like to see the world expanded somewhat and see how the historical changes whose effect we previously saw on only three countries influenced larger parts of Europe & beyond. Language is still too wordy and too flowery on occasion and together with the over-use of repetition and foreshadowing too cumbersome to be really enjoyable.

[fantasy] 4. Jacqueline Carey - Kushiel's Avatar &; audiobook, mostly same strength and weaknesses as the previous two. This time there seemed to be more 'gore' just for its own sake, I saw relatively little character progression through it. Some of the historical & cultural premises of the second part of the plot (lost tribe of Israel, etc) was taken a bit too far for my suspense of disbelieve, on the whole satisfying conclusion however.

[modern, WWI, american] 5. Michael Chabon - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay & beautiful, clever, lovely, sad, happy, amazing book. Loved it very much, loved the focus on art and the codification of visual art in language.

[fantasy] 6. Robert Jordan - The Eye of the World - Audiobook, read by Kate Reading, and Michael Kramer - interesting, but oddly unfulfilling despite the length. I have the feeling I didn't understand half of the book because the motivations of most characters lacked transparency (though thinking more on it, they seemed to be so flat and simple as to be non-existent) and crucial world building details were used without explanation (or with explanation that was so cryptic as to make little sense). I decided I'll try to read the book as if I didn't know that there are a dozen sequels and I could find every little detail explained in a wiki and stood on its own like that, the plot and the characters (some of which were occasionally very grating in their one-sidedness) didn't convince entirely. The writing however was very gripping, and I'm willing to give the next book a chance...

[crime] 7. Tana French - In the Woods - Good, but not excellent, resolution somewhat unconvincing, a bit too wordy occasionally, very slow pace but doesn't get boring most of the time.
[crime] 8. Tana French - The Likeness - audio, read by Heather O'Neill (excellent) - good, unlikely premise, great atmosphere, slow pace
[crime] 9. Tana French - The Likeness - audio, read by Tim Gerard Reynolds (very good, though started out somewhat bland.) - pending notes - (very good, more family drama/character study than mystery/crime - crime very predictable, less police procedure than last two - dialogue thing of beauty - a tiny bit too long in places)

[fantasy] 10. Brandon Sanderson - The Final Empire
[fantasy] 11. Brandon Sanderson - The Well of Ascension
[fantasy] 12. Brandon Sanderson - The Hero of Ages Mistborn Trilogy, supposed to be the first of three set in that world, but what with the author's piles of other projects, I'm not holding my breath. Audiobook read by Michael Kramer - very nice reading, though could have been a bit faster in places. Read part of the last book in print, to speed things up. I think I'd recommend this series in print because the slow reading pace aggravates the books' biggest flaw - sluggish pace & endless naval-gazing of the PoV characters. Second book was the worst offender in this regard, with very little plot to carry the story. On the whole however, I did like the series very much. I thoroughly enjoyed the worldbuilding and the magic system, as well as the progression of the plot, with small clues strewn in from the earliest chapters. There was little new in the characters but I didn't think it was a necessarily bad thing in this case, the familiarity allowed me to pay more attention to the world and explore its details more than I'd have had if I'd been caught up in the minds of characters. I did find it interesting however that, while the first book started out with the entirely conventional fantasy hero - female in this case, which is what had drawn me in the first place, in the second and third books the old hero role was kind of split on two of the main characters, which unfortunately resulted in double the wallowing in self-doubt a hero must traditionally go through. I did like it on the whole and read all three books back to back.

[mystery, WWII] 13. Michael Chabon - The Final Solution - pretty short novella, enjoyable but nothing special. The prose somewhat inconsistent - occasionally fluent and evocative, at other times drowning in superfluous metaphor and allusions. The last part was rushed, the resolution seemed somewhat pointless. Not a keeper.

[fantasy, romance] 14. Maria V. Snyder - Poison Study - audiobooks, read by Gabra Zackman. Reading pretty good, I liked Zackman's voice and enunciation but occasionally it was a bit too rushed and pauses (presumably paragraph breaks) weren't used to full effect or at all. Prose was simple and not too over-the-top, but the dialogue had some very week spots.Characters were a bit simplistic and their development, if it happened at all was a bit forced. Plot was also not overly deep, but just complex enough to keep me interested and listening. It would have been much better if spread over more books, with more room given to the political intrigue and the worldbuilding, which remained very superficial with extremely intriguing glimpses that promised more but never delivered. On the whole enjoyable, and showed a lot of potential , but in the end not very memorable and didn't make me want to read the next two in the series. (Author's debut, so it might be worth watching future novels to see if she grows into it.)

[mystery, historical] 15. James MCGee - Resurrectionist - audiobook read by Andrew Wincott, didn't like the reader, they way he emphasized some words/sentences was odd. Didn't like the way he read Hawkwood either, made him unsympathetic. Might have been the reason I couldn't connect to the protagonist, he remained distant and somehow too emotionally uninvolved. However, I liked the book on the whole, it was fast paced, and though not terribly original engaging enough. It's the 2nd in a series, but that didn't matter too much, as with many mysteries it can stand alone. I found it interesting however that the London evoked did not translate as Regency to me. It was almost Hogarthian in its grotesqueness. (Which isn't bad, as I like mid-18th century more than early 19th.) Will definitely have to try the other books in the series, though in print, unless I find a different reader.

[fantasy] 16. Kristen Britain - The Green Rider
[fantasy] 17. Kristen Britain - First Rider's Call
[fantasy] 18. Kristen Britain - The High King's Tomb - Audiobooks read by Annie Wauters /Paperback - good reading, but print probably better because audio makes the writing's shortcoming stand out more. Some rather tolkienesque world building/plot. Writing okay, sometimes too much exposition, character development sometimes explained rather than shown, but not overly grating. Fantasy-for-all-ages type of book. On the whole pretty enjoyable, familiar & comfortable fantasy - nothing new, but likable anyway. Will definitely keep up with the series.

[historical fantasy] 18. Jo Walton - Tooth and Claw - enjoyable & clever combination of austenesque comedy with fantasy. Prose occasionally shaky / too ambitious.

[historical, 18th cent.] 19. Barbara Ewing - The Fraud - read by Ruth Sillers. - engrossing read. Partly over the top and somewhat historically faulty in terms of a woman's position in the 18th century but ultimately very satisfying. Bit too many repetitions in the narrator's internal monologues.

[mystery, historical, victorian] 20. Deanna Raybourn - Silent in the Grave - good, bit light, meh about the conclusion

[classic] 21. Jane Austen - Mansfield Park - ♥
[classic] 22. Jane Austen - Emma - ♥

[urban fantasy] 23. Sergei Lukyanenko - Night Watch - good (following books are just repetitions of this one)

[fantasy] 24. George R.R.Martin - A Game of Thrones
[fantasy] 25. George R.R.Martin- A Clash of Kings
[fantasy] 26. George R.R.Martin- A Storm of Swords
[fantasy] 27. George R.R.Martin- A Fest For Crows
[fantasy] 28. George R.R.Martin- A Dance With Dragons

[historical, YA] 29. Hannah Tinti - The Good Thief - okay, too simplistic with an unconvincing plot.

[mystery, historical, 17th cent.] 30. Susanna Gregory - A Conspiracy of Violence (Chaloner books 1) - okay/good

[urban fantasy] 31. Kevin Hearne - Hounded - very good, light reading.

[historical, 18th cent., mystery] 32. Andrew Taylor - The Anatomy of Ghosts - great. Incredibly atmospheric. Historically authentic voice. ♥

[historical, 18th cent] 33. Karleen Koen - Through a Glass Darkly - great (except for the homophobic plot elemts)

[historical, WWII] 34. Sarah Waters - The Night Watch - good, bit boring but very well written

[fantasy, YA] 35. Kathleen Duey - Skin Hunger - very good (for a dark YA book)

[historical, WWI] 36. Kate Morton - The House at Riverton - great (if somewhat fluffy)

[crime] 37. Simon Beckett -The Chemistry of Death - very good

[historical, adventure] 38. Michael Chabon - Gentlemen of the Road - great, ♥ Also, illustrations!

[historical, victorian] 39. Michael Faber - The Crimson Petal and the White - okay. Very long winded without a gripping plot. Conclusion unsatisfactory.

[historical, 17th cent., german] 40. Tom Finnek - Unter der Asche - good. Enjoyable and forgettable.

[historical, 18th cent., german] 41. Wolfram Fleischhauer - Das Buch in dem die Welt verschwand - poor. Started good, ended as an unconvincing mess

[psychological thriller] 42. Emma Donoghue - Room - great (if a bit light in the end, considering the topic)

Rating System:
poor - did not like
okay - wasn't for me but others might love it
good - enjoyed it, worth reading, but nothing unique
very good - enjoyed it a lot and definitely recommend it
great - excellent read, loved it, stands out from the mass for me.

Did Not Finish:

[historical] Philippa Gregory - Wideacre - about 3 hours of audiobook, read by Jilly Bond. Reading was lovely, writing not bad at all and the plot sounded promising - women right's, 18th century, what's not to love? But then she started with the brother of the heroine apparently being brainwashed into masochism by school bullies and turning from an angry, self assured lordling, lording it over a servant to a submissive mindless baby crawling at the servant's feet as if a switch was turned... yeah. No. That ain't how BDSM works, Gregory. Seeing as I don't feel like reading idiotic portrayals of BDSM characters, I dropped the book like hot coals there and then.

[crime, mystery] Elly Griffiths - The Crossing Places - 20 minutes of audiobook - main character seems incredibly boring and shallow, present tense annoying, too 'simple', too much explanation of common knowledge stuff, odd & out of place religious comments.
[fantasy] Robert Jordan - The Great Hunt - about a third of the audiobook, book two of WoT, sluggish pace, flat cardboard characters who aren't only stereotypical but incredibly dense, which makes their plot-driving actions entirely unbelievable. Not that there is much of the plot that might be driven. Waste of Time IMO.

[SciFi, dystopia, YA] Patrick Ness – The Knife of Never Letting Go – about an hour of audiobook read by Nick Podehl. Same as with ‘The Name of the Wind’. I can’t stand Podehl’s whiny teenageresque voice and find his US accent (though fitting in terms of this book) unbearable in the context of an audiobook. It’s too drawling, too exaggerated for me to listen to. I don’t mind most USian accents when spoken normally, but in the relatively slow and enunciated reading of a book I find it grating. Still, interesting premise, written in present tense, which I didn’t consciously notice at first, but was likely the reason I was uncomfortable with the prose. Also, distinctly USian flavour of religious themes, which I’m decidedly not in the mood for.

[urban fantasy] Sergey Lukyanenko - Day Watch - doesn't bring anything new after the first and goes the way of paranormal romance in parts.

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