Another good month of reading! I spent most of the month feeling pretty slumpy, since it felt like I hadn’t finished a book in ages… but it turned out that that was just because I was reading so many different books at once, and it was really slowing down my progress. Finishing several long books within a few days of each other was pretty satisfying after that! 😳 In total, I managed to read 6 novels and 2 short stories in March – and in the process, I finally managed to finish an anthology that I’d been working my way through for about 2 years now! 😀 Success!
A Dark Horn Blowing by Dahlov Ipcar. An eerie, atmospheric fairytale about a woman who is lured from her home by a magic horn, and taken to Erland in order to nurse the evil Erl King’s sickly son. The story draws from various different folk tales, which make for an interesting and enjoyable mix, and the writing was very pleasant to read. The main draw of this book, though, is the characters. I wasn’t a huge fan of Nora’s early chapters, which were very slow, but once she regained her memories, I felt more of a connection with her, and she became a much more sympathetic character. Eelie, too, was hard to warm up to at first, spoilt and fussy, but he really grew as a character in the book’s second part. My favourite parts were the odd friendship that developed between Eelie and Owen, and the small glimpses we got of Eben’s perspective. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, but I wish there’d been more of it. So this is a very high three stars. (Just so you know. 😉 )Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell. An adorable short story (written for World Book Day) about queuing overnight to see the most recent Star Wars film. 🙂 Familiarity with Star Wars is recommended for this book, but probably not necessary, and there’s nothing even vaguely resembling a spoiler. I don’t have much else to say about this, since it was so short, but I’m always amazed by how well Rainbow Rowell is able to portray fan culture; everything in this story just felt incredible relatable, even though I’ve never been in an overnight queue…Young Zaphod Plays It Safe by Douglas Adams (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). A prequel novella to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which features Zaphod Beeblebrox before he was the President of the Galaxy. I found that I enjoyed re-familiarising myself with Adams’ humour, from which I’d been taking a long, much-needed break (I gave up at some point during the Hitchhiker’s series, simply because the overabundance of silliness was beginning to grate at my nerves), and what I read was both interesting, and amusing without being over the top. The plot, however, was quite unmemorable, with the exception of the ending – which was remarkable only because it didn’t really feel like an ending at all. Which brings me to the end of The Time Traveller’s Almanac Part I: Experiments, edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, which was a very mixed bag of stories; some brilliant, and others absolute rubbish. This book is definitely worth getting hold of (and I actually have the bind-up of all four parts myself) for die-hard fans of time travel fiction, but I very much doubt that there’s anyone who’ll be thrilled with every story in the collection (particularly, I sense, in the case of this first volume, which is much more eclectic – hence the title “Experiments” – than the others seem to be). My own personal favourites were Another Story OR A Fisherman of the Inland Sea by Ursula K. Le Guin, and Hwang’s Billion Brilliant Daughters by Alice Sola Kim. [For my individual ratings of each story, see my review on goodreads.]
The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips. A comic adventure with a backdrop of Arthurian mythology, following Sir Humphrey – once a Knight of the Round Table, but now relegated to the Table of Less Valued Knights – on a quirky, twist-filled quest to recover the kidnapped fiancé of a damsel in distress who shows up at Camelot a little too late to present her quest to a more prestigious knight. Also featuring: Elaine, the aforementioned (and secretive) damsel; Martha, a reluctant Queen and even more reluctant wife; Edwin, a delightfully incompetent villain; and Conrad, Humphrey’s half-giant squire. The plot was silly, but without going so far as to be ridiculous rather than humourous, and although it was slow to get started, it was ultimately quite satisfying. The real highlight, however, was in the character dynamics – in particular, I loved the relationship between Humphrey and Conrad, and later Martha as well.Homeroom Diaries by James Patterson & Lisa Papademetriou. The diary of a high school outcast who’s just been released from a psychiatric ward after being abandoned by her mother… This book evoked quite mixed feelings from me, but since it was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for March, you can read all about why in my mini-review! 😉The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett. The third book in the Demon Cycle, which I’ve been readalong-ing with Chloë. There was another prominent new POV character introduced in this book: Inevera, one of the more important side-characters from The Desert Spear… And I actually liked her (numerous) chapters a lot, though I still don’t like her as a character; Brett was able to explain a lot about why she is the way she is, without making me feel like I was being pushed to like her against my will (unlike Jardir’s chapters). This book was also a lot more consistently good than the last two, which were both awesome most of the time, but with significant bits that really bothered me. Which is not to say that this book was perfect, but I definitely feel like the series is getting better as it goes on.
The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe. The story of Severian, an apprentice in the Guild of Torturers, who finds himself in trouble with the Guild when he falls in love with one of their prisoners. This was… a strange book. I actually ended up liking it a lot, but there were a lot of things about it that bothered me as well: Wolfe’s made-up words were all over the place, and often quite confusing; the story was told in a very anecdotal way (particularly in the beginning), and often didn’t seem to be going anywhere; Severian’s views on love were particularly strange; and the book didn’t really have an ending at all – it just stopped. I’m definitely interested in reading more, but probably not too soon, as this one was quite tough to get through…
Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn. A steampunk adventure set in a fantasy world that’s inspired by India. The story follows Aniri, the third daughter of the Queen of Dharia, who – since she has little political influence – has always believed that she’ll be able to choose her own husband once she’s of age. As her birthday draws near, however, she is instead asked by her mother to accept the hand of Ash, the “barbarian” prince of Jungali, in order to prevent a war between the two countries. I went into this book expecting it to be a romance, and while there was definitely a strong romantic sub-plot, the actual bulk of this book dealt with Aniri’s attempts to discover the truth of Jungali’s mysterious weapon. The steampunk elements took me a little by surprise, as well, though – with the exception of the skyship – they were mostly relegated to the background, and not too noticeable… Overall, though, this was an incredibly fun story, and I really look forward to reading the rest of the series sometime soon. I’ve also written a full review of this book, which should be up in a few days (i.e. about a week late. ).