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08 September 2008 @ 04:44 pm
The Big Summer Read  
I challenged myself to write a one-sentence review of each book I read this summer. Being a chatty person, especially when it comes to talking about books, I failed. So, here are as-short-as-I-could-make-them reviews of all the books I read this summer. Anything that contains spoilers is behind a cut.

Found in the 'Young Adult' or 'Non-Adult' section/s

Before I Die by Jenny Downham is not a book to read when you're feeling depressed or miserable, because you already know the main character is going to die. It's even in the title. Why, then, I picked up this book to read on a happy summer holiday I may never know, but I'm glad that I did, because the writing is beautiful, particularly the descriptions, and the characters are fully realised and completely human.

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare just isn't as good as the first book in The Mortal Instruments trilogy, even if it was an okay read. One of the things I liked the best in City of Bones was the characters, from the gay warlock to the ever-so-normal Simon. I was expecting the main character, Clary, to grow into her powers as a Shadowhunter, but she becomes a unique, super-powerful Shadowhunter. Not to be outdone, her brother, Jace, develops his own unique, super-powers.
'But wait!' cries Simon, 'I shall become a vampire!'
'Well, I have even more angst than before!' says Jace.
'But wait!' cries Simon. 'I am now a super vampire who can survive in sunlight!' '
You wanna go off and snog random people in an attempt to be interesting?' Isabelle asks Alex, 'since clearly we cannot keep up with all this super-ness.'
That said, Clare still brings the originality with her outrageous warlock and his Aquatruck. 

Stravaganza: City of Secrets by Mary Hoffman spends too much time recapping the previous three books of the series and is weighed down by a huge amount of characters. Yes, I like knowing where the characters from the earlier stories ended up, but do we have to know about practically every single one of them and have whole sections of the book from their point of view? Just a few of them would have been far better, so that we could have had more of the wonderful descriptions of life in Hoffman's 16th century 'Talia'.

Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer is, like all the rest of the Artemis books, funny and clever, has wonderful technology and magic, and never treats young characters, or young audiences, condescendingly.

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong is set in the Otherworld verse, which previously has only been made up of 'adult books'. Some of the plot becomes less mysterious if you're already familiar with the verse, but Armstrong never has just one plotline and, regardless, this new view of the verse was interesting. Comes complete with wonderfully complex and realised characters.

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer was...far worse than I thought it would be. 'Thank God I got this one for free' was the first thing that came into my head when I'd finished it. I'm sure that plenty has been said by now about the whole disaster, so here's what I thought was GOOD about it:
Firstly, Leah Clearwater. She had character. A lot of character. And opinions of her own. I very much liked that the main reason she joined Jacob's 'pack' because it was the lesser of two evils rather than because she liked Jacob or wanted to be with her brother. I love that there was finally some mention of how awkward it must be to be the only female werewolf. I love that we finally had such a complex character who isn't likable but respectable.
Secondly, the fact that we had Jacob as a narrator for a third of the book was a blessed relief from having Bella and the chapter titles for his section made me smile a lot. However, I have to say that after having Bella as a narrator for everything else, randomly changing narrators seemed out of place and awkward, suddenly taking us away from the heart of the story and looking in from the outside. The flow would have been better if there had been a variety of narrators from the very beginning, and the series would have been a whole lot better too.
Finally, the potential for parody. Everyone was paired off, leaving the fanfic writers shipped off. There was a baby that glowed but wanted to be shiny. There was pillow biting. At the end of the day, whilst this self-indulgent splurge of Meyer's might be miles longer than Rowling's self-indulgent epilogue, I did laugh.
Found in the 'Adult' section/s

The Breaker (a crime novel) by Minette Walters is not Walters' best book, but the book started with two suspects and I still didn't figure out who dunnit until the very end...after I had been told!

The Scold's Bride (a crime novel) by Minette Walters IS, however, one of her best books. The plot, the mystery and, particularly, the originality of the characters were all brilliant.

Daddy's Little Girl (a crime novel) by Mary Higgins Clark was a disappointment. The mystery was intriguing enough and certainly suspenseful towards the end, but I couldn't help thinking that it could have been better written.

Deja Dead (a crime novel) by Kathy Reichs is the first book of the series that inspired the TV show Bones. The book is nothing like the TV show. Bones has more humour (and starts with more sexual tension, which perhaps there will be more of later in the book series), but the 'police system' in the book (without giving anything away) was much more interesting than the FBI angle of the TV show.

State of Fear (a crime/action/science novel) by Michael Crichton had scenes that were reminiscent of a movie blockbuster, but far more information, including referenced data, than any screenwriter would be able to include. Crichton assumes his audience is intelligence, which meant some parts were slow-going and for a while, at the beginning, I wasn't sure which characters I was supposed to be following, but I did enjoy it.

Dragonsdawn (a fantasy/science fiction novel) by Anne McCaffrey is a book written later on in the Pern series that goes back to the beginning, but whilst the filled in gaps and answered questions made me smile, it still holds it's own as a stand-alone novel. I already knew, long before the characters did, what 'threat' was on the way, but that actually amplified the sense of danger - I really wanted to yell at some of those poor characters for being ignorant of what was coming. *grins*

The Age of Innocence (a Pulitzer novel) by Edith Wharton has a basic plot of 'man waiting to marry woman gets interested in another woman', but the well-realised setting of New York and it's society during a changing period was cleverly written and the prose was wonderful. I especially liked: "He simply felt that if he could carry away the vision of the spot of earth she walked on, and the way the sky and sea enclosed it, the rest of the world might seem less empty."

Rereads included The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce, Small Gods by Terry Pratchett and several Sandman graphic novels by Neil Gaiman.
feeling: hungryhungry
Feather Quill: Miranda magazine redfeatherxquill on September 8th, 2008 05:26 pm (UTC)

Don't know if you know, but The Scold's Bridle was made into a telemovie featuring Miranda, Bob Peck and Sian Phillips. Go here to learn more, if you want.
inkvoices: F:kaylee shinyinkvoices on September 8th, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
I didn't, thank you! I'll definitely watch that when I have time, because I'd really like to see what they come up with for Jack's paintings. :o)
romanesca08 on September 8th, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC)
Heh, I read through City of Ashes/Bones and the one major thing that stuck out to me was the glaring plagiarism of her fanfic, which was really far more entertaining in so many different ways. That said, I'm probably still going to read City of Glass because I'm obsessive-compulsive enough to finish every series I start, no matter how horrible.

I really liked Dragonsdawn. It's probably my second fav Pern book behind "All the Weyrs of Pern." Have you read any of the newer books written by her son? I heard they weren't as good.
inkvoices: dragon_outofegginkvoices on September 8th, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC)
Exactly. Once I'd read Twilight I was doomed to read the rest, and City of Bones was the same. I just hope City of Glass is better than City of Ashes. (Heh, and any bets on future plot points? Myself, I'm thinking that Jace won't be Clary's brother after all so they can go goey over each other without the incest...which means the originality of the incest inclusion will go down the pan as well. Meh.)

I never read any of her fanfic, and I didn't actually realise that she'd been a fanfic writer until after I read her first book. :o/ I think that shows that however much I love the internet I still spend more time with books.

I loved All the Weyrs of Pern. That's one of my favourites too. :o) After reading the last book exclusively by Anne McCaffrey, All the Skies of Pern, I read Dragon's Kin and Dragon's Blood, which were definite let-downs, although, strangely enough, Kin, which is the collaborative was worse, in my opinion, than Blood, which was purely by her son. They were okay to read, but personally I got them out of the library rather than spending money on them.
romanesca08 on September 8th, 2008 06:00 pm (UTC)
If you want to read the fanfic, I have the PDFs still stored somewhere. They were apparently all the rage in the early days of the fandom, and she even managed to get a book deal cuz of her total BNF-ness.

As for the new Pern books, I got totally turned off when I read that her son turned up the Mary-Sue factor in one of the books to a rather unhealthy degree. And frankly, Anne's writing has never been all that spectacular imo. Her plots, characters, and the world that she created are what make the Pern books so wonderfully entertaining. Soooo if I want to read self-insertion fic then I'll stick with someone like Cecilia Dart-Thornton.
inkvoices: dragon_outofegginkvoices on September 8th, 2008 06:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the offer, but I really need to spend my fic-reaidng time catching up on Washathon and Weasleyfest. :o~ What's BNF-ness though?

And frankly, Anne's writing has never been all that spectacular imo. Her plots, characters, and the world that she created are what make the Pern books so wonderfully entertaining. I don't think she's a bad writer, but it is those things that make the Pern books so good. I've read a few of her other series and books, and the Pern books are better by far. In some of them she even gets too bogged down in techology, when with Pern the point is a lack of technology that makes the earlier books more fantasy almost. Perhaps with the technology out of the way she was forced to concentrate on other aspects with Pern?
romanesca08 on September 8th, 2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
Yeah, taking on the Draco Trilogy (between 800k-900k words) is probably going to be a bit much unless you have a lot of spare time.

BNF means Big Name Fan, and Cassandra Cla(i)re is the prototypical BNF.

Oh, and I agree that Anne is definitely not a bad writer. It's just not her writing that makes her books worth reading. With some writers, I'll slog through pages and pages of mush simply because the writing itself is just so damn good.

I've never read any of her other books. I leafed through the beginning of one about a unicorn-girl I think, and didn't really feel like reading the rest of it.
inkvoices: girl readinginkvoices on September 8th, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC)
800k-900k? *whistles* That one, I think, is a fic for a rainy day.

For me, even if the writing is brilliant, the characters have to be interesting, but I see what you mean. Yes, it's her imagination rather than her style that grabs the attention.

Acorna? I've not read that one. The Catteni Sequence is quite good - another 'colonising a strange world' premise, but with mixed races being dumped on a strange planet by slavers, and then how tehy get along and manage together, plus a bit of mystery about the plant. The Crystal Singer and Talent series are okay, but not quite as good, and then I only read the first book of the Tower and the Hive sequence and just wasn't interested in the rest. Her short story collections are fun though. :o)
sugar_fey: night skysugar_fey on September 8th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC)
Ah, I see you read The Age of Innocence! I agree, the plot is a simple, common premise, but the prose makes the book. My favourite quote is "belated eloquence of the inarticulate". I don't know why exactly, but the rhythm and flow of that line is gorgeous.

Did you like the characters? I like Ellen, but towards the end I found myself really feeling sorry for May, who I suspect was smarter than Newland realised. Newland started out as a self-indulgent fop, but he redeemed himself in my eyes towards the middle.
inkvoices: verbose/rambleinkvoices on September 10th, 2008 06:57 pm (UTC)
Yes! Sooner or later I read everything that goes on my 'to read' list...sooner if it's available in the library ;o)

The plot wasn't complex and there was more deliberation of action by the characters rather than actions taken, but the phrasing and language use itself was wonderful. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of 'old-fashioned' language or 'classics' - I can't read Charles Dickens and Austen's punctuation sometimes makes me squirm - but I loved the langauge of the author, the mannerism of her writing.

If you're asking if I liked them personally, as people, I really liked old Catherine - Mrs Manson Mingott. Both her chracter, an such an eccentric that fits so well into the society, her speech, and the descriptions of her. Because she was just, well, such a character. *grins* A real battle-axe of an old woman that I wouldn't have minded meeting in the slightest.

Ellen, I think, never quite stood up for herself enough for me, but as a written character she was an interesting blend of experience and inexperience within the society we view her in, having experienced a broader world than them but often stupid about their small little patch of it. She seemed gloriously unmanipulative for being 'the other woman' though - I loved Newland's observation at the end that everyone thought they'd had an affair when they'd both been so honorable about not having one!

As for May, I think she was a hell of a lot more manipulative than she comes across, since we do, after all, only see her through Newland. He calls her so innocent whilst at the same time stating that she's a product of the society she comes from - which teaches manipulation - and whilst Ellen's innocence of that society is one of the thing's seemingly drawing him to her. May gave Newland an opportunity to back out of the marriage before it went ahead, so she would come out of that mess as the 'good guy' if Newland had walked away, but if she had let him go after the marriage was sealed then she would have looked stupid for not being able to keep hold of her husband, much the same way as Ellen is looked down on for not staying with her husband, so she damn well makes sure Newland won't leave. She even tells Ellen that she's pregnant before she's sure of the fact to try and make Ellen back away!

Newland himself grows. I liked him the most at the very end, the last few pages themselves, but I couldn't tell you why, only that at that point he was someone I would have liked to meet.
sugar_fey: coffee spoonssugar_fey on September 13th, 2008 01:23 am (UTC)
I agree that May is far more manipulative than Newland realises, but I did sympathise with her situation. She thinks her husband has been having an affair (which, given Newland's behaviour, seems likely from May's perspective), and in her role as the 'loving wife' she's supposed to merely ignore it, which must be rough. She seems as much stuck in the loveless marriage as Newland is, and so manipulation is the only thing she has in her defence when it comes to keeping her situation. Can you imagine May's fate if Newland had left her? So yeah, she's a bit of a bitch, but I understand why.

I also liked how Ellen refused adamantly to be 'the other woman', and how she basically gave a big 'screw you!' to the constricting rules of a society she could never really be a part of.
inkvoices: girl readinginkvoices on September 13th, 2008 09:37 pm (UTC)
I don't know if I can sympathise with May, perhaps because she comes across as a damp cloth before they get married, but I liked it when I realised she was actually/could actually be a bitch. It seemed to give her more personality.

And yes! Ellen just didn't ever go with the flow, did she?