Reading Recap–March 2014 (15 total)

march2014recap

Welcome to the monthly reading recap. At least, I hope it will be monthly. My track record this year isn’t that great, but I’m working on it!

March felt a little slow in terms of reading, but that could very well be because I was reading massive books that simply refused to end. This, naturally, made it impossible to get on to other, often better, things. For that matter, I’ve been reading a lot of excessively long epic fantasy books. If I don’t stop, I suspect that reading fatigue will set in soon. I should probably pad my epic fantasy with some mindless urban fantasy or TV tie-ins, but how can I do that when I’ve got Scott Lynch’s Republic of Thieves, Patrick Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear, the rest of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, Gail Z. Martin’s The Summoner, and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana staring me in the face every day after work? Not to mention all of the long science fiction novels I want to get to, and The Count of Monte Cristo, which is laughing at me over the fact that I’ve been reading it since 2011 and I only have one novel’s worth of pages left to finish.

What’s a reader to do?

Get it done, that’s what, starting with the library books (after which I’ll put away my library card, even though I really want to read Spiral by Koji Suzuki, because, seriously, nearly a thousand unread books at home isn’t enough?) and moving on to whatever jumps in my hand first. Which might be a chocolate bar, actually, but I tend to polish those off pretty quickly.

In any case, here’s my reading recap for March 2014:

FANTASY

One of the first things I read in March was The Final Empire, book one of the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson.

Generally speaking, I liked this book very much, but it didn’t WOW me like I was expecting to be wow’d based on pretty much everyone’s opinions ever. To be perfectly honest, it was pretty predictable. I called Kelsier’s major move long before he made it. I’d had suspicions about the Lord Ruler’s identity and the source of his powers since early in the book, and the first time I actually “saw” him, I knew for sure that I was right. The only person I was on the fence about the entire time was Elend, and the only person who surprised me in the end was Marsh.

This is not to say that predictable equals bad. Mostly it means I’ve read so much fantasy that it’s actually more difficult not to figure it out in advance. Alas, that’s my own problem, but it makes for less than satisfactory reading. The characters in this book were pretty interesting, though, even if they did spend a lot of time making plans rather than actually acting on their plans.

One thing I’ll say about Brandon Sanderson–the man knows how to create an interesting magical system. And apparently he just has these things stored away in his head. His novella, The Emperor’s Soul, had a pretty amazing magical system as well. His creativity in these matters is impressive, and I would shake his hand over that alone.

Also on the fantasy front in March was A Dance with Dragons, book 5 of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin.

I kid you not–nothing happened in this book. I hate to say it, but absolutely nothing of consequence happened. There was a lot of traveling by boat, and traveling by horse, and traveling and traveling, and drinking and traveling. But nothing really happened. Although a lot of bad decisions were made in Mereen. I mean, my god, Daenerys, I know you’re not even twenty yet, but why do you even have advisors if you’re not going to take their advice? And now you’re probably dying of the flux out in the middle of a grassy nowhere. Good job, girl. Good job.

Tyrion. Screw your head on straight. You’re so much more interesting than anything you managed to do (or not do) in this entire book. I was severely disappointed.

I want to say something really snarky about John Snow, but I can’t. The fact is, the poor guy is trying to convince a bunch of brick walls to walk on water. It’s impossible. I know people just like that, too, so I can hardly take it out on John.

This book needed Littlefinger like whoa. Or maybe I should have turned on Black Butler and watched some Lau. Because they’re basically the same person.

Oh, hey, a bunch of people get killed and/or attacked in the last three to four chapters of this book. Because that’s a great time for things to actually start happening. Excellent timing.

SCIENCE FICTION

I only read one science fiction novel last month, and that would be Farside by Ben Bova.

Umm . . . I’ve already posted an entire review about this book. An extremely snarky, flippant review that will leave no question about how much I did not enjoy this. And from what I can tell, this is the sum of Ben Bova’s style, so I’d be well served by never picking up another one of his books again. Sad, but true.

MANGA

I went through several manga last month, the first of which was Blue Exorcist, volume 11 by Kazue Kato. While this volume wasn’t the most interesting of the series, it was still fun. Personally, I don’t really like Angel’s character–mostly due to his ass-hattery in the TV-series–but I found him pretty hilarious in this book. His vanity knows no bounds.


Following that, I read volumes from two different LGBT series, the first of which is a straight-up yaoi series: Embracing Love, volumes 1-4 (omnibus volumes 1 and 2) by Youka Nitta. This series follows the developing relationship between two actors who, originally, were part of the adult film industry. A chance casting in the same TV series (after both auditioned for the movie version of the series at the beginning of volume 1) lands them in the role of . . . male lovers who end up together because they’re both part of the adult film industry. Which they quickly turn into their real life, because apparently Youka Nitta has a sense of humor like that.

I really liked Embracing Love. The two characters were fun both separate and together. The story takes them through the obstacles of their profession as well as personal obstacles. Frankly, it’s adorable if you’re into yaoi romance. But, of course, per the genre, this manga is sexually graphic. So don’t pick it up thinking it’s “safe” as such.

Apparently there are more volumes to this series. I’ll have to wait and find out when SuBLime is putting them out. The second omnibus volume only just released in March.

Second on the LGBT manga list is What Did You Eat Yesterday?, volume 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga. This is a different kind of manga for me. It’s not really yaoi so much a cooking manga framed by a slice-of-life story about a gay couple.

On one hand you’ve got the extremely stoic Shiro who’s a lawyer with a cooking and budgeting obsession, and on the other you’ve got Kenji, a slightly more flamboyant hairdresser who can be very emotional. Now, this manga is partly about their lives, but it’s really about the food Shiro cooks. So much that you could pretty much make any of the food items in the book based on the very detailed scenes of Shiro cooking it. I mean, hey–I’m of half a mind to go out and make some strawberry jam, because it just looked so easy, and I usually hate cooking.

Whether or not you like this manga will depend on your focus. Want to a read a cooking manga? Check. It’s for you. Want to read about the characters’ relationships? Well…it’s not really the focus of the story. Yes, you get some relationship drama, but it’s a backdrop for the cooking. Mind you, I’m only talking about volume 1, and there are at least five more volumes, so we may yet get a little more character development. Trust me, I’d love to see Shiro become a little warmer toward Kenji (because he can be very insensitive and mean). And, also, I like his little housewife friend who teaches him how to make low-budget meals, so I’d like to see more of her. Also, I’d love a friend like that.

Incidentally, Fumi Yoshinaga is the mangaka of Antique Bakery and Ooku, which are two other manga that I really enjoy. She’s wonderful in general. Honestly, she’s like the opposite of Kaoru Yuki. And I thank her.

 NONFICTION

Because I love art books, I’m always in the market to buy or borrow a new one. This month it was Dawn: The Worlds of Final Fantasy by Yoshitaka Amano.

There are absolutely no words in this book. It is simply a cornucopia of beautiful for people who love Yoshitaka Amano. Bless my library for actually having a copy, because I got to spend two weeks browsing through this art repeatedly. I love this artist beyond my ability to express. He was a motivating factor during my years at art school, and continues to inspire me even though I now work in the realm of words instead of art. And that’s okay. I don’t mind.

GRAPHIC NOVELS

There are quite a few graphic novels on my March recap. Let’s start with Lazarus, volume 1 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark.

I first saw this book at Barnes and Noble when I had a 20%-off coupon burning a hole in my pocket (this is how I discover most graphic novels). I didn’t buy it that day, but I did find out my library had a copy. Geez, I have a great library. (Thank you, Hamilton County. If I can’t find friends in Ohio, I might as well find books!)

I really enjoyed both the story and the artwork of this graphic novel. It’s a post-apocalyptic world where a few “families” have a lot of power, and they make deals or war depending on the feelings between members at any given time. Each family has a Lazarus, which is a fighter who can come back from death. Not a lot of detail has gone into explaining how the Lazarus came to be or what the technology behind them is, exactly, but I expect they’ll go more into that in future volumes (the second volume is due out in June 2014).

As far as the artwork goes, it’s dark and tends toward neutrals (fitting for the setting), and it has that brushwork quality that I always enjoy. I’ll be checking out the second volume when it releases, so more on this title after I get a little further into the story.

Locke and Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez is a graphic novel series that’s been getting a lot of press via blogs and, especially, YouTube. I finally decided that I had to read it and, lo and behold, again with the awesome library. In March, I read volumes 1 through 3, and I have to say–it’s pretty good stuff. Hill has created a really interesting lore around Keyhouse and the family that has lived there for generations. His bad guy is awesome because of his ruthlessness, but also tragic because he wasn’t always like that. I suspect this series will work for most graphic novel enthusiasts, as well as for fans of Joe Hill. It’s got his trademarks all over it.

In terms of the art, I wasn’t into it at first, but it’s grown on me over the course of the series. It certainly fits the story and the characters, but whether or not you like it will depend on your own personal tastes. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

Word of warning: Graphic violence and creep factor in this series. Just keep that in mind before you buy it for your ten year old or something. Kids on the cover doesn’t mean kids should be reading it.

And, finally, the last graphic novel I read in March is part my favorite graphic novel series in years: Saga, volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. I’ve been pretty wrapped up in Saga since I tried the first volume back in 2013. Part of me rues the fact that I haven’t hunted down any comic book stores in Cincinnati. If I had, I might have been reading this series per issue instead of per bind-up volume. But no matter how you package it, I still love Saga.

Volume 3 is just as gorgeous as volumes 1 and 2, and the events are no less heartbreaking. There’s injury and death, love and loss, Nolan and Jack.

Wait, what?

Yeah, the reporters in this volume reminded me of Nolan Ross and Jack Porter from Revenge. I dunno. It works for me.

But before I wrap up on the graphic novels, I have to take a moment to be a fangirl for Fiona Staples. Her art is gorgeous. It’s colorful, dynamic, vibrant and technically lovely as well. I will happily look at any art this woman ever creates. If anyone were able to finally convince me to get back into art (and, oh, I’ve been considering it), it would be Fiona Staples.

Again, words of warning: Graphic sex and violence. Just fyi.

 AUDIOBOOKS

I managed to listen to three audiobooks last month, all of books I’d read before, which is, of course, just the way I like it. The first two were Trapped and Hunted by Kevin Hearne (books five and six of the Iron Druid Chronicles), read by Luke Daniels.

Now, Kevin Hearne has been singing Daniels’ praises for a while, but since I wasn’t into audiobooks, I didn’t pay it much mind. More fool me! Luke Daniels is brilliant as, dare I say it, everyone and everything! Even giant squirrels! He could voice a rock and it would be entertaining. Oh, but wait. He does sort of do that in this series, what with voicing elementals and all.

Well, anyway. If I had an upcoming audiobook, I’d beg Luke Daniels to voice it. That is all.

These books are great in pretty much any format you can imagine. Hardcopy? Check. Audiobook? Check. TV mini series? Happily check, even though that’s currently wishful thinking on my part.

Since book seven will be out in a couple of months, I figured a re-read was in order, and this was the best possible way to do it. I couldn’t be more thrilled. In December, I’ll have to download Shattered from Audible to have it during my holiday travels.

And last, but not least, is the audiobook of The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg, read by David DeVries.

As with the first time I read this book, I really enjoyed it. The investigation is my favorite part of the plot–one that I feel is left behind by book three, which is a shame, really. As for the narrator of this audiobook, David DeVries isn’t my favorite reader (well, obviously, since he isn’t Luke Daniels), but he was pretty good. I would listen to him read something else.

My biggest pet peeve about this audiobook was Ilario’s voice. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Ilario, in his normal guise, is supposed to be flamboyant, high pitched, and utterly ridiculous. But…when you actually hear it read that way…it’s just terrible. Terrible. And since there wasn’t enough of Ilario’s serious personality in the book to warrant the narrator treating him more normally, it’s hard to say whether or not I would have liked it more as time went on. But…argh…Ilario. I love you…why does your voice have to be so grating?

Last comments. If you’re wondering where I got my total of 15 books, you have to be sure and count all of the graphic novels and manga separately, then subtract two because my copies of Embracing Love were 2-in-1 omnibus editions. So, technically, while I read four volumes of the series, I only read two actual books.

Oh, look! Math!

For more like this, see

Micro Reviews – 11 titles

Manga Micro Reviews – 5 titles

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