Reading Recap—November 2014 (11 total)

nov2014recap

Welcome to the monthly reading recap, which is apparently only monthly when I can read more than one thing per month. I offer no excuses.

November was a decent month for me in terms of reading. After coming off of a long reading slump triggered by reading too much, too fast, and with too many epic fantasies, I’m now back in a place where I feel I can read without my head exploding. I’m still working up to full reviews—soon, I promise—but right now I’m just getting back into the swing of things.

So here we go:

HORROR

In my last reading recap, I mentioned that I wanted to read Spiral by Koji Suzuki (second book in the Ring Cycle), and I did. It took about three weeks because the text was incredibly dry and incredibly slow, but I somehow got through it. There were a few skin-tingling moments, but overall the story moved at a snail’s pace with a narrator who could kill interesting just by standing too close to it.

To say I didn’t like this book is understating the matter. Aside from being dull, the plot was absolutely ludicrous. I’ve read some silly things before, but this was just out of control. And most of the ridiculous happened all at once toward the end, so the author didn’t even give you the benefit of building up your tolerance for ridiculous before you got there.

There was a lot of fake science involved—and I’m all for fake science if you make me believe it’s possible within the confines of your story. But I absolutely couldn’t believe what I was reading. Top it off with a heavy dose of code encryption, which the narrator had to take really big leaps in logic to break, and I was basically skimming the second half of the novel.

At the end of the story—the very end, as in the epilogue—you can see that there’s some kind of thematic lesson intended by the author. But the reason you can see it is because it isn’t the least bit subtle. In fact, one of the characters basically comes out and says it. For that matter, he won’t shut up about it. And I wish he would, because he was my least favorite character from the first book and…wasn’t he supposed to die? Whatever, fake science. Do what you want.

FANTASY

On the fantasy front, I read Gail Carriger’s new addition to the Finishing School series, Waistcoats and Weaponry. My love for this series only increases with every book, and my love for this one in particular is amplified by the fact that I started reading it directly after Spiral. Compared to that drudgery, this book is like an effervescent breeze through a fairy glen. Or something.

Sophronia is up to her old antics again—mostly getting in the way of things far beyond her responsibility as a student, not to mention a teenager—and doing so with style. As usual, she has dragged a handful of her friends into the fray, and they’re running about stealing trains and the like while dressed as boys. As Victorian intelligencers-in-training do, you know.

This is easily the most entertaining book I’ve read in the last couple of months. It’s fun and fast-paced, and since I’ve been reading this series since the first book, the characters, locations, and world are all familiar. Good stuff, as usual.

Meanwhile, much to my excitement, Christopher Farnsworth put out a short story in his Nathaniel Cade series—most likely because fans of the series are sitting around sad-faced that he’s been working on something not Cade related this year (The Eternal World, which releases in 2015).

The Burning Men follows Cade and Zach on a strange case about men who are self-combusting for a cause that may or may not actually be their cause. Sound nutters? It is. But that’s why I like these stories. This one was basically a “track down the enemy and make the madness stop” kind of thing. It’s fun and fast-paced but not requiring a lot of brainpower.

While I enjoyed reading The Burning Men, I didn’t feel that the story was as well written and refined as the novels. This could be for any number of reasons, but I suspect that not a lot of time was spent futzing about with the editing. And you know what? I’m okay with that. Part of already being a fan of the universe is being able to mentally smooth out any rough patches and ignore them in a story like this one. I was entertained and got a decent dose of Cade while I wait for the next novel. Goals met. I’m not particularly upset that it wasn’t stylistically sterling.

I would highly recommend the novels (Blood Oath, The President’s Vampire, Red, White and Blood) to anyone who likes vampires in a modern setting as well as espionage and supernatural crimes that affect whole nations. Just, you know, putting that out there in case someone hasn’t heard of Nathaniel Cade before.

Finally, I read Maplecroft by Cherie Priest. This one imagines that the reason Lizzie Borden murdered her parents was because they’d been taken over by some kind of supernatural phenomenon. Initially, I wasn’t going to read it, simply because I didn’t have any particular interest in the premise, but then Kevin Hearne had to go and recommend it, so I thought, why not? Let’s do something off script.

It took a while to get into, not because the story or the writing was lacking—Cherie Priest is actually quite good at what she does, no doubt about it—but most likely because it wasn’t on my regular to-read list. Once I got past page 100 or so, however, I got immersed in the mystery behind the deaths in Fall River. This was thanks to the character Owen Seabury, who was easily my favorite of the bunch (with Simon Wolf coming in a close second. I honestly wouldn’t mind reading another novel that featured Simon Wolf on some other investigation).

I can say with some certainty that the female characters made me want to smack each and every one of them for being as selfish as they were. It’s true to life, I suppose, so I can’t complain there, but still, it made me really dislike them.

All in all, a good book, though I’m still trying to wrap my head around the medical part of what was happening. Priest explains it, more or less, but I can’t help but feel I’m missing something about how it was related to the supernatural element.

NON-FICTION

Because I love reading pretty much anything Chuck Wendig writes, I decided to download a couple of his writing advice ebooks, which includes the one I finished, 500 Ways to Write Harder. These books are blunt, crass, and inappropriate in so many ways, but they’re also honest and a great way to remind oneself that, yes, writing is hard, but you can get up and do it, so DO. You know . . . if telling stories is something you enjoy.

Oddly enough, I haven’t read The Kick-Ass Writer, though I do own a copy. I’ll get around to that one soon, since I finished reading 30 Days in the Word Mines, which is another one of his writing ebooks. This one is designed to work with the 30-day novel concept. Or, alternatively, he has a year-long writing option at the end of the book. I found this book fun and motivational as well, so all-in-all, I have good results with Chuck Wendig’s uber-brash style.

Also, if you haven’t read his Miriam Black series (Blackbirds, Mockingbird, The Cormorant), then you’re missing out.

GRAPHIC NOVELS

I was finally able to get a couple of new graphic novels under my belt while I wait for the next volume of Saga to come out in December.

First, I managed to get a copy of Lazarus, volume 2, from the library after several months of waiting (I discussed volume 1 in my last reading recap). As with volume 1, I really enjoyed it, but it took a little while to get into. I feel like I would like this series a lot more if I could read it without the gaps of time in between. This volume really picked up toward the end, which I liked, and introduced some new characters. It also gives us a little more backstory on Forever by showing us glimpses of the training she went through as a child (not to mention the emotional scarring). I’m definitely interested enough in this series to keep going, so I’ll look forward to volume 3 releasing sometime next year (I hope).

After Lazarus, I read Rat Queens, volume 1, which I heard about on another blog or website but told myself I wasn’t going to bother reading. Presumably I did this so I could disobey myself, because I definitely bought it.

Four female adventurers go on a quest (by order of the mayor of their fantasy town) only to find out that they’re targets for assassination. In crass and hilarious fashion, they whomp on pretty much anything that gets in their path and go about searching for the person who put the hit men on their trail.

This graphic novel parodies the fantasy adventuring genre just a bit, which I find fantastic, and uses modern language and phrases to really drive it home. The four main characters are all very different in terms of appearance and personality, which I love. In general, I found this first volume really fun and enjoyable. I also loved the art, with the broad paint strokes and really red noses. Some of the scenes with the main characters at a distance were fun because the artist obviously left these frames very rough. I kind of liked it. Although it did give me a little difficulty with the two blond elves in the story, because I initially thought they were crossdressers. Turns out they were just a bit flat chested? I don’t know. My mistake.

(Recently reported upon by The Mary Sue, the artist of this comic will no longer be working on the project due to being arrested for domestic violence [as he should be]. Looks like they’ll be getting a new artist–I’ll be interested to see what style they go with.)

MANGA

My manga reading has slowed down somewhat because the series I’m currently following aren’t putting books out more than twice a year or so. It’s a very slow pace, and a little frustrating, but this month’s manga choices were actually pretty good, so I’ll let it go.

Natsume’s Book of Friends, volume 17, while not mind blowing as far as the main story was concerned, did have a very entertaining short piece on . . . young Natori and young Matoba.

What?!

I absolutely loved this story, and for a whole thirty minutes, I even thought Natori was just angry instead of shady. (Except he grew up to be so shady.) But I liked him more for a minute, and even more so considering how Matoba was giving him a hard time throughout the story. And even Matoba didn’t come off as evil in this one so much as snobbishly aristocratic and sort of stupid around people. Which, if I think about it, is pretty much how he normally is. Just with an eye patch, which obviously gives him that extra evil flair.

Anyway, they were adorable. I honestly don’t remember what the main story was about. All I remember is the short story. That’s how much more I liked it.

Blue Exorcist, volume 12, on the other hand, really picked up. For the last couple of volumes, I’ve been wondering when we’re going to get to something interesting. And oh, we did. A new baddy was introduced—though given his philosophy, I’m a little confused about who exactly the real baddy is in this story. Also, there were surprising betrayals and sad backstories that do sort of reveal why certain characters have been grumpy this whole time. There was very little Rin, though, surprisingly enough.

Oh, and of course, Samael, King of Time and Space. Because apparently Mephisto is the new Doctor Who. He’d probably pick a J-pop idol as his companion.

Those of you who have any knowledge of Judeo-Christian lore would probably be bamboozled (as I am) by how this manga sort of mishmashes many of the major figures and creatures into the same bucket, labeled Gehenna. Oh well. I’m not particularly concerned as long as the story continues to be amazing.

What Did You Eat Yesterday?, volume 5, is moving the story of Shiro and Kenji along just a bit. Around volume 3, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to continue reading this series. The cooking manga thing is really cool, but I’m honestly not a cook and get a little frustrated that three-quarters of the novel is literally made up of recipes, whereas the character development is pretty slim. But in volumes 4 and 5, I’ve really been seeing how the characters are developing, especially, Shiro, so I’m a little more invested in the series for that reason.

I mean, overall, the series is really cute, and the cooking part is cool. But again, since I don’t cook, I find that part (the main part) a little less exciting. Volume 6 is out in a couple of months, though, and I doubt I’ll be passing it by.

And that’s a wrap on the recap for November. I’ve got plenty of other books to work on for December, but with the holidays in full swing, who knows how much I’ll end up actually reading. I always think I’ll get to read a lot, but it always turns out that I’m lying to myself. Guess well see! I’m currently working through Phantasm Japan, which is a book of short stories put out by Haikasoru, and Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson, as well as Hauntings and Other Fantastic Tales by Vernon Lee, which is Victorian literature about—you guessed it—ghosts.

Sounds like I’m a bit behind the times, since Halloween was a month ago, but ah well!

More like this:

Reading Recap—March 2014 (15 total)

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