03 July 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Holiday Weekend Reading

3 Short Book ReviewsNorth America is partying! Happy Canada Day and/or Fourth of July. Many of us had long weekends with plenty of time to relax, be with family and friends, and (duh!) to read.

Although I have had to split some of my free time with cooking ahead for our annual July 4 party, I did manage to spend a few hours with my books. You can't beat audio for keeping you company while you straighten the house, work in the kitchen, or do some gardening. Plus the weather has also been perfect for sitting on the deck with a book (or tablet). Yay for holidays!

What I Read

  • Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. JemisinThe Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit, 2010). I discovered Jemisin just last year and decided to give her backlist a try. This book is the first installment in her Inheritance Trilogy and is, I believe, her debut novel. The plot explores what happens when humans have a way to control (or, really, enslave) the gods. Of course, only some people are granted such power, and those same people have also enslaved "lesser" humans. When Yeine's estranged and aging grandfather brings her to court to compete for a chance to inherit the throne, she gets a firsthand look at just how cruel unlimited power can be. Although the novel is not as tight as Jemisin's more recent books, it is an admirable debut. The concept is unique, and the plot holds a few surprises. I liked the way the gods were portrayed, but not all characters were fully fleshed out. The book did not end on a true cliffhanger, which means it can be read as a standalone with a satisfying conclusion. This is a good thing, because I'm not sure I'll continue with the trilogy. The unabridged audiobook (Brilliance; 11 hr, 46 min) was read by Casaundra Freeman, who was generally expressive and engaging. Some of her characterizations were slightly inconsistent, but the audiobook is still worth the listen.
  • Review: The City of the Lost by Kelley ArmstrongThe City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong (Minotaur Books, 2016). I love Armstrong, so I'm not sure why I haven't read her Rockton series yet. Our hero, Casey, is a police detective with lots of personal baggage and a best friend, Diana, with even more issues. When Diana's life is endangered by her abusive, stalking ex-husband, the two apply for refuge in a secret town in the wilds of the Yukon to hide out for a few years until they can reenter society. They are accepted because the town is in great need of good law enforcement in the wake of a couple of murders and one disappearance. From this premise, we meet the townsfolk, learn their backstories, and get a feel for life in a very isolated community. Armstrong is great at creating unforgettable characters, and her plotting of this thriller / mystery is nicely done. I can't wait to read the next in the series. The unabridged audiobook (Macmillian; 13 hr, 47 min) was skillfully read by Therese Plummer. She tapped into the personalities of the characters and her pacing was spot-on. Highly recommended audiobook.
  • Review: When the English Fall by David WilliamsWhen the English Fall by David Williams (Algonquin, 2017): I really liked the premise of this novel: after a solar flare takes down most of the grid, leaving people without electricity, money, and food, the Pennsylvania Amish live life as they always have, suffering very few inconveniences. That is, until the English (outsiders) remember the Amish have food and supplies and begin to violently invade their homes. The novel is written in the form of diary entries by an Amish man who recounts the days leading up to and then after the event, noting the weather, his family's activities, and news of his neighbors. While I enjoyed the story, especially because I live in Pennsylvania and recognized many of the towns mentioned in the book, I was not wowed by it. I think I wanted more, and the diary format couldn't provide it. I don't want to give spoilers, but there was one plot line involving his daughter that didn't seem complete to me, I was confused by the fate of another character near the end, and I had questions about the effects of the solar flare. It's important to note, however, that this novel has won starred reviews and much buzz, so maybe it was just me or my mood. (Algonquin provided a review copy.)
What I'm Reading Now
  • The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories by Penelope Lively (Viking, 2017). This is a short story collection that I'm listening to for a freelance assignment. I love the narrator, Davina Porter, but I'm not sure this book is going to be for me. I'll let you know.
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (Custom House, 2017). This novel is totally holding my attention. I think it might be one of favorites so far this year. Hope it holds up.
A Trio of Fun Links


Tina 7/3/17, 7:42 AM  

I'm looking forward to when the English Fall and be first in the wait list at the library. Just waiting now ( drumming my fingers impatiently).
You have me intrigued by The Essex Serpent. Off to Goodreads to check it out.

Jackie McGuinness 7/3/17, 8:38 AM  

Added When The English Fall to my TBR list. I have to try audio books again. I just find they're too slow. Perhaps I need to do it like you do, when I'm doing something else.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 7/3/17, 8:46 AM  

Yup. Just like I told my son. If I prep for the (supposed) coming apocalypse, I'll simply be the first to be attacked (and destroyed!) by those who didn't. Funny. You never think of the Amish involved in something like that.


Kathy Martin 7/3/17, 9:13 AM  

Nice assortment of books. I've had the Jemison book on TBR mountain probably since it came out. I enjoyed Kelley Armstrong's book and the sequel too. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Susie | Novel Visits 7/3/17, 9:35 AM  

Happy 4th! I've been curious about When the English Fall, so am glad to see that you enjoyed it. Have a nice week.

rhapsodyinbooks 7/3/17, 9:47 AM  

I don't love the Rockton series as much as some of her other stuff, but I still love it because I love Kelley Armstrong even when it's not my favorite book! :--)

Beloved Spear 7/3/17, 9:50 AM  

Yeah, the diary format was a huge challenge once I stubbornly decided it was the way to go. You either get into it or you don't. Some people really like it. For others, well, it just doesn't resonate.
And that's OK...single POV really places limits around the "voice" of the story. If you've got questions about hanging plot threads, characters, or how I spun out the science of solar storms, you're welcome to email me (belovedspear at gmail dot com), and I'd be happy to either explain what I meant or say, yeah, that didn't work. And thank you for your thoughtful reading of WHEN THE ENGLISH FALL!

bermudaonion 7/3/17, 10:07 AM  

When the English Fall sounded good to me so I'm sorry to see you had issues with it. Have a safe, fun holiday!

Laurel-Rain Snow 7/3/17, 11:37 AM  

I like the sound of When the English Fall. The story should give us something to think about.

Thanks for sharing...and enjoy your week. Thanks for visiting my blog.

(Diane) bookchickdi 7/3/17, 3:21 PM  

So many people have raved about The Essex Serpent, I must move this up on TBR list. Happy 4th!

Kathryn T 7/3/17, 3:22 PM  

Hope 4th July has tasty morsels and yes audiobooks are awesome while we work!

Sue Jackson 7/3/17, 5:50 PM  

My son loved The Killing Moon by Jemisin, so I will have to get him The Inheritance Trilogy next!

When the English Fall sounds really great - what an intriguing premise!

I didn't realize (or more likely, have forgotten) that you live in PA - I am very close to Amish country, in northern DE.

Enjoy your 4th of July & your books this week!


2017 Big Book Summer Challenge

pussreboots 7/3/17, 6:12 PM  

I've read the Thousand Kingdoms and City of the Lost. Have a good week. Drama camp was a hit with my daughter. My son is doing well with cross country. And our big move is less than two weeks away! Come see what I've been reading

Harvee 7/3/17, 7:59 PM  

The Essex Serpent has piqued my curiousity!

Greg 7/3/17, 8:44 PM  

Yay for North America ha ha! So glad you liked City of the Lost- I did too, and the sequel is very good.

Hope you have a great 4th!

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