28 May 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Reading across the Genres

Happy long weekend to those who have one. So far I haven't been doing a lot of reading. Instead I've been getting the house and deck ready for summer, preparing for our cookout, visiting with neighbors and friends, and generally goofing off.

If it doesn't rain today, I do plan to spend some time on the deck, enjoying the day and reading Burning Brightly by Alexa Donne, a really fun Jane Eyre retelling that takes place in space.

On the screen, we watched The Post (starring Meryl Streep), which we liked but didn't love. Last night we started the Showtime series Fourth Estate, which is  about the New York Times and its reporting on the current White House. I highly recommend it.

What I've Read Recently

Review of Joe Abercrombie's The Blade ItselfThe Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (Orbit, 2015, paperback): The initial entry in the epic fantasy First Law Trilogy started out a little slow, introducing the characters and setting up the action, but I stuck with it and I'm glad I did. We have ancient magicians (not the kind with wands and pointy hats), a rustic fighter from the north, a young nobleman swordsman from the south, a rebel woman who's an expert archer, a master navigator, and the head of the inquisition all of whom end up together on a undetailed mission led by the magician. Each has a hidden past, few of them like each other, and it's not yet clear if they're on the same side. There seem to be several factions: ruling family, conquering army, downtrodden commoners, foreign traders, and powers behind the throne, leaving us to wonder who is good, who is bad, is there a conspiracy, and do legends really do come true? If you like epic fantasy, you'll like The Blade Itself. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 22 hr, 16 min) read by Steven Pacy while driving to Ohio and back to visit my mom. It took me a little while to get used to the style of Pacy's delivery, but I ended up liking his good pacing and distinct characterizations. Recommended in either medium. (personal collection)

Review of Hard Country by Michael McGarrityHard Country by Michael McGarrity (Dutton, 2013, paperback). This is the start of a family saga that begins after the Civil War and takes place is the largely unsettled American Southwest, mostly in New Mexico. John Kerney and his friend Cal Doran start a cattle ranch together, each escaping their past and hoping for a better future. After his wife's death in childbirth, Kerney gives his newborn son to his widowed sister-in-law to raise until Kerney's new spread is up and running. Thus starts the story of several generations of Kerney men, their loves and losses, their friendships, and their relationship with the land itself in a rapidly changing America. I should have loved this book: I like the time period and setting, and I really like family sagas. Unfortunately, McGarrity is a teller, not a shower and many of the deaths and other setbacks were heavily foreshadowed. A few historic characters make their way into the Kerneys' lives (Billy the Kid, for example), which was fun. The descriptions of the end days of the Old West, the impact of new technology (trains, telegraph, cars, electricity), and the beautiful scenery kept my attention enough to finish the book. I'm not sure though that I'll continue the series. There are (I think) two more books. Maybe I'll try the next one on audio, read by the wonderful George Guidall. (copy provided by the publisher)

Review of The Royal Wulff Murders by Keith McCaffertyThe Royal Wulff Murders by Keith McCafferty (Penguin, 2013, paperback): I love a good mystery series, and the Sean Stranahan books, set in Montana, have been on my list for a long time. Stranahan, a back-East private investigator, left his job at his uncle's law firm and moved west to start a new life after his divorce. His office door says artist / P.I., and that space serves as his studio and home. When not painting, Stranahan fly-fishes the big waters of Monatana's best rivers and streams. Stranahan gets caught up in a murder investigation when a professional fishing guide chances across a dead body. I really enjoyed the setup of the mystery. Besides the good character development (Stranahan, a female sheriff, local fishermen, neighbors, friends) and great descriptions of Montana and fly-fishing, the murder investigation itself was well done and not at all cutesy / cozy. Environmental issues and local politics also come into play. The solution to the murder wasn't obvious (at least not to me), and I was caught up in the relationships among what I assume will be the ongoing characters as well as Stranahan's complex life (artist, P.I., fisherman, friend, lover). I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Recorded Books, 10 hr, 30 min), read by Rick Holmes, who was engaging enough that I'll stick with the audiobooks for this series. Holmes is easy to understand and distinguishes among the characters. His cadence is steady, but not monotonous, and he does an okay job with women's voices. I'm hooked (ha, ha) and will continue with the series. (personal collection)

Review of Tin Man by Sarah WinmanTin Man by Sarah Winman (Putnam, 2018): I have mixed feelings about this short novel of two troubled boys who meet as tweens and remain friends throughout their lives. Set in the non-university part of Oxford in the late decades of the last century, the story explores sexuality, fathers and sons, marriage, friendship, and life choices. It's beautifully written, and the arc of Ellis and Michael's relationship from youth to adulthood is a powerful emotional journey. Michael embraces life, accepts himself and others as they are, and is the light of Ellis's life. Ellis puts his own dreams aside, obeying his father by dropping out of school as a teen to become a factory worker with a lifetime job and set future. Winman's writing is exquisite, and the emotional impact is strong. I was left with a lot to think about: social and family expectations and personal identity; loneliness, loss, and new beginnings. Why the mixed feelings? I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Penguin Audio; 4 hr, 33 min) read by the author. While Winman didn't do a bad job, I think the novel would have benefited from a professional narrator. She created a buffer between me and the characters, whereas a different narrator would have deepened my engagement. It's a shame. I recommend this in print. My full audiobook review will be available through AudioFile magazine. (review copies; print and audio)

16 comments:

Beth F 5/28/18, 7:50 AM  

I'm leaving a comment to myself get around Blogger's current glitch ...

bermudaonion 5/28/18, 8:13 AM  

You have been reading all over the place. Tin Man interests me but I'll look for it in print if I decide to read it.

Susie | Novel Visits 5/28/18, 8:30 AM  

It's too bad that Winman's own narration took away from Tin Man. Too often that is the case with books read by the author. I've often returned audiobooks when I couldn't take the authors narration. Luckily, I read Tin Man in print where Winman's writing was truly able to shine.

Kay 5/28/18, 8:33 AM  

I noticed a problem with responding to comments on my blog too. Plus I wasn't getting the notice that there had been comments. Seems like it is still happening. Wonder what that's about? Sigh.

Have fun reading and being with friends!

Donna H 5/28/18, 9:02 AM  

The Royal Wuff looks good. I'll have to put in on my list. I've been eyeing Tin Man but I'm not sure if I will pick it up. See my month of reading at Girl Who Reads

Laurel-Rain Snow 5/28/18, 10:08 AM  

I hate when a provider has glitches! Good luck with yours.

Thanks for the heads-up about The Fourth Estate. I missed last night, but scheduled the series to include re-runs.

Enjoy your week and your books, and thanks for visiting y blog.

Kathy Martin 5/28/18, 11:23 AM  

Great variety of books. The mystery in Montana sounds good. What an interesting main character! Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Yvonne 5/28/18, 5:00 PM  

I've been dealing with Blogger glitches too. Mainly not letting me know in email when I get comments. It's very annoying.

I wanted to see The Post, but I've heard mixed reviews about it. I'll probably wait until it's on one of the cable channels.

Hope you have a great week!

AJ Sterkel 5/28/18, 6:21 PM  

I read the print version of Tin Man and liked it. I know that a bad audiobook narrator can ruin a book, though. Have a great week!

Aj @ Read All The Things!

Greg 5/28/18, 9:24 PM  

I didn't know much about The Blade Itself, although the epic fantasy nature of it appeals to me a bit. Sounds interesting. And I've been the same way- -I didn't do a lick of reading all weekend lol. Just been hanging out. :)

Hope you had a great weekend!

Martha Eskuchen 5/28/18, 10:47 PM  

Hope you enjoyed goofing off and getting ready for summer and friends. :-)
I'm having blog comment issues too. Probably something to due with the GDPR updates. I think I was eyeing The Blade Itself on Audible. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Happy Reading.

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 5/29/18, 7:29 AM  

I just finished Tin Man in print and I'd say the buffer is still there :( Something in the novel's tone was a little detached. And I really wanted to hear more of Annie's perspective...which was missing.
I liked it ok, but so many people I normally agree with gave it 5 stars that my expectations were much higher.

rhapsodyinbooks 5/29/18, 8:44 AM  

I really like Abercrombie, but I too had a hard time at first. I read the trilogy and ended up really enjoying it.

Jackie Mc Guinness 6/2/18, 7:02 AM  

Just put The Tin Man on my library wish list.

Daryl 6/6/18, 11:03 AM  

a lot of good options here .. thanks

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