Saturday, August 1, 2009

Books Read In July

The round-up of the books I read and reviewed over the month of July. Plenty of fiction of all sorts here this month, and I actually got one of the books for my Pre-Printing Press Challenge read.

In reverse order, from the most recent review:

Beowulf - Howell D. Chickering
A snippet from my review:
There's a majesty and dignity to Beowulf that makes it an amazing read, and even the modern English cries to be read out loud. I did find though, that after Beowulf's return from killing Grendel's mother, I lost the thread of the poem and really had a hard time picking it up again...
...This is probably a very good edition for any student of Old English and of the history of the fifth to eleventh centuries in Europe. It's definitely worth the read, and not just because of the place that the poem holds as one of the earliest poems in the English language.


Aerie - Mercedes Lackey
A quote from my review:
The final book in Mercedes Lackey's Dragon Jouster series, Aerie made a satisfying conclusion. It was a quick read, with some very interesting twists, including to things we already thought we knew, such as the relationship being set up between Kiron and Aket-ten. Is that relationship as much a foregone conclusion as we thought?...

...Unlike the previous two books, where I wasn't certain if I'd read them when they first came out, I'm absolutely positive I hadn't read Aerie before. Like the other books in the series, Joust, Alta and Sanctuary it's a book suited for everyone from teens to adults of any age. There's nothing too graphic in it either, and some thought provoking ideas as well.


Sanctuary - Mercedes Lackey
A quote from my review:
...Either way, it was a very good read, although I did find it somewhat typical of Mercedes Lackey's young adult suited stories. I think I've noted it before, but the Dragon Jousters books are a set that would be quite well suited for either teens looking for more fantasy and for adults of any age who love dragons and fantasy novels. If you're a fan of Mercedes Lackey and you haven't read these books, you should give them a try. They're not exactly high literature, but they are (as are all of her books) a fun, although quick, read.


Alta - Mercedes Lackey
A quote from my review:
These books: Joust, Alta, Sanctuary and Aerie are perfectly safe for teens as well as adults, reminding me of the Owl trilogy (Darian) and the Heralds of Valdemar set (Talia), which are also by Mercedes Lackey, in terms of writing style. Also, the ages of the characters are similar to those of many teen books, although it's not explicitly stated anywhere.

Although part of a series, I found that Alta came to a satisfying conclusion of its own. None of this "middle book" stuff where either nothing happens, or the conclusion is left for the final book. Alta almost stands on its own, although there is plenty left for the following books to explore.


Joust - Mercedes Lackey:
A snippet (or two) from my review:
Joust is the first book in the Dragon Jousters series written by Mercedes Lackey, and it takes us back to the slightly young adult nature of some of her earlier books. I'd feel quite comfortable recommending this series to someone venturing out of the teen books into the adult ones, if they liked fantasy novels.

Anyway, Lackey has done something a bit different with this series: She's used ancient Egypt as her model for the lands, religion and civilization of Alta, but especially of Tia. It makes the books both familiar and alien at the same time, I found, as I recognized the source, but I'm not overly familiar with it.


The Serrano Connection - Elizabeth Moon
A snippet from my review:
It's really neat the way she mixes high and low technologies, such as horseback riding and space-flight, and it's all done in such a way that it fits together. The one doesn't seem out of place in the world of the other at all.

Honestly, I think that if you liked the Vatta's War series, also by Elizabeth Moon, I really think you'll like these two books. Now, I am trying to hunt down the next books in the series so I don't have to wait until September to continue reading. Hopefully the library will have them (or be able to interlibrary loan them to me) along with Trading in Danger, the first of the Vatta's War books.


The Hand of Isis - Jo Graham
This was honestly, my favorite book of the month.
A quote from my review:
We all know the story of Cleopatra, at leas the basics, how she was the lover of Caesar, and then of Mark Antony, and how she committed suicide after he was defeated by Octavian. Given that, we know more or less how the story is going to end. By half way through Hand of Isis I was wishing that somehow the characters would find a way to change what we know from history in order to have a happy ending, even though I knew it wouldn't happen.

Jo Graham wrote characters that just came alive right off the page, from Cleopatra to Dion, their friend. There's no difference from the famous characters to the minor. They all got fleshed out and made real. Quirks, joys, disappointments, they're all there and all part of the characters' lives. Even the cities and temples I could see, hear and smell, even taste as I read.


The Ash Spear - G. R. Grove
A quote from my review:
G. R. Grove has set this series in the generation or so just after the time of King Arthur, and located it mostly in the Welsh and northern regions of the British Isles. However, from there the story is quite different from most of the Arthurian period stories I've read, which made for a refreshing change: Gwernin, who is both the main character and the viewpoint character is no warrior or leader, but instead is an apprentice bard with a healthy appreciation for the mystical (not to mention the practical).

Also, there is much more of a pagan presence throughout The Ash Spear than I've seen in some of the other stories of the period. However, it works, and I think, that fact is probably fairly historically accurate too, although I'm no expert on the period. Again, it is a refreshing change.


By Heresies Distressed - David Weber
A snippet from my review:
David Weber is well up to his ususal standards in writing interesting characters and exciting events. Even the "bad" characters are three dimensional and complex in their motivations. The way Weber writes, he hints at future events (most of the time) but doesn't give things away, so the reader is always wondering what's going to happen until it actually does...

...This is a series that's turning out to be just as good as David Weber's best known series about Honor Harrington, although it's very different. I've seen a few comparisons with the Dahak series as well.


Memoirs Of A Geisha - Arthur Golden
A quote from my review:
Told from Sayuri's perspective as she looks back on a long life as a geisha, Arthur Golden has written an engaging, detailed book from which I found that I could see the scenes he described. His descriptions are vivid, and the characters real (if not always likable). He has even included the fiction of a translator's note at the beginning of the book, adding another layer of verisimilitude to the picture Memoirs of a Geisha forms of Japanese life.

This isn't my typical book reading choice, but I was looking for a change of pace from fantasy and ancient history. I'm glad I did get it. Were I inclined to rate books here, this would be a definite five star novel!


The Swan Maiden - Jules Watson
A snippet from my review:
Jules Watson, the author has created a vivid and realistic (although magical) world which the reader can almost touch, hear and smell. That's one of the things I really liked about the book, the feeling that there was more to the world, and that there were other worlds touching on this one. Every life is interconnected and has it's place...

On the other hand, there were times when I found the story to be a bit slow moving and I found myself skimming for a few pages. Not enough to mar my enjoyment though.


Incubus Dreams - Laurell K. Hamilton
A snippet from my review:
...I also found quite quickly, that compared to Skin Trade I could really understand the complaints I've seen in other reviews of the recent books in the series. The crime factor was almost pushed to the background in comparison to the metaphysics and sex, especially the sex. Add to that the loose end of the family that wanted their son raised...

On the other hand, Incubus Dreams sets up some of the situations in later books with Malcolm and his vampires, including The Harlequin, so the lack of resolution in that case is key.
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