recent reads in fantasy and science fiction

It’s a rare day that I don’t have my nose deep in a book at every chance. In January, I set a challenge to read 52 mostly-first-reads books in 2013. I surpassed that goal on August 12th. I also reread 40 books, so as of today, I’ve read 102 books in 2013.

There are always subconscious trends to my reading, this is more pronounced when one looks at my reading as a whole, not just a subset of a certain genre (such as I am writing of today). I’m not sure current trend du jour, but I’m still on a retelling of classic fairy tales kick, whether overt or not. I’m sure there are others, but I haven’t identified them yet.

What follows are some short thoughts on some of the science fiction and fantasy books I’ve completed since my last reading update here.

Gunmetal MagicGunmetal Magic
By Ilona Andrews

A friend kept recommending this author duo to me. Her book recommendations are often quite spot on for my reading tastes, she’s sent more than one book my way saying “I know you’ll love this”. I’m not sure what exactly drew me into the world of Kate Daniels, but really enjoyed the story and the urban fantasy world it was set in. I have holds out for the first books in this series and look forward to reading more.

Jonathan Strange & Mr NorrellJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
By Susanna Clarke, Portia Rosenberg (Illustrator)

I first read this title in 2005 and once again found it difficult to get into the story. Once I got there, I was embarrassed at the details I’d forgotten, but delighted at new appreciation for much of the story and the world & character building (and the imperfections). Has it held in the 8 years since last my eyes read the words? Yes. I enjoyed it so much, I just checked out the short story collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories.

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1) Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, #2) A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night
By Deborah Harkness

Does the second volume live up to the first? I was lucky and able to check out both titles from the library in rapid succession so after finishing the first volume, I could step back in time with Diana and Matthew without pause. It offers deeper flaws than the first, but still I was sucked in and turned the virtual pages as quickly as my eyes would allow. It achieved its purpose for offering official resolution of some open ended questions. Will I rush out to obtain the third book? No. It took a year for me to place a hold for this volume. Is it a good fun series? Yes. Is it a drop everything to read series? No. Will you be able to have fun and read of places and times you may have a soft spot for? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes, but don’t blame me if you get sucked in and stay up late to read just one more chapter.

Elemental Magic: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters Elemental Magic: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters
Edited by Mercedes Lackey

Some people snack on popcorn or potato chips. I snack on short story anthologies set in worlds I enjoy. While I’m not fully read in Lackey’s Elemental Masters series, this collection hit the spot. I enjoyed the incredibly varied directions each writer took when playing in this world. I now have my eyes set on catching up on this series (I read the first three titles).

The Sleeping Beauty (Five Hundred Kingdoms, #5) Sleeping Beauty (Five Hundred Kingdoms, book 5)
By Mercedes Lackey

I have a soft spot for the Five Hundred Kingdoms books. I have a difficult time with the new princess culture that has evolved (more on that when I review the recent reads in non-fiction), but I love me a good fairy tale. I enjoy seeing all the different ways they can be retold beyond how even the Brothers Grimm chose to do so. I greatly enjoy Lackey’s ability to write beyond her much adored Valdemar series. This was a fun quick read spinning a fairy tale on its head.

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2) A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2)
By George R R Martin

While we’re actually caught up on the TV series, it took me forever to plow through the book. I finally broke down and needed to wait for my e-hold to come in so I couldn’t make the excuse of “it’s a huge paperback!” anymore. I am amazed by Martin’s world building and epic story telling. I enjoyed identifying the changes and choices that were made to bring it to the TV screen. I don’t know when I’ll continue with A Storm of Swords but there’s quite some time before the next season airs, so I may catch up.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
By Haruki Murakami

It took a while for me to get into the story, but the last half of the book went quickly. That may also be because I switched from audio to ebook and was then able to easily capture more reading time.

Once again the writing drew me in, even in translation and even if sometimes it felt over done, on balance I enjoyed it. I also enjoyed Murakami’s character development and of course his masterful weaving of the story lines (leaving small plot surprises which were fun to discover when the time was right.

What I enjoyed the most was that the moment I finished the final sentence I wanted to return to the first chapter and discover additional new layers and surprises. Will I reread it? Perhaps some day, but there are many other books I want to read first.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
By Robin Sloan

This is another book that had quite a bit of hype before I got around to reading it. I found it delightful, until the end. The final chapter felt tacked on and completely different in tone from the remainder of the book, and not in a good way (à la Rowling’s epilogue following Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). Should you read it? Yes. Just be warned that the final chapter may very well disappoint.

What science fiction or fantasy have you recently read?

Reader interactions

6 Replies to “recent reads in fantasy and science fiction”

  1. More Mercedes Lackey! Apparently I’m 2 books behind in Valdemar, never mind the 500 kingdoms or the elemental masters. Thank you for the heads up :-)

    I now have 4 books on hold. . .

    1. I agree completely about Mr. Penumbra, and disagree completely about Discovery of Witches, etc. In fact, everyone I know agrees about the last chapter of Penumbra – so disappointing!

      1. How do you disagree on Shadow of Darkness? Why do you love it so absolutely (did I miss your review? I know you gave it 5 stars.) I love the locations and times, but I kept feeling, especially in the second book that something was missing from the writing. [note: I still gave it 4 stars and will reread the series when book 3 is out. Maybe I’ll feel differently about the series-as-a-whole when it’s complete!]

        1. I was so taken by the characters that I completely forgave any gaps in plot (such as Diana being taken to the dungeon, and so quickly found). Isabeau might be one of my favorite woman characters, in fact. Even when she loves, she’s dangerous.

          Before I re-read the second book, I will read some Elizabethan history so that I won’t be lost, as I was on occasion.

  2. I’m sure you’ve seen this already, but I think you might like my husband’s novella Martini of Destiny. Would love to hear what you think. :)

  3. The other Ilana Andrews books weren’t bad. I enjoyed both series.

    Just read magic rises, btw.. Fun:)

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