Recent Reads – January to March 2019

Five years ago, I wrote a post on how to read 12 books in a year.

Twelve books a year doesn’t trouble me anymore, but it did at the time.  I found myself floundering beneath the burden of various competing obligations, some mandatory, some discretionary, and that reading, my oldest pastime, had fallen far by the wayside.

Like so many of the how-to posts I write for this blog, it was meant to be as instructive for myself as for anyone else who read it.

My very first tip in that post was “choose books that interest you”, and this advice remains as relevant to me now as it did in 2014.  It’s easy to get caught up in the hype machine, choosing books you feel you should read because everyone is talking about them, even if they don’t actually sound like something you’d enjoy.

I’ve succumbed to this numerous times in the past, and the end result was always the same: slower reading stats (because dull books take me longer to finish) and lower star ratings.

I now read 12 books a year easily enough (my average is closer to 18), but I hate the feeling of missing out on even more reading by being stuck with a book I’m not enjoying.

(By “stuck” I mean having waited too long to decide to stop reading it, at which point it would feel like an even greater waste to abandon my progress and not see the job through to the end.)

Also, I want to be able to give books high star ratings.  But they have to earn it, for although I’m an easy reviewer (every book automatically starts at three stars, and really only has to do one or two things of especial note or skill to earn extra stars), I’m an honest one.

For 2019, I vowed to put more effort into selecting my reading material.  I’ve spent much more time reading reviews and excerpts of books rather than just diving in at the say of a slick marketing campaign.  I’ve also chosen works from authors whose writing I’ve previously read and enjoyed.

So far it seems to be working.  For the first quarter of the year, my ratings were all four and five stars.  We’ll see if this trend continues throughout the entire year.

All of my full reviews can be found on Goodreads, with links and excerpts from 2018 included in past blog posts.

~

Starless
Jacqueline Carey
Genre: Epic fantasy
Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Starless is an epic fantasy reminiscent of Carey’s debut Kushiel’s Dart with its retrospective first person narrator and vivid, imaginative world-building.  [It] is a standalone fantasy of 587 pages.  Ultimately, I think most of its problems would have been solved by making it even longer—a two-volume saga[.]
Read the entire review

~

Spartan Women
Sarah B. Pomeroy
Genre: Historical nonfiction
Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Women in Sparta enjoyed a much higher quality of life and societal value than almost any other women in the ancient world.  This book offers a unique glimpse and analysis into an area of history that, both for good and for ill, continues to capture the modern imagination.
Read the entire review

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The Complete World of Greek Mythology
Richard Buxton
Genre: Historical nonfiction
Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This book is a treasury of Ancient Greek mythology…. Beyond the stories themselves, though, the book further discusses the context in which these stories arose, including the Greek landscape, its climate, its settlement history, the influence of other, older ancient civilizations, and the social norms and mores of the time.
Read the entire review

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Circe
Madeline Miller
Genre: Historical fiction, Fantasy
Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This book is beautifully written with captivating figurative language and glorious, immersive detail that easily places the reader in the scene[.]  Circe remains a sympathetic character throughout in her ongoing search for love, acceptance and meaning in her long immortal life amidst heroes, gods, and ordinary men.
Read the entire review

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Spinning Silver
Naomi Novik
Genre: Fantasy
Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

There is a lot going on in this book, a really interesting story of magic, found family, wealth and poverty, discrimination, enduring winter, and a fire demon bent on destroying both the human and Staryk kingdoms.  Unfortunately the execution of the story wasn’t as strong as it could have been.
Read the entire review

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A/N: This post is to replace the one I missed on May 27.  My regular posting schedule remains the first and last Monday of each month.

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(Image source #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, and #6)

5 thoughts on “Recent Reads – January to March 2019

  1. I like reading reviews of how books hit a particular reviewer.

    It doesn’t often make me want to go read the book – my reading is very erratic now, and the genre may not be one I like. When there was more time, and I wasn’t writing.

    I would have in the past.

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    • Reading reviews doesn’t usually make me want to read a book either. Usually I’ll have already decided to read the book (or at least be leaning strongly in favour of it) before checking out spoiler-free reviews to get a sense of what I’m in for.

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      • So many books, so little time.

        Fortunately, I am getting very good at deciding if I want to continue reading something. My mind keeps a count of ‘unforgivables,’ and tells me when it has reached some level that means the rest of the book will be even more annoying. I know, I know. Getting crotchety in my old age.

        I have a hard enough time finding reading time and energy; I decided I would not finish Blessings after the first digression, and then skimmed and skimmed until the last digressions, and returned it to the library downstairs. What a wandering story! Every paragraph led to a lengthy visit to something uninteresting (at least to me) in the past.

        I was reminded that Rosamund Pilcher (sp?) did the same kind of thing – and I can’t read her books for the same reason: I don’t care.

        My ‘visits to the past’ for any reason are extremely brief, and I force myself to make them be ONLY something the characters would actually think or say at that very moment. No mini-info-dumps for the advantage of the reader.

        Example: in the interview that starts PC, Andrew thinks quickly about FAL – but you won’t find out that it is the acronym for his movie First at Lies until much later in the chapter when the subject comes up naturally in the interview. Why? Because everyone who worked on it came to call it FAL, and it would have been ridiculous for him to refer to it any other way in his own thoughts. Harder writing, but a little present for the reader who remembers wondering what FAL meant – and then finds out.

        Like

  2. I burn through books too fast! I’m upward of 50 for the year, and have only abandoned 2. Novak (Novik)’s other novel is rather better than Spinning Silver, so much so I read it twice in a weekend. I’m always looking for good reviews of new books, particularly spec-fic, good fantasy, sci-fi. Given that I download most of my new books on my ibooks it’s super hard separating dross from delight on the Apple Books platform…

    Like

    • Prolific readers like you hold me in such awe. It would take me four years to read 50 books. What is your secret?

      I really enjoyed Uprooted as well (I reviewed it and gave it five stars). I find that Goodreads’ “Readers Also Enjoyed” recommendations shown in the sidebar whenever you search a particular book is an invaluable source of book recommendations.

      Like

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