Reading Challenges

I’m only a teensy bit addicted to reading challenges.  It started with one made by some friends in 2017.  I didn’t quite make it through that list of about fifty prompts- but it did lead me to seek out lots of new and interesting books.

In 2018, I joined up with PopSugar’s 2018 Reading Challenge and following that, for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to also join GoodRead’s Around the Year in 52 Books Challenge.  I also joined an Inclusive Book Bingo challenge… and a fall and summer seasonal challenge… the list goes on.  I have seven prompts left for PopSugar and four left for ATY.

That isn’t terrible considering between the two of them there were about 100 prompts (there was a lot of crossover).  The last seven prompts for PopSugar aren’t ones I’m terribly excited about- they are pretty far out of the realm of what I typically read (Nordic Noir, a Microhistory).  I’ll attempt the finish regardless- but I discovered the past year that what I love about reading challenges is doing the research for the prompts.  What better way to discover new authors, genres, and themes you love?

In that vein I thought it might be fun to come up with my own challenge for next year- one that I could work completely around Science Fiction and Fantasy.  I also didn’t want to over commit myself (as I so clearly did this year) so it’s rather short.

The idea is this- read two books a month with opposing or contrasting themes and ideas, and when I’ve finished them- compare and contrast the two books.  I haven’t hammered out the exact themes I’d like to go with yet- but here’s a tentative list:

A book from a non-human perspective and a book from a human perspective.  I stole this idea from PopSugar- but it was one of my favorite prompts of the year (FYI- I read Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice.)  The second prompt an easy gimme as most books would qualify.  I thought it might be fun for comparison sake to see how author’s characterize nonhumans.  These prompts would probably work best if the same author was used for both books.

Published before 1965 and published in 2019.  Having recently read Babel-17 and being impressed with so much that it contained in a world where wi-fi wasn’t a thing, I’m wondering what else has been around forever and what out there is actually new.

A debut author/author’s debut book and a Grand Master author.

A book featuring a utopian society and a book featuring a dystopian society. I actually don’t like dystopian novels that much.  When I first read Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, I thought it fell closer to the realm of utopian.  Following discussion of that book a lot of my buddy readers pointed out that it could just as easily swing the other way- and the topic as a whole has fascinated me ever since.

A book where the setting is environmentally conscious and a book with a polluted world.

A book set on Earth and a book set on a different planet or the moon.

A book set in or underwater and a book set in space or on a spaceship.

A book set in your own country and a book set in a country you’ve never visited.

A book featuring a primitive society and book featuring a futuristic well established society.

A book told from a villain’s perspective and a book from a hero’s perspective.

A book featuring magic is a tool and a book featuring technology as a tool.  This is one I’d like to dig really deep on and see what I can find.  I’d love to see a book where magic/technology has adverse effects on the user and environment.

A book with a 4+ rating on GoodReads and over 50,000 ratings (“universally” loved) and a book with a 4+ rating and less than 500 ratings on GoodReads (a hidden gem). I’m actually pretty excited about this prompt.  The truth is, while I find GoodReads ratings pretty arbitrary, I will often look at the number of ratings a book has.  However- I’m often hesitant to pick up a book that has only a few total ratings/reviews.  It automatically makes me question – what’s wrong with the book?  Is it just that it hasn’t been publicized enough?  Or is there something else going on?

A classic and a retelling of a classic.  I’m also excited about this one!  Which one did it better?  (And I am absolutely not convinced it is always the original.)

A book told in present tense and a book with a non-linear narrative.

A colonial novel and a post-apocalyptic novel. 

A book featuring a religious society and a book featuring an atheist society.

There are a few of these that are admittedly pretty easy (human perspective, hero’s perspective and set in your own country) so I’m still not sure if they will make the final cut.  If they do- I’m hoping I can find some novels where these are prominent features of the book.

What do you think?  Reading challenges, yay or nay?  Do you have any interesting ideas for my 2019 challenge?  I’d love to hear them!

 

Babel-17 by Samuel Delany

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Rating: ★★★

I’m giving it three stars because ultimately I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

Rydra Wong is a poet and something of an expert in language. The Alliance needs her help translating the language of the Invaders, what they refer to as: Babel-17. They believe transmissions of this language coincide with attacks and assassinations happening around the galaxy. Rydra gathers up a space flight crew and sets out to gather as much information as she can about Babel-17.

I don’t want to say the plot is a mess- because I actually enjoyed the plot. I liked the mystery/conspiracy of it and thought it was very clever. But I also felt confused a lot of the time. I got hung up on a lot of the details that made some aspects of it very fuzzy.

There were no long info dumps- which is good- but neither was there any natural unfolding of the history between the Alliance and the Invaders. So while the plot was fun- I was sort of left with this feeling of: “Yeah but why?” Why do I care? Why am I being told this story? Why are the Invaders invading? Who am I rooting for here?

The world building was pretty good for a short book. It’s very impressive that this was written in 1966. Not being up-to-date on some of the classics- it’s hard for me to say definitively this inspired a lot of what came after- but it certainly feels that way. We have disincorporated crew members (dead people- but I’m still not sure if they were ghosts or zombies), insane cosmetisurgery (one guy installs a dragon in his shoulder?), and all manner of skin colors and sexualities. The world (which I think is earth) felt nothing like the earth today.

The concept of the book, language, how we use it, the different types that there are, how it shapes how we think, was absolutely brilliant. It will get you thinking about language in ways that probably never occurred to you before. I think if you are passionate about language or speak multiple languages- you will appreciate the book more than I was able to.

I think I just felt too confused about a lot of things happening to really push it into the realm of a four or five star read for me. I often had a difficult time imagining the setting and the sequence of events. I always felt like I was missing some key piece of information. If this had been given another hundred pages to hammer down the details I think I would have loved it.

Top Ten Tuesdays: Favorite Villains

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

With Halloween just around the corner- favorite villains is a perfect topic for Top Ten Tuesday!  Villains also happen to be one of my favorite things to talk about.  Villains can make or break a book.  A sympathetic villain might leave you questioning your own feelings about the grayer spaces of morality.  Some villains bring unexpected charm and leave you delighted with their every move.  And the evilest of villains will make you speed through a thousand page tome just to see justice served.  Just a note about some of my villains- a few of them fall more into the realm of anti-hero, but I promise I can justify their place here!  (Also – possible spoilers ahead!)

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10.  King Severn Argentine – The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler – I don’t see this series talked about much, and I really think it’s a shame.  This book is my favorite in the series and it’s largely due to King Severn.  This series imagines what might have happened if King Richard had never died on Bosworth field (and if he had some magical powers to help him along).  What I loved about King Severn- is the way your opinion of him changes through out the book.  He starts very clearly as the bad guy, and before it ends you’re not sure if he’s really a villain, or just a really unfortunate hero.

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9.  William Hamleigh – The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – Lord Hamleigh is the second most evil villain on this list.  He will absolutely make your skin crawl.  Every time he thwarts our heroes plan you’ll want to scream and throw your book across the room.  The guy is pure evil.  He’s the villain you absolutely love to hate.  If I recall correctly – the revenge was cold and the justice was poetic.  The only villains that can compete with this guy- are other villains from Follett’s world.

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8.  Kaz Brekker and crew – Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – This duology is one example of YA done right.  I don’t know why it took my reading sixty seven bad YA books last year to figure out that I don’t actually like them.. but Six of Crows is the exception.  I love Kaz because he’s sort of a genius, he’s completely unreliable, and Bardugo never once handed him anything on a silver platter.  Despite it all- he always comes out on top.

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7.  T-Rex – Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton – She’s a T-Rex!  How could I not include her?  My only regret is that Crichton didn’t write like eight more Jurassic Park novels.

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6.  Haesten – The Saxon Stories by Bernard Cornwell (First appearance: The Pale Horseman) – Full disclosure: the name I really, really wanted to put here was King Alfred and/or King Ecbert from Vikings.  The problem was both kings were more frenemies than villains.  So I went with Haesten.  Haesten is a slippery little fellow.  Uhtred finds him and sets him free.  Haesten swears him an oath.  Haesten betrays him.  Uhtred spanks him.  Haesten swears another oath.  Haesten betrays him.  And so it goes on.  This goes on for like seven books.  He’s the only enemy that I think has ever made Uhtred look stupid.  So his place here is well deserved. (And he’s quite charming when he wants to be- hence his repeated oaths to Uhtred.)

5.  Brady Hartsfield – Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King – So if I had to give an award to the most evil villain- it would probably be Brady Hartsfield.  Much like Big Jim Rennie- he’s a walking cliche.  He’s got mommy issues, he’s got daddy issues, he picks on innocent little animals, he’s an uber nerd with like 7 computer monitors.  Reading Brady’s parts are a lot like what I imagine Heath Ledger went through when he played the Joker.  He is straight up disturbing.  Don’t let the label of “Mystery/Thriller” on Mr. Mercedes fool you- it’s definitely horror.

4.  Mycroft Canner – Terra Ignota series by Ada Palmer – Mycroft Canner is more of an antihero than a villain, but I feel justified adding him to this list because (spoiler alert) he’s a homicidal maniac (now reformed).  Of all the characters I have here- it’s Mycroft I love the most.  You know he’s a little cuckoo.  You know he’s sneaky and unreliable.  You know he’s a murderer.  And none of it stops you from wanting to tuck him under your wing like a tiny baby bird.

3.  Big Jim Rennie – Under the Dome by Stephen King – You’re probably sick of reading this- but Under the Dome is one of my favorite books.  And it wasn’t because of Lt. Baaarrrbie and his journalist girlfriend.  It’s largely in thanks to: Used Car Salesman and City Council 2nd Selectman, Big Jim Rennie.  I don’t care that the guy was probably one of the worst cliches out there.  The first time I read that- I was in solid disbelief at just how evil the guy was.  Those pages just kept turning to see how low he would go.  (Also- the TV show was an abomination- skip it and read the book.)

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2.  Jörg Ancrath – Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence – I’m not entirely sure Jorg is the most evil villain on my list.  I’m not even sure he’s really a villain.  The thing that makes Jorg so very fascinating to read is that he is a sympathetic villain.  The way he turned out, isn’t entirely his fault.  Between witnessing his mother and brother’s murder, and being stuck with a crap father, it’s not surprising the kid can’t stop stabbing his friends.

1. Time – The Green Mile by Stephen King – Now before you go whining and telling me it was Wild Bill who was the villain- hear me out.  The entire book is about time.  The prisoner’s on death row have months, weeks, days before they run out of time to reconcile their sins with their higher power.  John Coffey has the ability to grant people more time in the world by curing their sicknesses (in some cases, their deaths).  Finally, when we get to the end of the novel, Paul Edgecomb is talking to his friend Elaine, and he says:

“And you, Elaine. You’ll die, too. And my curse… is knowing that I’ll be there to see it. It’s my torment, you see. It’s my punishment for lettin’ John Coffey ride the lightnin’… You’ll be gone like all the others, and I’ll have to stay. Oh, I’ll die eventually — of that I’m sure. I have no illusions of immortality. But I will have wished for death… long before death finds me.”

It was the first time I’d seen a book portray “immortality” as a bad thing.  And not just a bad thing- but a really, horrible, terrible, no good, very bad thing.  Usually we see it portrayed as eternal youth, stay young and beautiful, never die!  But The Green Mile couldn’t imagine anything worse than an extraordinarily long life span.

The burning question I never could answer? What the hell happens to Paul when Mr. Jingles dies?  Please- someone- imagine me a happy ending for Paul.  I’m begging you.  It still haunts me!

Null States by Malka Ann Older

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Rating: ★★★★

Null States follows Roz primarily into Darfur. Darfur is a previously Null State (where there were no Information feeds and no microdemocracy existed). They need help getting some of their feeds set up and ensuring the microdemocratic process is running smoothly. On the first day, their head of state is killed in an explosion as Roz and her team are looking on. Roz stays to investigate and assist with a second election for a new head of state.

Meanwhile- Heritage is still reeling from the after effects of their naughty behavior in the previous election. They threaten to secede from the system, at which point the centenals they did win would all become Null States. Mishima, who is doing freelance work, independent of Information, is pulled back in to spy on Heritage.

There is so much more going on in this plot! I don’t want to give everything away so I’ve focused on what I felt were the two primary points.

The feel of this book was much different from Infomocracy. I liked that Older did not stop to rehash the details of her world building (and for that reason I also recommend reading them as closely together as you can).

The action was fairly non-stop. Personally- this detracted a bit from the book for me, and that isn’t something I say often about action oriented books. I will say I think a lot of my feelings about the plot had to do with my mood and the chaos of my work life right now. My wonderful buddy read group absolutely loved this one, but for me it felt like too much to include in a single book. Sometimes the plot threads and the clues were difficult to keep track of.

The characters were excellent. Mishima is the “consummate badass” and her parts were definitely my favorite to follow. We don’t see much of Ken this time around- but I also enjoyed his parts towards the end. He’s presented as almost the exact opposite of Mishima. He doesn’t know any martial arts. He doesn’t carry weapons- but he’s still valuable. He can see things where others might not.

But Roz is the character we spend the most time with. I liked her from book one and was happy to see her in book two. All of these voices feel distinctly different. They all have their own unique personalities and quirks. Where Mishima is cool and confident- Roz often puts on a cool confident face but seems unsure of herself on the inside. I’m excited to see how they come together in State Tectonics.

For the setting- this is less of a world hopping adventure than the first one- but we were taken to places we didn’t get to see in the first book and I liked that we were given the opportunity to see what the world looked like without Information feeds everywhere.

I highly recommend this series for anyone looking for something that feels new and original.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

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Rating: ★★★★

“…grief’s only ever as deep as the love it’s replaced.”

Guess we’ll go ahead and get the content warnings out of the way: rape, PTSD, death of children, suicide, graphic violence.

This is largely a re-telling of Homer’s Iliad. It takes place during the nine year long siege of Troy. Briseis is wife to the King of Lyrnessus (I’ve probably spelled that wrong- apologies). We meet her just as the city is about to fall. She watches from the battlements as Achilles rages his way into the city. Someone jump from the battlements, preferring death to slavery. Briseis does not jump. Instead she is given to Achilles, yes that Achilles, as his war prize.

This book has a far different feel than you might expect. The past tends to be romanticized, the war, the glory of it, the conquering heroes. But Briseis, once a queen, now a slave tells this story, and nothing about it is romantic. I won’t lie- you sort of expect it at some points, but I think it’s on the reader- not on the author. Briseis never makes her story an easy one to hear. She is always reminding the reader what she endures. What she must go through to become a person again.

“…and no girl ever dressed more carefully for her wedding day than Achilles for the battlefield…”

But this is just as much Achilles story. Achilles, son of Peleus, leader of the Myrmidions. Achilles, whose only weakness is his heel. Great Achilles, hero to all Greece. In The Silence of the Girls, he is still all those things, but he is also many other things. I don’t know if he could be described as being obsessive, but he seems delusional at times. He also seems to have some kind of Oedipus complex. His thoughts and thought patterns are sometimes disturbing. And he was absolutely fascinating to read.

“I was invisible except in bed. In fact, I’m not sure how visible I was there, except as a collection of body parts.”

Briseis’s character was also fascinating, and felt very real. She struggles a lot to come to terms with the fact that she comes to love some of these men, but can never forget what they did to her home, her father, and brothers. She also can’t reconcile their enslavement of her.

The setting was sometimes difficult to imagine. She kept talking of huts in the same breath as verandas and compounds. They didn’t seem to go together (though in the beginning she does say the huts are not really huts). The book could be slow at times. You don’t witness much of the battles. It is largely a character driven novel.

Additionally the ending was unsatisfying and left me feeling sort of confused about my feelings overall for the book. Parts of it are uplifting- reminding us there can always be something to laugh about, that the shared experiences of women can be a uniting factor even if personal differences stand in the way of friendship. Larger parts of it were just tragedy- about the horrors of war, the silence of women, and all voices that can’t always speak for themselves, the dangers of allowing petty differences separate us.

It was beautifully written though and I found it hard to put to down. Highly recommend to fans of historical fiction or historical fantasy.

“…in my experience men are curiously blind to aggression in women. They’re the warriors, with their helmets and armour, their swords and spears, and they don’t seem to see our battles—or they prefer not to. Perhaps if they realized we’re not the gentle creatures they take us for their own peace of mind would be disturbed?”

Shadowblack by Sebastien de Castell

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Rating: ★★★★

Review for book one: Spellslinger.  Another wonderful entry in this series. Sebastien de Castell is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

We pick up where Kellen left off, on the run with Ferius Parfax and Reichis the squirrel cat, wandering the Seven Sands and just trying to keep his head on his shoulders. Out in the desert he meets another Argosi, The Path of Thorns and Roses, who has a girl in her care, Seneira. Seneira, not even a mage, is also suffering the Shadowblack.

The twists and turns in this book were excellent. A large part of the suspense is the mystery here, so there are fewer fight scenes than I am used to in a de Castell book, but the ones that are there are golden. You get this feeling when you read them, the author just has so much fun writing his stories, you can’t help but smile when reading his books.

I loved the western feel of this. It’s more pronounced in Shadowblack than in Spellslinger. They meet more wanderers on the road, trade what little the have for what little they can get. The battles are sort of quick draw, quick action which give the feeling of a frontier showdown.

The characters continue to delight, full of flaws and quirks. We meet a few new ones, that didn’t particularly stand out as anything especially great, but there are enough eyeball eating, thieving threats from Reichis to keep you entertained.

I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoyed Spellslinger, and I can’t wait for Charmcaster.

Book Haul!

A couple weeks ago one of my local libraries had a Friends of the Library book sale.  I love used books- almost more than I love new books, and was pretty impressed with the offerings!  I kept walking around picking up stuff until my hands were full, at which point one of the kindly library volunteers would laugh and give me a bag.  When the bag was full she’d shake her head and hand me another bag.

As much as I would have liked to take  home both of those bags, I was able to cull the pile and came away with a few books I’m super excited about!

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Unfortunately fellow Sci-Fi/Fantasy lovers, I only came away with one book in the sci-fi genre- Micro by Michael Crichton.  But I found THREE Cornwell books I don’t already own from his Richard Sharpe series (which I still need to start) and I’m super excited about them.  A lot of Cornwell’s readers love this series, perhaps even more so than his Saxon Stories (though I find that hard to believe).

I also took a chance on one author I’ve never heard of or read before, Anthony Riches, picking up the first book in his Empire series, Wounds of Honor.  This is a novel of the Roman empire – one of my favorite eras in history.  Have you seen Gladiator?  The blurb mentions Emperor Commodus, and I really hope this Commodus is one the same as Joaquin Phoenix’s Commodus.  Unfortunately- it doesn’t seem like he’ll be a major player, but I’m excited to read it just the same.

My wonderful daughter (with some help from my wonderful mother) also picked this out for me for my birthday, which was nearly a month ago.

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This is a post-apocalyptic novel about a plague that kills most of America’s children, and leaves the ones that live with (what sounds like) some supernatural powers.  It has a 4.11 rating from over 100 of my GoodReads friends, who can be pretty critical, so I’m super excited to start it. It’s also being made into a movie- so I need to hurry up and read it before I get to the theatre!

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Have I mentioned yet that Bernard Cornwell is one of my favorite authors?  Second only to Stephen King?  Luckily for me he’s just as prolific, has been writing for years, and doesn’t seem to feel the need to make his books a thousand pages long.  The Saxon Stories, starting with The Last Kingdom, follow Uhtred of Bebbanburg.  A boy kidnapped by vikings at a young age and raised with the old gods.  When he finally returns to his people, he’s a lone pagan in a sea of Christians, trying to drive back a sea of invaders that were once his people, for a king he doesn’t even like.  How’s that for inner turmoil?

I won’t get to this one for some time- I’m considering buddy reading the entire series all over again (you know, someday) but I sleep better at night just looking at it on my shelf.  So there’s that.

Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

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 Rating: ★★★

This is the conclusion to Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. While I enjoyed this far more than the last installment, and found it went by relatively quickly, I still wasn’t able to recover some of what made Annihilation so wonderful. (Spoilers for book one and two ahead.)

Here, we follow Control and Ghost Bird after they’ve crossed back into Area X. There are three alternating timelines. Saul, the lighthouse keeper, tells his side of the story before Area X becomes Area X, the Director tells her part of the story prior to the Twelfth Expedition, and the current timeline, following Ghost Bird and Control.

Surprisingly, for a VanderMeer book, we receive a lot of answers about Area X and how it came to be (and what it might be). This was oddly satisfying for a change, as I’ve been accustomed to him not providing any clear, definitive answers, similar to a J.J. Abrams plot.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story lines of Control and Ghost Bird. I enjoyed parts of Saul’s story, mostly at the beginning of the book. After awhile his voice became tiresome and redundant. Similar to Saul, I liked the Director’s story at the beginning, but ultimately didn’t feel that her viewpoint contributed anything new. (Side note: all of the Director’s passages are written in second person. I couldn’t quite figure out why. I think it would have been more interesting to read Ghost Bird’s passages in second person, being that she isn’t really anyone at all, a copy of someone else, and maybe it would have been easier to assume her identity as a reader.) There wasn’t enough of Control and Ghost Bird to carry the whole novel.

In part two we finally find out what happened to the Biologist. This was by far the most interesting part and I’m glad that Vandermeer did her justice by not leaving us with any hanging questions as to her story. This book was worth reading for her part alone.

I found reading this particular book more difficult than his other works. If I had been tested for comprehension I’m fairly certain I would have failed. Where Annihilation was neat and trim, with words never being wasted, I found a lot of language in this book feeling flowery or overly descriptive. It leads the reader away from the point, away from the story, makes the story difficult to follow, especially when you are already bored and your mind might be wandering. Add to that, difficult vocabulary, and it just felt needlessly difficult.

I’m glad I finished the series, if for no other reason than to find out what happened to the Biologist, but I think I’ll be wary of starting any trilogies or series by VanderMeer in the future. He seems to do best with stand-alone novels (and I think Annihilation would have worked perfectly fine as a standalone).

Top Ten Tuesday: Longest Books I’ve Ever Read

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

So I decided to break this post up a bit, and tell you the top five longest books I’ve ever read, along with the top five longest books I plan to read (and have likely been putting off… due to their length).

5. A Column of Fire by Ken Follett – 916 pages (according to goodreads.com).  For me, Column of Fire was the least enjoyable of Follett’s Pillars of the Earth series.  Don’t get me wrong- it was a four star read overall, but if I compared it strictly to the first two books, it would only be three stars.   Review here!

4. Four Past Midnight by Stephen King – 930 pages. This was one of King’s less enjoyable short story collections. This is comprised of: The Langoliers, Secret Window, Secret Garden, Library Policeman, and The Sun Dog.  At least two of these are probably considered King classics, and The Sun Dog is one of the many Castle Rock short stories.  Review here.

3.  The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – 973 pages.  One of my favorite historical fiction books of all time.  It’s a sweeping epic set in 12th century England.  Poor Tom Builder is in need of a job.  His wife dies during child birth, and he is left with three children to raise.  Luckily for him, Prior Phillip is in want of a new church.  I know this summary sounds boring, but this is anything but.  It’s filled to the brim with drama, and just when you think these characters can’t fall any lower, the trapdoor gives way.  Sadly I have no review for this one.  (Maybe I could solve that problem with a re-read?)

2.  World Without End by Ken Follett – 1,014 pages.  Again- one of my favorite historical fiction books of all time.  I loved this one even more than Pillars of the Earth.  Follett dropped a lot of the medieval masonry talk (though trust me, there is still plenty) and cranked up the drama.  I can’t say enough good things about these books.  Review here.

1. Under the Dome by Stephen King comes in at 1074 pages.  One of my absolute favorite books of all time.  Period.  I know a lot of King fans disliked this one, but honestly I can’t tell you why.  I’ve read this three times and at least on one occasion, in the span of two days.  Unfortunately, this is probably the only book on the list I could reasonably classify as Science Fiction and I have no review to share.  (Shame on me!)

Honorable mentions: A Passage to Shambhala by Jon Baird and Kevin Costner at 770 pages; Needful Things by Stephen King at 790 pages; A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin at 819 pages; Outlander by Diana Gabaldon at 850 pages; and Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray which GoodReads clocks at 912 pages, but seems suspect to me.

Longest books on my TBR:

5.  The Song of Ice and Fire Books (#2-5) by George R.R. Martin – I’m giving this the number five spot, because A Clash of Kings is only 784 pages, but technically, books three, four and five are all on my TBR and much longer.  (If I had included them, three of these spots would have gone to him, and that’s kind of boring.)

4. Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton – 948 pages.  This sounds like a family saga where the “family” are actually all clones.  The world building has the potential to be amazing: cloning, clean energy consumption, instantaneous travel across light years.  Throw in a murder mystery… I am VERY eager to check this out.

3. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – 1,007 pages.  Here’s an embarrassing factoid: I’ve never read anything by Sanderson.  I see his name everywhere… for some reason I can’t motivate myself to check him out.  (Someone please convince me in the comments below!)

2. IT by Stephen King – 1,116 pages.  UGH.  THIS BOOK.  Do you know how many times I’ve tried and failed to read IT?  Like eight times.  I pick it up, read the same two chapters, put it down and move on.  I’m not even giving it a fair shake.  I think the problem is that I own it in paperback.  I did make it through a decent chunk of the audio, which was well done, but I’d need like six weeks to listen to it all.

1. The Stand by Stephen King – 1,153 pages.  I’m also embarrassed I haven’t yet read this.  I feel like people who don’t even like King have read this.  I’ve heard the edited “abridged” version is the better one… and I aim to complete it in the next year or two, because it sounds very similar to Under the Dome, if the Dome trapped the whole world and that world had already ended.

Honorable mentions for my TBR:  The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan at 814 pages; 11/22/63 by Stephen King at 849 pages (are we sensing a theme here?); Seveneves by Neal Stephenson at 880 pages; Fall of Giants by Ken Follett at 920 pages; 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami at 925 pages.

What’s sad is looking at the books on my TBR, is I already own most of them.  I don’t dislike long books… Most of the ones on my have read list were four and five star reads for me.  I think I’m just scared to commit to them with the number of buddy, group, and challenge reads I actually have committed to.

What about you?  Long books, yay or nay?

The Lost Queen by Signe Pike

TLQ_SP

Rating: ★★★

I had to force myself to finish this today. I’m happy to report that despite the anachronisms I really enjoyed the last 200 or so Pages… but those first 300.. oh man. What. A. Drag.

This is about the man behind the myth of Merlin… more specifically, Merlin’s twin sister, Langoureth. Set in sixth century Scotland, we watch Langoureth grow from a child to a teen, and eventually an adult.

I want to start by saying the “romance” in this book is nonsensical to the point of being comedic. I wish I was exaggerating. This is the absolute worst case of instalove I have ever seen. The author interpreted “Love at first sight” quite literally. By the end of the book I think they’ve actually spent a running total of four days together, and if you’ve only counted the hours of those days it’s probably less than 24 hours.

Secondly, this is written like it was set in renaissance times.. with talk of royalty and princesses and cavalry and generals and Arabian dancers from overseas… To be fair to the author- for all I know, they did have such things in 6th century “Scotland”, but I for one have surely never read a book set in this time period that used words like that. The language could have used some heavy editing to make the book feel more authentic. At one point I read “fleece lined couches” and I sort of wanted to scream in rage. Yes, let’s gather the Knights of the Round Table in the great room by the hearth and set them on couches. Then we’ll grab General Lancelot and send him on a mission of chivalry. WTF.

Sorry. Rant over. If you manage to stick it out, and can eventually let all that nonsense go, the book does become rather enjoyable. I’m so used to reading books set from the battlefield, that to see the women working behind the scenes to support husbands, fathers, brothers, etc. was a nice change. Even though the romance was ridiculous, I found the story itself quite romantic, and was able to just sit back and appreciate the making of Merlin and Uther Pendragon.

The author did manage to include lots of Celtic rituals and lore and at least on that front, I do think she has done her research (although- as stated above, wth do I know). The characters were sort of flat and one sided. I did appreciate Elufed because I felt like you never really knew where she stood. I loved Ariane and Cathan but there wasn’t enough of them. Some character’s stories felt unfinished. I also felt the author projected some rather modern feelings and ideas on to these characters, that again, wouldn’t have fit the time.

So if you are itching for a lighter fantasy, another facet of Arthurian lore, this wouldn’t be a bad book to pick up. I do recommend you don’t go into it expecting authentic feeling history though. You’ll be disappointed.