glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
So, you remember my 2011 Reading Challenge? No? Well I do...

As you can see, I hit March before petering out, but actually I did read a few more books ( actually I read very few books not on the challenge list in 2011 - my rollercoaster life has afforded less reading time than I have had previously ) that I didn't get around to writing up, so I may not have failed quite as much as I appeared to have. I still failed by around 50% though.

To Ride Hell's Chasm by Janny Wurts, recommended by [livejournal.com profile] makoiyi

This was a brisk and fun read- the central story of the little-trusted foreigner with the mysterious past who gradually proves himself to be a hero in a country that finds itself suddenly out of it's depth when confronted with devastating magic is entertaining and well told although I was unconvinced by the world beyond our little bubble of characters and events.

There were a few things that grated - firstly the way people responded to dialogue was a little weird. A made up and exaggerated example:
"I'm very slightly annoyed with you," she said. He recoiled, stung by the brutality of her harsh words, his insides twisting in bitter turmoil at the inexplicable intensity of her rage.

It seemed as though much of the time the way characters reacted to things that were said just didn't make sense as a response to what was actually said. Maybe I'm just really bad at following subtext or something but it happened enough that I started to notice it and then increasingly find it funny.

Also although the horses involved in the ride down the chasm were certainly essential for the story to be pushed on and heroic in their own right, in keeping with most fantasy they were also very much lined up as victims throughout. This is a personal bugbear of mine, but it also inspires me, which is always helpful.

Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley recommended by [livejournal.com profile] dancing_crow

This was an interesting book - Jane Smiley obviously understands the racing industry intimately and she describes the different aspects of it beautifully. It works more as a series of interlocking vignettes rather than a story as such, which may be one reason it took me ages to read - there wasn't anything to it that made me want to pick it up and read what happened next - but it was never dull and the characters and horses are very well drawn.

I'm currently reading In Great Waters and I have Out Stealing Horses in my to-read pile so I may almost hit half of the books I thought I would get around to at least...
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
Now technically [livejournal.com profile] herecirm's recommendation on the list was Eric Newby's The Last Grain Race but as she was so disappointed when I chose that over Moonfleet that she actually gave me the latter for my birthday, it seemed unreasonable not to make the switch.

Moonfleet is a book you have probably read. A bonafide classic of smuggling adventure, which I remembered the beginning of from a BBC children's TV adaptation but had no further recollection of aside perhaps from some vague notion of tricorn hats.

It tells the story of young John Trenchard, an orphan who lives in the Dorset Village of Moonfleet, his growing awareness of the village's smuggling connections and the search for a legendary civil-war treasure. Early in the story John is taken in by the village publican, Elzevir Block whose own son was recently killed when a smuggling ship was taken by the exciseman, and the story is also about the growing father and son relationship between them.

The storytelling is very taut, if a little telegraphed in places, and the whole thing rips along with clear momentum. I can see why the character of Elzevir, stoical and deeply competent with an complex and adventurous past, is of great appeal to [livejournal.com profile] herecirm - he's very much the type of character she enjoys writing. The contrast between his steady wisdom and Trenchard's youthful impetuousness ( and the points at which the roles are reversed ) give the story much of its dynamic as they rollercoaster from success to disaster while the majority of the supporting cast appear convinced that our heroes are a pair of easy dupes and endeavour to trick them accordingly.

I really enjoyed reading this one - action-packed, brisk and enjoyable. I'll even forgive the intervention of our old friend Deus Ex Machina towards the end as that seems to have been a much more acceptable device when Faulkner was writing and it does make for a satisfying conclusion. I tend to enjoy stories in a historical setting that cast familiar locations like southern England as they were in more dangerous times and this is a good example of that type of novel.
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
Mark Haddon's A Spot Of Bother, recommended by [livejournal.com profile] life_of_tom is a story about a very ordinary English family discovering that being ordinary does not mean you are not totally dysfunctional. It's a gently funny, slightly sad story brightly written in short chapters that make it easy to read just one more. And then one more. And so on.

One character's story revolved around fear for his health and then the discovery that his wife is having an affair leading him into an ongoing collapse into mental illness.

Although it's only thematically linked to my own situation, I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I had read it at a different time.

Whingiest. Book review. Ever.

I mean really, you can't blame a book for being tactless when you're the one reading it! It's not like I couldn't have chosen to read something else. Except that February had ended and I hadn't finished it so I thought I should persist because to do otherwise would be inauthentic.

Which means, basically, I have no right to complain. That was all self inflicted. It's a very nice book. I'm an idiot.
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
I started my reading challenge with a book that was on hand, so I started with this one, recommended by [livejournal.com profile] gnapp.

It is undeniably a very good book - the writing is impeccable, the storylines perfectly controlled, the underlying meta-narrative with it's carefully recursive form very cleverly woven through the structure of the story. It didn't engage me entirely - in parts, certainly, but not as a whole. The more I think about this structure, the more conscious I am of the way that the different parts of the book fit into the overall design and I'm amazed that it could be that deliberately clever and manage to be engaging at all.

As sometimes happens when I'm reading I found the artfulness almost created a layer of distance from the story for me - I could appreciate it but I found myself almost admiring the set rather than watching the play for much of the time. I suppose my overall feeling is that I was impressed more than I was moved by it.

A great read, nonetheless, thanks for the suggestion!
glenatron: (Emo Zorro)
I now have all my books down, they are:

  1. The City of Dreaming Books - Walter Moers
  2. In Great Waters - Kit Whitfield
  3. To Ride Hell's Chasm - Janny Wurts
  4. The Last Grain Race - Eric Newby
  5. A Spot of Bother - Mark Haddon
  6. Atonement - Ian McEwan
  7. Horse Heaven - Jane Smiley
  8. Off Armageddon Reef - David Webber
  9. Out Stealing Horses - Per Petterson
  10. The Fencing Master - Arturo Perez Reverte
  11. Empire of Black and Gold - Adrian Tschaikovsky
  12. Wolfsangel - M D Lachlan


A few I have heard of, a few authors I have heard of, some entirely new to me. Lets see how this goes.

The numbering there doesn't reflect any particular ordering, incidentally - I'll probably start with Atonement as I can borrow it from my mum. Things will also jump up the list if they turn up in our local Oxfam book shop, because I'm cool like that.

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