Reading Update #17

SGF Reading

Reading Update: Today is Monday, April 28. As of today I have read 40 books and am beginning to give serious consideration to the idea of increasing my 2014 goal. I’m a little surprised at how much time I’m having to read, and wondering if that will hold up once summer starts and carpooling ends!

Since last week, I read The Shadow Throne and The Dead Zone. I might would have read another book, but what would have been the chances of finding a third book with a rhyming title?

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Like I said last week, I’m not going to talk about The Shadow Throne just yet because a full review is on its way.

The Dead Zone was really good, and I’m a little surprised that I hadn’t read it before — but grateful, because it was nice to read it now. It’s a shorter novel, and didn’t take any great effort to read, but definitely falls on the Good Books end of the Stephen King spectrum. The protagonist was one of my favorites that he’s written; the poor guy had a real live tragic hero storyline to navigate, and grappled with an incomprehensible decision in a very human way. The supporting characters all rang true, and the book’s premise was believable enough that I can’t in good conscience categorize The Dead Zone as horror. It falls more in the genres of science fiction and thriller. If there is horror in this book, it is the horror of a good man being put into a position where he must make the choice between sacrificing or saving himself. Definitely a recommendable book.

Currently Reading: After reading The Dead Zone I wondered what other King novels I had lying around unread. I can’t quite bring myself to finish the Dark Tower series right now (I’m right at the point where Susanna is going to have her baby, and I just dread what’s coming now that I’ve got a little one of my own) but I realized that I had an unread copy of Just After Sunset on my bookcase. I’ve read the first few stories and… well, it’s not the best. But I’ll probably finish it up. I’m also picking at Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil, which is interesting and readable, but it’s on a 14-day checkout from the library and my brain is too full of snot for nonfiction, so wish me luck on finishing it up in time.

Looking Ahead: I am still planning to read Made in the U.S.A. but I just haven’t been in a realistic fiction mood (probably because I have a cold). I’m also looking forward to reading the laughably titled Red, White, and Blood, which is the third book in Christopher Farnsworth’s Nathaniel Cade series. If you’re looking for a highly readable, cinema-ready series about a vampire who ends up on the POTUS’s Secret Service detail, then look no further.

 

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Reading Update #15

SGF Reading

Reading Update: Today is Wednesday, April 16. As of late tonight, I have read 36 books this year. Two of them were picture books (Mouse Paint and Grover’s First Day of School). The third was Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Styxx, a 1008-page behemoth that took me a couple of weeks to polish off. And the fourth was Jennifer A. Nielsen’s The False Prince.

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(Notice any trends in cover design?)

Okay, so Styxx was not an easy book to read. I mean, it was profoundly easy to read, because Kenyon’s a good writer (with caveats to be explained shortly) and I like her voice/style. But it was so brutal. I mentioned some of that last week. And I mean, yes. Obviously reading an account of the life of someone sold into sexual slavery, or of someone who suffers physical and emotional abuse, is going to be rough. But for me, what was really wrenching was how Styxx was so helpless in the face of all this evil that was done to him — by the gods, especially, but also his family. And let’s just put that out here: Betrayal is waaaay up there at the top of my List of Things that Upset Me, and what greater betrayal is there than a family that rejects you for something outside of your control? Even though I knew how this book would end (trust me, once you’ve read a couple Kenyon books, you know how they all end, which is actually a rather lovely and restful thing) my heart just kept breaking for this guy. And that’s the genius of Styxx, because before this book, the rest of the series had trained me to despise him. Well done, Sherrilyn. I really applaud her research and the fact that she refuses to let her series be just paranormal fantasy, or just romance — it’s complex, and thoughtful, and multidimensional. She resists absolutes in a genre that too often embraces them.

I’m going to keep going; I figure if a book’s page count breaks into four digits I can take some more time writing about it, right?

Like AcheronStyxx is really two novels in one. The first 3/4 of the book is a, if you’ll excuse the subgenrefication, historical fantasy. Kenyon paints a vivid picture of a super-ancient Greece, before the fall of Atlantis, and sets it as the stage for a massive mythological melodrama. The gods meddle, the humans react, and innocent lives are caught and buffeted in between. This part of the book is very R-rated, but it in no way qualifies as a romance novel (differing from the bulk of Kenyon’s writing, which are solidly in the romance category although heavily influenced by urban fantasy). Again, like the first portion of Acheron, this part of Styxx is very well written and I found myself completely immersed in the story.

The last part of the book fast-forwards to the early 2000s and the modern-day issues facing the surviving gods, demigods, and other characters. It’s more in the fantasy/action genre, and if you ask me it seems clear that it was written much more quickly and with less love and attention than the rest of the book. We get repeated exposition, clunky dialogue, dropped threads of subplot, and other little messy things that are distracting after the tightly woven fabric of the ancient Greece part of the story. Plus, it’s a rehash — from a different perspective — of events I’d already read in other books from the series, so there was a pervading sense of déjà vu.

It kind of bothered me to have my loyalties shaken up (I’ve been a big Acheron fan, but now? His twin seems the better man, and I’m not entirely sure what to do with that! #bookwormproblems) and I’m still a little confused as to what, exactly, was going on in all the times when Styxx and Acheron had their memories messed with, but this was a good solid 4.5 stars for me. I wouldn’t recommend it to the general public, but if you’ve been a Dark-Hunter series reader, you absolutely have to drop everything and read Styxx now.

Hey, there was another book I read, too. I read The False Prince, the first book in a middle-level/early YA trilogy, because its author, Jennifer A. Nielsen, is coming to my school for an author visit next Thursday. I’m going to try to read all of her books before she comes, if I can pry them out of the hands of our students (ha ha). They’re all pretty quick reads. The False Prince was an action-adventure fairy tale about a bunch of orphans (sorta) sucked into a plot to overthrow (sorta) the kingdom. For most of the book I felt like it was a bit too simple for my tastes, but I kept reminding myself that I was reading a book written for twelve-year-olds. Then as all the loose ends began to knit together, I realized that this was a more sophisticated story than I’d assumed. I mean, I’m an accomplished reader. I knew exactly what was going on with this novel long before it told us. But I still appreciated the cleverness and am excited to see what happens in the other two books.

Currently Reading/Looking Ahead: I just finished The False Prince and haven’t started anything new yet. However, the copy of Nielsen’s Elliot and the Goblin War (the first in a trilogy written for upper elementary/lower middle) that I had on hold just came in, so I’ll probably read it this afternoon. I have several adult books waiting in the wings, starting with Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts, but I’m going to try to finish both Nielsen trilogies first in advance of the author visit. I’m trying to land an interview with her, and I feel like I ought to be familiar with her books first. Of course, my brain is now in paranormal romance/urban fantasy mode, thanks to Styxx, so I may succumb to that temptation if a book presents itself at a vulnerable moment.