For the year of 2021, I’m slightly ratcheting my reading goals back up to 12. Taking out my Broadening Horizon Reads, that leaves me with 5 spots for fantasy and 5 for mystery which I will alternate between Agatha Christie and Laurie R. King.
The remaining 7 spots will be occupied by:
The Twilight of Gods by Scott Oden: I meant to read this last year but my local library did not stock it when I searched for it and so it got pushed to the side but I still intend to follow Griminir’s adventures.
Either The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang or Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay for my Oriental fantasy read of 2021: I liked River of Stars a fair bit previously but the blurb of Under Heaven does not draw me that much. So I’m actually leaning towards the Poppy War
Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier: I’m a bit taken with the Blackthorn and Grimm trilogy ever since I read Dreamer’s Pool last year. I went on to read book 2 and this is book 3. It serves as a good light reading for me.
The Buried giant by Kazuo Ishiguro: Someone reckoned this to me as research for my WIP but not sure
Watership Down by Richard Adams: this was to be one of my Broadening Horizon Reads (BHRs) but apparently The Help is not literary fiction as I thought it is but historical fiction and so I need something else for my 2nd BHR.
The Help- I’m reading this because one of the books I read last year on writing novels devoted an entire chapter to dissecting this novel structurally. So I decided to read the novel, do my own dissection and then go back and read the relevant chapter in order to further my own understanding of the 3 Act structure.
The Cloud Atlas: I’ve been curious about this book ever since I first heard about it through the Outlining course with UBC on edX and apparently this is sci-fi which I’ve never read before
As per usual, I’m completely whimsical but checking my goodreads account with my TBR list for last year, I did end up reading 4 fantasy exactly and the exact 2 BHR I said I would read. So that’s not that far off :cheesy grin:.
It started off quite unlike any other Christie story- each of the opening chapters read almost like a character portraiture but in an interesting way. But overall, it’s up to normal Christie standards. Hard to say that I really liked this story above any other of hers but it’s not a bad specimen of Christie’s work.
Riviera Gold by Laurie R. King
After a long absence (like 10+ years), I finally found this series again but it seems like the charm had partially worn off for me. I mean, I still think it’s a solid detective mystery and it still reminds me a lot of the original Sherlock Holmes except that we’ve now got a new strong female detective Mary Russell in the mix. But perhaps I’ve just almost forgotten all about Mary. Nevertheless, she still comes across as a competent and worthy partner to Holmes.
Nemeton by Christopher Lee
I had my eye on this project back when it was running for Inkshares- I was intrigued by the underlying world and then left it collecting cobwebs on my Kindle bookshelf due to my aversion for Kindle reading. As of the time of writing, I’ve just started it. Expect a fuller report in the March re-run of this serial post for next year.
I’ve skipped a year but my Broadening Horizon Reads are back. This year, I’ve picked a psychic thriller and a military fiction. Below are summaries of my main take-away from each of them:
Desecration by J.F. Penn
I’ve reviewed this earlier. As a writer, I’m sure what I’ve taken away from it other than that each chapter is really about a single event. Since this is still a detective mystery, it works charmingly because it makes you feel that each chapter, you are alongside the protagonist uncovering a new clue to the mystery. As to why I even mention this as being noteworthy since most contemporary fiction share this, it’s because that’s not how I used to structure my chapters and I’ve talked all about this in a previous post.
Operation:Jaguar by Lyman Rate
I’ve learnt some key lessons or rather have some key lessons confirmed for me through this book. In particular, it showed me the downside of the omniscient perspective and the importance of scene design. Actually, in a broad perspective, the lessons can be distilled into a single point- be conscious of your choices as a writer.
I will be continuing my Broadening Horizon Reads in 2021. In all possibility, my BHR for next year will be the Help (literary fiction) and Watership Down (fantasy with animal protagonists).
Today, I thought I will showcase my meagre personal collection of fantasy novels. This means I’ve truncated all the non-fantasy books out of my collection which isn’t much: two copies of Sherlock Holmes (a full collection and a volume 1 which I bought on an overseas trip to read in the hotel) and Taiko.
Anyway, there is a very large overlap between my personal collection and Moonlake’s Top Picks. But for the sake of completeness, I will list them out one by one:
The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
The Lord of Rings by J.R.R Tolkien
The Riftwar Saga (Magician, Silverthorn, A Darkness at Sethanon) by Raymond E. Feist
The Serpentwar Saga (Shadow of a Dark Queen, Rise of a Merchant Prince, Rage of a Demon King) by Raymond E. Feist- note that there is a 4th book to this series, Shards of a Broken Crown. I intentionally did not buy it because I felt it functions more like a tag-on book, adds nothing to the whole series, but extends it out with a bunch of ‘new’ characters.
Prince of the Blood by Raymond E. Feist
The King’s Buccaneer by Raymond E. Feist
The first trilogy of Demonwars (The Demon Awakens, The Demon Spirit, The Demon Apostle) by R.A. Salvatore
The Cleric Quintet by R.A. Salvatore
A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden
Shaman’s Crossing by Robin Hobb
And that’s all for today. I will stick with short and sweet for now until I ease myself back into the routine of blogging.
Perhaps it comes with the genres I read but I mostly read series, something you probably all know if you’ve read my Moonlake’s Book Tastes series.
So why do I lean that way? Foremost are two factors: I like familiarity and I like immersion. In some ways, the two are linked. While familiarity is more to do with risk avoidance and comfort loving, it also allows greater immersion into the same setting or the same set of characters.
I also have a particular quirk in terms of series length. I can read up to n books of the same mystery series (given that they are all standalones essentially, just different cases with the same detective) or standalone fantasy series but my norm is usually just 5 books for a single cohesive fantasy series (i.e. all books in the series need to be read in order to form a single story). At the same time, I can read multiple interconnected fantasy series based on the same world. For example, I had read Raymond E. Feist’s Midkemia series all the way from Riftwar to Darkwar which is like about 15 books in total. I’ve also read most of R.A Salvatore’s Drizzt series even though I keep describing his writing in that series as mediocre. I’ve just grown fond of Drizzt as a character and I read about him for comfort.
And that’s it for today. Feel free to drop a comment if you want to share your little reading quirks for a series.
I think it’s a solid work, with a clipping pace and it’s a nice plot-driven detective mystery which is always to my preference. The book delves into a very dark theme but that’s okay, I can handle it.
A murder was announced by Christie Agatha
As a Christie Agatha mystery, I think it’s a solid work. That means short chapters, a clipping pace and a classical plot with a twist. And I think that’s enough said.
Terrier by Tamora Pierce
I read Bloodhound first and liked it and always meant to read the rest of the series and that’s how I came to pick this up- book 1 of the Beka Cooper series. I’m not disappointed with Beka (somehow I only like about half of Pierce’s main characters, Beka happens to be one of them) and the diary structure works fine with the book.
Taken by the Flood by Christie Agatha
I’m a bit dumbfounded as I’m writing this because now my impression of this book is completely taken up by how apt this book is titled- the original quote from which the title is taken is explained in the story (quite naturally) and that’s all I could think of now. But overall I liked the story.
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
I am still reading this right now. This is my second go at it- when I read it last year, the Japanese sounding character names made me jump out of the story and I could not quite get into the main character for the series (my interest lay in the other key characters). I think to sum it up, I felt alienated, as a Chinese who knew about the rough historical details on which this book was based, reading it.
This time I started by skipping over the first couple chapters that I’ve read before and I think I’m fine. I still get bored for about 1 chapter early on where the events in the novel completely coincided with real history with only a minor spin on it to suit the story. But I think the story grew on me as it unfolds. You will get to hear more about the book in my Sept book discovery.
I tried to read Ken Liu’s Dandelion Dynasty series but because the book was so thick I ended up delaying it to July when I would get a one week break. As of the time this is published, I am reading book 1 of Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn quartet- The Dragonbone Chair. I rather enjoy it- the ‘old school’ feel and everything. I am moving slowly through it though so I expect this quartet would probably occupy my next quarter.
Death on Demand by Jim Kelley
To be honest, I should say that I am completely neutral about this book i.e. I neither like nor dislike it. That is not to say that I’m meh about this book, as is usually the case when I say that. Rather, I think it’s solidly written but somehow it just didn’t elicit a response from me, whether that’s on an intellectual, personal or emotional level.
It’s my first time reading a police procedural unless you count Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series but I think that was before the sub-genre of police procedural ever arose (or maybe I’m just ignorant). So perhaps my reaction is shaded by this. But overall, I think the plot is solid- the author had two main plots and they were woven together successfully in the end. There are also moments where I don’t know what’s going to happen next, a feature I always look to for the mystery genre (although I did guess one of the culprits early on). Perhaps it’s the characters who did not quite catch on for me or the pace (I mean, it’s not like a cozy mystery which I felt to be too slow but it’s not fast-paced either. It’s kinda like a light reading with shortish chapters where you can put down and pick up anytime. And well, I was looking for something to ease me back into reading after my long holiday when I picked it up but perhaps I was looking for something a little more fast-paced, something more similar to my own conventional conception of a murder mystery than this).
Merry Chirstmas, Alex Cross by James Patterson
In general, I think this book lives up to the JP formula of a fast-paced, light reading. Alex Cross continues to endear himself to me in the way he shows himself to be a man of high morality. However, this book also has mild doses of what I came to call ‘cheap dramatics’ that I came to expect of JP’s work. Nothing intolerable but I just personally never like books where I felt like the author was deliberately trying to ‘game’ reader reactions in a certain way.
The previous two posts have all been about my writing so I thought I would change the pace a bit by talking about a topic that leans towards the reading side: a reflection of the attributes of my favourite characters and what they show about me.
Firstly, I like a female protagonist who is proud. I mean, I like Mr Darcy too so it’s not just female necessarily but I definitely have a special fondness for female protagonists who are proud so Lizzy Bennett is of course high on my list. As for connection to myself, it’s probably obvious but I am proud (though most probably won’t guess it) and I like being proud. That is not at all the same as being arrogant, just saying but you get the idea.
Secondly, I have a fondness for characters who are a bit ‘bumbling’- that’s the closest word I can come to. I cannot think of a good well-known example in fantasy example for your clumsy mage archetype and the ‘duckling to swan’ female protagonists that are more prominent features of women fiction. In similar veins, I like characters who are a bit odd in some way or socially awkward. For example, I’m rather taken with Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, a female sleuth who has a general people issue that crops up in many areas including relatives, romance and when she works on her cases.
Finally, I have a preference for characters who are morally good. If you wonder how come I’ve never given an example in relation to my favourite genre of fantasy, well, this is where it comes in. In at least 80% of the fantasy I’ve read and enjoyed, they are good triumph over evil stories so you get the picture. Having said that, I think I’ve come to appreciate grey more than black and white as I age so my definition of good has changed or relaxed. But I’ve never been interested in a ‘fallen into the darkness’ story such as how Anniken Skywalker became Darthvader. I think this reflects my own moral stance but also I think it’s just part of my reading taste in general.
And there you go: I think that’s a pretty neat summary of myself at your disposal. 🙂