September 2018 Edition.
With a long summer of revisions and edits behind me, I’m looking forward to reading something other than my own work! I did manage to read a few good books over the past few months, though. Here are the best of them:
The Dark Defiles (A Land Fit for Heroes, #3), by Richard K. Morgan
I tried to read The Steel Remains, the first book in this series, several years ago and put it aside after only two or three chapters. I can’t remember why, but the usual reason for putting something aside is simply a lack of connection. It’s frustrating when it’s a book I really want to read, so I’ll often return later, or try it on audio. That’s what I did here and I immediately became invested in the first book, then the second, and finally the third. As soon as I finished, I ordered books two and three to go with the first on my keeper shelf. This is a series I want to revisit and remember.
It’s not always a pleasant read. The violence is brutal and the themes quite dark. But Morgan has a way of drawing you into a story almost unaware, and making you care about characters who aren’t even particularly “nice.” He did it with Takeshi Kovacs and again here with Ringil. If I had a favourite character at the beginning of the series, it would have been Egar, but only because he’s typical. He’s a man meant for more. Arceth’s story is fascinating and she grew on me as the series progressed.
But Ringil. He was hard to love, but once there, impossible to shake off. I adored his caustic wit and unrepentant homosexuality. If ever a character was who he was, it would be Ringil. Society reviles him, his family despairs for him, and yet… and yet. Without giving away too much, Ringil doesn’t bloody care, except for when he does.
I loved the ending, and what I presumed to be Ringil’s fate. Even more, the coda afterward that hinted at Arceth’s epilogue (and maybe the fulfillment of a certain prophecy), and the circumstances surrounding the birth of a certain baby. I shed a few tears throughout. I laughed, too. I stood silent sentry at every funeral. But that last chapter of the coda. I pretty much lost it there, as Morgan tied up every loose end and brought us back to the beginning.
Less, by Sean Andrew Greer
I loved this book for a lot of reasons, the first simply being the experience of reading it. I liked how it was written, and the shape of the story. Facing his fiftieth birthday, and an invitation to a wedding he’d rather not attend, Arthur Less books an around the world trip. As he journeys, the story of his life unfolds, and it’s in turns mundane and interesting and funny.
Arthur’s anxiety regarding his career as a writer really spoke to me. He’s not particularly famous and has only ever been nominated for obscure awards he’s never heard of. His feelings regarding these things felt so true. There’s this entire cosmos of being a writer, with bright stars and black holes and all the objects in between that tend to drift according to the rules of universal attraction. It’s… weird, and I felt Greer captured that headspace really well in Arthur.
To me, the story was also about approaching the milestone that is fifty and all the anxiety wrapped up with that. Have I done anything meaningful yet? And, most importantly, am I old now? There was a lot of wonderful discussion about youth and age and the lens we have on others’ lives.
Then there was the love story. It’s pretty obvious from the start that Arthur doesn’t realize, or isn’t willing to accept his heart has been broken. Watching him come to terms with that and accept it was another of those “true” moments in the book for me, because I’ve lived through journeys like this where the breakup wasn’t particularly sensational and it makes no sense that you continue to sink lower and lower until you understand you really did love the person you left, or let go, and then have to grapple with the question of, is it too late?
We get the idea that Less doesn’t think much of himself–and never really has. The surprise, though, is that he doesn’t really seem to know himself that well, which is why the format of this book really worked for me. The story is told through the eyes of someone who knows Arthur extremely well, and loves every part of him, and I took the message of this to be: love every part of yourself, even the awkward and not so nice stuff, because its’ what makes you you.
The Lawrence Browne Affair(The Turner Series, #2), by Cat Sebastian
I quite enjoyed the first book in this series, but I loved this one. Georgie was everything I hoped he’d be and Lawrence was endearing. I especially liked that Lawrence was an atypical hero with issues that aren’t often dealt with in romantic fiction. I thought Sebastian handled his “differences” with just the right touch—a correctness of historical attitudes, but also with sensitivity. Allowances might have been made, but this is romance.
My heart hurt for the situation with Lawrence’s “son” and I really loved being able to follow up on that relationship in the next book in the series, The Ruin of a Rake, which I also enjoyed very much.
Georgie wins the day, though. I liked him in The Soldier’s Scoundrel, but loved him in this. It’s rare, I find, to read a sequel where a character you’ve met briefly truly fulfills their potential. Georgie is shameless, and yet he isn’t… giving him a wonderfully complex personality that really shines here. I adored his development and in particular the way he simply seemed to know how to care for Lawrence. Also, this book is funny. I got such a laugh out of the state of Lawrence’s library, and the mushrooms on the Seneca. 🙂
Hit Man (Keller, #1), by Lawrence Block
Lawrence Block is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors. His books are easy to read and always entertaining. What I really adore, though, are his fluffy bad guys. Assassins, hit men, and burglars, all with hearts of gold. And snappy one-liners.
In Hit Man, Keller sets out to retire. He’s done with being an assassin. So he takes up stamp collecting. STAMP COLLECTING. You couldn’t make this up. But stamp collecting turns out to be a more expensive hobby than he had anticipated, so he ends up taking a job or two to help pay for it. Then there’s the fact that someone seems to know who he is and what he’s doing…
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and look forward to continuing with this and Block’s many other series.
God Country, by Donny Cates
How do you even describe a comic book like this? The shelving label on the back reads “Epic Texan Battle Fantasy” and there is a quote inside the front cover from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West. God Country lives up to both. It is a western. But it’s also a fantasy that borrows from Norse mythology. And it’s the story of a family devastated by Alzheimer’s.
I most often buy comic books for their art and it’s gorgeous here, with the style definitely working in support of the story. I think what made this comic one I was happy to shelve in my library, though, with a reverent stroke of the cover as I slipped it into place, were the spontaneous tears that caught me about five pages from the end. I’m a self-admitted sap. I’ve cried in more Star Trek episodes than anyone else on this planet. But I’ve only teared up over one comic book before, the poignant Roughneck by Jeff Lemire.
I might have to start a new Goodreads shelf.
Bitter Legacy by Dal Maclean
Extremely compelling. I had a really hard time putting this one aside to deal with real life.
I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of this novel—more than I thought I would, actually. I liked the slow collection of clues and the “procedural” feel of having them snapped together, one by one, but not always in the right order. I’d love to read more mystery written by Dal Maclean. I think she demonstrates great talent.
The romance aspect of the book was a little more difficult to… like. This isn’t a happy, fluffy contemporary. But it totally worked for the characters. Jamie is so new and so inexperienced when it comes to relationships that it was easy to imagine him making the excuses that he did. His hesitancy and heartbreak were also really well written. I felt them both quite deeply.
I did have a hard time accepting the reconciliation at the end, but justified it in much the same way Jamie did: love can overlook a lot of faults, especially when we think we’re getting what want/need. Also, if Ben isn’t to be a bitter, twisted, and lonely old man, someone has to take a chance on him.
I’m really looking forward to reading Maclean’s follow up novel, Object of Desire.