January 2008

Booking Through Thursday

This week’s question is suggested by (blogless) JMutford:

Sometimes I find eccentric characters quirky and fun, other times I find them too unbelievable and annoying. What are some of the more outrageous characters you’ve read, and how do you feel about them?

Hmm. That’s a tough one. Generally speaking, I like non-boring characters (and I think lot of other people like them too :)) and quirky characters tend to be more interesting ones. As long as a quirky character is likable I tend to like them.

I agree with some other answereres that Sherlock Holmes is quirky but he’s not always likable. I also think that Steven Brust’s assassin-sorcerer Vlad Taltos and his familiar Loiosh are quirky and fun. Most of the Dragaeran characters in his books are also quirky: proud, quick to take offence, and powerful.

Gaiman’s Sandman characters are also quite quirky; especially the Endless Despair, Desire, and Delirium.

I’d also call Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan to be a quirky and very fun character to read about. Zelazny’s Sam from the Lord of Light is a con man and quirky.

I’m hoping that the short story collection Coyote Road, which is on my to-read-pile, has lots to quirky characters.

Scot R. Stone’s The Chimes of Yawrana (The Snowtear Wars)

When you read the review, please remember that I have a Major in a Language (English translation) and a Minor in History (actually that Minor was just a thesis and a few credits shy of a Major) so I’m biased.

Booking Through Thursday

What’s your favorite book that nobody else has heard of? You know, not Little Women or Huckleberry Finn, not the latest best-seller . . . whether they’ve read them or not, everybody “knows” those books. I’m talking about the best book that, when you tell people that you love it, they go, “Huh? Never heard of it?”

Since I read mostly fantasy of course my favourite books are those that people who don’t read that genre, don’t know about.

I think that some of my favourite books belong to this category. Apparently only a few people have heard of Anne Logston’s books. The Shadow books are my favourites: Shadow, Shadow Hunt, and Shadow Dance. Has any of you heard of them?

Oh, and since Gaiman is the only one of my favourite writers who has been translated into Finnish, most of the other Finnish fantasy fans don’t know my favourite writers: Logston, Bujold, Brust.

This is the first book about the adventures of the Superintendent Trewley and Detective Sergeant Stone.

The book starts by familiarizing the reader with the inhabitants of a small English village Redingote; the feuds and friends and competitions between people. It’s the day of the annual summer fete and the village’s new reverend and her wife are also coming to live there. The day is very warm and the tempers of the locals are running very high partly because they compete fiercely among themselves who wins the largest amounts of money during the holiday. This year the bank manager’s Scandinavian wife is the chair of the Ladies League and she has decided that everyone should build their own stalls which raises people’s tempers some more. 

Then she is found murder in the center of the local manor’s maze. The detectives are called in and they have to wade in to the local mysteries, secrets, and lies. The local witch and her apparently feebleminded and incestuous son add even more suspicions and local color.

The mystery is quite cleverly written and entertaining. However, I found the people to be quite, well, small-minded and very, very cliquey with their own circles of friends and enemies. Entertaining for a while but I certainly wouldn’t want to live there! I was also quite annoyed by some stereotypes. The main pair of detectives, an older man and a young woman, where not very original and they weren’t introduced to the reader practically at all. This could have easily been any book in an ongoing series instead of the first.

This is the first book in the Jacqueline Kirby series. Jacqueline is a librarian past her thirties and she solves crimes. At least in the first book she does it a bit reluctantly, at least at first. Unlike the Amelia Peabody series, this book was written in a tight third person point-of-view and Jacqueline wasn’t the POV character. 

The story start when the main character, Jean Suttman and her fellow student Michael run into Jacqueline in one of Rome’s largest libraries. After Jacqueline regains consciousness she’s introduced to Jean’s circle of friends and even though Jacqueline is quite a bit older than them, she seems to fit in quickly. All of Jean’s friends are fellow student-scholars although they are from different fields: archeology, history, sculpting, painting. There is also one member who’s not welcome and who the others are often annoyed with. The group is affectionately called the Seven Sinners.

The group catches some sights around Rome and then Jean finds one of the group’s members almost dead in an underground temple of Mithra. He writes a mysterious symbol, seven, on the floor and dies. The police suspects that it was suicide but soon enough Jacqueline and Jean are convinced that it was murder and that Jean’s life in danger.

The book starts surprisingly slowly; the death doesn’t happen until 80 pages into the book. But once the mysteries start, it moves quickly and cleverly.

I liked this cast of characters more than the one in the Peabody books and I really like Peters’ writing style. She describes Rome very well at least for my Finnish eyes and made me long for Italian pizza and pasta.

Booking Through Thursday

This week’s question is suggested by Puss Reboots:

How much do reviews (good and bad) affect your choice of reading? If you see a bad review of a book you wanted to read, do you still read it? If you see a good review of a book you’re sure you won’t like, do you change your mind and give the book a try?

If the review is done by a person who I know has a similar tastes than me, then quite a lot. It also depends on the review: if it mentions things that I would like or dislike either as negative or postive it has, of course, more value. If, say, a reviewer mentions that a book has multiple POV characters, it doesn’t really matter if the reviewer likes the technique; I don’t.

One bad review can influence me so much that I wouldn’t read the book. However, usually I do seek out at least three different reviews before deciding. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve bought a book by just browsing on stores. I do have over a hundred books in my to-read-pile. 🙂 So, I tend to research carefully books that I do buy. I’m more casual with library books, though. And I have to get my review books almost blindly because usually I don’t know anything about the writers available there.

This one has a far different structure than the previous book. It introduces two new point-of-view characters, a cybrid of John Keats and the president of Hegemony, Meina Gladstone. Cybrid is an artificial intelligent made from the memories of John Keats in a human body. The parts where the cybrid is the POV character are written in first person and present tense. The parts were Gladstone is the POV person are in third person and in past tense. When the cybrid sleeps, he can see what is happening to the pilgrims on Hyperion and this is written from one pilgrim’s POV in third person and present tense. This might seem messy but I hardly even noticed the tense shifts when I was reading.

We get to know lots of more about the characters, the plot to destroy humankind and who are actually behind it, about the TechnoCore, Ousters, and the Shrike itself. Even though this is a sequel to Hyperion I feel that it might be possible to read it without reading Hyperion because there is quite a lot of recapping. However, I think that the first book was better so it might not be worth it.

While this was also a good book, I didn’t like it as much as the first one. I also realized that these days I feel rather impatient with chapters that end in cliffhangers when there are multiple POV characters. I was very much tempted to just skip the chapters with the new POV characters. However, my brother said that I would have missed some of the plot if I had and he was right.

All in all, I rather enjoyed the two books. According to my brother the Endymion books aren’t as good so I’m not likely to read them. I might read something else from him, though.

Next Page »