November Reading Roundup
Lost Horizon: A Novel by James Hilton
This utopian adventure novel, first published in 1933, is the first time Shangri-La appears in any story. I was shocked to learn that it wasn’t an ancient myth, but a creation of an English author who also wrote Goodbye Mr. Chips, during the period between the two world wars. After reading Lost Horizon I can see why. Shangri-La is not only a utopian sanctuary, but a place where the trappings of the Old World, Europe before World War I, are preserved and mix with the exotic cultures of the East. Where the ravages of time can be slowed and peace can reign. The story itself is like something from a dream, intriguing and yet a bit hazy. And odd but refreshing read.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
How do you tell a story from six different points of view and make it work? I don’t know how Bardugo pulls it off, but she does. It probably helps that the story is action packed with loads of conflict at every turn. Relentless even. Even when I could sense bad things were about to happen I couldn’t stop reading, even though I kind of didn’t want to watch. Parts of it were like watching a scary movie, with my hands over my eyes fingers parted so I didn’t miss anything. The setting is original and vivid. And I loved the various characters in the band of thieves that works to pull of the most difficult heist ever. I am going to need a breather but I will definitely be reading the sequel.
Origin by Dan Brown
I was so disappointed by this book. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I spent the whole book expecting something to happen, some discovery to be made, that never did. And the big reveal fell flat. Not because it was unbelievable. It was just anti-climactic. The setting, Bilbao and Barcelona in Spain, doesn’t come to life for me like in his previous books. Brown is a master of building suspense and using historical details to weave stories that are full of suspense and keep you on the edge of your seat. But I didn’t get that from this one.
Nightfall (Keeper of the Lost Cities #6) by Shannon Messenger
Another great addition to the Keeper series. It answers enough questions to be satisfying while bringing up new questions to keep things moving forward. I like how the characters are maturing and developing. The resolution of one of the corners of the love quadrangle between Sophie, Keefe, Fitz, and Dex made me very happy. I loved the addition of Sophie's human, little sister. The only thing that I would really like to see is more resolution faster. But I will happily keep reading this series.
The Dream Traveler: The Cardonian Chronicles Book one by Katherine LaFleur
I saw LaFleur speak at a panel at LitQuake in San Francisco this past fall. A self published author I was hooked by the concept of a country invaded by spirits seeking revenge for their past treatment. The setting is original and well drawn. The characters are vivid and interesting. But it reads like a first novel. The plot meanders and takes some time to settle on an arc. It is clearly meant to be the first book in a series, ending on a cliffhanger. I’m a little intrigued by the characters, and the reviews of the second book are better than the first, so I will likely pick up the second book. I think this would be well received by a younger audience.
The Speaker (Sea of Ink and Gold #2) by Traci Chee
I loved the first book in the series so was thrilled when the second one was released. It did not disappoint. It has more of the characters that I loved from the first, Sefia and Archer, and Captain Redd and his crew, and new ones that I also loved. It was more action packed than the first, and I was able to follow the story a little easier. The mythology deepens and expands. In short it was even more magical than the first. This series is hands down one of my favorites that I read in 2017 and I can’t wait for the final chapter.
A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shaprio
1599 was one of the most prolific for Shakespeare, in terms of the number of new plays he wrote. It was also a busy year historically, with the Earl of Essex going to Ireland to try to suppress the rebellion there. This book looks at the two simultaneously, examining and analyzing the plays that Shakespeare wrote in chronological order of performance, while also talking about what was happening in Great Britain, and other parts of the world, and how it influenced and was reflected in the plays. The play analysis is very good, if a bit deep, and will thrill any Shakespeare nerd, and the link to history is illuminating and at times surprising. It is not a quick read, but it is worth it for those interested in the subject matter.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
I have to admit, this book was not what I expected. It is a straightforward retelling of many tales from Norse Mythology, told by Neil Gaiman. I’ve read some of these tales before. The stories are good, some amusing, some terrifying, and in some places you can hear Gaiman’s voice. But I expected more. More of his signature humor and perspective. If you like Mythology this is a good introduction to the Norse tales. But if you are just a Gaiman fan, it’s not necessarily worth the time.