The Normans: From Raiders to Kings, Lars Brownworth
I thought I knew a decent among about the Normans. I mean, I’ve read a couple of books focusing on Normandy’s rulers, and obviously I don’t think a British schoolchild gets all the way through education without getting the date 1066 hammered into them and at least a vague idea about William the Conqueror and the Domesday Book.
But! This actually goes a bit further and looks at other Norman rulers, who pushed into Italy and Sicily — something that I wasn’t really aware of as stemming from Norman origins. I’ve read bits about this before, but never from this perspective. I knew nothing about the descent of the family or the web of feuds between them, Byzantium, various popes, and the German kingdom/s of the time.
All in all, pretty interesting, and well-written. I’m not sure about “witty”, which another review mentions, but it isn’t a chore to read. It does seem to have a reasonable number of sources and footnotes, which is another thing that makes me wary when it comes to popular histories. All in all, glad I won this from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Night of Cake and Puppets, Laini Taylor
Night of Cake and Puppets is a short story/novella about two of the side characters from the main Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. It’s not required reading, if you’re a fan, but if you’re impatiently waiting for Dreams of Gods and Monsters, it might hit the spot.
I didn’t find Zuzana and Mik all that inspiring as main characters — they couldn’t have carried a novel for me, at least not as they’re seen here — but it is very sweet and I enjoyed the quirkiness. I agree with another review I saw somewhere that mostly, there’s a problem with the fact that it’s a very straightforward romance. There’s no mystery or angst, which wouldn’t fly in the main trilogy, but it is a sweet little thing of its own.
Still, I can’t rate it as highly as the actual trilogy.
It’s Monday as I’m starting to assemble this post, and I already have two reservations to pick up from the library, so I think I can confidently say this is going to be a busy week. Which is just the way I like it. So, as usual for a Saturday morning, here’s my Stacking the Shelves post for the meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews!
I’m most excited about the Richard Fortey book, I think. I’ve already read the one from last week and the first one in this post. I really like his style. Also glad to have finally found a book on dinosaurs — I’ve read one of Switek’s books before and quite liked it.
For the fiction, I’m most interested in Fortune’s Pawn, by Rachel Bach. Even if my Welsh-orientated brain reads her name as ‘little Rachel’. My sister loved the book, and Kameron Hurley recently mentioned it in a list of recs. Also curious about, if wary of, Magic Bites — I’ve never read Ilona Andrews before and I don’t know if it’ll be my thing. But I enjoyed Charlaine Harris when I didn’t expect to, so!
Marketing the Moon, David Meerman Scott, Richard Jurek, Eugene A. Cernan
Lots of photos and so on in here! I imagine it’d be a big glossy book to own, although I just had it from Netgalley. It’s more about marketing the space program, as you’d expect, than about the actual space aspect itself, though there’s plenty of snippets of information, and it does look at the astronauts themselves as part of that marketing effort.
If you’re an Apollo enthusiast, it’s worth picking up, I’d say. It’s certainly accessible and informative.
Black Dog, Rachel Neumeier
I quite liked this one. I had the author on my blog for a blog tour post a while ago, here, and I was sure I’d finish this in no time. But, life happened, I got a job, and this lingered tantalisingly on my Kobo, just waiting for me to finish it off and put together my thoughts.
So, I originally requested it because of the comparisons to Robin McKinley’s Sunshine, which I think are actually fairly apt. It has an interesting take on werewolf mythology, in the same way that McKinley did something a bit different with her vampires, and a magic system and world building that work well together. There’s even hints of a magic-related disaster where vampires run amok.
But, it’s also got an intriguing cast of characters who, gasp, are not all white. Natividad and her brothers are great, and their relationship seems more important than the other relationships in the book. Natividad doesn’t automatically fall for Tall, Dark and Sexy, and in fact there’s a lot of issues around that which have to be worked out.
My only problem with Black Dog is that I did have trouble picking it back up once I put it down. It builds tension well, but it’s hard to jump back in at that point when you’ve been busy. It then starts to feel quite slow. Still, very enjoyable and, importantly, something a bit different. I don’t know about the YA label — goodness knows I hardly ever agree with people about that — but it’s a good story.
Deeds of Men, Marie Brennan
At first, having won this on LibraryThing FirstReads, I intended to wait until I read at least the first book of this series to read this, but it sort of surfaced on my ereader today and I thought, well, why not? If I don’t understand the world, I can always stop and save it for after I’ve read the other books. Actually, I found it a decent introduction to the world. You have to be ready to be pretty spry in your thinking to understand some of the rules that shape the world, but for me it came together fairly well.
The story itself is suitably novella-sized, and even though I did see the conclusion from a mile off in terms of the resolution to the larger plot, I enjoyed seeing the process of how it came about. I suspect Deven is a character from other books, and Lune as well, but while details of their relationship were lacking, their problem still worked as a drive for the structure.
One odd thing was the way the narrative jumps about in time. I caught on to the pattern easily enough, and the alternation made sense, but it could be a little disorientating. Overall, though, I enjoyed this one, and am looking forward more to reading the other books of the series.
The Water-castle, Brenda Chamberlain
There’s something strangely absorbing about The Water-castle. The relationship between Elizabeth and Klaus feels painfully real, which of course is because this is partially autobiographical. If it were a romance story, they’d have found some way to be together. As it is, it’s something real and painful, and unresolved.
Brenda Chamberlain’s writing is relatively simplistic, as if this really is a woman’s journal where she bears her thoughts without constructing them for an audience, which makes it work all the better. I’m glad in the finished version, she went with the ambiguous ending rather than the dramatic one: I’m not sure how the latter would have worked with this story; I don’t think it would have fit.
Dry Store Room No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum, Richard Fortey
A lot of reviews comment on how dry they found this book, but I rather enjoyed it. I like Richard Fortey’s style of writing, despite his tendency to ramble and get distracted. It’s more of a biography or history of the Natural History Museum than a chronicle of the science that goes on there, but there’s some of that, too.
I liked the sense of exploring a wonderland — Fortey plainly finds everything in the Natural History Museum a delight and a revelation, and I shared in that. He got in some apt comparisons, too, like comparing the museum’s storage to Gormenghast.
I was vaguely aware of most of the broader details here about trends in collecting and displaying, but most of the details about the actual scientists and curators were completely new to me. This book has a distinctly gossip-like feeling, which I didn’t mind at all.
What did you recently finish reading?
Well, I’ve been reading like fury today, so the answer is a lot of things. The last thing I finished was Brenda Chamberlain’s The Water-castle; before that, it was Laini Taylor’s Night of Cake and Puppets. Reviews for both of those are coming up on the blog over the next couple of days. Suffice it to say that I’ve been having a glut of books today. People normally have chocolate cravings? I have book cravings.
What are you currently reading?
As usual, the key word would be “actively”, and I’ll stick to that. I’m reading The Earth: An Intimate History, by Richard Fortey, which I’m enjoying: I’ve now read a couple of Fortey’s books and I enjoy his somewhat rambling style that conveys his sense of wonder. I also started reading the biography of Beatrix Potter I’ve got from the library, by Linda Lear. I knew even less than I thought about Beatrix Potter, and am rather enjoying the sketch of family life I’m getting here.
Fiction-wise, I’m still reading Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Wizard’s Promise, though I haven’t picked it up in a couple of days. I really should, because I know I’m going to enjoy it.
What do you think you’ll read next?
The plan is to make a concerted attack on my ARC list before the end of Clean Out Your Ereader, so I think that will entail finally finishing up Seven Forges (James A. Moore) and The Holders (Julianna Scott), for a start. After that, I’m not sure. Probably The Darwin Elevator (Jason M. Hough), because I’ve been partway through that for too long, and Sandman Slim (Richard Kadrey), since that’s been hanging around my to read list for so long and I did start it a couple of weeks ago, only to get distracted.
The Midnight Side, Natasha Mostert
The Midnight Side is an interesting enough slightly supernatural thriller, but I didn’t find it exceptional. Alette sounded like the sort of person you wouldn’t want to know from the very start, to me, so I was wary of her from the beginning — I didn’t buy into the whole plot of revenge from beyond the grave because I didn’t buy into Alette and her story.
The writer isn’t a bad writer, and the plot moves along at a fair pace, but I wasn’t entranced by the characters and I really didn’t think Isa was being very sensible. The twists didn’t really surprise me, in the end, because I was expecting something like that from the whole set up and structure.