I might’ve benefitted from reading this closer to when I read Company of Liars, as it took me a while to remember who the characters were and what exactly was going on — and I still can’t quite remember how it fits in. It’s basically like a missing chapter from Company of Liars; nothing essential, but some characterisation stuff and a little bit more of the world, and the dangerous situations travellers faced.
It’s not a great or vital addition to the world, but if you enjoy the characters and their interplay, you might want to pick it up. It’s readable, just not special.
The Raven’s Head, Karen Maitland Received to review via Netgalley & Bookbridgr
I forgot I’d requested this on Netgalley, and ended up getting it via Bookbridgr as well. Oops! Especially oops considering I wasn’t a big fan of Maitland’s last book, and I was starting to think her recipe was getting a little past its sell-by date. There were ways in which this book was just as predictable for Maitland if you’ve read her other books, but something about the writing/tone kept me going, and I did enjoy it.
It’s full of dastardly characters, of course, and if there’s a sordid torturous thing you can think of, one of the characters has probably done it. Even one of the most innocent characters has a downright chilling moment. But there are things which got my attention and evoked some pathos, too: the friendship of Felix and Regulus, Gisa’s care over Peter, Gaspard’s fear for Vincent.
I think Vincent’s voice was really well done — as long as Maitland was intending him to sound like a sociopath, anyway. The way he manipulated people, only saw his own gain, twisted every situation to be about himself… Well, there are people like that.
Overall, more enjoyable than I found the last couple of Maitland’s books, but the medieval historical fiction with touches of paranormal that might just barely be explained away, plus awful characters doing awful things, and dire secrets, etc, etc… It’s getting a little old.
Company of Liars, Karen Maitland Review from 22nd April, 2012
I picked up Company of Liars as my fifth book of the readathon, last night, and read half of it in one go. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay up, but I can definitely say this for it: it could distract me from the pain of gallstones when high doses of anti-spasmodics and opiates could not. I think how much it entertains you will depend on how much you buy into the characters: I was prepared to fall for most of them, and to pity those I didn’t adore, so I got swept up in their story. It’s a relatively slow-paced story, I suppose: the actual threat doesn’t come into the open until almost the end.
There are clues throughout as to what is going to happen, not just what will happen next, but what will unfold throughout the rest of the story. Some of the hints are fairly large; most readers will probably guess ahead of the plot, but it was the pleasure of fitting everything together that kept my interest — this and that I already knew, but what significance it could have…
There are criticisms in other reviews about the range of characters and how well they took each other’s secrets: there’s little shock and outrage at a character who is gay or characters who commit incest. I felt… it is a little anachronistic, but it also worked for me because all the characters have secrets they dare not reveal, and all of them have weaknesses laid bare to the others in their group. They need each other, and can’t afford to have the group fall apart.
I can understand those who found it too slow paced, and those who felt the clues were too obvious. I was a little exasperated by the anagram of one character’s name which hid their identity. That felt clumsy. Still, I bought into the characters and I badly wanted them to do well, and I bought into untangling the mystery. I enjoyed it a lot.
The Top Ten Tuesday prompt for this week is all about your spring TBR. Since I don’t really plan ahead much (I get too obsessed) and I’m writing this post two weeks before it goes live (I like to be organised), this is a somewhat random selection, and I might have got round to them by the time this goes live…
Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Thorns and Roses. I should get round to this soon, since the publishers were kind enough to grant me access on Netgalley, and I actually have yet to read anything by Maas. Everyone’s so enthusiastic… I’ll get there soon!
Karen Maitland, The Raven’s Head. Also an ARC, though I’ve read just about everything Maitland’s written so far. I’m hoping this one breaks the mould a bit, though.
Emma Healey, Elizabeth is Missing. The idea of this really intrigues me. It should be waiting for me at the library as I write, so I should be reading it soon. I might find it a bit upsetting, though; apparently the portrayal of dementia and mental illness is very good.
Joe Abercrombie, Half a King. It’s about time, that’s all I can say.
Guy Gavriel Kay, The Lions of Al-Rassan. The next in my project of rereading all Kay’s books in publication order. (The idea is to watch his writing improve/change with experience, though oddly enough his earliest novels are probably my favourites.)
Sam Kean, The Tale of the Duelling Neurosurgeons. I’ve been recommended this, neurology is fascinating, I might want to become a neurologist, and the library has it. What more could I wish for?
Melissa Grey, The Girl at Midnight. Just got approved for this on Netgalley after a long wait, and it was in a previous Top Ten Tuesday as a book I was particularly looking forward to. Ergo, I have no excuse.
Carrie Vaughn, After the Golden Age. This is a reread I’ve been meaning to get round to for a long time. I think there’s another book now, too!
Gail Carriger, Changeless. I don’t want to end up waiting ages and ages to read this and forgetting everything about the first. Too bad I’m so easily di
Susanna Kearsley, Named of the Dragon. Arthurian connection, you say? Set in Wales, you say? I’m there.
And probably all of these are going to appear again on my summer TBR, knowing me…
Hey everyone! I’ve been very good this week, and have nothing really new to report — just an ARC, and some titles from my pull list. I’m impressed by how long I’m keeping up my resolutions this year! How’s everyone else doing?
I found the last book a little too predictable in theme, plot and character, so I’m hoping this breaks the mould a little. I have loved Maitland’s books, but I fear she may be stuck in a rut… One more chance, and then I’ll give her books a rest for a while. Still, excited to get the ARC!
Working on a post to go up soon about my pull list, and how people lie when they say there’s no cool female superheroes… (Not, Marvel, that I’m saying there’s enough. Did you seriously put back the date of your Captain Marvel movie for Spider-man? Really? I’ve seen Spider-man. I need you to have the guts to give us a female superhero front and center. Black Widow would work too.)
And just to finish up, here’s a photo of the bunny in total relaxation, since I’m currently staying with her and my partner!
The Vanishing Witch, Karen Maitland Received to review via Bookbridgr
I was pretty excited when I received a copy of this to review via Bookbridgr, because I’ve enjoyed all Maitland’s work so far. And this is certainly very much like her other work in tone and style — the historical setting, carefully drawn; female characters focused on, as least as much as the male ones; hints at supernatural aspects without anything being completely overt.
Unfortunately, it also has the kind of plot and twist I expected from Karen Maitland’s work, as well. It’s very effective in the first couple of books I’ve read by her, but I predicted it here and that took away some of the enjoyment. She still has great control of pacing, a great handle on her characters and how they relate to each other, how people manipulate each other. But I expected the story to play out as it did, almost from reading the first hundred pages.
It’s still a good story, but that knowing really disappointed me. I’m hoping for something more different from Maitland’s next novel: something that will surprise and intrigue me the way her first book did, instead of just being enjoyable. I’ve read all her other books in almost one sitting, but the last two have been more comfortable, just books to sit down and read when I had time. I’m hoping for the compulsive quality of the first couple.
What have you recently finished reading? The King of Elfland’s Daughter. It’s bloody beautiful. There were some aspects that annoyed me, but mostly it all came together just right. I wouldn’t approach it as a fantasy novel, though: I would approach it as an inspiration for later fantasy, that’s maybe more at home as an extended fairytale/folktale.
The other thing was The 101 Best Science Fiction Novels 1985-2010, which is an interesting list. No more definitive than any other, I’d say, and prone to the straight white men end of the scale, but some interesting-looking stuff I hadn’t come across elsewhere before.
What are you currently reading?
Still should be focusing on The Vanishing Witch (Karen Maitland), but I’ve started doling that out in little bits instead of devouring it all at once. I feel like I’ve got an idea of the shape of the work now, so I feel less compulsion to push on through.
Mostly, though, today it’s been Michael Moorcock’s Gloriana, or the Unfulfill’d Queen. Aside from the fact that the plot revolves around Gloriana not being able to have orgasms (no, really) and the focus on sex that comes with it, I’m actually quite enjoying the creation of the alternative Elizabethan court, and the way Moorcock writes.
What will you read next?
Probably one of the ARCs I’ve got here to read: after that, I think I’ll terrify myself with non-fiction about rare brain diseases, namely Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan. Should be, uh, fun.
What have you recently finished reading? Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell) and a book about panic attacks. Both have been on my currently reading list for a while, so I’m actually super pleased about that. I have a lot of complicated feelings about Rainbow Rowell’s work.
What are you currently reading? The Language Instinct (Steven Pinker) is at the top of my pile, since I’m hoping to get on and finish that. There’s a few ARCs I’ve apparently started all at once, too: The Vanishing Witch (Karen Maitland), which is so far very typical of her work; Yesterday’s Kin (Nancy Kress), which is currently reminding me of her novel Steal Across the Sky quite a bit; and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Thomas Sweterlitsch), which has me intrigued so far, but I’m not far into it yet at all.
What will you read next?
Like I’m not busy enough? Heh. Probably I’ll finish Darwin’s Ghost (Steve Jones), since that’s well past due back at the library, and then probably Genes, Peoples and Languages (Luigi Luca Cavella Sforza), since I’ve been reading Steven Pinker.
Fiction-wise, I’m thinking that I’m going to reread After the Golden Age (Carrie Vaughn) and then read the sequel, Dreams of the Golden Age, next. But there’s plenty of fiction I’m partway through, too, and some ARCs I should get to. Maybe A Suitable Replacement (Megan Derr), because I’ve been meaning to try something by Derr for a while.
So, time for Stacking the Shelves a la Tynga’s Reviews! You know how I keep saying my haul post is going to be smaller “next week”? Well, next week it will be. I think? That’s the idea, anyway. Part of this I blame on going to Rainbow Rowell’s signing in Waterstones with Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts. I’d pick something up to look at it and she’d chip in with “that one’s good!”
Or I might just have no restraint. There’s always that explanation. Anyway, to kick off, here’s me with Rainbow Rowell!
If you look closely you can see a little frog in the picture. Which means this is a good time to plug my friend’s art project: basically, she’s made a hundred of the blighters and over the last few months, she’s been ‘releasing’ them into the wild, a few at a time. If you find one, take a picture of yourself with it and then move it to somewhere new! Most are in England, West Yorkshire area, but I know some have gone to London, some have been released in Cardiff and Swansea, and some are travelling round the world. If you’re going to Loncon, I have two to release there, so keep your eye out for Sad Frog Project!
My copy of Fangirl was signed, of course. I still need to finish reading it… But I loved the way Rowell spoke about it, spoke frankly about Cath’s social anxiety, spoke with enthusiasm about fandom. So I’m very glad to have a signed copy. As for the others, some I’ve been planning to get for a while — Two Boys Kissing and Code Name Verity. Leah forced Take Back the Skies on me, and we talked about the others enough to get me interested.
It’s a rather mixed bag, isn’t it? The first three were mentioned in books of essays I’ve been reading recently; I’ve enjoyed some of John Connolly’s other stuff; The Queen of the Tearling is getting interesting reviews; I thought my sister would like Premonitions but I’m gonna try it first; Permanent Present Tense is non-fiction and was mentioned in the neurobiology MOOC I’m doing; Liars and Thieves is a short by Karen Maitland, who I’m a big fan of!
An interesting bunch — I’ve been interested by The Copper Promise for a while!
I think I’m in love with Bookbridgr. I’m certainly super happy about getting The Vanishing Witch! I don’t think I’ve crossposted any of my Karen Maitland reviews here so far, but I’m definitely a fan.
Mostly non-fiction this week, as you can see; all my Steve Jones reservations came in, and I had a browse in the 610s-620s in the non-fiction section of the library. (Well, also the 560s, because dinosaurs.)
I didn’t actually magically get my hands on the second TPB of The Movement, but I thought it’d be silly to put up the cover of every single issue. So there y’go. And I imagine there’s no mystery as to why I picked up Guardians of the Galaxy.
Okay, I can’t believe how long this post has got, and I need to do a ton more things before I go to bed. When this goes live in the morning, I’ll already be out at the Race for Life, volunteering at a 10k event. And then on Sunday, I’m running in the 5k event. So I may not be very active this week, but I will visit back anyone that comments here, of course! Have a good week.
(Oh, and if you have some spare cash, sponsor me, please?!)
ETA: Except I can’t volunteer today due to travel problems, wah. But at least I’ll be around to chat to people!
What have you recently finished reading? Legends of Red Sonja (Gail Simone) et al, which was not as good as the first Red Sonja TPB under Gail Simone’s leadership, but still pretty fun, and also Rocket Girl: Times Squared (Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder), which was… okay, but I wasn’t enamoured.
What are you currently reading?
I’m slowly-slowly making my way through Death, Disability and the Superhero (José Alaniz), which is very academic and hard going, because I haven’t had to use my brain like this in a while. I’m enjoying it, though; I’m wondering if it’s going to mention Hawkeye in, what was it, the 70s? Who was deaf, according to the internet. I think Gail Simone’s Vengeance Moth is a bit too recent for this study, but I’m gonna be interested in the stuff about Daredevil. I haven’t read any Daredevil yet, but it is something I’m interested in.
I’m also reading The Serpent’s Promise (Steve Jones), which… I’m not sure how I feel about it. He’s one of those people who is very, very dismissive of faith/religion and basically holds it up as an intellectual truth that there’s no God. Which obviously, I’m not so sure about it. Anyway, the aim is to explain events in the Bible through science.
And finally, I’m reading The Vanishing Witch (Karen Maitland). It only arrived this morning, so I probably shouldn’t jump straight to it, but I’ve enjoyed all of Karen Maitland’s books and I’m excited about this one. I accidentally read the back page (I read so fast that if my eyes fall on it, it’s read), so I have some idea of what’s going to happen, and for once I’m a little disappointed about that. Normally I don’t mind spoilers.
What will you read next?
I’m trying to work on my Netgalley ratio right now, so next is probably Yesterday’s Kin (Nancy Kress). Although I’m also thinking of Illusive (Emily Lloyd-Jones), because hey, superpowered heist story!