Reading List by Rose for May & June
His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
I’m a bit late when it comes to this series, since I somehow managed not to hear about it until recently. A series set during the Napoleonic Wars, only with an aerial corps of dragons, sounded like a fantastic idea. Novik has managed to give the dragons character and personalities and to integrate them into history and the military scenes so well that it’s hard to believe that they were not, in fact, a part of the Battle of Trafalgar, nor did they roam about in Qing Dynasty China. I’ve heard conflicting views about some of the later books in the series, but so far I’m really enjoying the adventures of Temeraire and Capt. William Laurence. B+ (for the second book, Throne of Jade, as well), mainly because battle scenes are not my cup of tea. Even if they do involve dragons.HQN
Written In My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
About three quarters of the way through this one, I wrote to a friend and fellow Outlander reader and told her that I never thought I’d see the day when Claire’s scenes were the least interesting ones in an Outlander book. But it’s true: Claire and Jamie’s relationship seems to be on repeat, and I’m not particularly interested in the various medical scenes, especially not 18th-century surgeries, or in how everything smells. On the other hand, I did enjoy some of the other storylines, especially those involving Lord John Grey and his brother Hal, the Duke of Pardloe. The good news is that they, and several other (formerly) secondary characters, play a large role in the book. This may not be good news to readers whose interest is mainly in Claire and Jamie, however. There were some interesting and entertaining scenes sprinkled throughout, and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood does have an actual ending, which is more than could be said for the previous entry in the series, An Echo in the Bone. This one is borderline C+/B-.HQN
Never Less than A Lady by Mary Jo Putney
The second book in Putney’s Lost Lords series was a nice if not particularly memorable read, with a hero and heroine who are mature and mostly act like it. It was never quite clear why the bad guys kept going after the heroine Julia for so long, but Julia herself was a lovely character –strong despite what had happened to her, and resourceful in her ability to adapt to changing circumstances and come out the better of it. B-HQN
I’d been meaning to read this book since it was reviewed here last year, mainly because it’s based on Erich Kastner’s Das Doppelte Lottchen (which was adapted as The Parent Trap). The idea of telling this story with a focus on the parents’ romance was nice. The problem is that too much of it was devoted to angsting and monologuing, followed by short bursts of action and revelations that were resolved very quickly – this struck me as rather similar to the narrative of a children’s book, and was perhaps intentional, but it’s not a good structure for a romance. I especially disliked the super-speedy resolution after the hero learns the truth, and how quick the heroine was to forgive him. The German-set parts were entertaining and I would have enjoyed more of that. C+HQN
I reviewed Deeper in May and will probably read the next book, Harder, once it is published.
Quinn’s 1995 debut novel was among the only books of hers that I hadn’t read. As it turns out, I wasn’t missing much; you can tell that it is an earlier book, and it lacks the polish of much of her later work, and it read a bit like a Judith McNaught book, which is not really something that suits Quinn’s style. On the other hand, it did feel a bit less paint-by-numbers than some of the more recently published historicals that I’ve read (no thanks to the hero, though – he was a standard-issue rake) and had some fun dialogue. CHQN
I reviewed this book last month. I keep confusing the title with that of the A-Ha song.
I enjoyed In For a Penny and gave it a B.
I love the Temeraire series but beware the bunyips in the Australia book. Ooooh, those boring bunyips. I can’t wait for the next book. And I admire you for making it as far as you have with Gabaldon. Halfway through the second book, I couldn’t take anymore.
@Jayne: I survived the bunyips, though it was a challenge. I still have two published books to go, but for some reason they are both quite expensive, so I’m waiting to see if the price drops.
The friend I discussed MOBY with had this to say about it: Seriously, she could have condensed everything since book 5 into one single book and instead of so many tidbits that become repetitive way too fast, she could have developed the side characters properly. We both liked the first part of the book but weren’t thrilled with the rest.
Personally, I think that the first three Outlander books are a very good trilogy and can stand alone as such. Afterward it’s really a mixed bag. The supporting characters are the main reason that I’m still reading.
I enjoyed the first three Outlander books and have reread each of them a number of times. I’ve never reread any of the others even once, not even to refresh my memory after the looooong waits between books. I’ll keep reading this series out of a sense of commitment, if nothing else, but anyone new to Outlander could easily stop after the third.
In For a Penny was one of the more excruciating books I’ve read in awhile in terms of my struggle to even finish it. I had high hopes for it, but was sorely disappointed. I’m hard-pressed to think of a single major* character I actually liked and the plot stretched even my my elastic limits of believability.
*I did like Penny’s parents, but they had few scenes.
I really enjoyed the first Temeraire book and even the second was pretty good. But after that I lost interest in the characters, so I never read the third.
I had high hopes for this Putney series but the first book (Loving a Lost Lord) let me down — the plot was really far-fetched, with six characters of characters being presumed dead (in separate instances) when they were really alive. Is there anything like that in this one?
I liked Betrayal about as much as you did, I think.
And I DNF’d Outlander about a hundred pages from the end of the book. Even so, I’m thinking of tuning in to the show because I liked writer/producer Ron Moore’s work on Battlestar Galactica. Do you think you’ll watch, Rose?
I love the Temeraire books, but have listened to them all in audio rather than read them. I don’t think I’d enjoy reading them all back to back. I think enough time passes between books that I’m so happy to see the characters again, I enjoy each one when it comes.
I’m the only person I know who thought Claire was too much a Mary Sue and couldn’t read past the middle of the first book. I did finally listen to the whole thing in audio and liked it better than I expected to, but got bogged down in the middle of the second book and never finished it.
@pooks: No, you’re not alone in thinking that about Claire. And I thought Jamie was a kind of Marty Stu as well– good at everything and beloved by everybody.
I make sure to mix the Temeraire books with other things, and haven’t grown tired of them yet. I’m tempted to go ahead with the next one, though, since my TBR list is once again non-existent.
@Susan: Penny’s parents are wonderful. I understand why you’d like them even though that book didn’t work for you.
@Janine: Here’s what I wrote down about the first book: Absolutely ludicrous plot with people popping up from the dead and secret siblings everywhere, plus tons of sequel bait characters. Nonetheless, I was mostly entertained. Never Less Than a Lady isn’t as far-fetched, though it must be said that the heroine faked her own death years before, making her a Lost Lady.
I doubt I’ll watch much of the Outlander miniseries. The trailers don’t appeal and I feel that they’ve miscast Claire, which would pretty much ruin the whole thing. Also, it looks to me like it’s being positioned to appeal to fans of the books but not really to a broader audience.
Claire does have some flaws, and she isn’t written to be nearly as perfect as Jamie. As AnimeJune wrote, “there’s never been, nor will there ever be, a man born of a human woman who can ever even hope to approach the pure and glorious manliness of Jamie Fraser.” :)
I’ve read and enjoyed all the Temeraire books, mostly because I keep wondering, “How does she DO that?” You can’t tell me there weren’t dragons at Trafalgar, because I have a really credible book that says there were. Currently, I’m 2/3rds through BLOOD OF TYRANTS, the book after the bunyips, and I still don’t know how Russia figures in, but I’m close.
Man, I want a dragon, just a little one. Maybe a tattoo.
Nope, there are a good number of us in that camp.
I loved His Majesty’s Dragon. I thought the first three books worked well as a trilogy and then it started to go south for me. I’m still planning to read the rest of the books, but the bunyip book is next and I don’t know, I kind of lost momentum. I the whole series is a fascinating study of unintended consequences (even though I’m very protective of the characters and would prefer they not suffer quite so many consequences).
I didn’t make it past the first couple chapters of Outlander, and I still feel pretty good about that decision.
I haven’t read Splendid, but I think I read Minx (her third book) and iirc I felt similarly – it wasn’t what I expected from Julia Quinn.
@cleo: that’s supposed to be “I THINK the whole series…” – argh
I enjoyed the Outlander series, but I did stop after Drums of Autumn. I couldn’t get into The Fiery Cross, despite making about 5,000 attempts to finish the book. I ended up just head canoning my own ending and calling it a day.
Agree with Claire and the Mary Sue label, kind of. She was super special and all the hot guys wanted her, but she did have some flaws/moments of bad judgement to make it more bearable. Honestly, she doesn’t even come close to my Gold Star Mary Sue standard…Jaenelle from the Black Jewels Trilogy. Ugh, *shivers*.
@Isobel Carr: I’m in that camp, too. It took me weeks to get as far as I did in Outlander, and I never have finished it. That said, I have read and liked the stand-alone Lord John books.
I’m so glad other people also have problems with Claire, I seriously thought I was the only one as well!
It wasn’t so much that she was a Mary Sue but she seemed to become more and more smug and dismissive of other people as the books went on. Her viewpoint started coming across like she thought SHE was better than anyone else (especially towards other women I thought).
I agree, at least to some extent. She’s often portrayed as being smarter/better/explaining things to others, and it can get to be too much. And Claire’s story just doesn’t have anywhere to go at this point.
@Rose: Just out of curiosity, does anyone know how many more books Gabaldon plans for the series? Wasn’t she supposed to have finished it off by now?
@Sandra: Agreed. I like the Lord John books too except when he’s mooning over “the pure and glorious manliness of Jamie Fraser.”
@Darlynne: A Winchester would do fine for me. I’m sure I could fit one in my back yard.
@Jayne: I’m not sure that even Gabaldon knows – and her publishers/editors have no compelling interest to get her to wrap up the series.
Lord John is awesome. A Winchester would also be awesome, or perhaps a Plein-Vite.
@Sandra: My problem was more the bad history and the egregious info dumps (lets stop the action and spend four pages learning how to make a candle!). I just had to stop reading as the books were clearly not for me.
@Rose: I agree the marketing for the show is stupid. In what way do you feel Claire is miscast? Is it the actress’ appearance or something else? I’m not a big enough fan of the books to care if the novel’s Claire and the show’s Claire diverge. In fact I’m kind of hoping they will, since I didn’t like Claire much in the books.
@Jayne: I wonder whether, if the TV series is successful enough to keep going, if Gabladon will run into a George R. R. Martin-like problem of having the show potentially outpace the books and reveal to readers how things are going to end. I doubt it will come to that though.
@Janine: She looks wrong and from what I’ve seen so far, she doesn’t seem to get the character. Something is just off.
I doubt it’ll come to the series outpacing the books, either.