Twice a year, the English Library has a massive, huge, gigantic book sale. It’s the talk of the town for at least a week, as very very little happens in Switzerland.
This year, I managed not only to: 1) align the stars in order to be in town for the sale, 2) remembered the sale early enough to invite people to join me! We held our ground and fought the crowds – and we all came back with bags of books.
I tried not to go too crazy, though, and only picked up books I knew I was going to read:
- Living with Books by Alan Powers – This coffee table book is so friggin perfect. It is basically just pages and pages of photographs of book shelves. Very meta.
- Blood Red Road by Moira Young – I’ve had this on my wishlist since before it came out… but I think the series is over now? Whatever. I hope it is great!
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson – I’ll be honest: I don’t really want to read this book. I know it is extremely important and essential, but… I don’t know if I will be able to handle it. I do, however, want to try. Some day.
- The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien – I love this super retro edition. Wait, maybe I shouldn’t call it retro, as it is a first printing from the 70s. 🙂
- Run by Ann Patchett – I love, love this book and didn’t have it in hardcover. I am especially happy to find this particular cover, as the UK cover is horribly white-washed.
Anyhow, there you have it. A quick peak at the books that have recently joined my shelves. Any recommendations about where to start?
Aurelia by Anne Osterlund
Published by Penguin on 2008-04-17
Genres: Fantasy YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
An impressive debut, equal parts commercial appeal and literary prowess.
Princess Aurelia is next in line to rule the kingdom of Tyralt, but she would rather be one of the common folk, free to learn and roam and . . . not marry the next tyrannical prince that comes courting. Naturally, the king wants Aurelia to marry for political power. Aurelia wants to marry for love. And someone in the kingdom wants her . . . dead. Assigned to investigate and protect Aurelia is Robert, the son of the king's former royal spy and one of Aurelia's oldest friends. As Aurelia and Robert slowly uncover clues as to who is threatening her, their friendship turns to romance. With everything possible on the line, her life, her kingdom, her heart, Aurelia is forced to take matters into her own hands, no matter the cost.
Thoughts: I adored Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund when I read it back in… many years ago. She immediately went onto my list of “why-must-they-be-so-perfect” authors and I hoped my next foray into Osterlund-land would be just as impressive. Years later and – at last! – I finally got the chance to read her debut novel, Aurelia. And it was good. Very good, even. But it’s no Academy 7.
Let’s start out with the good: the characters. Aurelia features a POC heroine who is doing her best to cope with a very complicated life. Boys and her hair are not her priority – but she isn’t oblivious to those things, nor is she dismissive of girls who do make that the centre of their world. Meanwhile, Robert, he book’s male protagonist, is a genuinely good human being. He may be trying to protect Aurelia, but certainly doesn’t believe he has a “right” to her. All in all: big thumbs up.
The bad: Aurelia is far, far too short. Sure, there was drama and intrigue and whatnot – but it didn’t build long enough for me to truly care about its resolution. And the ending? Rushed and unsatisfying. Of course, I know there is a sequel, and many of the outstanding issues should be resolved in the next book, but… I want some kind of real conclusion. Not just a big “TO BE CONTINUED…”. Not cute. But, then again:
- this is Osterlund’s first book,
- I’m sure it was heavily edited to fit the publishing world’s many-sequel model, and
- despite #1 and #2 it is still very entertaining.
Bottom line? In spite of the not-so-great aspects, Aurelia is worth a read – especially if you are into good historical YA novels. But, for God’s sake, go read Academy 7 already!
I’ve been thinking about some of the Urban Fantasy books on my wishlist and shelves. A lot of these are books that I added to my to-read list when I was still discovering the Urban Fantasy genre. I wanted to know what was the best, what people always recommended and then, more often than not, I went out bought them all. Now, of course, many of them I did read. Patricia Briggs, Laurell K. Hamilton, Kelley Armstrong, Chloe Neill, etc. etc!
But many I just never got to and… that makes me both a wee bit sad and a wee bit glad. The latter because it means I still have fantastic new literary-universes to explore!
Anyhow, here’s a look at some of the books I’ve “really, honestly, I promise” been meaning to get to. I can’t recommend them myself, but they are considered “classics”* for a reason!
As you can see, I have a lot of good books still on my list! The Kitty series, for instance, is supposed to be a must-read for fans of Kelley Armstrong and – hello! – features a radio host! And hell, the Dresden Files I kinda just want to read in order to get into the fandom.
C.E. Murphy is one of those authors I constantly see featured at Forbidden Planet and always kick myself for not having gotten to. And then there’s the Fever series – which everyone and their mother raves about but is still on my list… how did that happen? Or what about Rob Thurman? I remember including her in a post of male authors (oops) almost 6 years ago now… and yet. 🙂
SO! I am taking it upon myself to kick off a personal challenge: read some Urban Fantasy “classics” and find some new favourites.
This is not a deadline challenge, but rather a perpetual reminder to self. I plan to get to some of these books this year (I’m looking at you, Carrie Vaughn) and will let you know how I get on!
* Just in case some of you are feeling extra pedantic, I remind you that I am using the word “classic” very lightly. Not to mention the fact that “urban fantasy” is still a relatively new genre (25 odd-years old, though there are older works that could probably fit the under the title as well). So, yes, these novels are millennials – but they are still “classics” in my book!
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Published by Pan Macmillan on 2015-05-21
Genres: High Fantasy
Source: Received for review from publishers
Add to Goodreads
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood's powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows - everyone knows - that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia - all the things Agnieszka isn't - and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her. But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him. From the author of the Temeraire series comes this hugely imaginative, engrossing and vivid fantasy novel, inspired by folk and fairy tales. It is perfect reading for fans of Robin Hobb and Trudi Canavan.
Thoughts: I was ecstatic to find Uprooted in my mailbox. I am a massive, massive fan of Novik’s Temeraire (read my glowing review here) and was very excited to see what she would produce outside of that universe.
Which is appropriate, considering what dominated Uprooted was the universe Novik created. It was dark, twisted and disconcerting in a way I’ve yet to experience. Instead of a single villain, Agnieszka and the Dragon faced off against a… feeling. The Wood was the literal representation of decay and infection, while still appearing as a lush, beautiful life-form. It was a bit difficult for me to wrap my brain around, because it was so foreign… and in a way, that’s what also made it so scary.
The Wood drove this story, more so than the principal characters. And because of that, Uprooted refused to be one “type” of story. It wasn’t just a semi-Stockholm Syndrome romance, or a girl-discovers-her-powers YA novel, or a high fantasy fight-against-evil… it was all of those things distorted by the overbearing threat of the Wood. So expect twists and turns, and don’t ever, ever get too comfortable.
Character-wise, while I can’t say I was overly emotionally invested in Agnieszka, Kasia or the Dragon, I really appreciated how they were handled. The Dragon was an angry, mean man – but one who was trying to do the right thing. Kasia and Agnieszka, meanwhile, had one of the most genuine female friendships I’ve ever read. They loved each other, but they also had their own problems. When jealously and hurt reared their heads, instead of breaking apart, they acknowledged the issues and didn’t let them get in the way. It was masterfully done.
Bottom line? Uprooted is a supremely unique novel, set in a universe I can guarantee you’ve never been to. If you’re suffering from genre fatigue, Uprooted will leave you uplifted.
Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been extremely busy these past few months – busy in a way I really have never been before. So, of course, my reading pace has taken a nose-dive and, with it, my book-purchasing rate. So much so that Book Depository sent me a 10% off code to say “come baaaaaaaack!”.
Geez okay okay. I get the point. Take my money.
The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre (goodreads)
I’m not sure how many times I’ve said this, but I’ll say it again: Ann Aguirre is one of my auto-buy authors. She’s amazing, fantastic, brilliant and other superlatives. I couldn’t care less what the synopsis is, it goes into the basket.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (goodreads)
Eon by Alison Goodman (goodreads)
I bought Eona yeaaaaars ago (it was on sale) and obviously was never able to read it as I was missing a key element. Now I can (at last) find out what all the hype is about!
End of Days by Susan Ee (goodreads)
I can’t believe this series is coming to an end. I remember when this was a self-published phenomena that I never imagined seeing on the shelves – and, of course, when I had the chance to meet Susan back when the second book came out (she is amazing, y’all). In short: a lot of memories and a lot of mixed feelings about the end.
Deadly Class Volume 2 by Rick Remender (goodreads)
I read and enjoyed Volume 1 last year – gorgeous art and super, super dark. Excited to see where this goes…
The Fade Out Volume 1 by Ed Brubaker (goodreads)
I bought the first issue of this comic last year and immediately thought “this needs to be read in a trade paperback”. I bought no further issues and have been NOT PATIENTLY waiting for this release. 🙂
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (goodreads)
Oh come on. Of course I got this. It is all the 21st century girls-being-awesome that I love about the internet – only with swords.
That’s all folks! Let me know if you have a recommendation out of this haul – need to know what to start with!