Hi everyone, I’m back with my monthly wrap-up for February.
With the shorter month and the Chinese festivities of the Lunar New Year (which means more time spent with family and friends instead of my nose in my books), I only managed to complete 5 novels, a couple of Sherlock Holmes novellas and a handful of short stories.
I’ll start with the novel which was the book of the month for me.
The Girl in the Tower (The Winternight Trilogy, #2) by Katherine Arden
I love these books by Katherine Arden. The rich Russian folklore in the historical setting was simply magical and so beautifully written. I’ve to say that one thing was the same across all the different cultures in the world, and that was the place of women in society historically. I loved how defiant Vasilisa Petrovna was in the face of such overbearing expectations for her gender, as well as her fiery passion and courage which stoked her unusual powers. I hoped for a love story to spring forth from her tale and when it did, it my heart ached over it. Knowing me, that made me appreciate the book even more. Adult fairy tale at its finest.
I cannot wait to finish this trilogy in the month of March, and hope that it’ll be satisfying conclusion.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time, #5) by Robert Jordan
I’ve started my Wheel of Time reread about two years ago. I’ve actually tried reading The Eye of The World many, many years ago, but I didn’t even manage to get halfway then. Fast forward to 2014 – I was mind-blown by Words of Radiance and needed more from Brandon Sanderson. It was then I found out that Sanderson also took over the completion for The Wheel of Time and I ended up binging the series in my haste to reach the books which were finished by him, much to the detriment of my reading enjoyment. This resulted in me skipping a few books as the plot started to really drag from books 7 to 10. For my reread, I made it a point to spread out the books as much as I could and it made a discernible difference in how much I’m able to enjoy them this time. I’ve finished The Shadow Rising, the 4th book sometime end-2020 and while I enjoyed it more, for some reason I didn’t decide to continue with my reread anytime soon then. Until the TV show came out end of last year, and disappointed me to no end with the treatment of the Dragon Reborn in the last episode. I needed to read and be reminded of Rand al’ Thor’s badassery again, and hence restarted my reread. Same as for the previous books, I enjoyed The Fires of Heaven a lot more the second time around and especially after the long hiatus from the preceding book. Rand’s and Mat’s stories were the highlights for me. The absence of Perrin actually made it better for me, mainly because I couldn’t stand Faile and not so much as him being a poor character. While I found Nynaeve to be just as aggravating as ever (and she has a lot of PoV time here), I tried to see her antics in a more humourous angle and that certainly helped. Goodness gracious, that woman made my eyes roll so hard. I’m still looking forward to continue with my journey through The Wheel of Time again, albeit with a few months gap in between each book.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Talisman by Stephen King & Peter Straub
One thing I’ve not mentioned on this blog so far is that I’m doing a scenic route reading order for Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. The Talisman is the next book in the reading order after finishing The Gunslinger, which I honestly didn’t enjoy all that much. However, I was advised by Celeste to at least stick it out until the The Drawing of Three, before I decide to continue on or not. I did enjoy reading The Talisman though, as it has a dark fairy tale vibe and some great characters in it. There were times when King’s writing went over my head, but I didn’t feel it as much here. Moreover, the writing was so seamless that this didn’t feel like a co-authored book at all.
I’ve two more titles to go through before reaching the 2nd Dark Tower book, which will be The Eyes of the Dragon and (shudder) It.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.
Death on the Nile (Hercule Poirot) by Agatha Christie
How many great love stories are actually tragedies…
Another fantastic Christie mystery. I greatly appreciated the different structure in this book where the characters were introduced extensively before the murder even happened with Poirot right in the thick of the matter. As far as characterisation in Christie’s books go, this book has some of the best that I’ve read so far. This was likely due to the fact that we get to spend a lot more time getting to know the characters before the murder even happened. This was the first story that I’ve read where Poirot had a lot of interactions with all the characters, including the murder victim, which brought a more intimate and tragic note into the narrative.
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars.
Now, one cannot discover a love for classic murder mysteries and Agatha Christie without also extending that to possibly the most famous creation in the history of detective fiction, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. This was further stoked after I’ve watched BBC’s Sherlock Holmes TV show not too long ago (yes I know, how remiss of me to have waited so long) and being told by my husband that the canon stories and references were so cleverly incorporated into the modernised version of a Holmes retelling of sorts. I’ve already owned the complete audio narration of Sherlock Holmes by the superb Stephen Fry for a while now and started with A Study in Scarlet. Holmes and Fry made for a potently delightful combination, and thus I enjoyed myself tremendously listening to the audiobook. On a whim, I also decided to rewatch the first episode of the TV show, A Study in Pink, and it was a cracker of an experience to have knowledge of the canon story and see how it was retold in a modern setting. I’m now on a mission to progressively go through the Holmes’ collection as well as progressively rewatch the TV show in tandem, as I found it to be a most fascinating and enjoyable experience.
The Sign of Four
I’ve to say that I can’t tell whether I would’ve rated the story quite as high if it was not for Fry’s magnificent delivery. While I was engrossed in the mystery plot and the ways in which Holmes unravelled it, the long narrative given by the perpetrator thereafter was not typically a feature that I enjoyed much. Fortunately, this was only one single long chapter and Fry’s delivery was so good (especially his accents) that it made me chuckle.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.
Valley of Fear
This was a story of two parts – one which kept me intrigued and engaged, i.e. the mystery itself, and another which I found to be overly long-winded in trying to deliver its intended impact. Similar to A Study in Scarlet, there was a significant portion dedicated to a rather meandering backstory to explain the motives behind the current-day mystery.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.
Rise of Empire (The Riyria Relevations, #3 & #4) by Michael J. Sullivan
Do I need to say anymore about how biased I am when it comes to Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn? This was my third reread and I’m still loving it tremendously. It’s also a well-established and commonly held view that this series keeps getting better from one book to the next. This second omnibus was where one could start to see more character development coming forth for its main cast of characters. And it’s when I first started to appreciate how well Sullivan could write his female characters.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison
Existential horror at a different level, this was one of the darkest and most disturbing stories that I’ve ever read, and one that I’d never care to read again.
The Purloined Letters, Imp of the Perverse, Ligeia, Morella, The Premature Burial, The Faces in the Case of M. Valdemar, Hop-Frog, William Wilson by Edgar Allan Poe
A selection of some pretty weird and verbose short stories which made me realised why Poe can be either a hit or a miss.
What’s Next in March
Celeste, Eon and myself will be doing some Middle Grade buddy reads. A few titles that have already been lined up are Howl’s Moving Castle (a reread), Redwall , The Trials of Morrigan Crow and Pan’s Labyrinth. We’ll also be finishing up The Winternight Trilogy, while I wrap my reread of The Riyria Revelations with the last and the best omnibus, Heir of Novron. I’m also looking forward to check out Travis Baldree’s (the superb narrator of the Cradle series) debut novel, a cozy fantasy titled Legends & Lattes.
Signing off for now..