Thursday, 8 August 2013

Reading Wrap-Up | July 2013

I managed to get through four books this month which, while it isn't as many as I'd hoped, isn't too bad considering July turned out to be a pretty busy month for me. I spent a week away from home to attend my graduation and visit family and friends, I sort of took part in Camp NaNoWriMo and I started work experience at the local library. Needless to say, I haven't had heaps of time to read.
     So, on with the wrap-up!

My Rating: 

Avry’s power to heal the sick should earn her respect in the plague-torn land of Kazan. Instead she is feared. Her kind are blamed for the horrifying disease that has taken hold of the nation. When Avry uses her forbidden magic to save a dying child, she faces the guillotine. Until a dark, mysterious man rescues her from her prison cell. His people need Avry’s magic to save their dying prince. The very prince who first unleashed the plague on Kazan.

Saving the prince is certain to kill Avry – yet she already faces a violent death. Now she must choose – use her healing touch to show the ultimate mercy or die a martyr to a lost cause?

The first novel I read in July was also my very first Maria V. Snyder novel. I've been wanting to read something of Snyder's for a long time now, especially after having so many people telling me to read her Study trilogy, so I picked up a copy of Touch of Power from The Book Depository.
     When I started this book I was just coming out of my reading slump, so it took me a little longer to read than I would have liked, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it; in fact I'd go as far as to say that it was this book that tugged me out of my slump. The story was well-paced, the plot was interesting and the characters were very enjoyable to follow. I'm very pleased to say that there was no trace of instalove in this book and, despite my fears, the main character didn't seem like a Mary-Sue to me at all.
     If you're a fan of high fantasy but you sometimes feel a little intimidated by the density of words which often goes hand in hand with the genre then pick this book up; it's a much lighter read than something written by the likes of Tolkien or Martin, but it's still an enthralling story.

My Rating: 

Autumn 1541. A plot against the throne has been uncovered, and Henry VIII has set off on a spectacular progress from London to York, along with a thousand soldiers, the cream of the nobility, and his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, to quell his rebellious northern subjects. Awaiting his arrival are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his loyal assistant, Jack Barak. In addition to processing petitions to the king, Shardlake's task is to protect a dangerous conspirator until he is transported back to London for interrogation.

But when a local glazier is murdered, things get a little more complicated as the murder seems to be not only connected to Shardlake's prisoner but also to the royal family itself. Then Shardlake stumbles upon a cache of secret papers that throws into doubt the legitimacy of the entire royal line, and a chain of events unfolds that threatens Shardlake with the most terrifying fate of the age: imprisonment in the Tower of London.
Continuing with Matthew Shardlake's adventures I read Sovereign, the third book in C.J. Sansom's Shardlake series. This was a particularly nice read for me as, unlike the previous two books in the series which are much more rooted in the south of England, the majority of Sovereign takes place in York; a city I am much more familiar with.
     It was a lot of fun to read about the developing friendship between Matthew and Jack and watch as, once again, poor Matthew was swept up into a murder mystery he'd rather have nothing to do. While I did guess the ultimate culprit a little before I was proved correct there were some other unexpected twists and turns throughout the novel which really added to the story, and Sansom should be praised for the way he can weave so many different people and plots into one novel.
     If you're a lover of historical fiction and you still haven't read the Shardlake series then you're missing out!

My Rating: 

Every April, when the wind blows from the sea and mingles with the scent of lilacs, Landon Carter remembers his last year at Beaufort High. It was 1958, and Landon had already dated a girl or two. He even swore that he had once been in love. Certainly the last person in town he thought he'd fall for was Jamie Sullivan, the daughter of the town's Baptist minister. 

A quiet girl who always carried a Bible with her schoolbooks, Jamie seemed content living in a world apart from the other teens. She took care of her widowed father, rescued hurt animals, and helped out at the local orphanage. No boy had ever asked her out. Landon would never have dreamed of it. 

Then a twist of fate made Jamie his partner for the homecoming dance, and Landon Carter's life would never be the same. Being with Jamie would show him the depths of the human heart and lead him to a decision so stunning it would send him irrevocably on the road to manhood...

My third book of July was my very first Nicholas Sparks novel. I've heard so many people praising The Notebook and it's for that very reason that I've stayed away from it thus far; I have a feeling it might not be as good as the hype suggests. I had, however, been meaning to read A Walk to Remember for a couple of years and after receiving it last Christmas I finally got around to reading it while I was away from home for my graduation.
     It's a very bittersweet novel, and though a lot of it is very sad there is a lovely niceness to it which is often so hard to find in novels nowadays; so many authors want to shock you and horrify you that it's easy to forget the warm feeling that comes with reading a purely nice book.
     That being said it wasn't without its flaws, the biggest one being the way in which it often told certain scenes more than it showed them. It was a rather short book, but I think it easily could have been a lot longer and fleshed out with a little more detail. I still enjoyed it though, and I'm sure I'll return to Nicholas Sparks in the future.

My Rating: 

A president has been overthrown by a military coup in a nameless country in an unspecified era. The president's barber, chef, and portraitist are imprisoned, with many others, in a remote palace in the hills high above the city center. Before the coup, these three men worked with unquestioning loyalty, serving the president in seemingly benign jobs. Now, forced to serve the country's new leader, they begin to reconsider their role in the old regime. 

In simple, elegant prose "Blood Kin" alternates between the voices of the barber, the chef, and the portraitist. Later in the book their wives, lovers, and daughters tell their own tales. As the old order falls, so does the veil that hides the truth about these men and women's secret passions. No one, it seems, is entirely immune to the many temptations of power. 

I came across this little novel for sale on a second-hand book stall at the market place and picked it up after I was immediately drawn in by the blurb. More than anything else this book interested me and it didn't disappoint, even if it did mean I ended July on a rather dark note.
     Each of the six characters whose points of view we explore are nameless, instead they are referred to by their relationship to the president: his barber; his chef; his portraitist; his barber's brother's fiancĂ©e; his chef's daughter; his portraitist's wife. Each voice was different - an impressive feat when there are six of them - and added an extra little something to this story of sinister, sexual politics.
     Though the country remains nameless, it has been frequently suggested by other readers of the novel that it is set in Africa. A country well known for its political turbulence. This book is a must read for readers who enjoy stories steeped in politics, power and its affect on people.

So that's everything I read in July! Check back in at the end of the month for my August wrap-up.
     Thanks for reading! J.