This week’s reading – some disappointing and some compelling

It’s been a mixed week or so in my reading life. A few books that I thought would be absorbing have turned out to be slightly disappointing. They weren’t disappointing enough to stop reading them but I didn’t have that great urge to pick up the volume and read it which I often have with books I really love. In fact, finishing these books was a bit of a chore. Of course, it is all a matter of preference and others may have different views– none of these books was badly written but some are just not for me.

I finally finished my audiobook of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It was long, really long. Much too long in my opinion, although it is regarded as a great classic so I am not sure that my opinion has much weight. I thought that there was way too much philosophising and not enough action. It was an excellent study of the disintegration of someone’s mental health but I did find the eponymous heroine quite wearing by the end despite her obvious problems.

Also disappointing, but for a different reason was Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. This is a fantasy novel based on the idea that people hold different gifts and that one of the two main characters has the ability to read when someone is telling the truth and that makes her very desirable and thus she has to flee from those who would misuse her. It’s a clever idea and very well developed but I thought that the author had too many ideas. There was a lot going on in this novel and I felt a bit adrift. I wasn’t quite sure who could do what, what the threads were, how someone could be a thread sister/brother, the social background of both the women characters and how many sorts of witches there were. There was also some development of themes about old magic as well. There was no problem with any of it except that there was just too much and I felt bombarded with ideas and information.

I read a fictional memoir called The Visible World  by Mark Slouka. It is the story of a man who tries to find out what has happened in his parents’ past during the last war in Czechoslovakia. This book had an unusual, lyrical style. It bounced around from the past to the present and changed from the first person to a third person narrative. The story meandered about with the author telling stories of people met during bus rides and during the investigation that don’t really add to the story. I have a linear mind and like a linear story. It’s probably a limitation of mine but it did make this book frustrating.

Obviously I don’t enjoy every book I pick up but it has been disappointing to have a few recently where I have issues. I did, however, have more books that I enjoyed a lot so they made up for it.

I read Dawnthief by James Barclay. This is a reread and the start of a fantasy series about a group of mercenaries who become involved in trying to save their world from evil. I enjoyed these books in the past and it was a pleasant discovery that I enjoyed them again. The author is good at creating a new world and a variety of characters who fit it well, He is also not afraid to kill off major characters so you really never know what is going to happen next. I am looking forward to rereading the rest of the series as it is so long since I have read them that I have forgotten what happens next. I do like an epic fantasy series.

I started another fantasy series with Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. It is a Young Adult book about three sisters who have to compete to be queen of their land. I thought it might be quite a straightforward book but the author has included lots of minor characters and some very good magic ideas. I have immediately purchased the next book to see what happens which is always a sign of my satisfaction with a book.

I have recently started a true crime book about a Victorian crime called Mr Briggs’ Hat by Kate Colquhoun. I do enjoy a good true crime book and have read a lot of those which re-examine Victorian crimes and give you quite a lot of social history as well. This one is very readable and I am about one third of the way through.

A friend at work gave me her copy of Macbeth by Jo Nesbo. She is a great fan of the author but didn’t enjoy this book at all. This is a modern retelling of the Shakespeare play and I am finding it compelling reading. It is really dark but it is interesting looking at how the author has interpreted the original and retold it. I can’t read a lot at once though so this may take me some time to finish.

A book I have just started is leaving me with mixed feelings. I am not sure if it is going to be added to my disappointing list, or even abandoned. It might, however, pick up and become one of the more enjoyable ones. It is The Perfect Hero by Victoria Connolly.  It has a lot of the usual ingredients of the genre usually described as women’s fiction. The heroine is left some money, opens a guest house, is a fan of Jane Austen and is attracted to the wrong person while the right man is unassertive. I enjoy this type of book but this particular story contains a trope which I find particularly annoying. The author has been seized with lust for a very attractive man (he is an actor) and when she is in his presence she loses her common sense and cannot think straight. If she carries on being struck dumb by his very presence them I shall have to give up on the book however much I like the plot. I shall read some more this evening and see where the author goes with this.

I’m going away later this week and have a number of books packed together with my trusty Kindle. Let’s hope that not too many of them are disappointing to me.

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