Audiobook Review: Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal

Title: Valour and Vanity (Glamourist Histories, #4)
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Narrator:  Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: April 29, 2014
Print length: 405 pages
Audio length: 10 hours, 12 minutes
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Acclaimed fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal has enchanted many fans with her beloved novels featuring a Regency setting in which magic–known here as glamour–is real. In Valour and Vanity, master glamourists Jane and Vincent find themselves in the sort of a magical adventure that might result if Jane Austen wrote Ocean’s Eleven.

After Melody’s wedding, the Ellsworths and Vincents accompany the young couple on their tour of the continent. Jane and Vincent plan to separate from the party and travel to Murano to study with glassblowers there, but their ship is set upon by Barbary corsairs while en route. It is their good fortune that they are not enslaved, but they lose everything to the pirates and arrive in Murano destitute.

Jane and Vincent are helped by a kind local they meet en route, but Vincent is determined to become self-reliant and get their money back, and hatches a plan to do so. But when so many things are not what they seem, even the best laid plans conceal a few pitfalls. The ensuing adventure is a combination of the best parts of magical fantasy and heist novels, set against a glorious Regency backdrop.

More fun with Jane and Vincent! Yes, I’m hooked on this series. Listening to the audiobook for #4, Valour and Vanity, was just as much fun as the first three. I’m only sad that there’s just one more left!

In Valour and Vanity, we’re treated to a high calibre caper. The synopsis is right to describe it as something out of Ocean’s Eleven!

Following a disastrous sea voyage in which they lose all their money and possessions, Jane and Vincent arrive in Venice penniless. To make matters more difficult, their intended host, Lord Byron, has left town on romantic pursuits, leaving Jane and Vincent with no place to go and no funds to pay for lodging or even a fresh set of clothes. Fortunately, a fellow traveler from their ship offers them his generous assistance…

And clearly, there’s more to the story, but I’m not going to give any spoilers! Let’s just say that there are twists and turns, all sorts of sneaky double-dealing, plus helpful nuns, a brave puppeteer*, gondola chases (yes, you can in fact have a chase scene with gondolas!), glass-blowing, and so much more.

*Fun fact: Author Mary Robinette Kowal is a professional puppeteer, so her inclusion of a heroic puppet-master here is just delightful.

Once again, Jane and Vincent are a terrific twosome. They’re unconventional, incredibly talented, and very much in love. They also feel real in the way that they face difficulties and disagreements, react emotionally, talk things through, and find ways to move forward. They don’t have to be perfect around each other — they love each other passionately and accept each other exactly as they are.

The Venice setting is new and different for this series, and provided a great setting for a plot where Jane and Vincent have to navigate without any of their usual allies or safety nets. The action is fast-paced, and the schemes are just oh-so-clever.

One sure sign that you’ve become overly involved as a reader is when you can’t stand for bad things to happen to beloved characters, even if the bad things lead to exciting storylines. This was my only problem with Valour and Vanity — I’m so in love with Jane and Vincent that it upsets me too much when their well-being is threatened, so even though the caper aspects of the story are really fun, I was also incredibly tense throughout! I just needed to know that the characters I care about would come out okay in the end. (Yes, of course they do. After all, we still need to get to book #5!)

This series continues to be a delight, and I can’t wait to start the final book, Of Noble Family. Well… I’m actually dreading it, because I don’t want the series to be over… but still, I have to know what happens next!

For an interesting look at the author’s puppetry career and her transition to writing, check out this article.

Shelf Control #238: Outside the Dog Museum by Jonathan Carroll

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.png

Title: Outside the Dog Museum
Author: Jonathan Carroll
Published: 1991
Length: 267 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Harry Radcliffe is a brilliant prize-winning architect—witty and remarkable. He’s also a self-serving opportunist, ready to take advantage of whatever situations, and women, come his way. But now, newly divorced and having had an inexplicable nervous breakdown, Harry is being wooed by the extremely wealthy Sultan of Saru to design a billion-dollar dog museum. In Saru, he finds himself in a world even madder and more unreal than the one he left behind, and as his obsession grows, the powers of magic weave around him, and the implications of his strange undertaking grow more ominous and astounding….

How and when I got it:

I found this at a library sale several years ago, and it’s been sitting in an unshelved stack of books ever since.

Why I want to read it:

Well, I’m not exactly sure that I want to read it, which is probably why it’s still sitting in its lonely stack waiting for some attention. I’ve read one book by this author, Bones of the Moon, which was incredibly weird (and also has one of my favorite covers of all time).

Once again, I was drawn to a Jonathan Carroll book because of the cover. (You have to look closely — but look! Doggos!)

I really can’t tell from the synopsis what this book will be like, how weird it’ll be (likely, very), or whether it will end up holding my attention. But, I do love the title and cover!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Audiobook Review: Without A Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal

Title: Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories, #3)
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Narrator:  Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: April 2, 2013
Print length: 361 pages
Audio length: 8 hours, 35 minutes
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Up-and-coming fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal enchanted fans with award-winning short stories and beloved novels featuring Regency pair Jane Ellsworth and Vincent. In Without a Summer the master glamourists return home, but in a world where magic is real, nothing—even the domestic sphere—is quite what it seems.

Jane and Vincent go to Long Parkmeade to spend time with Jane’s family, but quickly turn restless. The year is unseasonably cold. No one wants to be outside and Mr. Ellsworth is concerned by the harvest, since a bad one may imperil Melody’s dowry. And Melody has concerns of her own, given the inadequate selection of eligible bachelors. When Jane and Vincent receive a commission from a prominent family in London, they decide to take it, and take Melody with them. They hope the change of scenery will do her good and her marriage prospects—and mood—will be brighter in London.

Once there, talk is of nothing but the crop failures caused by the cold and increased unemployment of the coldmongers, which have provoked riots in several cities to the north. With each passing day, it’s more difficult to avoid getting embroiled in the intrigue, none of which really helps Melody’s chances for romance. It’s not long before Jane and Vincent realize that in addition to getting Melody to the church on time, they must take on one small task: solving a crisis of international proportions.

My love affair continues! Book #3 in Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Glamourist Histories is just a captivating as the first two. I simply love the story and the characters and the storytelling!

In Without A Summer, the weather is unseasonably cold, with snow lingering into May and June. Unhappy, desperate people need someone to blame, and so they blame the coldmongers — the glamourists who are skilled in providing cooling for people with fevers, for overly warm indoors during the summer, and to help grocers keep their produce longer. But as any knowledgeable glamourist can attest, it is simply impossible for glamour to affect the weather. Even the relatively smaller amounts of glamour worked by the coldmongers often leads to severe injury or death.

In the midst of the weather crisis, Jane and Vincent travel to London to work on a commission. They bring along Jane’s younger sister Melody, who lacks society or any prospects of a match on her parents’ country estate.

Jane and Vincent soon find themselves involved in intrigue, with a suspected plot involving both the coldmongers and Melody’s Irish Catholic suitor. What’s more, the couple encounter Vincent’s estranged father while in London — a hateful man with lots of power, who clearly wants to make Vincent pay for separating himself from the family and his father’s toxic influence.

The plot quickly becomes complicated and suspenseful, and by the final section of the book, I found myself incredibly worked up and tense with worry over Jane and Vincent’s fate. Rationally, I knew that — with two more books in the series — they’d surely be okay in the end. Still, until reaching the resolution of the high stakes drama, I was fairly terrified over seeing them in mortal peril.

As with the other books in the series, I found this one delightful. Beyond the action of the main plotlines, I just love seeing Jane and Vincent together. Too often, stories of romance end with the wedding ceremony. In The Glamourist Histories, we get to see what a devoted, happy, passionate marriage looks like. Jane and Vincent are deeply in love, enjoy a robust physical relationship, and have a true partnership as equals, pursuing their chosen professions together with grace and trust.

A nice surprise in Without A Summer is getting to see Melody as something other than the pretty, shallow girl she’s been portrayed as so far. Here, she shows surprising intellectual depth and curiosity, as well as commitment and bravery that are quite admirable. It’s a nifty trick of the author’s to make us share Jane’s surprise at Melody’s underlying strength and seriousness — having seen her through Jane’s eyes, we’ve only seen her as the sum of her face, her flirtations, and her standing as the pampered little sister.

Another aspect that bothered me at first, but ultimately made me appreciate the writing all the more, is seeing Jane as flawed. She’s always so strong and good, but in Without A Summer, she allows her unknowing prejudices to influence her interpretation of the events she witnesses. It’s not malicious on her part, but it’s still there, and puts certain characters in grave danger that might otherwise have been discovered or averted sooner.

The audiobook narration, courtesy of the author herself, is wonderful as always. I love her presentation of Jane, Vincent, Melody, and especially some of the young coldmongers they encounter.

I do love this series, and book #3 is a fabulous story. I can’t wait to continue!

Discworld, #3: Equal Rites

Equal Rites
Published 1987
228 pages

My Discworld Challenge:

Over the summer, I committed to reading the Discworld series! I’m starting a new Discworld book on the 1st of each month, going in order of publication date.

Synopsis for Equal Rites:

On Discworld, a dying wizard tries to pass on his powers to an eighth son of an eighth son, who is just at that moment being born. The fact that the son is actually a daughter is discovered just a little too late. The town witch insists on turning the baby into a perfectly normal witch, thus mending the magical damage of the wizard’s mistake. But now the young girl will be forced to penetrate the inner sanctum of the Unseen University–and attempt to save the world with one well-placed kick in some enchanted shins! 

My rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

My reaction:

Finally, a Discworld book that I really liked! I’m three books into the series, and I have to say that the first two books were not great. (Then again, my expectations were low, since I’d already been warned about those books).

But here in Equal Rites, the 3rd book in the (vast) series, things pick up! The story is much more focused and has great main characters, so despite some messiness toward the end, it’s a charming read.

In Equal Rites, a dying wizard intends to pass along his powers to a newborn baby… but the expected boy is actually a girl. Unfortunately for the wizard, what’s done is done, and his powers flow into baby Eskarina, known as Esk as she grows up.

It’s unheard of for a female to be a wizard — it’s “against the lore”, as several wizards protest. Girls can only grow up to be witches, whom wizards dismiss as women who fiddle around with plants and herbs, not powerful magical beings like themselves.

Esk and her teacher Granny Weatherwax have other ideas, and after Esk learns all the basics about witchcraft from Granny, they realize that the wizard school Unseen University in the city of Ankh-Morpork is the best and only option for Esk.

The plot meanders a bit once Esk gets to the city, and honestly, the action sequences toward the end are a bit all over the place. But that doesn’t matter so much. As I’m learning, at least half the delight of these books is Terry Pratchett’s awesomely clever writing. The plot is nice to have, the characters are often fabulous, but the writing is what really elevates the entire thing into (pardon my saying so) magic.

Their world, bounded by an encircling ocean that falls forever into space in one long waterfall, is as round and flat as a geological pizza, although without the anchovies.

The midwife’s name was Granny Weatherwax. She was a witch. That was quite acceptable in the Ramtops, and no one had a bad word to say about witches. At least, not if he wanted to wake up in the morning the same shape as he went to bed.

Time passed, which, basically, is its job.

“How did you get here, little girl?” she said, in a voice that suggested gingerbread cottages and the slamming of big stove doors.

“I got lost from Granny.” “And where’s Granny now, dear?” Clang went the oven doors again; it was going to be a tough night for all wanderers in metaphorical forests.

It is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you’re attempting can’t be done.

She had found them lodgings in The Shades, an ancient part of the city whose inhabitants were largely nocturnal and never inquired about one another’s business because curiosity not only killed the cat but threw it in the river with weights tied to its feet. The lodgings were on the top floor next to the well-guarded premises of a respectable dealer in stolen property because, as Granny had heard, good fences make good neighbors.

There was a feeling that the universe had been turned inside out in all dimensions at once. It was a bloated, swollen sensation. It sounded as though the whole world had said “gloop.”

Reality returned, and tried to pretend that it had never left.

See what I mean? Esk’s adventures with Granny Weatherwax are fun, but even if they weren’t, I’d be too busy laughing and snorting over the wordplay and puns to really mind at all.

I’m absolutely looking forward to…

Up next:

November 2020: Mort

Can’t wait for this one! Everyone seems to love Mort!

Book Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Title: Piranesi
Author: Susanna Clarke
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication date: September 15, 2020
Length: 245 pages
Genre: Fiction/fantasy
Source: Purchased

Rating: 5 out of 5.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, an intoxicating, hypnotic new novel set in a dreamlike alternative reality.

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s CircePiranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

How do you write about a book that’s impossible to describe?

When it comes to Piranesi, there’s so little that I can actually say. You have to read this and let it unravel itself to you. Knowing anything in advance would take so much away from the reading experience.

What I can say is this:

A man lives alone in an endless House, with halls and vestibules that seem to stretch on forever. Outside the House, as seen from its windows, are the sun and moon and stars. Inside there are clouds and birds, and on the lower levels, the sea and its rising and falling tides. The House is filled with statues, all depicting different people and creatures.

Also in the House are the remains of 13 people. There’s also the Other — an older man whom the main characters visits with twice a week, who refers to the main character as Piranesi. As far as Piranesi is concerned, the 15 people — two alive, thirteen dead — are all the people in the entire world.

So what’s actually going on here? What is this House? Why is this man here, keeping journals of his daily explorations, fishing on the lower levels, and leaving offerings to the dead?

I’m not telling. 30 pages into this book, I’d decided that it was the weirdest thing I’d read all year. Now that I’m done, that’s still true, but it also was a strangely captivating read. There are revelations and explanations, but the most interesting thing of all is living inside Piranesi’s mind and seeing his worldview.

The writing is beautiful, of course, even when utterly baffling. I ordered this book knowing nothing about it, other than that it was by Susanna Clarke, and that was enough for me to know that I needed it. After the huge size of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (782 pages for the hardcover, over 1000 for the paperback), I was pleasantly surprised to realize how slim Piranesi is.

Piranesi really doesn’t need to be any longer. It’s slim and decisive, telling a weirdly wonderful story with a sparseness and delicacy that make it a perplexing but ultimately fulfilling read.

Of course, there are probably many more layers to this book — issues of identity, memory, and psychology — that I only grasped the barest shadows of. But even without a deeper dive into the underlying meanings and symbolism, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Piranesi.

I just can’t wait for someone else in my life to read it — it’s so hard not to be able to talk about it!

Audiobook Review: Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

Title: Glamour in Glass (Glamourist Histories, #2)
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Narrator:  Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: April 10, 2012
Print length: 334 pages
Audio length: 8 hours, 8 minutes
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

 Mary Robinette Kowal stunned readers with her charming first novel Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence.

This magic comes in the form of glamour, which allows talented users to form practically any illusion they can imagine. Shades debuted to great acclaim and left readers eagerly awaiting its sequel.

Glamour in Glass follows the lives of beloved main characters Jane and Vincent, with a much deeper vein of drama and intrigue.

In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to Belgium for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, Jane and Vincent’s concerns turn from enjoying their honeymoon…to escaping it.

Left with no outward salvation, Jane must persevere over her trying personal circumstances and use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison…and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country’s war. 

It’s official: I’m in love.

The Glamourist Histories is a series that’s been on my to-read shelf for far too long, and now that I’m two books in, I’m just mad I waited this long!

The first book, Shades of Milk and Honey, is a gentle comedy of manners a la Jane Austen, if only Austen’s heroines had magic at their fingertips. In book #2, Glamour in Glass, lead character Jane is newly wed to her beloved Vincent, and the two are blissfully happy living and working together, blending their lives and their glamour into a harmonious whole.

When Vincent’s old friend has a breakthrough in developing a new glamour technique, he and Jane set off for a honeymoon on the Continent, heading to Belgium to rest, relax, and further perfect their artistic talents. But Napoleon’s army is on the move, and as the situation becomes more tense, Jane and Vincent become caught up in an increasingly dangerous situation.

The mood in Glamour in Glass is quite different than in the first book, which was all about romance and courtship. Here, the focus is on what happens after the wooing. Austen’s books stop at the wedding — here, we get to see the happy couple as they begin their married life together.

Jane and Vincent are quite lovely as a couple (I swoon a little every time Vincent refers to Jane as “Muse”), and I love that their talents complement one another so well. Vincent at no time is inclined to relegate Jane to the usual wifely pursuits — they are full partners in their art, even when Jane’s presence raises eyebrows.

For brief sections in the middle, I was a little bored by the politics, but once Napoleon is on the march, the action picks up and the story regains its excitement. And if I thought Jane was awesome before, seeing her in full-on hero mode is just glorious.

Once again, I listened to the audiobook — narrated by the author — and thought it was wonderful. In the first book, her accent was a little uneven, but here, she sticks to her more natural speech patterns for the narrative and only puts on accents for the characters’ dialogue, and it works a lot better.

What more can I say? I’m hooked! I’d thought to take a break and listen to a few other books before continuing with the series, but now I don’t want to.

Two books down, three to go! I can’t wait to start the next one!

Audiobook Review: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Title: Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories, #1)
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Narrator:  Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: July 26, 2010
Print length: 306 pages
Audio length: 7 hours, 32 minutes
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men. 

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right–and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.

This debut novel from an award-winning talent scratches a literary itch you never knew you had. Like wandering onto a secret picnic attended by Pride and Prejudice and Jonathan Strange & Mr NorrellShades of Milk and Honey is precisely the sort of tale we would expect from Jane Austen…if only she had been a fantasy writer.  

What a delight! Just like the synopsis promises, Shades of Milk and Honey is Austen-inspired fiction, set in a world just like Austen’s — except magic is real, and is a highly coveted art form.

Men in search of a worthy wife look for someone who can create a warm and lovely home, and someone skilled in the art of glamour can turn a bare room into something beautiful, or can create music and light that enhance any gathering.

At age 28, Jane expects to remain an old maid. Her best chance for a fulfilled life is likely dependent on her younger sister marrying well, then bringing Jane into her household as companion.

Melody, ten years younger, is beautiful and flighty, without any real patience for the careful study and effort needed to reach heights of glamour similar to Jane’s talents. Melody comes across as a mix of Lydia Bennet and Marianne Dashwood, delighting in emotion, eager to flirt and captivate, and not above resorting to a little conniving to make sure every eligible man’s attention is fixed on her.

When the famous glamourist Mr. Vincent is commissioned by a wealthy neighbor to create a glamural for her home, Jane finds herself in the gruff artist’s company more than feels comfortable. At the same time, she pines for the upright Mr. Dunkirk, whose younger sister she befriends, but she fears that his attention is far more focused on Melody than on her.

The story is charming and enchanting, mixing Austen-esque society and manners with clever magical artistry and talent. Jane is a wonderful main character, gifted yet lacking the passion to lift her illusions from technical skill to true art. While she’s brutal in her self-reflection, considering herself plain at best, she’s warm-hearted and generous with the people she cares about, and ends up caught in the snares of polite society etiquette and keeping confidences.

I listened to the audiobook of Shades of Milk and Honey, which is a very entertaining way to enjoy this story. The pacing and style work really well in audio format, and the clever dialogue and social niceties come across as both polite and very funny.

Author Mary Robinette Kowal is a talented audiobook narrator, and it’s fun to listen to her narrate her own story. (She narrates Seanan McGuire’s October Daye audiobooks, which are amazing.). My only complaint about the narration is that the accent used comes across as fake from time to time, but on the whole, I was swept up enough in the story not to mind it too much.

I’m happy that this book is the first in a series. While it seems like a full and complete story, I’m looking forward to exploring more of this world in the four books that follow.

Discworld, #2, The Light Fantastic

The Light Fantastic
Published 1986
293 pages

My Discworld Challenge:

Over the summer, I committed to reading the Discworld series! I’m starting a new Discworld book on the 1st of each month, going in order of publication date.

Synopsis for The Light Fantastic:

In The Light Fantastic only one individual can save the world from a disastrous collision. Unfortunately, the hero happens to be the singularly inept wizard Rincewind, who was last seen falling off the edge of the world…

My rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

My reaction:

The Light Fantastic proves that you can dislike a book’s plot and still enjoy the writing.

I’m not sure I can even describe what happens in this book. The failed wizard Rincewind has further difficulties because of the powerful spell hidden in his brain, there’s a comet that threatens to collide with Discworld and destroy it, there are helpful trolls, an elderly warrior named Cohen the Barbarian, dastardly conspiracies, and of course, the tourist Twoflowers and his amazing Luggage.

It was all just kind of one random scene after another, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes funny, but none of it felt like a compelling narrative that made any sense at all. My eyes were glazed over for at least half of this book! And it drives me crazy that there are no chapters, just one long story.

At the same time, I do appreciate Terry Pratchett’s cleverness and awesome use of words, so even though this Discworld book’s plot left me unengaged and even bored at times, I loved so many passages. I’ll wrap up by sharing a few random samples:

He felt that the darkness was full of unimaginable horrors—and the trouble with unimaginable horrors was that they were only too easy to imagine . . .

They had dined on horse meat, horse cheese, horse black pudding, horse d’oeuvres and a thin beer that Rincewind didn’t want to speculate about.

Horse d’oevres! I had an uncle who would have loved that joke (and/or said it himself.)

It wasn’t that he was particularly wise. Every wizard considered himself a fairly hot property, wisewise; it went with the job.

Another voice, dry as tinder, hissed, “You would do well to remember where you are.” It should be impossible to hiss a sentence with no sibilants in it, but the voice made a very good attempt.

It was not a grin to inspire confidence. More horrible grins had probably been seen, but only on the sort of grinner that is orange with black stripes, has a long tail and hangs around in jungles looking for victims to grin at.

“… Rincewind, all the shops have been smashed open, there was a whole bunch of people across the street helping themselves to musical instruments, can you believe that?”

“Yeah,” said Rincewind, picking up a knife and testing its blade thoughtfully. “Luters, I expect.” 

I’m not giving up on Discworld! I’d heard from the start that the first few books aren’t great, so I’m hanging in there. Next month’s book looks good, and I’m dying (ha! see what I did there?) to get to #4, Mort.

Up next:

October 2020: Equal Rites

Shelf Control #231: What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.png

Title: What Should Be Wild
Author: Julia Wild
Published: 2018
Length: 368 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

In this darkly funny, striking debut, a highly unusual young woman must venture into the woods at the edge of her home to remove a curse that has plagued the women in her family for millennia—an utterly original novel with all the mesmerizing power of The Tiger’s Wife, The Snow Child, and Swamplandia!

Cursed. Maisie Cothay has never known the feel of human flesh: born with the power to kill or resurrect at her slightest touch, she has spent her childhood sequestered in her family’s manor at the edge of a mysterious forest. Maisie’s father, an anthropologist who sees her as more experiment than daughter, has warned Maisie not to venture into the wood. Locals talk of men disappearing within, emerging with addled minds and strange stories. What he does not tell Maisie is that for over a millennium her female ancestors have also vanished into the wood, never to emerge—for she is descended from a long line of cursed women.

But one day Maisie’s father disappears, and Maisie must venture beyond the walls of her carefully constructed life to find him. Away from her home and the wood for the very first time, she encounters a strange world filled with wonder and deception. Yet the farther she strays, the more the wood calls her home. For only there can Maisie finally reckon with her power and come to understand the wildest parts of herself.

How and when I got it:

I bought the paperback version last year.

Why I want to read it:

Forests and curses? Yes, please! I remember reading the description when the book was released — I love books that are dark and mysterious, with hints of magic in a natural setting. The family’s curse sounds like something I need to know more about!

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!



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My Discworld reading adventure: Book #1, The Color of Magic

The Color of Magic
Published 1983
294 pages

My Discworld Challenge:

As I mentioned last month, I made the big decision to finally start reading the Discworld series! Beginning August 2020, I’ll be starting a new Discworld book on the 1st of each month, going in order of publication date.

And ta-da! I’m underway!

Synopsis:

Terry Pratchett’s profoundly irreverent, bestselling novels have garnered him a revered position in the halls of parody next to the likes of Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen.

The Color of Magic is Terry Pratchett’s maiden voyage through the now-legendary land of Discworld. This is where it all begins — with the tourist Twoflower and his wizard guide, Rincewind.

On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There’s an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet…

My rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

My reaction:

This was… cute? Fortunately, enough people have mentioned that the first Discworld book isn’t among the best, so I wasn’t too disappointed by the experience.

The Color of Magic introduces the world of Discworld — a flat disc of a planet that’s carried through space on the shoulders of four elephants standing on the back of a huge turtle. As a concept, it’s pretty cool. The first book introduces the basics of the planet and its residents, as well as its gods and magical systems. It’s pretty intricate and also nonsensical, so I can’t swear that I managed to follow it all.

As for the plot of The Color of Magic, it’s light and silly, focusing on the failed wizard Rincewind and the tourist Twoflowers (and Twoflower’s walking Luggage, which has a tendency to devour anyone who tries to attack Twoflowers). They encounter trolls and dragons and barbarians, and find themselves literally at the end of the world, and it’s all quite fun.

This book didn’t blow me away, but I was prepared for that, so I don’t feel let down or dissuaded from continuing onward. I’ve yet to encounter a Discworld fan who says the Rincewind books are their favorite!

One book down! And plenty more to go…

Up next:

September 2020: The Light Fantastic