The last time I did a books post was way back in October. Rather than hash over last year’s reading (if you’re interested the list is updated here.) I thought that I’d take the last Thursday of the month to post what I’ve been reading, why and talk a bit about the books. If you guys what to tell me what you’ve been reading or what you think of the stuff I’ve been reading, that would be great too!
January has been busy with doing things that are not reading, working, organising my life, trying to get enough sleep, the Internet. As a result I don’t feel that I read much at all in January. Three books and I’m in the middle of the fourth..
Jane Elizabeth Howard is 90 this year and Radio 4 are going to serialize the four Cazalet books that are loosely based on Howard’s own life and family. So if I’m going to be hearing them on the radio, I felt I should read the books. As luck would have it, Ma owns all four so I borrowed them.
Howard says that she wanted to write about an ordinary family. I know that we all think our own lives are ordinary but I do think that a novelist, who was married to Kingsley Amis, should have a bit more self awareness than that. If by ordinary, you meant that the Cazalet family are typical of a certain type of upper class family between the wars, then you could make your case. It may be the class warrior in me but families that have servants do not to me, seem ordinary. As it is, the characters in this book reminded me a lot of the characters in a Mary Wesley novel. I was interested in what they were up to but I didn’t really like or understand them very much and occasionally I just wanted them to grow the hell up and stop being so bloody stupid..
So we have the parents, the Brig and the Duchy, their daughter, Rachel, three brothers, Hugh, Edward and Rupert and their wives, Sybil, Villy and Louise. Also various children, in-laws, friends and servants. Everyone goes down to the house in Sussex in the summer and the action covers the summers of 1937 and 1938. Things happen to the characters but not a lot seems to change. This felt like an introduction to the family rather than a story about them and I didn’t care what happened next. I will read the next one because I’m sort of interested and I have the books, but I wouldn’t have run out to get the next one, if they weren’t sitting on the ‘to be read pile’.
Now for something completely different. Seraphina is set in a world where there are humans and dragons and dragons can take human shape. I can hear the eye rolling from some you from here! However, I am an unashamed fan of well written fantasy and YA and this is both. In Goredd, the humans and the dragons have an uneasy peace, preserved by a 40 year old treaty. The book opens with the funeral of a royal prince, found dead in a way that implicates the dragons, just as the ‘Ardmagar’ the dragon leader is about to visit to celebrate the peace. Seraphina is a court musician and something else (I love the fact that her name, Seraphina derives from seraphim which means ‘fiery ones’, is a clue).
I loved the world building, I enjoyed the relationships and the honesty about them. Seraphina says of her stepmother.
I tried to smile. It was an unspoken covenant with my stepmother: we both tried.
The only thing that didn’t quite ring true for me was that Seraphina told me that Glisselda was her friend but I didn’t see it. However, with everything else that they both have going on, that’s a minor detail. This is the book that kept me up past my bedtime because I wanted to know who and how and why and what next. My only major complaint is that the story continues and so I have another book to wait for!
This is a self published book by Gretchen Powell. Gretchen blogs at ‘Honey I Shrunk the Gretchen‘ and this is the first book she’s written. I read her blog, I’ve commented on her blog and that’s as far as I know her, I paid actual money for the book. So that’s the disclosure stuff out of the way.
It’s easy to be snobbish about self published books. While I admire people who sit down and write a book because I lack the creativity and willpower to be able to, it’s also true that some books just aren’t good and some good books need an editor (JK Rowling I’m talking about you and the last couple of Harry Potter books!). Sometimes self published books are not good and need an editor. I’m so pleased that this isn’t the case with Terra.
It’s YA and dystopian (there you go with the eye rolling again!), it sits firmly in the Hunger Games/Insurgent half of this genre and I liked it. The characters are well built, I read a review that said that Terra is frustratingly stubborn and that about sums it up, it works from what we know of her but it’s really annoying. I do hope that we’ll gonna find out more in the next book (the story ends but sets us up for the next installment) about her father ’cause it seems odd. The revelation in the last couple of chapters was not what I was expecting and I can see some clear influences from other books. I also had a couple of questions about the world building but not enough to pull me out of the story.
I’ve already passed it onto the eldest god-daughter who is reading way ahead of her 12 year old self and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the next book.
I’ve only just started this. It’s about an aid worker in South Sudan and I think it’s going to be sad and make me think of things that I don’t really want to think about. I’ll let you know.