Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Read any good books lately?


I read a lot.  And I mean a lot.  When I'm not browsing the Internet, playing games on my PC, I'm reading in my spare time.  I do other things of course, but these are the main occupiers of my free time.

Very few books have a lasting impact on me. In fact often I finish the last page of one and begin the first sentence of the next book in the same few minutes, usually at night when everything is quiet.  I never read a book more than once no matter how good it is.  The same goes for movies except if they are repeats on TV and then sometimes I'll watch bits and pieces.  When I read a book or watch a movie I look forward to the anticipation of what's going to happen next, what surprises some authors have in store, and the mystery of words themselves and the picture they paint.  I can't get that by reading or watching again and some novels and movies are highly predictable to begin with so a second go round is not worth the time.   Besides, there are too many unread books waiting for me in the wings.

My favourite fiction genres are medieval fantasy, science fiction, modern crime thrillers, and horror.   I don't particularly like slasher in your face blood and guts violence just for the shock value novels as some authors seem to aim for.  Those things are fine in themselves and I'm not squeamish at all about most things, but a good horror novel must have a decent background story to make it worthwhile.

Zombie apocalypse is the flavour at the moment in horror and one of the best I've read is Patient Zero by Jonathon Maberry.  A new take on terrorism with a twist.  His next novel, The Dragon Factory picks up where the first left off using the same main characters, but isn't about zombies.  It steps into the realm of genetic engineering and longevity, monsters, human and otherwise and also with a few twists.  Both very enjoyable books with lots of action and suspension of belief.  Great stress relievers and well written.

However, the book that has had the most impact on me in all the years I've been reading is The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon.  I read this only last year, shortly before Christmas.

It's the story of a young girl who joins the army to avoid an arranged marriage in a harsh medieval world.  There are the usual orcs and demons, elves and dwarves and good versus evil, but this story revolves around Paksenarrion and her life more than those things.  They reside in the periphery and colour the world, but are not the main focus.   Paks, as she's known becomes more than she ever imagined she could be.  A hero, a leader, a coward, and a champion of the human spirit, but most of all her place in the world, as predicted by destiny.  Of all the books I've read this is the one that has had the greatest effect on me.  I never get emotional about books, movies or games, but this is the one that did it.   Elizabeth Moon has a rare talent and that is to draw the reader into the head and heart of the main character.  To feel what she feels.  Fear, anger, pain that times seems too much to bear, and finally, peace.  I won't spoil the ending, but it's not necessarily what you may think even from this brief description.

This book is an Omnibus comprised of three other volumes.  Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegiance and Oath of Gold.

Now, I'm reading the prequel - A Legacy of Honour.  It is also an Omnibus - Surrender None and Liar's Oath.
I borrowed the first book from our public library and they didn't have this one at the time.  But, it doesn't matter.  I've only read a few chapters, but I can tell already this one will have the same depth and attention to detail as the other.  More when I've finished reading.

Unfortunately I didn't have time to actually finish reading this one as I had to return it because someone had reserved it and I couldn't get an extension.  I'll get it again sometime, but maybe it was my mood or it was a bit of an anticlimax, but it didn't have the same effect on me as The Deed of Paksenarrion.  It may have been different if I'd known about this volume previously and been able to read it first.  That's not to say it's not a good read, but I don't feel the same connection with the main character.

If anyone is interested this is Elizabeth Moon's website.  She is also the author of many other fine novels.

I Shall Wear Midnight - Terry Pratchett.
I've read every book I've been able to get my hands on by Terry Pratchett, but I have mixed feelings about this one.  I did enjoy it, but it didn't have the trademark humour of his other books.  It's darker and much more serious.

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