August Wrap-Up (2013)

In August, I finally finished A Dance with Dragons, and it was a great month for my goal to read more epic fantasy and classics this year! I did like most of the books I read this month. I’m also trying a new thing by marking my favourite read of the month with a “Best of the Month” stamp.

I use the following light grading system based on the GoodReads one:

1 out of 5 – I didn’t like it: badly written or just got on my nerves
2 out of 5 – It was okay: other people might enjoy it more
3 out of 5 – I liked it: a fun/enjoyable read
4 out of 5 – I really liked it: good characters & plot, maybe some theme that spoke to me
5 out of 5 – It was amazing: I consider it a favorite and will probably re-read at some point

This post is linked at “Best of the Bunch”, a monthly recap meme hosted by Always Lost in Stories.

High/Epic Fantasy of the Month

A Dance with Dragons
A Dance with Dragons

(A Song of Ice and Fire #5)
By: George R.R. Martin
First published in 2011
My copy: From my bookshelf

The fifth installment of A Song of Ice and Fire that focuses on the characters missing from the fourth book.

A Dance with Dragons didn’t reach the heights of my favourites – A Game of Thrones and A Storm of Swords – but I did enjoy it more than the fourth book, A Feast for Crows. I think both the fourth and the fifth book suffered from the division of the POV characters; it might be that the only reason I preferred the fifth was that it featured some of my favourite characters who were missing from the previous one.

Now, the book did drag in places. Martin tends to have these “in-between” books that are just meant to move the characters to their places for the next huge scenarios. If the fourth and fifth books had managed to be just one book, this would have been easier to bear. Martin does make some good points about the toughness of ruling, with all the little things that a ruler or a commander has to take care of, but it did sometimes make for tedious reading. I felt like the plot didn’t progress enough. I had accidentally read some spoilers which I thought to be literal scenes in the book, but turned out to be popular theories about what was going on. It took out the pleasure of coming up with them myself by making me predisposed to think in a certain way about some characters. Waiting for the spoilers to happen did definitely lessen my enjoyment of the book. Also, a lot of the smaller characters now had point of view chapters, and I wasn’t sure if all of them were necessary. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong in the future! 3/5

Classics of the Month

The Scarlet Pimpernel
The Scarlet Pimpernel

By: Emmuska Orczy
First published in 1905
Genre: Adventure classic
My copy: Project Gutenberg free ebook edition

A young woman gets dragged into the mystery surrounding the Scarlet Pimpernel, the mysterious benefactor who rescues French aristocrats from the guillotine and transports them to English soil.

This month I read something else than an SF classic – some historical adventure! I have a soft spot for books dealing with French history. I did enjoy the book, although it focused more on the intrigue and less on swashbuckling adventures than I had thought. I have said before that I was surprised to find out that The Scarlet Pimpernel wasn’t the main character, but I was happy to have a female protagonist in a classic for a change! I liked the main character, as well as following her thought processes. A lot would have been saved if these people communicated better or weren’t so proud, but I could see where they were coming from. I also enjoyed following The Scarlet Pimpernel’s ruses, although I could see most of them coming. Now I think I’ll go check out the BBC adaptation with Richard E. Grant (love him!) as the titular character! 3/5

The Island of Dr. Moreau
The Island of Dr. Moreau

By: H.G. Wells
First published in 1896
Genre: Science fiction classic
My copy: From the library

A man gets stranded on an island where Doctor Moreau and his assistant are performing some pretty unorthodox experiments.

This is my favorite Wells book of the ones I’ve read so far (the other two being The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds). There were some wonderfully chilling moments, especially the main character’s first night on the island. There was some “good old-fashioned misogyny” that you sometimes tend to find in older books, what with mentions of the female experiments being more self-conscious about their appearances, and them reverting to their animal instincts quicker than the male ones. It wasn’t pervasive, though (perhaps because there just weren’t that many mentions of them), and I could enjoy the rest of the book.

Wells had some interesting musings about the nature of men and animals, and I especially loved the last few pages with the focus on the civilized society and the animal nature of humans. I don’t say I agreed with everything that was said there, but it made for some great reading. 3/5

Fantasy Books

Moon Over SohoBest of the Month sticker
Moon Over Soho
(Peter Grant, #2)
By: Ben Aaronovitch
First published in 2011
Genre: Urban fantasy police procedural / mystery
My copy: From my sister

Jazz musicians keep dying in London, and Detective Constable & trainee wizard Peter Grant is on the case.

I really do enjoy the characters and setting of this series. Aaronovitch brings the streets of London to life, making the city itself feel like a central character in his books. I’ve been to London, and love sometimes being able to follow where Peter Grant is doing some legwork, or chasing a suspect.

My favourite scenes are the ones where Peter is experimenting with the rules of magic, or being tutored by his governor Thomas Nightingale. Thomas “Tiger Tank” Nightingale also happens to be my favorite character, I just love him. Sometimes he acts like such a fish out of water in the current day and age, but he is powerful and capable, and a very sharply dressed complete badass, if you ask me.

The jazz theme of the book was intriguing, but the theme of the first novel was more close to my heart. Can’t wait to read more, have to ask my sister to borrow me my next fix ASAP. 4/5

Graphic novels

Buffy: The Long Way Home
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home

(Season 8 Vol.1, collects issues #1-5)
By: Joss Whedon & Georges Jeanty
First published in 2007
Genre: Supernatural action/drama
My copy: From the library

The story of Buffy the Vampire Slayer continues in graphic novel form, with the characters now belonging to a huge organization of Slayers.

I am a huge fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. Lately I’ve been craving for some Buffy, so I picked up the Buffy Season 8 comic. I was a bit hesitant to do so, ’cause what if the comic managed to ruin some past moments of the TV series for me? But I also thought that I might be missing out on some Buffy goodness – this comic is after all written by the man himself, Joss Whedon.

It turns out I wasn’t missing much. I think there weren’t enough character moments, although the dialogue could at parts bring the feel of the TV series to life. I just didn’t like the “now we’re all in a SWAT team!”-storyline, it was really alienating for me. It made me miss the close knit smaller group of the series. I loved the cover art by Jo Chen, and the inside artist, Georges Jeanty, managed to trim some characters to their essentials, adding his own style while keeping some key points to tell us who they were. But some just missed the mark completely. Mainly, Andrew didn’t look like Andrew at all? I wasn’t even certain that it was him at first.

I think I won’t be continuing with this series. I wasn’t interested in the story arc, and I really don’t like resurrected villains. I think there’s a definite danger there for some great moments of the TV series to be ruined or watered down by association. 2/5

Hawkeye: Little Hits
Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits

(collects issues #6-11)
By: Matt Fraction & David Aja
First published in 2012
Genre: Superheroes
My copy: From my sister

Clint “Hawkeye” Barton tries to settle into his new apartment building, while bad guys with a chip on their shoulder plot against him.

Hawkeye just keeps on delivering lovely slice-of-life superhero drama with some bigger storylines moving more and more to the foreground. Clint is a likable, if a bit of a mess-up of a character. His troubles only begin with coffee spilling on the table (“Aw, coffee, no”) and spread on to protecting the lives of the other tenants in the apartment building he has made his home. Kate is as likable, and a bit a lot more collected than Clint. My favorite issue in this collection was the one told completely from the POV of Hawkeye’s dog.

The artist, David Aja, won this year’s Eisner awards for Best Penciler/Inker and Best Cover Artist, and for good reason. I absolutely love how he e.g splits up some action scenes, or scenes with Hawkeye shooting an arrow, into little frames of time, and manages to make it look effortless as well as be completely easy to follow. His stuff is so good that the visiting artists almost always just make me wish for Aja back, as good as they might be. 4/5

Chew: Omnivore Vol.2
Chew: The Omnivore Edition, Vol. 2

(collects issues #11-20, trade paperbacks #3-4)
By: John Layman & Rob Guillory
First published in 2011
Genre: A bit cannibalistic special agent comedy
My copy: From the library

The Cibopathic (gets psychic impressions from what he eats) agent Tony Chu continues to encounter illegal chicken smugglers and people with other food related superpowers.

It was pretty hard to sum up the premise of Chew in that one sentence above. This book is zany, and has it all. Agents on the case. Avian flu conspiracy theories. People who get smarter as long as they’re eating. Area 51. Illegal turkey dinners. It sounds like a bit of a mess, but manages to be captivating, fun and dramatic. Chu, Colby and Savoy are great characters with very different personalities. The art style is well stylized and cartoony, and the coloring is uniform, done in lovely toned-down shades, and works well to create the mood of the page. My favorite issue might have been issue 17 with the high school case, but it’s hard to decide. 3/5

My favorite post of the month

Mansfield Park Read Along – Discussion Post, Pt. 1


7 thoughts on “August Wrap-Up (2013)

  1. I’ve heard a lot of people say that A Dance With Dragons starts to drag, but I haven’t read the books myself (I’m daunted by the huge size of them!) Love the TV series though. You read so many different types of books this month, looks like it was a good one. Have a good September and thanks for linking to Best of the Bunch!

    • Yeah, they sure are chunksters! They are very good, though, especially the first and third books. I’m a bit hesitant to see where it all goes, but I hope the next book picks up the pace and sweeps me off my feet again.

      The first season of the TV series was amazing! The later ones differ a bit with the books in some ways that I don’t like, but I still enjoy the series – just not as much as the books.

    • Oh, it definitely drags less then book 4, but it hasn’t completely shaken the habit. I think these two were just really hard for the writer, due to the character division.

  2. I had to read the Buffy graphic novels because I thought I would be missing out on something too – I’ve decided I’m just not really a fan of graphic novels, though. It took me awhile to even understand what was going on. I’m still glad I checked them out because I do like to see what Whedon envisioned for Buffy and friends past the TV series, but I agree that I just wasn’t wowed.

    You can find my Best of the Bunch here!

      • I’m glad you found me! I haven’t yet used Bloglovin’ or Feedly or any such service, so my following is currently limited to WordPress sites and using bookmarks. I should check those services out sometime.

        You giving up on graphic novels makes me pretty sad, since there’s so much good stuff of all different genres out there – but then again I’ve been reading them for such a long time that I can’t imagine what it would be like not being able to follow the structure & storytelling. It might definitely need some getting used to.

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