Recent Reading for January, February, and March

I’ve been less rigorous about tracking my reading. I used to be really good about logging everything in GoodReads, but I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t even managed to do that! But I want to have a record somewhere, so here are some of the things I’ve been reading for the past few months.

For whatever reason in addition to my usual diet of manga, I read VERY LONG Books.

Lies of Locke Lamora – amusing fantasy novel about a gang of con artists. Would appeal to people that like the Vlad Taltos series by Brust. Great worldbuilding, but sometimes gets bogged down a bit with the descriptions.
The Twelve by Justin Cronin – This is one of those series that is so much better than the plot makes it sound! I love the shifting points of view and the way the narrative all comes together between characters scattered across a post apocalyptic America.

Romance Novels

I’m forgetting some of what I read here, but I did finish up:

It Happened One Midnight by Julie Ann Long
Heiress Without a Cause by Sara Ramsey
Heart of Iron and Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster


Young Adult Books

I’ve been on a big YA reread binge recently. The Vampire Academy sale on the Kindle happened to match up with a work trip I was taking, so I reread the entire series. They are the perfect airplane books, easy to read but engrossing enough that I almost forgot that I was crammed on a plane for untold hours.

I reread the first two books of Divergent, and read the final book Allegiant. I enjoyed the first book if I didn’t think about it too hard, but as the series develops there’s just so much that makes no logical sense, and I found myself getting really sick of the characters to the point where I was delighted when they started to die off. I actually think these books might be better served by the movie adaptations, because at least then the audience would be spared the whiny self-indulgent first person narration that I found so annoying in the last book of the trilogy. Also the charisma of the actors might cause the audience to not thing so very hard about the abundant plot holes.

I also read Eleanor and Park and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, both of which were excellent!

Hideous Love: The Story of hte Girl who Wrote Frankenstein was my YA book club pick for the month, and it was an interesting blend of fictionalized biography and blank verse.

Graphic Novels

There was a Johnathan Hickman sale on Comixology! I finally picked up some of his work on Fantastic Four and really enjoyed the first couple volumes. Hickman really did an effective job of balancing the cosmic themes and family problems that I’d expect to see in a FF title. I plan on picking up more of these collections soon.

I also did a fair amount of Captain America rereading in preparation for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Yes, I have been knitting

Here are a couple ways to get codes for free ravelry pattern downloads from a couple knitwear designers, by signing up for their newsletters in January!

Lucy Hague

Janukke

I got yarn for Christmas!

Some Madelinetosh Merino Light:

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And some Brooklyn Tweed Shelter:

Thistle

Thistle

I’m working on a secret project for my Stitch N Bitch group’s anniversary party. We all knit something and swap projects! I’ve gotten an awesome cowl and some great slippers in previous swaps.

My kids both requested scarves, so I’m working on finishing up one. Just a very simple striped scarf. I have a bit more to do with this, then one more to go!

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His Fair Assassin Books 1 and 2

The book my book group read last month was Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. I finished up the sequel Dark Triumph today and am now impatiently waiting for the third book to be published in the spring. This is very enjoyable young adult series, partially because it has a very entertaining central concept, well executed, and the author avoids some of the cliches and narrative traps that plague less entertaining novels. Really any review of these books is unnecessary simply because telling you that the books revolve around TEENAGE ASSASSIN NUNS IN BRITTANY DURING THE MIDDLE AGES is likely to either draw you in or leave you repulsed (if you are a boring person who doesn’t enjoy assassin nuns).

The first book centers on Ismae, who is a peasant girl with a brutal life who escapes to the convent of Saint Mortain, the God of Death. Trained to be a top notch assassin, Ismae is assigned to go to the court of the Duchess Anne, accompanying the handsome yet extremely suspicious Duval. Ismae uses her assassin’s gifts to begin unraveling the plots that surround the Duchess, but she is distracted by her growing attraction to the man she’s assigned to spy upon. One of the things that I enjoyed very much about this book was the combination of historical research and a unique narrative voice. The convent of Saint Mortain is clearly a cover for worship of a much older, more pagan god, given a vaguely Christian appearance in order to survive the religious pressures of the day. Ismae as a peasant who is transformed by her convent training has the zeal of a fervent believer, but even she notices that sometimes her orders to kill that come from the convent might be more politically expedient than they are the will of her god. The fantasy elements are blended in well with Ismae’s assassin training. She can see dark smudges when someone is marked for death, and only then will she act as an assassin. I have a bit of YA Love Triangle fatigue at this point, so I was very happy when the book just concentrated on the growing relationship between Ismae and Duval without the distraction of a third party. It seems like more often in YA these days a love triangle is a required element, so the lack of one felt very refreshing. Ismae has close friends at the convent who were trained at around the same time as her, and this plays in nicely to the sequel books.

In addition to Love Triangle Fatigue, I also have a bit of Trilogy Fatigue, as there are plenty of series that have 2 books of content that are stretched into three, or 4 books of content turned into an unsatisfying trilogy. I also get a bit weary of trilogies that are basically one long book with two horrible cliffhangers spaced out into three volumes. The His Fair Assassin Series is one of my favorite types of trilogies because instead of following the same character and story throughout, the protagonist changes with each book. The timelines cover some of the same periods, but the shift in character perspective makes the series very interesting.

Dark Triumph has Sybella as a protagonist. A girl of noble birth who arrives at the convent acting utterly wild and not particularly thrilled to be there, Ismae regarded Sybella with affection but not a lot of true understanding, as their backgrounds and life experiences are totally different. Sybella is the daughter of the evil (EXTRA EVIL) nobleman D’Albret, who is determined to gain control of Brittany by forcibly marrying the young Duchess Anne. While Ismae may have foiled some of his plots in the first book, he is still around (STILL EVIL!) and Sybella must work to carry out the will of Mortain while dodging her own relatives. Sybella’s main activity is rescuing The Beast, one of Duvall’s close friends whose martial powers when he’s enraged by battle lust are unmatched. As they journey together, more and more of Sybella’s troubled background is revealed, but even she is able to transform and grow into a whole person. The contrast in personalities between the two heroines was enjoyable. Ismae is a true believer, but Sybella is cynical and pragmatic. She enjoys killing people for her own reasons, and in a way she’s almost perfectly matched with The Beast, who leaves trails of corpses in his wake.

The conflict between the political maneuverings of the nuns in charge of the convent and the will of the god Mortain itself are alluded to in the first book and developed even more in the second. I’m wondering if there will be some larger upheaval in the convent for book three. Sometimes there are authors who might seize upon an interesting idea, but the execution and back story isn’t very well filled out, so the reader has to do a lot of suspension of disbelief and mental gymnastics in order to get through the book. I’m thinking particularly of Divergent, which was fun but there were so many loopholes in the events and future history portrayed in the books that it didn’t seem like there was much initial world building taking place before the book was written. This is absolutely not the case with the His Fair Assassin series, where it is very clear that LaFevers has done extensive research into the time period. The reader can just sit back and be transported into another world and enjoy the unique setting and fantasy elements. I highly recommend this series if you enjoy historical fantasy.

Recent adventures in crafting

I finished a scarf/shawl thing. It is too bad it is going to be too hot to wear it for many many weeks.

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It is a Color Affection made of Wollmeise, and it is awesome! I love that yarn.

I love it so much I bought some more!

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These are We’re Different skeins – slightly off standard versions of the Suzanne and Verhext und Verratzt. The Verhext und Verratzt WD might be my favorite skein of Wollmeise yet. I love the purples!

Speaking of purple things, I’ve been cheating on my knitting by working on an Amethyst Princess of Gemworld cross stitch project. Here you can see Prince Topaz and Lady Turquoise, along with a headless, bisected Prince Garnet:

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