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Books I have read in 2011:

An idea stolen from fleefloodle ... who is an intelligent, generally normal sort of human being, unlike myself. I felt the need to elaborate it further by dividing the books into 'fiction' and 'non-fiction' sections ... and then I added 'currently reading', and a key (although then I did away with the key, and laughed heartily), and a rating out of five, and ... well. It all descended into a broiling pit of pernicketiness.

But yes, behold! Books I have read in 2011! I am posting this on 1st January 2011. Readers in the future ought to see this complete. Unfortunates in the present day will not.

The Story Of O, Pauline Réage (currently reading)
Zorro, Isabel Allende (finished in 2012)
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson not finished
The Lions Of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay ☻☻☻☻☻
Walking The Tree, Kaaren Warren ☻☻☻☺☺
Snuff, Terry Pratchett ☻☻☺☺☺
Age of Odin, James Lovegrove ☻☻☻☻☺
The Last Light Of The Sun, Guy Gavriel Kay ☻☻☻☻☺
Waylander, David Gemmel ☻☻☺☺☺
The Man With The Twisted Lip/The Adventures Of The Devil's Foot, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ☻☻☻☻☻
Sword At Sunset, Rosemary Sutcliff not finished
Dawn Wind, Rosemary Sutcliff ☻☻☻☻☺
Pawn Of Prophecy, David Eddings ☻☻☻☻☺
Black Horses For The King, Anne McCaffrey ☻☻☻☺☺
Hereward, James Wilde ☻☻☺☺☺
Burning Land, Bernard Cornwell ☻☻☻☺☺
Best Served Cold, Joe Abercrombie ☻☻☻☺☺
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman ☻☻☺☺☺
The Persian Boy, Mary Renault ☻☻☺☺☺
Conquest, Stewart Binns not finished
Lords Of The Bow, Conn Iggulden ☻☻☻☻☺
Sharpe's Sword, Bernard Cornwell ☻☻☻☻☺
I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett ☻☻☺☺☺
Wintersmith, Terry Pratchett ☻☻☻☺☺

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson) (unfinished)
I feel really bad for a) not finishing and b) not liking this book as it was also a gift, from the very lovely zsazsaroar, but ... it was so badly written. :( I wanted to push through to meet this eponymous girl because, from the snatches of info I'd recieved about this book (it is inexplicably very popular), she sounded like a character I would enjoy; but the writing was so poor, and the storytelling so tedious, that I just couldn't push beyond the third chapter. For example, there's one point where two characters hold a back-and-forth conversation for ... 4 pages, I think it was? ... without any description. You have absoloutly no idea what these characters are doing while they talk, how they're speaking, what their body language is ... I may as well have been reading a transcript. It actually made me very uncomfortable because I'm not used to being unable to picture the story in my head. It was like I'd been blinded. Also: product placement. WHAT IS THIS DOING IN A NOVEL. Gah.

The Lions Of Al-Rassan (Guy Gavriel Kay) ☻☻☻☻☻
This is a beautiful book. Another birthday gift from glenatron; I'm so grateful for being introduced to this author, because the man is superb. His characters are fantastic. Surprisingly few writers can create convincing characters (or maybe I'm just massively hard to please), but Guy Gavriel Kay does so seemingly without effort. And not only that, but he weaves an incredible story, too. Absolute master storyteller. The ending of this book left me a little unresolved about how I felt, and I still can't decide if I liked it or not - I enjoy the way he teases you by making you think he's talking about one character when he's actually talking about another, and as an overall ending it was a satisfying one. But in regards to the two main characters ... or rather, the one who did not make it to the end of the book ... I think we might have a case of Sea Wolf syndrome. As in: creating an awesome, larger-than-life MC and then just sort of ... dropping them. The scale of the exit does not match the scale of the character (unlike Moonfleet which has my favourite ending EVER. OMG. LOVE THAT BOOK. <3 <3).
But anyway, my main point is, The Lions of Al-Rassan is pure brilliance. You can picture everything and everyone you read about. You feel empathy for the characters. You will them to suceed. Your heart breaks when theirs does, and you grin and laugh like a bloody fool when they're happy (one word regarding a scene that made me do that latter: Diego. AND THAT'S ALL I WILL SAY. I don't want to spoil it).

Walking The Tree (Kaaren Warren) ☻☻☻☺☺
This was a very clever idea. The story takes place on an island on which grows an enormous tree - so big that it takes years for people to walk its circumfurence, and the tribes who live on the decreasing area of land between trunk and sea are all very different to each other when it comes to customs and traditions. They even have their own creation myths, though they all worship the tree as a kind of god. Our MC goes on a walk round the tree, which all women do, in order to prevent inbreeding - they have to find a different 'clan' to live with. And it's in this way that we're introduced to all the different people of the island. So yes, very good premise. But ... I hated the MC by the end of the book. XD She was so selfish and whiny, and yet she was spending most of her time thinking about how selfish everyone else was, and at the end she's recieved like some sort of selfless heroine who will save humanity, and ... I just wanted to slap her. I really, really did.

Snuff (Terry Pratchett) ☻☻☺☺☺
:( I was so bored by this book, and that makes me really sad. It revolves around Sam Vimes, who is my favourite Discworld character (alongside Lord Vetinari and Moist von Lipwig), so I ought to have really enjoyed it. But it was just such a boring story. His usual flair was gone completely, and the characters didn't feel like the characters. They were cardboard cut-outs, pale imitations, not the living, breathing creations I'd adored in previous books. I only read it all the way through because it was a Terry Patchett story, and I'd hoped it would improve.

Age of Odin (James Lovegrove) ☻☻☻☻☺
Overall, I want to say how much I loved this book - it was witty, clever, interesting and often downright funny (the MC getting bitchslapped by Thor, for example). It's set in modern day Britain, and written in first person narrative by our very engaging, ex-soldier protagonist. He's a normal guy - divorced, discharged from the army on medical grounds, struggling to make ends meet - and he finds himself embroiled in Ragnarok. He's just hanging out with Norse gods; it makes for some brilliant situations. So yes, I basically loved this, but it loses it's fifth smiley for the horrific let down of an ending. I am very picky when it comes to endings. But this when ... nyyeeehh. I can see what he was trying to acheive, but ... it just fell sort of flat. You can't build up such good characters, great plot and fantastic climax and then just ... fizzle out.

The Last Light Of The Sun (Guy Gavriel Kay) ☻☻☻☻☺
This was a birthday present to me from glenatron, so I didn't really read the blurb as closely as I should have. I assumed it was historical fiction, so was therefore immensely disconcerted when faeries started prancing around! It bothered me a lot to begin with, but as I got used to it it dawned on me what a FANTASTIC idea it is to merge history and fiction in this way. I mean, it's quite clearly 10th century England and Wales, yet at the same time also clearly not. I think King Aeldred is based on Alfred? I hope so. It's made me love Alfred even more, anyways. <3 This novel had a fairly slow pace, which in other books would have bored me, but I loved the way Kay would pick up a random supporting character - someone who maybe bumped into one of our protagonists, or was somehow involved in the same events - and would then follow their lives right up until their deaths and show us how the smallest choice or chance meeting effects them for the rest of their lives. Again, I would normally be bored and irritated by the story straying from the main plot like that, but not in this case. He's obviously a very clever man. As for characters - yes, finally, a book that gives me a favourite, in the form of Erling warrior Thorkell Einarsson. Love. I was also very fond of Aeldred's eldest daughter, Judit, and would gladly read a book that follows her new life as a queen of Rheden. The only thing I could have done without? The goddamn faeries! XD Did not interest me at all...

Waylander (David Gemmel) ☻☻☺☺☺
David Gemmel is one of these writers I want to like, but I just keep finding myself going "meh?" when I read his work. Both glenatron and p00r5lain_d0ll recommended him to me, based on my love of heroic bad-ass warrior men, but I just find him a little bit too OTT. Also he has this annoying habit of setting up a really tough character and then SUDDENLY there is a LOVE INTEREST and their personality COMPLETELY changes. WHY IS THIS. I don't even remember what this book was about. I got bored of it half way through, but as I'd read that far I was determined to see it to the end. Two points because I do like the way Gemmel pays attention to the everyman soldier, their hopes and aspirations and the lives they've left behind. And he's not a bad writer. I just wish his protagonists were a bit more ... constant.

The Man With The Twisted Lip/The Adventures Of The Devil's Foot (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) ☻☻☻☻☻
Oki. Obviously, I've read these before. :) But fleefloodle found a very cute little book containing these two stories, and was kind enough to buy it and send it on to me. <3 The Man With The Twisted Lip is not, I confess, one of my favourites; it just has a bit of an "...Oh. Is that it?" feel to it. However, The Devil's Foot I adore. Such a good story. Particularly for the lulz of Holmes inexplicably deciding to conduct the world's most incredibly stupid experiment of all time. I love him. And this is my first 5 smily rating of the year, because it's the only one, so far, that I would read again. :)

Sword At Sunset (Rosemary Sutcliff) unfinished
Noooo! Spoiled! Another book that glenatron had suggested I read; but I got through the first chapter and just couldn't face anymore. Which is a shame because I hear great things about it. I was just ... really bored. I mean, there were very excitable moments when Hengist was mentioned, for example (*love*), but I just couldn't make myself read another 400-odd pages of it. :( Particularly when I have so many other interesting books waiting to be read.

Dawn Wind (Rosemary Sutcliff) ☻☻☻☻☺
So as the last two books had been glenatron related and a success, I thought I'd go for the hat-trick and try this one that he'd recommended to me. LOVED IT. Such a gorgeous tale; beautifully researched, very well written. It is set in the 6th century, after the Saxons have gained control over most of Britain. The MC is the sole survivor of the final, doomed battle of the Britons, and the story just has this gentle, meandering gait to it as it follows his subsequent trials and accomplishments. Weirdly, there were no characters who really stood out for me (although I was fond of Beornwulf) - weird because I don't usually like a book so much if I don't latch onto one or more of the characters. But it was just nice to immerse myself in the world, you know. You can really picture what it was like.

Pawn of Prophecy (David Eddings) ☻☻☻☻☺
Earlier this year, I recieved a parcel in the post containing the entire Belgariad series. glenatron had seen them in a charity shop and thought I might like them. Turns out, I do! This was such a lovely story. I found the backstory that the book started with to be a little tedious, but then that's just personal preference - I hate info dumps, even when told as well as this one was. And it was very useful, because when I later met the characters I was able to experiance "OMG! That's....!" moments. :) The story itself was fairly average, I felt, but the world was brilliantly designed and I adored the character interactions and the characters themselves. The dialogue is excellent, very natural. Silk is my favourite character so far. I am very much character driven when it comes to books I like, so this one ranks very highly.

Black Horses For The King (Anne McCaffrey) ☻☻☻☺☺
I stole this book from glenatron's bedside table and read the first quarter of it, so he let me borrow it. :P This is a really interesting book about the introduction of the great black warhorses, forerunners of todays draught breeds, to England. It is also an Arthurian novel, although you shouldn't be put off by that because it sticks firmly to facts - there is no Merlin, for example, because there is no real historical evidence for him. The character of Arthur - or Artos - is merely there to facilitate the adventures of our protagonist, the young Briton Galwyn, and fades into the background for most of the story. I liked this, because it takes a massive legend - one that everyone knows to some extent - and then picks up a relatively small character and tells his story instead. Unfortunately, the ending was very poor and felt rushed, which is what lost this book an extra smiley. Otherwise, I really enjoyed it. A very charming, gentle read.

Hereward (James Wilde) ☻☻☺☺☺
Wow. When I started reading this book, my thoughts were basically along the lines of "HELL YEH. FIVE STARS. THIS IS TOTALLY AWESOME". And then, as the book wore on, the constant and ridiculous feats of the eponymous hero and his unbelievably irritating and continuous comments of "I care for nothing but myself!" and "I am not a hero!" (while doing heroic stuff) just dragged the smiley rating right down. Now, I love Hereward - the historical figure. This may be a massive reason for why I ended up disliking the book so much. It is Wilde's debut novel, and he makes a comment about how fun it is for the author to write a character about whom very little is known - SO WHY DID YOU END IT IN THAT ABSOLOUTLY ATROCIOUS WAY?! Apart from the fact that the ending did not tie up ANY of the questions asked earlier in the novel, apart from the fact that it was toe-curling in its cheesiness, our historical knowledge of Hereward stops after the battle on the Isle of Ely: we don't know for sure what happened to him. So there would be the PERFECT chance to be creative and imagine the answer. Basically, this book is what would happen if you got a really cheesy action film and put it in 11th century England. This was enjoyable at first, but Hereward's constant confirmation of what a misanthropic badass he is (not in an arrogant cad sort of way, which I like, more in a this-is-a-really-poorly-written-novel sort of way) really started to grate on me. Sigh. But the opening chapters - Hereward's inexplicable rising from a lake of blood, and his TOTALLY BUTT NAKED murderthon of Vikings in a blizzard - earn this book two smilies. Just for the lulz.

Burning Land (Bernard Cornwell) ☻☻☻☺☺
I found this in a charity shop (hence why my initial introduction to Cornwell's Saxon Tales series is in fact the fifth book in the collection), and bought it for fairly obvious reasons: it was by Bernard Cornwell, who wrote my much loved Sharpe series, and it was about SAXONS. Hell yeh! What I liked about this book was the history - it was well researched and created a very clear picture in the mind's eye. What I didn't like was the fact that it was written in 1st person; not something I usually have a problem with, in fact most of my favourite stories are written in that way, but I just didn't feel that it worked in this case. Uhtred, the protagonist, was the sort of character who should have been viewed through the eyes of another. I know that sounds kind of weird, but when you have this big hero character, you don't really want them to be telling the story - it kind of detracts from their feats. For example, there's a scene where he runs along the outstretched oars of his ship (just to show his enemies how awesome he is), which could have been REALLY GOOD but because he told it I was left feeling a bit ... indifferent. It was something of an anticlimax. To me, Uhtred was a fairly boring character. Also, there were very strong similarities between Uhtred and his Irish BFF Finan and another duo of Cornwell's design ... there were places when it read as though Sharpe has just been transported to the 9th century. :P However, I am aware that by coming in five books into the series, I am probably doing it a diservice; had I started reading from the first, I may have liked the characters more.

Best Served Cold (Joe Abercrombie) ☻☻☻☺☺
I chose to buy this book because of this sentence in the blurb: "Her allies include Styria's least reliable drunkard, Styria's most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murder obsessed with numbers and a Barbarian who just wants to do the right thing". That, to me, sounded like a brilliant set-up of some fairly eccentric characters. And I like eccentric and well-defined characters. Now, the entire book is about the heroine, Monza, getting revenge on the seven men who betrayed her - so I expected it to be bloody. However, the torture and killing of the first man was so graphically described that I very almost stopped reading. It made me feel a little ill, and I didn't like the thought of having to read through the same thing a further six times. But I carried on ... and I'm glad I did, because I was able to meet the character of Nicomo Cosca. :3 He saved the entire book for me. A total swashbuckling cad - who is drunk in an alley when we first meet him, yelling obscenities at his "bastard purse". <3 I adored him. I loved how he came across as a bit of a bumbling old fool to most of his peers, but actually had a razorsharp mind. So this review would have been 4 stars, just for him, but unfortunately the way it ended for Cosca ... it's a bad thing when you're left disapointed in your favourite character, that's all I have to say. :P

The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman) ☻☻☺☺☺
Gah! Another rating that I feel bad about. I like Neil Gaiman. In fact, I love Neil Gaiman. The man is a god amongst wordsmiths. But this story...? Meh. It was a nice, easy read (especially after slogging through "The Persian Boy"), but I just wasn't getting that usual Gaiman magic. It's about a toddler whose family are murdered, and he finds refuge in the local graveyard where he is raised by ghosts and given the name of Nobody. He grows up and, as expected, finally brings closure to the mystery of his family's death.
The end was pretty ridiculous. It was clearly meant to be upbeat and the-world-is-your-oyster sort of thing, but ... the cynic in me just had to point out that our hero is alone in the modern world with no family, no friends, no money, no qualifications, no work experiance, no job, and no knowledge of how to live in the outside world. Instead of thinking: yes! He's off to make a new life for himself! How exciting! I thought: ...he'll be dead in a ditch soon. XD Oops.
HOWEVER. With the exception of the protagonist, Neil Gaiman shows his usual brilliance in giving us great characters who you find yourself pondering on the origins of - and what they get up to after the book has finished. Silas? Love. What a dude. He's what kept me reading, because I wanted to find out about him. Several tasty hints are dropped about his past (and what manner of creature he is - it's obvious, so Gaiman never comes out and names him), but we're never given them in any great detail: which works. After all, this is mostly from Bod's perspective. He accepts Silas as just being Silas. The Jacks Of All Trades thing excellent, too - another thing that isn't given great detail, so you're free to daydream all sorts of possibilities.

The Persian Boy (Mary Renault) ☻☻☺☺☺
I feel a bit bad for only awarding this incredibly detailed and carefully researched novel two smilies ... but my god, I just got so bored in parts. It's a story of Alexander the Great, from his conquest of the Persian Empire to his death in Babylon a decade or so later. As it's told by his lover, the Persian serving boy Bagoas, I wasn't expecting there to be many descriptions of the battles; but the romance thing really started boring me after a while. Bagoas just went on and on and on. It was interesting to see 'behind the scenes' as it were, and also Bagoas' account of Alexander's relationship with Hephaestion and his love for his faithful horse, Bucephalus. A couple of years ago I read a book called "I Am The Great Horse" by Katherine Roberts, a story about Alexander told from Bucephalus' point of view, so it was fun to match up the two different viewpoints of events. :P Also, Bagoas was an actual historical figure and the entire story was rooted in fact, so it's nice to think that some of the events described really happened the way they're told in "The Persian Boy".

Conquest (Stewart Binns) unfinished
I picked this book up firstly because I liked the cover, and then when I read the blurb I realised that it was a STORY ABOUT HEREWARD OMG MUCH EXCITEMENT. So you can imagine my disapointment when I was met with one of the most boring opening chapters ever. It was just so ... slow. I kept reading thinking, any minute now something exciting will happen! Any minute...! But no. So I gave up. Sad times, because I love Hereward ... maybe I will try again some day.

Lords Of The Bow (Conn Iggulden) ☻☻☻☻☺
I was in two minds about whether to give this novel 3 or 4 smilies; I didn't find any characters in it who I really loved (and for me, a good character is the driving force behind whether or not I bother reading the whole book), but I found the obviously well-researched description of life in the great army of Genghis Khan thoroughly enjoyable. It is a massive doorstop of a book and yet only a few years in the Khan's incredible life - his conquest of the Western Xia and Jin empires. I liked this book more for its historical content then for its actual story, but it made for a very interesting read.

Sharpe's Sword (Bernard Cornwell) ☻☻☻☻☺
Oki. Time for a very girly confession. I only read this book ... because in the TV version, Jack Spears is played by my beloved James Purefoy and I completely fell in love with the character. So I just had to get the book and read all the bits about him that had been cut from the screenplay. I adored it because Bernard Cornwell writes well - there's never any tedium for me, never any desire to skip along a few passages until something interesting happens. His characters are my sort of characters, and I enjoyed soaking up their every word. The humour was genuine and I enjoyed the history. The book differs drastically from the TV film, as these things tend to do; and I'm not actually sure which I prefer (although I don't see why they had to change the role of El Mirador for the TV version. THAT WAS SUCH A GOOD PART OF THE BOOK. Even if I did see through it immediately, and want to box Sharpe about the ears for being such a man and thinking with his sausage and not his brain).

I Shall Wear Midnight (Terry Pratchett) ☻☻☺☺☺
I very almost gave this only one smiley. :| I did wonder if he was perhaps using a ghost writer for this, because it didn't sound like Terry Pratchett. The characters' had lost their voices; they didn't sound right, the Nac Mac Feegles in particular. This book was also a lot more melancholy and gritty than any of the others, which is not really what you expect when you sit down to read a Discworld novel. A young girl being beaten so badly by her own father that she miscarries her baby? Perhaps it is naive of me to shy away from that; certainly, the main character - Tiffany - makes a good point in relation to her work as a witch. She doesn't spend her time wearing expensive jewellery and making flashy spells - she does the grunt work, the shitty stuff nobody else wants to do (something as simple as trimming an old lady's toenails for her). Bad things happen in the world; the Discworld does have a history of mirroring our own, but it usually pokes fun at it. Turns the bad into the ridiculous. This was just a bit too ... D: for me.

Wintersmith (Terry Pratchett) ☻☻☻☺☺
Until last year, I had read very little Pratchett. I'm going to risk the wrath of dedicated Discworlders and say that I just didn't enjoy his writing all that much - I found the humour forced, the situations just a little too set up to be as funny as they should have been. I don't like being able to see the joke coming (and for me to see the joke coming is a Big Thing, because I'm one of those oblivious sorts of people who never picks up on clues). However, a friend of mine who loves his work made it her mission to lend me every single Discworld novel, and I must admit I spent 2010 merrily working my way through them.
I adored the first two novels in his Tiffany Aching series, and this one was very good too. The only reason it got three smilies is because I wouldn't be interested in reading it again (which earns four smilies!). The characters just weren't interesting enough for me to want to revisit them.

The non-fiction will probably become a bottlomless pit of "currently reading"s - I rarely sit down and read a non-fiction book from front to back, I just dip into it to research certain points. :P So I'll just list 'em.

Gods, Heroes And Kings, Christopher R.Fee and David A.Leeming
The Year 1000, Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger
Looking For The Lost Gods Of England, Kathleen Herbert
Seafaring Women, David Cordingly
Nelson: Britain's Greatest Naval Commander, David Ross
London: The Biography, Peter Ackroyd
Complete Old English, Dr Mark Atherton

2012 book list: http://herecirm.livejournal.com/79406.html


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:14 pm (UTC)
Oooooh how'd you get the smiley faces?
Jan. 12th, 2011 10:20 pm (UTC)
My Linux version of Word has them ... actually, yours probably does as well. Just go to 'symbols' or whatever yours has!
Jul. 19th, 2011 07:49 pm (UTC)
Hey Sari! So I finally made it to the post office (wtf my life, I am so sorry!) and checked out what shipping would be on the jacket. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, shipping to England is MORE than insane! It's going to be about $40 to ship. I didn't want to ship it at that price without asking you if you'd be okay with it first, so I held off. $90 including shipping is a big jump from $50 plus some piddly amount, so I leave it up to you to consider!
Jul. 22nd, 2011 04:14 pm (UTC)
Hi - sorry for the very late response! I only had access to the internet a couple of days ago, and then I was trying to figure finances. Now I'm trying to sort something out that does not involve ridiculous P&P costs ... just leaving you this message so you didn't think you were being ignored. I will get back to you asap!
Jul. 22nd, 2011 10:11 pm (UTC)
Sure thing!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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