13 July 2011

Series reads.

Gadzooks! My apologies. I have been reading at my usually furious pace over the past 19 days, but I find myself less inclined to update when I'm reading books in a series. (As usual) I'm of two minds about this: first, remorseful, since several of my favorite novels are part of a sequence; second, somewhat justified, since much of the strength of a several-book narrative is consistency. Hence if I've said "Soulless is a funny and silly little confection of a book," must I repeat myself when its sequels prove to be of a piece? (That's Changeless and Blameless I've read so far; just-released Heartless is a hold-in-progress at the library.)

Likewise: George R.R. Martin continues to enthrall. My TOTES AWESOME sister got me the box set of the first four paperbacks, so once I got caught up on Brothers Karamazov (capsule review: fistfight fistfight 30-page conversation about God. Am I getting shallow in my old age?), I blazed through the rest of A Clash of Kings and am now embroiled in A Storm of Swords. And I just dropped $35 on the weapon-grade-hefty A Dance With Dragons--at WORD, natch!

And I haven't been blogging about 'em, but my friend Ed at Vertical has kept me up to date on the Chi's Sweet Home kitten adventures manga--up to Volume 6 now! Little Miss Tabbypants is learning and making friends. :3

Finally: finished up Eloisa James's Duchesses series, and I worry that she's just ruined me for all other romances. Her books are so sharp, her heroines so lovable, her heroes' reforms so believable!!! And this sextet, with a couple of overarching narratives, is a masterpiece of small- and large-scale plotting. I kind of hate it when people say of genre books, "They're even for people who don't read X!", as if regular readers of X will just swallow anything, but: pretty much everyone who's ever enjoyed being in love should read these. ESPECIALLY (though you have to read the first four to really get the payoff) the last two, This Duchess of Mine (in which an estranged married couple falls in love again--and for the first time) and A Duke of Her Own (being the story of the sleep-aroundiest duke ever and his joyful conversion to lifelong monogamy).


  1. I loved the first Martin book when it came out (we were in high school), but when the second one was released I just couldn't get into it. I never picked up another one. Am I wrong?

    I've gotten a lot more sensitive to bad writing as I've gotten older. There are so many first-class books that it's hard to see spending time on poorly-written ones, even if they're interesting in other ways. I've mentioned the Anita Blake books here before: I read five of them last month and they're like mental Pringles: once you pop, you can't stop, but you don't feel good about yourself or the manufacturer afterwards.

    My favorite really long series is the Patrick O'Brien Aubrey/Maturin series, which I'm going through for the third time. I finished the tenth one, which is the halfway point, a couple of days ago. These are really great literature, exquisitely written, and have almost everything someone could want in a novel, let alone twenty of them. It's like a five-star French chef setting out an all-you-can-eat buffet. I don't remember if you've ever said whether you've read him, but if you haven't, DO IT.

    Probably my other favorite long series are the Wodehouse Jeeves and Blandings, which have about 12 or 15 books each, depending on whether you count short story collections, stories where side characters come to fore, etc. I've read all but 1 of the Jeeves and 2 of the Blandings and after I finish will certainly read them all again. Wodehouse's many stand-alone non-series novels are frequently very very good as well but with the two long series he really found what he was good at and brought it to a high pitch of perfection, over and over again.

    For Victorian-Romance-and-Politics-and-Church-and-Foxhunting I'm very very fond of Trollope's interlocking Barsetshire and Palliser novels, twelve in all. Eloisa James sounds somewhat like it, in the sense that each novel stands alone but there are characters and situations and larger plots that form connecting links from beginning to end, so that a very minor side character in the early books ends up at the end as Prime Minister and has the whole series converge around him. They're really good; I like Trollope much better than, say, Dickens.

    Are the Eloisa James really "even for people who don't read X!" where people=me and X!=genre romances?

  2. I really, really need to read Wodehouse. I keep referring to things as "Wodehousian," and I've no right to do so! Noting O'Brian & Trollope as well.

    And I freely admit that GRRM's prose is second-rate. I don't find anything else about Song of Ice & Fire such, though...but I will further freely admit that I am nigh infinitely more forgiving of flaw in fantasy. (I did not intend for that sentence to be as alliterative as it became.) I'm the same with movies: stick a dragon in it, and I'll find wooden acting and embarrassing FX far easier to overlook.

    I would say it couldn't hurt to try a James. They read fast! Desperate Duchesses is the first in the series I just finished, and it introduces the Beaumonts and the Duke de Villiers, who are central in the last two--and contains a mystery not solved till Book 6.

  3. I'll keep her in mind, then.

    I used to feel that way about fantasy, but these days I'm not so forgiving. Just too many books to read. I am more or less that way still about superhero comic books, but that time may be passing as well.

    There are people out there who don't like Wodehouse. I don't completely understand it, nor do I care to. However, if you do like him, chances are you'll like him better and better the more you read until you're a full-blown fanatic, like me. One of the amazing things about him is that in the course of his career he stayed amazingly consistently good. I recently read, with some apprehension, his first novel, published in I think 1901, and its quality was comparable to the stuff he was writing in the 1970s. And he wrote about 100 books, so when you like it there's this delightful sense of there being an inexhaustible amount of delight still ahead. I've read somewhere around half, over quite a few years, and I already want to reread a lot of them, while being eager to get to the rest.


Creative Commons License
Muse at Highway Speeds by http://museathighwayspeeds.blogspot.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.