I will never catch up on reviews

…if I don’t do a bunch of short ones all at once. Thus:

The Golden Mean, Annabel Lyon

I checked this out on Gavin’s recommendation and because I love Alexander the Great. Your claims that he was a psychotic alcoholic have no effect on me because in my mind he is exactly the way Mary Renault writes him in Fire from Heaven and The Persian Boy. The Golden Mean is about Aristotle when he comes to Macedon to tutor young Alexander. Though Lyon was clearly influenced by Mary Renault’s books, she gives a more nuanced picture of Alexander, showing a brilliant but disturbed young man who provides real heads for plays and mutilates the bodies of soldiers he has killed. Lyon uses modern language, with much swearing, and although that could have come across as stilted, it, er, it doesn’t. Hooray. Also, check out Ms. Lyon’s list of ten very good books about the ancient world.

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, Galen Beckett

Advertised as Jane Austen with magic, The Magicians and Mrs. Quent completely failed to satisfy me. Other reviewers have noted that the book’s three sections are dramatically different in tone, the first being quite Jane Austen and the second quite Turn of the Screwy, and the third more straight fantasy. This bugged me, and I didn’t care for the characters anyway, and the world-building felt lazy. So, not a success. This was for the RIP Challenge.

The Fall of Rome, Martha Southgate

Big yes to this one. I have been wanting to read it for ages, on Eva’s recommendation, and it didn’t disappoint me. Latin teacher Jerome Washington has been the only black faculty member at a Connecticut boarding school for boys throughout most of his career. His ideas about decorum and racial equality are sharply challenged with the arrival of Jana Hensen, a longtime teacher in the Cleveland inner city, and Rashid Bryson, a young black student trying to get away from a family tragedy. Beautiful, complicated racial and family dynamics and lovely writing, multiple narrators, Latin, and a boarding school setting. I wish Martha Southgate had written fifteen more books besides this one, instead of only two. Behold this quotation, which I think is great:

“Racial integration?” He nodded. “What about it?”

“Well, I’m not against it, obviously, or I wouldn’t be here, right? But there’s some problems with it that I just want to talk to people about. How this place isn’t really integrated enough. We – I mean people like me – are just here to round out somebody else’s experience. That’s what it feels like, anyway.”

American Furies: Crime, Punishment, and the American Prison System, Sasha Abramsky

The American prison system is awful. It’s just awful in every way, what with the insanely punitive mandatory minimum sentences, and the poorly-trained guards, and the lack of care for the mentally ill, and the shortage of educational programs, and the–look, just everything. It’s awful. Sasha Abramsky is a careful, clear writer, and I defy you to read this book and not feel furious at the end of it.

Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Alan Moore is just not for me. When I read his books, I think of how much in sympathy I am with his views, and how important a writer of graphic novels he is, but I do not think, Wow, this is an enjoyable read. I more think, Wow, this is rather a slog. Wish I could be reading something more awesome. Now and then an image or a plot element will catch my eye and please me greatly, but these never last long enough to make my reading truly enjoyable. I also found the conclusion deeply unsatisfying: just a big info-dump of cackling villainy. I was fascinated, as I always am, with the way the 1980s seem to have been predicated on the assumption that nuclear war with Russia was imminent. And then the Berlin Wall came down! Miraculous! This was for the Graphic Novels Challenge, which I have already been awesome at this year but I cannot stop being awesome at it because graphic novels are worthwhile! Even when they are not my particular cup of tea.

Glimpses, Lynn Flewelling

Glimpses is a collection of Nightrunner short stories, with lots of fan art. It was sent to me as an e-book by Reece Notley of Three Crow Press, for which much thanks. These are stories that fill in the gaps in Seregil’s and Alec’s history: how Seregil came to be Nysander’s student, a small glimpse of Alec’s life with his father, and like that. If you are a fan of the Nightrunner series, and do not mind lots of graphic sex (I admit I can be slightly squeamish this way), you should check this out. To me, the nosy girl who wants to know exactly how everything went down, this short story collection is an excellent addition to the Nightrunner world. Lynn Flewelling has a light, amusing way of writing, and I always enjoy spending time with her characters. But if you are a stranger to the series, do yourself a favor and read Luck in the Shadows and Stalking Darkness first.

36 thoughts on “I will never catch up on reviews

  1. I too was let down by The Magicians and Mrs. Quent–mainly because I never connected to the characters. I’m not sure why…on paper we seemed like such a good fit!

    • I know! I had seen some “meh” reviews of it, but I thought that it sounded so much like my kind of book that I would not feel “meh” but would love it. So much for that notion!

  2. I love this short review idea anfd may have to steal it for reviews I’m backed up on. I’m glad you enjoyed The Golden Mean. It has been a while since I read Mary Renault, it would be fun to read Fire From Heaven and The Persian Boy again.

    I tried reading The Magicians and Mrs. Quent and just could not get into it but I missed Eva’s review of The Fall of Rome and am adding to my TBR list on your recommendation. Thanks for the link!

    • I really enjoyed it a lot. When I was at the library, I saw it on a special cart with a special kind of binding, and I thought it might mean that I wasn’t supposed to check it out BUT I DID ANYWAY. And it was good. πŸ˜›

      I think if I had flipped to the end of Mrs. Quent and seen how it came out, I wouldn’t have bothered finishing it. Oh well.

  3. If the American prison system is awful, imagine a penal colony in a third-world country! I’d like to read that someday. And I hope I can find The Fall of Rome here. I like Watchmen though. Hahaha!

    • I know! Of course many other places are worse. But for a developed nation, America is pretty bad when it comes to the prison system. This whole “tough on crime” thing has caused prison populations to spike even while crime rates have dropped dramatically. And my home state is particularly bad about it. 😦

  4. I think I should try this mini review thing as well, before I forget what the books I read are about! πŸ™‚

    Too bad about The Magicians and Mrs Quent, I wanted to pick it up from the title alone.

    The Fall of Rome sounds fantastic and I love the quote, round out somebody else’s experience indeed.

    • As I wrote this post, I kept remembering other books that I’d read and forgotten about. This probably isn’t a complete record of my reading, I’m afraid.

      The Fall of Rome was really good. Well-written and thought-provoking (and sad).

  5. I’ve always felt the same when I tried to read Alan Moore. Not about the endings, because I never made it to an ending. I generally get bored immediately, slog about half-way through then quit because apathy is overwhelming me. I feel much better knowing you had the same reaction.

    I’m also now glad I dismissed the Magicians and Mrs. Quent after flipping through it. It had such potential! And then I read a few pages.

  6. REALLY like that quote from The Fall of Rome. You’re so good at choosing the quote that says it all in the fewest words.

  7. I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy The Magicians and Mrs. Quent. I had read it last month and really loved it. I also went into the book without any expectations, since I had never heard of it before, which might have also made a difference.

    • Expectations can make all the difference. Sometimes I think I’d like to go into books knowing nothing about them – except then I’d have a really hard time deciding which books to read in the first place.

  8. The Fall of Rome sounds great – i will go and see whether it’s available in the UK. I really ought to do a short review round-up as I am in exactly the same position of feeling I can never catch up!

    • I hope you can find it! It has everything I love in a book, except for, I guess, orphans. And Catholics. If it had been a Catholic boarding school and at least one of the characters had been orphaned, I might have even liked it better. :p

    • I know! Like Neil Gaiman – why can’t he write a book every month? :p But I’m looking forward to reading Southgate’s two other books, at least.

  9. The Magicians & Mrs. Quent was a bit oddball. I didn’t dislike but I didn’t love it either. My husband liked Watchmen but I can’t get into it. I think it’s an acquired taste.

  10. Your reaction to Watchmen sounds a lot like how I felt about The Lacuna. Brief bits of greatness, but otherwise a total slog. I liked these mini reviews, by the way. It’s a great way to get a little taste of a whole lot of interesting titles.

    • Yeah, I felt that way about most of Kingsolver’s books that I’ve read, apart from The Poisonwood Bible, which was nearly all greatness.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the mini-reviews! They make me worry that I’m cheating, so it’s nice to have positive reinforcement. :p

  11. Aw, I’m sorry you didn’t like THE MAGICIANS & MRS QUENT. I loved it enough for two or three people, though, so I guess it all evens out in the end.

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