2013 Completed Reading Challenges

Once Upon a Time VII 3/21/13 – 6/21/13 – finished 6/7/13

RIP VIII Reading Challange 9/1/13 – 10/31/13 – finished 10/22/13

RIP VIII Challenge – 9/1/13 to 10/31/13

Well, October is past, which means the RIP VIII Reading Challenge is done.

Considering I was gone for a good chunk of September, and had to rely on my iPad, I’m pretty happy with what I read:

I was pretty mystery-centric this year – what I found for the Kindle started the trend, and I was happy to follow it along.

One Corpse Too Many – Ellis Peters

Read for the RIP VIII Reading Challenge.

Having recently read the two Gareth and Gwen books, which were pretty much modern procedurals put into a medieval Welsh setting, reading this Brother Cadfael book was an interesting contrast, and a good reminder of what a great writer Ellis Peters is.

This book is set within the very real events that happened during the fight for who would succeed King Henry I in England.    Henry’s nephew, Stephen, has come to Shrewsbury Castle, where they are loyal to his cousin, Empress Maud (Henry’s daughter).   The castle falls, and as an example, Stephen has everyone that held it executed.    Brother Cadfael and the other brothers at the Abbey are given the task of burying the dead, and Cadfael discovers an extra body amongst the soldiers.   It seems another man was murdered, and his killer hoped to use the executions to cover his deeds.

There’s other intrigue afoot – the daughter of the castle warden has disappeared, just as Cadfael is brought a boy from the town by his aunt, hoping that the monks can shelter “him” from the fighting.     The whole town is unsure of what will happen as Stephen consolidates his power, and many men have come to take the lay of the land, and see who they should pledge their loyalty to.

This book has such a great authentic feel to it – you really feel immersed in this world, and there are so many great characters with varying stories that show how much this civil war is effecting the citizens of England.     It’s such an interesting story – both the little stories, and the greater story of Stephen and Maud.    I’m really enjoying these books.

Blood Bound – Patricia Briggs

Read for the RIP VIII Reading Challenge.

Mercy Thompson owes a few people some favors.    Since she can turn into a coyote whenever she likes, her vampire friend Stefan asks her to go along when he needs to deliver a message to another one of his kind.    Unfortunately, it turns out that this vampire has a demon riding him, and Mercy’s life is about to get very complicated.

The first thing I need to note about this book is how much the cover irritates me.   (I’ve covered how the covers kept me from reading this series for a while in my review of the first book.)     Mercy’s a mechanic.    At no point does it mention that she prefers to work with her coveralls unbuttoned to the naval so that everyone can see her bra.    I get that this book nominally falls in to the paranormal romance category (if Mercy could get around to making up her mind), but really?    Do we need to keep doing this to covers on these books?

But, cover whining aside, I am enjoying this series.   It definitely skews dark (Mercy goes through a lot tracking down this demon), but I really like that Mercy is in the thick of things, dealing with crap, and doing so in a fairly human way, not withstanding that she’s a shape-shifter.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

Read for the RIP VIII Reading Challenge.

A middle aged man has returned to the town he grew up in for a funeral.    Afterwards, he drives around aimlessly, and realizes that he is drawn to the farm at the end of the lane from where he grew up.     When he was young, he remembered that a girl named Lettie lived there, before she moved to Australia.     He stops at the farm, and sees Lettie’s grandmother, who lets him wander around the farm.     When he sees a pond, he stops in his tracks, and remembers.

Lettie was far more than a little girl – in one terrifying week when he was little, Lettie saved him and his family from a terrible evil that was trying to take over his family, and then the world.     He’s forgotten all this, but the pond was what Lettie used to call her Ocean, and brings all his memories of the event back.

I really enjoyed this book – it’s creepy without being outright terrifying.    It also has a faint autobiographical tinge to it, which helps with the authentic feel.     This is a story that feels real, and the forgetting makes it more plausible.     I love Neil Gaiman – he keeps writing things that really speak to me.

The Uninvited Guest – Sarah Woodbury

Read for the RIP VIII Reading Challenge.

I needed one more book to get me through my flight home from Paris, so I decided to try another one of the Gareth and Gwen mysteries.    This time, it’s King Owain that’s getting married, and his wedding comes to a halt when one of the bridesmaids is found dead, with Lady Cristina’s (the king’s fiancee) dress shredded next to her.    Gareth and Gwen are enlisted to find out who killed Lady Enid.

As things progress, it’s clear that someone doesn’t want the king to get married, and Gareth is hurt when it’s clear that he may be close to finding out who is guilty.    To keep Gwen safe, Gareth pursues the murderer outside of the King’s castle, while Gwen follows what leads she can from inside.

This was a satisfying mystery, and I did enjoy a visit with the characters from A Good Knight.   It’s still a little too modern for the 12th century setting, but it’s a decent story, so who cares?

The Good Knight – Sarah Woodbury

Read for the RIP VIII Reading Challenge.

Gwen’s father is a bard, and has been summoned back to the court of King Owain Gwynedd to perform at the wedding of the king’s daughter to one of the neighboring kings.    On the journey there, they find the wedding party of King Anarawd slain on the road, including Anarawd.

One of the first people on the scene is Sir Gareth, who Gwen has not seen for seven years, when her father refused to give her hand to Gareth, and he subsequently left the court of King Owain.    Turns out he’s now a knight serving Prince Hywel, the king’s second son.    What Gareth doesn’t know is that Gwen also works for Hywel, bringing him information as her family travels around Gwynedd.     Together, working with Hywel, they need to solve Anarawd’s murder.

I really enjoyed this book.    It’s set in the real 12th century court of King Owain.     However, it reads quite a bit like a modern crime scene investigation novel, so anyone who’s a real stickler for authentic historical fiction may not like this book.      Still, I liked the characters, and the mystery definitely kept me guessing right up until the end.      It was a good, quick, vacation read.