First in a Series archive at Stray Talk
an archive of my forays into fact and fiction

Archive: First in a Series


30th June, 2008
A Game of Thrones; George RR Martin
— Love @ 20:10 Comments (1)
Filed under: C, English, Fantasy, First in a Series, Here Be Dragons

A Game of Thrones; George RR Martin A Game of Thrones
by George RR Martin
American

For the Here Be Dragons and First in a Series reading challenges.

English
837 pages
Bantam Books
ISBN: 987-0-553-57340-4

First line: “We should start back,” Gared urged them as the woods began to grow dark around them.

Back cover blurb:
In a land where summer can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family born as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs periously in the balance, as each endeavor to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

Thoughts: I kept pushing back reading this forever, as it’s such a big book. I didn’t use to mind big books—quite the opposite, in fact—but then I got a job and I don’t have as much time for reading as I used to, so I’ve rarely got time to finish big books in one sitting, which is what I prefer to do (example: I read A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, which was 1239 pages in the translation I read, in less than two days).

Anyway, I went to London and I needed to have some reading material with me, or I’d go spare, but I also didn’t want to take too much, on account of weight issues and such, so this book got to come along with me. I didn’t finish it there, but I did get about half-way through. And then I finished it today.

For the first couple of hundred pages or so, it was pretty much just confusing. It’s written in third person. However it’s not one person we follow, but at least eight (I probably forgot someone now. It wouldn’t surprise me) and they never have two chapters in a row, which means that it took a while to get to know them.

Once I did, though, things did pick up a little and the story ends up being quite good. I even had a couple of favourite characters (Dany, Eddard, Jon and Tyrion). However, I don’t feel that it was good enough that I’ll likely want to read the rest in the series. Probably not, anyway. I am itching a little to know what happens next, so maybe one day I will end up reading the other books, but right now I doubt it.

It’s a C grade, which means it was a decent read, but not awe-inspiring.


29th January, 2008
The Giver; Lois Lowry
— Love @ 19:58 Comments (3)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Decades '08, English, Fiction, First in a Series, Young Adult

The Giver; Lois Lowry The Giver
by Lois Lowry
American

For the First in a Series, Decades ’08 (first published in 1993) and A-Z reading challenges.

English
179 pages
Dell Laurel-Leaf
ISBN: 0-440-23768-8

First line: It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened.

Back cover blurb:
Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community.
When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now it’s time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

Thoughts: I’ve read this before, of course, but this is the first time I’ve read it in the original English. It’s one of my favourite YA reads, and from what I can remember of the translation compared to the original, the translator did a good job (though that’s neither here nor there, as it isn’t the translation I’m writing these thoughts on).

What I like about it best is, I think, how everything sort of sneaks up on you. You start out thinking this world is pretty much like ours, except a lot more perfect, but little by little you realise that there are actually huge differences, and some pretty scary ones at that.

Whenever I’ve read this before, I’ve always interpreted the ending as a happy one, but this time around I was a bit more inclined to go for the slightly less optimistic interpretation. True, I think Jonas is probably better off there, than back in the community (I always expected the community to be spelt with a capital C. It just seems like the sort of place that would be, but apparently it isn’t), but it’s still not complete and utter bliss, and I’ll admit I shed a couple of tears. I do like the ending, though, especially how open-ended it is. It’s not Lowry’s fault that I’ve become a complete pessimist of late.

The rating ends up a B, because tempted as I am to dole out an A, I don’t quite think the book reaches those heights.

A couple of side notes:

1. I also read Cliffs Notes on Lowry’s The Giver, because I accidentally ordered that instead of the proper book. I searched the online book store for Lois Lowry and when I got the search results, I added the cheapest copy of The Giver to my shopping cart. Since I knew the book already, I didn’t bother reading the summary, but in retrospect, I find that I should have. Still, one would think they’d specify the title of the Cliffs Notes a little more than to say The Giver, with the author name Lois Lowry. Either way, I kept it, as returning it would probably have been more of a hassle than just keeping it, and it’s not like it cost a fortune.

2. There was a second side note, but I’m demmeda if I can remember it at present! How very annoying, I hate it when that happens.

a. I watched the 1934 version of The Scarlet Pimpernel the other evening. Can you tell? ;D


26th January, 2008
Whose Body?; Dorothy L Sayers
— Love @ 23:08 Comments (5)
Filed under: A, A-Z Reading Challenge, Decades '08, English, First in a Series, Historical, Mystery

Whose Body?; Dorothy L Sayers Whose Body?
by Dorothy L Sayers
British

For the Decades ’08 (first published 1923), First in a Series and A-Z reading challenges.

English
212 pages
Harper Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-104357-4

First line: “Oh damn!” said Lord Peter Wimsey at Piccadilly Circus.

Back cover blurb:
The stark naked body was lying in the tub. Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder — especially with a pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What’s more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better. In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.

Thoughts: It would appear that I have gone and done it again. Read a book I was certain was a re-read, only to find that it wasn’t, I mean. I was utterly convinced that Whose Body? was a re-read, and thus felt a little bit of a cheat for including it in so many challenges, but I couldn’t in fact remember a thing from it. Now, I know that if I did read it before, it was upwards of seven or eight years ago, but I still refuse to believe I would have no recollection of it at all. After all, Lord Peter Wimsey is not the sort of man you forget just like that.

If it sounds as though I’m complaining, rest assured that nothing could be further from the truth! I am utterly, utterly pleased to find that there was more Lord Peter for me to discover. It is not exactly a treat you are given every day.

My copy of the book (a handy paperback that’s been lugged around everywhere with me this week, as I have had very little time to actually sit down and read, but have been determined to sit down and read all the same, wherever and whenever that might have been) is full of little blue post-it notes sticking out where there are passages I liked especially much (mostly funny and/or snarky ones). I don’t usually quote the actual books in my reviews (apart from the first line, obviously), but I figured I would make an exception for Lord Peter and post a few things I adored (I will attempt to make all of them non-spoilery, so not all my favourites are included. In fact, most aren’t).

“[…] if I sacked you on top of drinking the kind of coffee you make, I’d deserve everything you could say of me. You’re a demon for coffee, Bunter — I don’t want to know how you do it, because I believe it to be witchcraft, and I don’t want to burn eternally.”

“[…] That’s all,” said Parker abruptly, with a wave of the hand.
“It isn’t all, it isn’t all. Daddy, go on, that’s not half a story,” pleaded Lord Peter.

“Never mind,” said Parker, soothingly, “he’s always like that. It’s premature senile decay, often observed in the families of hereditary legislators. Go away, Wimsey, and play us the ‘Beggar’s Opera’, or something.”

Quite obviously, my favourite character is Lord Peter Wimsey himself, mostly because he is magnificently snarky and simply wonderful, but there are other marvellous characters in these books as well. Parker, who is a police detective and a friend of Wimsey’s, and the Dowager Duchess of Denver, who is Wimsey’s mother and quite funny (though usually not intentionally so), are just two of them. I also have to mention Bunter, Wimsey’s man, because what sort of person would I be if I didn’t? The Wimsey books would be nothing without him, as he is Wimsey’s assistant in pretty much everything that he does.

But I ramble, and it’s getting late, so I’ll end this review (if it can even be called that. I’m not entirely sure anything I write in this blog properly could be) with an A rating. It was an exceedingly nice surprise to find that I hadn’t read the book before, the mystery I thought was a good one (though I hardly dwelt on that in the review) and the characters even better.


16th January, 2008
Twilight; Stephenie Meyer
— Love @ 16:14 Comments (28)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Fantasy, First in a Series, Romance, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

Twilight; Stephenie Meyer Twilight
by Stephenie Meyer
American

For the Young Adult, First in a Series and A-Z reading challenges.

English
434 pages
Atom Books
ISBN: 978-1-904233-65-7

First line: I’d never given much thought to how I would die—though I’d had reason enough in the last few months—but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.

Back cover blurb:
When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret.

What Bella does not realize is that the closer she gets to him, the more she is putting herself and those she around her at risk. And it might be too late to turn back…

Thoughts: I heard such different accounts of this book as puzzled me exceedingly*. Before I ordered it, I found only positive views in different book blogs. Of course, the second I pressed the confirm button on the book order, the more negative reviews started popping up.

After reading the book myself, I find myself in the camp in the middle. I wasn’t as completely blown away by Edward as others have been, but neither was I completely and utterly annoyed with Bella. Edward is okay, but he’s not one of those fictional characters I see myself falling in love with. As for Bella, I was a little peeved at her over a couple of things (mostly how she treats her father, because I refuse to believe he is as useless at cooking as she makes him out to be. He has, as he himself says, survived on his own for seventeen years, after all).

On the whole, I thought the book was good enough and I definitely want to read the sequels (already ordered them, in fact), but I find myself a bit of a sceptic when it comes to the great Bella/Edward romance. It’s a little too intense for my liking, to be honest. Either way, I do look forward to see where the story is going and this, the first installment, receives a well-deserved B grade.

*See what I did there?


5th January, 2008
An Assembly Such as This; Pamela Aidan
— Love @ 22:49 Comments (5)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Back to History, English, First in a Series, Historical, Romance

An Assembly Such as This; Pamela Aidan An Assembly Such as This
by Pamela Aidan
American

For the First in a Series, Back to History and A-Z reading challenges.

English
256 pages
Touchstone
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9134-7

First line: Fitzwilliam George Alexander Darcy rose from his seat in the Bingley carriage and reluctantly descended to earth before the assembly hall above the only inn to which the small market town of Meryton could lay claim.

Back cover blurb:
“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”

So begins the timeless romance of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s classic novel which is beloved by millions, but little is revealed in the book about the mysterious and handsome hero, Mr. Darcy. And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?
In An Assembly Such as This, Pamela Aidan finally answers that long-standing question. In this first book of her Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, she reintroduces us to Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley and reveals Darcy’s hidden perspective on the events of Pride and Prejudice. As Darcy spends more time at Netherfield supervising Bingley and fending off Miss Bingley’s persistent advances, his unwilling attraction to Elizabeth grows—as does his concern about her relationship with his nemesis, George Wickham.

Thoughts: Unlike Darcy’s Story, which I read in December, this book really captured me from the first chapter. Here is Mr. Darcy as I have always pictured him. The other characters, some of which are original characters, are well-written as well and especially Fletcher, Darcy’s valet, won my heartfelt approval.

On the whole, it felt as though it was written very much in the spirit of Austen herself, and there was much giggling and squeeing from me as I read it.

The only negative thing about it is that it’s the first in a series and I hadn’t realised that the whole series would make up the events in Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I thought the following two books would relate the events after Darcy’s and Lizzy’s wedding. As I found it was not the case, I shall simply have to hunt down the following two volumes at my earliest convenience, as I will not rest until I know what happens next (shut up! Yes, I know I know what happens next, but I don’t have Aidan’s Darcy’s take on it, so there!).

For now, it’s a B grade. If the rest of the series proves to be as good as this, I might bump it up to an A in the end.


3rd January, 2008
Flambards; KM Peyton
— Love @ 19:52 Comments (0)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, English, First in a Series, Historical, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

Flambards; KM Peyton Flambards
by KM Peyton
British

For the First in a Series, Young Adult and A-Z reading challenges.

English
220 pages
Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0-19-271955-3

First line: The fox was running easily.

Back cover blurb:
Christina is sent to live with her uncle and his two sons in their country house, Flambards.

She finds her uncle fierce and domineering and her cousin Mark arrogant and selfish. But Flambards isn’t all bad, for Christina soon discovers a passion for horse-riding and forms a binding friendship with her cousin Will.

As time goes by Christina comes to realize the important part she has to play in this emotionally-charged and strange household.

Thoughts: Oh, it’s been absolute ages since I’ve read any horse-y books! I used to be quite crazy about them when I was younger, just as I was crazy about everything else related to horses.

It is a nice book, though. I quite like it still, even if perhaps not quite so much as previously. A C is in order—I spent a couple of hours curled up with it, time which I don’t begrudge it, and I have no objection to (re-)reading the rest of the series, but it’s not absolutely fantastic.


3rd January, 2008
His Majesty’s Dragon; Naomi Novik
— Love @ 15:30 Comments (7)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Fantasy, First in a Series, Here Be Dragons, Historical, Seafaring Challenge

His Majesty's Dragon; Naomi Novik His Majesty’s Dragon
by Naomi Novik
American

For the Here Be Dragons, First in a Series, Seafaring and A-Z reading challenges.

English
356 pages
Del Rey
ISBN: 978-0-345-48128-3

First line: The deck of the French ship was slippery with blood, heaving in the choppy sea; a stroke might as easily bring down the man making it as the intended target.

Back cover blurb:
Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies… not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.
When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into the uncertain future—and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarefied world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

Thoughts: I really, really liked this book. I’d suspected I might, and thankfully I was not disappointed, as has sometimes been the case (The Eyre Affair springs readily to mind as an example of this). Naomi Novik’s take on the Napoleonic Wars is quite exciting to read and her characters are ones you quickly become exceedingly fond of. The only beef I have with the story is that it’s sometimes a little too fantastic, perhaps. That, and the reactions of the main character to certain things (though, granted, they are perfectly understandable reactions for him to have, as a product of the Regency era. Still, they grated on me a little).

All in all, though, I can say with certainty that I will try to get my paws on the next three books in the series as soon as possible, and that I will also wait with bated breath for June to come around and with it the publishing of the fifth book.

A B rating is nothing if not extremely well-deserved in this case.


23rd December, 2007
This and that
— Love @ 13:52 Comments (3)
Filed under: First in a Series, General booktalk

I’m visiting my parents for Christmas (I have four days off from work. Four! That’s the most I’ve had off in a row since June and it is bliss!) and I thought I’d dig around my old room here to see if I could find two books that have mysteriously gone missing. No luck so far, unfortunately, but I’m still hoping I might turn them up when I give my room a thorough tidying up. If I don’t, I know I’ll eventually cave and order those two books again. (Something also tells me that about two seconds after the order has been sent and it’s no longer possible to cancel it, the books will show up. As they tend to do.)

I have also taken the opportunity to join another challenge. It’s called First in a Series, is hosted by Thoughts of Joy and my list is to be found here (or under Challenges in the top navigation).

Speaking of challenges, I’ve had an idea for one myself, so watch this space in the next couple of days for an announcement post.