What I Read in July

Most writers like to talk about what they’re reading – it’s such a key part of the writing business, and since we love the written word so much, it makes sense to want to discuss it. So far I’ve kept my reviewing primarily to giving stars on Goodreads, with a couple exceptions – most recently Compile:Quest by Ronel van Tonder and Five Days in May by Ron Collins and John C. Bodin, if you’re curious – but I’ve decided to start a monthly recap of what I’ve been reading and a few of my thoughts. Nothing super-detailed or super-critical – just the opinion of one avid reader to another.

For July, here’s some of what I got a chance to read:

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

  • Holy crap, I loved this book. I only picked it up because of Mary Robinette Kowal’s recommendation on “Writing Excuses” – and her assessment was 100% correct. Each of the POV characters is brilliantly executed, at times tragically compelling and at times outright hilarious, but Inquisitor Glokta is by far my favorite; the way that this poor, crippled bastard looks sardonically at his own condition and the world around him put me in stitches. I cannot possibly recommend this book enough. It has action, intensity, compelling characters, magic that seems perfectly natural, and manages to maintain a fairly narrow focus while making it clear that there’s a vast world out there to be explored in future books. If you’re a fantasy reader, pick up this novel.

Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

  • I picked up this book on a whim, in the same buying trip as Abercrombie. I was less impressed with Sullivan. It has some great moments – the dialogue between the two main protagonists is entertaining, and there are moments of compelling character work or gripping action – but overall it felt like an average book without too much originality. It’s a basic quest setup, with characters joining the party at different intervals, and a basic regicide plot whodunit that’s pretty easy to figure out long before the big reveal. And if you like compelling, well-envisioned villains, you’ll be sorely disappointed; the main baddie here, despite supposedly being a cunning tactician, makes a number of unrealistic blunders that lead to his demise.

The Dresden Files: Death Masks by Jim Butcher

  • A good friend of mine had been telling me to read Butcher for a long time, and I only started this year. I’m already past book six in The Dresden Files, which I finished yesterday. Death Masks is book five, and I think I had to take a breath after I put it down. Harry Dresden is easily one of the most compelling protagonists in fantasy, and Butcher does an awe-inspiring job of developing Harry, the supporting characters around him, and the world of this series without a single continuity error or retconn. It isn’t a particularly dense read – I finished book six in about five hours total, I think – but it is deep. And even though the pace never slows down, Butcher still manages to have moments of intense reflection or strong character building between entire chapters of full-blown action. I’m just sorry I didn’t start reading this series sooner, since right now Butcher is the guy I’m looking to for inspiration while I start my new novel.

Hieroglyph, edited by Kathryn Cramer and Ed Finn

  • I mentioned this collection a while back, when I heard parts of it read at Can Con in October. I’ve only read the first few stories so far, but they’re solid stories with great premises. The idea of stories that look optimistically at future technology (solarpunk is the term) is a bit to get used to for me, but I’m enjoying how the authors still find conflict in a world where the potential apocalypse has been averted. I’ll give you a full assessment next month after I finish the anthology.

There you go! Some months I might give a hint as to what I’m reading next, but I don’t want to commit myself to reading certain books – that sometimes takes the fun out of it. That said, if you have any suggestions of what I could pick up in August, Tweet me or post a comment below.

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