With today’s post, I am joining Donna, of Retirement Reflections, for October’s What’s on Your Bookshelf challenge. Thistles and Kiwis is also taking part in the challenge, and one book on her list was written by a Maine author. How about that? A Maine book in New Zealand.
Below is a photo of the books I read in October, and it illustrates my eclectic tastes. I am a reader who likes stories about everyday life, but I also like stories that feature myths, magic, and archetypes. However, whether a book is a slice of life or high fantasy, everything I read shares the same requirement: It must be character driven. I really dislike books with one-dimensional characters who are marched through the plot.
Marcia Willett, an English author I discovered via A Corner of Cornwall, writes about everyday life in Cornwall and Devon. Romance figures heavily in her stories, and I must admit that romance is not my favorite genre. However, when it comes to her characters, Willet is both sympathetic and shrewd, a winning combination for this reader.
Although at times overwritten, Willet’s books are usually a bon-bon of a read. The Courtyard, with its swirl of characters, young and old, certainly falls into this category. Old age and poverty are addressed with compassion. Infidelity rears its ugly head, but there is also forgiveness. The extreme difficulties of some of the characters are perhaps too neatly resolved, but the book’s message of friendship and generosity never gets old.
Alas, the same cannot be said of First Friends, a tedious chronicle of the many infidelities of navy wives and their husbands. This is Willett’s first book, but fortunately I had read several other of her books before First Friends. Pardon the tangle of puns, but if I had read First first, it would have been last.
Speaking of last…I have saved the best for last—Katherine Addison’s goblin/elf books.
Uncharacteristically for fantasy, both books, set in the same magical steampunk realm, are primarily character driven. In The Goblin Emperor, Maia, the main character, half-elf, half-goblin, is the unloved child of his father, the emperor. When Maia’s father and brothers are killed in an airship crash, Maia, young and inexperienced, becomes emperor. Struggling to remain decent, Maia must navigate the intricacies of court life while dealing with various treacheries and plots.
Densely and beautifully written, The Goblin Emperor is referred to as a fantasy of manners, where, according to Wikipedia, “The protagonists are not pitted against fierce monsters or marauding armies, but against their neighbors and peers; the action takes place within a society, rather than being directed against an external foe; duels may be fought, but the chief weapons are wit and intrigue.”
For those who don’t read fantasy, The Goblin Emperor would be a good way to ease into the genre.
The Witness for the Dead is set in the same world as The Goblin Emperor, but with a different protagonist— Celehar, a minor yet important character in the first book. Celehar is able to get thoughts, impressions, and memories from those who are newly dead and is therefore able to help solve crimes, settle disputed wills, and in general tidy up the loose ends that those who have died sometimes leave behind.
There is still political intrigue in The Witness for Dead, but the story is also a murder mystery, another genre I don’t usually read.
But with these two books, Addison proves that genre is not important when the writing is good and the story revolves around a vivid character.
42 thoughts on “What’s on Your Bookshelf—October 2021 Edition”
Thanks for the reviews.
You are most welcome.
Thank you so much for joining in, Laurie. Sue, Debbie, Jo and I greatly appreciate it.
Wow! That is a huge collection of books that you read in October (which still has 9-days left in it). How did you fit that all in with your writing, painting, time with your daughter, Clif’s big birthday celebrations, etc. etc.??
I haven’t yet read anything on your list for this month (at least there’s nothing that I recognize on your shelf). I do wholeheartedly agree with you that a great book must be character-driven.
I am off to visit Thistles and Kiwis’ site right now!
My great pleasure. I am a fast reader, and Willett’s books are definitely a quick read. 😉 Other books, not so much.
I have to say I haven’t read a fantasy novel for many, many years – good to get a recommendation of a pathway in. Thanks for the mention too Laurie!
My pleasure! Always enjoy finding out what others are reading even if the books are not a genre I usually read.
Cheers to your joy for novels!
I love to see shelves of books …
I rarely read fantasy novels – my daughters both love them though so I’ll recommend your choices to them. I don’t mind a bit of magical realism though and would recommend ‘The Mermaid of Black Conch’ by Monique Roffey in this genre if you haven’t read it.
I will be looking up the “The Mermaid of the Black Conch.” Thanks for the recommendation.
P.S. Just ordered it through interlibrary loan.
I hope you enjoy it
A fascinating post. Sandra’s are always good value too. I’m still working my way through Dickens
Thanks, Derrick. You can’t go wrong with Dickens.
Very interesting! How do you find time to read so many book?
I am a fast reader—too fast, sometimes—and Marcia Willett’s books are a quick read.
You and I don’t read the same type of books, but we both do find reading a passion and utilize our local libraries which is a wonderful use of our tax dollars. Happy reading, my friend.
Great reviews, Laurie. Excellent summary of Marcia Willett. I have avoided her first book – not my cup of tea at all. You’ve confirmed what I suspected. But I’ll look out for The Courtyard and keep in mind the fantasy recommendations. Happy reading!
Yup, her first book really illustrates how writers can improve. Happy reading!
Lots of great reading. You’re much more efficient than me.
This was an interesting post Laurie, with a great variety of books reviewed. I like your explanations too of what you read and what you like/don’t like. Thanks for joining our #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge
My pleasure! So much fun to be a part of this.
Happy reading, Laurie. One of my favourite activity in autumn.
A cozy time to read.
Love this series and photos of bookshelves!! Wonderful review and I’ve added Marcia Willett to my “want to read” list.
Lots of good ideas here — if I ever finish “Magic Mountain”!
I enjoy the book reviews, though I don’t get time to read many until the dead of winter. On a different vein of reading, I bought Greg Lake’s autobiography “Lucky Man”, which was published after his death from pancreatic cancer in December, 2016. It is tastefully written, and an interesting view into his life and music. Lake was a great story teller as well as a great musician.
My mainstays are crime thrillers and fluffy chicklit books. At the moment I’m reading Ragdoll by Daniel Cole, a rather gruesome but compelling read about a cop chasing down a serial killer before he himself is made the final victim. The Katherine Addison sounds very interesting! I have a bookworm friend who is totally into fantasy and I think she may enjoy them (as may I). Thanks for the review, will be on the lookout!
Katherine Addison has become one of my favorites.
I haven’t come across Marcia Willett, but she sounds like an author I’d like to read – especially with a Devon/Cornwall setting.
Worth reading, except for her first book. My, how she improved.
Hi Laurie, I just discovered your blog because you left a comment on my What’s On Your Bookshelf? post. Lovely to meet you and thanks for the reviews. I’ve not really read fantasy genre before as I do prefer a good psychological thriller! Hope you can join Donna, Deb, Jo and i for next month’s What’s On Your Bookshelf? challenge. Have a great week. x
Thanks for stopping by. Already planning for next month’s What’s on Your Bookshelf. 😉
Thank you for your book reviews and recommendations. I’ll see what I can borrow from my library. #WOYBS
Let’s hear it for libraries. That’s where I get most of my books.
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