The Sunday Stack – Sequels and Finales

The Sunday Stack is a simple but lovely idea created by Bronwen at Babblesnbooks. Every Sunday there’s a different theme, and if you want to join in all you have to do is create an appropriate stack of books! This week the theme is Sequels and Finales; I definitely had to do a bit of thinking for this one. I tend to read contemporary fiction with a few classics thrown in, but I’m not such a big fan of genre fiction such as crime or fantasy, and those books are much more likely to be part of a series. However, I do like a challenge, and it was a lot of fun to go through my bookshelves to jog my memory on some of the sequels I’ve enjoyed in the course of my reading life. Once I started looking, there were many I’d forgotten about, and it was lovely to revisit them – and give them their moment in the spotlight.

Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh

I’ve read lots of Amitav Ghosh’s books and thoroughly enjoyed most of them; however, when I started on Sea of Poppies, the first book in the Ibis Trilogy, it took me a while to get into it. It definitely paid to persevere though – this is one series that really ramps up as it goes on, and by the time you arrive at the final book, Flood of Fire, you’ll be thoroughly immersed in the world he’s spent three books creating so painstakingly.

Meridon by Philippa Gregory

As with Amitav Ghosh, I’ve read A LOT of Philippa Gregory books (only many more so as she’s so incredibly prolific!) – but as with the Ghosh trilogy, when I started with the first book in this particular series, Wideacre, I was honestly less than impressed. The second one I enjoyed even less, feeling it was a bit of a lazy rehash of the first one with a bit of gender role reversal thrown in to distract from the fact it was almost the same story. It’s a bit surprising then when I think about it that I bothered with the third and final installment at all, but Meridon outclassed its predecessors and was back to the very best of Philippa Gregory. You could probably read it without the first two and still enjoy it, so that would be my recommendation if you fancy giving it a try!

The Glass of Time by Michael Cox

Ok, so I know the Sunday Stack is meant to be a celebration of books we love, but the minute I saw the Sequels and Finales prompt, this novel popped straight into my head – for all the wrong reasons. I felt I just had to include it here because out of all the fiction books I’ve read in my lifetime, none has made me angrier than this one! It’s predecessor, The Meaning of Night, is one of The. Best. Books. Ever. Everything about it was perfect, but particularly the ending, which brought the story to a close in exactly the way you’d want given what had gone before; if ever there was a book that didn’t require a sequel, it’s that one. However, the author clearly felt differently, and in one fell swoop managed to ruin everything that had been so successful about his first one. I’m going to stop because I could rant about this for several hundred words….. but I would be very interested to know what you felt if you too have read both of them!

The Sixth Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

I finished this book during lockdown, and it was the quality culmination of a series I’ve loved from the very beginning. Lukyanenko brings a completely unique and intelligent take on the world of vampires, witches and magicians, and I am going to miss his books very much. I don’t know for certain that he’ll never resurrect the series, but judging by the way the last one finished he’d have to take his characters off in a completely different direction; one that I’m not sure I’d want to read about. If you’ve never experienced his writing, start with The Night Watch and immerse yourself in six books of amazingness.

Tombland by C J Sansom

This was another sad finale for me; much like the Lukyanenko, the loss of this series is going to leave a bit of a hole in my reading life. Shardlake is one of the most delicately crafted literary characters you’ll ever meet, and I feel as if, over the course of seven novels, I’ve genuinely come to know him. There are many other historical crime writers of course, and lots of them have produced books I’ve enjoyed and characters I have a fondness for – but somehow C J Sansom always pips them at the post.

So that’s my stack for this Sunday! If you want to join in, you can also use the #SundayStack hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. I look forward to seeing your book stacks!

Related posts:

Why I love Sergei Lukyanenko Why I love C J Sansom

The list of shame

We all have one: our own personal list of reading shame.  It might be books we’ve never read that we think we should have, or maybe universally acclaimed books that we’re a bit ashamed to admit we actually hated.  For me, my list of shame comprises those books that have been sitting on my shelves literally for years, the initial rush of enthusiasm I doubtless felt at the moment of purchase having long since evaporated.  I will read them – indeed I must read them as I’ve never yet got rid of a book without at least trying it.  Plus most of them are novels I’m pretty sure I will enjoy once I’ve started them.  So what are they?  And why exactly have they ended up in the pitiful position of being on my list of shame?  Time for a bit of soul-searching and self-analysis of the booky kind…

“The Lacuna” by Barbara Kingsolver                        Date purchased: 2010

I vaguely remember there being quite a bit of chatter surrounding this when it came out and I decided to give the author a try.  Yet whenever I go to pick it up I end up putting it back and I’m not sure why.  It’s possibly because I, like most people I expect, choose my next read according to my mood and since I have absolutely no clue what to expect from this novel I also have no clue as to whether it’s going to appeal to my current mind-set, whatever that may be.  Also, and this is going to sound dreadful, but the more I look at it the more I get the feeling it looks a bit….dull.  Barbara Kingsolver fans, I stand ready to be contradicted!

“Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett                                   Date purchased: 2011

Until I started writing this blog post I had no idea this novel had been out so long!  (Even more shameful than I thought then.)  However, I do have a very valid excuse for putting this one off: it’s huge!  I adored the equally epic “Pillars of the Earth” and “World without End” but both of those took me months to get through, and quite honestly I haven’t been able to face any book since that I know is going to take up so much of my time…

“Care of Wooden Floors” by Will Wiles                  Date purchased: 2012

Picking this up and looking at it again for blog inspiration purposes has actually awakened a strong desire to read it, so maybe it can be crossed off the list of shame before too long.  I remember when this novel was released I got the sense it was going to be a slightly surreal escapade, possibly in the vein of Paul Auster or Magnus Mills.  The only problem was I’d read a lot of that kind of novel and I think I felt I’d reached saturation point.  But it’s been a while since I first ventured into that genre so maybe it’s time to revisit.

“Winter in Madrid” by C J Sansom                          Date purchased: 2009 (approximately!)

This poor book has been untouched for so many years I feel quite sorry for it!  Unfortunately in between buying it and the point when I may in normal circumstances have started reading it, someone lent me “Dissolution” by the same author – and the rest is history.  Any regular visitors to my blog will know how much I LOVE the Shardlake series, and I have been constantly afraid that his other books just won’t measure up; as a consequence I’ve never dared try them in case of disappointment.

There are more I could share with you but I don’t want to tarnish my reputation completely!  I would love to know which books would appear on your list; or maybe you’re extremely diligent with your reading and don’t leave books languishing as I do!  If you’ve read any of the novels on my list and enjoyed them, why not share the love and tell me why I need to read them right now.  Until next time…

Past Masters – C J Sansom

Welcome to the latest instalment of my Past Masters series of blog posts, in which I share with you some of my favourite historical fiction authors.  It may seem like quite an obvious choice this time round, but I wanted to write about this particular author because, despite my love of history, I only discovered him when a relative lent me one of his books.  Today, it’s C J Sansom.

C J Sansom

Which historical period does he write about?

He’s done a couple of standalone novels, but his most famous are the Shardlake books, which are set in Tudor England.

Why should I read him?

I didn’t pick these up initially simply because they were shelved in the crime section of my local bookshop, and I’m not really a crime fan.  If like me that’s put you off trying them, don’t let it.  The first three books of the series had already been released when an aunt lent me “Dissolution”; I devoured it and never looked back!  I think the series is so successful because of the appeal of its main character, Shardlake: a lawyer with a hunchback and not at first glance the most likely of protagonists.  Yet he is a character who really gets under your skin and as the books went on I found I became extremely attached to him.  First and foremost he’s incredibly human, experiencing self-doubt, frustration, fear and anger; his authenticity endears him to the reader, as does his unswerving desire to do the right thing and ensure that justice prevails, even when he comes up against the most vile of characters.  The stories are thoroughly gripping, a bit grim in places but never unreadably so – they are whodunnits, yes, but with a real depth of humanity to them.

Which authors are most similar?

The closest is probably S J Parris (someone I’ve raved about on the blog before), but I would also throw Rory Clements into the mix.

Which book should I start with?

I would definitely recommend the Shardlake series over the individual novels, and “Dissolution” is first in the series.  It’s not the end of the world if you don’t read the books in order, but even though each novel is self-contained there’s always a bit of character development that perhaps you miss out on if you don’t follow the sequence.