A Reading Ramble: Inferno, A Natural History of Dragons, Smoke and Mirrors and More

I’m pleased to report that I kept up my reading even during the crazy busy month of June – so it’s time for another rambly post (my spellchecker tells me rambly is not a word but I like the sound of it anyway) about what I’ve been reading.

One book I tackled in June was Dan Brown’s Inferno. So here’s the quick and dirty: it didn’t work for me. I was very excited when I picked it up from the library, and cracked it open as soon as I got home. I got about halfway through the novel and realized I felt the same way about it as I did Angels & Demons: the story was exciting, and I was learning some interesting things, but I didn’t really care one way or another how the novel ended.

With Angels & Demons, I quit reading at about the 80% mark. I remember thinking to myself, all this excitement is rather tiring, and anyway, I know Langdon will end up fine, right? I felt the same with Inferno, except I got to that point a little earlier than I did with Angels & Demons. Since I knew lots of people were eagerly awaiting Inferno, I returned it to the library two days later (I waited a day to see if maybe I was just in a tired mood, and really did want to finish it after all – it turned out I really didn’t).

A Natural History of DragonsI absolutely adored this book

Happily, though, I also got my hands on a copy of A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. I LOVED this book – it’s one of my favourite reads of the year. It’s the kind of book I just want to press on everyone I know: “Read it, read it, oh, you simply must read it!”

And really, you simply must. I mean, it’s got dragons! An independent, feisty female main character! And did I mention, dragons?

For all you Flavia de Luce fans out there, Isabella (Lady Trent) is like Flavia all grown up – if, that is, Flavia had lived in a Victorian-type era in a world where dragons exist.

Last month I also managed to get tickets to see Neil Gaiman when he comes to Toronto in August on his book tour for The Ocean at the End of the Lane, so I decided I’d catch up on my Gaiman (I’ve only read two of his books so far, Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book, both of which I loved). To get myself started, I skimmed through Prince of Stories (I had to skim, since the book contains synopses of all Gaiman’s works published at the time Prince of Stories was released, and I didn’t want to read anything spoiler-ish, but even skimming, it was quite lovely to read about everything Gaiman has done).

Smoke and MirrorsSuch a lovely short story collection!

And now I’m halfway through Smoke and Mirrors, and really enjoying it. When I was in my early 20s, I was an avid short story reader, and Smoke and Mirrors reminds me how satisfying a well-crafted short story can be. And I have to say, I am SO in awe of the way Gaiman handles narrative poetry!

I’m also halfway through Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, but it looks like I won’t be able to finish it for a while. I have it on ebook loan from the library, and there are several people on the wait list after me, which means I won’t be able to renew it. Which reminds me – I should go and add myself to the holds list again! It’s my first taste of Hill’s work, and I’m liking it very much so far.

Another June reading highlight: I discovered Peter Lovesey’s Chief Superintendent Peter Diamond – I read Cop to Corpse, the twelfth book in the series (which didn’t hurt my reading of it in the slightest, I might add). Lovesey’s Diamond is great when you’re in the mood for a British police procedural, with a touch of humour that makes it even more enjoyable.

In audio, I listened to Lee Child’s Running Blind and Without Fail, both great books for when you’re in a Jack Reacher mood. I also did three Nero Wolfe short story collections (all rereads) in audio: Curtains for Three, And Four to Go (which starts with a hilarious story in which Wolfe plays Santa) and Death Times Three. Interestingly, one of the shorts in Death Times Three is also in And Four to Go, in slightly shorter format and with the characters slightly changed.

So that’s been my reading month in June, more or less (I might have missed one or two books, and I’m sure if I did, it will of course come to me the moment I hit publish …). It was a pretty good month in terms of reading, and now that I’ve written this post, I’m a little surprised at how many books I did read during such a crazy busy month!

16 thoughts on “A Reading Ramble: Inferno, A Natural History of Dragons, Smoke and Mirrors and More

  1. Beth F

    Wow, what a month! My July is starting out crazy with deadlines so I’m not sure how much reading I’m going to get in. I have the dragon book and really, really need to read it.

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      Yes! You really do need to read it, Candace! I almost didn’t myself – I’d been swayed by the early reviews on Goodreads, which had said the book was boring. I’m so glad I decided to overlook those reviews – I think A Natural History of Dragons will end up in my personal top ten list for the year.

  2. bermudaonion (Kathy)

    I’ve read two of Brown’s books and wasn’t crazy about either one of them so I don’t think I’ll read Inferno. Someone suggested my book club read it – I just might skip that meeting if they pick it.

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      The writer in me has been working away at this ever since I put down Inferno unfinished. I do remember enjoying The Da Vinci Code quite a lot, and Inferno has all the elements to a story that I normally love. So I think it must be the character development – in the later novels, I never seem to find myself caring too much what happens to Langdon.

  3. Andi @ Estella's Revenge

    I would take spellcheck to task. Rambly is totally a word.

    You have made me more interested in A Natural History of Dragons than I’ve been thus far. I love the cover, too, so that is a carrot dangling for me as well. It sounds amazing.

    And woohoo! for Neil Gaiman. Love! And I used to have a copy of Smoke and Mirrors. Now I wonder what happened to it. I just adore him, and it was so much fun meeting him at his Dallas stop recently. I’m glad you got to attend one, too!

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      I’m so excited that I managed to get tickets to see Gaiman! I knew they sold out quickly so I kept checking his site for updates to his schedule. I’m really looking forward to it.

      And yes! You must read A Natural History of Dragons! It is such a lovely lovely read.

  4. Jemi Fraser

    That’s a great selection of books for the month! I keep telling myself to read some Nero Wolfe, but I haven’t done it yet. And the dragon one sounds Awesome!! Definitely on my list now :)

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      Nero Wolfe is just such a great Golden Age detective – so smart, always right. When I want a classic detective, but not Poirot or Marple, I always head for Wolfe. And yes, I think you’ll love A Natural History of Dragons, Jemi!

  5. Alice

    I loved Angels & Demons, but I think it was because I read it first, every Langdon book after that is predictable – I did however, think Inferno was better than The Lost Symbol. But, there was no grip to Inferno, nothing that made you want to keep reading despite a rather interesting historical topic.

    I definitely want to read A Natural History of Dragons!!

  6. heidenkind

    I like Angels & Demons, but I think it benefited from the fact that I went to Rome immediately after reading it. Inferno was kind of a mess.

  7. Vasilly

    You were on a roll in June! Are you reading Gaiman’s books in order of publication or just picking up whichever ones interest you at the time? I hope July is another great month for you.

  8. Jennifer

    Great month!! I’m going to look into Dragons. :) I’m not normally a fan of dragons but hey, you just never know!!

    I hope you have a fantastic July!

  9. Charlie

    Good going! I was thinking Dragons would be a faux non-fiction, but either way it sounds good, the title infers a lot of fun detailing. Happy for you you got tickets!

  10. Susan

    I’m so happy you loved Peter Diamond! He’s so good. I’ve read up to Book 5 now (I’m reading them in line). I have them all up to book 12, and Book 13 has just come out. If you need another mystery series, then I recommend the Roy Grace series by Peter James. I just got hooked on those, as did my parents.

    I really enjoyed The Natural History of Dragons. I didn’t love it, I really thoroughly enjoyed it, though. Especially the ending, which I didn’t see coming. I would give it to any fantasy reader to read, though. It’s that good.

    You read some really delightful books in June! Plus, you didn’t like Dan Brown (we shouldn’t bond over not liking an author, right? Is this bad taste?) I read one by him and can’t face another.


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