An Irish Country Doctor, Patrick Taylor
This book hit just the right notes for me. Set in 1970s Ireland, the book shares the story of a young doctor in his first job as the assistant to a small-town general practitioner. I'm predisposed to love anything set in Ireland, and the setting did not dissapoint, Taylor painted a clear and loving portrait of the country and of its small towns. The story moves at a leisurly pace, but to me it felt comfortable. There was a heavy emphasis on the medical stuff in the book -- the book is genuinely about a doctor -- which could be a turn off to some, but I enjoyed it. This is a very character-driven, slice-of-life kind of book and sometimes that's just what I'm in the mood for. Bottom line: I'm definitely checking out more from this author.
Settlers of Catan, by Rebecca Gable
Unfortunately, I don't speak German, so I read the English translation of Settlers of Catan, but I kind of love this original German cover. Settlers of Catan is, in fact, inspired by the board game of the same name. I was expecting an entertaining, campy fantasy. In reality, it read more like wonderfully done historical fiction centered around the Vikings (although, the setting and story were definitely made-up, I think the culture portrayed was obviously well-researched Viking-inspired). Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a strange combination of slow-paced with a what-happens-next readability -- the most boring book I couldn't stop reading. Like tubing down a lazy river, but never wanting to get out. The author explored issues of family, community, leadership, slavery, and religious freedom. The conflict between the community's old gods (Thor, Odin, etc.) and the growing presence of Christianity was particularly well done, and a good setting for smaller, more interpersonal conflicts as well. In addition, the character development was really fantastic. Candamir in particular was an extremely nuanced, layered character, but really all of the characters were fully three dimensional. Bottom line: a superbly written historical fantasy for those who don't mind a long slow journey.