Review – Steve Rogers: Super Soldier

Posted 24 January, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Ed Brubaker's Steve Rogers: Super SoldierSteve Rogers: Super Soldier, Ed Brubaker, Dale Eaglesham

I have a soft spot approximately two miles wide for MCU Steve, before he gets the serum. It’s probably something vaguely maternal about wanting to protect him, but either way, I think he’s precious. There’s a bit of that here, but not that much. It’s a fun little story, even disconnected from the other stuff going on around it (like the issues of Steve’s death/resurrection, Bucky as Cap), but it isn’t very substantial. There were some bits of Cap canon that I wasn’t aware of — Anita Glass, mostly, but also the villain, Machinesmith.

It is fun to see Steve without his powers, to see that he’s more than his powers, that what made Steve happened before he was ever injected with the serum. I love the “phantom” shield that they’ve drawn in, so it’s clear he’s using the same tactics he learnt as Cap. It just seems right.

This title definitely isn’t a must, though.

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Review – Emilie & the Sky World

Posted 23 January, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Emilie and the Sky World by Martha WellsEmilie & The Sky World, Martha Wells

I was pretty excited for Emilie & The Sky World, so I moved it up the reading queue when I got the ARC, along with the previous book which I only recently finished. It really is a great girl’s own adventure story, with plenty of strong, capable women and some intriguing other races — in the previous book, Rani and Kenar, in this book, Hyacinth. I love that while Wells has a fertile imagination, she doesn’t tell all she knows — Hyacinth leaves at the end of the book, with so many questions still hovering around it.

The Emilie books are very fast-paced, and I agree with people who say they feel quite slight. Definitely not the same audience as City of Bones (my other read by Wells), but it’s not the book’s fault if it doesn’t work with an audience it’s not meant for. I mean, it’s on the Strange Chemistry imprint, not Angry Robot: I’m expecting YA, and that’s what you get here — perfectly pitched, to my mind.

There are a couple of nitpicks, maybe. Emilie vacillates a bit between being a total kid and a capable person, but… that happens, with teenagers, so it isn’t so strange. I enjoyed the realism of her relationship with Efrain, her younger brother, and the bit at the end where she resolves things with her uncle. It isn’t perfect — it’s awkward as heck — but it feels genuine.

Also loved the casual inclusion of an LGBT relationship. It just feels so… normal. Martha Wells isn’t making that dumb mistake of just taking the mores of our (past) societies just to borrow the steampunk motifs that work for her. I like that a lot.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 23 January, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
The last thing I read was the Ultimate Hawkeye comic, I think. Not a big fan. And before that, J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Archive, which again, not a big fan of. Before that, though, it was Emilie & the Hollow World (Martha Wells), which makes a great girl’s own adventure story.

What are you currently reading?
Fiction: Emilie & the Sky World (Martha Wells), the sequel to the book mentioned above! It’s an ARC and I’m very much enjoying it. I wanted to finish it today, but work got in the way…

Non-fiction: Through the Language Glass: Why the world looks different in other languages? (Guy Deutscher). It’s fascinating to read a longer explanation of the issues like the Ancient Greek epithet for the sea, the “wine-dark sea”, and why that arose from seeing colour differently.

What do you think you’ll read next?
Black Dog (Rachel Neumeier), as she’s stopping by my blog on her blog tour (post coming up on 31st January, if I remember rightly), from my ARCs. I also want to start on Stolen Songbird (Danielle L. Jensen).

And then there’s also What Makes This Book So Great (Jo Walton), which I will be buying in the morning. (Not now, I don’t need another excuse to procrastinate and get distra

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Review – Ultimate Hawkeye

Posted 21 January, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Marvel's Ultimate HawkeyeUltimate Hawkeye, Jonathan Hickman, Rafa Sandoval

Ultimate Hawkeye seems to be the jumping off point for a larger plot about “the People”, who are like mutants and are staging a revolution. It isn’t really about Hawkeye being a badass, but nor is it like Matt Fraction’s take on Hawkeye where he’s more like an ordinary guy. Hickman’s Hawkeye is… kinda badass, kinda snarky, definitely Fury’s right hand man.

It’s okay, but I’m not that interested in reading more. I was most interested by the part Bruce Banner/Hulk played in this, I think, the way he was just brought in as a weapon of brute force. I think I might’ve appreciated it more if this was a story about Bruce and how he’s used by Fury.

As others have noted, it’s kind of annoying that Hawkeye has powers here. Not very impressive ones — modifications to his eyes — but still. He’s not an ordinary person who is preternaturally good with a bow, here. I think what makes Clint interesting to me — and I come at it from the MCU angle, I didn’t read comics much before I saw Avengers — is that he is an ordinary guy, a soldier, a spy, caught up in a world of gods and heroes. I want to see this guy who seems destined for a supporting role having to step up to the plate. This is not that. Fingers crossed for Jeremy Renner’s portrayal in the next Avengers film.

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Review – The Atrocity Exhibition

Posted 19 January, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of The Atrocity Exhibition by JG BallardThe Atrocity Exhibition, J.G. Ballard

I didn’t expect to like or understand this book much. The concept, the experimental nature, drew me to it, but I know it isn’t the kind of thing I enjoy. Find interesting, maybe, but not enjoy. The Atrocity Exhibition is so bizarre to me, so lacking in coherent narrative, that it’s doubly hard to read.

This book, the central character (such as he is, with his constantly fluctuating name/identity), is just — it’s a very fine portrayal of someone who is completely disturbed. I find myself wondering if my mother (a psychiatrist) has read it, and what she’d think.

(Knowing our shared taste in literature, I would venture to guess that she doesn’t think much of Ballard, but I meant in a psychiatric sense.)

End result: I’m convinced of Ballard’s skill, no doubt — he writes with a cold clear edge — and glad I tried this book, but I’m not keeping it, and I think Ballard’s imagination is a bizarre and unpleasant place (science as pornography?!). One image that will stay with me is his repeated image of the landscape as the contours of anatomy, or vice versa: “these cliff-towers revealed the first spinal landscapes”…

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Review – Emilie & The Hollow World

Posted 18 January, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of Emilie & The Hollow World by Martha WellsEmilie & the Hollow World, Martha Wells

I’ve only read one of Martha Wells’ books before, but that was enough to make me a fan. Compared to that one, City of Bones, Emilie & the Hollow World is a much more simplistic story, but I still enjoyed it a lot. Someone described it as a “girl’s own adventure” story, which I think is pretty accurate. The main character Emilie is resourceful: I don’t understand people who are criticising it saying she spends the first half of the book just following people around. She runs away from home, stows on board a ship, saves someone’s life with impulsive action, and immediately starts making sensible suggestions to the crew of said ship.

Now, if you were to say she’s a bit wish-fulfillmenty, well yeah, maybe. But heck, I loved Emilie’s adventures and her resourcefulness; I don’t see why it should be odder for a girl to be plucky and resourceful than for a boy. There’s also people complaining that she doesn’t act like a Victorian girl, but… this isn’t meant to be set in the Victorian period? It’s plainly another world entirely, for all that the vaguely steampunkish trappings might make you think it’s just alternate Victoriana, and there’s a hint of Victorian-ish morals around Emilie’s family. Still, those’re parallels; that doesn’t mean Wells has to stick with it.

Which brings me to another point I really liked — the world-building. I expected that, from the standard City of Bones set, and while this is lighter, that imagination is still there. I loved, for example, the half-underwater city. I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything quite like that before. There’s other stuff to appreciate, too, like the casual flipping of gender roles where Rani talks about Kenar pining for her, and when they reunite, she spins him around in her arms!

Overall, very much looking forward to my ARC of Emilie & The Sky World.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 18 January, 2014 by Nikki in General / 36 Comments

Welcome to another week of lookit-my-new-shinies, aka Tynga’s Reviews’ Stacking the Shelves. I’ve been fairly good this week: I did go shopping in Leuven’s bookshops, but I set myself a goal: only get books that you’ve never heard of before, preferably by authors you’ve never heard of. This took me some time and deliberation and paging through reviews on Goodreads, but it was pretty fun. The dead tree books below are the result!

Dead tree books

Cover of Bear Daughter by Judith Berman Cover of A Secret Atlas, by Michael A. Stackpole Cover of Assassin's Dawn, the Hoorka trilogy omnibus by Stephen Leigh

ARCs/review copies

Cover of DC's Wonder Woman: War Cover of A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon Cover of Out on Blue Six by Ian McDonald Cover of Blades of the Old Empire by Anna Kashina Cover of Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells Cover of Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert Cover of Windwalker by Natasha Mostert Cover of The Midnight Side by Natasha Mostert Cover of A Burnable Book, by Bruce Holsinger

Obviously I’m pretty excited about my ARC of A Burnable Book, since that was the book I picked for Waiting on Wednesday. Of my dead tree books, I’m most interested by Bear Daughter — it’s based on West Coast mythology, if I remember rightly (I’ve packed the book in my suitcase, so I can’t check), and sounds pretty good. I’m also excited about Emilie & The Sky World; I haven’t read the first book yet, but that may well be what I read on the Eurostar today. I’ve loved what I’ve read of Martha Wells’ work.

What’ve you all been getting?

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Review – Red Sonja

Posted 16 January, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Red Sonja by Gail SimoneRed Sonja, Gail Simone, Walter Geovani

I’ve heard of Red Sonja before, though only as a really sexist comic character that didn’t sound at all appealing or interesting. I remember the arguments and debates around the SFWA Bulletin cover that was a tribute to Red Sonja in all her chain mail bikini glory: looking at it now, the cover itself seems less offensive, but the defence of it by Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg remains completely offensive. Gah. Need to get that bad taste out of my mouth.

So I’ll talk some more about Gail Simone! I’d heard of her work on other comics, but I hadn’t read anything she’d worked on yet, so I was very curious about this. I love that she’s taken this sexist character and surrounded her with other women, peopled the world with strong women who in various different ways support each other and make the world a better place. There are some good male characters, too, but the focus is definitely on women — and women as protectors, as fighters, as able to fight for themselves.

Sonja herself isn’t the most likeable character in some ways: if she chooses to wear that chain mail bikini, for one thing, her taste has got to be terrible. She’s uncouth and she drinks a lot and she glories in violence. But… she’s also honourable, brave, capable of love. Her origin story isn’t anything particularly special, and maybe I wouldn’t find this book so good if I wasn’t so well aware of the sexist past behind it, but I did really enjoy it, and enjoyed seeing the range of female talent that went into making it.

Received from Netgalley!

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Review – Silhouette of a Sparrow

Posted 16 January, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth GriffinSilhouette of a Sparrow, Molly Beth Griffin

Silhouette of a Sparrow is a quiet little LGBT coming of age story, set in… the 1920s or so? Garnet, the main character, has a passion for birds, a vague hope of going to college, and a summer to spend away from her family. She falls in love with a flapper, decides not to marry the boy who’s waiting for her back home, and sets her sights on going to college.

While there is drama in the story — Hannah’s outburst at her mother, thunder and hail storms, even a fire in the hotel where Garnet is staying — none of it really did much for me. It’s an introspective story, and that kind of thing didn’t seem to fit; I was much more interested in the quiet parts, Garnet cutting out bird silhouettes and thinking of her father, trips out on the lake, the quiet triumphs in Garnet’s life like getting a summer job and convincing her employer not to sell feathered hats anymore, etc.

The relationship between Garnet and Isabella is almost unnecessary, when you view it that way: a friendship between them would be enough. But then of course you remember how little there is in the way of LGBT fiction and especially teen LGBT fiction — I at least felt much less inclined to go bleh at the inclusion of an “unnecessary” romance when I thought about that.

The ending fits the story well — a mixture of the bitter and the sweet, some hope and some disappointment, maybe even some fear. It leaves a lot open, but that’s alright.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 15 January, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

A quick post!

What did you recently finish reading?
I finished The Female Man (Joanna Russ) yesterday. I wanted to think so much better of it, but it felt like one of those stories where the message overruns the plot. Which is to say, I’m not sure what the plot even was.

What are you currently reading?
Actively, I’m back to working on reading Silhouette of a Sparrow (Molly Beth Griffin). I’ve nearly finished that one. It’s cute, I’m wondering exactly how far it will go. I think Sarah Diemer recommended this one at some point?

What do you think you’ll read next?
Bruce Holsinger’s A Burnable Book! I was talking to him on twitter earlier and he actually sent me an ARC, so after all that I’m moving it right up my list.

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