Tag: Mary Robinette Kowal


Review – Forest of Memory

Posted 17 April, 2016 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette KowalForest of Memory, Mary Robinette Kowal

For a short novella, I actually got surprisingly invested in this — and didn’t really realise until the end, where I was rooting for… something more. A rescue, a redemption, something. The sting in the tail of the story, while most of it was obvious to me, works well and adds to the meaning of everything that comes before it, which is exactly how stories should be written — especially short ones.

The setting of the story, while not revolutionary — the whole idea of society being connected, of storing your memories practically in the cloud, of never being out of touch — is done well, too; not too obtrusive, and yet it permeates the story.

The conceit of the typewriter and the typos, etc, just drove me a bit mad, though. Nope, cannot be doing with typos, even on purpose, apparently. But that’s a personal peeve, probably driven by my editing work, and didn’t get in the way of the story itself.

In the end, I just wanted a little more. I wanted the why, and we got some of it, but I wanted the motives of people we didn’t even meet in the story. So of course it was limited by the narration, but. But. Gimme!

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Review – Word Puppets

Posted 28 December, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Word Puppets by Mary Robinette KowalWord Puppets, Mary Robinette Kowal

Received to review via Netgalley

Word Puppets is a collection of short stories written by Mary Robinette Kowal, arranged — if we can trust the alleged Patrick Rothfuss’ introduction — in the order they were written. I always think that’s a fascinating way to read an author’s work, because you get to watch their skills develop, their interests change, etc. This particular collection comes with an introduction written by Pat Rothfuss… which is a little suspect because in a little game they had on twitter, Kowal was better at being Rothfuss than Rothfuss was.

If that confused you, don’t worry; I think it bent more than a few brains.

As a whole, in any case, it’s an entertaining collection. There were one or two weaker points, where by my personal lights the twist was just a little… I saw it coming. ‘For Solo Cello, op. 12’, for example. And looking at the list of titles, there’s some where I can’t figure out which story they were, which you can attribute either to my terrible naming or perhaps less than memorable/well-matched titles/stories. ‘For Want of a Nail’, what was that one… ah, the one with the conflicted AI.

Still, for the most part I think Word Puppets is a strong collection, solidly entertaining, and what’s also nice, it has a wide range. Fantasy, various kinds of spec-fic, different settings, older protagonists… And it’s definitely quite different to her Regency/fantasy novels (which I do enjoy, but it’s nice to see Kowal taking on other frontiers). I enjoyed most of the stories, and I think particularly ‘Chrysalis’, ‘Body Language’, ‘The Lady Astronaut of Mars’ and ‘The Consciousness Problem’. Some of them really are sticking in my head, to be thought about later — so that’s a good sign.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , , ,

Divider

Review – Valour & Vanity

Posted 4 June, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Valour and Vanity, by Mary Robinette KowalValour & Vanity, Mary Robinette Kowal

These books seem to be just perfect for my brain at the moment. I read this on the train, more or less in one gulp. You’ve got to love that one of the most important threads of the story is the love between Vincent and Jane, and how it gets them through everything, no matter what. And despite how far their acts of derring-do have come from their Austen-esque beginnings in Shades of Milk and Honey, the development is clear. This time, the trouble they get into grows out of everything before (rather than being a whole new problem), which makes it tidier.

Likewise, their personal relationship grows out of everything that’s gone before; Jane’s miscarriage, Vincent’s time in captivity, the effects that had on them. They trust each other more now, and they’re readier to work through problems than despair. (Which is not to say Vincent doesn’t have some black moods in this novel. He does, in a way that very much reflects on the way some men even now feel less when their wives are the ones bringing in the money.)

I think really the blurb on the back gave a little too much away; knowing, for example, that they’re victims of ‘an elaborate heist’, I immediately began to suspect where the heist began and who was involved. But it doesn’t give away the motive, fortunately, nor what Vincent and Jane end up doing to fix the situation.

It’s a lot of fun, as I’d expected, and I enjoyed the inclusion of Lord Byron as well.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Review – Without a Summer

Posted 30 May, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 8 Comments

Cover of Without a SummerWithout a Summer, Mary Robinette Kowal

When I’m just reading this and not thinking too much about it, I love it. If I try and pick nits, I’m less enthused — like sometimes I just think about Jane’s behaviour for a moment too long, and want to slap her down. She jumps to conclusions, acts like Melody is brainless, dismisses her… If I think about it too much, my frustrations with Jane take the shine off things a little.

So: why I like it — it’s so easy to read. I love the relationship between Vincent and Jane, at least as far as he’s concerned; I think she could stand to trust him more, but I also think that there’s reasons she doesn’t and that she works on it, which helps. I love the small ways the trauma of his past is made clear: very little is said about his father, it’s all in the way he acts, in the little tells like the nervous whine at the back of his throat… I liked Vincent’s mother’s part, the way her actions speak of the same traumas, and yet also of love and determination.

I like the political plot behind this, too: the use of real history interwoven with the magic of this world, the issues with Irish people and problems of interaction between aristocracy and working people… It works pretty well, for me at least.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Review – Glamour in Glass

Posted 23 May, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette KowalGlamour in Glass, Mary Robinette Kowal

When I read Shades of Milk and Honey, I wasn’t that impressed — even when I reread it. But I quite liked Glamour in Glass. Probably partly out of sheer bloodymindedness; I looked at some reviews and oh how they whined about Jane’s attitude to pregnancy in this book. And I thought, wait: that’s actually interesting. Yes, let’s address how dangerous pregnancy could be at that time. Let’s address how “confinement” literally imprisoned women. Yes! Let’s discuss the aftermath of the Austen and Heyer novels and their neat marriages: the babies, the risks to the women, how those women were limited.

Someone called it anti-pregnancy, and I don’t think it’s that. It just turns to something that went unspoken in that period, and scrutinises it a little, and articulates a fear and dread of the constraints pregnancy placed upon women (shown even more clearly in this world because a woman can’t work any glamour while pregnant). It’s still a fairly light read, despite that theme; I read it in an hour and a half, so if you’re a fan of the first book, don’t think that it’s suddenly changed entirely in style and subject.

This is less frothy than the first book, seriously examining the relationship between Vincent and Jane, their equality and finding a balance between them. I anticipated the political plot ahead of time (perhaps because I’m fresh from Voyage of the Basilisk); it feels a bit rushed, honestly, particularly toward the end, but I appreciated seeing Jane and Vincent facing down these issues, and his growing regard for and trust in her.

Rating: 4/5

Tags: , , ,

Divider

Review – Shades of Milk and Honey

Posted 17 May, 2015 by in Reviews / 14 Comments

Cover of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette KowalShades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal

I read this one before and wasn’t enormously impressed, despite reading it one go. I think that was still pre-appreciation of Austen (sorry Mum, I can’t help it) and pre-interest in anything like romance; definitely before my interest in the likes of Georgette Heyer. So an Austenesque fantasy didn’t work for me much then. Honestly, the setting itself doesn’t quite convince me now, but that’s not because I don’t like Regency novels. It’s more that something feels off, for example when Melody says “la!” all the time. It just seems like too many period things are being sprinkled in for verisimilitude, and you don’t need all of it or so much of it.

In any case, I did appreciate this one more this time. I like the way glamour is woven into the society as a female accomplishment, like painting, which men can do professionally and women are expected just to dabble in. I liked the way things worked out between the characters; Mr Dunkirk’s reactions to Jane, and how that shapes her actions; Mr Vincent’s awkwardness about his feelings. Perhaps the romance is a little sudden, but you can see how it comes about, too.

The ending is rushed; what’s with those last few pages? I suppose it’s very like how we’re told at the end of an Austen or Heyer novel who married who and went to live where, but it jars when you’re reading a modern fantasy novel, at least for me. Ah well. At least I enjoyed the book more this time, and I’m looking forward to the sequels with hope.

Rating: 3/5

Tags: , , , ,

Divider

Stacking the Shelves

Posted 2 May, 2015 by in General / 26 Comments

Is it Saturday again already? Whoa. I’ve been catching up on blog stuff all this week, thanks to the readathon — which is not a complaint.

Review copies

Cover of The Eye of Strife by Dave Duncan Cover of Cities and Thrones by Carrie Patel

I have finally got round to writing a review of The Buried Life, which will be up soon; Cities and Thrones is the sequel. You can still check out Carrie’s post here from her blog tour for The Buried Life, too! I got The Eye of Strife via LibraryThing; I’ve been meaning to read Dave Duncan for ages, so this should be interesting.

Won

Cover of Sword by Amy Bai Cover of Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

I’ve been interested in Sword for a while, so I picked it as my win in one of the readathon giveaways. <3 Dreams of the Golden Age was my pick for another win; that hasn’t arrived yet, which is probably good, because I need to reread After the Golden Age, and I think my partner has my copy.

Library

Cover of The Drowning City by Amanda Downum Cover of Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas Cover of The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley

Cover of The Deadly Sisterhood by Leonie Frieda Cover of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Drowning City are both rereads, to get me back up to speed for the next book in the series/trilogy. Crown of Midnight is obvious, since I just read Throne of Glass (but I’m sorry, I just don’t love it as much as some of you guys seem to). I have The Deadly Sisterhood somewhere, but goodness knows where. And I just like Susanna Kearsley.

Bought

Cover of Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal Cover of Silk, Marvel comic

Quite a contrast there between the covers, heh. I reaaally need to actually read the issues of Silk I have… I’ve been tearing through Kowal’s series lately, just in time for this last book. I’m excited!

Audiobooks

Cover of Among Others audiobook Cover of Rivers of London audiobook

Cover of Epigenetics audiobook by Richard Francis

I usually prefer to listen to audiobooks I’ve already read for myself, hence Among Others and Rivers of London (the latter of which I’d like to refresh my memory on anyway); Epigenetics: How Environment Shapes Our Genes is a new one for me, which I couldn’t really resist because epigenetics! Non-fiction! Science!

How’s everyone else been doing? Behaving yourselves?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Divider

Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 23 September, 2014 by in General / 4 Comments

This week’s top ten list prompt from The Broke and The Bookish is “Top Ten Books On My Fall To-Be-Read list”. Which is a little difficult for me, because I don’t really sort my books into appropriate seasons or anything. I just have a perpetual, massive, glorious to read list. But here are some books I’m looking forward to getting round to…

  1. Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal. This is actually a reread of a book I wasn’t wild about the first time round, but now I have this urge to reread it and read the rest of the series, and I suspect I’ll like it more this time around. We’ll see, but I’m hopeful.
  2. Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett. This is a reread, too. I know I’m going to love this one because I always have before, though I somewhat over-read it so that I could virtually quote it, and thus have given it a couple of years’ rest.
  3. River of Stars, by Guy Gavriel Kay. I’ve had this since it came out, but it’s at the end of a long list of rereads of GGK’s work, so I can watch his craft developing. I started pretty well but stalled on A Song for Arbonne, which is funny, because I do like that book and it covers exactly the sort of historical period I’m very familiar with and have done work on. So hopefully I’ll get through them all and get onto this new one sometime this fall.
  4. Friday’s Child, by Georgette Heyer. Because I haven’t read it yet, and it’s Heyer.
  5. Blindsight, by Peter Watts. Because it’s been recommended to me a couple of times, I got a free copy, and it’s been mentioned quite a bit in one of my book groups.
  6. Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie. Because it’s about bloody time.
  7. Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean. Ditto. And the opening, with starting at university and settling in and all of that, it seems a good time of year for that, even if I’m not a student this time.
  8. Possession, by A.S. Byatt. Speaking of scholarship and stuff, I’ve been meaning to read this for a long time.
  9. Little, Big, by John Crowley. I’ve had this book around far too long, and I’ve been meaning to read it. I just… never seem to have found the time. About time I fixed that.
  10. Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson. I generally enjoy Sanderson’s work, and this one includes superheroes. So very sold.

What about everyone else? Comment, link me, you know the drill.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Divider

TBR Tag

Posted 12 September, 2014 by in General / 1 Comment

Spotted this meme on Reading is my Treasure and picked it up since it looks like fun!

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?

Never-ending lists, mostly. I have lists going back to 2011 of the books that I’ve acquired (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014), though that doesn’t include ARCs or library books. At the moment I’m also using my Stacking the Shelves posts as a visual reminder: look at old StS posts, figure out what I’ve read and what I haven’t, feel guilty.

Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?
Probably ebook, but I’m not sure, because I do have a looooot of both. It’s easier to go on sprees with ebooks, though.

A Book That’s Been On Your TBR List The Longest

Ulysses by James Joyce, technically! It’s been on my list since a couple of months before my first year in university, anyway. Other than that, I think it’s my Diane Duane books.

A Book You Recently Added To Your TBR

Dangerous Girls, by Abigail Haas. I keep hearing so much about this!

A Book In Your TBR Strictly Because of Its Beautiful Cover

I don’t really pick based on covers, but there are some that partially appeal because of the pretty.

Cover of The Hidden Blade by Sherry Thomas Cover of Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans Cover of The Falconer by Elizabeth May

A Book On Your TBR That You Never Plan on Reading

Probably Ulysses… I just can’t find any appeal in it other than “you have two English Lit degrees, you are meant to read it”. Well, boo to that.

An Unpublished Book on Your TBR That You’re Excited For

Mmmmmm. Up to last week it’d have been Maplecroft by Cherie Priest, or maybe The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley. Right now, I guess it’s down to N.K. Jemisin’s next one…

Cover of The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin

A Book On Your TBR That Basically Everyone’s Read But You

Gotta go with Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, but there’s others too…

Cover of the special UK Collectors Edition of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell Cover of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart Cover of The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

A Book On Your TBR That Everyone Recommends To You

One of the above, probably! But also these, particularly Ancillary Justice.

Cover of Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon Cover of Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal Cover of Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

A Book On Your TBR That You’re Dying To Read

Oh, so many. I’d like to catch up on some of my comics, actually.

Cover of Dark Reign: Young Avengers Cover of Avengers Assemble: Science Bros Cover of Avengers Assemble: The Forgeries of Jealousy

How many books are on your Goodreads TBR shelf?

None. I don’t like the way they use that shelf. I have a bunch of specific shelves, but really I’m not keeping up with it very well since I started this blog.

I tag:

Whoever would like to do it!

Tags: , , , , ,

Divider