Review – Legends of Red Sonja

Posted 18 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Legends of Red Sonja, by Gail Simone et alLegends of Red Sonja,Gail Simone et al

Received to review!

I didn’t love this TPB of stories about Red Sonja as much as I did the first TPB Gail Simone worked on, but I definitely appreciate what she did, the way she drew together female creators for this, and also the stories they all chose to tell. Women are prominent in many of them, and there are some delightful lines — like, “What’s wrong with men? I know plenty of decent male fighters.”

(If you don’t know why that made me laugh, well, it’s the flipside of what you usually get. Normally it’s a man damning women with faint praise for whatever skill or job.)

The whole storyline consists of a frame story with the Grey Riders, who are hunting Red Sonja, and then a series of stories told about her by her allies. What I loved about those was the way they emphasised different aspects of Red Sonja: her body, yes, but also her links with other women, her beliefs, her skill at fighting, and her cunning. Especially loved the little hat tip to complaints about her costume when she’s first given it, with the lady who gives her it telling her that if men are watching her curves, they aren’t watching her sword.

Red Sonja is kind of a male fantasy fulfilment thing. The chainmail bikini makes no sense, and probably chafes. But Gail Simone has made me feel very fond of her anyway: she and her team take everything about Sonja makes it feel more real, more worthy of celebration. She might’ve started as a sexist fantasy, but she doesn’t have to stay that way.

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday Thoughts: Spoilers

Posted 18 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 1 Comment

This week’s Thursday Thoughts topic is spoilers. Now, I am weird about spoilers. I tend to want to know everything’s going to turn out okay, so I like spoilers in that sense, but… then there’s the problem I have with Supernatural, where things don’t turn out okay, or don’t stay okay for very long. I haven’t watched past early season five because of this, because just — my precious babies. So I’m somewhat the same with books. If it’s triggering my anxiety at all, I definitely look up spoilers (and find myself wishing book bloggers would just spill the beans, sometimes).

There are various studies actually showing that knowing spoilers doesn’t spoil a story for most people, which is interesting. For me, well, my academic focus was Arthuriana. I think everyone knows what happens there, the star-crossed lovers, etc, etc. I this for me that’s a lovely example of the way spoilers can’t spoil a story. You know what’s going to happen, you just don’t know exactly how, and you don’t know how the characters will react minute by minute. Some versions of the Arthurian story move me to tears (John Steinbeck, I’m looking at you), while some make me wish I believed in burning books (Marion Zimmer Bradley). And yet, it’s basically the same story; it has the same bones.

I’m a big fan of fairytales, too, and that’s the same sort of deal. You know that Sleeping Beauty’s going to prick her finger on a spindle, whether real or metaphorical, and fall into an enchanted sleep. It’s how exactly it’s going to come about that you read for.

On the other hand, I’m dodging Age of Ultron spoilers right and left while still trying to gawp at the pictures of the Avengers’ new outfits, so I guess it depends on the media. Knowing spoilers for some things will stop me from watching, not only because I’m nervous for the characters, but also if I know I’m going to be embarrassed for them. Early season three of NCIS, I’mma looking at you.

No Throwback Thursday this week because I was working too hard today to have time to set it up. (Aka, now you know my secret — I throw most of my posts together last minute.)

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Review – Stranger on the Shore

Posted 17 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Stranger on the Shore by Josh LanyonStranger on the Shore, Josh Lanyon

Received to review. Josh Lanyon’s a writer I’m always happy to curl up with — well, with his books, anyway — in pretty much the same way as I’d read Mary Stewart (before I ran out of her books). Mind you, I don’t think Mary Stewart featured a single gay character, while I don’t think Lanyon’s written a non-gay romance.

This was fun, in the way I usually find Josh Lanyon’s books: a bit of tension, sparks flying between the romantic leads, etc, plus mystery and unexpected danger, etc. I usually work out his plots pretty quickly, and this wasn’t an exception. The clues were a bit too obvious. Nonetheless, the exact identity of the murderer was a bit of a surprise, because I didn’t particularly have anyone nailed down for that.

The romantic relationship… For the most part, it worked for me. I could believe in the characters’ complex feelings, and in their connection. But, Pierce fell into the same trap as many romantic leads in YA books and so on (an odd comparison to make, I know). There were traits that were supposed to make him sympathetic in an odd way, but which led to rather creepy things. Like, having sex with someone to get their DNA for a test. And then entering into a real relationship with that person without ‘fessing up. Just, ugh, sure Pierce is supposed to have trust issues, but I don’t see how that makes it any better for him to violate someone else’s trust.

I am not going to quote from the sex scenes, but only one of them made me giggle, which is a start. There are some things that should never be compared to silly string or smashed champagne bottles, I’m just saying.

Rating: 3/5

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 17 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What have you recently finished reading?
Legends of Red Sonja (Gail Simone) et al, which was not as good as the first Red Sonja TPB under Gail Simone’s leadership, but still pretty fun, and also Rocket Girl: Times Squared (Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder), which was… okay, but I wasn’t enamoured.

What are you currently reading?
I’m slowly-slowly making my way through Death, Disability and the Superhero (José Alaniz), which is very academic and hard going, because I haven’t had to use my brain like this in a while. I’m enjoying it, though; I’m wondering if it’s going to mention Hawkeye in, what was it, the 70s? Who was deaf, according to the internet. I think Gail Simone’s Vengeance Moth is a bit too recent for this study, but I’m gonna be interested in the stuff about Daredevil. I haven’t read any Daredevil yet, but it is something I’m interested in.

I’m also reading The Serpent’s Promise (Steve Jones), which… I’m not sure how I feel about it. He’s one of those people who is very, very dismissive of faith/religion and basically holds it up as an intellectual truth that there’s no God. Which obviously, I’m not so sure about it. Anyway, the aim is to explain events in the Bible through science.

And finally, I’m reading The Vanishing Witch (Karen Maitland). It only arrived this morning, so I probably shouldn’t jump straight to it, but I’ve enjoyed all of Karen Maitland’s books and I’m excited about this one. I accidentally read the back page (I read so fast that if my eyes fall on it, it’s read), so I have some idea of what’s going to happen, and for once I’m a little disappointed about that. Normally I don’t mind spoilers.

What will you read next?
I’m trying to work on my Netgalley ratio right now, so next is probably Yesterday’s Kin (Nancy Kress). Although I’m also thinking of Illusive (Emily Lloyd-Jones), because hey, superpowered heist story!

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Review – 21st Century Dodos

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

Cover of 21st Century Dodos by Steve Stack21st Century Dodos, Steve Stack

Received to review. I might be a bit below the target age for this one — I remember some of these things, like cassettes and candy cigarettes and Jif, but other stuff was on its way out before I got there. I’m about to turn twenty-five, so I’d guess I’m about ten years behind some of this nostalgia stuff.

It’s not a very substantial book, but if you feel like a bit of nostalgia and an opportunity to go ‘I thought I was the only one who remembered that!’, then this might be for you.

Some of it hasn’t yet gone the way of the dodo for me: my parents get milk delivered, and I remember watching the milk float arrive on those illicit late nights I stayed up reading, sometimes. Okay, the first time it actually really freaked me out. But still. Milk float.

Rating: 2/5

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 15 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 18 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday is a bit different this week — top ten movies or TV shows. Hmmm. I don’t actually watch much TV, and getting round to watching films is hard for me, so you might find this list surprisingly outdated.

  1. Iron Man 3: Tony Stark has panic attacks. Pepper gets superpowers. I love the way they handle the racist trope of the Mandarin.
    “I’m cold.”
    “I know.”
    “How can you tell?”
    “Because we’re connected.”
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier: On your left! Because I love the comic, I love the way they adapted it, I love the politics of it, and I love what the MCU does with Steve’s character. He can be a dick in the comics, but in the film, he’s a good guy struggling to reconcile his morals with a drastically changed world, and he does it while making me want to hug him. Also: who the hell is Bucky?
    “Can any of you boys direct me to the Smithsonian? I’m here to pick up a fossil.”
  3. Howl’s Moving Castle: It cuts a lot of aspects I like from the book (like the whole fact of Howl being Welsh), but I still really love it. It’s one of my comfort films. Calcifer is just… <3
    “She likes my spark!”
  4. Spirited Away: I don’t think I have a pithy quote from this one, I just love it all.
  5. due South: Childhood nostalgia. Fraser was my first squish. And just… <3 Also, one of the few successful major actor-swaps between seasons I know of.
    “She shot me in the hat, Ray.”
  6. Stardust: Again, it’s not a perfect translation of the book, it definitely changes things, but it makes a great adaptation.
    Would I be correct in thinking that you can neither see nor hear me? Then I’d like to tell you that you smell of pee. You look like the wrong end of a dog. And I swear if I don’t get my Tristan back as he was, I’ll be your personal poltergeist!”
  7. Apollo 13: I have a lot of feelings about this film. The first time, it made me cry, even though I knew they were going to get safely home.
    “We just put Sir Isaac Newton in the driver’s seat. “
  8. Firefly & Serenity: Yeah, of course they’re on this list. I love the crew, I love everyone, and I hate Joss Whedon. Understood? (Well, really, I hate Fox.)
    “I swear by my pretty floral bonnet I will end you.”
  9. Castle: More Nathan Fillion! Also, best father-daughter friendship in the ‘verse. Beckett’s kickass too, but for me, the relationship between Rick and Alexis is centre stage.
    “He’s like a 9 year old on a sugar rush.”
  10. NCIS: This is part because it’s awesome, part because Grandad loved it and now when I watch it I think of him. His favourite character was Abby. “She’s crazy,” he’d say. “I like her.”
    “I’ve never experienced Gibbs without his morning coffee. We’re in uncharted waters here, Kate.”

And now I should get ready for my volunteering shift, but I’ll be back later to see what everyone else’s talking about!

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Review – Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains

Posted 14 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil GaimanTruth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, Neil Gaiman, Eddie Campbell

I got this to review from Headline via Bookbridgr. Like I needed another source of goodies! Anyway, I hadn’t read this short story before, so my first experience of it was this version with Eddie Campbell’s illustrations and the slightly odd partial graphic novel format (which I wanted to kill with fire because for whatever reason I found the lettering hard to decipher, I don’t know if I’m the only one).

Viewed as a sort of fable/folk tale, I enjoyed it. The structure is great, too: the slow unspooling of information so that it all comes together close to the end, and if you were to start reading it again right away, you could appreciate the little clues. The art worked well for me, too, slightly unsettling and vivid, without any attempt to be photo-realistic.

What didn’t work for me so well was the treatment of women. The frankly unnecessary rape scene in the middle — I’m not going to tone it down and say it was “almost” a rape scene: it was a man having sex with his frightened wife after beating her, let’s call it what it is — and the idea of an independent, fierce young woman dying because her hair is tied to a thorn bush. That sort of works in a fairytale sense, but in reality… if I had to separately break every strand of my hair to get free, I would (yes, even back in the days when I had long hair and it was my pride and joy). I’m pretty sure 99% of people with long hair would value their lives over their hair.

And you know, the main character… I could forgive him wanting vengeance, and I could forgive him for the thing he can’t forgive himself for. What I can’t forgive him for is lying there on the floor of a hut where a woman has given him hospitality while she is beaten and raped for doing so — after he got her to come out from where she was hiding with promises she wouldn’t be harmed. Especially as it’s all focused on how uncomfortable he thinks about it — I’m pretty sure a woman in that situation would be feeling worse.

I know it’s set in a different culture, etc, etc, but it isn’t even necessary to the narrative or characterisation. Passing the woman’s husband outside would yield the same information, and we could avoid the whole sorry episode.

Rating: 3/5

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Strange Chemistry & Exhibit A Reading Month

Posted 13 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 10 Comments

Banner with images from Strange Chemistry cover art, announcing a reading month in August

I’ve been looking forward to this since Lynn and I were first talking about it. So come on, join in! We’re celebrating Strange Chemistry now that it’s been shut down; the authors deserve and need support right now, and a great way for bloggers to do that is creating buzz. So you, me, Lynn, everyone we can get our hands on: August, 1st-31st. To take part, you only need to read one Strange Chemistry book, so it doesn’t matter if you think you’re the slowest reader in the world.

Go to Lynn’s post here to sign up.

Here’s my list of probable reads:

  • Pantomime and Shadowplay, by Laura Lam.
  • Shift and Control, by Kim Curran.
  • Blackwood and The Woken Gods, by Gwenda Bond.
  • Zenn Scarlett, by Christian Schoon.
  • The Pirate’s Wish, by Cassandra Rose Clarke.
  • Stolen Songbird, by Danielle L. Jensen.

Some of these I should’ve got round to ages ago, so it’ll be good to have an excuse, and company on the journey.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 12 July, 2014 by Nikki in General / 48 Comments

Wait, how is it time for Stacking the Shelves again already?! Oh well, happy Saturday, all, and don’t forget to check out Tynga’s Reviews to find everyone else’s posts and interact with loads of wonderful other people.

I was actually going to say it’s been a quiet week, but then I remembered a bunch of books I’d ordered arrived, and I got quite a few ARCs too. Plus, me and my sis had a day trip to York with one of my closest friends, and that more or less inevitably meant a bookshop. (Less inevitably, it meant even my friend picked up something — my hunger for books is one of those things we really don’t share, but now she’s prepping for a teaching course, so she has to do more reading. I am trying to get her to try Attachments by Rainbow Rowell for fun…)

Anyway, I’ll just… split these up however comes to mind.

Ordered before this week!

Cover of Died in the Wool by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Final Curtain by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Swing, Brother, Swing, by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Storm Front by Jim Butcher Cover of Fool Moon by Jim Butcher Cover of Grave Peril by Jim Butcher Cover of Sea of Shadows by Kelley ArmstrongCover of Wings to the Kingdom by Cherie Priest Cover of Sunrise of Avalon by Anna Elliott

So yeah, more Ngaio Marsh, no one’s surprised. Cherie Priest, ditto. Jim Butcher might be a bit of a surprise because I didn’t get on that well with the series the first time I tried to read it, and found some aspects of it problematic. Still, I did enjoy them for light reading, and The Works (yes, again) was selling them for around ~£2 each. So. Might as well see if I can get back into the series.

Re: Anna Elliott, Lynn O’Connacht bought me the first two books yeaaars ago. I spotted this one in, oddly enough, The Works’ online shop and went oh yeah, I never read that.

Bought in York

Cover of Opening Night by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Spinsters in Jeopardy by Ngaio Marsh Cover of Scales of Justice by Ngaio Marsh Cover of A Plague on Both Your Houses by Susanna Gregory Cover of The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick

And… more Ngaio Marsh. I’m not even that huge a fan, in that sense, I just find reading her work really relaxing. Susanna Gregory, I’ve been meaning to try. And automatic recommendation sites keep suggesting The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, and the first few pages intrigued me well enough, so with that comparison to Scott Lynch… yeah, worth a try.

One lonely ebook

Cover of Landline by Rainbow Rowell

ARCs

Cover of Rocket Girl, by Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder Cover of Yesterday's Kin by Nancy Kress Cover of Detour from Normal by Ken Dickson Cover of Legends of Red Sonja, by Gail Simone et al Cover of Conquering the Electron by Derek Cheung and Eric Brach Cover of Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch

Yep, that’s a pretty odd mix. Nancy Kress, I’ve liked some of her other work; Gail Simone is just awesome and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s in there too; Ken Dickson’s story about his experience with mental illness sounded interesting enough; electrons are cool; Rocket Girl was on read now; Tomorrow and Tomorrow was the first book I spotted on BookBridgr that intrigued me.

And finally, new Captain Marvel. <3

Cover of Captain Marvel #5

So what’s everyone else been stacking their shelves with? Say hi, link your posts, let’s talk books!

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Review – Black and Brown Planets

Posted 11 July, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Black and Brown PlanetsBlack and Brown Planets: The Politics of Race in Science Fiction, ed. Isiah Lavender III

The only stuff like this I’ve read before was during my degree, when I read books on postcolonial fiction as part of my Welsh Fiction in English class. The whole topic fascinated me, particularly because of the parallels between Welsh fiction and that of other non-dominant identities, so I have kept an eye on fandom discussions, and become involved in some (on both the right and the wrong sides, sometimes simultaneously). That’s not quite the same as reading a book like this one, with references, formal language, bibliographies, etc.

So I was interested to see how I got on with academic language again, since it’s been a while. Fortunately for me, this one is on ‘read now’ on Netgalley. And unfortunately for me, as well as being an interesting exploration of race in SF, it’s also generated a list of books I want to read/reread. For example, Malisa Kurtz’s piece on Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. I remember not enjoying that, but picking apart the complexities of it has made me interested all over again.

I was also a big fan of De Witt Douglas Kilgore’s essay discussing DS9, and Gerry Canavan’s referencing it as well. I remember being quite a fan of DS9 as a kid, and never realising that Ben Sisko was that revolutionary a character. I just took him for granted. The possible link Kilgore draws between Sisko and Obama becoming present seems to me like a big jump because of that, but I’ll keep my mouth shut on that one since that’s very much a US politics thing.

Oh, and I loved Isiah Lavender III’s own essay on Octavia Butler’s work; I haven’t read enough Butler yet, but she’s excellent and well worth the analysis.

I don’t know when, but I will be picking up some of the books — both fiction and non-fiction — mentioned in this collection, in future. It’s an area of literature about which I know I’ve got tons to learn, and I hate having to admit ignorance. This makes a good start.

Rating: 4/5

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