Aaaas usual for a Saturday, here’s my Stacking the Shelves post, a meme as hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. It’s been a busy week!
Books I Love So Much I Got Them Again For A Reread
You can maybe sense a Jo Walton shaped theme going on here. I can’t wait for My Real Children, and decided to do some rereading while I’m waiting. Among Others should be especially interesting, as the first read had me very emotional and wrapped up in it, and my friends claim that they see me in it a lot.
Obviously, I’ve been excited about Dreams of Gods and Monsters for a while and I am so glad I finally have it. I’ve been looking for ARCs of Tropic of Serpents, too, and I haven’t read much Robin Hobb lately, but you better believe I’m excited about Fool’s Assassin. I’m surprised I got approved for it. I’m pretty excited by Half a King, too. In short, I’ve had a really lucky week.
I love the ideas behind a lot of Strange Chemistry books, but when I get round to reading them, it ends up feeling like there’s something missing. Maybe it’s just that while I enjoy some YA, I tend to be picky, and maybe more critical of it. On the other hand, I do love other Strange Chemistry books fairly uncritically, so I don’t know. I mean, on the surface this is right up my alley: female protagonist, Irish setting, comparisons to the basic ideas behind X-Men, family bonds and conflicts… But somehow I never really got hooked.
There are some really great reviews out there for this book, and I’m somewhat inclined to write off my reaction to crankiness or bad timing, and maybe put it aside for later. Given the enormous length of my reading list, and how bad my current ratio is on Netgalley, I can’t justify reading the second book when I didn’t really enjoy this one. It’s not even that there was anything particularly bad about it — I’m not a fan of the destined love type trope, and I didn’t get super invested in the characters, but this isn’t a review to say this book is bad. Maybe ultimately just “not for me”.
What did you recently finish reading?
A couple of books I had to review that didn’t impress me very much, and Art Spiegelman’s Maus. I feel weird talking about liking/disliking Maus, given what it is, so I’m trying to steer clear of that. It was interesting, certainly, and worth taking the time to read.
What are you currently reading?
Most actively working on my reread of Wicked (Gregory Maguire), which I really do like more now I know the musical so well, somehow. I guess it’s a symbiotic sort of thing, experiencing it in multiple media and seeing it differently, etc. I’m also rereading Assassin’s Apprentice (Robin Hobb), since I’ve been approved for Fool’s Assassin, her new book.
My only new-to-me read at the moment, in terms of what I’m actively reading, is The Broken Land (Ian McDonald). I wasn’t very hopeful after looking at some reviews, but I’m actually really intrigued and drawn in.
What do you think you’ll read next?
I’m going to finish The Wizard’s Promise (Cassandra Rose Clarke) and Seven Forges (James A. Moore) next, possibly even tomorrow. I’ll be slower working on Wicked and Assassin’s Apprentice, since they’re rereads, but in general it looks like a mass reread of Robin Hobb’s work, plus trying to keep up with my review copies and such. Probably the next of Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce books next, in that line.
It’s hard to figure out how to rate or review this. I mean, do you rate it as art? As a story? Or as non-fiction? As something in between, that nonetheless tries to express the truth? I quite liked Spiegelman’s style: the panels were maybe a little too busy at times, but the drawings had character and life.
More importantly, I think in writing his father’s story, Art Spiegelman managed to capture something we can be prone to forget: the Jews were not necessarily all nice people, all innocent victims and young girls like Anne Frank. There were greedy Jews, Jews who survived because they were quick-thinking and put themselves first, Jews with horrible opinions and so on. Art Spiegelman’s father Vladek isn’t a pleasant character in many ways, but what he goes through and the finer aspects of him show us that it doesn’t matter what kind of people the Jews who suffered and died were, they didn’t deserve Auschwitz and Dachau and all the other concentration camps. We don’t need an idealised innocent young girl to know what happened for the horror it was — that might make it easier on us, but to me it’s equally important to remember collaborators and cowards, the everyman and the rich banker and even the ones who stole each others’ food or lorded it over them to survive. Half of those horrors were created by the conditions anyway.
Which is to say… there were no perfect people. It’s a mistake to forget that, to forget that we’re still talking about humans all their messy glory. Maus reminds us pretty firmly that horrific things can happen to people who aren’t that nice themselves, and remain horrific.
So all in all, I don’t know that I like it much, but it’s one of those things where I have to consider the work that went into it and what it says, what it does, more than my personal enjoyment or not.
This was okay, but honestly? If you’re interested in archaeology, watch out for the “Archaeology’s Dirty Little Secrets” course to run again on Coursera. It covers a lot of the same issues, but in more depth, with more examples, and obviously with the chance to interact with a lot more people/opinions (even if you just watch the videos). The assignments help you focus on and get to grips with the techniques and discussions.
This book is… much more basic. It’s very informal, often very personal to the author (as where he sneers at theories he doesn’t agree with, or makes snide comments about other people working in the field). There are some useful bits, and it’s certainly an easy (and very brief) read, but mostly I think you’d be better investing a bit more time in this, via Coursera or via other, better books.
One section that rather riled me was the whole bit about “feminist archaeology”, mostly using those scare quotes. Bahn falls into pretty much every pitfall in talking about feminism, claiming for example that the history of men is now going to be ignored, and comparing women to slaves who will want to be masters. Right. Thanks, dude.
I didn’t get on with the writing style of these. It felt dry, and all the stories had the same feeling to them — something a bit too prone to explanation rather than action, which took the impact of some of the interesting ideas and creepy aspects away. I liked some of the ideas here, but the execution really didn’t work for me.
The stories are structured okay, and self-contained, but… I don’t know, altogether I felt they were lacking something.
(Received to review from the publisher via LibraryThing.)
Wonder Woman: Guts, Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins
I’m not really a fan of Wonder Woman, I think, at least not in this incarnation. I’m not fond of the character designs, except maybe for Strife (but she reminded me of someone else; maybe a Neil Gaiman character?) and Wonder Woman herself, and the plot just… Nah.
I can take some tweaks to my mythology (hello Thor), but this was strangely closer to the actual mythology and further from the spirit of the mythology. Or something. The bickering among the gods, Hera’s jealousy, etc — it all makes sense within Greek myth, but they seemed cardboard cutouty, which Thor and Loki do not.
I knew nothing about Eternals before reading this, and pretty much just got it because it’s by Neil Gaiman. So I didn’t know about the original series (and still don’t know much about it). Some of the character designs and ideas are kinda cool, and the art works well enough, but I don’t think Gaiman managed to rescue this from the wtfery of its apparent origins.
The longer he drew out the mystery, the better it was; all the explanation was kinda… this is what you were setting up for? Really?
I don’t think this works well in a world with registration and Civil War and Tony Stark, either.
The Best of All Possible Worlds is not a perfect book. I can sympathise with various of the lower-star reviews out there. It’s a quiet book, contemplative, and ultimately despite the backdrop it’s basically a romance against a sci-fi, post-disaster backdrop. It’s not quite Ursula Le Guin, but I quite liked the slow progression. It had the feel of something unfolding, rather than a roller-coaster ride, and that’s just fine by me.
I think some potentially problematic things are brought up by the plot and dealt with varying degrees of success. The domestic abuse by telepathy ties in with the plot in a couple of ways, so I don’t understand people saying that doesn’t fit. I’m very tired of the whole “you included this [minority] character just to get brownie points” idea. Maybe there are some people out there who do that, but I don’t see why a character has to be fully explored with all characteristics plot-relevant to be included. Finding a big long explanation for a gender neutral, essentially asexual character isn’t necessary, if that’s the way the character works. And Lian worked fine in that sense, for me — and I think that aspect of their identity was relevant, in some ways.
I mean, you don’t include other stripes of queer characters and then look at them with a magnifying glass to justify their inclusion. Some people are just queer, why can’t characters just be queer? And why oh why do you need to know what’s going on downstairs for trans* people?
All in all, I didn’t love this the way I enjoyed Redemption in Indigo, but I’m glad I got round to reading it. (Finally.)