So you know I said this would be an Unstacking the Shelves? Hehe, no.
As usual, hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, go over there to get to everybody else’s posts!
Received for review
I’m an enormous fan of Arthuriana, so the Marie Phillips book really has my attention. I wrote a lot of my BA and MA work on Arthurian stories, and never miss the chance to expand my horizons. Uh, except I’ll never read a Marion Zimmer Bradley book again, after being forced to read The Mists of Avalon and after all I’ve found out about her in the last week or so.
I read Shades of Milk and Honey a while ago, and I remember being interested enough to finish it but not a huge fan. But someone whose taste I trust ripped through the books recently, and I liked it well enough to have another go. And the covers are pretty.
The two language books are going to be interesting, probably a good complement to The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker, which I’m reading at the moment. And Kameron Hurley’s essays, well, I need to read those for Hugo voting.
The Movement is the TPB and Ms. Marvel is just issue #5, but both are obviously exciting. I am pretty psyched about The Movement, with the heroine in a wheelchair, etc.
Agatha H. and the Airship City, Phil & Kaja Foglio
Agatha H. and the Airship City is based on a number of graphic novels by the same authors. And it’s… okay. It’s a fun adventure story, female protagonist with brains, etc. But something felt off to me — the way her figure was constantly emphasised, the whole bit where she was in her underwear… I don’t know what the context of that is, but if it worked in the comics, it didn’t work here. Especially since the opening made her seem so very young, and then suddenly it’s all about her being a young woman and people perving on her. Bleh.
I might check out the graphic novels, but I’m not going to read any more of the books. I don’t think they make good adaptations, or the authors don’t translate their ideas well to a novel rather than a webcomic. It felt pretty mediocre, which is kinda disappointing since I know people adore the series.
Throwback Thursday, the “I really need to get round to reading this for Hugo voting” edition! (See also: my post about how I will be reading/voting.) Also, if you’re curious, I’ll be attending Loncon on 16th August, and while I am quite an anxious creature still, it would be great to meet any other bloggers I know there.
A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar
Jevick, the pepper merchant’s son, has been raised on stories of Olondria, a distant land where books are as common as they are rare in his home. When his father dies and Jevick takes his place on the yearly selling trip to Olondria, Jevick’s life is as close to perfect as he can imagine. But just as he revels in Olondria’s Rabelaisian Feast of Birds, he is pulled drastically off course and becomes haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl.
In desperation, Jevick seeks the aid of Olondrian priests and quickly becomes a pawn in the struggle between the empire’s two most powerful cults. Yet even as the country shimmers on the cusp of war, he must face his ghost and learn her story before he has any chance of becoming free by setting her free: an ordeal that challenges his understanding of art and life, home and exile, and the limits of that seductive necromancy, reading.
I’ve been looking forward to this for a while, so the Hugos just make a good excuse to shuffle it up the pile. Samatar is up for a Campbell award, which is not technically a Hugo, but shush. It’s voted for during the Hugo voting process. I don’t actually know much about the plot of the novel beyond the blurb, so this should be exciting.
Nexus, Ramez Naam
In the near future, the experimental nano-drug Nexus can link human together, mind to mind. There are some who want to improve it. There are some who want to eradicate it. And there are others who just want to exploit it.
When a young scientist is caught improving Nexus, he’s thrust over his head into a world of danger and international espionage – for there is far more at stake than anyone realizes.
From the halls of academe to the halls of power, from the headquarters of an elite US agency in Washington DC to a secret lab beneath a top university in Shanghai, from the underground parties of San Francisco to the illegal biotech markets of Bangkok, from an international neuroscience conference to a remote monastery in the mountains of Thailand – Nexus is a thrill ride through a future on the brink of explosion.
The idea sounds amazing. The idea of being able to link mind to mind — well, it’s sort of appealing, until you think about the kinds of thoughts you prefer not to share even with your nearest and dearest. If you say you’ve never had an uncharitable or inappropriate thought, I won’t believe you. Plus, an Angry Robot author!
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie
From Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke Award nominated debut author, Ann Leckie, comes Ancillary Justice, a stunning space opera that asks what it means to be human in a universe guided by artificial intelligence.
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren–a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.
An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.
Yeah, I’m way behind on this one. So many people I know have read it, loved it, criticised it, talked about it — I really need to catch up, even if we ignore the Hugos!
There’s getting to be far too many interesting weekly events. Next I’ll even be updating my blog every day… or more than once every day! So yeah, this week’s Thursday Thoughts, hosted by Ok, Let’s Read, are around rating systems. Well, anybody who’s looked at my reviews here will know that I don’t post ratings on here. I prefer to let my thoughts on the books I’m reviewing come through more than my arbitrary, very personal gut feeling, which is what my ratings on Netgalley, Goodreads and LibraryThing are.
When I rate on sites that do use it, I tend to pretty much use GR’s scale, since I’ve been posting there the longest:
1 star: Didn’t like it
2 star: It was okay
3 star: I liked it
4 star: I really liked it
5 star: It was amazing!
I like that because it’s nice and subjective. If I had to rate books on their technical merits, I’d probably be very critical and end up giving low ratings to books I actually really enjoyed. Or sometimes I’d feel compelled to give them low ratings based on things that might bother other people (but don’t bother me in that specific instance), e.g. ratio of male to female characters. I do still dock stars for things that really get in my way while reading, of course, but it’s possible to enjoy less well-written and even problematic media, and I do. At least when we’re talking subjective ratings, you can’t argue that just because you gave a book five stars, everybody should.
On Goodreads, there’s often been discussion about the skewed ratings (i.e. towards the positive) and more granular ratings (half-stars/ten point rating system). On the former, I feel that it’s more useful to be able to separate out positive reactions to books than negative ones. You’re usually going to skew to liking books unless you pick books without regard to genre, blurbs, etc. — I do know of someone who does that — because you know your preferences. It doesn’t stop you coming across some real stinkers, but generally being able to separate out much you liked something is more important than quantifying exactly how much you disliked something.
In terms of half-stars, I’ve just never seen the point. Sure, you can always get a more complex rating system that arguably expresses your feelings more accurately, but that tends not to work well for people. I can’t find the link now, but I think it was Netflix that found that people used the rating system less the more complicated it got.
Honestly, though, I find that my own ratings are more useful to me than anyone else’s. I don’t know what standards people are using when they rate stuff on Goodreads — they could be using the site’s standards, but plenty of people use alternate methods which they state in their profiles, but are still treated as standard in the aggregate, etc. Sometimes it works okay when you know the person’s tastes — for example, I’ve been following Dan Schwent‘s reviews on Goodreads for years, so I know when he rates something four stars what he means by that, and I can sort of gauge how I’d rate the same books because we’ve had significant overlap — but mostly, the star rating doesn’t tell me that much without the review.
I can start including star ratings on here at some point if people seem to want it, but I try to be clear enough about my feelings on books that it isn’t necessary.
What have you recently finished reading? Agatha H. and the Airship City, which… I’m not too impressed. It’s the novelisation rather than the (I gather) original comics, but still. I don’t think I could stand to hear much more about Agatha’s gorgeous figure.
What are you currently reading? Lirael, by Garth Nix. I love love love the exploring-in-the-library parts. I’m less keen on Sameth in general; I find Lirael more compelling, though they’re both fairly typical teenagers.
What will you read next? Abhorsen, probably, the third book in Garth Nix’s series. I’m also eying some Angry Robot books, particularly the Justin Gustainis ones for some reason. I’ve brought my book on the history of Marvel with me, too.
This is kind of inevitable and needs no spotlighting from me, but since I’m knee-deep in a reread of Lirael at the moment, it leaps to mind — and I really like the cover. Sadly, I haven’t been able to get approved for the e-ARC of this on Edelweiss, so I’m just hoping to win it… or I’ll have to wait until my pre-order arrives.
(If you have a copy you’re done with and are in the UK, I’d pay for the postage to borrow it. Just saying.)
Clariel is the daughter of the one of the most notable families in the Old Kingdom, with blood relations to the Abhorsen and, most importantly, to the King. When her family moves to the city of Belisaere, there are rumors that her mother is next in line for the throne. However, Clariel wants no part of it—a natural hunter, all she ever thinks about is escaping the city’s confining walls and journeying back to the quiet, green world of the Great Forest.
But many forces conspire against Clariel’s dream. A dangerous Free Magic creature is loose in the city, her parents want to marry her off to a killer, and there is a plot brewing against the old and withdrawn King Orrikan. When Clariel is drawn into the efforts to find and capture the creature, she discovers hidden sorcery within herself, yet it is magic that carries great dangers. Can she rise above the temptation of power, escape the unwanted marriage, and save the King?
It was lovely to reread Sabriel. I think I read it quite a few times when I was younger, but luckily, Garth Nix seems to have lost none of his charm for me. It helps that he has a female protagonist who isn’t perfect, who ends up with a near-broken nose, battered to bits, and still finds love — but that love isn’t the most important thing: the important thing, the thing Sabriel really has to accept, is the passing on of her father’s duties to her, and her own entry into adulthood.
I enjoy the fact that no detail is wasted, too. The story could open with Sabriel crossing into the Old Kingdom: not much terribly important happens before that, just scene setting. But then it turns out to be important because the story cycles back to that location, because the previous Abhorsen knew it would from the Clayr — and we get to see life on that side of the border, we see the people Sabriel’s been raised with and how that interacts with what she has to become. And we see people that later will prove important: those innocent schoolgirls who are Charter Mages, who ultimately give up their life to help Sabriel, because that’s the person she has to become, the person who accepts those lives as part of the cost of what she must do. They have a kind of strength that serves Sabriel well, both because she’s been raised among them and because they then help her, even though she ends up so alien to them. And I like the little details, like the dying schoolgirl’s touch to Sabriel’s ankle which is ultimately what gives her the strength to fight on, or Horyse’s vision of what’s going to happen to him.
The nice thing about the UK ebook of this is that it contains some commentary from Garth Nix on the process of writing the story. It was interesting to have him point things out, like the focus on clothing, armour, weaponry, that adds the touch of realism — I hadn’t thought about that before. It can be a liiiittle jarring to read those at the end of chapters like that, but I’m glad that extra content was included anyway.
I think of the three books, this is actually my favourite. Lirael has its attractions too, but I’m most attached to Sabriel’s character and the vitality of her romance with Touchstone — I always thought that bite/kiss to keep them both in Life when her father rang Astarael was the most wonderful thing ever, and I still found that scene pretty powerful.
I like reading popular science books that dig deep into something serious like genetics or something. But, a book that digs shallowly into something frivolous like the history and recipients of the Ig Nobel Prizes works just fine for me too. It’s light reading, obviously, and some of it is gross, weird, and pretty much all of it is just silly. Which is, probably, what makes it so interesting.
Marc Abrahams is the founder of the awards, so this isn’t exactly an impartial look at the awards, and I do like someone else’s comment that the book “tr[ies] too hard to make it seem like they don’t take themselves seriously”. Yep. It’s all very ridiculous.
What makes it fun to me is that all of the research in this book has been genuinely carried out, and some of it is surprisingly sensible when you learn about the rationale behind it.
Good morning, folks. Once again I have acquired more books than anyone rightfully should, and can’t help but feel rather smug about that. But in the interests of stacking your shelves, let me just direct your attention to my giveaway post for Strange Chemistry/Exhibit A books here. Please link it to anyone you think will be interested: the authors concerned need our help right now.
Otherwise, back to your normal programming: Stacking the Shelves, as hosted by Tynga’s Reviews! This week with the theme I Just Got Paid So I Will Buy Everything, Who Cares About A Theme? Which isn’t as fun as buying all superhero novels all the time, but is still pretty fun.
I’m kind of most excited about The Invisible Orientation, because I’m halfway through and it talks so much sense about the range of queerness that’s out there, never mind just asexuality. But I’m also interested in Rachel Aaron and Josh Lanyon: it’s been a while since I read any Lanyon, but there was a point when I read his books like candy.
Another sciency week, apparently. The first two are my srs reading, the second two fuel my love of knowing really random crap.
Actually Christmas presents from my partner, but Amazon didn’t deliver the third volume and so I didn’t want to feature the fourth until now. But here they are! Time for me to get myself educated on some X-Men stuff. (I picked Ultimates because I liked their appearances in Ultimate Spider-man.)
I rebought the Garth Nix books, which I love, because they’re finally out in ebook in the UK and Clariel will be coming out soon. Otherwise it’s a mix of recs or liking the author’s other stuff. I’m very glad now I got Glaze, considering the bad news about Kim Curran’s publishers for her other books.
Bought (dead tree)
I’ve heard good buzz about the first two, I’ve liked some of Tidhar’s other work, and the third promises a more Arabian Nights than European setting, plus the first line is “Once there was a city of women.” Which is bound to catch my eye when I’m pretty sure it’s not referring to the Arthurian Castle of Maidens.
I was really sad and shocked today when I was scrolling through twitter and saw this sudden announcement from Angry Robot:
As you will be aware, Angry Robot Books has a history of innovation and we continue to go from strength to strength. We’re constantly trying out new concepts and new ideas, and we continue to publish popular and award-winning books. Our YA imprint Strange Chemistry and our crime/mystery imprint Exhibit A have – due mainly to market saturation – unfortunately been unable to carve out their own niches with as much success.
We have therefore made the difficult decision to discontinue Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A, effective immediately, and no further titles will be published from these two imprints.
That’s not all that’s out there by a long shot, but that should give everyone an idea of the fanbase those imprints had out there, and how shocking the news was for everyone. I’ve been a fan of Angry Robot and everything they do for a while, especially since I won the Robot for a Day competition (where I met the staff and the blogger who was at that point their intern, Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts). I have a huge backlog of their stuff to read, from all three imprints, but I think I might spend this weekend finally getting round to books by Kim Curran, Laura Lam, Gwenda Bond, etc.
The good news is, the books already published will still be supported by Angry Robot, and rights for future books are reverting to the authors. The bad news is that various books that were slated to come out in the next few months won’t be, some series aren’t going to be finished (at least not with Strange Chemistry), and some authors don’t know where they can go next.
I’m going to follow the example of one of the posts linked above and do a giveaway of some of my favourite Strange Chemistry books. Comment with which you want to be entered for, and I’ll pick at random on the 1st July. You can enter for multiple books, but you will only win one. If you would prefer ebooks, we can probably arrange something, but the idea is that I will buy copies via The Book Depository and send them straight to you. I want to encourage new readers to get their mitts on these books and generate some buzz that might help the authors place future books with publishers! And yes, this is international.
So, without further ado, the giveaways:
Martha Wells, Emilie & The Hollow World.
Sean Cummings, Poltergeeks.
Rachel Neumeier, Black Dog.
Cassandra Rose Clarke, The Assassin’s Curse.
Winner’s choice of any book from Strange Chemistry or Exhibit A.
And honestly? I wish it could be more. I have so much sympathy with all the authors and staff affected. Let’s give them a good send off!
ETA: So, the winners! Grace won Emilie & the Hollow World; majoline won Poltergeeks; Erin won Black Dog; ameliazane won The Assassin’s Curse; Jessica won the winner’s choice (and chose Gwenda Bond’s Blackwood). All of them have been emailed and all of them responded already, so the books have been ordered and are en route.