Stacking the Shelves

Posted April 26, 2014 by Nicky in General / 24 Comments

I haven’t bought anything this week! But I have been to the library and been approved on Netgalley for a book I’m particularly excited about, so there’s that. So, as usual, here’s my post for Tynga’s Reviews‘ Stacking the Shelves. Do go and check that out and see what other people have been up to — it’s fun just to browse people’s acquisitions.

Library

Cover of Uncanny X-force: Let It Bleed Cover of Green Lantern Corps: Fearsome Cover of Half Past Human by TJ Bass Cover of The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb Cover of A Kingdom by James Hanley

Review copies

Cover of The Buried Life by Carrie Patel Cover of Defending the City of God by Sharan Newman Cover of The Shadow Master by Craig Cormick Cover of The Blasted Lands by James A. Moore

I’m particularly excited about The Buried Life because I was in the acquisitions meeting for it, way back when I won the Robot for a Day competition. I’m really excited to read all of it, and to see how the finished product has turned out.

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Review – Among Others

Posted April 25, 2014 by Nicky in Reviews / 8 Comments

Cover of Among Others by Jo Walton

Among Others, Jo Walton

I’ve reviewed this before, at great length. Rereading it was interesting, though, both because Jo Walton shares a lot of my thoughts on rereading (see her book What Makes This Book So Great, which is a collection of essays), and because it’s not the kind of book that is changed by knowing the ending, because it’s not a book with a climactic scene, really. There is one, but ultimately that’s not as important as the whole process of the book: Mori learning to live without her sister, learning to grow and find her place. I said in my original review that it’s set after the real climax of the story, and that still seems fair to say. We don’t even learn about exactly what the big events were, because what’s interesting about Among Others is watching Mori live with it.

I still feel quite personally close to this book. Mori’s general style reminds me of myself at the same age, though I was a 2000 version rather than a 1970s, so my journal was online and I had a bit of an audience, but the similarities are still there. This time I noticed the differences more — Mori’s physical disability, the fact that she was at a boarding school, the fact that she had a twin and I never did, etc — but I still felt that kinship with her, her imagination, love of books and her Welshness. Definitely not least because I still inhale books like Mori, and have a self-professed love affair with libraries. They don’t seem to make the interlibrary loan system as apparent these days, but it’s worth chasing up a little, because it might just surprise you.

Anyway, in many ways it isn’t just the big things I identify with Mori on. It’s little details. It’s when she talks about not giving anything away, because it can be used against her. When she befriends other misfits. When books are more interesting to her than the things people are doing around her. Little mistakes that she makes because she reads more than she interacts with people, like thinking “Jr” is a name in itself and pronounced “Jirr” (don’t get my mother started on this subject, please). It’s the exact same reaction to people claiming something is a “successor to Tolkien” or “as good as Tolkien”!

All in all, I loved rereading this. It made me smile, sometimes laugh; sometimes it made me shake my head at teens and Mori and myself at that age (and even, really, myself now). One of the best moments was coming to one of Mori’s entries about riding the train into Wales, rereading a book, as I was riding a train into Wales rereading Among Others. Delightfully meta.

And I still think What Makes This Book So Great makes a very good companion read to get into all sorts of classic fantasy and SF.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted April 24, 2014 by Nicky in General / 2 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
I reread Among Others (Jo Walton) on the train today, which was fun because when I got to the bits about reading on trains it felt terribly meta. It ended too soon, and I still feel completely gushy about this book, and I love the way it’s put together and, and, and. You get the general gist. Also nice being sat on a train into Wales at the same point as I’m reading about the main character being on a train into Wales.

When I got back, I just read a Superman comic I need to return to the library, uh, today. By which I mean I shall have a tiny fine to pay in the morning. It’s okay, but I don’t think I’m really ever going to be much of a DC fan. Gail Simone’s Batgirl is the only one I get really enthusiastic about.

What are you currently reading?
The Broken Land (Ian McDonald). I thought I’d be able to finish it today, on the train, but people on the last leg of the trip were very loud. I am wondering why I was so hesitant to start on Ian McDonald, and why people keep saying his work is ‘difficult’, but while it’s different in some ways (the narrative style isn’t always straightforward, there’s more reported than direct speech, he’s representing non-verbal communication a lot), I don’t find that challenging. Just interesting!

What do you think you’ll read next?
Do you guys believe a word I say here? I can tell you that what I’ll dip into before I go to bed tonight is Gulp (Mary Roach), but beyond that, you may even have a better idea than I do. Half a King (Joe Abercrombie) is definitely coming up soon, after I read a review from someone I trust about it being very enthusiastic, but otherwise, it beats me.

(It strikes me that I could make a sort of lottery out of guessing what book I’ll actually read next. Or a raffle. It really would be very random.)

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Review – Superman: What Price Tomorrow?

Posted April 23, 2014 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of DC's Superman: What Price Tomorrow?Superman: What Price Tomorrow?, George Pérez, Jesus Merino, Nicola Scott

This wasn’t as bad as I expected from the general trend of reviews on Goodreads. I don’t think I’m really a fan of DC’s stuff in general, though. I mean, I remember Superman in bright colours, as wholesome as Marvel’s Captain America, but here it’s all dark and broody. Maybe part of the problem is that I never read the comics before, but was a devotee of the tv series. No, not Smallville — Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman!

Anyway, this was… okay. I liked the redesign of Superman’s costume which keeps the important aspects of his iconic image and tweaks things we could do without (the underwear on the outside of his costume thing). I didn’t feel strongly about the art either way, though I did feel that the criticisms of the number of panels and cluttered pages are pretty valid.

The story is okay, but like I said, there’s a lot of dark and broody here, which I thought was more Batman’s line. There’s some stuff intended to make it relevant and modern, like the Daily Planet’s way of dealing with the move to digital media, but all in all, I don’t know how that works. In my head, the Daily Planet smells of paper and ink, and Metropolis never really joins the digital age.

So the only New 52 titles I’ve really been interested in following are Batgirl and Batwoman. Hmm.

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Readathon stack

Posted April 22, 2014 by Nicky in General / 4 Comments

So it’s about time I did my readathon stack post, since Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon is this weekend, and I’ll be hosting a challenge here (look out for it in hour 16 of the ‘thon). As always, I think most people on this blog are used to this, but for newcomers, there’s very little chance of me sticking very closely to this, but it’s a good jumping off point for me.

Because I like organising things and then ignoring my carefully put together lists, I’m gonna set up some categories and pick five books for each. The idea is to read at least one from each category.

Library:
-Diana Wynne Jones, The Islands of Chaldea.
-Clive Finlayson, The Humans Who Went Extinct.
-Ilona Andrews, Magic Burns.
-Rosemary Sutcliff, Knight’s Fee.
-Lisa Tuttle, The Silver Bough.

Netgalley/review copies:
-James A. Moore, Seven Forges.
-Danielle L. Jensen, Stolen Songbird.
-Cassandra Rose Clarke, The Wizard’s Promise.
-Jason M. Hough, The Darwin Elevator.
-Malinda Lo, Adaptation.

2011-2013 unread:
-Gillian Bradshaw, Magic’s Poison.
-Jennifer Pelland, Machine.
-Frances Hardinge, Fly By Night.
-Janny Wurts, That Way Lies Camelot.
-Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice.

2014 unread:
-Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl.
-Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale.
-Lisa Shearin, The Grendel Affair.
-Rachel Bach, Fortune’s Pawn.
-Jo Walton, Farthing.

Comics:
-Marvel, Young Avengers: Dark Reign.
-Marvel, Ultimate Spider-man: vol. 20.
-Marvel, Ultimate Spider-man: vol. 21.
-Marvel, Ultimate Spider-man: vol. 22.
-DC, Stormwatch: vol. 1.

Subject to some editing over the next few days as I sprawl all over the place reading.

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Review – House of M

Posted April 21, 2014 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of House of M by Brian Michael Bendis.House of M, Brian Michael Bendis

House of M actually seems a bit old hat, coming to it after I’ve already read other crossover events and the aftermath of House of M, The Children’s Crusade. I’m trying to fit it together with some of the other comics I’ve read, and I’m a little unsure — Wanda’s children, how do they end up being Billy and Tommy from Young Avengers? When does that happen? That’s not really explained to my satisfaction anywhere in the story.

Did like the cast here, though it feels a little crowded. Spider-man gets some good lines, and I love that Ms. Marvel’s pretty important in this world. I’m not a big fan of Wolverine, and I don’t know much about Emma Frost, so their prominence wasn’t especially helpful for me.

All in all, it felt frenetic, more than a little crowded. I didn’t need background from other comics for it, but it felt like I would’ve liked it: so many people were referred to glancingly, and I know so little about them, or what I know is from Ultimates, or…

Anyway, it’s fun, but not an essential, I think.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted April 19, 2014 by Nicky in General / 49 Comments

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!

Library

Cover of Astonishing X-men: Torn by Joss Whedon Cover of House of M by Brian Michael Bendis. Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction by Paul Bahn Cover of And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou Cover of There and Back Again: J.R.R. Tolkien and the Origins of the Hobbit by Mark Atherton

Books I Love So Much I Got Them Again For A Reread

Cover of The Steerswoman, by Rosemary Kirstein Cover of Farthing, by Jo Walton Cover of Ha'penny by Jo Walton Cover of Half a Crown by Jo Walton Cover of Among Others by Jo Walton

New

Cover of The Outskirter's Secret by Rosemary Kirstein Cover of The Lost Steersman by Rosemary Kirstein Cover of Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor Cover of Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan Cover of The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon Cover of The Disestablishment of Paradise by Phillip Mann

Review copies

Cover of A Kingdom Lost by Barbara Ann Wright Cover of The Very Best of Tad Williams Cover of Fool's Assassin, by Robin Hobb Cover of Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Comics (issues)

Cover of Ms Marvel Issue #3 Captain Marvel issue #2

Pre-order

Cover of My Real Children by Jo Walton

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.

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Review – The Holders

Posted April 17, 2014 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Holders by Julianna ScottThe Holders, Julianna Scott

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”.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted April 16, 2014 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

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.

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Review – Maus

Posted April 16, 2014 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Maus, by Art SpiegelmanMaus, Art Spiegelman

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.

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