Review – The Dragonbone Chair

Posted 6 December, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Dragonbone Chair by Tad WilliamsThe Dragonbone Chair, Tad Williams

This is a reread for me, preparatory to reading the new series and The Heart of What Was Lost. I was pretty excited to plunge back in, because I remember being spellbound by it, and I gave it a solid four stars. I thought I remembered it pretty well, and remembered that I’d found it fairly typical in terms of the plot, but now some things did somehow surprise me, and I’d glossed over great chunks of the plot in mind. Which is fine, because rediscovery is great.

It is very much an epic in the mode of Tolkien, including elderly white men fighting against the darkness with the power of knowledge, a lot of random songs, an ageless and somewhat embittered race who are not human, etc, etc. It feels different, though — less mythic, I suppose, less of an old, old story. Simon is the main character, and he’s very immediate…

…He’s also a self-pitying pain in the ass. Oddly enough, I remembered him as being fairly reasonable and Miriamele, the princess, as being a spoilt brat. I feel rather the other way round now. Simon has no idea how lucky he’s been or how good he’s had it, and sometimes I wanted to reach into the book and clonk him over the head with something heavy.

However, I still love other characters — Binabik, Josua, Isgrimnur… Though Simon’s irritating, I’m definitely planning to continue rereading these books. They feel like more of a grind than I remember, but I had more time when I was a teen to just read all day, so that might have something to do with it. It was still an enjoyable grind, but I must admit it could have lost a few hundred pages and felt a lot more gripping.

Rating: 4/5

Buy this book: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository
The above affiliate links, at no extra cost to you, provide a small commission for me if you purchase something.

Tags: , , ,

Divider

WWW Wednesday

Posted 6 December, 2017 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

The three ‘W’s are what are you reading now, what have you recently finished reading, and what are you going to read next, and you can find this week’s post at the host’s blog here if you want to check out other posts.

What are you currently reading?

Cover of Dark Sky by Mike BrooksI’ve still got just two books on my currently reading list, and they’re the same as last week. I’m back to reading Dark Sky, at least, and I’m actually getting on with it better now. It still feels very much like Firefly, and like the other books that remind me of Firefly, but I’ve got back into the characters.

What have you recently finished reading?

Cover of Suspicious Minds by Rob BrothertonLast thing I read was Suspicious Minds by Rob Brotherton. It was interesting stuff, even though the psychology of why people believe in conspiracy theories didn’t really surprise me at all. It’s one of the Bloomsbury Sigma series, and they’re usually pretty accessible while also being interesting, so that wasn’t really a surprise!

What will you read next?

Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline CareyI don’t know. I should finish Kushiel’s Dart, really. But who knows what’ll strike my fancy? I keep eyeing one of my books about Egyptology, instead…

What are you reading right now?

Tags: ,

Divider

Review – The Gracekeepers

Posted 5 December, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of The Gracekeepers by Kirsty LoganThe Gracekeepers, Kirsty Logan

The Gracekeepers seemed like it had a lot of potential. The idea of the Gracekeepers, the drowned world it takes place in, the promise of the political and religious background that hedged the characters round, the webbed hands of Callanish… There’s a fairytale-like feeling to the narration at times, in the feeling of inevitability about every step the characters take — I don’t know if that’s something other readers took away from the book, but it felt like it was to me. Callanish and North were on a collision course all along, however improbable, and they were going to find each other anyway.

I found the world interesting, but it also felt kind of superficial. I didn’t feel like there was a wider world beyond Callanish and the circus; the world was just there to be a setting for the characters. Just not the kind of story setting I prefer, in the end, though there are some powerful bits — particularly between North and her bear.

Rating: 3/5

Buy this book: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository
The above affiliate links, at no extra cost to you, provide a small commission for me if you purchase something.

Tags: , ,

Divider

Review – The Hidden Life of Trees

Posted 4 December, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Hidden Life of TreesThe Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben

This is pretty light reading, with a lot of interesting facts and observations about trees — but sometimes I really had to go and look up the sources, because it didn’t sound quite right, or it just sounded like an oversimplification. If you’re a fan of well-sourced facts, this might not be quite what you’re looking for, because there’s something more conversational and anecdotal about it in many ways. It’s still some fascinating stuff, though, and it’s not the kind of dense non-fiction that takes a lot of time investment.

Not surprisingly, the author’s premise is that there’s a lot about trees we don’t know and a lot that we overlook, and that’s definitely not wrong.

Rating: 3/5

Buy this book: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository
The above affiliate links, at no extra cost to you, provide a small commission for me if you purchase something.

Tags: , ,

Divider

Review – The Essex Serpent

Posted 3 December, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Essex Serpent by Sarah PerryThe Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry

From all the hype, I expected to love The Essex Serpent. I didn’t really know much about it, going in, but it seems like almost everyone has been talking about how mindblowing they found it. It’s historical fiction, though it might not portray the era as quite as strait-laced and disapproving of everything as you’d imagine. There’s a fair amount of sex and sexuality, and nobody tries to pretend that sex doesn’t exist or that piano legs are salacious or any such stereotype about the Victorians. In that sense, I quite liked what Perry did with the material. I think she also does well in drawing her characters and creating an intense rapport between them, and twining together their lives in such binding, unequal and sometimes ambiguous ways.

What I don’t enjoy is the pacing, and the way large parts of the story are told just as a report. ‘In London, Cora was doing x. In Essex, Will did y. The kids did z.’ Large sections are just one thing after another, a chronicle of events rather than a story. There are some fascinating scenes and conversations, and there are also some such scenes that are deadened by just being reported on in that dull way.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but I found this so frustrating. It has a germ of something fascinating, no doubt about that, but the style hobbles it. I had to finish it, but at the same time… yeah, I was a little bored.

Rating: 3/5

Buy this book: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository
The above affiliate links, at no extra cost to you, provide a small commission for me if you purchase something.

Tags: , ,

Divider

Review – Camelot’s Sword

Posted 2 December, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Camelot's Sword, by Sarah ZettelCamelot’s Sword, Sarah Zettel

Camelot’s Sword isn’t my favourite book of the series, because the characters are definitely not my favourite and I think the way they eventually get together is a little too rushed. However, the way Zettel plays with the Arthurian mythos continues to be delightful, from her portrayal of Guinevere to the machinations of Morgaine to Kay’s surprising skill with a sword. Geez, I even love the fact that he’s actually ridiculously tall, because that’s a call-out to the Welsh versions where he was ‘as tall as the tallest tree in the forest’. (My MA dissertation was named after that descriptor, and referenced these books heavily. I think the final title was ‘As Tall as the Tallest Tree in the Forest: The Long Shadow of the Celtic Cai in the Ongoing Arthurian Tradition’ or something like that. Okay, I got the feedback that the title didn’t sound relevant, but I still like it.)

Even though this isn’t my favourite of the series, it has a lot of great moments and character set-pieces, from Kay’s interactions with Gareth to Agravain’s confrontation with Lancelot. Zettel does wonderfully at making me love and care for them all. I might not be convinced Gareth deserves Lynet, but by heck I am convinced he means to do his best by her — and that his brothers will grumble, shout at him, and back him up all the way.

Rating: 4/5

Buy this book: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository
The above affiliate links, at no extra cost to you, provide a small commission for me if you purchase something.

Tags: , , , ,

Divider

Stacking the Shelves

Posted 2 December, 2017 by Nikki in General / 16 Comments

Good morning, folks! Yesterday I was at Boekenfestijn in Mechelen, which was fun, though a little disappointing in terms of the English language selection (but you know, I didn’t expect tons). So I have one new book and one to review.

New to the shelves

Cover of The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel Cover by Master Assassins by Robert V. S, Redick

I’ve been meaning to read The Cold Between for ages, so I’m glad I found it at Boekenfestijn. And I’ve been meaning to try Redick’s work, too, so that works out well too!

Read this week

Cover of Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw Cover of The Godless by Ben Peek Cover of Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee Cover of Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould

Four stars: Strange Practice, Raven Stratagem, Wonderful Life.
Three stars: The Godless.

Reviews posted this week:

Provenance, by Ann Leckie. This is quite different to the Imperial Radch books, though set in the same world, and there’s so much I enjoyed about it that I can’t even begin here. 4/5 stars
The Great Influenza, by John M. Barry. Very much enjoyed this one, and if you think you know influenza, well… read on. 5/5 stars
The Silver Wind, by Nina Allan. An interesting novella, though I didn’t like it as much as I liked Spin. 3/5 stars
Summerlong, by Peter S. Beagle. This was not my thing, partly because I loved the couple at the beginning and just Did Not Want that ending. 3/5 stars
Goldilocks and the Water Bears, by Louisa Preston. Should win all the internets for the title alone, but it turned out to be more general than I’d hoped. 3/5 stars
Futureland, by Walter Mosley. Some powerful stories, but it didn’t seem like my thing overall. 3/5 stars
Pantomime, by Laura Lam. I tore through this and enjoyed it a lot… apart from one little quibble. 4/5 stars

Other posts:

WWW Wednesday. What I’m currently reading, what I might read next, the usual stuff.

What’re you reading? What have you got your hands on this week? Definitely share your links, and I’ll visit back as soon as I can!

Tags: , ,

Divider

Review – Pantomime

Posted 1 December, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Pantomime by Laura LamPantomime, Laura Lam

I know, I know. It’s taken me far too long to get round to reading Pantomime, and I deserve a kicking. I really do, because now I’ve finally read it, I wish I hadn’t taken so long. It’s pretty unique in that it has an intersex protagonist and a queer love story, but it’s not just about that. I’m fascinated by the world, too: the different species, the magic, the Vestiges, what the mysterious glass is… And by the end of the book, I very much wanted to know more about Drystan, too.

I did have one disappointment, and that was the love interest’s reaction to Micah’s revelation of the fact that he is intersex. Also, I wish I was a little clearer on what pronouns Micah would prefer, just because I feel weird saying either he or she in the context. In real life, of course, I’d just ask. The ending of the arc with the love interest just really annoyed me, because it felt like an easy way out of dealing with the complex emotions that’d been stirred up by Micah’s revelation.

I’m definitely eager to read the rest, despite that discomfort throughout the book where I felt that reveal scene coming. I hope it’s not such a big thing in the other books, though.

Rating: 4/5

Buy this book: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository
The above affiliate links, at no extra cost to you, provide a small commission for me if you purchase something.

Tags: , , , ,

Divider

Review – Futureland

Posted 30 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Futureland by Walter Mosley

Futureland, Walter Mosley

I don’t really know what to make of this. I thought that Mosley’s writing was strong and engaging, but somehow the stories — all set in the same world, with stronger or weaker links between them depending on the story — didn’t quite work for me. There are so many fantastic ideas explored, but I found some of the endings of the stories a bit too predictable, and one or two of the stories left little impression on me because of that. Some of the stories worked beautifully, but others felt like they lacked something — paciness, mostly, or a real understanding for the reader of the tensions under the surface. One blurb says that “Futureland is an all-American nightmare just waiting to happen”, and I think that might be partly why it didn’t work for me, not being American and not having those exact worries and that history and context.

Nonetheless, it’s definitely an interesting collection, and I should totally check out more of Mosley’s work.

Rating: 3/5

Buy this book: Amazon UK | Amazon US
The above affiliate links, at no extra cost to you, provide a small commission for me if you purchase something.

Tags: , ,

Divider

Review – Goldilocks and the Water Bears

Posted 29 November, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Goldilocks and the Water Bears by Louisa PrestonGoldilocks and the Water Bears, Louisa Preston

The best thing about the book is that title. It’s just inspired. Unfortunately, it’s also misleading; actual tardigrades are covered in about three pages, buried in the middle of the book. Most of it is about the search for other life in the universe, what it might look like, where we might find it, and how it might survive. Granted, the blurb does say that, calling it “a tale of the origins and evolution of life, and the quest to find it on other planets, on moons, in other galaxies, and throughout the universe.” But still, I’d hoped for tardigrades to be a little more central, or at least more relevant than just another example in a litany of living creatures which can tolerate extreme conditions (or rather, what would be extreme from our point of view). At the very least, I was hoping for a survey of where in our solar system tardigrades could happily live. You can extrapolate that, but… I just wanted more water bears, okay?!

In terms of the writing, there are two especially irritating habits: one is a constant grammar failing, where the start of the sentence doesn’t agree in number with the end, and the other is an unfortunate habit of italicising key words in a way which gives the sentences really weird emphases. Sometimes names are randomly italicised, sometimes not. It’s not consistent and at the same time, it’s so pervasive as to be distracting.

(E.g. in the sentence above, Preston would have written, “There is two especially irritating habits”. No! That’s not… No! I can’t remember if she ever actually did it while stating a number as in that sentence, admittedly, but she would use “is” when there were two or more things being stated. No!)

The actual content is fine, if you weren’t hoping too much for more info on tardigrades. It’s a pretty workmanlike exploration of the concept of the Goldilocks zone and how it might help us identify suitable planets that are not our own.

Rating: 3/5

Buy this book: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository
The above affiliate links, at no extra cost to you, provide a small commission for me if you purchase something.

Tags: , , ,

Divider