Tag: books


Review – Attachments

Posted 18 May, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Attachments by Rainbow RowellAttachments, Rainbow Rowell

I unexpectedly adored this. I was tempted to stay up late to finish it. I pretty much devoured it. I feel the urge to defend it against bad/lukewarm reviews. And I don’t even really know why — there’s something in the writing style, the characters, the warmth I feel from it.

I love that it deals with heavy issues like self-esteem and miscarriage and self-loathing without making them seem incidental and trivial: Lincoln falls in love with Beth partly because of how she comforts Jennifer, and so did I. She seems a wonderfully warm character, wise, and yet not perfect. If she were perfect, she would have seen her relationship with Chris for what it was. Jennifer is a side character, but she’s not just a plot device: I cared about her issues with having a baby, with her grief and guilt. I cared about Lincoln’s mother’s issues, his sister.

Also, I loved the nostalgia. I was a kid at the time, I guess, but I still remember the new millennium, the worry about the Y2K issues with computers, and I remember those email filters on the school computers and… I think that’s likely to seem like a completely different world to readers only a little younger than me, but I was a bit charmed by the nostalgia factor there.

Bottom line, it’s not a life-changing book, it’s not going to shake your world view in any way. But it’s enjoyable and sweet, and I loved it. It’s a chick flick in novel form, in terms of theme and plot, but it takes serious things seriously, and that makes the whole thing work.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 17 May, 2014 by Nikki in General / 28 Comments

Time for the Stacking the Shelves meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. Busy week! These actually came in an assortment of omnibuses, but seeing the individual books with their old covers seems more fun to me.

Cover of Taltos by Steven Brust Cover of Phoenix by Steven Brust Cover of Athyra by Steven Brust Cover of Orca by Steven Brust Cover of Dragon by Steven Brust Cover of Issola by Steven Brust Cover of Dzur by Steven Brust Cover of Jhegaala by Steven Brust

Also received my print ARC of Carrie Patel’s The Buried Life! <3

Oh, and some comics…

Cover of Marvel's Captain Marvel, issue three

Oh, and one final review copy…

Cover of Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick

I’m not a big fan of Emma Rios’ style, but I do enjoy Kelly Sue DeConnick’s work, so I’m excited. And yes, this post is pretty much the Steven Brust and Kelly Sue DeConnick show.

What’s everyone else been up to?

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 15 May, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
Most recent was The Twelve Caesars (Matthew Dennison), which was disappointing in its total inability to make any concrete statements. Like being wrapped up in wool. Ugh. I’ll stick to getting round to Suetonius. Before that was The Door into Summer (Robert Heinlein), which I liked well enough but didn’t blow me away (and creeped me out in the place it usually creeps people out).

What are you currently reading?
My Real Children (Jo Walton). I gulp it down when I get a minute, but I haven’t been in the mood to read as much so I haven’t been making the minutes. Also The Buried Life (Carrie Patel), same issue.

What will you read next?
For once, I’m fairly certain: it’ll be Steven Brust’s Yendi. Otherwise, I’m still going to work on the endless currently reading list, though I am for some reason very tempted to try Jim Butcher again, and to try reading more Vorkosigan (Lois McMaster Bujold). Because it’s not as though I have enough on the go already, right?

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Review – The Twelve Caesars

Posted 13 May, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Twelve Caesars by Matthew DennisonThe Twelve Caesars, Matthew Dennison

The quote on the cover calling this ‘gossipy’ is right; ‘insightful’, not so much. There’s a lack of meaningful dates and orientation, and Dennison avoids picking a side so much that he immediately undermines any definite point with something else. He talks about Tiberius, for example, presents him as a little reluctant to take power, and then a couple of pages later presents him as a power-hungry tyrant; he talks about his simple, ascetic life, and then repeats gossip about his sexual proclivities and excesses.

It mostly seems as though Dennison is unsure about what the truths are, and isn’t willing to put in the scholarship to figure out how true or false any particular assertion may be. He just seems to present it all.

So yeah, didn’t find this all that entertaining, really. It’s just so vague about actual events.

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Review – The Door into Summer

Posted 12 May, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of The Door Into Summer by Robert A. HeinleinThe Door into Summer, Robert Heinlein

I haven’t previously managed to get through any of Heinlein’s work, but I am nothing if not determined, so I finally picked this up and decided to have a jolly good go. And it was okay. The style is easy to read, conversational; matter of fact, even. It’s almost not like reading a story, except of course you know that few of Heinlein’s predictions work out (though he did predict the Roomba).

It’s an interesting take on cold sleep/time travel, and a personal one. Dan isn’t saving the world, he’s just setting some personal wrongs right. Despite that, I didn’t find it particularly driven by character: my sympathy for Dan as a character comes from the situation he’s in, not for any personal qualities.

The best bits about the story are Dan’s cat, who has a personality all his own, and who I rooted for more than anyone else in the book. Cat lovers will appreciate this one, and I think Heinlein got close to poetry in the way he talked about Pete, particularly at the end. It was certainly the best of his prose.

People rightly find the plot with Dan’s friend’s stepdaughter, Ricky, pretty creepy. I mean, he meets her when she’s a kid, she has a crush on him which he knows about but treats as a joke… until the grown woman he’s engaged to turns out to be scamming him, and then suddenly he says that if Ricky had been a little older, he’d never even have looked at Belle. And then follows a whole plot where he wants to track her down and marry her, and ends up going to her while she’s still a kid and telling her to put herself in cold sleep when she’s twenty-one so that he can then marry her when she’s an adult. It’s a bit of a fairytale anyway, a kid that age knowing what she wants and going through with it like that without ever doubting or changing her mind (not that we get to see Ricky’s thought processes or how she grows up). But knowing her as a kid and deciding, based on that, that he wants to marry her, without ever meeting her as an adult — yeah, kind of disturbing.

All in all, it’s an easy read and interesting, but I can’t say it’s converted me to being a liker of Heinlein. I do want to try one more of his, since all I’ve read is this and part of A Stranger in a Strange Land, but it’s the sort of thing where you have to keep the words “of its time” very firmly in mind.

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Review – Jhereg

Posted 10 May, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Jhereg by Steven BrustJhereg, Steven Brust

I was pretty sure I was going to like this, since some people whose taste I trust have mentioned it to me before. (The whole series features in Jo Walton’s series of posts on Tor.com/in her collection of those posts in book-form, and was one of the ones from the list I made while reading it that I have underlined several times as a priority.) Still, I wasn’t sure enough, so I only ordered the first omnibus, which contains the first three books. Ten chapters in, I ordered the rest. Unfortunately, I’ve had them sent to the wrong address, so I am pondering how to pace out reading Yendi and Teckla so that I don’t finish them before I am, one way or another, in the same place as the rest of the books.

At the same time as noting that I loved this book, I will add that knowing a bit about this series to begin with helps. Like, knowing that so much of the series was planned in advance, appreciating the fact that it all plays with time… And knowing people I like love it makes me inclined to extend it some credit. Still, I did very much enjoy it for itself. It’s nice that there’s a whole complicated background to discover in time, over the course of the series, and that Brust avoids any unnecessary info dumps. I did feel a little bit expositioned at, a couple of times, but it was in Vlad’s voice so it still worked.

Very interested to see where this goes, how Vlad develops, and how various things that I know about from reading mild spoilers in reviews come about. And now, onto Yendi.

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Stacking the Shelves

Posted 10 May, 2014 by Nikki in General / 34 Comments

Aaand time for Tynga’s Reviews‘ Stacking the Shelves. It’s been a busy week, book-wise. I didn’t think it would be, but then I ended up in an indie bookshop, plus I ordered one book Jo Walton recommended, and have now ended up ordering the whole series. Most of them haven’t arrived yet, though, so I’ll save them for next week’s post!

Review copies/ARCs

Cover of The Bluffer's Guide to Rugby by Steven Gauge Cover of My Real Children by Jo Walton

Library

Cover of Attachments by Rainbow Rowell Cover of Elantris by Brandon Sanderson Cover of The Rook, by Daniel O'Malley

Bought

Cover of Jhereg by Steven Brust Cover of Yendi, by Steven Brust Cover of Teckla by Steven Brust Cover of Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley Cover of A Different Kingdom by Paul Kearney Cover of The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy

The Vlad Taltos series is the one that’s dragged me in kicking and, well, not at all complaining, just flailing vaguely to get my book-balance. Enjoying it very much, so far. Will probably have finished Jhereg by the time this post goes live. That’s the plan, anyway. And of course I’m very excited to have My Real Children, though time and Steven Brust are conspiring against me getting round to reading it.

What’s everyone else up to?

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Review – Astonishing X-Men: Torn

Posted 9 May, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Astonishing X-men: Torn by Joss WhedonAstonishing X-Men: Torn, Joss Whedon, John Cassaday

The copy of this I picked up has no indication of where it might come in a series. I was sure it was probably in the middle of something anyway, but I thought I’d give it a go, see if X-men is something I’m interested in following (’cause you know, it’s not like I’m following enough already).

If you’re already invested in the characters and know what’s going on the story, then I think this would be a gut punch of a volume. There’s some amazing stuff going on with Kitty Pryde, and all of the X-men are affected in one way or another by what happens here. Unfortunately, for me, I just don’t know enough of the background — everything I know about Kitty I know from Ultimate Spider-man, everything I know about Scott I remember from a cartoon when I was little, and a lot of them I don’t know at all. It looks like an interesting storyline, and the art is good, but I just can’t say I enjoyed it when I was so at sea for most of it.

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Review – Warbreaker

Posted 9 May, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Warbreaker, by Brandon SandersonWarbreaker, Brandon Sanderson

There were some flaws for me with Warbreaker — like many other reviewers, I felt that the wrapping up at the end went way too fast — but all in all, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve found that I like Brandon Sanderson’s world-building a lot, no matter what he’s doing: he seems to bring a flair to it, seems to be able to make it that bit different from the rest of the fantasy fare around. I wasn’t sure anyone could pull off some of the stuff in Warbreaker, like the princesses whose hair changed colours with their mood — it seemed like something right out of some kind of wish fulfillment fanfic, which generally doesn’t do much for me. I mean, it’s usually changing eye colour in those stories, but the super specialness applies.

The other thing is that Sanderson manages to keep things consistent. None of this felt like a deus ex machina, even when it kind of was: the various sacrifices, discoveries, etc, all seemed perfectly foreshadowed by the text. I didn’t find all of it terribly surprising — I figured out some people weren’t as trustworthy as they seemed to the princesses, for example — but I did enjoy it, and I felt it makes sense. The storytelling, too, works for me: it goes along at a great pace and kept me interested and going ‘just one more chapter, just one more’ again and again.

One thing I didn’t like so much was Vivenna’s character development. Or Siri’s, in a way: I liked that Siri became capable, learned to value herself, learned what she could do. I wasn’t enamoured of the way they basically swapped roles, though. And we spent an awful lot of time with Vivenna being self-important and self-righteous, neither of which are traits that appeal to me. I wasn’t, in general, very attached to Vivenna and Vasher at all; their stories were necessary for the plot, but emotionally I didn’t get attached. I suppose really, I was mostly attached to Lightsong and Llarimar: Lightsong’s character development was something I really was interested in.

The ending wraps up extremely quickly, and leaves things wide open for another book, but the story itself is self-contained as well, which is rare enough in this time of trilogies (and trilogies of trilogies). I loved that it wrapped up within one book, leaving things open and uncertain in the future for the characters, but without leaving any big gaps.

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On being Welsh

Posted 8 May, 2014 by Nikki in General / 9 Comments

I went looking for reviews of a book I picked up from the library yesterday, and boy, do I regret it. The book in question is The Rook, by Daniel O’Malley, and the problem was the protagonist’s name. See, the protagonist’s name is Welsh: Myfanwy Thomas. I don’t think you could get much more Welsh unless you had a guy called Evan Evans or something. Now, the author screwed up to begin with, because he decided he didn’t like the way ‘Myfanwy’ is actually pronounced. He wanted it to rhyme with ‘Tiffany’. So that’s what he has his character say, on the first page. That’s… actually annoying enough to me that I’m considering dropping the book without even opening it, but that’s not really the thing.

The thing was, going to look at reviews and finding a whole bunch where the reviewers are just so amused by this weird name. One of them said they constantly read it as ‘my fanny’. Some of them couldn’t spell it, even with it right there in front of them on the book or, even without the book, on the blurb on the very page they were reviewing on.

I remember as a kid asking my mum or dad why I didn’t have a Welsh name, since my mother’s all about being Welsh and proud. The answer I got was, “We thought other kids would make fun of you.” But there I was growing up with a strong Welsh identity in England, so although I’m assured by English people that this doesn’t happen, I was nonetheless bullied for that anyway. And the school sucked at dealing with it: a boy said ‘nigger’ to a friend in the playground, and the whole school got a half hour lecture about cultural sensitivity; I was bullied to tears, called Taffy and thief, on and on, and it was ignored. Inappropriate suggestions about me and sheep were also made, very graphically, from when I was eleven on up, but that wasn’t harassment of any kind.

I didn’t read a book by an author people recognised as Welsh until I was twenty-one (it was Margiad Evans’ Country Dance). In the introduction, Caitrin Collier wrote this:

I grew up in Wales in the 1950s and 60s, yet [Margiad Evans’] work was never mentioned at my school or local library. Whenever I asked the eternal question ‘What should I read next?’ I was directed towards Russian, English, American, German and French novelists. I discovered a few — a precious few — Welsh authors for myself, which only added weight to my teachers’s pronouncement that ‘people like you (translate as South Wales valley born) don’t write’.

That was my experience, too, though granted in England in the 90s and 00s. It mirrors stuff I’ve read about the experience of many more widely recognised minorities — people of colour, the queer community, women, people of non-dominant religions… Some of the discussions I’ve had about figuring out identity, about language — specifically, not speaking your ‘own’ language, or being encouraged not to — and fitting in all chimed with this issue for me.

I pointed out to a couple of these reviewers what kind of cultural issues they were trampling on. But nobody gives a shit, it’s ‘only’ Wales, it’s just a personal sob story about a name that isn’t even mine. (The fact that I don’t have a Welsh name because of exactly these issues doesn’t seem to mean anything.)

“Go and find your own place to tell these stories,” someone said to me, when I brought up that issue of identifying with those issues of other minority groups. “People will listen to you because you’re privileged, and they won’t listen to us. By talking about it here, you’re taking away the attention we need for our issues.”

I can understand why they wanted to keep the boundaries of their space clear, but I wonder why on earth they thought anyone would listen to me? I’m still looking for that mythical place where people will. Half the time, I find myself wondering if I’ve got anything interesting to say at all, but every now and then, someone else reaches back and says, yeah, I felt this too. So I’m not quite alone.

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