Magic Shifts, Ilona Andrews
It’s been a while since I read this, and I’m not sure why I didn’t write a review at the time. Since it’s been a while since I read it (eek, a year!) I can’t comment in much detail, but it’s a worthwhile addition to the series, starting a new chapter in Kate and Curran’s lives — and spending more time dealing with who exactly Kate is, what Roland can do, and what Kate and Curran are going to do without the Pack.
Not that they’re entirely without their old allies, of course…
It’s pretty much what you’d expect from this series, in other ways: pacy writing, Kate and Curran being badass but also idiots, and some really weird shit going on that they really should deal with. If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, you’ll enjoy this one too.
One Renegade Cell, Robert Weinberg
One Renegade Cell is a classic by now in terms of pop science books which explain cancer for an interested but non-specialist audience. It’s a little out of date, and some of the hopes Weinberg talks about in terms of treatments to come haven’t come to pass at all. But the basics are still true, and you can get a good basic understanding of how cancer works by reading it. It’s clear and accessible, and I didn’t find it prone to fear-mongoring either — sometimes when someone is writing about cancer, it seems like they can’t help but try to scare the reader silly.
One Renegade Cell doesn’t try to mystify cancer or play up its impact; the impact of cancer pretty much speaks for itself. It’s a solid read, even though it’s out of date now.
Camelot’s Honour, Sarah Zettel
Camelot’s Honour might be my favourite of the quartet, now that I think about it. Okay, Camelot’s Shadow has Gawain, and the clever weaving together of the story of the Green Knight and the story of the Loathly Lady… but this is the most Welsh-inspired book of the quartet, including characters from the Mabinogion and weaving together various strands of mythology which aren’t necessarily Arthurian. I’m not a purist about that; I loved it.
It might not be the most stirring of the love stories, but the quiet strength Elen and Geraint have together is great. He’s the strong and silent type, less susceptible to a pretty face, and a bit less lionised as completely amazing by Zettel, which makes him more interesting.
Maybe I could wish for a few more of the themes of this book, not to mention the characters, to carry through into others of the series. But it’s still great fun.
Outer Space, Inner Lands, Ursula Le Guin
Outer Space, Inner Lands is the second of two volumes collecting together the best of Ursula Le Guin’s short fiction. It’s also the one containing all the SF work, or at least all the less realistic work, and it contains stories like ‘Those Who Walk Away from Omelas’, one of Ursula Le Guin’s most famous stories (at least among people I know) — though not my favourite, as I think the moral is obvious from the beginning.
As always, Le Guin’s writing is clear and strong, and the stories chosen here span her career and showcase all kinds of different ideas and different phases of her work. I prefer it to the first volume, because I find Le Guin’s speculative fiction more accessible.
She’s brilliant. Do yourself a favour.
Dead Until Dark, Charlaine Harris
I could have sworn I reviewed this back when I read it, which was quite a while ago, but apparently not. So this review will be pretty short. Basically, I felt that Sookie wasn’t convincing as a protagonist — she’s just so stupid (“oh, I’ll just wander into a dangerous situation, everything will be fine!”) and yet so lucky (everything is indeed fine). I didn’t find those decisions she made plausible, at least not for a character I’m meant to like.
I do actually enjoy Harris’ books as light reading, or at least I liked the Harper Connolly books. So unfortunately it’s probably mostly that I really didn’t take to Sookie.
This is the second of my scheduled way-in-advance posts, so it’s not the most up to date, but next week I’ll be back with your regularly scheduled update. I don’t have a new bunny picture to share, since the buns are off at the babysitter’s, but here’s an older one of Hulk begging to be pet, and one of Breakfast cleaning his face!
How have I deserved such cute buns?
Books bought this week:
Again, just a tiny selection from a rather larger haul. Calgary’s bookshops probably fear me, by now.
Books read this week:
Not much reading this week, given roadtrips and such!
Reviews posted this week:
–Acadie, by Dave Hutchinson. I was along for the ride, nodding at the fairly predictable beats — and then wham, the ending jacked it up a star. 4/5 stars
–Why Dinosaurs Matter, by Kenneth Lacovara. Nothing much new if you know your dinosaurs, but interesting all the same. 3/5 stars
–The Shadowy Horses, by Susanna Kearsley. Give me moooore of the archaeology, less of the ghost story! 3/5 stars
–Hengeworld, by Mike Pitts. Fascinating discussion of the mythic landscape of Paleolithic Britain, although I don’t always agree with Pitts’ assessments. Lots of depth on the archaeological digs and so on. 3/5 stars
–The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin. …I don’t get the fuss, sorry. 2/5 stars
–A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers. More insular and intimate than the first book, this feels less easily resolved too. I enjoyed it a lot, and it can stand alone if you’re interested. 4/5 stars
–The Making of the Fittest, by Sean B. Carroll. Basically looks at the “forensic record” of evolution encoded in DNA. Interesting enough, especially if you’re looking for examples to cite… 3/5 stars
–WWW Wednesday. The update on what I’m reading and what I might read next.
I know I’ve been away, but I’ll be back soon after this goes up, so let me know how you’re all doing!
The Making of the Fittest, Sean B. Carroll
The Making of the Fittest is really about that subtitle: “DNA and the ultimate forensic record of evolution”. It’s all about showing that DNA holds the record of evolution, and essentially proves what is difficult to see in real time. There are some good examples, but overall I found myself wondering if anyone who wasn’t already convinced would become convinced by this book. DNA isn’t exactly a secret, and the fact that many species share DNA isn’t either, and yet people still doubt that that means anything.
It’s a good enough read if you’re looking for examples, though, and good if you really want to get to grips with examples of convergent evolution, too.
A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers
A Closed and Common Orbit felt even more insular and intimate than The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, which was pretty closely focused on its crew. This book features Lovelace — the base AI Lovey developed from, but without her memories — and Pepper, who is a side character in the first book. It’s mostly about Lovelace, or Sidra, as she decides to call herself, and how she finds her way and figures out how to be herself, how to be a person, but it also follows Pepper’s past and shows how she got to where she was too. Found family is a theme here again, and there’s the same diversity of characters that a lot of people (including me!) loved from the first book.
This book does improve on The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet in a key way: it doesn’t feel as much like the conflicts and problems are resolved too easily. It does feel as though the characters have to work for it, and have to compromise rather than get an ideal outcome. There were one or two cases of that in the first book, but overall it felt too easily solved; that’s not the case here, in my opinion, which makes the payoff the sweeter.
Again, if soft SF is your thing, and you’re looking for something with interpersonal rather than intergalactic conflicts (though there’s some hints of the wider world as well) then this may well be your cup of tea. I’d start with the first book, though; it’s not necessary, but it gives you some context.
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?
Being me, the answer is “too much at once”. I’ve got two non-fiction books on the go — Imagining Head-Smashed-In, by Jack W. Brink, which is about the buffalo jump in Alberta, and The Atheist and the Bonobo, by Frans de Waal. I’m finding both of them interesting, and at least Brink’s book has been praised by First Nations people.
Fiction-wise, I’m reading The Bear and the Nightingale, and trying to finish it. I’m also partway through The Horns of Ruin by Tim Akers, which is interesting but a little overwhelming.
What have you recently finished reading?
I haven’t actually been finishing much this week, since I’ve been in Canada and going on long car trips, etc. But I did finish The Gods of Olympus, by Barbara Graziosi. It was interesting, but not exactly revelatory — I seemed to know most of the stuff about the development of the way people perceived the Olympians.
Before that, I think the last thing I finished was A Wrinkle in Time. I know it’s a classic, but… it kind of left me cold. Sorry?
What will you read next?
I don’t quite know. Possibly the next Vlad Taltos book — I reread Jhereg last week. Or I should start Caliban’s War, which I still haven’t read, even though it was last month’s book club read. Oops.
What are you reading?
The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin
I’ve been vaguely aware that this book existed for ages, but never picked it up — I’m pretty sure I didn’t know anything except the title, in fact, because I wasn’t sure what to expect when I did pick this up. I know it’s supposed to be a bit of a classic and it won awards and all, but I didn’t really get into it. The mystery is so-so and there’s too many characters crammed into a small number of pages — and yet I found myself wondering when it’s be over.
Turtle is a fun character, for sure, and I found myself a little bit caught up in how she and her sister navigated their issues… but otherwise, I mostly didn’t get into this at all, care about the characters or really wonder about the mystery. Meh?