Tag: Gavin Extence

Review – The Mirror World of Melody Black

Posted November 24, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Mirror World of Melody Black by Gavin ExtenceThe Mirror World of Melody Black, Gavin Extence

I was excited to read The Mirror World of Melody Black, given that I found myself enjoying The Universe Versus Alex Woods more than I expected to. Reading the first 100 pages or so, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to continue. See, the main character is bipolar, and her swings of mania and depression are really well written. I could see what was coming and wasn’t sure if I wanted to be along for the ride.

The thing is, when the main character is in a psychiatric ward, she and another character talk about it being an alternate world, and each person having their own portal to it. Basically, the turn you made that made everything go downhill. The thing that triggered the cycle. Getting better, she talks about seeing those portals and being able to avoid them. That struck a bit close — I have generalised anxiety disorder, and I’m constantly aware of the things I could do which might make me feel a little better, temporarily, but which could start me off on the whole rollercoaster of anxiety (where the only way seems to be down, and down, and down).

And around page 100, with the way Abby was behaving, I was a little worried this book was going to be one of those moments for me. Usually it’s a moment of stress in my life, or confronting a new situation. But really, I think I was just responding to Abby’s foreboding — and Extence’s. See, he finishes the book with a chapter in which he explains his own experience with mania. The chapters that I found uncomfortable were precisely the ones that made him uncomfortable and which embodied his experience the most. So yes, Mr Extence: you wrote something true. It worked.

If you’ve read this and don’t really understand the title, I have to wonder if it’s maybe because you don’t have that experience of those portals. You don’t know that a silly minor thing could constitute a left turn into another reality. The whole book, everything Abby does from the opening pages, it’s not really a story about finding her neighbour dead, being a journalist or dating when bipolar. It’s a story about that moment she takes the wrong turn and enters an alternate world, where logic stops working properly. Melody Black is important not particularly for herself, but because talking to her makes Abby realise these things. The ‘mirror world’ of the title is really Abby’s own head, when her manic phase is triggered, and Melody Black is just a symbol.

At least, that’s how I read it.

Rating: 5/5

Tags: , ,

Divider

Top Ten Tuesday

Posted March 3, 2015 by in General / 10 Comments

This week’s prompt for Top Ten Tuesday is “Top Ten Books You Would Classify As ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOKS from the past 3 years”. Which is a cruel one, I think, because argh, there are so many, and how can I remember when I read them all? But here’s a rough guess. These are, of course, books I’ve read in the last three years, not books published in the last three years, because I say so.

  1. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison. C’mon, you called it.
  2. Among Others, Jo Walton. This might be a bit out of the range now, but I’ve reread it in the last three years!
  3. Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge. I might shut up about this, someday.
  4. Behind the Shock Machine, Gina Perry. So much research went into this, and it’s a fascinating view on a very famous experiment.
  5. The Universe Versus Alex Woods, Gavin Extence. Lots of issues that fascinate me, wrapped up in an emotional book.
  6. The Dragon Waiting, John M. Ford. Man, this took so much digging through layers of stuff. I loved it.
  7. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, Allie Brosh. Because <3.
  8. The Grand Sophy, Georgette Heyer. Heyer is awesome, okay.
  9. The Carpet Makers, Andreas Eschbach. I remember this blowing my mind!
  10. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern. Gorgeous. <3

Tahdah! Now I daren’t look at other people’s lists, you’ll make me want stuff…

Tags: , , , , , ,

Divider

Top Ten Tuesday

Posted June 10, 2014 by Nikki in General / 8 Comments

Hooray, another Top Ten Tuesday post, run by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far This Year. Luckily, I have no lack of awesome books that I’ve been reading. I’ll link to my reviews on this blog. These are not in order of awesomeness, I couldn’t manage that! I’m not including rereads, or Jo Walton would swamp everything.

Cover of The Winter Soldier comic by Ed Brubaker Cover of Spillover by David Quamnem Cover of The Universe Versus Alex Woods, by Gavin Extence Cover of What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton Cover of Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, by Ed Brubaker et al. I just. All the feels.
  2. Spillover, by David Quammen. This one was fascinating. Lots and lots of stuff about not just the way animal diseases spill over into humans, but on the way humans interact with the environment, how we come into contact with these kinds of diseases.
  3. The Universe Versus Alex Woods, by Gavin Extence. I loved this, and really didn’t expect to. The quirky friendship, the bonding over books, and the things Alex ends up doing for that friendship. It’s beautiful and I’m pretty sure I cried. It deals with a topic that’s really important to me, too — as it happens, my tithe this month went to Dignity in Dying, campaigning for the right to voluntary euthanasia in this country.
  4. What Makes This Book So Great, by Jo Walton. I love this as a resource for more books to read, and as a way to read insightful discussions about books and get a different perspective on them. Also, it’s just a really good read.
  5. Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell. I think this one may have surprised people who know me, but somehow I just adored it. Good building of characters, and I like the way the love story comes about.
  6. Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge. Got this as an ARC, had it finished before the end of the day. Just captivating. I love that it’s a changeling story, and the story itself doesn’t work out the way you might expect.
  7. My Real Children, by Jo Walton. Can’t miss this one out. I was uncertain how I felt about the style and structure, and then right at the end Jo pulled everything together and made it work. And despite a certain simplicity about it, I cried — multiple times.
  8. Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, by J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien. I’ve been waiting for this for, literally, years. I always hoped Christopher Tolkien would publish this, and stop holding it back. The translation is interesting, but actually what really excited me were Tolkien’s in depth notes on just about every aspect of the poem, including close reading of the actual Anglo-Saxon words.
  9. Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues, by Gail Simone et al. I only really knew of Red Sonja as a sexist symbol whose image caused some trouble in the SF/F community. So I wasn’t sure about trying this out, but I’d heard good things about Gail Simone. And it turns out she created a good story with fun characters, full of powerful women who are not perfect, but who are compelling and are not just fan service.
  10. The Broken Land, by Ian McDonald. I wasn’t expecting to love this one so much, but it fascinated me. It creates a world that’s different to pretty much anything else I can think of, and comments on civil wars and the rifts they can create. It’s not light reading, but I thought it was good.

Cover of Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge Cover of My Real Children by Jo Walton Cover of Beowulf trans. J.R.R. Tolkien Cover of Red Sonja by Gail Simone Cover of The Broken Land by Ian McDonald

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Divider

What are you reading Wednesday

Posted February 6, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
The Universe Versus Alex Woods, which made me cry. It starts off misleadingly quirky, and then I went and fell in love with it, and the ideas it articulates. I almost want it to be a surprise in the same way for everyone who reads it (if you’d like the surprise, don’t read my review), because I love the way it developed. I’ve got to keep an eye out for Gavin Extence’s other work.

What are you currently reading?
I still haven’t finished reading Rachel Neumeier’s Black Dog. When I do read it, I’m biting it off in big chunks, but I don’t just want to nibble at it — which is hard, when I’ve had a lot of work on, and nibbling books are what I need at the moment.

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings, by Caspar Henderson, is my currently ‘nibbling’ book, though I’m nearly finished with it. It’s a type of modern bestiary, which I think has confused lots of people who expected something encyclopaedic and mostly scientific, whereas this draws from the medieval tradition of articulating philosophical/moral concepts through talking about mythical/little-known creatures.

I’m also reading The Iron Wyrm Affair, by Lilith Saintcrow, which is so far too blatantly drawing on the Sherlock Holmes tradition for me to be too interested, although it does feature a female main character who seems to have a fair amount of agency and power without being perfect, so we’ll see how that goes on.

What do you think you’ll read next?
I have Secret Chambers, by Martin Brasier, next on my pile. I’m in a non-fiction mood at the moment, so that’s been calling me. Also maybe Cosmos, by Carl Sagan, because of my astrobiology and astronomy classes.

Fiction-wise, I should just be working on my backlog of books/series started and not yet finished. The Assassin’s Curse, by Cassandra Rose Clarke, is next on my pile in that sense.

And now I’m going to go off and draw for the winner of my giveaway for Black Dog!

Tags: , , , ,

Divider

Review – The Universe Versus Alex Woods

Posted February 4, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 5 Comments

Cover of The Universe Versus Alex Woods, by Gavin ExtenceThe Universe Versus Alex Woods, Gavin Extence

Oh, wow. The Universe Versus Alex Woods starts off seeming like it’s gonna be a quirky sort of book: the narration is matter of fact where it possibly shouldn’t be, and the situation Alex is in on the opening pages is an interesting one. Unfortunately for everyone who picked it up on the basis of that, it’s not really the kind of book it turned out to be. I don’t know that I’d call it funny — it’s not laugh out loud funny, anyway; more “wry smiles” funny — and I don’t know that I’d call it heartbreaking, either. It made me cry, but the simplicity of the narrative voice kept it from being maudlin, from dwelling too much on any of the important details, which is what for me made them strike all the more forcefully.

It is the story of an unlikely friendship, that’s definitely true, and it’s a beautiful story from my point of view. It’s fairly apparent from the first chapter, to me, what exactly is going on here: what matters is how we get there, and how much less funny/quirky it seems by the end, and how much more sad and true and beautiful. But if you don’t want to know, don’t read any further in this review.

What was apparent to me from the beginning is that this is a book about an assisted suicide. It didn’t even need to be stated clearly: trying to get back into the country at Dover, the urn of ashes, somehow it all just clicked for me. Possibly because this is an issue that I’ve thought about at great length, forwards and backwards. Because if I were Alex Woods, I’d do exactly the same things, in exactly that order, and I would feel exactly as right about it.

The friendship between the two is the fun and quirky part; the fact that, when Mr. Peterson becomes ill, Alex chooses to take care of him, and then to make sure that he is also allowed to die when he’s ready, and the understanding between the two… This is an idealised version of how this might happen, and the fact that Alex narrates means that we don’t pull up and see this from another character’s point of view — how they might worry about Alex’s reactions, how he might feel — and that might make some people feel that this is a book somehow advocating for euthanasia. Which I think it is, but only in the sense that it makes it clear that to be allowed a choice about how and when we die makes it a lot easier to die — and that for some people ‘how’ and ‘when’ might be very clearly defined, as they are for Mr. Peterson. But I don’t think it advocates euthanasia as the only way. It just emphasises choice, and how very comforting it is to many people to know that they have control over even that last inevitability. It even emphasises choice in smaller matters, like what drugs you take.

If you don’t understand why someone would want assisted suicide, this might help. If you don’t understand why someone would want to help someone commit suicide, I think this would definitely help. And if you already understand both of those things, then it’s still something that articulates all this very clearly, and might just give you words or clarity for yourself in the future.

I am definitely, definitely keeping this book. I will probably lend it to people, and I hope I never need to read it again myself, but I can imagine times when I might want to.

Tags: , ,

Divider