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coprime: animated icon of a boy reading intensely and then shouting "But I don't want it to be over!!" (books)
Sunday, August 5th, 2012 10:42 pm
I always enjoy writing up my thoughts about the books I've read, but I never seem to stick to it long-term. So here goes try number three at making it stick.

Ladies of Lantern Street #1: Crystal Gardens - Amanda Quick*
I wanted so much to like this book but in the end there were too many things that left me rolling my eyes for it to be more than okay. All of the dialogue, but especially Evangeline's, came across as affected and unrealistic to my ear. The constant use of the twee word "psychical" didn't help either. The romance between Evangeline and Lucas lacked any sort of tension. Lucas very quickly realized that he wanted to marry her and then that was it for his romantic plot arc, while Evangeline said the relationship would end after the danger was taken care of but then acted exactly the opposite. There were several plot points that just felt like they were never explored as fully as they should have been so that when they got wrapped up at the end, it all felt too neat - the final confrontation between Lucas and Judith, the confrontation with the murderer that included six pages of dialogue explaining the murderer's motivation, and the really cute secondary romance that got one scene devoted to it before the couple ended up happily engaged offscreen. The last was especially disappointing because I would have liked to see more of them. They seemed surprisingly well-suited to each other, but all I got was that one scene.

There were good bits - the different suspense plots were interesting, and I always enjoy seeing family and friends work together and help each other - but so many things threw me out of the story that I couldn't immerse myself like I normally do and that significantly decreased my enjoyment of this book. I really did want to like it too.

Flight v3 - Kazu Kibuishi, ed.
This is a collection of short comics by about twenty-five different artists spanning a variety of styles, genres, and emotional tones. I was very surprised by the quality in this volume; I thoroughly enjoyed around two-thirds of the stories. The other third mostly had the problem (for me) of me either not understanding the comic or finding it a bit dark for my taste. And there was one comic I vehemently disagreed with. (I don't care what a stranger looks like, if I find them with their hand inside my purse, I am assuming they're stealing from me and I really don't think I should be faulted for that.) I would definitely enjoy reading the other Flight collections.

Hereville v1: How Mirka Got Her Sword - Barry Deutsch
I originally read the 57-page webcomic version of this (that has since disappeared off the internet) and enjoyed it so much that I knew I wanted to get it in dead tree form as well, especially since the book was over twice as long. I have a feeling that one can read the book's subtitle ("Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl") and pretty much know whether this is the sort of thing one wants to read or not. I loved everything about it: the art, Mirka and her stubbornness, her family, the look at Orthodox Judaism (something I know little about), and especially how Mirka finally won her sword.

Sector General #1-3: Beginning Operations - James White
This is an omnibus of the first three Sector General novels, and after reading this I am eager to get the rest of the series. The Sector General novels are science fiction stories set aboard a gigantic hospital in space. The first novel was a bunch of independent short stories while the other two were more of a novel being presented through linked short stories. I loved the imagination shown in the different types of aliens and in the mysteries presented by their symptoms. I never once felt that these medical mysteries were getting repetitive or predictable.

The only annoying bits were a fair amount of repetitive descriptions (Everything was originally written as short stories that got independently published and then gathered into novel-length format. So explanations regarding the hospital in general and some of its tech and the more common aliens just gets repeated nearly word-for-word.) and a really jarring bit of sexism. The first short story written was written in the 1950s, and I know a lot of older science fiction really doesn't do too well on the "female characters are people too" test. Sector General surprised me by feeling like it could have been written within the last twenty years. Until I got to the bit where Earth-human females can't use this one particular bit of important technology because our brains are too emotional and using it would drive us insane. So there's like five hundred pages of awesome alien medical mysteries, twenty pages of repeated descriptions, and one page of sexist crap.

I dealt with it by just ignoring that one page, but other people's mileage may vary.

Life Behind the Mask: Memoir of a Youth Baseball Umpire - Michael Schafer*
I'm not sure why LibraryThing matched me with this book (I don't have many sports-related books or memoirs in my library.), but I'm really glad it did. I took my time reading it, enjoying it leisurely, and letting the author's love for the game sink in. The author explains many of baseball's more complicated rules and uses those rules as an excuse to tell stories about some of the more memorable games he's umpired for. I'm only a casual baseball fan, but I never had problems understanding the author's explanations. I came away from this book with a greater appreciation of the game of baseball as well as a greater understanding of the game.

*I won a copy of this through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.
coprime: animated icon of a boy reading intensely and then shouting "But I don't want it to be over!!" (books)
Thursday, February 19th, 2009 11:27 pm
I want the Trilogy bookcase so bad. Look how geometric and orderly it is! Sadly, I cannot afford it, and even if I could I have no place to put it. I think the Platzhalter bookcase is cool idea well-executed. It was my favorite bookcase until I saw the Trilogy one.

Uncharted Territory - Connie Willis
For the longest time, whenever I went into a bookstore, I had to remind myself that it was a bad idea to start collecting everything by an author when I'd only read one thing of hers, even if I had really enjoyed it. And that I already had two other novels of hers sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. So I finally decided to actually read one of those two novels, and I picked Uncharted Territory (rather than Lincoln's Dreams) because the premise sounded fun -- hijinks and adventures! exploration! needlessly ridiculous bureaucratic red tape! a socioexozoologist who specializes in sex! -- and it was short.

And I did really enjoy it until the end because nothing had changed in the end. Fin and Carson are the same at the end of the story as they were in the beginning. I would have been happy even if the end change had just been mental or if they'd decided that they didn't want to be in a relationship. Instead, I finished and was left with the impression that all the events in the book might as well have not happened for all the impact they had on Fin and Carson. Which is not what I would call a satisfying ending.

The Drakon #3: Queen of Dragons - Shana Abé
Ohh, I wanted to like this book. It's a historical romance about a race of dragon/human shapeshifters, and [ profile] glenraven read and thought I'd like the first Drakon book. I picked up the third Drakon book first, but I thought I'd be okay because I've found that most romance series can be read out of order so long as you don't mind not knowing all the details when couples from previous books pop up. But it turns out this approach doesn't work so much for this series because when the hero from a previous book popped up, he was doing secretive, important-to-the-plot things and not a one of them was explained. I was left thoroughly confused, right in the middle of the final action scene.

I also had an issue with the fact that the entire action plot was just a set-up for the next book and nothing actually gets resolved. No, seriously, I very nearly threw the book across the room I was so frustrated with the ending. The book ends with spoilers if you care )

And then I had a lot of issues with the romance aspect of the novel. Partially, it's because I'm a bit sick of every shapeshifter/demon/animal hybrid/etc. having some sort of "animal instinct" where they must mate for life with one specific person and if that person isn't overly enthusiastic about them, then they just keep pursuing the person despite the other's wishes because their instinct tells them differently. It's very popular in paranormal romance, which is mostly what I read. And I don't like it because it dehumanizes the couple for me. There's always lots of talk about mates and alphas and such, and it's done regardless of whether our hero and heroine are dragon-shapeshifters, psychics, vampires, some form of were-. I can understand it more with the weres/shapeshifters, but why with other paranormal characters? Why can't the hero and heroine just fall head-over-heels for each other like normal, human romance couples do?

I will give Abé credit for doing a good job of integrating the different forms of the Drakon so that they all seemed equally natural. Kim and Mari were appreciative of each other and had chemistry no matter their form, and it never read weird for me. (Although -- and I know I'm harping -- I wold have expected dragon instincts to tend more towards a solitary existence rather than a pack existence.) But then halfway through the novel Kim did something where, if I had been Mari and had gone through what she'd gone through with her previous husband, I would not be able to trust him again without some serious work on his part.

I never got the emotional payoff of them rebuilding their trust however because Abé (and therefore Mari) didn't see what happened as that much of an issue as I did. So Kim made extra special sure not to do what he did again, and Mari had no doubts or hesitance at all stemming from Kim's actions. Sure, she still didn't want to end up in the same situation as when she'd been married before, but that was because she was against getting remarried in general. She never once thought "I don't want to get married, and especially not to Kim because he treated me like my former husband did (albeit by accident)."

Oh, and then there's Kim, who (along with the rest of his village) spends nearly the entire book acting like Mari and he are already married because years before he met her, he and the village council decided he should marry her for political reasons. And then when Kim and Mari finally meet, bam! they're married in the eyes of everyone except Mari, who keeps saying that no way no how is she going to get married again. Kim doesn't ever physically force himself on Mari, but it's incredibly annoying to have the hero saying that he doesn't care about the heroine's wishes on the matter of her marital status, he's decided they are and that's that.

Between my numerous frustrations with the romance plot and the wash-out that was the ending of the action plot, I was very dissatisfied with this book, and I don't think I'll read any more of this series. I might be willing to read one of her other novels if it was recommended to me by someone I know, but that's it.

ETA: [ profile] glenraven has informed me that this is the really sucktacular book of the series and that the two before it are better. So maybe I'll read them at some later date.

Warrior - Marie Brennan
I have nothing bad to say about this one! Haha, finally my first book of the new year that I just out-and-out enjoyed. It was fun and interesting fantasy, and if I had the sequel I'd probably be reading it. I really like both Mirage and Miryo, and it was a nice change of pace to read a fantasy novel without any romance in it.
coprime: animated icon of a boy reading intensely and then shouting "But I don't want it to be over!!" (books)
Thursday, April 24th, 2008 10:20 pm
Caste Waiting V1: The Lucky Road, by Linda Medley: This was just utterly delightful to read. The story's a fairy tale, and it's one of those where I read it quickly because it's fun but it didn't feel rushed. I like the art and the expressiveness of the faces. I'm going to go on a search tomorrow for the hardcover, which (I believe) collects volumes 1 and 2, since volume 2 is out of print.

How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story, by John Scalzi: This is a short story that Scalzi's offering as shareware. It's a very funny story and totally lives up to the awesomeness promised by its title. Also, I like the idea of shareware fiction.
coprime: animated icon of a boy reading intensely and then shouting "But I don't want it to be over!!" (books)
Friday, March 28th, 2008 10:36 pm
You know what's a really effective way to motivate yourself to read? Be away from home for a month and try to ward off homesickness by reading rollercoaster ride books.

Scarecrow (Shane Schofield #3), by Matthew Reilly: Yeah, I read book three in the series first because the store didn't have book one, and I thought Scarecrow sounded more fun than Area 7. Which worked out fine since I don't care about spoilers, and the book stands on its own well. It was a very, very fun book too! I kept being reminded of this one scene from Die Hard 4 where Bruce Willis launches a car into the air and takes down a helicopter with it. It's a scene that's really awesome to watch while it's also comepletely ridiculous, and the entirety of Scarecrow is like that.

Seriously, at one point a guy gets microwaved to death, it's awesome.
coprime: animated icon of a boy reading intensely and then shouting "But I don't want it to be over!!" (books)
Monday, March 24th, 2008 09:32 pm
The Down Home Zombie Blues, by Linnea Sinclair: I am really glad I decided to stick with this author and keep giving her a chance. Because the (very major) pacing problems present in Gabriel's Ghost and An Accidental Goddess were gone in this book. I had a feeling the problems in those books were because she was still learning, and it looks like I was right. Anyway, The Down Home Zombie Blues is about a galactic special forces operative and a Florida policeman having to team up to stop these cyborg zombie things from destroying Earth and then the rest of the galaxy.

It was a fun book. Lots of action, lots of adventure, and lots of romance. It was a nice change of pace from other romance novels that Theo and Jorie never had all that much angst about whether or not they should get together and denying their attraction for one another. Because, well, I know how that dilemma's going to resolve itself so reading about it gets old fast. I still wish there were fewer romances where the hero and heroine fall in love after having known each other a week, but I also get why that's so often the case.
coprime: animated icon of a boy reading intensely and then shouting "But I don't want it to be over!!" (books)
Wednesday, March 19th, 2008 08:40 pm
Bleh, the month of virtually no free time whatsoever has caught up with me and I've caught something. Sore throat, mostly. I did find enough time to finish a book last night however.

Cybermancy (Ravirn #2), by Kelly McCullough: This was a quick, little read (hence being able to read it in two days despite a lack of free time), and the best description I can come up with for the series is Computers + Sorcery + Greek Mythology = Awesome. Both Cybermancy and WebMage (the first book) are really fun to read, which is my main criteria for choosing reading material. The only thing that keeps me from loving these books completely and utterly is that occasionally McCullough is a little too enamored of how cool he thinks Ravirn is. (I will be disappointed if every attractive woman who meets Ravirn wants to get it on with him. It's close to going that way, but I'm waiting to see if this trend is continued in Codespell or not.) Oh, and the line "you can count her ribs from fifteen feet" does not make me think sexy thoughts.

But that's really a minor complaint. The story arc about the webgoblins (and other magic technology) and minor spoiler for WebMage ) is one I'm finding really interesting, the Greek mythology is snazzy, and the books move along at a fast clip without being a whirlwind.
coprime: animated icon of a boy reading intensely and then shouting "But I don't want it to be over!!" (books)
Sunday, March 16th, 2008 11:39 pm
I participated in the [ profile] 50bookchallenge last year as a way of forcing myself to think about books after I'd read them. And it worked, but I realized I don't want to write up my feelings on every book I read. There's only so many ways to say "Hana-Kimi was enjoyable; Sano and Mizuki are still being boneheads about their feelings for each other" after all. So I'm doing something similar here but only for the books I want to say something about.

Postcards: True Stories that Never Happened, edited by Jason Rodriguez: It's got an interesting premise: take old, used postcards and give them to comic writers and artists for them to make a story around. The stories were, for the most part, enjoyable and even the ones I didn't like as much weren't bad per se, just not to my taste.

I do, however, wish that the introduction to each story hadn't been included because every single one told me what Jason Rodriguez thought the story would be when he gave away the postcard and then what the story that got written was about. And, okay, I want to be able to suss out what the story's about for myself, not be told that it's about the power of love and redemption, because it may not be about that for me. But, other than my annoyance at being told how to interpret the stories by the introductions, it was an interesting little graphic novel.

Time Travelers Strictly Cash, by Spider Robinson: I bought this book because I'd heard good things about Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Saloon series and thought this was a collection of short stories from that series. (The back cover made it sound that way.) Turns out that only a third of the stories are, another third are unrelated science fiction short stories, and the last third consists of various non-fiction writings of his.

Despite looking at the back cover suspiciously once I realized what the actual contents were, it was a good book. The Callahan's stories were fun to read, and I always love a good (or bad, depending on how you look at it, I suppose) pun. The other science fiction stories were also good. I particularly enjoyed "Soul Search," which dealt with cryogenics and reincarnation. The non-fiction Didn't hate it, could have easily lived with never having read "Rah Rah R.A.H." (Robinson's essay on why Robert A. Heinlein is the bestest), but I've also read more boring things and at least these were short.

The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman: This took forever to read due to losing it in my mom's car of all places for six months. (It drove me batty during those months too because I knew I owned the book and yet it wasn't anywhere in the house.) Anyway, about the book, I can now see why people decided the series has an anti-Christianity message. (I still think the people kicking up a fuss about said message are rather silly, but anyway.) I'm holding out on making any judgements about Pullman's big message until I read The Amber Spyglass because right now it looks too obvious where Pullman wants to go. And I'm hoping The Amber Spyglass is subtler than that.
coprime: animated icon of a boy reading intensely and then shouting "But I don't want it to be over!!" (books)
Tuesday, August 19th, 2003 04:29 am
The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne is the current book I'm reading. And I love it so. Freakin'. Much. I adore this book, which isn't that surprising since Jules is one of my favorite authors. But. This one is truly his masterpiece, I think. It's got the largest cast of characters (Eight and counting!) that I've seen in any of his books. (I've also read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Around the World in 80 Days, so what I'm saying isn't completely without basis.)

Anyways-- eight characters. Journey to the Center of the Earth only had three. And, this is the most well-developed I've seen any of his characters. They all have distinct personalities. There's Pencroff who is the doubting Thomas of the group and whose emotions are passionate but also on a pendulum. Gideon Spilett, with his own curiosity about what's going on but is much more understated than the rest of the group. And Cyrus Smith! So logical and methodical, mmm. He seems, almost, to be Jules' author avatar now that I think about it. Just-- with the amazing precision both have. There's also Neb, whose enthusiam almost rivals Pencroff's but without all Pencroff's doubting. And, of course, Harbert, whose name I just adore. So smart and willing to learn!

Gideon and Pencroff are my favorite characters, but I love them all. (And I know I said eight but only mentioned five. Others appear over the course of the novel, but I don't want to give anything vital away.)

I was honestly surprised at how distinct and realistic these characters were. In Around the World in 80 Days, there was a romance between Phileas and Aouda, which I was never able to accept. I never saw why Phileas loved Aouda nor did I even see that he, in fact, did love her. I was told it, yes, but that's not the same. So I was pleasantly surprised by how these characters had honest emotions that didn't seem forced and were shown in such a way that they were there for me to discover if I was paying attention.

Then, there's the mystery of the island. Because, yes the title is quite descriptive. I haven't solved the mystery yet, but it's really enthralling. It creeps up on you, slowly and surely. And it's so subtle at first that you don't realize there is a mystery until Cyrus and Gideon point it out to you. And by that time, you're too far gone to want to put the book down. Oh, I love this book! I love it, I love it, I love it. Ever since I read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I've adored Verne's writing style. But this book takes the cake; it's just that good.

(A final note-- I'm reading Jordan Stump's translation and am using his names for people.)
coprime: an awesome lady stepping out of a boat (Default)
Tuesday, August 5th, 2003 02:44 pm
After being gone for over a month, I've read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies. And I feel like doing reviews, so. First up?

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson is an American travel writer. In the 1970s, he backpacked around England before settling down and living there. Twenty years later, he's decided to move back to the States. Before he leaves, he decides to, more or less, retrace his steps from when he backpacked in the 70s. Notes from a Small Island is the result of that second expedition. Bill Bryson is an engaging author with a great sense of humor. He truly does love England and it shows, but he doesn't spend the book spouting unadulterated praise. And, having lived in the country for so long, he's picked up on some of the nuances of British culture and is able to explain them to an American reader. Because, yes, England is a foreign country.

An except from the book:

There are certain idiosyncratic notions that you quietly come to accept when you live for a long time in Britain. One is that British summers used to be longer and sunnier. Another is that the English soccer team shouldn't have any trouble with Norway. A third is the idea that Britain is a large place. This last is easily the most intractable.

If you mention in the pub that you intend to drive from, say, Surrey to Cornwall, a distance that most Americans would happily go to get a taco, you companions will puff their cheeks, look knowingly at each other, and blow out air as if to say, "Well, now,
that's a bit of a tall order," and then they'll launch into a lively and protracted discussion of whether it's better to take the A30 to Stockbrindge and then the A303 to Ilchester, or the A361 to Glastonbury via Shepton Mallet. Within minutes the conversation will plunge off into a level of detain that leaves you, as a foreigner, swiveling your head in quiet wonderment.

So I recommend this book. It's fun, it's not difficult, and you can learn a bit of culture while reading it.