2.5 instead of 2. Twylla is a young woman plucked from her agrarian background to serve as courtier & embodiment of the goddess Daunen at the roya2.5 instead of 2. Twylla is a young woman plucked from her agrarian background to serve as courtier & embodiment of the goddess Daunen at the royal palace. Familiar with the myths as a former sin-eater-in-training, she allows herself to be swept up in the pageantry of court only to find that she is meant to serve as Executioner & as a tool of the Queen's "divine" power. Betrothed to a prince she barely knows & isolated from all other attendants due to her physical manifestations of the divine, Twylla finds herself suddenly questioning what she knows when a new guard from another land is assigned to her retinue.
So I picked up this book because the title interested me: the mythological concept of sin-eating is something I've enjoyed exploring since I came across the idea as a kid reading tons of fantasy & supernatural stories. Unfortunately, my curiosity did not bear fruit. Salisbury has some interesting elements here that normally would hit all my interests: lands where magic & science compete & the corresponding degree of technology to each, notable intersections of faith, duty, desire, & physicality, and the struggle to remake one's self after understanding that basic truths about your world are wrong. If you're someone who has grown up in a strict religion or isolated from mainstream society or in an environment that emphasizes control or expression through food or other physical needs, some of this book might hit home for you.
But then the love triangle Twylla finds herself in takes over & I got bored real fast. Much like what I've read of the Grisha series so far, there is a really evocative world built around these characters with a healthy dose of paranoia & cautious discovery mixed in that makes the possibilities set up in the story seem immediate & boundless. And while there are some great opportunities to explore relationships & power here, it all eventually comes down to which boy will our heroine pick. And guess what?! She gets an ending where she keeps both of them in her life. Sigh. Sure. Twylla literally has no shred of her former life or skill set remaining but let's make sure she gets a really cute boy or two out of it.
There is another book in the series & looking at the Goodreads reviews for that one, it's supposed to be better than this. I might end up reading it eventually, but this first book has squandered any interest I had left over....more
The novel follows Nathan Zuckerman as he tries to unravel his fascination with Coleman Silk, a former classics professor at Athena College who had resThe novel follows Nathan Zuckerman as he tries to unravel his fascination with Coleman Silk, a former classics professor at Athena College who had resigned after a scandal that painted him a racist. Silk has found comfort with Faunia, a younger woman whose own trials have lead her to seek out tougher, more direct philosophy of life. After the pair meet a tragic end, Zuckerman starts examining the people & the town around them in order to make sense of the events leading to their death.
I struggled with this book & only finished it because my husband loves Philip Roth & I wanted to figure out why. I think Roth is a conflicted (& possibly insecure) writer whose style is meant primarily to provoke readers. There were parts of the story that were structured similarly to older Victorian novels but Roth soon interrupted himself with terse "racy" monologues about sex & stretches of unimaginative repetitive profanity. He also writes about pop culture & contemporary events in a shrill, combative tone as if they prove the worst aspects of his point without a doubt.
With that said, if you can force your way past all of these defense mechanisms (& it will not be easy), there are moments of vulnerable, real emotion & Roth is able to deliver his story in a less antagonistic way. He may struggle to capture his characters voices in first person, but he illustrates intimate moments between two people in third person well. There are also many interesting parallels between Zuckerman's story & the themes of Greek classics at play & there is some fun in putting the pieces together. I even found myself sympathizing with Mark Silk & Delphine Roux, two characters originally set up as opposition to Coleman but who gain depth as the novel goes on. But for all of these more accessible ways into Roth's story, he will not leave the reader alone & will keep pointing out that he's manipulating the story until he finally calms down again in the last chapter & says his piece.
There are quite a few secondary topics in The Human Stain that still resonate in 2016: the fracturing of education, cultural apathy, how our ambition hurts others, the perils of living too much in our mind or our ideals, the persistence of media & falsehood in an all-access media age. (Quote:"Even if you demonstrate something's a lie, in a place like Athena, once it's out there, it stays." Oh honey, you have no idea what's coming.) So, I guess my suggestion to anyone interested in reading this book is to do some mental calculation. If any of the above appeals to you, just be aware that you'll be exploring them with a difficult, angry author more interested in shouting his point at you than challenging you to consider his train of thought....more
Lee Garner takes drastic steps to convince the coder he's imprisoned with to give up information that the Arcadian government wants in exchange for hiLee Garner takes drastic steps to convince the coder he's imprisoned with to give up information that the Arcadian government wants in exchange for his & his wife's freedom. Coral helps lead a rescue mission to save her parents & gets everyone back to the hacker camp. But, the damage is done--the Arcadian powers have root access to the simulation & Lee Pepper finds himself struggling in the analog world to navigate new tides of authority.
There's something disheartening in being able to measure just how & when your interest in something drops off. For example, the use of current slang in a five-seconds-into-the-future sci-fi story is a personal pet peeve & each time it cropped up in the past 4 issues, I cared a little less about what happened next. But I was willing to let it go because I was still curious about the world. Then, this issue used both "mansplaining" & "Gamergate" within the space of a few pages & any interest I had dropped perilously close to zero. Yeah, millions upon millions of people died hideously & are only being kept "alive" by a perilously thin digital network, but we still care enough about culture-war-speak to use it in everyday conversation. I think there are other things to worry about.
Also, the reveal at the end of Arcadia's foundational secret was also a non-starter. (Hint: The heart of the digital world is made up of one semi-delusion personality--just like Otherland. Seriously, just go read Otherland) So, unfortunately, this will be the last issue I read, even though I'll buy the 5th issue because the collected covers complete a mural & I do love the art. Too bad too, I really did take a shine to Lee Pepper & his scrappy band of survivors....more
2.5 instead of 3. An unnamed woman recounts her journey from the post-apocalyptic British town of Rith to the isolated, female-dominated farm of Carhu2.5 instead of 3. An unnamed woman recounts her journey from the post-apocalyptic British town of Rith to the isolated, female-dominated farm of Carhullan. "Sister" first seeks shelter & occupation, hoping that her country life will be more fulfilling than her proscribed existence of town wife & quasi-public property. But she soon becomes a devoted follower of Jackie, the head of Carhullan, who is conflicted about the continued purpose of the farm: self-sufficient female utopiaor haven for Amazons & rebels. Sides are chosen & soon Jackie prepares her supporters to advance on the towns.
A competently written story that lacks heart. While Sister's story is grim & reaches 1984-levels of poverty & despair, neither my sympathy nor my emotional investment were caught by her tale. Her recounting is more of a rote summary than a heartfelt expression & I think this is where the presentation of the narrative is in conflict with its actual story. This is the supposed transcript of a police statement given by a woman whose been instructed to stay "on message" by her leader.
Important events like the disintegration of order on the farm lacks impact because the stakes aren't entirely clear. Readers will understand the point that Hall is trying to make about the similarities between Sister's life in Rith & Jackie's increased dictatorship at Carhullan. But Jackie's arguments to engage first & not wait for government intervention hangs together and it's difficult to support any doubt because of the large number of unknown variables. The women's "training through torture" doesn't seem at all silly when there are plenty of real & fictional stories that would indicate that their "enemies" would treat them in such a cruel fashion just because human order has degraded to such a state. There are no strong viewpoints outside of Jackie's & Sister does seem to have much investment in others. This lack of knowing what the real threat is ends up extending to readers as well.
Overall, a fair read but not as compelling as it could be. Might pair as an interesting companion to another dystopic book....more
2.5 instead of 3. Five friends have stumbled upon a mystery while away at Lumberjanes camp--a group of magical foxes accidentally lead the friends to2.5 instead of 3. Five friends have stumbled upon a mystery while away at Lumberjanes camp--a group of magical foxes accidentally lead the friends to a tower full of puzzles protecting a magical bow & arrow. The woods are full of mythic creatures & not everyone (including the boys at the rival camp) are what they seem.
The good: energetic story-telling, sketchy, kinetic art & 5 female protagonists who take everything (jokes, friendship, exploring, puzzles) very seriously, but in a good way that reminds readers of how intense everything is when you're young.
The not-so-good: very little characterization or backstory to the heroines (one actually says, "What am I doing here?" before suddenly knowing the answer to the next puzzle), elements like the puzzles just seem to move the plot along with very little setup, the over-earnestness of the flavor text of the Lumberjanes manual, no real depth to the relationships depicted and the story-telling moves so quickly at times that the readers' attention isn't held. Think Camp Candy crossed with the intense sincerity of Leslie Knope but with every character adding even more to the idealistic atmosphere....more
2.5 instead of 3. I picked this compact little graphic novel up because the artwork was surreal & captivating. Unfortunately, that really is the o2.5 instead of 3. I picked this compact little graphic novel up because the artwork was surreal & captivating. Unfortunately, that really is the only thing to recommend here. House of Clay follows Josephine, a girl from a formerly wealthy family, who goes to work in a garment factory. She's determined to go to nursing school despite the fact that she can't handle the sight of blood. While working at the factory, she meets Edith, a former prostitute who's missing a tongue & has a mysterious past. She also eventually crosses paths with an older woman who offers to tell her future & hints that there may by a different life waiting for her.
As I was reading, I could easily imagine the story as fodder for Mary Caponegro's or George Saunders' fantastical imaginings. It's a coming-of-age tale layered in fairy tale & Romanticism with a healthy dose of postmodern sensibility--a perfect playground for current fabulists & experimental writers. The problem here though is that Nowak isn't able to get her art to deepen the story details she provides or mesh with the atmosphere she's suggesting. There are still plenty of questions as to Josephine's motivation, why she seemingly falls in love with someone she's barely spoken to, or what exactly her history with her parents is.
I'm reminded here of Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout. Both are clearly beloved projects by their creators, but they both still seem very personal and doesn't give other readers a good way into the crux of the story. As I mentioned, the art is very beautiful--dreamlike, playful, luxurious & feminine with good harmony of design & space. Feel free to pick it up to browse through if you're curious, but don't expect much past your enjoyment of the visuals....more
A collection of stories written by Natasha Allegri & others following Bee & PuppyCat's adventures as well as exploring their colorful world. HA collection of stories written by Natasha Allegri & others following Bee & PuppyCat's adventures as well as exploring their colorful world. Honestly, I love the Bee & PuppyCat series--weird, mysterious, silly & charming; I was sucked in from the first surreal short when it appeared on YouTube. But the episodes themselves are frequently open-ended & leave watchers wanting more, which can work in a creator's favor--only to a point. This collection, unfortunately, is more of the same. Could we please have a little more story with the pretty pretty art?
The story by Allegri herself is another assignment that takes Bee & PuppyCat to Snowglobe Planet, undertaken so Bee can get back in her apartment after locking herself out. It's a lovely little one-shot & the use of the QR codes are cool, but is this just another set-up for an unresolved plot? The rest of the stories are interstitial & cover everything from Bee's inability to "adult" properly to game time with Deckard to actually putting off dealing with interesting consequences from one of the YouTube episodes. The varying art styles are fun & certainly recall the flood of fanart surrounding this series. But I'd hate for these characters to just be these cute objects without any real substance. Could I get some resolution please? Or is this series just a magnet of whimsy where everything is utterly precious forever?...more
A quickie horror book that explores the supernatural otherworld lurking beneath a bland corporate façade. Moodwise, think the closing scenes of Army oA quickie horror book that explores the supernatural otherworld lurking beneath a bland corporate façade. Moodwise, think the closing scenes of Army of Darkness mashed with the 90s remake of The House on Haunted Hill. Hendrix's concept is bolstered by the excellent parody of an Ikea-like catalog with detail diagrams of the "furnishings" looking meme-ready for the Internet. The story itself, however, is uneven. The story's strengths lie in creating good atmosphere and tension for his characters to bounce off of. In fact, the first half of the book might lull readers into thinking they know where the story is going. Also, some of the tortures that emerge are very unsettling.
But despite these strengths, the story in the second half hits the same beats we are all familiar with from horror movies. Once the characters get into the thick of the action, they fall into clichéd roles, with readers not discovering much more about them that one would care what happens to them outside of what the plot demands. This wasn't really my kind of book, but it did keep my attention for a few hours, so there is something compelling about the writing. Might make a good gift for All Hallows' Read!...more
I wanted to like this novel; I wanted it to completely enchant me. Instead, I was underwhelmed by the majority of the story. Marina Singh is an intereI wanted to like this novel; I wanted it to completely enchant me. Instead, I was underwhelmed by the majority of the story. Marina Singh is an interesting character and her relationship with her former teacher Dr. Swenson is fascinating. The theme of the continuing relationship between teacher and student resonates with me. There are a lot of opportunities for Patchett to explore the intersection of science, ethics, Western excesses and gender. The problem is that the "jungle research" part of the story is pure genre fiction--the plot is basically Michael Crichton's Congo with women. The last 10 pages or so alone made me want to beat my head against a wall. I think I'll have to try some of Patchett's works at a later date....more
Mina by Marie Kiraly bends genre in fun & curious ways. Not quite historical fiction, not quite erotica, not quite a feminist reinterpretation ofMina by Marie Kiraly bends genre in fun & curious ways. Not quite historical fiction, not quite erotica, not quite a feminist reinterpretation of high literature, Kiraly instead takes the most interesting aspects of all three genres & gives readers a story about coming back to "normal life" after having brushed up against something strange. I've read many of the other comments on GoodReads about this book & many people seem disappointed that the novel isn't easily categorized. Honestly, I think Mina falls into a certain type of storytelling that gives authors space to play & reinterpret their favorite types of literature.
The scale I used to compare Mina included books like Mistress of the Art of Death & The Poe Shadow on the poor side of the scale, The Diary of Elizabeth Frankenstein and Dragonwyck in the middle, and Passion & The Mists of Avalon at the top. Mina would come in above average on this scale. All of these books rely on a specific literary touchstone or author to give them life & try to create a fantasy that other fascinated readers can relate to. I totally picked up Mina because I had always dreamed up interesting futures for Mina Harker after the story of Dracula ended. (One included her running off with a Russian violinist & seeing the Revolution in action.)
Kiraly is a writer who not only knows the Dracula text inside & out, but has clearly done some serious research on Victorian society & the parts of Eastern Europe her characters travel through. Her prose is natural, approachable & competently structured. My only quibble is that the details of the England landscape were often overlooked in favor of the wilds of Carpathia, but who can blame the author wanting to hang out there? Kiraly also has fun integrating or hinting at other influences. One of the main characters is an exercise in Byronic excess. Russia romantically beckons from just off-stage. The social novels of the era are also alluded to as Mina volunteers at or is confined to various hospitals. In short, Mina was a great book for an English major like me because it mixed both critical thought & pure fantasy in equally pleasing measures....more