I gave this book a shot on the word of an Alaskan friend who's a fan of Stabenow's work - though I think she likes the mysteries, not this stuff. MaybI gave this book a shot on the word of an Alaskan friend who's a fan of Stabenow's work - though I think she likes the mysteries, not this stuff. Maybe those are better. I certainly hope so, because this book just wavers back and forth between 'mediocre' and 'terrible', and even for a first novel it strikes me as weak.
The one strength of the novel - despite Stabenow's introduction explaining that she was worried most about getting it wrong - is actually the scientific research that went into it; even when I couldn't follow it all, and even though it was often dished out in infodumps, it was clear that she'd put a lot of time and energy into getting the tech right, or at least logical. It is also abundantly clear that she didn't want to leave much of that out of the reader's sight - hence the infodumps.
This book's primary writing flaw is one of 'too much of a good thing': in this case, straightforwardness. Too many infodumps on tech or people; characters who are similarly straightforward and uncomplicated, as nuanced as cardboard cutouts. Stabenow makes an effort to have a diverse cast, which is nice, but it goes little further than food/accent/looks. There is little sense of 'culture' to this book except for Star's - which is, of course, the secular Alaskan Libertarian-ness with which she (and at a guess, Stabenow) was raised.
Then there's the 'romance'. Honestly, this is also a problem with Star's character - in that the 'romance' arc undercuts her characterization at critical points. For someone brusque, professional, in control and strict, she never chastises her love interest (who is also her employee) for his forward behavior when they've only known each other for days. He brazenly flirts with her and touches her, and she barely even responds, let alone point out how unprofessional his behavior is. Whether it's welcome is one thing - Star's character as it's established doesn't seem to be one that would permit this guy's behavior, and yet she does. In fact, she tolerates his repeated violations of her rules and orders, and even praises him for some of them. His behavior, to her, is above reproach. To me, as a reader, it was completely out of line. He picked her up and shook her when she criticized him for making a rash decision. What the fuck?
(view spoiler)[and that's not even getting into Star letting a 10 year-old come with her into a war zone and then letting same 10 year-old go gallivanting off with a previously unknown alien race without even telling her parents first, and then utterly failing to be sympathetic to the loss those parents feel afterwards. Did I mention the 10 year-old is Star's niece? (hide spoiler)]
I'm guessing by the fact that this book 'sank without a trace' according to the author bio (what a terrible decision to include that in end of the book in question) that this isn't representative of Stabenow's entire body of work, but damn if it doesn't make me less inclined to find out any time soon.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
First things first: a quick check-in on my predictions made after Cinder: (view spoiler)[ - off by one degree on who had the anti-Lunar implant. - spotFirst things first: a quick check-in on my predictions made after Cinder: (view spoiler)[ - off by one degree on who had the anti-Lunar implant. - spot on for Wolf - wrong about Cress's love interest, I think, as I now expect it to be Thorne (captain of the Rampion, for goodness sakes; that's a dead giveaway) - no data on Cress's parentage - significance of redheaded guard has decreased, so he probably won't be relevant. (hide spoiler)]
Honestly, I'm really happy to have been wrong about so many things, as it made this book considerably more interesting. Whereas in Cinder I was waiting for everyone to figure out a twist that was obvious to me, in Scarlet I found myself considerably less bored. It still wasn't the most shocking of reads (especially as a middle book; there were things that had to happen to support the third, and much of the plot time was spent accomplishing those) but it was more enjoyable and less frustrating. There was even one writing decision which took me by surprise - and completely raised the stakes for the following installations of the series.
The thing about this book which I appreciated most, however, was Cinder's characterization. She's going through a distinct crisis of identity in this book, and it's handled really well - intermittently, as much of her attention is focused elsewhere, but with a lot of integrity. To avoid spoilers: she finds herself needing to choose between what is right and what is easy, and between what protects her and what protects others. Her struggle over these decisions makes for a compelling transition between the person she was in the first book and the person she will need to be for the later ones, and I'm definitely looking forward to see how everything works out. I also appreciated the fact that her ruminations led to lines like 'It would be easy to abuse a person when they never recognized it as abuse'; Cinder's reaction to power she never expected to have is to be more aware of the consequences of her own actions, and that is a compelling moral message.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
It's a bit odd to shelve a book on my yearly fave shelf that I only rate 3 stars but... then, my feelings on this book are odd. I loved it, but it madIt's a bit odd to shelve a book on my yearly fave shelf that I only rate 3 stars but... then, my feelings on this book are odd. I loved it, but it made me deeply uncomfortable, and 3 stars is really the only compromise I can make.
The Mad Scientist's Daughter is an incredibly well-written work. I found myself repeatedly taken aback by how realistic it felt - almost less like a novel and more like a very poetic biography, meandering in the nonlinear way of a human life rather than following conventional plot structure. Encounters, relationships, and life events happen in a fluid movement from one moment - or one period of Cat's life - to the next. I can't imagine what writing the first draft of this was like; it doesn't see to lend itself to outlines. One of the primary things I took away from this was an intense respect for Cassandra Rose Clarke's mastery of her craft, and that makes me definitely interested in reading her other work. (Also notable: the subtlety in descriptions of the weather over time that suggested that the world is continuing to inexorably warm, that the 'Disaster' that turned the Midwest to a desert has hardly been halted. That was artfully done.)
As for the content of this book: it's a very slow story of character growth and emotion. Other readers have commented on Cat's selfishness, which is not just illustrated but commented on (repeatedly, by Cat herself), and indeed the central arc of the book seems to be her recognizing and overcoming. She's a fascinating person to read about, though, because her selfishness is almost... sympathetic, in a way. Ignored by her parents as a child, isolated from others, out of place in the roles her society and family consider most valuable (she may even have dyscalculia? the descriptions of her early struggles with math definitely seemed to suggest that) - her growth from wild independent child into selfish, closed-off adult is natural and understandable, even as it leads her into a series of decisions that harm both her and others around her.
The thing is, it's the intensity and the realism of this book which made it uncomfortable for me to read in a lot of parts. The content skews a lot darker than I had anticipated, especially as the book's central theme is one of agency: Finn's assumed lack of it, as a robot; Cat's assumed possession of it, which is proven time and again to not be all it seems. In exploring this concept, Clarke touches on nonconsensual drug use, a lot of sex (inc. some with dubious consent), spousal abuse, and death and the grieving process. It hits hard. Cat spends a lot of the book in an extremely disassociated state, which was difficult for me; as someone who experiences disassociation in my own life as a result of an anxiety disorder, borrowing Cat's experiences put me on edge.
More stuff about sex and consent, under a cut for spoilers: (view spoiler)[I didn't realize until the very end how much the handling of sex, especially sex between Cat and Finn, bothered me. Only when they were talking in the kitchen and she activated his 'second little death' program - to allow him to experience orgasm for the first time - did it occur to me how downright creepy their relationship was, and that howevermuch Cat grew emotionally outside of it, she reverted to selfish immaturity when presented with Finn. Consider: in the middle of a conversation where they could have discussed their past and their emotions like adults and actually communicated (the lack thereof, and assumed lack of need for it, having caused all of their problems), what Cat did was use Finn's robotic nature in a way he didn't understand, without his express consent. I mean, what she's doing involves using his deactivation switch, which is exactly the thing that broke his trust in her the first time - what the fuck kind of emotional resolution is that? It doesn't require Cat to be more mature than she was at the beginning, or to treat Finn more like a person with agency - it requires Finn to surrender himself to her, to literally put his consciousness in her hands.
Then there's the fact that neither Cat nor the narrative ever, at any point, raise the question of whether Finn could actually give consent to sleeping with her. He insists multiple times that everything about him is programmed, and Cat thinks repeatedly that 'his kindness is just a program', and yet nobody wonders whether he's programmed to do what she asks, unable to refuse sex? Sure, Finn accuses her of using him - but for treating him like a fling and never someone worthy of a relationship, not for the fact that she assumed he had the psychological functionality and used him for sex regardless. Gross. (hide spoiler)]
I think, in the end, my feelings on this book are the following: I respect the hell out of it, but I just couldn't enjoy it.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book doesn't know what it is. Is it a story about a woman dealing with the idea that her entire family, and indeed her entire society, has been wThis book doesn't know what it is. Is it a story about a woman dealing with the idea that her entire family, and indeed her entire society, has been wiped out by a nuclear holocaust? Is it a story about a man trying to make up for past misdeeds and right wrongs against him? Is it about the two of them coming together? Or is it just the opening sally to a larger series spanning multiple planets?
WHO EVEN KNOWS?
The biggest absence I felt in this book was, distinctly, Annie's reaction to the idea of everything she knew having been destroyed. Oh, sure, she cried herself to sleep sometimes (a lot, to the point where the phrase got annoying - and while I'm at it, so did the word 'sneer'), but there was never really any investigation of her emotions. The deepest insight we got into her reaction was at the beginning of the book, when she's still on Earth and packing to leave the city; but once she reaches Tahldia, she seems to throw herself into her new world and its conflicts without much thought for what she's just gone through. It doesn't even read like denial, either, because she does think of it briefly from time to time, but never in a way that conveys pain, shock, disbelief, or really any emotional response.
As for Tahldia, which quickly overtook everything reminiscent of Earth: all I can really say is 'meh'. It's framed as something Annie adapts for an RPG, and it pretty much reads like standard RPG fare. There's elves, dwarves, dragons, gryphons, demons, mages, and human kingdoms - even magic crystals! The only concept that felt more creative was the idea of warlocks, which a) wasn't explored very thoroughly, likely because this was obviously set up for a sequel and b) wound up, when more information was revealed, being extremely overpowered.
What I will say in this book's favor is this: it's an easy read, and fairly engaging. I made it through the whole thing, and if it had been longer (and it probably would have been more satisfying if so) I'd have certainly read more. However, since finishing it I've had a chance to look back, and I don't think I care enough to pick up a sequel. This was a one-time-only thing....more
This book is ridiculous. You know it's ridiculous, because the synopsis throws our protagonist in with a rock star in a zombie apocalypse. It is, in fThis book is ridiculous. You know it's ridiculous, because the synopsis throws our protagonist in with a rock star in a zombie apocalypse. It is, in fact, even more so: the heroine winds up with a bizarrely loyal lioness following her around, wanders through Las Vegas, etc etc etc. The rock star falls in love with her (of course), there are conveniently fueled cars whenever they need them (of course), the heroine is capable of black-belt-level hand-to-hand combat with zombies (of course)... it's just all completely over the top. And y'know, as a power fantasy? as something that was probably fun to write and is fun for some people to read? that's totally fine. It's not what I'd call a good book, but it's far from toxic the way a lot of mainstream YA is, so I'm not gonna rag on it too hard. It's silly, and tbh that's okay.
(the one thing that really bugged me, though, was the geography - as someone who lives in the Western US, it was all wrong. The amount of territory they crossed, the descriptions of it - it all rang totally false. Obviously Ms. Hocking doesn't live out here, buuuuut if she wants to use it as a setting, it would behoove her to do some more research.)...more
This was the third book for my African Lit class this semester, and by far the most fun - probably because it wasn't dealing directly with racism or pThis was the third book for my African Lit class this semester, and by far the most fun - probably because it wasn't dealing directly with racism or post-colonial problems, which is also why I don't feel like I can refer to it as my 'favorite'.
That said: Tayeb Salih does deal with serious issues of cultural shift, particularly in the first and second stories of this collection. I particularly liked 'A Handful of Dates'; it was elegant and powerful in its brevity. 'The Wedding of Zein', the novella that gives this book its title, was enjoyable - Zein is a colorful character - but also difficult to track at times, as it moved fluidly from past to present and back again.
This was a distinctly fast read; I could catch up on a day's assignment of 60 pages in a little over an hour. Definitely worth the time for its portrait of one kind of Sudanese life....more
I shouldn't have liked this - it's a junky romance with few surprises, and it focuses on the trials and tribulations of rCall this a... 3.75, I think.
I shouldn't have liked this - it's a junky romance with few surprises, and it focuses on the trials and tribulations of rich nobles which, really, is far from the most important thing going on in its time context... but I guess I was in the right mood, and whatever else it is, this book is fun.
I think part of what makes me like it more than I expected is that, in my opinion, most romance novels ask the wrong question. As a reader, I don't go in wondering if the two leads will get together - it's a romance novel; I'm not oblivious. I go in wondering how. And this book, from just a few chapters in, had completely centered itself around that how. There's no doubt that Grayson and Camille both want each other, but in order to get there they have to overcome both external conflicts and internal ones. It honestly feels like a well-earned happy ending, because they've both had to work through justified and unjustified anger, apologize for past mistakes, and resolve other relationships in order to get what they want. (And the sex wasn't even a cure-all! It led to more conflict! I was thrilled!)
There's a straightforwardness to this book that makes it very palatable to me. Camille jumps into things without thinking, and not only do other characters point this out to her, she acknowledges it herself. As she and all her sisters acknowledge the fact that, when they first married, they were essentially fortune hunters. Similarly, Grayson admits very quickly (when pressed a little by his cousin, who I was thrilled to see was sympathetic to Camille) that he treated her unfairly. It's so honest and mature. (The advantage of reading about characters in their 30s as opposed to hormonal teenagers, perhaps?) The secondary characters were similarly pragmatic, for the most part, and actually pretty well-drawn and interesting.
All in all: if you're looking for a quick read and a simple Christmas romance story, this is a good bet. And free on Kindle, last I checked!...more
I don't want to be too hard on this book because a) it was free, b) I always feel bad ragging on queer stories unless there's something seriously unheI don't want to be too hard on this book because a) it was free, b) I always feel bad ragging on queer stories unless there's something seriously unhealthy in them, and c) y'know, in the end, it did basically what it promised it would do. It was a pretty bare-bones, charming, short romance story. That's just... not enough to get more than three stars from me. If it had been longer - if there'd been more time to develop chemistry, in particular, or to show a bit more of the world and its magic - maybe it'd rate higher. It did do a good job with showing the main couple as mutually supportive/positive in each other's lives, so there was definitely potential there....more
This was the fourth and final text for my African Lit course this semester, and by far my least favorite - still important, as a reflection on the expThis was the fourth and final text for my African Lit course this semester, and by far my least favorite - still important, as a reflection on the experience of emigrating, but nonlinear and difficult to track, and also often very one-sided in discussing issues which affect immigrants.
Our essay prompt for this book was, in fact, writing a critical review, so once grades are in I'll probably post that in full-text here. (I'd rather it not show up if my professor runs essays through a plagiarism checker - it is my actual work, after all!) A bit weird to post an academic essay as a GR review, yeah, but better than writing essentially the same thing twice!...more
I've never read anything by Patricia McKillip, so when the chance came to get this on Kindle (cheaply? free? I honestly can't remember which) I pounceI've never read anything by Patricia McKillip, so when the chance came to get this on Kindle (cheaply? free? I honestly can't remember which) I pounced, because I keep hearing good things about her work and it seemed like a good place to start - or at least, everyone was praising it as being representative of her work, so surely it would be a fitting sampler.
If it is - well, I just don't think her work is for me. The thing about this collection was that the writing was lovely, the concepts interesting, and the plots... completely unfinished. Seriously, most of these stories just didn't have any real resolution; they simply ended arbitrarily, with threads un-resolved and guns un-fired on the mantlepiece. Those interesting concepts went largely unexplored. There were some exceptions - 'Naming Day' and 'Bryndley' and 'The Doorkeeper of Khaat' all wrapped up tidily, but the rest were simply unsatisfactory to me. (Even 'Knight of the Well', which was the longest and therefore had plenty of interesting worldbuilding, had a very pat and simple finish that didn't feel fitting to the rest of the story.)
It's worth noting that this probably isn't a problem for some readers; I tend to like a less ambiguous, more defined narrative than a lot of people do, and that's just a matter of taste. But in that case, McKillip just isn't to mine....more