It's really difficult for me to review short story anthologies, because I am TERRIBLE at stopping and letting one story rest and germinate a review in...moreIt's really difficult for me to review short story anthologies, because I am TERRIBLE at stopping and letting one story rest and germinate a review in my head before I start the next one. It's like... did you know that many books have CHAPTER BREAKS, where average mortals STOP READING AND GO TO SLEEP? That is also not my strongest concept.
So instead the stories all end up happening in the same world for me, even when they obviously aren't. Oops. But happily, because this book had a folk-tale theme, at least it worked out ok for me. Maybe I'll do it like a middle school awards assembly?
Creepiest goes to The Wolf and the Woodsman, for a really excellent and bone-chilling depiction of stalking.
Never gets the award for Most Heartbreaking because there's no way out.
Boar and Apples wins for Most Satisfying. It has everything I didn't know I wanted, including a charming pun as a central premise.
Bluebeard's Wife gets Most Wistful, for depictions of just wanting a little respect and privacy.
Loathly was in the running for Most Wistful, but will have to settle for Most Misandrist. In a good way. Magic is terrible, kids.
As for the poetry, I think that poetry is arrows shot at a smaller mark than prose, but I really enjoyed Bait for the way it required reading through and then listening to. Poetry, man. It's wicked hard.
Vernon's writing style is wry, and detached, and observational. It keeps a lot of things from becoming overly sentimental. And once in a while she hits a turn of phrase that makes me wish more people could do what she does. ~He had apparently been a very evil man, but not actually a bad one.~
And sometimes it's so funny and true that you can't help but sort of huff out a laugh. ~(I wish I could do salamanders. I would read Clive Barker novels aloud and seed the streams with efts and hellbenders. I would fly to Mexico and read love poems in another language to restore the axolotl. Alas, it’s frogs and toads and nothing more. We make do.) ~ (Clive Barker WOULD produce salamanders. Then I had to think about what amphibians other writers would produce. Imagine the sad little mudskippers you'd get from reading Clive Cussler instead.)
~(The seamstress had always had a great desire to sew something with puffed sleeves, and the fact that Snow stared at them with great astonishment and mild indignation did nothing to diminish her moment of glory.) ~ AHAHAHAHA PUFFED SLEEVES.
Read if: You, too, grew up on retold fairy tales and Anne of Green Gables. And if you like people who keep their authorial wits about them instead of getting carried away.
Skip if: You are a nice earnest person who will not appreciate realizing that this whole beautiful story was probably born as a late-night pun.
Also read: Seas of Venus, for a MASTERFUL construction of an entire novella leading to a TERRIBLE pun. And, um, The Girls of the Kingfisher Club for another narrator not afraid to let you know she's there.
Oh! And Jane Yolen's Sleeping Ugly. You should certainly read that, too. Yup. (less)
I found some really excellent techniques in this book. Although it is billed as suitable for beinging sewists, I think you would need to have a basic...moreI found some really excellent techniques in this book. Although it is billed as suitable for beinging sewists, I think you would need to have a basic idea of how patterns go together and some construction theory before you could be successful with it. That said, it is breaking my heart that I did not have this book, or Spandex Simplified: Sewing for Skaters when I was struggling to teach myself how to sew skating dresses. Spandex is so different than anything else.
The writing style was casual but clear, the copyediting pretty good, and the pictures were super helpful. I especially liked the shots of what you could do with a certain technique. The picture of the Firebird performance costumes made me swear in admiration.
Things I found especially helpful, at my current level of skill (journeyman): * Advice on applique. Oh my gosh, this was genius. Simple and workable. * Advice on wedgie-proofing spandex bottoms. * Advice on attaching elastic differentially on straight sections and curves. * An overview of how to add ruching and colorblocking. * Costume gloves, including cuffs.
Using this book, I can totally understand how I could construct a Captain Marvel costume. Or more pertinently, a Captain Marvel bike jersey.
Read if: You are interested in sewing form-fitting costumes, swimsuits, or performance clothes. There are also other books in this series that are more relevant to that. Read if you are scared of sewing with spandex or don't know how you could use a regular sewing machine to do so.
Skip if: You are looking for a prop-making book. This is not that book.
You know how sometimes I distinguish between a historical romance, where characters act in period-appropriate ways, and a costume romance, where moder...moreYou know how sometimes I distinguish between a historical romance, where characters act in period-appropriate ways, and a costume romance, where modern characters are dressed in historical costumes and situations? I thought about that a lot while I was reading this book.
Some of the girls are living in a historical story, where they are the product of their society and their times. Some of them are us, with our modern attitudes toward men and what we can do. And one of them is Jo, who is beautifully iconoclastic because she was raised by wolves, or a set of strict governesses, but the effect is the same, to make her hyper-aware of the rules and give not one shiny copper penny for them, except in terms of consequence. She is not ruled by shame, she is ruled by fear, and once she loses that fear, all gell breaks loose. I loved that so much.
I have always thought that any number of siblings over 2 is going to involve factionalism and clicques, as well as familial understanding and love. I liked that we got a chance to see how that played out. I was also really interested in how very much Jo was like her father, but then decided to turn that same tendency into something so much lovelier and more productive.
I am super impressed at Valentine's ability to take a fairy story and retain all the elements, but change them enough to make them her story, not jut a colored-in photocopy. I said, 10 years ago, that it was going to be interesting to watch the writers who were growing up on Datlow and Windling and what happened to their take on mytheopia once everyone calmed down a bit about telling fairy tales and stopped putting quite so many lakes of blood in them (on my reader now, Ursula Vernon's Toad Words and Other Stories, which I suspect will be interesting as a comparative point and also awesome). Valentine's New York is neither UBER GRITTY DARK nor a friendly woodland forest, but a real-feeling place with police raids, payoffs, handsy stevedores and Chinese bartenders.
I suggest people with super controlling parents in real life read this story with caution. Valentine does not pull punches on how very bad it can/could get if your parent is willing to retain control at any cost. I was honestly reading with my heart thudding because it was so plausible that everything would go wrong at several points in the story.
This book keeps lingering with me, like sparkles rubbed off after a night of clubbing will still be around the next Wednesday, just catching your eye a tiny bit.
Read if: You like gin joints, dancing, retold fairy tales, and problematized ever-afters.
Skip if: You don't like reading about people being caged up, you have problems with mental commitment as a control device.
Read also: Princess of the Midnight Ball, for another version of this story that is a little more castle-and-princess-magicy, but still has great dancing descriptions and a clear personality for each princess. Sold for Endless Rue, which it took me a while to realize was even a retold fairy tale.(less)
The star rating on this one is so high because I really thought it had a ton of great stuff going on, especially for a first novel. There are some ama...moreThe star rating on this one is so high because I really thought it had a ton of great stuff going on, especially for a first novel. There are some amazing cultural details, and an interesting post-singularity plot. And the gender stuff...had a lot of potential.
At its base, it is a story of a ronin seeking to avenge the death of hir clan by traveling through the universe, collecting macguffins and plot points. This is all good. There is a haunting backstory filled in by flashbacks. There is a romance, a mysterious power player, and some really confusing/interesting palace politicking.
But there is not a lot of soul. We follow the viewpoint character because that's who we're given to follow, not because we are lying awake wondering what is happening to hir or imagining ourself in that position. There are reasons for that -- hir is deliberately hard for us to identify with for plot and backstory reasons, but it still makes it hard to sustain fascination with the story when I would just as soon go make a sandwich as find out what is happening next.
That said, there are a lot of thorny ethical problems zie has to work through on the way to figuring out hirself, because it's a coming-of-age story, too. But I found myself wishing for a nice straightforward revenge tragedy, no matter how gender-interesting the setting was.
Read if: You want to know what everyone is talking about. You are interested in worldbuilding and plots.
Skip if: You are an exclusively character-based reader. You will be frustrated by partially-fulfilled potential.
On the surface, this book is a love song to books wrapped in a coming-of-age-travel-story. Jevick is an overeducated misfit when he goes to Paris, er...moreOn the surface, this book is a love song to books wrapped in a coming-of-age-travel-story. Jevick is an overeducated misfit when he goes to Paris, er Bain, to carry on the family business, but he is much more interested in the culture than the business. In the process of his cultural education, he comes down with a bad case of ghost. Travails ensue.
It's not that I don't love ornate imagery and fabulous language. It's that by 3/4 of the way through this book, I was longing for something to cut the greasy, heavy, oleaginous feeling of the adjectival piles that litter the story. It feels to me like it could be a much more emotionally engaging story if it weren't paced with two adjectives per noun. I'm sure that's a personal preference issue, because I know a lot of people who enjoyed the ornate filigree of the writing.
I think my favorite part is the end, when he takes all his frustrated passion and turns it around into something that improves the world. But I almost gave up halfway through because the pace was so hard for me.
Read if: You are looking for a Gentleman's Progress And Return Home story, if you love a good unrequitable love story or three, if you want to think about nameless spices that can kill on the wind and be bought in the market.
Skip if: You are an impatient reader, you are going to feel bad about having to use a dictionary to read a book. (For the first time in three or so years, I used my kindle dictionary. "Marmoreal -- made of or relating to marble.") (less)
It's an interesting problem -- what do you do with the dead bodies of a city, especially when the era favors intact burial rather than cremation or ot...moreIt's an interesting problem -- what do you do with the dead bodies of a city, especially when the era favors intact burial rather than cremation or other, er, space-saving methods of disposal?
This is one of those history books that takes an extremely narrow slice of history to give you insight into broader themes. I appreciated how it struck the balance between titillating detail and remembering that these bodies were actual people and deserved respect.
Read if: You would like to understand how cemeteries happen, how cremation ebbs and flows in fashion, and how to deal with plague victims.
Skip if: You are squeamish about death or gore or, well, we can really only call it ichor.