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)
I really appreciated the attitude of this book -- it's all about figuring out what makes you HAPPY, and wearing more of that, and less of the stuff yo...moreI really appreciated the attitude of this book -- it's all about figuring out what makes you HAPPY, and wearing more of that, and less of the stuff you "should" wear.
First, you identify the things that you are proud of about your body and then she gives you specific advice for how to showcase that body part most effectively. There is also advice about downplaying body parts you feel less proud of.
Then you consider how you want to present yourself, and actually think about it, instead of defaulting into whatever has been easy for you to buy in the past.
Then, you look at your closet and carve away everything that isn't an elephant. That is, you get rid of all the clothes that don't make you feel happy, that don't fit your new vision, that don't actually get airtime on your body.
Finally, you start restocking your closet with items that are going to work with your new vision of yourself.
There are a lot of really practical tips here on what makes your shoulders look narrower or wider, or your arms look shorter or longer. I hadn't known that ideally your shirts should be different lengths for wearing with pants or skirts, but seeing the photographs makes it clear.
The photos are another great selling point, and a reason to buy this book in paper, unless you have the ability to view the ebook in hi def color. They are from a selection of fashion/clothing bloggers, and include a wide cross section of women, including at least one "plus size" person, and a wheelchair user. It is nice to see the message of the book backed up by the people who contributed visuals.
I think that both Coco Chanel and Rebel Wilson would remain unchanged in their dressing style after reading this book, and that is a testament to how well the advice respects individual style.
Read if: You are looking for a friendly, upbeat guide to dressing the body you have, not your aspirational body.
Skip if: You are allergic to the step-by-step, introspective style of self-improvement books.(less)
I read this book all in one gulp. It was compelling from the opening sentence - "I was raised to marry a monster." to the tumultuous conclusion. The w...moreI read this book all in one gulp. It was compelling from the opening sentence - "I was raised to marry a monster." to the tumultuous conclusion. The writing was mostly sharp, and sometimes darkly funny:
~My stomach roiled, but I smiled wider and gritted out cheerful nothings about how my marriage was an adventure, how I was so excited to fight the Gentle Lord, and by the spirit of our dead mother, I swore she would be avenged.~
Those aren't cheerful nothings that most of us get!
The story is an unusual mashup of Beauty and the Beast with a large dose of Greco-Roman mythology, and a non-zero amount of British folklore, which was a slightly unusual combination, but it ended up being the story equivalent of salted caramel - familiar and yet you keep wanting one more piece. I liked Nyx, I liked the beast. I liked the sister, who at first seemed like such a stapled-on Sexy Lamp*, and then it turns out that she wasn't, she was exactly the twin of our narrator. The world was lightly sketched, but rich and interesting in the bits we saw of it. The sky is the color of parchment. The magic system is congruent. Peasants are real people, as well as ladies. It takes time to travel places, it takes energy to do magic, there are no free lunches, and you should never, ever make a deal with the devil.
I thought the duology of Nice Guy/Bad Boy in Nyx's choices was going to be boring, and it wasn't. I thought that a story that I knew the plot of might bore me, and it didn't. I thought a gritty retelling of this story might involve rape, and it didn't. In short, Hodge succeeded in surprising me with how surprised I was.
Read if: You love fairytale mashups and dark-hearted heroines.
Skip if: You have developed an allergy to all overt fairytale retellings.
Also read: Robin McKinley's Beauty. Robin LaFever's Grave Mercy.
* If you can replace a female character with a sexy lamp that everyone wants without changing the story, then you have written that character poorly.(less)
Sweetly erotic, with a great set of characters and some really strong character development through the story. It also includes an romance hero apolog...moreSweetly erotic, with a great set of characters and some really strong character development through the story. It also includes an romance hero apologizing well and not just relying on his charm and the dictates of the story to get him past a stupid mistake.
Also I love that she is quiet, but not really shy and that he reads Austen.
Read if: You would like to see people learning to live each other and acknowledging lust isn't everything.
Skip if: You are the kind of person who will not be ok with a couple homophone substitutions.(less)
Ugh. Can we please dispense with the idea that possessiveness and jealousy are how we figure out we love someone? Entitlement and affection are not th...moreUgh. Can we please dispense with the idea that possessiveness and jealousy are how we figure out we love someone? Entitlement and affection are not the same thing.
Otherwise, not a terrible story, nothing remarkable. Not particularly Christmassy. Mid level historical errors.(less)
I pre-ordered this book the moment I realized that one of my favorite authors (Nix) had written in one of my favorite genres (Regency). I was only mor...moreI pre-ordered this book the moment I realized that one of my favorite authors (Nix) had written in one of my favorite genres (Regency). I was only more charmed to find out that the story involved a cross-dressing girl. When we added in buccaneers, evil sorceresses, and callbacks from everything ranging from Heyer (an attributed inspiration) to Beau Geste (not attributed, but present), well, gentle review consumer, I stayed up late to read and I have no regrets.
The ironically-named Truthful is an engaging character both as a woman and a man, and her cast of supporting characters is both amusing and well-drawn. She is modest and open-eyed (except for the inevitable confusion with the romantic interest, of course). ~~"She feared her beauty was a purely local phenomenon, the result of a scarcity of young ladies of quality."~~
I really applaud Nix's efforts with costuming everyone, too. I do love the clothes descriptions: ~~"changed her rather dull travelling dress of dove grey muslin for a more fetching promenade dress of pale green with a tall collar, matched with a charming merino coat in a darker shade of green with saffron edges and silver-buttoned epaulettes, topped with a charming straw bonnet adorned with a silver ribbon."~~ It was probably a pelisse, not a coat, but what the hey, we know what he means.
The plot is heavily Maguffin-driven, but I don't mind. It is rolicking and fast-paced and although we never doubt the outcome, it's pleasant to see the way it gets worked through. Truthful gets rescued and does some quick-thinking and rescuing of her own, and so she never feels like a damsel in distress for the benefit of the romantic story.
Read if: You like Heyer's Regencies, or you are looking for a light romance suitable for your parent to read.
Skip if: You are a curmudgeon. No, really, it's not /substantive/, just enjoyable.
Also read: Shades of Milk and Honey, for a more mature but equally interesting take on magic use in the Regency upper classes.(less)
G. Willow Wilson is not Umberto Eco. But she might grow up to be something very like him, and I mean that in the best possible way. I picked up this b...moreG. Willow Wilson is not Umberto Eco. But she might grow up to be something very like him, and I mean that in the best possible way. I picked up this book because it won an award at WFC, and I agree with the selection committee. It is novel, interesting, complicated, philosophical, funny, and sticky.
Remarkably, for such a complicated book, there is a very clear and discernible plot. At no point do you worry that the characters will just continue to live lives of hopelessness or ennui. Instead, all these people are going places -- some of them not very good places, but they have motives and goals.
Alif is a hacker who gets his heart broken and so creates a program that identifies his beloved and erases him from her sight. He refers to it as pulling a hijab between them. But it turns out that in doing so, he has created something that he can use, but not understand why it works. And then she sends him the book of A Thousand And One Days, which is the Jinn version of A Thousand and One Nights. And state surveillance! The dark anti-hacker. Arab spring! Cyberpunk and sand dunes and quantum computing.
Have you ever tried describing what's going on in Foucault's Pendulum? And been reduced to uttering disjointed fragments like, "Pinball. Homunculus. Rosicrucians!"? That's how I feel trying to describe this book. Only, and this is an interesting contrast to, say, God's War, in that faith in this book is not an instrument of oppression (self and others), but a vast source of strength for believers.
I really appreciated the ... diversity in this book. There's a prince, there's an upper-class woman, there are lower class women. Our hacker is half-Arab, half-Indian. Wherever the City is, it felt real, the way the best worldbuilding makes you feel, like there are palaces AND slum, and migrant workers and class, oh holy mackerel, the class isssues. But none of that slows down the story or makes you feel Educated.
It will be interesting to see how the story ages. There is a lot that is relevant to recent, events, that may not age well.
Like all things, like civilization itself, the arrests began in Egypt. In the weeks leading up to the Revolution, the digital stratosphere became a war zone.
Anyone who has been reading my reviews for a while understands that I am a huge fan of in-character story-relevant philosophy. This book is full of amazing, brain-twisting observations.
“The convert will understand. How do they translate ºyw in your English interpretation?” “Atom,” said the convert. “You don’t find that strange, considering atoms were unknown in the sixth century?” The convert chewed her lip. “I never thought of that,” she said. “You’re right. There’s no way atom is the original meaning of that word.” “Ah.” Vikram held up two fingers in a sign of benediction. He looked, Alif thought, like some demonic caricature of a saint. “But it is. In the twentieth century, atom became the original meaning of ºyw, because an atom was the tiniest object known to man. Then man split the atom. Today, the original meaning might be hadron. But why stop there? Tomorrow, it might be quark. In a hundred years, some vanishingly small object so foreign to the human mind that only Adam remembers its name. Each of those will be the original meaning of ºyw.” Alif snorted. “That’s impossible. ºyw must refer to some fundamental thing. It’s attached to an object.” “Yes it is. The smallest indivisible particle. That is the meaning packaged in the word. No part of it lifts out—it does not mean smallest, nor indivisible, nor particle, but all those things at once. Thus, in man’s infancy, ºyw was a grain of sand. Then a mote of dust. Then a cell. Then a molecule. Then an atom. And so on. Man’s knowledge of the universe may grow, but ºyw does not change.” “That’s . . .” The convert trailed off, looking lost. “Miraculous. Indeed.”
Read if: You love The Virtuous Hacker, or technology/magic mashups, or reading about the possibilities of the meanings of words. And if you'd like to see veiled women being strong without losing their self-identification.
Skip if: You are looking for a book with certainty, or clear answers.