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.
Ok, that's a personal opinion, but it's an engine that drives a lot of satisfying...moreYou know what's better than Jacobite conspiracy?
Pretty much nothing!
Ok, that's a personal opinion, but it's an engine that drives a lot of satisfying fiction because there's no one right answer to the whole Pretendership problem. Also, there is some really great costuming detail going on in that era. The regency has a regrettable lack of INFRASTRUCTURE, clothing-wise.
The narrative voice in this book was just splendid.
As a result, I was kept at Uncle Pierpont’s house like a bad-tempered horse is kept in a good stable. That is, grudgingly on my uncle’s part and with a strong urge to kick on mine.
My experience with princesses, however, was both recent and extensive , and I knew for a certainty they were not permitted to run freely about the meadows or the mazes. I suspected this rule was observed all the more strictly for the ones rendered in miniature.
I loved Peggy, and the way she handled her sometimes extremely-limited set of choices with as much kindness and wit as she could muster. She's very interesting in people's motives, even when they behave badly to her.
The reason this is not a mid-grade book is that some people behave very badly indeed. I mean, in addition to the grisly murders and poisonings incumbent on any reasonable palace intrigue. Her hated rival seduces someone she thought she could trust. There's no one she can actually trust -- her guardian is cruel, and those who rescue her have their own agendas. Then she is thrust into the snakepit of court, and that's a whole different level of complexity. But possibly the worst thing, horror-wise, is (view spoiler)[attempted the date-rape scene. It's really interestingly handled. At first, she is grateful to her bethrothed, for rescuing her and being kind to her. She thinks he is pretty and kind and she is willing to trust herself alone with him because he got her out of a bad spot. But then he wants to touch her in ways that she is not excited about, her refusal makes him angry and mean, and he comes after her in more sexually aggressive ways, because after all, doesn't he have a right? And isn't she being a tease? And doesn't she deserve it? Wasn't she practically asking for it? (hide spoiler)]. So THAT happens, and I thought it was really interesting to see how Zettel handled Peggy's emotions in the heat of the moment.
Read if: You love a good costume romance. You like imposter stories. Fake it till you make it is a great plot as far as you're concerned.
Skip if: You are triggered by sexual coercion, you don't ever want to read about stomachers and wigs.
Also read: The Masqueraders, for another disguise-and-jacobite adventure.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Confession: I haven't read the second two books in the trilogy. This novella has spoilers for those books. You've been warned.
But it's not the big sto...moreConfession: I haven't read the second two books in the trilogy. This novella has spoilers for those books. You've been warned.
But it's not the big story I want to talk about. It's the way this story makes plain what was already coming pretty clear in Feed. The zombies are us, and our need for perfection and security. It's about how much we are willing to give up because we are afraid. Then she took that theme and stood it on its head and asked what it would be like to live with terror, er, zombies, while feeling more empowered. What it would be like to say, "We can't eradicate it, we don't want to stop living our lives, can we find a third way?". In this story, the third way is the rabbit-proof fence, and in a way it's an excellent metaphor for understanding and observing things without just shooting the heck out of them.
I think if you are looking for the hire-wire thrills and zombie-infested nightmares of the other books, this story will be disappointing. If you are looking for Grant to bend your thinking around in some interesting ways, this might be the story for you.
Read if: You have already read the trilogy or you don't mind spoilers. You want to see more of the world Grant is imagining.
Skip if: You are looking for more conspiracy, murder, and creepiness.
Did you read The Plague Dogs and think to yourself, "This would be even better if only the dogs were mecha killing machines"? This is the comic to sol...moreDid you read The Plague Dogs and think to yourself, "This would be even better if only the dogs were mecha killing machines"? This is the comic to solve that problem.
It's a tearjerker, but you may not notice right away because of the way you are wading through blood on every page. Every. Page. It's gratuitous, but consistent. It's the story about shedding blood and how animals feel about it, and how they feel about a lot of things.
Read if: You like military conspiracy skunkworks projects (yes, it is a genre).
Skip if: You mind blood or sad lab animals. Or gore. Or blood.
I was really blown away by the depth of characterization in this graphic novel. The story is fragmented, by its nature and the nature of the narrator,...moreI was really blown away by the depth of characterization in this graphic novel. The story is fragmented, by its nature and the nature of the narrator, but that didn't really bother me.
The art added a lot to the nuance of the story, but I think my favorite part is the distinct voices and personalities of each character. Everyone who has been telling you that you should read this is probably correct.
Read if: You like love stories with philosophy in them, or the other way around.
Skip if: You are not going to be amused by an opening scene that involves a foul-mouthed soldier giving birth, or if you can't handle scenes of explicit violence and sex. But I think they feel... relevant to the stories and characters.
Also read: [book:God's War|9359818 , by Kameron Hurley. For another foul-mouthed female soldier.(less)
I really enjoyed the practical tips in this book -- ideas like the chore jar, and making themed months for everyone to work, and identifying your goal...moreI really enjoyed the practical tips in this book -- ideas like the chore jar, and making themed months for everyone to work, and identifying your goals for what you want your adult children to do and understand when you have finished raising them.
On the other hand, there was so much that I didn't connect with. Because of my parenting style, my kids don't really believe I am their domestic servant because I am at work all the time. So the feeling of entitlement that Wyma was talking about is not a problem I have. I don't really feel inspired to do for them. I assume they can do for themselves, sometimes to the detriment of the filter in my dishwasher.
On the whole, I think it's a useful book with some good ideas on pushing yourself and your kids beyond comfort zones, but I would have been happier if it had been less gender role driven. I thought one of the most interesting things was the uninvolvement of the dad in the picture. The only time he really comes up is when he is being actively unhelpful with the overall goals.
Read if: You are looking for ways to expand your free-range parenting in the world of chores.
Skip if: You are not deep in the weeds of parenting.
This is exactly the book it was advertised to be -- that is, an in-joky story about a nerd girl and the tv star she thinks she hates, and the action f...moreThis is exactly the book it was advertised to be -- that is, an in-joky story about a nerd girl and the tv star she thinks she hates, and the action figure that brings them together.
I enjoyed the pacing, the mild but engaging plotline, the extremely nerdy verisimilitude of the characters arguing about Starbuck and Team Edward and Marvel plotlines. And I liked the romance. It was not completely improbable, and the meet-cute is pretty adorable, really. Julie is guarded and suspicious and authentic feeling, but I suspect that would be less true if you were not in tune with the analogies she uses to describe her life. There's an original Star Trek episode about that..... anyway.
Read if: This book seems like it's talking about Your People. You enjoy female characters who stay snarky even when their hearts are melting.
Skip if: You find nerd culture more annoying than endearing.
Also read: Princess Ben. Not at all the same genre, but the women reminded me of each other.(less)
I thought this was a nice companion piece to A London Season. Both of the romantic leads are coming into a reasonable logical reason with very bruised...more I thought this was a nice companion piece to A London Season. Both of the romantic leads are coming into a reasonable logical reason with very bruised hearts, for good reasons. Of course, it would be a very short book if that was all that happened, so there is a delicious plotline with thrills, chills, and danger. Also there is a small adorable child and a really lovely example of adult friendship.
I think my favorite part of all the Joan Wolf books I've read is how very human and distinct her characters are.
*There is harm to an animal in this book.
Read if: You enjoy a whodunit with a romance costume.
Skip if: Gothic romance plots annoy you.
Also read: A London Season by the same author. It's a very unusual feeling romance, which I have reviewed on this site, but it's very much about loving who someone is, not who they should be.(less)
This is a perennial comfort re-read. It's a Georgian-era romance, not Regency, so don't be confused by the change in costume. People are still people....moreThis is a perennial comfort re-read. It's a Georgian-era romance, not Regency, so don't be confused by the change in costume. People are still people.
If this were fanfic, I'd say it was improbable ridiculous id-fic. As it was duly published and everything, I guess we'll note that Dickens did some storylines that were almost as coincidental and ridiculous, and we can just all roll on.
Essentially, older, powerful, rich man adopts and comes to treasure his young ingenue while simultaneously completing a revenge plot that Sheridan would have been proud of penning. Also there are poetry salons, sword fights, and fiery red curls. If you are looking for a nuanced and equitable relationship, um, move along to some other book.
Read if: You have a narrative Thing about cool and sophisticated older men and the sweet young things who humanize them. You like revenge tragedies.
Skip if: French, cross-dressing, or problematic female roles will keep you from enjoying the story.
Also read: The Black Moth, Heyer's first novel, and the obvious precursor to These Old Shades.(less)
This is a long-time comfort read of mine, complete with derring-do, clever disguises, and remarkably little death for a WWII novel. It is the story of...moreThis is a long-time comfort read of mine, complete with derring-do, clever disguises, and remarkably little death for a WWII novel. It is the story of the "inescapable" Castle Colditz, where all the escapists from other prison camps were concentrated.
I like it for the clever nature of the disguises and the reasonably humanizing view of everyone involved.
This little bit of fluff was fun to read, but not really one of the abiding classics of romance.
It's just terrible how the wealthy young bachelors of...moreThis little bit of fluff was fun to read, but not really one of the abiding classics of romance.
It's just terrible how the wealthy young bachelors of the world are so oppressed by their responsibility for their beautiful wards that they are forced to visit ladies of a certain reputation for the release of their needs.
In this case, the whole thing is complicated by a mis-delivered scandalous dress made out of magical wish-giving cloth. I hate it when that happens.
Also, Lady Worth ends up looking like a slightly sinister fairy godmother.
On the other hand, I thought the romance, however improbably it started, was not as inequitable as I thought it might be at first, so that's something.
Read if: You want a bit of candy-floss romance.
Skip if: You're in it for the character development.
A solid little short story with an amazingly poetic premise and some nicely-worked prose. It's hard to talk about a short story without giving half of...moreA solid little short story with an amazingly poetic premise and some nicely-worked prose. It's hard to talk about a short story without giving half of it away in a paragraph. I think this has some of the really brilliant language and imagery that I love about Nix, without some of the nihilism that I don't find as appealing. In the end, this is a story about environmental homeostasis, and I love that about it.
Read if: You love dragon mythos. You like a good hidden-secrets story. You wonder about the reasons behind secret societies.
Skip if: You are looking for emotional connection/satisfaction. This is very much a what-happened story.