Otter Country is really a personal account of an obsession with otters, like H is for Hawk or Crow Country. In many ways, it’s more about Darlington tOtter Country is really a personal account of an obsession with otters, like H is for Hawk or Crow Country. In many ways, it’s more about Darlington than it is about otters, though her eyes are open to the significance of otters in their own environment, to their struggles and their slow recovery over recent years. I felt a little left out, since I haven’t read Ring of Bright Water — which I know we have in the local library, as it survived our last cull, so I’ll probably give it a go when I get the chance.
There are some beautiful descriptions, etc, but sometimes I found myself rolling my eyes rather at the ideas Darlington took into her head, like that it would be a good idea to take her clothes off and jump into the burn during midge season.
Full disclosure, I also voted for Angry Robot to publish Carrie (you can read about my day at their HQ here), and she’s swung by The Bibliophibian onFull disclosure, I also voted for Angry Robot to publish Carrie (you can read about my day at their HQ here), and she’s swung by The Bibliophibian on her blog tour for this book. I’ve owed this review for ages; I’m sorry!
I had really high hopes for this based on the first chapters I read way back, and as with most Angry Robot books, I found the ideas really fascinating. The whole set-up of the world, the mystery behind the way it’s got there (because it’s quickly obvious it’s a post-catastrophe version of our world), combined with the two main characters. They’re both women, and they’re both awesome in very different ways: Liesl Malone is a tough as nails cop, and Jane Lin is a laundress in a highly stratified society which doesn’t necessarily see the value of her quick wits and constantly underestimates her.
I think the set-up for this story is great, and the characters too — although I predicted the plot whenever it involved Roman Arnault, particularly! — although I found it a little weaker in the middle. It starts out strongly, but the mystery doesn’t really stand out, and details come out a bit too slowly. Liesl (in particular) is awesome, and the whole issue of the sheer volume of knowledge being kept from the populace gives it an interesting background, but some parts just didn’t feel as sharp as they could be.
I’m looking forward to reading Cities and Thrones, the sequel, which will hopefully expand on all the stuff I’m interested in. The positions the characters are left in at the end of the book intrigue me particularly; everything’s changing for them.
A reread for me, since I felt the need for something familiar during the readathon. It was one of the first Mary Stewart books I read, and it’s one ofA reread for me, since I felt the need for something familiar during the readathon. It was one of the first Mary Stewart books I read, and it’s one of the more openly fantastical ones. It’s got the usual set up of the plucky young heroine, a landscape that’s important to her or exotic or otherwise worth describing lovingly, and the man she eventually marries. The fantastical part is the telepathy between them, the bond; Stewart uses it well, creating interesting dilemmas and confrontations.
The story of the twins is a little disappointing, because so obvious; we don’t see enough of James’ struggle against his twin to see him as any kind of victim in the situation, and his reaction to Rob and Bryony’s marriage seals that. It gets a little cartoon villain-ish.
Rob and Bryony’s relationship is sweet; I suppose that’s a spoiler, but it’d be hard to review this without mentioning that James is not Bryony’s ‘secret friend’. I really didn’t need all the stuff about how Rob is really an Ashley; it makes the plot that much more convoluted, but ends up reinforcing that whole snobbery about the lady of the family not marrying the kitchen boy.
There’s a lot of individual elements I like in this book — Barbara’s bravery, her struggles with her anger at the people who put her in a wheelchair,There’s a lot of individual elements I like in this book — Barbara’s bravery, her struggles with her anger at the people who put her in a wheelchair, her sheer ferocious intelligence (and yet she spends so much time punching her way through problems, sigh), some of the family issues that are brought up… But where it ties in with the other Batfamily books, it feels clumsy. I don’t know what’s going on with Damien, with Nightwing, etc. Nor do I really get chance to care, since it’s all a whirlwind of action.
The art is good, expressive, etc, but ye gods, I forgot how dark DC comics can be. Grit, grit, and more grit.
I do like Alysia’s coming out; I like the casual way Barbara takes it, and yet how important the moment still feels.
This reminded me quite a bit ofChocolatin the opening, but with a less personable main character. I didn't mind that so much, as I've been told this iThis reminded me quite a bit of Chocolat in the opening, but with a less personable main character. I didn't mind that so much, as I've been told this is a witch story where there really are dark powers, shades of grey, etc, etc. Once I got to the storytelling part, too, that was tolerable historical fiction, though not anything really surprising. (For a similar story about plague, for example, there's Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks.)
In the end, it just fizzled out for me. Which is unfortunate, since I also had The Winter Witch to read, and was hoping for things from the Welsh setting (although a little put off that the characters were called Cai and Morgana, but no, they weren't that Cai and Morgana and nor did they seem to have any connection -- why would you do that?). The writing is okay, but not brilliant; the plot is okay, but not brilliant. The characters were... not really doing anything for me, particularly not Gideon. When a character is pretty much introduced via a rape scene, you can pretty much guarantee I'm not going to get on with him.
This book looks like it’d make a great coffee table book, and in a way it is part of that genre of bite-size, digestible bits of culture. But it’s lacThis book looks like it’d make a great coffee table book, and in a way it is part of that genre of bite-size, digestible bits of culture. But it’s lacking in the lavish pictures I’d expect from such a thing: many of the items are represented by photographs the size of a postage stamp, or just sketches. The book itself looks nice, but it’s not the most visually orientated; I assume that’s because many of these objects are too precious to photograph. With some of them, I wasn’t sure she should even be describing their locations so clearly!
It’s an eclectic collection of objects, in no real order. I can imagine that being very frustrating to anyone a little more serious about this than I am; I did enjoy browsing through the selection, though, dipping in and out as each object interested me more or less. I liked that these precious objects aren’t all of monetary value, often being more valuable as a link to the past or a symbol of an era.
It’s interesting in its randomness, rather like watching an episode of QI, which Molly Oldfield writes for. Probably frustrating, too, if that’s not your thing.
The copy on the front definitely captures a lot about this book. ‘Throbs with lush romanticism,’ says The Times. That’s a perfect description right thThe copy on the front definitely captures a lot about this book. ‘Throbs with lush romanticism,’ says The Times. That’s a perfect description right there. It’s lush, gothic, romantic, and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. I found it a compulsive read, and I found the way it treats the morality of vampirism very interesting. It doesn’t shy away from the implications of evil, parasitism, etc, but it doesn’t wholly embrace them, either: Warrington’s vampires have feelings, doubts, difficulties, according to the kind of people they are. The female lead worries about her amorality, and the book doesn’t disguise that there’s something monstrous about a love which demands this kind of sacrifice.
I found the relationships between the characters very well done: Charlotte’s relationships with her family, Karl’s with Ilona and Kristian, the ambivalent side-switching of the others. Kristian’s power over them all feels real, as does their equal and opposite desire to be free of him that locks them in a holding pattern around him. Warrington resists the urge to make things too easy: Charlotte’s family can’t cope with her eventual transformation, with the way her true self is revealed to them through what she chooses.
I liked the background of science, too: the search for understanding of what Karl and the other vampires are, of how it relates to what we know of matter, how they might relate to a GUT (grand unified theory of everything). I liked that Charlotte is a part of that search, with a scientific drive and understanding, and that it’s not just to please her father or anyone else that she thinks that way, despite the fact that her entire life is bounded by what she thinks others want of her.
And yet. I’m not sure what, at the end, makes me ambivalent. In part, it’s the amorality of it all, I think: I can appreciate the exploration of it, even the impulses behind it, but I can’t view it as a triumph of love over all. Or, I suppose it is — a triumph of love over morality, over humanity. I can’t sympathise with that central choice to become immortal and immortalise love at the price that has to be paid here — a price that’s not even paid by Karl and Charlotte, but by the people they will drive mad or kill to sustain their lives. It makes that price so very clear, makes Charlotte’s choice so clear-eyed and knowing, that it’s both better and worse than other Vampire-For-Love transformations. Better, because it acknowledges it; worst, because we’re still meant to sympathise with that destructive love.
I’m not sure if I want to read A Dance in Blood Velvet, etc. I did find this very compelling to read, and yet.
I’m a little bit disappointed about this one, I’m afraid. I’ve been hearing so much hype about Sarah J. Maas’ work. And it was fun, but it felt thin.I’m a little bit disappointed about this one, I’m afraid. I’ve been hearing so much hype about Sarah J. Maas’ work. And it was fun, but it felt thin. There is clearly a world built up behind this, but we see so little of it, and so much of it is introduced according to convenience. Suddenly a Wyrdmark! Suddenly magic powers! Suddenly that’s why that character did X! Lots of jumping! to! conclusions!
Given the hype, I guess I was expecting more of this. It is great that there’s a female main character who is very capable, who is a good assassin, and yet who has morals and a softer side. It’s nice that she’s both kickass and in love with gorgeous dresses: it’s counter to something that always rubs me wrong, for example like Katsa in Graceling, where she totally rejects femininity (if I remember rightly; must reread that soon and get onto the other books). And I liked the tension between her and Chaol, her and Dorian, up to the point where things started happening and then I just… didn’t get it. If you have feelings for either or both, treat them with a little more care! It’s like she expected them not to mind that they both had feelings for her, were both close to her?
I mean, if it’s going to end up as a polyamorous relationship then that’s fine, but it’d surprise me greatly from a YA book.
I’m intrigued enough that I’ve reserved Crown of Midnight from the library; ambivalent enough that I’m not going to buy it.
I liked this more than the first volume. It felt less like it was setting the scene, and it got down to the important stuff: superhero team-ups, moreI liked this more than the first volume. It felt less like it was setting the scene, and it got down to the important stuff: superhero team-ups, more self-discovery, bigger plots, etc, etc. Kamala teams up with Wolverine and (separately) Lockjaw, sent by Queen Medusa of the Inhumans to guide her somewhat. I loved the interactions with Wolverine — fangirly, cute, funny, but also serious. He’s her mentor, teaches her some important things about her powers and how to live with them, and he relies on her to help him, even to do the bulk of the fighting.
There’s still some background with Kamala’s family, but less so. It’s reduced from being the main issue to being part of the flavour of it, so that her family saying (for example) that Lockjaw is a dog and therefore impure is just… part of who Kamala is. I liked her interactions with the leader from the mosque, too: he’s a mentor figure as well, in a way.
The art is all great. I especially liked the first few issues collected here — you’ve gotta love the scene where she jumps down into the water flailing her arms and trying to shrink as fast as possible — but all of it is awesome. And there’s no gratuitous anything, either: this ain’t the black leotarded Ms Marvel, for sure.
I read this on Scribd after browsing through the craft books (where’s the crochet hiding?!). It’s a fun sort of book, with patterns and ideas about hoI read this on Scribd after browsing through the craft books (where’s the crochet hiding?!). It’s a fun sort of book, with patterns and ideas about how to cut up and reuse socks to make various creatures. I didn’t always find the results attractive, but the patterns could be fairly easily altered. As soon as you figure out how to look at a sock for how you can cut it up and change it, instead of as a sock, you’ve got it.
Not something I’m going to get into, I think — I never seem to have enough socks anyway. But I have a friend or two who might enjoy it…
I still need to read A Woman of the Iron People, which is the main work I’ve been recommended by Arnason. But I thought I’d read this on Scribd, sinceI still need to read A Woman of the Iron People, which is the main work I’ve been recommended by Arnason. But I thought I’d read this on Scribd, since it was available and I find the Outspoken Authors series generally interesting. I was less interested in the interview and essay, though it’s interesting to know where Arnason comes from (in many senses!) and what her preoccupations are. I’m not sure how much general interest the essay has; certainly, if you’re not fond of non-fiction, I can’t imagine you’ll appreciate it.
The story itself is interesting: it’s alternate history, where mammoths survived into the last couple of centuries, and where humans drove them to extinction with hunting and tourism. The background of the Native American characters and customs was particularly cool, especially given the educated and successful Native American women at the heart of the story.
The contemplative tone is a bit Ursula Le Guin-ish, which I think Arnason says herself — and the structure, too, with the story within a story. It’s quite a slow narrative: not about things happening, so much as things that have happened, about the power humans have for good and bad (but usually bad) over our environment. I don’t know enough about Native American culture and belief to judge that aspect of the story: to me the ecological, intimate link with nature stuff seemed a little like an idealisation, more of the ‘noble savage’ persuasion than realism, but it doesn’t do so in a negative way and, like I said, I don’t know enough to judge.
I’ve wanted to get this collection since it came out, so no surprises that I read it as soon as I got chance. I love Huff’s collections of short storiI’ve wanted to get this collection since it came out, so no surprises that I read it as soon as I got chance. I love Huff’s collections of short stories: they’re bite-sized, sure, but there’s enough there to get your teeth into. Especially in this collection, which is a group of stories about the same character/world: Magdalene, the most powerful wizard in the world. I loved that she is literally the most powerful wizard, and that Huff chose to deal with that not by making her less powerful, but by making her essentially her own worst enemy. (Which is particularly true in the last story.)
I like that Magdalene is lazy, indolent, sensual, sexual — and none of this is particularly judged by the stories in any kind of “teach her a lesson” way. She still does what needs to be done, she still cares about the people around her, and she doesn’t care to boast about her. That would take effort.
In fact, arguably the only “lesson” in these stories is that she must accept herself, whole and entire, the good with the bad. Not a bad message at all, if there’s going to be one.
I’ve meant to read something by Hopkinson for a while — in fact, at one point I was a chunk of the way through Midnight Robber. I’m not sure what happI’ve meant to read something by Hopkinson for a while — in fact, at one point I was a chunk of the way through Midnight Robber. I’m not sure what happened then; had to give it back to the library, maybe? But I’ve been meaning to have another crack at it sometime soon, and this is definitely encouraging. The two short stories are well-crafted, and I especially love the voices she gives to Ariel and Caliban and Sycorax. I didn’t read it as the ‘house nigger’ and the ‘field nigger’, as some of the notes on it mention; afterwards, I immediately felt it was obvious.
The non-fiction commentary is great, too. I felt like despite this being the ‘Outspoken Authors’ series, Hopkinson still felt the need to hold back on/qualify her opinions and feelings a bit; there’s a diffidence, almost defensiveness, that upset me a little. Like, do we really need to make a world where an author of colour feels she has to repeatedly state that books by white men are fine and she reads them and she just wants more diversity? I did the same in my post about my Female Authors Only Month project, it’s true, but… it annoys me. Let’s quit acting like wanting more stories from some people means we want to silence other people, okay?
Still, Hopkinson said a lot of incisive and true things about fandom, race, literature, people. And I’m sure there are white folks reading it who feel like she’s making a stab at them (at a guess, if Vox Day or the Sad and Rabid Puppies read this, they might have apoplexy). And I love that she isn’t a bit ashamed about having fibromyalgia and the effects it has on her: so many people are dismissive about it, and given that Nalo Hopkinson is a woman of colour, I bet there’s plenty of people adding that to their list of reasons why they don’t have to listen to her. Which is rubbish, but definitely what I’ve observed.
I don’t know how many times I’ve read this now, but it’s probably my favourite of Diana Wynne Jones’ work. I actually saw the Studio Ghibli adaptationI don’t know how many times I’ve read this now, but it’s probably my favourite of Diana Wynne Jones’ work. I actually saw the Studio Ghibli adaptation first: it’s very different in some ways, but it still captures some of the ideas and tone. The thing I really loved, though, coming to the book after the film, was discovering all the Welsh background. The ‘saucepan song’, Howl’s family, his Welsh Rugby shirt, even some of the things he says — “there’s a welcome in the valleys”! As well as the Welsh background, there’s just a lot more in the book: Sophie’s sisters, her aunt Fanny, a different view of Howl…
And Sophie is a fun protagonist: capable, pretty, not stuck up, capable of making mistakes, admitting she’s wrong, and being really ratty about it. She’s not perfect, by any means — which is fortunate, because neither is Howl. Both of them have a lot to put up with, in fact! And yet it doesn’t go too far, either: most people have something redeeming about them. For a while we think of Sophie’s Aunt Fanny as rather exploitative and unfair; a wicked stepmother, in fact. But there’s another side to the story, and Jones makes sure we know it.
Then of course there’s the tone. It’s light, silly, and yet you come to care about the characters easily because they make you smile, and because sometimes you can see right through them to their real motivations. Like people, really. I love all the references to traditional folk tale structures, too, like Sophie thinking she’ll never come to much because she’s the eldest of three.