I've been so busy for so long that I've not had time to write reviews although I've been reading a lot. However, I had to make an exception for this bI've been so busy for so long that I've not had time to write reviews although I've been reading a lot. However, I had to make an exception for this book because I fell in love with it. Novik has written a mythic world fairy tale that feels real. It's her own story, filled with all sorts of symbolism, and not just a re-write of another old tale. Normally, I prefer urban fantasy or mythic fantasy in a contemporary or modern setting over anything that might be considered high fantasy these days. I'm no longer in witches and wizards in quasi-medieval settings. However, these characters and this setting became three dimensional for me, partly because of Novik's narrator, Agnieska, and how Novik created and developed her. Excellent!...more
Book four of her Laundry series started strong, but the writing seemed to weaken just as the plot was thickening, almost as if it simply was becoming Book four of her Laundry series started strong, but the writing seemed to weaken just as the plot was thickening, almost as if it simply was becoming routine, which seems sad. On the other hand, I started stumbling about and becoming rather picky once Stross had characters meeting at Colfax and 14th in Denver.
All right, so I've lived in England since 2000. However, prior to that, I spent years in Colorado, including Denver and its environs. There isn't a Colfax and 14th. 14th runs parallel to Colfax and is one block south of Colfax. If you're setting part of your book in a city you don't know, do check out basics. I know, I know, I'm being picky. However, I found that error rather disconcerting and, after that, I was poised to find additional ones....more
A colleague in the college's library recommended this book to the English department, saying she could get the author in to speak to our creative writA colleague in the college's library recommended this book to the English department, saying she could get the author in to speak to our creative writing students as they'd worked together in a creative writing MA programme.
When I saw the book, I wasn't convinced. The dust jacket made it look like a children's or YA book. No, it's meant for adults -- that's the target audience. (And I know very well that only extremely established writers making lots and lots of money for their publisher get much say regarding cover art.)
But I tried it anyway. I mean, it's urban fantasy and historical fantasy, which I enjoy. Every other chapter shifts setting -- from contemporary England to late 16th-century Poland and other locations in Eastern Europe. One chapter in the 16th century, one in the 21st. Repeat. The two time periods and story threads do come together.
Yes, reader, I liked it. A lot. It's well written and plotted. It has magic and folklore. It has Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley from Elizabeth I's court, along with Erzebet Bathory. There's magic and folklore in the 21st century also, with compelling protagonists and the idea of borrowed time...
Alexander has a three-book contract, has submitted the second book and is writing the third book now. I can't wait for them!
Today's lesson: don't judge a book by its cover. It's a trite cliche, yes, but it's certainly true in this case....more
Okay, this book was fun, but it also was a disappointment in many ways. I read it based on a recommendation from writer Robin McKinley. It's a YA bookOkay, this book was fun, but it also was a disappointment in many ways. I read it based on a recommendation from writer Robin McKinley. It's a YA book (by Phil Rickman using a pseudonym) set in Glastonbury, complete with a young teen spending the summer with his laid back hippie-ish parents, whose daughter left Glastonbury and them behind years ago, wanting nothing to do any more with either the town nor her parents. And then there's the young teenage daughter of the town's C o E's church new curate, who reluctantly left Yorkshire when she was forced to accompany her parents to Glastonbury, such a weird place.
We have a Glastonbury setting that I truly hope isn't the true Glastonbury. Granted, I don't live in Glastonbury, but I've visited there numerous times and also have spent time in nearby towns, villages and cities (Wells being an example of a nearby city; I'm not meaning Bristol nor Bath). I moved to England almost 15 years ago from Boulder, Colorado. Glastonbury to me is Boulder with medieval and older artifacts, such as a ruined abbey, the Tor, the Chalice Well gardens, the holy thorn tree etc. When I first moved to England, it was difficult to find places offering vegetarian food that also banned smoking. Glastonbury had such places even before the smoking ban. And what with all of the shops offering Pagan books (including Wicca) and various other bits and pieces, along with the obvious influences of other religions, such as Christianity, Buddhism and Sufis (hey, there's a Sufi charity shop in town), among others. There are health food stores and a huge Morrisons supermarket. There's a Boots the Chemist right by a new age shop. So, there I am: a bit of Boulder, but with added history.
I'd like to think that people in Glastonbury with different religious beliefs are tolerant of one another, unlike the new curate in this book, who seems to be a born-again fundamentalist CofE priest, reminding me far more of Terry Jones in Florida than Rowan Williams, for example. And whilst I know there are "town versus gown" conflicts in cities such as Oxford and I'm sure there are "townies versus pilgrims" issues in Glastonbury, I just hope that the local curate doesn't consider street musicians near his church as horrible threats.
Although Rickman tries to give both Christianity and more Pagan beliefs fair treatment, to be honest, both of them seem to be poorly represented here. Rosa's father, the curate, is far too one-dimensional for most of the novel, and most of the pilgrims also come across that way. Yes, it's a children's/YA novel, but come on. Give kids a fair chance.
**spoiler alert** Perhaps I enjoyed this book a lot because Eggers reflects my own fears about Facebook, Google, Amazon (yes, you owners of Goodreads**spoiler alert** Perhaps I enjoyed this book a lot because Eggers reflects my own fears about Facebook, Google, Amazon (yes, you owners of Goodreads -- I almost left Goodreads when you purchased it) etc. taking over the world.
Or maybe I enjoyed this book because, although it weighs in at 499 pages, it's a very fast read. Granted, I read quickly, but it only took me a few hours to devour it. Time went too fast during this delightful read.
We have young Mae, only two years out of university, who didn't realise how lucky she was to be employed at all at a California public service company. That job really was beneath her, with its grey cubicles and boss who knew less than she did about her work. It was destroying her soul, so she is overjoyed when a former university friend helps her obtain a job where this friend is now up among the 'top 40' employees -- those in 'the know' -- at The Circle, a business that blends together aspects of Facebook, Google, Twitter etc. Forgive me, though, it's not a business. It's a community. The main office is a campus and it's designed so that people, once there, will never want to leave. It's not just a workplace; it's a place to socialise and live, what with its amazing gym, medical centre, concert venues etc. -- and even rooms, far more personal than hotel rooms, where you can stay overnight if you're working late (with clean clothing in your size to wear the next day). If you like, you can move in and save yourself rent and commute. And should you want to participate in an activity that can't be completed on campus, such as climbing an actual (non-virtual) mountain or kayaking in a non-virtual river or sea, don't worry -- don't go alone. Be accompanied by other Circlers (colleagues) also interested in those hobbies. Share what you do and see with the world. Improve your rating amongst the 11K+ employees. After all, who wants to be number 10,500?
Mae starts as an entry-level Customer Experience (formerly Customer Service) employee, dealing with customer's gripes and issues. At the end of each session, she needs to send the customer a performance survey for a rating out of 100. She's only rated 97/100? Not good enough! She sends out another survey asking what she could do better in the future. Most of the time, customers upgrade their original rankings and boost her score higher, often to an actual perfect 100. After a while, she doesn't do it because she's expected; she wants to achieve perfection. She wants to be liked. She is driven to be the best. No longer is she working at a job or place beneath her: this is her home.
It's generally a very well-written book complete with biting satire. Some reads call it a dystopian novel, but can it really be dystopia (GR note: isn't dystopia in your dictionary? You're suggesting dystrophy instead? Oy vey!) when the created world pretty much is simply a mirror of our own? (I loved the part where Mae's old friend Annie grumbles about her dealings with EU governments and how they whine about tax payments -- most likely The Circle's lack of paying taxes, I guess, based on what's happening in our world today.) Eggers needs his world to be our world in order to make his satire convincing, although there are a couple of scenes that are a bit distracting and a little too over the top, thus knocking a star off of my review. Oh, and I guessed Kalden's identity pretty early on. However, I have a feeling that we're meant to do so.
The ending? I'm glad it didn't go the other way, as it would have been too unrealistic. And that's all I'll say about it. ...more
It's a fun read, and I have a feeling that subsequent books in the series will be even stronger now that the exposition is out of the way, allowing foIt's a fun read, and I have a feeling that subsequent books in the series will be even stronger now that the exposition is out of the way, allowing for even more character development. I look forward to future books in this new urban fantasy series that takes a different approach to vampires, zombies etc.: the narrator writes travel guides for them....more
Robin McKinley has a special place in my reading heart. Her love of both fairy tales and roses transformed itself into books that I adored in the pastRobin McKinley has a special place in my reading heart. Her love of both fairy tales and roses transformed itself into books that I adored in the past, and any news of a new McKinley novel makes me happy. Shadows did not disappoint, although I wonder a bit about what some of my fellow (or sister) reviewers here are saying.
For example, one talked about how she writes mostly in American English, but she throws in Britishisms randomly, such as 'torch' and 'knapsack'. I noticed 'torch', but it was said by someone from 'Oldworld' who seems to be a bit Eastern European in our geography -- a character who probably would have picked up a bit of British English. And 'knapsack'? Well, it's actually fairly American term; 'rucksack' perhaps would be more British English, says she who teaches linguistics in Britain. 'Knapsack' may be a bit dated in American English these days, but I remember my parents (who would be in their nineties were they still alive) using it when I grew up in Pennsylvania. Maybe it's a regional/age situation.
Another issue I've seen in reviews is how McKinley doesn't tell us what the mysterious 'cobeys' are right away; however, I rather liked that delay. Her narrator knows what they are, the people of her world know what they are -- and we accept that. There isn't a reason for the narrator to explain them immediately as everyone in her world knows what they are. I knew that McKinley would get around to telling readers what they were -- when we needed to know. Wait, and you shall be rewarded. In the meantime, be curious, just as I was curious about the titular shadows, and how they seemed to be developing around the narrator's stepfather, departing from the traditional evil stepmother cliché. However, since in this book's world fairy tales are abandoned at a very young age (as they often are in our own world, alas), my curiosity was piqued; I wanted to know where McKinley was going with it.
Personally, I liked where she went. I also rather liked the way Maggie, the narrator, talks; she's a 17-year-old girl, and she reminds me of myself a little bit of when I was that age in how I would explain things, particularly when I was thinking to myself. McKinley remembers what it's like to be a teenager very well.
Please, let this book be the first of a series, all right?...more
Why have I avoided this book until now, I wonder. Perhaps it's because I felt the title made it out to be some sort of tie-in to a Marvel Comics superWhy have I avoided this book until now, I wonder. Perhaps it's because I felt the title made it out to be some sort of tie-in to a Marvel Comics superhero film. However, I'm glad that I finally gave in and tried it out because it captured my heart from then very start.
A 17-year-old boy is caught entering England at Dover with far too much marijuana in his possession and an urn next to him. He's just had an epileptic seizure and tells the border officers, who already want to detain them due to the fact that his photo has been circulated at all UK ports for reasons still unknown to the reader, that he's no longer fit to drive his car, which, of course, isn't actually his car. From there, we flashback to where it all began and then return to the present time much later.
It's a coming of age novel, and a first novel at that, about said 17-year-old boy raised just outside of Glastonbury whose mother owns one of many Wiccan shops in that fine town and says that her son was conceived at Stonehenge. The universe works against Alex in many ways many times, but he manages to find his way through it despite its many obstacles....more
Last week's Observer had a mini-feature on Maggie Stiefvater, ending with a line about how she's Diana Wynne Jones's heir. Wow. What an accolade thatLast week's Observer had a mini-feature on Maggie Stiefvater, ending with a line about how she's Diana Wynne Jones's heir. Wow. What an accolade that is. However, it is well deserved. The prologue itself held me riveted, and I'd barely started reading.
This YA book (my local library has rated it teen plus, and I agree -- it's a bit of a crossover YA/adult fantasy book) is extremely well written and plotted, with strong characterisation and twists that are surprising but perfectly reasonable. There are some aspects of the writing that must keep it in the YA stable; were it more of an adult only novel, I'd want a bit more detail here and there, but it works well for its genre. I love the Owen Glendower aspect of the story blended with contemporary Virginia -- oh, what a clever concept!
My sole complaint is that the ending leaves me with many questions. However, it's the first book in a planned series, so now I must endure the wait for the second book, The Dream Thieves, which will be published later this month. ...more
Another free ebook that was good. It has a fun, twisting plot that never stands still, and the premise is original and fun. Albeit slightly reminiscenAnother free ebook that was good. It has a fun, twisting plot that never stands still, and the premise is original and fun. Albeit slightly reminiscent of Connie Willis' writing in that a history department has access to time travel, it takes it in a slightly different direction and is far less serious about the topic. It's a lot of fun, it's a fast-moving read and I only gave it three stars because, well, there were times it needed to slow down a little bit and work just a tad more on narrative description and character development. There were only a couple of times when I had to question what someone did in a kind of "whoa -- where did part of his/her character come from", but they were enough to make me feel that this book was self-published and lacked the gentle nuances and final touches that a good editor can add to what generally is a well-written novel. Don't get me wrong: I'm glad I read it, and I am hoping that the second book in the series will be even stronger.
Note regarding the cover: Kindle recommended this book to me as a free sf/fantasy book for a while, but the cover made me think that recommendation was in error. You see, what I could see from the smallish Amazon icon was a steaming cuppa with a sugar cube next to it, and that combined with the cover font made me think of an entirely different genre from sf/fantasy. If the book is self-published, well, the weak cover is understandable. However, if there's an actual publishing house behind it, the art department needs help....more
I'm quite disappointed that Richardson's UK publisher has dropped the series so that Seawitch is available here only as an American import. It's not eI'm quite disappointed that Richardson's UK publisher has dropped the series so that Seawitch is available here only as an American import. It's not even available on Kindle -- only as import via Amazon, Book Depository, Forbidden Planet etc. Apparently, the sales weren't up to speed in Britain, but the writing still is. ...more
For a free ebook, this one is incredible. Okay, so Amazon and/or the publisher are trying to introduce us to a new series from an established mysteryFor a free ebook, this one is incredible. Okay, so Amazon and/or the publisher are trying to introduce us to a new series from an established mystery writer, which helps. But this one is quite readable, generally well written and nicely plotted -- except for the issues regarding Dan, Alex's boyfriend, which I fear I saw coming, and I must admit that I guessed 'who done it' well ahead of time. ...more
One reason why I think this Pride and Prejudice 'addition' works is because the protagonists of Austen's novel take a back seat to Austen's 'unseen' cOne reason why I think this Pride and Prejudice 'addition' works is because the protagonists of Austen's novel take a back seat to Austen's 'unseen' characters: the servants. Baker takes us 'downstairs', so to speak, at the Bennett house and introduces us to the lives of characters who barely exist or aren't even named in Austen's book. Here, we have our own servant love stories, where the servants see how nasty Wickham is before the Bennetts, Bingley is involved through Ptolemy Bingley, a former Caribbean slave to the family now free as a footman in England and then there's the new Bennett footman, with his mysterious background.
Even the lovely, intelligent and ever so nice Bennett daughters are viewed through the servants' envious eyes; Jane and Lizzie may be nice and give old gowns to Sarah and loan her books, but they're still young women who don't have to scrub mud out of their own shifts nor cook their own meals. Never will they have to clean their own babies' nappies.
Baker also turns upside down some of Austen's other protagonists. We have some brief sympathy for Mrs. Bennett, and Mr. Bennett, who never seems to care for protocol and propriety, has some deep secrets of his own that reveal that he is part of his own society.
The writing tends to be exquisite, and although I feel that the ending may be a tad rushed (which is why I've given the book four stars and not the five I was intending earlier), it's a worthwhile effort and is a strong companion to the original text....more
I liked it, but whilst Hodgkinson insists that urban dwellers can follow his guidance, I'm assuming he means urban dwellers like him, public school boI liked it, but whilst Hodgkinson insists that urban dwellers can follow his guidance, I'm assuming he means urban dwellers like him, public school boys who went on to Oxbridge. Whilst the period quotes are fun, I fear my working class background (despite my education) means that I'm not truly meant to be his intended audience....more
Sheer escapism and a lot of fun awaits you with Broken Homes, but, but, but... it's so much of a bridge book that I can only give it three stars. BookSheer escapism and a lot of fun awaits you with Broken Homes, but, but, but... it's so much of a bridge book that I can only give it three stars. Book Five in the series may clear up matters, though....more