Kidd is a capable writer and she doesn't over-reach in this, making the commitment to fiction rather than faction. The topic is horrific and so that mKidd is a capable writer and she doesn't over-reach in this, making the commitment to fiction rather than faction. The topic is horrific and so that makes it difficult to read, in part because she so clearly contrasts the two kinds of lives her protagonists lead.
I found the middle of the book difficult, in large part because of its slow pace. One character had a lot of narrative to cover while the other dithered back and forth, and together that didn't keep as compelling a pace as the beginning or end did. It also falters with the late addition of the third main character, Sarah's sister, as part of the anti-slavery action; while she obviously is a solidifying agent in her sister's ambitions, she also acts as an almost deus ex machina force in re-boosting lagging momentum. Obviously the plot was constrained to some degree by both biographical content and the need to deal with two converging character arcs, but it didn't feel as smoothly developed as the earlier portions did. ...more
At first I was overwhelmed by the richness of the writing in this book, but about, oh, 30 or so pages in, I twigged to the metacommentary the author wAt first I was overwhelmed by the richness of the writing in this book, but about, oh, 30 or so pages in, I twigged to the metacommentary the author was constructing between the book, the signs of life (the meaning of the title), and the specific signs cited as they were playing out in the lives of characters. Although I think it gets a bit self-consciously cute by the end, the author sets up one set of expectations per section only to stand them on their head by the next revelation. And so a complex and yet very simple story is told by looping ever further backwards, ever more detailed in a complicated timeline.
In content, the book is every bit as horrific as a story of modern war's effects on a population should be, and as such, hardly something to recommend to the squeamish. I've seen this described as a "romance" and, really? It's a story of war, period, and there's no romance to that. ...more
This book clearly grew out of the training in infection control that went out all over Alaska during the H1N1 flu epidemic. The proposal, that the govThis book clearly grew out of the training in infection control that went out all over Alaska during the H1N1 flu epidemic. The proposal, that the government set loose an infection in Western Alaska, seems kind of basic and aside from flirting with Native culture a bit, this post-apocalyptic attempt doesn't really carry as much suspense as is promised. It's mostly a journey, on the land and of course is paralleled in the interior landscape of the protagonist, and while unobjectionable, really didn't draw me in as much as I'd hoped. I think it might read better for someone outside Alaska, for whom the setting, geographic and cultural, would be exotic and exciting....more
It's hard to read this book without also thinking about Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson. Both are pretty interior, but this one doesn't really sIt's hard to read this book without also thinking about Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson. Both are pretty interior, but this one doesn't really sell the confusion of the lost memories because she's transplanted back to a time when she had those memories intact. That makes this story a more textual one, as she constantly tallies what she is experiencing against what she remembers. As such, then, it's almost more like the time travel trope in which the traveler goes back to review an earlier part of their life, such that when they return, they're more in touch with that past.
I think that because the emphasis is thus upon a story mostly told, rather than experienced, by the protagonist, this distance works against really developing much empathy with or sympathy for her. That's magnified by her own distaste for the older version of herself as well as her sense of drifting with bland helplessness amidst her confusion, so that I found it hard to care much about a great deal of what happened.
The three-part narrative, Alice's, her sister's and her grandmother's, is clearly meant to weave into a seamless whole about [blah blah heartwarming, family]. I can see why it's in development for a movie, but I am pretty much guaranteed not to particularly care given my general lack of enthusiasm for the whole heartwarming genre. And although I give credit to the author for trying to write a twist into the ending, it tended more to to confuse me than seem, after discovering it, to be the reasonable outcome. This usually results from the author not quite laying the groundwork to make an ending inescapable—unless it was more about the meta-concept of the reader being rendered as passive and seemingly uncaring as the protagonist about how her life works out. ...more
What is there to add to this book that hasn't already been said? The writing is tight and the story tragic without the whole sjw feel of beating one oWhat is there to add to this book that hasn't already been said? The writing is tight and the story tragic without the whole sjw feel of beating one over the head. I'm always pleased when I hear of school classes or battle of the books reading lists that are brave enough to include it....more
I didn't finish it. I got sick in advance of the book club meeting and because I had failed to engage with it at all in the third of it I did read, II didn't finish it. I got sick in advance of the book club meeting and because I had failed to engage with it at all in the third of it I did read, I couldn't summon the enthusiasm to finish it.
Basically I found the style charmless, the protagonist unengaging of sympathy, and the inclusion of the real person bafflingly inconsequential (I'm really not into RPF) for as much of the plot as I saw. I'll acknowledge that the remainder of the book might be just brilliant, but it failed to motivate me to stick around that long and there are too many stories in the world to waste time on reading an uncompelling one out of some sense of duty. Sorry not sorry. ...more
This is a sweet YA romance for the near-college-aged. The author's voice is very current, very Tumblr, very fanfic. In fact, she does an especially niThis is a sweet YA romance for the near-college-aged. The author's voice is very current, very Tumblr, very fanfic. In fact, she does an especially nice job of shifting her tone into a very convincingly fanfic style in the quoted fic sections, a tone that's quite different to the majority of her "real" narrative. The plot is a bit of a simplistic First Love story with very little dramatic tension, but as fluff (the fanfic genre) it works fine. For those who need one, it should carry a bit of a trigger warning for mental illness or bipolar.
Really, this book should be sold in a boxed set with Anne Jamison's Fic. ...more
**spoiler alert** Okay, this wouldn't have been my pick but it was a bookclub selection so I owed the others the courtesy of at least taking a look at**spoiler alert** Okay, this wouldn't have been my pick but it was a bookclub selection so I owed the others the courtesy of at least taking a look at it since the chooser raved about it. *sigh*
There's not a great deal to say about this. Even had I picked it up (why?), I never would have pursued this story of perfect hipster lives far enough to realize that there was in fact a bit of a plot. Not a good plot, especially, and certainly not a thrilling or puzzling or preconceptions-challenging plot, but a plot. I dunno, maybe the perfect hipsters reading this would find it a series of thrilling reversals, but for anyone with much of a track record in thinking about mysteries, there really weren't many surprises once the first reveal (that is, the beginning of the second section) was made.
I know that some people read this as a feminist text, a deconstruction of everything terrible in hipster female role expectations. Meh. The protagonist has very little to do with her gender and everything to do with being a psychopath. Too bad she didn't take a leaf from James Moriarty's book and be an interesting psychopath.
The writing? The chapter transitions are just too cleverly neat. There are so many things straight off of tumblr, as though a bot had been set loose there to do the background research.
Characters? I didn't like any of these people, and how can you have a book with no sympathy at all? They were perfect (no matter where in their role reveal they were) but soulless, and in the end, so was the book. I finished it yesterday; today I can't remember precisely how it ended. And I don't care....more
This was a book club choice and I would otherwise not have picked it up. Although it is clearly marketed to look like yet another inspiring wildlife tThis was a book club choice and I would otherwise not have picked it up. Although it is clearly marketed to look like yet another inspiring wildlife tale of camaraderie between species, it's in fact a fairly clearcut history of wolf politics in Alaska, a decent if limited helping of natural history, and the predictable community responses, all wrapped up in a somewhat skimpy and spun-out retelling of the story of a wolf that lived close in on the Juneau suburbs before being shot by a "because I like to kill things" hunter.
The author is certainly capable, but I am not a fan of dogs, don't find wolves mystical and inspiring of wonder, and am already fairly acquainted with the political situation. If someone were not, this might be a worthy read. For me, it was a matter of turning pages. In that regard, then, the rating system here is not entirely fair to this book: do I rate it as I did, according to my own feelings, or would it be "fairer" to rate it according to its general capability and perhaps wider interest? Well, I did the former and there we are. But if you love wolves or want to learn more about them in the Alaskan context, don't be put off by my lack of enthusiasm: this is a decent if not remarkable book....more
I felt an immediate liking for the spunky damaged loner sort of heroine, even while I'm appalled at how terribly she's acting. Not terrible in terms oI felt an immediate liking for the spunky damaged loner sort of heroine, even while I'm appalled at how terribly she's acting. Not terrible in terms of society's conventions, but terribly in terms of the destructive effects of her acts on herself and how indifferent she is to them. It's a very promising character tension and I'm interested in seeing where the author goes with it. Loving all of the horticulture. It's being an easy book club choice to pick up and read.
-- (spoilers ahead) --
At least, the above is what I felt when I was starting it. But the book lagged—or, at least, my interest did—somewhere at the halfway point. I felt as though once she was involved with Grant, things became more ponderous. I drifted away, read other stuff, then came back as the book club deadline approached. I might not have done, were it not for that deadline. And while the pacing did pick back up, almost breathlessly so at times, it seemed, I was increasingly less fond of it.
Once she's pregnant, you can see the plot gathering steam for its predictable redemption with a suitable moral at the end. Oh joy: families triumph over...stuff. As edgy as this character began, I would have been more satisfied, I think, without such a neat wrap at the end. I also felt as though her changing values, especially as she let go of her business, was in some ways too underplayed. Yeah, they snuck up on her, but the reader should be able to look back and find the subtextual inevitability of it. And I didn't feel this was actually there in the writing.
For the most part, the author doesn't get in the way of the story. I liked the changing picture of the spaces the protagonist inhabited as metaphor for her mental state, especially in the descriptions of the blue closet and its link to the blue box. I vacillate between seeing the character Marlene as poorly-developed plot device and subtly reflecting Victoria's own indifference to her as a person, but I think I come down on the side of the former. And I feel that the alternating time-stream narrative was just a bit too neat in terms of how its correspondences turned a converging series of events into a single story. Finally, although the author states in the end notes that she did not write this as magical realism, I think that is nonetheless what she achieved, albeit to a rather small degree, and that the book is the richer for it. Perhaps I read too much fanfic and can't help extrapolating on plots, but I am intrigued by where this could go with a bit more magic and Grant's more active participation.
Over all, this book didn't really hold any surprises in terms of plot development, but disappointed somewhat in the conventionality of the writing and the way the plot is wrapped. It's well enough done for what it is, but somehow, I wanted it to be more....more
I'm fairly pleased with this book from the standpoint of being a Sherlockian. It's an interesting picture of the Great Detective and aging, and the stI'm fairly pleased with this book from the standpoint of being a Sherlockian. It's an interesting picture of the Great Detective and aging, and the structure of the novel, which many readers object to, actually underscores the aging process and how it affects Holmes's mind. The three story strands do eventually interlock, some in surprising ways, to reach the central theme of being alone, the lone survivor in a puzzling emotional world. As is entirely typical of Holmes's world, the women are underdeveloped as characters, existing primarily as plot devices or abstractions; the story is always about the men. In this case, the commonality of three stories of mothers and sons helps unify Holmes's emotional journeys while remaining nearly inaccessible to his understanding, or, at least, limited degree of empathy. The case of Roger's death provides a special look at how Holmes thinks through a puzzle even while slowed by his aging lack of focused speed.
Holmes's character seems fairly canon-compliant, aside from the substitution of the case of the fascinating woman for that place occupied in canon by Irene Adler. It does provide a nice AU explanation for Holmes's fascination with bees, however. The author neatly sidesteps the eternal question of Holmes's sexuality and relationship with Watson by having Holmes insist it was "just platonic" to the skepticism of his (gay) questioner. And, ultimately, this story, told mostly by Holmes himself, backs up the examples in canon in which the Holmes-narrated stories are less masterfully told than the more typical ones told by Watson. Even Holmes himself notes that his work is better captured and more compellingly related through Watson's skills, however much he deplores their loss of best accuracy.
If I have quibbles with the writing, it's with the info dumps the author uses to bring us up to speed with his research. That he's done research rather than being familiar with his background is revealed in some small but noticeable errors, such as when he confuses kimono with a yukata. I would also have preferred him to refrain from use of epithets, as when he repeatedly referred to John Watson as "the good doctor," a sylistic shorthand no fanfic beta editor would permit unchallenged. ...more
It's easier to hang onto the nonfiction aspect of this work than many of this type of book, simply because the unadorned journalistic style the authorIt's easier to hang onto the nonfiction aspect of this work than many of this type of book, simply because the unadorned journalistic style the author uses doesn't try to provide the interiority that seems to cloud so much of the "faction" genre. It's all "tell" with rather little "show," including less descriptive detail than one might hope for in a book as opposed to an article.
It's also clear the agenda the author carries throughout. Although she doesn't make overt reference in the text to the arguments she talks about in the preface, it's clear from the way she describes thing that she is putting her own moral weight on events rather than simply pointing out problematic things.
And that's where these moral outrage books tend to leave me a bit cool. It's easy to call a society like this slavery, morally corrupt, outdated—as she has done. And it's easy for a reader to look at this exotic world and judge. But it's a safe judgement for the reader, because it's out of reach. In the US, we allow tribal justice of just the sorts that this book describes (for example, I'm thinking of the Alaska Native tribes and cultures) and that tribal justice can create similar situations of civil rights abuse of women, but because it's in our country and we feel guilty about American Native rights, we permit this same kind of slavery at home and turn a blind eye towards it. But the titillation of the exotic permits satisfying outrage without the sort of propinquity that demands action. It's a cheap thrill: morality porn, and I don't find a lot of satisfaction in it.
It's also a collection of tales of individual members of a family, less structured by biographic detail on the head of the household (although his influence pervades everyone's lives) than it would seem in reading the marketing text on the cover. The fact of him selling books is hardly detailed, mostly existing as shorthand for "this isn't nearly as conservative as could be" as well as the ambiguity of someone forward-thinking in society who is deeply restrictive of his own family. That tension pervades the book and is perhaps some of the most honest, although least obviously-stated, content of the work....more
This one feels livelier than the last couple, perhaps because it's working with more familiar cultures. Still, the Japanese culture painted here is raThis one feels livelier than the last couple, perhaps because it's working with more familiar cultures. Still, the Japanese culture painted here is rather softened—naturally enough, in order for our protagonist to survive. The integration of dragons into feudal Japan worked rather well, however, and I did especially like the river dragon, incidental but a lovely little episode that embodied the care and indifference both of the dragon personality Novik has created.
Amnesia is a well-used trope for re-acquainting the reader with information, and while it's more interesting than sheer exposition, I found myself dragging my heels as it dragged on. I don't see that it accomplished anything other than exposition by a subtler name.
I do like the way red echoes visually through the book, underscoring the title. And speaking of the title, I enjoyed (maybe not truly the right word in the context of tyrants) the way in Japan we think we've met the title tyrant, then perhaps it's in China, oh no, maybe the Russians, or Napoleon. The last few chapters especially, the Russian section, have a good flavor of the moral ambiguity that is a recurrent theme throughout the series.
So, this one has turned around my feelings after the previous installment, that I might give up on the series. The chopped-off ending is not my favorite plot resolution, but I can understand it in the context of a long series that is published more in episodes than stand-alones and that has to be fit into the constraints of what a publishing house feels is marketable and adequately profitable.
Spoiler alert: does anyone want to bet that we don't meet Junichiro on the back of a French dragon in the next book? Novik hasn't even begun to wring all of the moral ambiguity and historical value out of that character; he's way too written, at this point, to be a throw-away. In the words of Jim Moriarty, I'm afraid you've rather shown your hand there, Ms. Novik. ...more
I love Gaiman's work: it's clever, idiosyncratic, just this side of twee, and always well-crafted.
This one, that starts as a deceptive little memoir oI love Gaiman's work: it's clever, idiosyncratic, just this side of twee, and always well-crafted.
This one, that starts as a deceptive little memoir of childhood, ends as something entirely else and I'm not altogether certain what. In between, there are strange women, dire peril, and several cats, which are good things for any tale of questionable reality to hold.
Perhaps I've just been reading too much Sherlock fanfic, but the early portions of this would have made a lovely story of Sherlock Holmes' early years. ...more
Husband's comment after looking at me reading just the introduction:
"Pencil and highlighter and sticky notes? What are you reading? It's another greatHusband's comment after looking at me reading just the introduction:
"Pencil and highlighter and sticky notes? What are you reading? It's another great big hard novel like Parade's End again, isn't it?"
Yes, I did in fact read it that thoroughly because this is simply the best available collection on this topic that yet exists. Jamison has done a good, if not definitive (she herself admits that some writers she hoped to include refused either initially or once they saw who else was included) job of covering the growth and major history of fanfiction by focusing on a limited number of large fandoms and tracking important trends and controversies in fictionalizing those 'verses. She deals in passing, with appropriate legal disclaimer, with the legal issues of copyright and public domain, pointing out that within fandom it's the fans themselves who hold the most restrictive views of ownership. She also places fanfiction solidly and thoughtfully within modern literary context rather than the titter-fraught writing apartheid that is more generally applied to fan efforts.
This book was released at the perfect time to benefit my preparation of a presentation for our state library association at their annual conference, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I may end up looking like nothing so much as a fangirl of this book. So be it: it deserves it....more
This will scare the daylights out of anyone who has ever gone to sea, albeit in kind of a good way. While the author doesn't truly evoke the grindingThis will scare the daylights out of anyone who has ever gone to sea, albeit in kind of a good way. While the author doesn't truly evoke the grinding work of heavy weather, he at least tries to reference it and keep the level of discomfort in the reader's mind, if not fresh and constant.
In addition to being a story of high seas disaster, however, this is secondarily a story of press coverage and narrative creep. Unfortunately, the author alludes to more mystery than he actually follows through in examining. I get that he's trying to be factual and limit to what he can document, but don't raise issues if you're not going to at least look at their provenance and validity and available evidence.
The third aspect of the book, the author's own family history and journey towards the story is much less interesting. As a structure the author telling the story of researching the topic is not one of my favorites and in many regards is rather the Mary Sue of nonfiction. I don't find that it adds much more than stuffing, and it was a quick-flip segment of the book in my reading....more
**spoiler alert** I continue to read--and enjoy--this series somewhat to my surprise. I'm not actually a fan of urban fantasy--most of it is dull and**spoiler alert** I continue to read--and enjoy--this series somewhat to my surprise. I'm not actually a fan of urban fantasy--most of it is dull and repetitious, and if you were only in it for the sex, a good bit of slash fanfic probably does it better.
No, I like Butcher's work. I like that he continues to evolve his characters (including his opponents and the presumably immutable fae); I like that there's never a moment to catch breath as one catastrophe follows another (and such clever, clever catastrophes); and I like the series arc as one long journey of redemption for the whole planet. I even like his cheeky tone of geek smartassery, throwing in his pop cultural references with just the right degree of insouciance to tickle the knowing without sneering in the face of those who don't recognize them.
Specifically in this episode (because they are that: stand-alone is long behind us now), I enjoyed the growing contribution (and characterization) of the Little People, his developing relationship with Karrin, his struggle to incorporate the mantle of Winter Knight, the oh-shit of Molly's reveal at the end, and the evolution of our picture of Mab. Oh, and Butcher's Theory of Historical Conservation? Totally grabbed that (attributed--I always ack) for a bit of fic I'm writing in a different 'verse because it is just that handy a concept. So thanks for that, too, Mr. Butcher.
The series holds its quality. I'll keep reading it, waiting for the next installment to come out and snatching it up. Is there any greater compliment to an author?
Rereading because of new BBC radio production. I'd forgotten a lot of details but, more importantly, I'd also forgotten how charmingly written this isRereading because of new BBC radio production. I'd forgotten a lot of details but, more importantly, I'd also forgotten how charmingly written this is. There's not a lot remarkable about the story and there's everything remarkable about the characters and atmosphere in this story of a journey to heroism beneath the streets of London. I don't frivolously give five stars, but this one remains utterly worthy. ...more