A particularly strong UF series opener, Neill's heroine neither spends the entire book freaking out about how none of this can be real (to quote one oA particularly strong UF series opener, Neill's heroine neither spends the entire book freaking out about how none of this can be real (to quote one of the characters, "all this is happening in a post-harry potter universe"), nor tumbling into bed with the first supernatural hottie she meets. though not all the tropes are gone, of course - there are plenty of supernatural hotties to go around, and at some point she does end up in a suitably ass-kicking sort of leather outfit. still, it's refreshing to spend the first book setting up the world and the rules and building some interesting character tensions, rather than have our girl bungling through solving the mystery. i liked it enough (and wanted more) that i'm jumping right on into the 2nd one....more
lyrical without being twee or fussily overdone, 'the witch's boy' is a children's book only because it's fairly short and it's a coming-of-age tale (ilyrical without being twee or fussily overdone, 'the witch's boy' is a children's book only because it's fairly short and it's a coming-of-age tale (i.e., if you love fairy tales but generally avoid books for younger readers, give this one a go). old, familiar stories twisted into an opposite perspective (the witch, here, is far from wicked) are sprinkled throughout the boy's life; it's every bit as charming as you'd think to hear "goldilocks" told by bears....more
the fist few chapters of 'everything is illuminated' are sprinkled with a comfortably earthy humor, and a lack of Important Srs Bznss that's rather rethe fist few chapters of 'everything is illuminated' are sprinkled with a comfortably earthy humor, and a lack of Important Srs Bznss that's rather refreshing for a much-lauded litfic sort of novel. the next (most of them) chapters run that earthy humor into the ground by becoming relentlessly charming shading on into twee, spiked with the inevitable srs bznss, being as how this is a book about searching for one's family post-Holocaust, after all.
jonathan safran foer (see? kinda twee right there) hires a guide team from a ukranian travel company to take him to the village he believes his grandfather fled from during WWII. parts of the novel are the (hilariously) poorly-translated POV chapters of his guide, part are the author/narrator's grandfather's tale leading up to WWII, and part are from the founding of the village 200 years previous. the timelines are supposed to echo and reflect on each other, on the meaning of love, and on the futility of something or other or all. occasional snippets of shining brilliance are bogged down in a morass of words that often come across like someone trying to be shiningly brilliant. there's a good novel in here, burdened with a bit too much Style to be elegant....more
starts off as eye-rollingly silly as the blurb makes it sound, but manages to very quickly get right on track as a snappy-paced swashbuckler of a UF/astarts off as eye-rollingly silly as the blurb makes it sound, but manages to very quickly get right on track as a snappy-paced swashbuckler of a UF/alternate history. massive bonus points for having both male and female main characters be actual well-rounded characters, not just stock-issued love interests or generic ass kickers.
random PSA for the day: this is SO not steampunk, guys. they may be wearing corsets and outdated fashion for the whims of their centuries-old undead monarch, but they have cell phones and cars, not dirigibles and clockwork....more
though i generally prefer adult fiction, I know several friends who swear by childrens' and YA books because of their inherent "clarity". if you're wrthough i generally prefer adult fiction, I know several friends who swear by childrens' and YA books because of their inherent "clarity". if you're writing a story for a younger audience, so the argument goes, you first and foremost must tell a gripping tale; all the stylistic flourishes in the world don't mask the lack of one. in the right author's hands, that argument can be proven wonderfully true. much like last year's excellent Daughter of Smoke & Bone, 'Shadow and Bone' is a lot richer and more compelling than the admittedly generic-sounding cover blurb would have you believe.
everything about this book is utterly lovely. despite my avowed love of ebooks as my preferred text delivery method, this was a joy in dead tree: the frontispiece is a lushly drawn map, full of the imperial Russian images and pseudo-Russian place names that populate the text (like many fantasy books, the map is nice but not strictly necessary to the story, but it is an exceptionally well-done one). chapter headers and page footers are illuminated throughout: this is a completely charming old-school storybook. all the pretty in the world wouldn't make up for the lack of a fantastic story, though (see above assertion), and first-time author Bardugo delivers her part in spades. Alina has been brought up in a country long besieged by war and cut off from its necessary coastline by a monster-infested swath of man-eating darkness. between the starving peasant class and the indifferent royal family, the last defenders of the country are the loved/feared grisha, the magical practitioners of the realm. Alina starts out brought up as an orphaned peasant, joins the military on the cusp of her 20s, and eventually sees how the other half live - she's a wonderful window into this stratified society, and we only get to know what she does, making this a taut read.
4.5 stars, only because it gets a little slow in the middle, but otherwise easily one of the best books i've read in a good while.
AH. i finally get it4.5 stars, only because it gets a little slow in the middle, but otherwise easily one of the best books i've read in a good while.
AH. i finally get it. people who love Banks' culture novels LOVE these books rather rabidly, and though this is the 4th of his novels (3rd in this series of mostly stand-alones) i've read, this is only the first one where i understand that sort of excitement about them. the common kudos tossed around for his writing finally clicked for me: in this book, the ship names are utterly hilarious, and the AIs are deliciously snarky, and the culture's ulterior motives of being sinister for your own good is all too apparent.
Cheradinine Zakalwe comes from a more backwater (non-culture) sort of planet with a robust military career, and thusly has benefit to the culture as an operative of occasional need - apparently "utopia spawns few warriors". he's deployed as necessary to planets not quite ready for absorption into the culture, to help nudge wars in the direction that has been determined to be best (though he frequently has no idea exactly who is supposed to win or why). he is himself a battle-hardened warrior gifted in the "use of weapons" - diplomacy, generalship, assassin-craft, as well as guns n ammo - and he is himself a weapon used by the culture.
Zakalwe is (so far in my reading) Banks' most identifiable and "standard" protagonist - that blurb above makes him sound like a michael bay movie action hero - and in many ways, that's the case. Banks, however, turns much of this trope right on its head, and the story is ultimately more about personal cost than about huge explosions. additionally, because he's an outsider to the culture, this book can serve as an excellent intro to the series.
as a random aside, Banks is the author that now has the distinction of appearing most frequently on my personal "wow WTF" shelf - 3 out of his 4 i've read - so take that however you'd choose to do so. it's a rare tale indeed that will have me literally gasping aloud with surprise (or shouting shocked expletives, good or bad) at a genuinely, thoroughly unexpected moment in the story. i haven't been a fresh-eyed teenage reader in many a year now, so i really like it when an author can actually shock/surprise me, but YMMV of course. Banks can be kinda gory in those moments....more