Indecisions, a poll

So soon I’ll be off to Belgium again, and I need to pick what books to take! I’m sure I’ve missed out an option and will kick myself later, but hey, maybe this will help make my mind up a bit.

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Review – Ironskin

Cover of Ironskin by Tina ConnollyIronskin, Tina Connolly

I wasn’t sure about Ironskin at all when I initially picked it up. I’d seen the comparisons to Beauty and the Beast, and I knew it was based somewhat on Jane Eyre. I don’t generally like stories based on classic novels, and Jane Eyre is one of my favourites, but as I got into this, I rather liked it. It doesn’t follow the novel too closely, doesn’t break its own logic to fit the novel’s plotline; it makes and sustains a world of its own. There are parallels, more than similarities, if that distinction makes sense.

I enjoyed the first half of Ironskin quite a lot; I know other people found it slow, but I enjoyed that. The romance is, of course, quite closely parallel with Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester, so I can’t really fault it for the brevity of that aspect. It isn’t quite as compelling as the original, though.

Towards the last third or so of the book, it gained a lot of momentum and became a much more important (in the sense of far reaching consequences for the world) story. And… I didn’t like that so much. Sometimes you get sick of people saving the world — I wanted the story of Jane saving herself, Dorie and Edward, not the world. I wanted it to end on a more personal note.

The strength Jane finds isn’t a bad thing, but the story just didn’t take a direction I was interested in. The high drama of the last third after the post-war calm at the beginning didn’t work. I was prepared for an introspective story about recovery, from the beginning, and it became a story about war.

It’s a very interesting idea, and I enjoyed the fey lore and the set up. I don’t know if I’ll read more books in this series — my heart sank rather when it diverted almost completely from Jane Eyre. We’ll see!

Stacking the Shelves

It’s time for Tynga’s Reviews’ Stacking the Shelves meme again! I’ve already posted about the books I got for Christmas here, so I won’t repeat them — and there’s far too many to do so anyway! But here’s some I picked up today (with my first ever paycheck, hee).

Cover of Secret Chambers by Martin BrasierCover of Wonder Woman volume 1, BloodCover of Ultimate comics' Hawkeye

On another note, you know those noble plans about the books I was gonna read for the WWE challenge? Well, I’ve realised there’s one more book I’ve read that I meant to count for the challenge, Martha Wells’ City of Bones, and I ended up starting reading another which wasn’t on my little list, Tina Connolly’s Ironskin.

Stick around, you’ll come to expect this kind of fickle behaviour from me when it comes to books…

Review – I Am Half-Sick of Shadows

Cover of I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan BradleyI Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Alan Bradley

At this point, I’ve elected not to take these books seriously at all, and just enjoy them for what they are without picking nits. After all, at least it features a curious, resourceful young girl who is interested in chemistry and forensics, who solves murders in a delightfully Blyton-esque way by getting herself all tangled up in them. Of course there’re problems with this… fetishisation of an old British country house and ~British spirit~*, etc, Flavia tampering with crime scenes, the nigh-on abusive behaviour of Flavia’s sisters (although that does seem to be developing, slowly, book by book, and might perhaps become more understandable later on).

No, nitpicking aside, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows is fun. How very like Flavia to try and prove the existence of Father Christmas by attempting to more or less glue him to the chimney pots. And there’s a touch more about her Aunt Felicity, and Dogger, which makes both of them more interesting characters. Well, I already found Dogger interesting, but I wasn’t sure what the point of Aunt Felicity was. Now… I think she and Flavia have more in common than we’ve yet seen.

The mystery itself is fairly perfunctory — the murder isn’t discovered until pretty much half-way through! I barely had time to get my head around the suspects before Flavia was getting attacked. It’s really less of a mystery series and more of a quirky detective series, mysteries to some extent optional.

Still, as I say, it’s fun — when I don’t take it seriously.

*British my foot. The De Luces of this series are very, very English, and that’s what Alan Bradley meant them to be. British is unnecessarily inclusive of the Welsh, Scots and Irish. There’s not a trace of any of those nationalities here.

Worlds Without End Challenge

This year, Worlds Without End ran a challenge about getting people to read female genre authors who were new to them. Now, I figured I already read plenty of female authors, but there’s always room for new ones, right? I even decided to go one better: I’d read double the amount suggested in the challenge. And I’ve been pretty successful so far — these are my completed reviews for the books I’ve read, available on Goodreads. Likes on Goodreads are super helpful, by the way: I’ve given up linking to the GR version of each review, as the links never registered any clicks, but it would really help me in getting ARCs and so on!

Oh, and there was one other rule — you had to pick a random new female author. So I had to pick two.

Anyway, here’s the list:

Now, the observant will have noticed that I am not quite there yet, and I haven’t got a lot of time. So, here’s the list of books I hope to get read in order to complete the challenge, by New Year’s Eve.

  • Lauren Beukes, Zoo City
  • Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Djinni
  • Melissa Scott, Shadow Man
  • Joanna Russ, The Female Man
  • Rosie Best, Skulk
  • Julianna Scott, The Holders

Wish me luck…

Review – Silver on the Tree

Cover of Silver on the Tree, by Susan CooperSilver on the Tree, Susan Cooper

Silver on the Tree combines all the best of the other books of the sequence: the magic, the genuine moments of terror and alarm, the weaving of legends and the everyday, the mysteries that leave you to wonder, the sense of place… And more than any of the others it combines both sadness and joy; in that, it’s the most adult of the sequence.

I especially enjoy little touches like Bran getting to meet Owain Glyndŵr; one thing I did miss was Barney not having more of a reaction to actually meeting King Arthur who he’s idolised since before the first page of the first book. I can’t remember having noticed it before, but that jarred me, this time. Also, I remember someone mentioning to me how much it bothered them that this book plays into the betrayal of a woman theme (as does The Dark is Rising, in the form of Maggie Barnes, “a sweet face” to lure people into the Dark). Thinking about it this time, I see their point, even though the White Rider is otherwise ambiguously gendered. It’s as if women can somehow hide their allegiance to the Dark behind womanly charms, where the men are immediately picked out (Mr Mitothin doesn’t fool Will for a moment; Maggie Barnes, however, has to act wickedly to get him to realise, and “Blodwen Rowlands” fools John entirely until the very end).

We do have some great female characters in these books — the Lady and Jane, mainly, with Will’s sisters, mother and aunt and other such minor characters — but it’s a bit nasty that the alluring side of the Dark is pretty unambiguously female.

Still, that’s not enough to ruin the books, and nor is it suggested as something all women could/would do. It’s just something that may bother you, particularly if you forget how old these books are.

I think I’ve ended my reviews of this book with this quotation before, but it’s still true. The book ends with a call to arms to all of us, to stop relying on anyone else to change the world and know that we are, alone, responsible for our own choices.

“For Drake is no longer in his hammock, children, nor is Arthur somewhere sleeping, and you may not lie idly expecting the second coming of anybody now, because the world is yours and it is up to you.”

What are you reading… Thursday?

Whoops! Yesterday being Christmas Day, it didn’t “feel” like a Wednesday… Though I doubt anyone missed it.

What did you recently finish reading?
He Said, Sidhe Said by Tanya Huff, which I’ve reviewed already. Before that, I’ve been working on my reread of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising; I’m up to The Grey King.

What are you currently reading?
Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper is the first book open on my ereader. The second one is I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley; I’ll probably finish both of those tonight.

What do you think you’ll read next?
Well, I’m still working on the epic unfinished list. I think either my next ones will be the rest of the Flavia de Luce books, including the ARC I have of The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, or I might take a break from Flavia and work on some of the books that aren’t in a series. Christopher Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop, maybe, or Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Djinni. I’m not sure yet. All my new Christmas books are very, very tempting… *snatches hands away from one of the genetics ones*

Books acquired:
Many, many and varied. See this post