What are you reading Wednesday

What did you recently finish reading?
It hasn’t been such a busy week this week, reading-wise. The last thing I finished was The Double Helix, James Watson’s account of the discovery of DNA. God, he has an ego on him, and he’s sexist about it too, at least back in 1968 when it was published. Rosalind Franklin, “Rosy”, would have been much improved by doing something novel with her hair, apparently.

What are you currently reading?
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and DNA by James Watson. Yes, that same James Watson. It’s better because it’s not focused on himself, and it even includes the account from The Double Helix in miniature, so just… stick to that one. I understand everything in it without a struggle: sometimes I think he does get beyond what most people are used to, like recombination, but heck, I’ve done the math on recombination — if a simple description stumped me, my genetics grade would be in trouble.

The Thirteenth Tale is quite good. It’s reminding me of something else, several somethings, but that doesn’t bother me too much — in some cases, I think the allusions are intentional anyway. It’s definitely better than Bellman & Black. And I love the book-obsessed main character largely because her thirst for books mirrors my own.

What do you think you’ll read next?
The plan is to finish reading Retribution Falls (Chris Wooding) and Augustus (John Williams). But I think everyone’s pretty used to how little my plans relate to what actually happens.

Review – Captain America: The Red Menace

Cover of Captain America: The Red MenaceCaptain America: The Red Menace, Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Mike Perkins, Javier Pulido, Marcos Martin

Yep, I get the feeling I’m going to love Brubaker’s entire run on Cap. This was a lot of fun, even when it brought in players I’m not terribly familiar with — Crossbones and Sin, Union Jack and Spitfire; actually, they made it more fun. I liked the interactions between Union Jack, Spitfire and Steve, and I actually found myself weirdly rooting for Sin and Crossbones in that messed up way where, well, it’s kinda not her fault she’s completely nuts, and they take such bizarre joy in the destruction they cause.

I also loved how damn happy Steve was when he realised Bucky really was alive and nearby. That bit where he picks Sharon up and twirls her around — just lovely.

The little flashback comic in the middle was good, too, Bucky being Bucky and getting to see the Howling Commandos and more of how Steve was involved with the war.

Review – Alcestis

Cover of Alcestis by Katharine BeutnerAlcestis, Katharine Beutner

I’m torn on this one. It was spellbinding, but in a soft, dusty way — Alcestis as a character is too obedient for most of her life to have any colour to her. The bit in the Underworld is still quite colourless, quite literally, except for Persephone. I was actually more interested in the relationship between Hades and Persephone than that between Persephone and Alcestis. I wanted to understand them, what made them tick, what made them volatile.

I understand that there’s actually a degree of historical accuracy here to way a real Alcestis would’ve lived, just with the gods treated as a rational part of everyday life as well, but she seems so meek and resigned — until she’s in the Underworld. I can appreciate the liberation of a female character from a stifling traditional role that must have been so flattering to the men in that male dominated world, and it makes sense it could happen in the Underworld, where the rules of life don’t apply.

I guess in summary, I just didn’t fall for it. There were some lovely sections, gorgeous imagery, and there was some interesting interplay between characters, but all in all it didn’t work for me.

Review – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Cover of The Winter Soldier comic by Ed BrubakerCaptain America: The Winter Soldier, Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Mike Perkins, Michael Lark, John Paul Leon

The film cannot come out soon enough. I need more Cap in my life. I have a wishlist of things I would like to see directly translated from book to movie — though many things will have to be changed, of course, to fit with MCU canon, there should be room for stuff like the “who the hell is Bucky?” moment. I’m looking forward to Falcon, who I haven’t seen before reading this TPB.

I also have a list of things I don’t want to happen, like that ending where Bucky just disappears leaving Steve believing he might be dead. Aaaah.

So in short, Brubaker is an amazing writer for Captain America — there are some moments where he just nails everything Steve is. The art’s good, too, and it all comes together really well in terms of pacing.

I don’t really get people who don’t like Steve. I mean, I can see plenty of reasons not to like the character, but the nobility and drive of him… It gets me right in all my feels.

Clean out your ereader challenge!

March 2014 COYER Signups

Yep, sounds like a good plan. Here’s the rules and pledge levels:

    • Go through your E-readers and select books you’d like to read during the challenge. The book must have been Free or Nearly Free: under $5, Kindle Deals, Netgalley, Edelweiss & author review requests only (Blog Tour reviews are not accepted this time, sorry). Anyone caught not using a free book or a book that is pirated will be removed from challenge.
    • Sign up with the linky below letting us know that you plan to participate. Between now and March 8th create a post announcing that you’re participating and a list of books you hope to read during the challenge (this can change). If you don’t have a blog this can be done at the Goodreads group “Two Girls and A Challenge” Any participant that doesn’t have a starter post up by 11:59 PM EST March 8th (giving you procrastinators a little more time!) will be ineligible for the grand prize.
    • Start reading your books (starting March 1st) and reviewing them, either on your blog or Goodreads, Booklikes, etc. Put the link to your review (to the review URL, not your Web Address) on the review linky available March 1st, listing your blog name and the name of the book you reviewed. When you write your review, you MUST include the challenge logo and linky somewhere on the post so that we can all check out the reviews.

Lightly Clean – 1 to 4 eBooks
Spring Clean – 5 to 9 eBooks
Deep Clean – 10 to 14 eBooks
Xtreme Clean – 15 or more eBooks

Aaaand I’ll be going for the Xtreme Clean, because hey, I for damn sure need it.

  • Chris Amies, Dead Ground.
  • Allyson Bird, Bull Running for Girls.
  • Marie Brennan, Deeds of Men.
  • Lars Brownworth, The Normans: From Raiders to Kings.
  • Brenda Chamberlain, The Water-castle.
  • Anna Cowan, Untamed.
  • Doranna Durgin, Wolverine’s Daughter.
  • Frances Hardinge, Cuckoo Song.
  • Jason M. Hough, The Darwin Elevator.
  • Richard Kadrey, Sandman Slim.
  • Anna Kashina, Blades of the Old Empire.
  • John Lawson, The Loathly Lady.
  • J.M. McDermott, Maze.
  • Natasha Mostert, The Midnight Side.
  • Rachel Neumeier, Black Dog.
  • Marianne de Pierres, Peacemaker.
  • Jay Posey, Morningside Fall.
  • David Meerman Scott, Marketing the Moon.
  • Alex Segura, Silent City.
  • Laini Taylor, Night of Cake & Puppets.

Mostly ARCs/review copies, with a sprinkling of Kindle sales.

Blog hop thing —

Review – The Origins of Virtue

Cover of The Origins of Virtue by Matt RidleyThe Origins of Virtue, Matt Ridley

Hmmm, The Origins of Virtue is an interesting examination of the possible evolutionary causes of virtue, mostly defined here as altruism. It works quite well as a supplement that falls somewhere in between three of my current classes on Coursera: one with an anthropological bent, one largely genetic, and one about morality. It draws some of those themes together quite well, for me, and explains some of the studies — and some of the pitfalls of the studies, and wishful thinking.

It’s also pretty well written: it’s divided into both chapters and sections, which makes it easy to digest and keeps the argument focused.

On the other hand, it’s a little old now (1996), and Ridley’s ideology is very obvious to the attentive reader, although camouflaged by his scientific tone. At least the last chapter unveils his ethical principles: anti-government, anti-socialism (including such familiar institutions to Brits as the NHS), pro-small collectives and curated communal living. To be fair, he does analyse some of the ways this falls down, but he mostly focuses on why government-run things doesn’t work.

I mean, I love the NHS unashamedly. I went from the diagnosis of gallstones to medication to having my gallbladder removed in the process of a couple of months, without paying for anything at the point of use, at a time when I couldn’t support myself and was in agonising pain. Throughout my life I’ll pay back into that system with my taxes, and I don’t begrudge it at all, whatever Ridley’s conclusions told him.

Review – Invisible Cities

Cover of Invisible Cities by Italo CalvinoInvisible Cities, Italo Calvino

I had trouble with Invisible Cities. It’s beautiful, light, a dream of a soap bubble of a book, insubstantial and for me, really difficult. I can appreciate the writing, the dreamy nature of the book, but I can’t love it. It just didn’t quite work for me. Maybe written by Catherynne M. Valente it would have worked for me — her use of language has weight, somehow — but in this translation at least, no, Calvino didn’t work very well for me. It’s gorgeous, but I quickly got impatient with it.

It’s still a worthwhile read, I think, but don’t look for a story here: that’s not the kind of book this is. It’s more like a dreamscape.

What are you reading Wednesday

Mmm, a pretty busy week reading-wise since I last checked in!

What did you recently finish reading?
Taking “recently” as “today”, a fair few things. I read Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino, which… hmm, it’s pretty, but I don’t love it. Review coming up on the blog tomorrow. Also Anatomies by Hugh Aldersey-Williams, which was okay but more a cultural history than anything scientific. And then also Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. which is just nuts and I’m still not sure what I read, but it was pretty fun.

Monica Rambeau for the win, anyway, even if Carol Danvers is my Captain Marvel.

What are you currently reading?
A lot of things, as usual, but the one at the head of the queue is The Origins of Virtue (Matt Ridley). I’m trying to focus on the dead tree books I’ve brought with me from Cardiff or bought while I was here, or left here on previous occasions, so I don’t have to drag them back there with me when I get the train. Looks like I’ve also got a bookmark in Augustus (John Williams) and Dreadnought (Cherie Priest).

What do you think you’ll read next?
Let’s be realistic, I hardly ever answer this question accurately. I’m gonna guess that comics-wise I’ll dig into some of my Captain America comics, and maybe read Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. Otherwise, I’m focusing on books acquired in 2014, because for the first time in years I’m sort of keeping up with my purchasing rate. So eyeballing that list, I’m probably going to go for the one I’m least interested in right now and try and get myself interested, so that’d be Michael Stackpole’s A Secret Atlas.

Other than that, maybe Liliana Bodoc’s Days of the Deer, because Ursula Le Guin thinks she’s the best thing since sliced bread and I meant to read it in January.

Although on the other hand I should probably just work on some of the books I’ve got started already. Katharine Beutner’s Alcestis has been giving me accusing looks for months.

Review – Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection

Cover of Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection, by DC ComicsBatgirl: The Darkest Reflection, Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf, Vincente Cifuentes

I very much enjoyed my first foray into Batgirl — certainly much more than I did the volume of Batman I choked down a while back for a class. Barbara Gordon is fun, and I have a thing for redheads anyway, I liked the art and her interactions with Bruce Wayne, and it’s a good introduction for someone new to DC.

I had two nitpicks. One, I didn’t think terribly much of the villains. They seemed almost too easily dealt with, like Gail Simone was starting Batgirl out soft because of the point I’m about to get to. It kind of makes sense, since she is being reintroduced and she is portrayed as needing to get back into the game here, but. Eh. I didn’t really care about the villains, put it that way. It felt a little bit rushed, too, though when I flipped back through it didn’t seem too bad. Maybe because the villain I was more interested in, Gretel, had less space.

The other thing was, well… why did we have to have a miracle cure for a disabled character? I don’t know much about Barbara Gordon or how prominent she might have been as a disabled character, so maybe there have been other issues building this up, but just jumping right in and finding that she was completely paralysed and then got better “miraculously” (as several people point out), it just didn’t feel right. I thought I was okay with it at first, given the way she talks about the time in a wheelchair and insists she’s not delicate now she’s out of it, but it didn’t quite add up for me.

Still, enjoyable, and I’ll pick up some more Batgirl when I get chance.