Stacking the Shelves

Quite a busy week! But I’m still sticking to my goals, fear not.

Bought

Cover of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab Cover of Half a King by Joe Abercrombie Cover of Impulse by Dave Bara

A Darker Shade of Magic was, of course, a pre-order; I had Half a King as an ARC and never got to it, so now I have the paperback; my sister bought me Impulse because we both love a bit of space opera. Obviously it sounds rather Star Trek-ish, but it could be fun anyway.

Received to review

Cover of Pacific Fire by Greg van Eekhout Cover of Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan

One word: eeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Library

 Cover of Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley Cover of The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley Cover of The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

  Cover of Annilation by Jeff VanderMeer Cover of Authority by Jeff VanderMeer Cover of Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

Cover of Memory of Water by Emma Itaranta Cover of The Explorer by James Smythe

I’m going away! I had to stock up! Annihilation is so weird; I had to grab the next two to see if there are any answers… Susanna Kearsley, I read and liked The Rose Garden not long ago, so I’ve grabbed some more of her work.

Comics

Ms Marvel Silk #1

Tell me again about the lack of female superheroes?

So there we go! Quite a busy week for me… How’s everyone else been doing? Any exciting acquisitions?

Review – The Man Who Went Into the West

Cover of The Man Who Went into the West by Byron RogersThe Man Who Went into the West, Byron Rogers
Review from June 8th, 2013

This was… honestly, a bizarre read. R.S. Thomas seems to have been a man of contradictions — funny, stern, hard, tender, quiet, garrulous. At one moment he’s refusing to answer questions about his poems and the next, this:

‘Anyway, they wanted this scene in which Thomas came out of his church and walked down the path. Everything was set up and he appeared in a full surplice. But whether he’d become fed up, I don’t know, for he suddenly raised his arms and started to run towards them, shouting, “I’m a bird, I’m a bird.” It’s not on film. Either the cameraman was too stunned or Thomas was running too fast.’

This is a chatty sort of biography, and not a strictly organised one. I don’t think Byron Rogers even tries to present some kind of unified view of Thomas. He makes it seem impossible, even. He made me laugh at Thomas and feel sorry for him, sometimes in the same moments, and he opened up his poetry to me that bit more in the ways he selected sections to quote.

I loved reading this, and I have a bizarre, amused love for R.S. Thomas. I don’t know whether it would have appalled or tickled the man to know that a little English-speaking Welsh twenty-three year old like me feels this way about him: it’s a tough call to make, it could go either way.

Rating: 5/5

Review – The Iron King

Cover of The Iron King by Maurice DruonThe Iron King, Maurice Druon

G.R.R. Martin refers to this as the original Game of Thrones, and you can see why. The same types of characters populate it, to a large degree — except I’m not sure I found any of Druon’s portrayals to have many redeeming features, whereas I’ve liked a couple of characters in what I’ve read so far of Martin’s epic. This is, of course, not a work of fantasy, but based on real history; how closely, I’m not sure, as my knowledge of the period is mostly based on British politics, and this largely takes place in France. It offers a convincing world, anyway: just the way you would want the period to be, with torture and curses, weak princes and calculating counsellors.

I have seen quite a few fairly negative reviews of this, which I think might come from people expecting something more fantastical based on Martin’s comment, and possibly also from people who can’t stand the translation (it’s very workmanlike and functional, I think). But I quite enjoyed it: I don’t know if I’ll pick up the rest of the series, simply because there are so many books and so little time, but I enjoy reading it. If there’s anything lacking, for me it’s more sympathetic characters, or at least more of an inner life beyond who they want to sleep with.

Rating: 3/5

Review – Creation

Cover of Creation by Adam RutherfordCreation: The Origin of Life/The Future of Life, Adam Rutherford

This book has kind of a fun design: the two sections are separated by flipping the book upside down. It’s a gimmick, but it’s kind of a cool design anyway. The topics are pretty interlinked, but you can read one half of the book without the other, or read them in either order; whatever you like. One half covers how life came to be, and one half covers the attempts to create life (or should that be recreate?), via genetic engineering, etc.

It’s an interesting bunch of issues, and Rutherford handles it well. His tone is informative, without being stultifyingly boring: he has some moments of humour which, while not laugh-out-loud funny, did provoke a snort or two. He writes engagingly, and those it is definitely an overview of the topics not really meant for a professional audience, he doesn’t shy away from discussing the complex ideas and different theories. None of it was really surprising or groundbreaking to me, because biology and genetics are big areas of interest for me, but it would make a good introduction for the intelligent reader, or a refresher to bring you up to date.

Rating: 4/5

No Book Buying Challenge: Finances

I promised an update on the #ShelfLove challenge today, so here it is! The discussion this month is around budgets, which means I can pretty much stick to the same format as my extra updates for last month.

  • 7/51+ already owned books read
  • Spent: £21 out of ~£30 budget (budget is 10% of my income) for January
  • Spent: £5 out of ~£25 budget for February

As for my other resolutions:

  • No books impulse-bought
  • Read every day
  • Bed before midnight… mostly
  • Up before ten every day
  • Only bought one book from a series at a time
  • Posted to the blog every day
  • Commented on at least one other blog every day
  • Tithed 10% in January, February tithe not done yet
  • Done 18 hours volunteering total
  • Reading/reviewing books from NG/etc… in progress

As for the money I save, mostly it’s going to my savings account. I am planning a slightly more complex budget so I can also save up separately for my next games console, but the main goal is just to build up my reserves a bit. It’s working well so far; I’ve shunted at least £200 into my savings so far this year, which may not be a lot for everyone but certainly is a respectable amount for me!

Review – The Rose Garden

Cover of The Rose Garden by Susanna KearsleyThe Rose Garden, Susanna Kearsley

I didn’t have to read much of this to realise that Susanna Kearsley’s work is going to be the perfect replacement for the comfort reading I got all the way through in the last two or three years (Mary Stewart’s romance/adventures). It has the same sense of place, the beautiful descriptions of landscape, and the same sort of heroine: female, curious, about to be swept up in bigger events than she’d ever have expected. And better: this is explicitly fantastical, where most of Mary Stewart’s books were more mysteries, sometimes with hints at fantasy.

And better again, whew, we don’t have first cousins getting married at the end.

It does start off with kind of a slow pace, and Eva is only rarely involved in actual action, despite the backdrop of free trading and other such types of derring-do. And it is indeed a romance, so the ending is a happy one for most of the characters (though there’s a sadder note, too, with Eva’s sister’s husband; I was glad there was some closure at the end of story with him as well, even if it was a sadder story), and there’s plenty of romance going on — not just for Eva, but in the background. And yeah, I think Fergal and Daniel take the time travelling woman a little too lightly. They’re curious, but not curious enough to feel realistic. They both just decide to protect her right away.

But I enjoyed it anyway: it has a great atmosphere, and the writing flows well. It’s a bit like The Time Traveler’s Wife, I guess, in that I wouldn’t want to examine how the timeline works too closely lest it fall apart, but it was the ideal fluff, and it had enough substance that I cared about the characters.

Rating: 4/5

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is “top ten book related problems I have”. This is, ahaha, not at all difficult for me.

  1. I had to modify my ereader to fit more books on it. No really, I even made a post to show other people how.
  2. I have over 1,000 books on Mt. TBR. I don’t actually dare count. And that doesn’t really include ARCs and library books.
  3. I don’t have enough shelves. See #2.
  4. Nobody ever knows what books to buy me because I might’ve got them already. Though now I have a wishlist, so there’s no excuse.
  5. I really like lists. This can sometimes get in the way of actually reading the books on said list.
  6. There are some books I daren’t share with my partner in case she hates them. This is rare, but she doesn’t, for example, share my love for Cherie Priest’s Bloodshot and Hellbent, and it makes me pout.
  7. My books are never in the right place. I travel a lot. You know I’m gonna want to read something as soon as I leave it somewhere for a few months.
  8. Why isn’t it out in ebook? I like instant gratification, and ebooks are the easiest way. What do you mean I can’t get most of Patricia McKillip’s books on Kobo?!
  9. Why isn’t it out yet? Impatient!
  10. I preordered it, I was really excited… and a year later, I haven’t got to it yet. Um. Oops.

What’re your problems, guys?

Review – The Adventures of Monkey Girl and Tiger Kite

Cover of The Adventures of Monkey Girl and Tiger Kite by Kai SchalkThe Adventures of Monkey Girl and Tiger Kite, Kai Schalk
Received to review via Netgalley

This is a very short ebook — I’m not sure how long in words or pages, but it was a very quick read. It’s pretty fun and refreshing, in that it has a diverse cast with Chinese and LGBT characters, it’s a superhero story dominated by female characters, and it takes none of these things too seriously — even the teenage crush, which may or may not come to something, but turns out not to be as important as friendship anyway.

It is a very brief story, the more so because it includes flashbacks to the background of the characters, but all the same, it’s cute and fun. I did feel that with a more mature writing style, it might have felt like more; you can pack so much into a short story if only you know how.

Rating: 3/5

My Cup of Tea

I think this would be a nice one to go viral: a post in which we celebrate the tropes we love instead of griping about the ones we don’t (which are, no doubt, someone else’s favourites). So thanks to Kaja from Of Dragons and Hearts, here is a post about tropes which are, so to speak, my cup of tea.*

  • The loveable rogue. Locke Lamora, I am looking at you right now, but also looking further back into my reading past: Jimmy the Hand, Crowley from Good Omens, Gaiman’s Marquis de Carabas… And perhaps best of all, though not from books: Captain Malcolm Reynolds.
  • The paladin. Joscelin Verreuil. Captain America.
  • The second son. Faramir. Arutha. Verity Farseer. Josua from The Dragonbone Chair. I don’t know what it is, but I tend to prefer the younger brother.
  • Heists. You have a really clever plan, you say? Morally dubious, you say? As long as it’s fiction, I’m along for the ride.
  • Superheroes. Uh. I’m not sure this even needed to be said. But not just guys like Steve Rogers, who have been altered for it, but the people who make themselves into heroes, too, like Hawkeye.
  • Moral ambiguity. Nobody’s perfect, and while a character who is a total bastard just isn’t fun for me, it’s nice when a character isn’t a total angel.
  • Guilty conscience. Perhaps especially when it’s not really that person’s fault. Like, say Steve Rogers blames himself for Bucky’s death — it’s not really his fault, he’s in no way a bad guy, but the fact that he can believe this makes him that bit more human and believable.
  • Dragons/elves/aliens are nothing like humans. Capricious, commanding, nothing like the regal/wise/enlightened creatures we expect? Interesting!
  • Friends like brothers. “I’m with you till the end of the line.” Gaaah. Gaaaaaah. Or Marcus and Esca, Locke and Jean, Fitz and Nighteyes, Dean and Castiel…
  • Secretly in love. Shut up, I am not a ginormous softie. I’m not!

*I may be British, but I don’t actually like tea. Chamomile tea or fruit teas, maybe. Mostly not.

Review – Fatale: Death Chases Me

Cover of Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean PhillipsFatale: Death Chases Me, Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips

Someone recommended me this, based on the fact that I like noir fiction and I enjoyed Brubaker’s run on Captain America. It’s a mix of noir and horror, and just on those grounds, I don’t think it really worked for me. The femme fatale trope can be fun, but I never really got into this. Maybe it’s a bit too much of a mash-up of genres for me? And I didn’t feel that they used the form to best effect: there were so many text boxes telling me what was going on, and everything was so dark and dingy I wasn’t really keeping track of characters properly.

There was some gorgeous art, mind you, and I can imagine some people falling over themselves for this one. But not me.

Rating: 3/5