Review – Otter Country

Cover of Otter Country by Miriam DarlingtonOtter Country, Miriam Darlington

Otter Country is really a personal account of an obsession with otters, like H is for Hawk or Crow CountryIn many ways, it’s more about Darlington than it is about otters, though her eyes are open to the significance of otters in their own environment, to their struggles and their slow recovery over recent years. I felt a little left out, since I haven’t read Ring of Bright Water — which I know we have in the local library, as it survived our last cull, so I’ll probably give it a go when I get the chance.

There are some beautiful descriptions, etc, but sometimes I found myself rolling my eyes rather at the ideas Darlington took into her head, like that it would be a good idea to take her clothes off and jump into the burn during midge season.

Rating: 2/5

Stacking the Shelves

Another week where I’ve been a bit naughty! I have just adjusted my book budget to take other stuff into account, though, so I had the leeway. Thankfully. I hate failing at any challenge! But first…

For review

Cover of The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton

It was listed as just a preview excerpt, but what I downloaded seems to be the full file. I am immensely excited about this one. My review of The Just City is actually (finally) going live on Monday!

Bought

Cover of Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodges Cover of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir Cover of The Skeleton Cupboard by  Tanya Byron

Cover of The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey Cover of Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas Cover of The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

A friend bought me An Ember in the Ashes to comfort me about the election results! A couple of the others were on sale on Amazon or something like that. Aside from Sabaa Tahir’s book, they’re all paperbacks; for some reason I’m not really in the mood to read on my ereader at the moment, much as I love my Kobo.

Library

Cover of Darwin's Lost World by Martin Brasier Cover of Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

I got a couple of others, but I’ve featured them here before; I just grabbed ’em from the local library while I’m visiting my parents, to reduce the amount of books I had to haul across the country!

Comics

Captain Marvel Thor Silk Ms Marvel

Yay so many comics! Boo that my pull list is now costing me £10 some weeks. Whoops.

Review – Slow River

Cover of Slow River by Nicola GriffithSlow River, Nicola Griffith
Review from July 2nd, 2013

I don’t think I read the summary of Slow River when I bought it. It wasn’t familiar at all when I started reading it, anyway. And I… kind of liked that. Everything was a surprise. I loved the careful unfolding of the threefold narrative, the careful bringing to light of secrets you begin to feel you should’ve known all along. And I loved that LGBT relationships were normal, just taken for granted. I loved that the main character learns all sorts of things about privilege and the lack of it.

I even loved the slow plot. I never thought I’d find a book focused on a water remediation plant and the family that own the technology surrounding it so fascinating, but it really was. I love it when someone takes something so necessary but unseen to our modern lives and just expands it a little, showing how vital it is and could be.

Very much looking forward to the other Nicola Griffith books I have, now.

Rating: 4/5

No Book Buying Challenge: Allow me books!

Well, the theme for this month’s #ShelfLove update is about asking to be allowed a book… and I’ve really taken that upon myself lately. Heh. So in that sense, I’m afraid I don’t deserve any books. But I have been making progress, particularly on ARCs, so if Captain Marvel: Stay Fly showed up, I’d have to welcome it.

  • 25/51+ already owned books read (last one recorded: Valour & Vanity, 12/05)
  • Spent: £21 out of ~£30 budget (budget is 10% of my income) for January
  • Spent: £20 out of ~£25 budget for February
  • Spent: £22 out of ~£25 budget for March
  • Spent: £15 out of ~£16 budget for April
  • Spent: £30 out of ~£30 budget for May

Oops. Ouch.

Here’s my more general progress on resolutions:

  • No books impulse-bought (despite my sprees, it’s all been books I’ve wanted a while)
  • Read every day
  • Bed before midnight (nearly every night now)
  • Up before ten every day (generally eight AM now!)
  • 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, March, April & May
  • Done 45.5 hours volunteering total
  • Reading/reviewing books from NG/etc (54% ratio)

So, yeah. Clearly, it’s only 14th May and I’m maxed on my budget, and I am going to die of withdrawal. Or something.

Review – Touch Not The Cat

Cover of Touch Not The Cat by Mary StewartTouch Not the Cat, Mary Stewart

A reread for me, since I felt the need for something familiar during the readathon. It was one of the first Mary Stewart books I read, and it’s one of the more openly fantastical ones. It’s got the usual set up of the plucky young heroine, a landscape that’s important to her or exotic or otherwise worth describing lovingly, and the man she eventually marries. The fantastical part is the telepathy between them, the bond; Stewart uses it well, creating interesting dilemmas and confrontations.

The story of the twins is a little disappointing, because so obvious; we don’t see enough of James’ struggle against his twin to see him as any kind of victim in the situation, and his reaction to Rob and Bryony’s marriage seals that. It gets a little cartoon villain-ish.

Rob and Bryony’s relationship is sweet; I suppose that’s a spoiler, but it’d be hard to review this without mentioning that James is not Bryony’s ‘secret friend’. I really didn’t need all the stuff about how Rob is really an Ashley; it makes the plot that much more convoluted, but ends up reinforcing that whole snobbery about the lady of the family not marrying the kitchen boy.

Rating: 3/5

Review – Batgirl: Death of the Family

Cover of Batgirl: Death in the Family by Gail SimoneBatgirl: Death of the Family, Gail Simone, Daniel Sampere

There’s a lot of individual elements I like in this book — Barbara’s bravery, her struggles with her anger at the people who put her in a wheelchair, her sheer ferocious intelligence (and yet she spends so much time punching her way through problems, sigh), some of the family issues that are brought up… But where it ties in with the other Batfamily books, it feels clumsy. I don’t know what’s going on with Damien, with Nightwing, etc. Nor do I really get chance to care, since it’s all a whirlwind of action.

The art is good, expressive, etc, but ye gods, I forgot how dark DC comics can be. Grit, grit, and more grit.

I do like Alysia’s coming out; I like the casual way Barbara takes it, and yet how important the moment still feels.

Rating: 3/5

Review – The Secret Museum

Cover of The Secret Museum by Molly OldfieldThe Secret Museum, Molly Oldfield

This book looks like it’d make a great coffee table book, and in a way it is part of that genre of bite-size, digestible bits of culture. But it’s lacking in the lavish pictures I’d expect from such a thing: many of the items are represented by photographs the size of a postage stamp, or just sketches. The book itself looks nice, but it’s not the most visually orientated; I assume that’s because many of these objects are too precious to photograph. With some of them, I wasn’t sure she should even be describing their locations so clearly!

It’s an eclectic collection of objects, in no real order. I can imagine that being very frustrating to anyone a little more serious about this than I am; I did enjoy browsing through the selection, though, dipping in and out as each object interested me more or less. I liked that these precious objects aren’t all of monetary value, often being more valuable as a link to the past or a symbol of an era.

It’s interesting in its randomness, rather like watching an episode of QI, which Molly Oldfield writes for. Probably frustrating, too, if that’s not your thing.

Rating: 3/5

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is “ten authors I really want to meet”. Now, I’ve actually been lucky and met a fair few authors I love — Jo Walton, Robin Hobb, Alastair Reynolds… But I’m sure I can come up with ten more.

  1. Ursula Le Guin. And nobody is at all surprised. Not even a little.
  2. Patricia McKillip. I know very little about her as a person, but her writing is awesome.
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien. I mean, not as a zombie or anything, but if I could go back in time. Attend one of his lectures maybe?
  4. Hazel Edwards. She wrote There’s a Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake. Obvious.
  5. Cherie Priest. She seems cool, I want to pet her dog, and I like her on Twitter.
  6. N.K. Jemisin. Granted, I’d probably just babble quietly, but that’s the same with anyone I admire.
  7. Robin Hobb. Again. I was fourteen at the time, after all.
  8. Jacqueline Carey. Sign all my books. All of them.
  9. Guy Gavriel Kay. Ditto.
  10. Susan Cooper. The first thing I move into a new house is my copy of The Dark is Rising sequence, and I’m not even kidding about that. It goes in the first box or bag to enter the new place, and gets put on the shelf symbolically before anything else.

So, uh, yeah. I could probably think of more, but I’d better stop daydreaming now…

Review – Report from Planet Midnight

Cover of Report from Planet Midnight by Nalo HopkinsonReport from Planet Midnight, Nalo Hopkinson

I’ve meant to read something by Hopkinson for a while — in fact, at one point I was a chunk of the way through Midnight Robber. I’m not sure what happened then; had to give it back to the library, maybe? But I’ve been meaning to have another crack at it sometime soon, and this is definitely encouraging. The two short stories are well-crafted, and I especially love the voices she gives to Ariel and Caliban and Sycorax. I didn’t read it as the ‘house nigger’ and the ‘field nigger’, as some of the notes on it mention; afterwards, I immediately felt it was obvious.

The non-fiction commentary is great, too. I felt like despite this being the ‘Outspoken Authors’ series, Hopkinson still felt the need to hold back on/qualify her opinions and feelings a bit; there’s a diffidence, almost defensiveness, that upset me a little. Like, do we really need to make a world where an author of colour feels she has to repeatedly state that books by white men are fine and she reads them and she just wants more diversity? I did the same in my post about my Female Authors Only Month project, it’s true, but… it annoys me. Let’s quit acting like wanting more stories from some people means we want to silence other people, okay?

Still, Hopkinson said a lot of incisive and true things about fandom, race, literature, people. And I’m sure there are white folks reading it who feel like she’s making a stab at them (at a guess, if Vox Day or the Sad and Rabid Puppies read this, they might have apoplexy). And I love that she isn’t a bit ashamed about having fibromyalgia and the effects it has on her: so many people are dismissive about it, and given that Nalo Hopkinson is a woman of colour, I bet there’s plenty of people adding that to their list of reasons why they don’t have to listen to her. Which is rubbish, but definitely what I’ve observed.

Rating: 4/5

Review – Voyage of the Basilisk

Cover of Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie BrennanVoyage of the BasiliskMarie Brennan

I originally received this as an ARC, but then bought it anyway because I wanted a print copy so I could look at the illustrations better. I ate this up in a couple of hours. If you’ve enjoyed the previous books, this will give you more of the same: adventures, a female main character with a bright and scientific mind, interesting problems of taxonomy when it comes to dragons, politics, encounters with other cultures…

It very much mimics the style of memoirs written in the analogous time period in Britain, so I think you have to excuse what other people have read as a colonial tone. Scirland (Britain) is still an empire, here, and Isabella works under those assumptions as much as she assumes she can breathe air. She does meet other cultures, and treat them with respect, but sometimes with an air of private condescension that (to me) just works as part of her character, her driven nature, and the world she lives in. Your mileage may vary, but I don’t think it’s invisible to Brennan; I think it’s part of the character and world she’s building.

I’m enjoying the matter of fact inclusion of queerness in the story, too. As is Isabella’s wont, she doesn’t pry into people’s personal lives much, and the idea of queer people is essentially shrugged off as one of those things that happens, and not really her business. Even where it’s story-relevant, there’s only one moment where she does anything that one might call prying — and it’s understandable in the situation.

I’m afraid that despite Isabella’s best efforts, I do wish she’d up and marry Tom Wilker. I love the evolution of his character, too: the belligerent way he started out, the way he’s come to respect her and drop some of his barriers around her, the way they rely on each other, and of course society’s slow acceptance of the working class lad who has worked his way up. I was less taken with Suhail, because I just like the adversarial, sparring relationship between Tom and Isabella.

Oh, and you’ve got to enjoy the evolution of her relationship with her son. I love that he’s become “Jake” instead of Jacob, love that she’s found a way to relate to him, spend time with him, and be a mother to him, despite her initial rejection of the traditional mother-son relationship.

One thing that is getting hard to swallow: Isabella’s way of getting entangled in politics wherever she goes. Not just local politics, but politics with deep relevance to the crown. But it wouldn’t be such an interesting read without those complications.

Rating: 5/5