Read fourteen books since I last posted, but I'm going to break it up into two entries because it'll take even longer otherwise. I meant to be more regular about these things, but LIFE, man, it just doesn't let up. Trying a new thing: five to six-word premise before my thoughts about a book, much like those terrible summaries of movies you see on Twitter. :)) Hoping to post the second half tomorrow-ish, so that I'll just have to do one more entry, plus the round-up, after Christmas. I can't believe 2015's almost over. It's been a ridiculous year. I'm not a fan of 2015.
Heading off to the Hogswatch party of Flips Flipping Pages in a bit. Pratchett fans are always great people to hang out with, and Shani's been planning this for over a year now, bless her.
by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
Genderswapped Homer's Odyssey in Space
Reading ODY-C was a revelation for me. I went into it mostly blind, armed only with the knowledge that it was a sci-fi retelling of Homer's Odyssey. My thoughts on this won't keep solely to the first volume, as I went directly to the floppies when I finished it. It pretty much blew my mind, just when it needed it. Not only is it a brave and clever retelling, but it manages to integrate a fair amount of Eastern myths and folklore into the mix without losing focus. I was a bit sceptical when I discovered that a huge part of premise is that it's genderswapped, meaning all the male characters are female and vice versa. The scepticism stems from the fact that I've lately been feeling less than interested in stories with genderswaps and all-female-casts-for-the-sake-of-politics (as they tend to be heavy-handed and preachy) but ODY-C manages it without a hint of triteness or that astringent soapbox ( :)) ) flavour we're all getting used to nowadays. The gods are terrible and awesomely flawed, just how I like my Greek deities, and Fraction writes them they should be in their own Shondaland series How to Get Away With Patricide and the humans and demigods are superhuman and divinely single-minded. Fraction's language is intense and perfect for my tastes; I keep stopping to read lines aloud and roll them around in my mouth. I never thought that I would be getting such a gift when I started the ODY-C, and I honestly hope that it'll mange to maintain this tone for the rest of the series. I'm sorry if you end up reading this and thinking that I've overhyped it for you, but it's seriously my aesthetic. :'D
Gods Behaving Badly
by Marie Phillips
Greek Gods in Contemporary London Being Selfish
Okay, I'd like to start by saying that I didn't hate this book, but goddamn, it's so unlikeable because majority of the cast is composed of the Olympian gods at their weakest and most disgraceful. The remainder of the cast is just innocent mortals who get caught in their crosshairs. Gods Behaving Badly is structured pretty much the same way most Greek myths are: Gods are bored, Gods are offended by other Gods, God seek to embarrass other God by using a hapless mortal, Mortal dies, Gods do not learn anything from this. It's the latter part of the book that tries to elevate the basic story, mostly by tacking on a bit of the Orpheic mysteries on, but I was really left cold by it by the resolution of the novel. I'm sorry to say that it's not very original, and the writing is too spare to save it otherwise. I think Phillips could have saved it by investing more in her mortal characters, but we really aren't given enough time for that. Oh well.
The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
Two Children Raised to Duel Magically
Okay, these short premises are really difficult to write. Alternatives include: Old Men Raise Children to Fight, Two Children Raised to Fight Don't, The Circus is a Love Letter, These Old Men Need to Stop, Is There No Magical Governing Board, Of Course They Fell In Love, and my favourite: How to Make Sure Your Surprise Daughter Gets a Partner Worthy of Her Haha Just Kidding You're Too Selfish to Care About Her Well-being. Joking aside, The Night Circus was a beautiful read. Nori forced it on me and I figured that I owed her because I kept recommending books to her (and destroying her feelings). Joke was on me though because Nori has excellent taste in books and The Night Circus wrecked me a bit because it was written so prettily. I could have done with slightly more plot, but otherwise it is pretty damn great. Morgenstern is pretty good at balancing a lot of elements and themes, and she is pretty good at her layering and foreshadowing. I feel like she trusts her readers too, because she doesn't overburden you with detail but you still feel like everything is richly done? I hope that made sense. I'm eager to read whatever Morgenstern comes up with next.
Gardens of the Moon
by Steven Erikson
No-one Likes the Malazan Empire
Erikson doesn't let much get in the way of his plot. You can tell going in that he has a shit-ton to say and share with you, but everything's on a need-to-know basis, so instead of careful world-building and character introductions, he just tosses you straight into the mess without much regard for your comfort or understanding. The thing is though, where's the story underneath all this plot?? That handicapped my reading a bit, but I persevered because I was just that infuriated by the lack of information that I had to press on in the hope that the man would give me something. It did help that my friend Amador was very, very adamant that I read The Malazan Empire, and that he'd warned me that the first book was the least of the series. Indeed, Gardens of the Moon feels very much like a preface to the series: huge amounts of set-up and characters being put into play and position, that I'm honestly wondering how the rest of it is going to go down. Here's hoping for more showing and less telling in the next book.
The Broken Sword
by Poul Anderson
Changeling Traded for Baby; Prophecy Happens.
(why is this so hard)
I haven't read a lot of Norse fantasy, but I've read a fair amount of the myths and legends they're based on, so I figured that I was adequately prepared for The Broken Sword. I didn't realise that it wasn't the Norse that would get me, but the fantasy bit. Now, I'll be honest, I read my own share of fantasy when I was growing up, and I still read quite a bit of it now, so I'm going to have to qualify my minor difficulties with this book. Sword was published in 1954, the same year Fellowship of the Ring came out, and boy howdy does it show. One could argue that fantasy is set across different time periods, and in different manners of speech, sometimes even more "archaic" than anything published in 1954, but there's just a quality to this novel that I think can be attributed to the period it was written in. It's not dry at all either, but I guess it's because there's very little introspection, subversion, or development going on. I realise that simply labelling TBS as a "Norse" fantasy is misleading as well, as it contains quite a bit of the folklore of the British Isles as well, this of course being a key plot point in the novel, and, slots it directly into the Norse mythos quite easily and building a new world of myth for Anderson's characters to inhabit. The story itself is fairly simple and bypasses a lot of complications by skipping ahead in its own narrative in a ballad/folk-song appropriate way. I figure that it's only a matter of time before someone makes a movie of this, because a lot of the conflicts, both the literal war and in the themes, are just classic.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
by Becky Albertalli
Kid is Blackmailed Has Great Friends
Short YA read, but definitely recommended because it actually deals with teenage homosexuality and friendships in a respectful way without minimising how stressful it is. Found out that Albertalli is actually a clinical psychologist who specialises in teenage difficulties, so this book is definitely informed by her experience. Since it's YA, YMMV with the style and development of the characters, but I really do think that this story ought to be the kind we should be seeing more and more of as time passes and people become more aware of the different things they can do with queer stories. I know that I can't be the only one who's gotten tired of romance-focused YA, or stories about queer kids battling their own queerness. I'm going to step on a soapbox here and just say that diversity in media shouldn't be limited to the inclusion of characters, but providing them avenues of proper and fair representation of different backgrounds and experiences. Okay, off the soapbox! Simon is delicious slice of life goodness, and you should get right on that.
Enslaved By Ducks
by Bob TarteFowl Weather
by Bob Tarte
Man Accidentally Dedicates Life to Animals
So, anyone who knows me IRL knows that for nearly two months, I've been caring for a duckling. I've been pretty lucky that nearly everything I need to raise a duck can be found on the Internet, limiting me from accidentally killing Raptor (le duck) through my own ignorance. A lot of the fora I've been lurking on have recommended reads, mostly texts on avian illnesses, development, etc., but someone mentioned that Bob Tarte's Enslaved By Ducks as one of the most hilarious books she'd ever read about raising ducks (...I know right. "One of" implies that there are more? Sadly, she didn't list the entire pile down or I would have read them) so naturally, I had to find it. Enslaved is so good y'all, like it literally made me laugh out loud (and scare my duck) because Tarte has such a dry and self-deprecatory sense of humour that speaks to me. I almost ended up sneaking off and buying a second duckling, but I managed to stop myself before I got "Gidget". Fowl was a lot less fun, but not because Tarte gets less funny; considering the subject matter, the man did pretty well. Tarte wasn't shy about mentioning his depression and medication in Enslaved, but it becomes more of an issue in Fowl after his father's passing and a series of pet deaths. It was such a downer that I'm pausing a bit before I read Kitty Cornered, his third book. It's pretty cool that I've gotten into his stuff just in time for his next release, Feather Brained, in April 2016.
More tomorrow, or just before Christmas.