Archive of ‘Books’ category

Stuff I Read in January

I think I’m going to try to do round-ups instead if individual reviews this year, because on the one hand, if I do individual reviews, I put them off until I’ve forgotten what I thought about what I read; on the other hand, when I don’t write book reviews, I don’t update this blog (which was not meant to be a book review blog, but whatchagonnado? *shrug*).


The Duck Knight ReturnsDarkwing Duck: The Duck Knight Returns by Ian Brill, art by James Silvani
I was a latchkey kid in the early 90s, which means I watched The Disney Afternoon pretty much religiously, and Darkwing Duck was absolutely always my favorite. (I can live without TaleSpin or Rescue Rangers, but I own DW on DVD.) When I found out through comics-savvy friends that DW was being reborn as a comic book, I was super psyched, even though comics aren’t particularly my thing. My BFF got me the paperback collection of the opening issues, and let me say, it’s delightful. Heroism! Adventure! Family! Hijinks! Gosalyn yells “Keen gear!” Aside from the nostalgia, it was a great story, and a really fun read.

SapphiqueBleeding VioletSapphique by Catherine Fisher
I snapped this up as soon as I saw it in a store (the first non-e book I’ve bought in months) and I really wanted to love it — but I didn’t. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t find it satisfying, either. Details at Active Voice.

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
If anything, Bleeding Violet had the opposite problem of Sappique: I read it practically in one sitting and loved it as I turned the pages… But a few minutes after I set it down and paused to catch my breath, I started noticing flaws. Details of that, too, are over at Active Voice.

Queen's OwnArrows of the Queen, Arrows Flight and Arrows Fall by Mercedes Lackey
… Look, I didn’t mean to reread these, but I was sick, and it was snowing, and as I’ve mentioned before, the first book fits squarely into stories of my heart territory. I wanted something warm and friendly and familiar.1 I can spot flaws in this series that I didn’t when I was a kid, but it’s one of the few series where they don’t bother me or take away from my fun.

Unfinished: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Aaaaaaarg. This was the second time I tried to read this. And I really, really did try, for almost a month before I gave up. I just…couldn’t…get through it. I understand why the book is a classic, I understand why it’s important. I understand what it was doing. I just couldn’t slog through it. I feel sort of guilty, both because leaving a book half-finished kind of irks me, and also because, as I said, I do get why the book is important and a classic, but… it just wasn’t gonna happen. (Also, I’m pretty much over anything where all the women are whores.)

So that’s January. Here, have a Disney Afternoon video to go out on:

  1. Not to mention thematically appropriate — both of the first two books feature blizzards and snow pretty heavily.

#48: On Basilisk Station by David Weber

#48: On Basilisk Station by David Weber

First things first: I bought an e-reader! Specifically, I got B&N’s Nook, original black and white flavor. Technically, I bought it back in November, and Ash was the first book I read on it, but I bring it up now because once I had it, I checked out the Baen Free Library. The library offers some of their books as free e-books, and I noticed On Basilisk Station among them. I decided to give it a try because one of my good friends loves the Honor Harrington series, and hey, it was free.

I let her know I’d downloaded it, and she said, essentially, “Great! Uh, there’s a lot of technobabble in it, FYI.”

And oh boy, was she right.

The thing is, I really wanted to enjoy the book, and there were pieces I really did. As a character, Honor was fine — heck, a determined young leader who’s going to do what’s right no matter how much pressure there is to give in to corruption? Who wins the respect of her crew that way, and turns a rag-tag bunch into an elite force to be reckoned with? Those are all things I love. And make it a space opera? Heck yes!

Unfortunately, all the things I liked about the book were buried. This got a little long, so have a cut: (more…)

Sunday Sequel Reviews

Last week, I listed a bunch of books YA books that I’d read planned to review later. Well, later is now, at least for two of them, lumped together for no other reason than they’re short, and they’re both sequels.

Behemoth by Scott WesterfeldBehemoth by Scott Westerfeld is the sequel to the awesome steampunk Leviathan. In this installment, Deryn and Alek go their separate ways in Istanbul: Deryn’s got a secret mission to help the Darwinist powers hold the Dardanelles out of Clanker hands, while Alek’s looking for allies to help him end the war.

Blue Fire by Janice HardyBlue Fire by Janice Hardy is the sequel to The Shifter. In it, Nya and her friends are still wanted by the Duke for some nefarious purpose — and when her friends are arrested, Nya has to sneak into enemy territory to try to get them back.

Both books are great — and you can read why I thought so in one convenient entry over at Active Voice.

So Many Books! Mini-Reviews, 41-47

So here’s a fun thing about me. Recording all of the books I’ve read this year has led to me, I think, reading a bit more, which is great! Hooray! Except I’m pretty bad at writing timely reviews, which means that now that we’re getting close to the end of the year that means I have a whole glut of books to tell you about. So instead of my usual, kind of lengthy review, here’s a list with some super short reactions (though some of these will get reviewed properly at Active Voice in the next few weeks).

#41: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld — this is YA steampunk, so I’m saving it for AV.

Carter Beats the Devil by David Glen Gold#42: Carter Beats the Devil by David Glen Gold

I loved this! I think by this point it’s pretty clear that I rarely read anything that isn’t either YA/MG or SF/F, so this was a bit of a departure for me. My sister handed it to me as highly recommended, somewhere between historical and literary fiction. It’s (sort of, roughly) about Carter the Great, a Vaudeville magician accused of conspiracy to murder President Harding.

The structure nerd in me loved this. It went back and forth through Carter’s life a lot, in lengthy chunks that painted pictures of his rise to fame and everything leading up to the show before Harding’s death, and then its aftermath. It’s incredibly rich, long enough to sink your teeth into, but with very little drag. I will say that the Mysterioso sub-sub-sub plot felt a little tacked on, but the climax was pretty great. I also wish there had been more women, as only two played major roles in the book (and the first was there for only about a third, and the second for only about half), but those are fairly minor quibbles. Overall, it’s probably one of my favorite reads of the year.

#43: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi — it’s post-apocalyptic YA, so I’m saving this one for AV.

#44: Blue Fire by Janice Hardy — MG fantasy, so I’m saving this one for AV.

#45: Ash by Malinda Lo — YA fantasy, so I’m saving this one for AV. (I’m really, really behind on reviews over there…)

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith#46: Flygirl by Sherri Smith

Another of my favorites from the year, and another historical novel, although this one is YA. It follows Ida Mae Jones, a young, black girl during WWII. Ida is a pilot who hears about the WASP — Women Airforce Service Pilots — and because she’s fairly light skinned, she decides to try to pass as white so she can fly for the army.

This one is really, really good. The voice is really strong, and the way it deals with race is really well done. (For example, a heart wrenching scene where her mother has to come visit to deliver bad news, and she has to pretend her mother is her maid; or her general anxiety when a white man asks her to dance. She wants to, but she knows that she can’t have any kind of relationship with him in the future.)

The book is actually pretty light on plot, but I would happily read hundreds more pages about Ida’s missions during the war and what happened after.

Goblins in the Castle by Bruce Coville#47: Goblins in the Castle by Bruce Coville (reread)

I’ve written pretty extensively about my love of Bruce Coville before. A few weeks ago I found myself in the mood for something spooky (no idea what brought that on) so I grabbed this off my shelf. It is, like all Coville books, pretty much delightful.

I definitely didn’t get the “My name is Ishmael, but don’t call me that,” joke as a kid. (I’d go so far as to say it doesn’t actually fit with the tone very well, even.) And while I love the worldbuilding, there was quite a bit that goes unexplained — not in a plot-not-wrapped-up way, but it feels like part of a much larger folklore. I’d love to read more about Granny Pinchbottom and Igor, and even where William came from, and lots and lots about Fauna — her life before meeting William, what she does after, and so on. (She’s so intriguing, but there’s so little about her!)

As a whole, everything about this is weird and funny and kind of spooky, but still infused with Coville’s usual humor. It practically begs to be read aloud and reread on Halloween.

#40: Meet the Annas by Robert Dunn

#40: Meet the Annas by Robert Dunn

The Brooklyn Book Festival was a couple of months ago. I’ve meant to go every year since I moved to New York, but Brooklyn is far away and things come up and blaahhhh. Anyway, this year I finally did! And, as one does at such things, I bought a lot of books. The first one I tackled was Meet the Annas: A Musical Novel by Robert Dunn.

The book basically plays what-if with a fictional 1960s girl group, the Annas. It’s told from the POV of Dink Stephenson, one of their song writers, looking back at what happened years later. He was in love with the band’s front woman, Anna Dubower, and eventually proposed to her as the girl group era passed and they were desperately trying to manufacture a hit to bring them back. Anna didn’t give him an answer, and weeks later, was mysteriously dead. Now there’s a rights dispute over that last song, Dink has to go to court over it, and running into people from that old life stirs up old memories. At last, he’s determined to figure out what happened to Anna.

I was pretty ambivalent when I first finished this book. In the months since (I am waaaay behind on my reviews) the ending has festered, and now I find it enraging. I’m going to cut here because the book is sort of a mystery. I found it super obvious, but your mileage may vary. (more…)

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