cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
2011-09-15 11:46 pm

Assorted

When not having video game-induced existential crises, I have actually been reading. However, the earthquakes have completely disrupted my already somewhat shaky book tracking. At this point I am just going to go through the lists I have and do brief commentary, with a few noble exceptions…

Books I would like to come back to in more depth, but let’s be realistic here:

Karen Healey’s The Shattering, which I read in ARC some time after the February earthquake, and which is now out officially. I liked Guardian of the Dead (her debut YA novel) but felt it went off-track; this is much better. Perfect NZ town (somewhere Nelson-ish, I think) has dark side, uncovered by trio of teenagers with interesting assortment of identities. I particularly liked the use of emotional control as part of the magic system.

Jordan Castillo Price, the Psycop series (Among the Living, Criss Cross, Body and Soul, Secrets, Camp Hell, GhosTV, and an assortment of shorts that fit in around the first three books, of which I like Thaw but am not all that keen on the Crash ones). These are ebook psychic cop thrillers (hard to believe from the name, I know), in a version of the US where psychics are real but not all that understood and the main character, Victor Bayne, is an endearingly awkward medium who has spent much of his life running from any deeper contemplation of his abilities, mainly via a vast variety of licit and illicit pharmaceuticals (I think he’s the first protagonist I’ve seen who’s sniffed glue, though, rather than go for all that glamorous intravenous stuff).

Jordan Castillo Price, the Psycop series. )

Wendy Wan-Long Shang, The great wall of Lucy Wu. Chinese-American girl dealing with heritage. I read this months ago and liked it a lot; it gets a lot done in a little space, and gives all its characters a chance to breathe without making them into obvious stereotypes. Also, it made me desperately crave noodles.

Gene Luen Yang, Prime Baby. Resentful older brother is convinced there is something strange about his new baby sister, confirmed when she starts babbling in primes. I don’t think this quite pulls off the dislocation effect, and as with American Born Chinese this story still sees all its female characters as objects rather than subjects.

Megan McCafferty, Bumped. YA dystopia where falling fertility means that only teenagers can get pregnant. Melody is holding out for the best contract she can get when her separated at birth identical twin (Harmony, naturally) shows up, having escaped from her religious upbringing. I liked the slang and the moment when Melody declares to a vast array of paparazzi that she has been having Non Reproductive Sex (“with condoms!”) with her contract partner, but too little of the world had changed, and the lead’s avoidance of all sexual activity (and bookwise, being rewarded for this) felt too much like the same old thing.

Assorted ebooks. )
cyphomandra: fluffy snowy mountains (painting) (snowcone)
2011-07-03 08:38 pm

Books read, May and June (an incomplete recollection)

I need to start keeping better track of these. Anyway. List of those I can remember at the moment, and subsequent commentary:

Edmund de Waal, The hare with amber eyes
Gordon Korman, The War with Mr Wizzle (re-read)
Mandy Hager, The Crossing
Josh Lanyon, The Dark Horse
Josh Lanyon, The Dickens with Love
Josh Lanyon, Don't Look Back
Housuke Nojiri, Rocket Girls

The Hare With Amber Eyes was brilliant - nonfiction, family memoir, a book about objects (of art) and collections, the connections between them and their people, and what we lose and what we keep. I will attempt to go on about it again in more detail once I have my own copy and am not doing it from a week-old memory of a library book. The Gordon Korman is a cheerfully comforting re-read, although the degree of personal manipulation it involves always makes me worry more about what would happen if in the future Bruno decided to take a job with pretty much any branch of the government. The Josh Lanyons are all enjoyable but slight, and not as good as his two series, although I approve strongly of his taste in fiction (Dickens, obviously, but The Dark Horse involves a film version of Mary Renault's The Charioteer). Don't Look Back is the possibly obligatory amnesia story, which treats amnesia as a kind of extreme personality reboot (there's a fair bit in the text to suggest this is all psychological rather than organic, but the disconnect feels too easy as opposed to, in a slightly odd counter-example, William Monk's amnesia in the Anne Perry books, where his previous self is much more of a character).

The Mandy Hager is first in a trilogy - post-apocalyptic Pacific Island (Cook Islands based, I think) story in which strong female lead rebels against all her society's constraints. So, some of the same problems as Juno of Taris (lead shares contemporary mores and is positioned as correct by the text for this, despite conflict with all of her upbringing), but much less irritating - no secret psychic powers and some interesting stuff going on with race and religion, although there is the feeling in the text that everybody good has been waiting for Maryam (the lead) to show up to start acting on their secret rebellious feelings. I am also irked that the blurb indicates who will form the core group at the end of the book, but that's not the author's fault - I do want to read the next one, and will comment more then.

Housuke Nojiri, Rocket Girls. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
2011-06-06 10:07 am

Failing to achieve target audience status

Two of the books my paranormal romance-mad friend lent me. I have more, but my basic summary for all of them is that they often have interesting world concepts and female leads, but tend to fall apart on plotting, follow-through, and having a male romantic lead that I do not want to stab with a fork.

Meljean Brook, The Iron Duke. In a nanotech steampunk AU Victorian (somehow, despite lack of royalty) England, Wilhemina Wentworth (Mina) holds a precarious existence as a detective inspector, resented due to her mixed blood and struggling to support her family. And then a frozen corpse is dropped from an airship onto the doorstep of the titular Iron Duke (Rhys Trahaern), and she is assigned to investigate a case that will threaten the very foundations of her society, etc etc, while in the meantime the Iron Duke has developed one of those "I stalk because I love" oppressive interests in her that is somehow perfectly healthy in this type of romance novel.

The Iron Duke. )

The Native Star, MK Hobson. Emily Edwards is a backwater witch in an 1876 AU America with magic, whose livelihood is being wiped out by a more appealing mail-order patent magic business. In order to support her blind adoptive father, she casts a love spell on a local lumberman, only to have it go horribly wrong - but, before she can sort this out, the magically enslaved zombies who work the local mines rebel, and Emily ends up on the run with a supercilious big city warlock (Dreadnought Stanton) and a chunk of magical and exceedingly desirable rock embedded in her palm. Mutant racoons, diabolical villains, biomechanical helicopters, plots to end or save the world, and (of course) true romance ensue.

The Native Star. )
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
2011-05-02 10:50 pm

Minipigish

Matt Whyman, Oink! My life with minipigs. YA writer adds to chaos of home life (4 kids, 1 dog, 2 (initially) cats and assorted chickens) in Sussex by agreeing to his wife’s desire to acquire two minipigs. Problems ensue, many of which seem all too predictable, but it was entertainingly written and just the thing for reading on the plane from Sydney shortly after the earthquake.

Discussion of the ending. )
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
2011-04-24 10:50 pm

Assorted

Stephen King, Full Dark, No Stars.

Four novellas. King is excellent at this length, and this is another solid collection of them; not as good as Different Seasons, possibly better than Four Past Midnight, and as I am still not back in my house and can’t check I am a bit unsure about how it would stack up next to Hearts in Atlantis (where I liked the title novella best, but don’t have a strong memory of the others). These four novellas are all about retribution, revenge; justified or not, and enacted by the characters or the narrative.

Full Dark, No Stars. )

Kenneth Lillington, Giving up the Ghost. )
cyphomandra: fluffy snowy mountains (painting) (snowcone)
2011-04-15 10:31 pm

Actual reviews

I took these back to the library just before the quake, which is annoying as they are practically the only books I haven't had to pay overdues on in the last two years, and if I'd just waited a few days I could have kept them until May completely legitimately. Not that either of these were particularly tempting, but this batch also included Steven King's Full Dark, No Stars, which I liked a lot and am struggling to write a review of this far down the track without the actual book.

Gladys Mitchell, Tom Brown’s Body. )

Joelle Anthony, Restoring Harmony. )
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
2011-04-15 10:08 pm
Entry tags:

Books read, Feb-March 2011

Having suddenly remembered what I use this thing for. This is not likely to be an exhaustive list, because even my normal disorganisation has been boosted by the earthquake.

Gladys Mitchell, Tom Brown's Body
Emily Horner, A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend
Joelle Anthony, Restoring Harmony
Nalini Singh, Angel Blood
Lynn Viehl, If Angels Burn
Jordan Castillo Price, Among the Living
Jordan Castillo Price, Criss Cross
Jordan Castillo Price, Body and Soul
Jordan Castillo Price, Secrets
Matt Wyman, Oink! My life with Minipigs
Josephine Elder, Evelyn Finds Herself
Karen Healey, The Shattering (ARC)
Clare Dunkle, The Sky Inside
Jo Walton, Amongst Others
Josh Lanyon, Fair Game
Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver
Josh Lanyon, Somebody Killed His Editor (re-read)
Josh Lanyon, All She Wrote (re-read)
Josh Lanyon, The Dark Horse

Yes, I re-read books that I read barely a month ago. I opened the files up in Stanza to "check something", and before I knew it I'd read them again. I have also re-read most of the first Adrien English book under the feeble but inescapable pretext of planning to write a review of the whole bunch.

Also, I spent some of my post-earthquake time staying with a friend who is desperate to convert me to paranormal romance. Those of you who are fond of suspense will have to wait until the reviews to see if it worked (those of you who aren't: no).
cyphomandra: (peter siddell)
2011-01-31 09:35 pm
Entry tags:

Books read, January 2011

I have remembered 2 more books I read last year and misplaced the third one; so, in lieu of a review, how about a list of all the books I've read so far this year that I've also not yet reviewed?

Stephen King, Full Dark, No Stars.
Kenneth Lillington, Giving up the Ghost.
Josh Lanyon, Fatal Shadows.
Josh Lanyon, A Dangerous Thing.
Josh Lanyon, The Hell You Say.
Josh Lanyon, Death of a Pirate King.
Josh Lanyon, The Dark Tide.
Josh Lanyon, Somebody Killed His Editor.
Josh Lanyon, All She Wrote.
Josh Lanyon, Dangerous Ground (three novellas).
Sidney Sheldon, Nothing Lasts Forever.
Reader's Digest, Laughter, the best medicine.

I am torn between providing explanations and letting them all stand alone, just to encourage me to write them up quicker, but I do feel compelled to mention that I read the last two while on a farm with no internet access and a limited book supply. While there I also flicked through a very bad racing novel by that person with a ridiculously similar name to Dick Francis, and read large chunks of a terrifyingly dictatorial Lady's Handbook from the 1940s (mainly the bits on dealing with infections pre-antibiotics, although the crusade against masturbation was also entertainingly awful in the degree of guilt and damage it was likely to inflict).