Some books that I have read!

  • Mar. 27th, 2010 at 6:29 PM
branewurms: (Default)
Oh my gosh you guys, Cadbury owns my soul.

And now, for some books that I have read! (*) indicates [ profile] 50books_poc eligible books.

*The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin (aka [ profile] nojojojo):

I was a bit excited about this because it kept popping up on my f-list. I was kind of expecting a somewhat different story than the one I got, but that is not to say that I was disappointed. It was incredibly fun! A real page-turner. I tore through it in two and a half days, and this is book is a tome.

A city in the sky! A supposedly holy race of people full of corruption! Court intrigue where everyone's trying to kill everyone else! Gods (albeit enslaved ones) running around loose in the city getting under the main character's feet, meddling in her life and trying to seduce her! FUN STUFF. I quite liked the mythology, too - broken god OT3! (Also, was startled at how thematically similar it is to the mythology in one of my on-the-back-burner stories. Always eerie to me when that happens.)

I did think that it got a little over-the-top towards the end (that one sex scene especially went overboard, I felt) but this did not impede my enjoyment much. I feel like some people might roll their eyes at the paranormal romance-like aspect of the bad-ass heroine's inevitable attraction to the beautiful-but-dangerous supernatural boogieman -- (the god of chaos! That's like the ultimate bad boy image, right there) -- but me, I took unrepentant glee in it. Hey, man, my tastes! Take 'em or leave 'em.

But anyway, overall verdict = CRAZY FUN READ, I recommend it.

Soulless, by Gail Carriger:

Another ridiculously fun read! This is a mashup of paranormal romance, steampunk, and Victorian comedy of manners. Basically it is about an acid-tongued spinster - who just so happens to lack a soul - having madcap adventures as she gets tangled up in vampire and werewolf politics (and also a bizarre scientific cult!) while attempting to navigate polite society.

This book is hilarious, y'all. The book opens with her getting attacked by a vampire while she's trying to enjoy her tea and treacle tart, and she proceeds to kill him with her parasol. Also, have you ever noticed how in paranormal romances, the werewolf is just there to be the sad and jealous leftover once the heroine chooses the vampire? Well, in Soulless, there's only one love interest, and he's the werewolf. SHOCK! What is this trickery?! No, really, although I have a guilty penchant for vampires I found this really refreshing. The werewolf is just as alpha as you'd expect, and as [personal profile] meganbmoore noted, he'd be really annoying if not for the fact that the heroine is equally alpha. As it is, the poor guy just can't win.

Caveat: I was made mildly uncomfortable by the fact that the only prominent gay character in the book was flamingly stereotypical. Don't get me wrong! I loved Lord Akeldama, and well, it's not like there aren't plenty of fabulous gay men in the world, but. Well. It would have been nice if he and his foppish enforcers weren't the only representation here, and it would have also been nice if he were a little less over-the-top. The whole point of the book is to be over-the-top, I know, but Akeldama took it right out of the stratosphere. (Especially with his propensity for over-using italics.) Also I was rather disappointed he never got the chance to bust some heads. Hope he gets that chance in the next book.

Side-note: I found it almost unbearably hilarious that the omni-present octopi in the cult's headquarters were never explained. I dearly hope they remain a mystery throughout the whole series.

Verdict: If you like or at least do not outright hate the paranormal romance genre, and you like steampunk and irreverent hilarity, it's difficult to go very wrong here.

*Ash, by Malinda Lo:

This is the one the internet has dubbed "Lesbian Cinderella". Well, that is certainly what it is! The book's major conflict boils down to the heroine having to choose between the King's huntress and her childhood dream of being stolen away by the fairies. Kaisa, the huntress, basically represents down-to-earth, real-world happiness, while Sidhean, the fairy, represents forbidden attraction, escapism, the appeal of the dangerous and the strange, and all that jazz.

My feelings about this novel are rather mixed. On a purely technical level, this is a pretty solid first showing from a new author - quietly written, and yet has that ineffable something that pulls you along by the nose and doesn't let you stop reading. I liked that the "prince" figure and the "fairy godmother" figure were combined into one man - and loved how hilariously beneath Ash's notice the real, human prince was. (She ditched him at the ball! Ditched the prince! So coldly and casually! To go find Kaisa! I was in stitches.)

However, I felt that the heroine didn't have enough agency. Although she tried on several occasions, she didn't really have the opportunity to do much to advance the plot herself - things just happened to her, rather than her making things happen, so as a reader, I kind of felt like I was just floating along. I also felt like both Kaisa and the heroine were too thinly characterized, and that we didn't get enough of their developing relationship.

Which brings me to my most personal source of unease about the book - I would have chosen the fairy man. Which is very problematic for me! I mean, creepy controlling stalkerish guy, this is not a good thing! (And also isn't it kind of missing the whole point of lesbian Cindarella if I'm more into the dude? Even if it had nothing to do with him being a dude.) But it comes down to Kaisa representing the earthly and the real, and Sidhean representing the eerie and the unreal, and I am always going to pick the unreal over the real. (Although I did very much appreciate the obviously intentional fact that the lesbian love interest was portrayed as the sensible and down-to-earth choice while the hetero love interest was the dangerous and forbidden one. That was awesome.)

But I think this could have been averted! I mean, Kaisa totally fit the bad-ass bifauxnen archetype that I have such a thing for, so I'm pretty sure the only reason I was left feeling ambivalent about her is because we didn't get to know her well enough or see her do enough. If she had even just gone galloping after Ash to rescue her, that would have been a good start. (I feel that this probably didn't happen because Lo wanted Ash to determine her own fate; but really, Ash determining her own fate was an illusion to begin with. She only requested things of Sidhean, and it was up to Sidhean to grant her wishes or not.) Anyway, my longwinded point here is, I probably wouldn't have felt so torn about the fairy vs. huntress thing if we got some more substantial character development and development of their relationship. (Although I would have still found the fairy uncomfortably appealing either way.)

Final verdict is, I do recommend this book - it was a very enjoyable read - but it was a little lacking in some areas.

Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld:

You guys. You guys.

Deryn. Oh my god Deryn. ♥__________♥

So this book is set in a steampunk AU WWI and follows a teenage girl that crossdresses as a boy so that she can enter the Royal Air Force. A swashbuckling, slightly batshit nuts teenage girl. Do I really need to say more? Oh, and there's also a young mech-piloting Austrian prince, I guess.

...Okay no really, the prince was adorable and I loved him, but he was up against a crossdressing girl who throws herself off the side of airships to save people and holds royalty hostage with a pocketknife in front of enormous mechs, so I can be forgiven if I maybe didn't notice him as much. Basically what I am saying is Deryn is pretty much the greatest thing in the history of EVER.

I do not even know what to say about this book, it's like being repeatedly punched in the face with AWESOME so many times I've been rendered insensible. Crossdressing, swashbuckling heroine! Adorable prince with snarky, acid-tongued mentor! Wily mad scientist lady in a bowler hat! Living airships that are self-contained eco-systems! BATS THAT CRAP AMMUNITION ON DEMAND.

The world building is a brilliant melding of history and fantasy - instead of the Allies and the Central Powers, we have the Darwinists and the Clankers. The former have genetically designed beasts as airships, weapons, and so on and so forth, and the latter have mechs. (I am inclined to specifically use the word "mechs" because seriously, the illustrations of these things look like they could have come right out of a giant robot anime.) The two protagonists are on opposite sides of the impending war - one in the British Air Force (Darwinist), the other the fictitious son of Franz Ferdinand (Clanker) - but end up thrown together into a strange alliance.

I am no history buff, so I'm probably missing a lot of nuance here, but I'm not feeling the loss particularly keenly, not when every single scene seems specifically designed to make me flail around incoherently with glee. I loved the world, the characters, the story, EVERYTHING. In fact, I think the only thing that was :( about this book was the fact that it was the first in a series and WHY IS THE NEXT ONE NOT OUT YET OMG GIVE IT TO ME RIGHT NOW.

The book was also visually stunning - gorgeous dust jacket, gorgeous internal illustrations (LOTS OF DERYN BEING DASHINGLY BATSHIT NUTS!). I was, however, slightly annoyed by its inexplicably narrower-than-normal format, because it wouldn't lay open in my lap.

Verdict: I have nothing particularly intelligent to say about this book because I am too busy FLAILING WITH GLEE. :DDD Why are you not reading this book right this minute.

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lim⋅i⋅nal ho⋅ri⋅zon

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