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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Shadowfell

Shadowfell is due out in September.  I've read it and loved it.

(an ARC from Netgalley and Random House Children's Books)

The first in a new series by Julier Marillier, Shadowfell is set in Scotland in a time when individuals with magical skills are enslaved or destroyed by the Enforcers who use a kind of mind manipulation that can, if successful, make the victim obedient to the king, or if unsuccessful, destroy the individual's personality and reason.

Neryn has a magical gift, and after her village is decimated, she finds herself on the run with her only remaining family member, her father.  The father's guilt and grief, however, turn him into a drunk and a gambler who no longer serves as protection for his daughter; he wagers Neryn in a game and loses her to a young man who quickly departs taking Neryn with him-- just before the Enforcers arrive to kill and plunder.

At the first opportunity, Neryn takes off on her own, seeking Shadowfell and the rebels against the king who dwell there.  When Flint, the young man who won (and rescued Neryn) discovers her absence, he sets out in search of Neryn.  But for what purpose?

I have to admit that I fell headlong into this fantasy and completely enjoyed the adventure, the folk magic, the Good Folk (Sorrow, Sage, Silver and others), and the eventual arrival in Shadowfell.

My main complaint is the fact that I will have to wait for the next book in the trilogy.

Shadowfell Page

As this was from Netgalley, I read it on my Kindle in May, but have held the review.

Fiction.  Fantasy/YA.  2012.  print version 416 pages.

Monday, August 27, 2012

In Progress

Last year I received an ARC of Jonathan Evison's West of Here (my review) and loved it.  It was a strange book in many ways, but I really liked it.  A while back, I received another Evison ARC, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving:  A Novel.

Because I've been so busy with other projects, I put off reading it.  Last night, I finished a book and went looking for something else to read, and Evison's new novel was a perfect fit.

Wow!  So very different from West of Here, but I'm already loving it!  Expecting a similar style and content, but a different story, I was surprised to note all of the differences.  What is the same is Evison's ability to create characters you care about, flawed and human, quirky and funny and sometimes sad.  Thank you, Algonquin!

Read recently, but not reviewed -- Murder in Mumbai by K.D. Calamur, Night Watch by Linda Fairstein, and Fated by Benedict Jacka.
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Do you ever wonder about reviews that use words like luminous, brilliant, fresh, surprising, and inventive, but when you read it, you find it dim, stale, predictable, and derivative?

I'm reading one of those right now.  Well, I was.  It has been put aside.  Since it is very short, I may return and finish it at some later date, but I wonder about the people who reviewed it.

Did they really like it?  Were they paid?  Does it get better?  Am I just an odd man out?
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In the film department, if you have the chance, you should see The Intouchables, a brilliant (in my-- ;-p --humble opinion) French film that is uplifting and funny.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Vanishing Point by Val McDermid

The Vanishing Point is due out Sept. 2.  I'm still debating what I thought about it.  Having read quite a few of her novels and watched the BBC series Wire in the Blood (which is pretty dark), I usually enjoy  McDermid's work, but this novel had a couple of things that bothered me.

I didn't like the way the story was told, but found the story itself intriguing.  When Stephanie Harker's young ward is snatched at an airport, she is devastated.  Detained in a glass inspection box because a pin in her leg set off the metal detector, Stephanie is able to see the man walk off with Jimmy, but is unable to get out and prevent it.  Her response is immediate and forceful, but when she is able to get out of the inspection box, airport security personnel, unaware of the abduction, attempt to subdue her and eventually Taser her.

Later, after it is clear that young Jimmy has been abducted, but after the kidnapper has already made a clean get away, Stephanie tells her story to the FBI agent on the case.

The detail of Stephanie's life leading up to her guardianship as related to the FBI agent doesn't work for me.  I wish another way to tell the story had been used because I just couldn't make a couple of hundred book pages fit into a few hours of relating the story orally.

The story itself, however, is engrossing.  Stephanie, a ghost writer, agreed to ghost the story of Scarlet Higgins, a rather infamous reality show star.  During this period, Stephanie comes to realize that Scarlet has a long-range plan for financial success and is by no means the bimbo she projects to the media.  A friendship forms and grows throughout Scarlet's pregnancy and the first few years of young Jimmy's life.  When Scarlet succumbs to a second bout of cancer, Stephanie is named as Jimmy's guardian.

Stephanie's distress over losing Jimmy is palpable, and when all leads have been exhausted in the U.S., Stephanie returns to England and continues searching for clues that might lead to finding Jimmy alive.

The final shocking twist is another bothersome detail for me, as it seems so out of character.

So...while I found the story itself intriguing, the framing of so much of the story as an oral recounting to the FBI agent and the final twist were drawbacks for me.

The ARC was an e-book from Net Galley and Atlantic Monthly Press.

Fiction. Mystery.  Sept., 2012.  Print version 416 pages.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Two by Paolo Bacigalupi

After hearing Paolo Bacigalupi's Comic Con interview on NPR, I ordered two of his books:  Ship Breaker and The Windup Girl.

I read Ship Breaker first and enjoyed it; however, I'm not sure it rates as a novel, even a YA novel--more like a long short story or novella.  It was interesting to see some possibilities of a post-apocalyptic world, but the story gives no hint of how this "new" world developed.  Yes, the seas rose, but that doesn't give ample explanation for the situation.

Brief synopsis:  Nailer is an adolescent boy who works for a crew that scavenges oil tankers.  (These tankers have been abandoned after whatever apocalyptic event occurred.)  Live is harsh and basic, the strong prey on the weak, survival is paramount for most individuals.

When Nailer discovers a wrecked clipper ship driven on shore by a powerful hurricane, he thinks he has made a Lucky Strike that will provide the means for him survive and to escape his drunken, abusive father.  What he finds, in addition to the dead crew, is a young girl who has survived.  The girl presents a dilemma for Nailer:  if he lets her die, his chances of making the most of his Lucky Strike are much greater -- if he rescues her, he may lose any chance of a better life.

Although I enjoyed the action, the world Bacigalupi builds seems like a facade.  You know, the kind of Western town in movies that has all the fronts of the buildings and nothing behind them.  The scavenging makes sense in Nailer's world, but the tremendous contrast between the "Corporate" world and the poverty and lawlessness of Nailer's environment is never explained or examined.

dystopian novel.  2011.

The Windup Girl, on the other hand, is definitely not a YA book.  Despite the novel's having won both the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for best 2010 novel, I can find little to recommend it...unless you enjoy violence and degradation.

Another dystopian novel, this one takes place in Thailand after the whatever apocalyptic event has taken place.  While both Bacigalupi's world building and prose are widely praised, I didn't find either satisfying.  The characters are thin stereotypes and none of them are really likable.  It is a disturbing story and often very slow; sections feel padded with sentences and paragraphs that fail to add anything new or important.  The dialogue is stilted and the psuedo-science of kink springs, etc. failed to make sense to me.

I admire Bacigalupi's attempts (in both novels) to point out some of the dangerous policies of societies and governments, some of the threats and consequences of climate change, and some of the scary practices of big agriculture.  Unfortunately, not much in The Windup Girl worked for me.  This is just my opinion--I know many people love this novel.

dystopian novel.  2011

Monday, August 20, 2012

This and That

Although I haven't been reading as much lately, I have quite a few reviews scheduled for closer to the time of publication.   A lot of the scheduled reviews were read in May or June.

July and August have been slow reading months, but I did read The Windup Girl and Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, Night Watch by Linda Fairstein, and The White Forest .....need to review them.


interesting article about science fiction

good science fiction reading list

people reading on flickr

Booker Prize Long List

What I have been doing (instead of reading) is making a boro jacket, working on white on white pieces, and making encrusted pieces of embroidery.

I posted lots of progress pictures on Bayou Quilts.

I've done at least 9 of these encrusted pieces.

Two of the white on white blocks in progress...
I've done more on both of these since the pictures were taken.