keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
by Sylvia Kelso
260 pages (paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

Tellurith is the Head of Telluir House, one of the thirteen Great Houses of Amberlight. The strange, almost-sentient rock called qherrique, which the Houses of Amberlight mine and trade, tells Tellurith to take in and heal an outlander that she finds on the street. The outlander, whom she names Alkhes (for he has lost all but tantalizing snippets of his memory), will irreparably change Amberlight--for better or for worse.

Let me preface this by saying that this novel feels like a debut although it is not. Like her fellow Australian fantasist Fiona McIntosh, Kelso might be absolutely brilliant in a few years. But although I found this novel more than worth reading (and worth keeping on my space-limited bookshelf), it is definitely uneven. Yet it's also too short! The upcoming sequel Riversend has earned a spot on my TBB [To Be Bought] list. Tel and Alkhes have such a powerful relationship, with a delicious power imbalance that is even more elegant because of later plot developments. Kelso has developed an interesting and convincing matriarchial society, coupled with matter-of-fact progressive social treatment (e.g. Riversend will feature polygamy). And although the protagonists are clear, the minor characters are no less interesting. I like how Tel still cares about Sarth even when she's fallen in love with Alkhes, since she has known Sarth for far longer and real affection has developed despite their mutual heartbreak. And I want to read a story, fic or canon, from Sarth's perspective, especially relating to the men's tower. The setting feels different from the norm, too, although I'm not sure how much of that is due to Kelso's style.

Speaking of which: there's a Bujold blurb on the cover with which I only partially agree. Kelso's prose is definitely unique, but the imagery draws admiration rather than compulsion and I had a tendency to skim over it because it feels almost extraneous to the plot. It's in present tense, which doesn't bother me at all but can be off-putting to others. However, the most distinct difference is Kelso's constant use of fragments. Sometimes I fell into the flow nicely, but then a particularly jarring fragment would break the stream. The plot also mostly works if you don't think too hard--it's lovely and convoluted but doesn't quite click into place by the end.

Thus, as much as I fannishly love this story, I am a little hesitant to rec it. If it sounds like your cup of tea, it probably is; but if you're bothered by present tense or frequent fragmentation, you may want to pass.
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Some of these have been sitting in my bookmarks for a while, so I'll try to mention the new stuff first.

* Wyrding Studios is having an end-of-year clearance sale! I have my eye on Skylit Revisited #6, a gorgeous choker-style necklace; but I don't really need to spend $50 on a necklace when I hardly wear the jewelry I already own, so someone else go buy it and remove the temptation.

* Two great stories from Strange Horizons: Meredith Schwartz's How to Hold Your Breath, which packs quite a lot into under 700 words; and a lovely modern fairy-tale from Elizabeth Bear, Love Among the Talus (Mongolian-inspired worldbuilding is a bonus).

* The NYT publishes an interesting college admissions Q&A with reps from Yale University, Pomona College, Lawrence University, and the University of Texas - Austin. It's a representative mix and a good portion of the responses are enlightening; the other portion is amusing in its dodge-the-intent tactics.

* I haven't read Cherryh, but apparently her novels feature an unusual common theme--the rape of men.

* If you haven't seen it already: Every Fanfic Ever Written.

* [ profile] vagabond_sal summarizes, with a brief anecdote, the Avatar casting issue. [ profile] shati does the same with a smiley face. And here's how you can help. --I did say some of these links were old.

* *bounce* Also also, people other than my recipient like my Yuletide story! I am so happy inside, because I do like it myself (which is rare). No link, of course, although I welcome guesses. I limit myself to offering only fandoms whose canon I own, which is a decidedly short but secretive list. (And I'm so curious about my own mystery author, because the prose and the characters are just. Perfect.)
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Swallowing Darkness
by Laurell K. Hamilton
365 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Romance/Fantasy

I'll keep this short. Does Hamilton know how to plot without the mortal-danger trope? There are seriously too many instances of Merry's loved ones on the brink of death but miraculously saved, and no one important (to the reader) dies. Too many miracles, not enough consequences, especially concerning Frost and the other guards. (Although Merry/Doyle/Frost is still a cute threesome.) And is this possibly the end of the series? It ends at a good place and echoes the very first book; but Merry is still pregnant.

Also, only 1.5 sex scenes! That must be some sort of record for Hamilton. But the plot is exceptionally implausible in this book, so it evens out.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
by Gail Carson Levine
244 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/YA/Fantasy

From the cover blurb, I had great hope for Levine's newest release. Despite their younger core audience, I loved Ella Enchanted and The Two Princesses of Bamarre. And the premise of Ever excited me so much: Kezi is a talented weaver and dancer raised in Hyte, a country following a monogamous religion worshipping Admat. Olus is the youngest Akkan god yearning for mortal companionship. They fall in love and must overcome the ultimate sacrifice--death--to be together. Plus I had heard hints of faith being a major theme, with Kezi becoming agnostic at the end. I'm not so sure about that last part, alas. Ever is frustratingly simplistic in both construction and content.

To be fair, Levine doesn't hide the book's intent or style. On the first page, Kezi's style is set forth--simple, plain, concise. This can work, and maybe it works for other readers, for me it became irritating because I wanted more depth and less choppy skimming over the surface. I enjoyed the religious themes, as expected, but not as much as I expected. I enjoyed the fairytale/divine myth format, but I was unsatisfied by the resolution; Kezi didn't give up or lose anything permanent and she lacks a sense of true agency throughout the book. It's a quick and competent read--however, I expected much more from Levine, especially with this amazing premise. Essentially, I wish this had been an older YA or adult novel instead of younger YA skewing to middle-grade. That's not Levine's fault but she definitely could have done better even within genre and age restraints.

ETA: And as [ profile] meganbmoore mentions, it's narrated in first-person present tense, if that's an issue. I tend to slip into the narrative easily and don't notice the POV unless it's really jarring, so I forgot to note it.
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The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden
by Cathrynne M. Valente
483 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

This book took me SO LONG to finish. I had heard continual buzz throughout the F/SF community and therefore had high expectations; when my friend finally lent it to me, I tried to read it but found the plot confusing and Valente's style distracting. She is quite fond of similes.

Because of its reputation, however, I felt that In the Night Garden deserved at least a complete reading. The beginning was too detached between stories, but as I persevered, I could appreciate the reoccuring characters and unexpected connections. Even the prose became less annoying, although I still prefer a different style of lyricality--Valente's is a tad too poetic without enough narrative grounding (I didn't much like her poetry either, at least in Apocrypha).

So what happens in the novel? ...I have no freaking idea. I loved the religious, sexual, and racial diversity. I loved the cover design. I loved the meta-structure, how stories are irregularly interleaved rather than perfectly nested (my favorite was Al-a-Nur); yay for convolution! But it's not a book easily summarized, only described. Having finished it, finally, I can understand why there has been so much excitement over the work. I'm not exactly the right audience and certainly not Valente's biggest fan, but I will definitely be picking up In the Cities of Coin and Spice (and not only because of the cliffhanger ending). The frame story captured my interest through sheer persistence; I sympathize more with Dinarzad than the boy. Essentially, an elfish girl lives in the Sultan's garden and tells stories to one of the Sultan's many sons--yet this simple description cannot possibly capture the essence of the tale as a whole. The narrative has an ethereal fairy-tale quality, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't for me. Nonetheless, The Orphan's Tales is the best fairy tale novel I have read, in this regard trumping even Ellen Kushner's Thomas the Rhymer (though overall I liked Kushner's better than Valente's).

Final verdict: so confusing but equally so fascinating. Do give Valente at least half the book to prove herself--the scales tipped at around 1/3 for me.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Via Strange Horizons, which seems to specialize in stories that I don't expect to like but end up liking anyway (and with a readable site layout):

* "Little Brother (TM)" by Bruce Holland Rogers, a just-longer-than-flash SF story about sibling rivalry that starts out ordinary with a dark twist ending.
* "Huntswoman" by Merrie Haskell, a unique fantasy retelling of Snow White in sparkling, sparse prose. The end didn't entirely convince me, but I admire its boldness and the story proper is just beautiful.
* "The Jenna Set" by Daniel Kaysen, one of the longer online stories that have sustained my interest. It's semi-plausible SF written in a light and entertainingly sardonic style, the characters very realistic and reminding me of contemporary romance novels like Sex as a Second Language. Although I must say, I prefer the geeky Kelly/Abbie relationship over the protagonist's (Jenna/Ray).

* From Clarkesworld, "Orm the Beautiful" by Elizabeth Bear is a melancholy dragon story set in alternate-present-day--and a dragon story rec from me is rare indeed; I still can't get past the first chapter of Temeraire.

* I actually dislike the style of "The Empire of Ice Cream" by Jeffrey Ford, and I don't find the characters particularly compelling, but: synesthesia! And musical composition! And the ending satisfactorily resolves the central conflict without dipping into my expectations, which was, well, unexpected. (Don't recall who rec'd this story originally, but [ profile] yhlee would like the musical bits a lot, I think.) Warning: the site archives, where I read this, has a terrible split-color background. You'll probably want to be smarter than me and Ctrl-A/Ctrl-C the story into Word or Notepad.

I conclude that endings are absolutely crucial for me; I culled several stories from this linkblogging post because the ending fell flat, and the ending of Ford's piece let it slip in despite the protagonist's irritating arrogance.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
174 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/YA

Atwater-Rhodes's career has pretty much fizzled out, which is regrettable. The Keisha'ra series is strong despite its immature prose and poorly retained character development across books. The first two, Hawksong and Snakecharm, tell Danica and Zane's compelling romance. Falcondance focuses on Nicias, son of two previous minor characters; from then on, Wolfcry and now Wyvernhail centered around the Wyvern's Court. Atwater-Rhodes does a good job of developing minor characters into interesting protagonists, but in the process she loses depth from previous protagonists. Zane and Danica are aged, it's true, but I was sad to see them so useless in this final volume.

Also (spoilers ensuing), I didn't agree with Hai's final choice at the end. Ahnmik is portrayed almost too well; I urged Hai to take Nicias and live out the rest of their lives with the falcons, because I wasn't convinced of her bond to the serpiente.

A good series and breezy YA; I want to read some falcon fanfiction, but this was a good place to end the canon.
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Fantasy & Science Fiction July '08
by Gordon Van Gelder (ed.)
160 pages (paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Science Fiction

This review should attest to exactly how far behind I am on reading--I was sent this copy of the magazine for free, as part of a blogger giveaway, in early May. And I'm reviewing the July issue in late August. Ah, well.

My verdict: highly disappointing, considering that F&SF is basically the tippy-top of the speculative short fiction market. Anthologies are hit-or-miss for me, but this issue of F&SF contained one story that I loved and one that I enjoyed out of 7 stories. The magazine leads off with "Fulbrim's Finding" by Matthew Hughes, a long and extremely boring SF story about a "discriminator," aka private investigator, who searches for a missing "seeker of substance" and in the process discovers the truth of reality. It doesn't live up to such weighty intentions, being presented with stiff, distracting prose and an unsympathetic, unethical protagonist. The world-building is unoriginal and too techy, leaving the reader bewildered like Fulbrim's poor wife Caddice. Ending parallels theme; both are thoroughly unsatisfying.

Thankfully, the next story lifted my spirits. "Reader's Guide" by Lisa Goldstein operates on a truly original conceit and goes on to support itself as a light (though not wholly humorous), enlightening tale. It is impossible to describe without spoilers, so I won't try, but Goldstein's contribution is the sole reason this will remain on my bookshelf. However, Michael Blumlein's novella "The Roberts" should not be discounted. It uses the extra length successfully. The world-building isn't standout but the characters are interesting, major and minor both--I especially liked Stanovič's accent. Plot builds evenly to a strong conclusion and a new understanding of the (apt) title.

After which, I had to endure four stories of varying ennui. Paul DiFilippo's "Plumage from Pegasus" begins with an intriguing concept but has no meaning or substance. I seriously can't tell if it's fiction or nonfiction. This is not a good thing. "Enfant Terrible" by Scott Dalrymple follows; weird (in the imitation-punk fashion) is the best descriptor, and the second-person narration feels like an unnecessary gimmick. I skimmed Albert E. Cowdrey's "Poison Victory" one-sentence-per-page at one point--a new low of boredom, I believe--and on top of that, the story is semi-incomprehensible due to random German phrases. "The Dinosaur Train," by James L. Cambias, ends the issue on a slightly stronger note, but only in comparison. I found the plotline suspenseful but the ending lackluster and predictable. Some characters approach caricature and others are realistic--too realistic, as I wasn't invested in their fates.

I will probably still buy another copy of F&SF in the future, when [ profile] yhlee's story comes out (the elemental-music one, I believe?), but that will be in spite of rather than because of this complimentary copy. My regrets.
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Breaking Dawn
by Stephenie Meyer
756 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/YA

What you've heard thus far about Breaking Dawn? All true. I won't bother to repeat the criticisms. Meyer's prose is clunky but bearably so; in this book particularly, she invents way too many minor characters; and she doesn't understand the fundamentals of plot theory. The ending is a huge deus ex machina, a perfectly happy ending with no price paid--but if you've been keeping up with the news, you know all that already. As did I. So why do I continue to read Meyer?

Well, I'm a masochist, and a completist. I thought Twilight wasn't half-bad, especially for a first novel; but the series becomes steadily worse and builds to a climactic let-down in Breaking Dawn. I'm also disturbed by the conservative undertones--abstinence until marriage, Bella's vehemence against abortion, the whole destiny vs. free will debate regarding werewolf imprints, and most of all, the central idea that motherhood will change your entire life, meaning, and personality. That happens for many people, I'm sure, (hopefully including [ profile] kate_nepveu!) but Meyer presents it as a fact of life. (Of course, these are my personal political views intruding as reader bias.)

Just a few days ago, I was reading David Wolverton's daily email column on writing, and his topic was religion in genre fiction (no link or quote, alas--but you should subscribe! Say "Kick me" in the email), particularly fantasy. He talked about Christian roots and good vs. evil, all of which is true for epic fantasy (which I generally dislike for these same qualities, but that's a different issue). His point was that commercially successful fantasy writers avoid sex and obscenity in their fantasy, because otherwise the conservative religious readers will get offended. Magic-fearing evangelists notwithstanding, Twilight is a very conservative work. And it has been hugely successful. Exceptions come to mind--George R.R. Martin and Jacqueline Carey, plus many others who are popular with experienced/jaded fantasy readership--but I do think that Dave's rule is true, albeit "selling out." I would never have thought of it because I skipped from Diana Wynne Jones and Tamora Pierce straight to Guy Gavriel Kay, et. al., but my reading tastes are unusual for my age group. Things to ponder.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
by Catherynne M. Valente
121 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Poetry/Fantasy/Horror

I had such high hopes for Valente's work because of the consistently high praise from my flist. But as I'm currently stuck in the first hundred pages of In the Night Garden and as this review of Apocrypha will attest, I am sadly disappointed. Maybe it's my own fault for setting the bar so high, but Valente rarely manages to evoke that vital sense of wonder in this reader.

Apocrypha is a book of many poems, all fantastical or horrific. I had no idea that some were so dark; I do like dark fantasy, but Valente's version of gore is maddeningly repetitive. Every other piece uses cunt/breasts/womb, glass, or various gemstones. The macabre language ceased to shock me after the first two times, and by the time I read the last poem, "Z," I was yearning for the collection to finally be finished. To give Valente credit, her imagery is unique and lyrical; but all too often, her poetry echoes beautifully in my head with no real meaning or insight. I did like two poems in the collection, and since it is a slim volume, it will remain on my bookshelf. "Song for Three Voices and a Lyre" is an elegant feminist retelling of Greek myth, and the imagery of "Had He Never Come" actually ended with a surprising epiphany.

I will continue to struggle through Valente's much-acclaimed Orphan's Tales, but from the strength of Apocrypha I can only come to a poor conclusion--disappointing, in a word.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
by Guy Gavriel Kay
676 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Historical

This is my third pass of Tigana and my second front-to-back read (the other time being a skim-through of Dianora's sections). I still love Kay's prose, overwrought as it sometimes is; the ending still killed me, though no tears. I love Dianora as usual; more unusually, I loved the riselka legend. Although I don't understand the last sentence of the Epilogue--three men see a riselka, one is blessed, one forks, one shall die. Devin, Alessan, and Baerd: which is which? The ending has very neat couplings--Devin/Alais, Alessan/Catriana, Baerd/Elena--I wish Dianora could have had a happier ending, but I know it's not meant to be. Alais is almost too perfect, but I grew to like her; Alberico is too conveniently focused on power. He is, as Brandin says, ambitious but nothing more. The theme of memory works perfectly to tie all the various plot threads together. And how did I miss the incest scene on my first two passes? Heh. The little things are what I like best about this novel; for instance, go back and read the first sentence of Chapter 1 after you finish the book (and do read the afterword if it's in your edition). Also, Kay's poetry is awesome. Not as good as the pieces in The Lions of Al-Rassan, but still awesome.

However, the espoused view of feminism is disturbingly cynical. Quileia, a matriarchal land to the south, is overthrown by Marius to become true king, and the high priestesses are thoroughly vilified. On page 504, Rovigo tells his daughter, "Alais, my darling, a woman cannot live a life at sea. Not in the world as it is." Even Dianora, the most powerful female character by far, holds influence solely through Brandin. It would be interesting, I think, to analyze Kay's oeuvre from a feminist point of view. He writes strong female characters, but the male characters are usually stronger.

What, you say, you actually want to know what Tigana is about? Well, it falls under the subgenres of high and historical fantasy. It is an epic story with lots of gray and skillfully shifting, poetic narration. The Ygrathen sorcerer Brandin has cast a spell that erases the province of Tigana and its capital city, Avalle of the Towers, from the entire world's memory--save for those who were born in Tigana before its fall. Ostensibly, the plot follows Prince Alessan of Tigana and his motley band, but it achieves so much more in surpassing cliché. I'm glad that I bought it, because this is a novel that I'll definitely be rereading in the future.
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The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Ninth Annual Collection
by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (eds.)
534 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Horror

I've only read one story from this anthology--Ellen Kushner's "The Hunt of the Unicorn." In some ways it was disappointing because I'd expected a Riverside book; while the setting is reminiscent of the city, there are no overt references and it really is a standalone. The ending also had no punch for me although it might be better understood upon rereading. Kushner's weakest work to date for me; but it's old too (1995), so I'll cut her some slack.

Obviously not a review of the collection, or even a review for anyone other than myself.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
House of Many Ways
by Diana Wynne Jones
404 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/YA/Fantasy

Charmain Baker, an utterly respectable young lady, is sent to house-sit for her Aunt-by-marriage's Great Uncle William, better known as the Wizard Norland. The house--of the title and thus many-wayed--is magic, of course; events are further complicated by the arrival of a clumsy (but not in the way you would expect) apprentice, and the danger of a purple insectoid creature called the lubbock lurks in the pretty meadows beyond. Howl and Sophie enter the story about halfway through; this is also where the action picks up and I really started enjoying the story. I didn't particularly care for Charmain at the beginning; she is appealingly bookish but also frustratingly naive. However, once the original HMC cast comes on stage, things really get interesting with palace intrigue (the royals, especially Princess Hilda, are delightful). There is a clear villain, as one might expect in a YA novel; I didn't find this too detracting. Overall, a strong Jones book that doesn't live up to Howl's Moving Castle (as no sequel can ever match the original) but is on par with Castle in the Air. The voice and style are very classic DWJ, and very British (I giggled every time Charmain said "shall"). The plot twists were excellently executed, fun and foreshadowed; I still love Howl/Sophie, and on top of all that, the cover is just beautiful. I do think, though, that a reader would get more out of this book if they were already familiar with HMC (either book or movie), despite its standalone status.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
"La Serenissima" by Catherynne M. Valente is gorgeous. The plot meanders dreamily at first, but by the end it all makes perfect sense. Magic is woven throughout in the thread of words and I love the revised Church. I don't think I understand it but I admire and revel. Valente's short-form pieces seem to be working much better for me than her poetry or novel; I've read snippets of both and they fit together like made-in-China jigsaw pieces, unfortunately shaped the same and thus impossible to complete.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Night Watch
by Terry Pratchett
338 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Humor

I'm apparently on a Pratchett binge; only The Light Fantastic is left at the local branch though, and hopefully I will resist requesting until I work through some of my personal TBR backlog. Annoyingly common typos in this volume as well; which speaks to sloppy copyediting. I hear this is the first Vimes book; if so, I"m surprised. It seems to hint at an uncommon amount of backstory and would be an awkward introduction. A great book for development of Vimes's character and discovering his history, but I'm more interested in the here-and-now characters. That said, I love the glimpses of young Havelock Vetinari--where is his aunt now? And I really want to read a Vetinari book, one that actually centers on him. Vetinari seems to be in the margins of everything, but never smack in the center foreground. I suppose that's appropriate.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
by Terry Pratchett
373 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Humor

Damn title made me commit a sin of punctuation, up in the subject. Sigh.

I'm on a Pratchett binge, which will have to stop soon because my local library branch only has one more unread Pratchett on the shelf (Night Watch). Anyway, Thud! is about a historic troll-dwarf conflict, but also about werewolves vs. vampires, Vetinari vs. the rest of the political world, the Watchman vs. the Dark, good vs. evil (always, in this case often the same side), and Sam Vimes not-vs. Young Sam. Where's My Cow? is so cute, and I believe Pratchett has actually published it as a children's picture book. Hee.

I did notice several typos in this, which speaks to sloppy copyediting. Tsk tsk. The mystery plot was nicely suspenseful, and I'm now madly curious about the past histories of Nobbs, Carrot, Angua, and Vimes. Light, engrossing read; I think I personally prefer Monstrous Regiment, though.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Blood Noir
by Laurell K. Hamilton
340 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Romance/Fantasy

Anita goes to Asheville, North Carolina, with Jason to see his dying father. Complications (i.e. political manuveurings) ensue, both mortal and supernatural. The Mother of All Darkness a.k.a. Mommie Dearest is mightily interested in Anita. Hamilton's books have come to pretty much pure erotica--there is less unnecessary sex here, but it definitely makes itself known. And thankfully, there's also substantive plot development. SPOILERS--Richard gains a version of the ardeur, Anita manages to reclaim her anger from Richard (but not having read the earlier books, I have a hard time believing that she really is this raging), Jason nearly dies...oh yes, Jason's father is magically cured of cancer (Authorial Device, anyone?) and Anita gains another hanger-on, Crispin the young white weretiger.

Essentially, typical LKH. I still prefer her faerie series, but this one's not bad. A quick read, at least.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Mister B. Gone
by Clive Barker
248 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Humor

I picked up this book from the library on a whim; demons aren't exactly an original concept, but the voice was interesting. Alas, I can't be bothered to finish reading because voice is pretty much the only virture I can see. Jakabok Botch is a simultaneously devious and pitiful demon apparently trapped in the pages of his memoir; the plot apparently interlaces him talking directly to the reader with tales of his life up to the current point. Neither conceit, again, is particularly original. Jakabok was interesting at first, but his repetition and complaining gets annoying after a while (by which I mean, after 50 pages). The worldbuilding just doesn't feel like it has a lot of thought in it, and the plotting is subpar. Perhaps this is the wrong genre, though--I didn't realize that this was horror at the time, and so found the macabre descriptions needlessly extraneous.

Verdict: voice alone cannot carry a novel. However, the book design is beautiful.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Monstrous Regiment
by Terry Pratchett
353 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Humor

A lovely, quick read that I needed; a refreshing break from Jon Krakuer's Into Thin Air and Valente (which I finally started reading). Polly Perks decides one day to enlist in the army, to find her brother Paul. Her country Borogravia, which is ruled by a dead Duchess and worships an officially insane god named Nuggan, happens to have involved itself in yet another war. This time Ankh-Morpork is also drawn into the conflict, and I get my first glimpse at the legendary Commandar Vimes. (Yes, I haven't read any of the Vimes books yet. Soon.) Of course, Borogravia prides itself on being strictly fundamentalist, aided by the regular issue of Nuggan's Abominations appendix. Polly finds herself now called "Oliver," nicknamed "Ozzy," and her squadmates are not quite whom they seem either. This Discworld book is a satire of religion and gender roles, which Pratchett draws often upon; some of my plot suspicions were confirmed but others were turned and twisted like only Pratchett can. The ending, especially, has a drawn-out falling action that actually works.

It's difficult to discuss the story without spoilers, so scissors please!

Major book-destroying spoilers )

Lovely; in fact, almost equal to Small Gods, which remains my favorite Discworld novel. I think I'll end up favoring the Ankh-Morpork mini-verse over the witches'.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
I'm putting this review, perhaps the longest book review I've ever written, under a cut for both length and content. A warning: I now hold a decidedly low opinion of Leslie What.

In which I exemplify logorrhea in written form )

While I was initially attracted to the concept of Logorrhea--I love spelling bees and vocabulary words--I chose to read it for Theodora Goss's Kubla Khan story. That, and other surprises such as Daniel Abraham (whose novels have now moved up my TBR list significantly) and Duncan's unexpected success in short form made this collection satisfying. Other stories fell in the mediocre hit-or-miss range, with the notable exceptions of Michael Moorcock's trite "A Portrait in Ivory" and certainly Leslie What's tale "Tsuris." Overall, an average book for me as far as anthologies go, with stories at both extremes. I tentatively issue a broad recommendation because the range of genre and style here is so wide; you will probably find at least one story to like.

ETA: Minor edits to correct grammar.


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January 2011



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