an archive of my forays into fact and fiction
Speed reviews: part I
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Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge
, Book Blowout
, GLBT interest
, Science Fiction
, Sex, sexuality & gender
, Speed reviews
, To Be Read
, Young Adult
Since I’m sick* and way behind on reviews, I’ve realised the only way to catch up is to make them speed reviews and post a whole batch at once.
The Age of Napoleon; Alistair Horne, eng, 235
Interesting, but a little choppily written, and also the author assumes you know certain things and never explains them, while others he explains over and over again.
Cold Comfort Farm; Stella Gibbons, eng, 253
Funny, though I accidentally didn’t read the preface, so I wasn’t 100 % how much of it was intentional (all of it, as it turns out, and as I suspected). Flora Poste is kind of annoying, but all right all the same.
For the TBR reading challenge and as part of the BBC Big Read.
Rebecca; Daphne du Maurier, eng, 410
A re-read, not as good as I remembered it, but still lovely. Maxim is both wonderful and creepy.
Med uppenbar kÃ¤nsla fÃ¶r stil; Stephan Mendel-Enk, swe, 128
Interestingly written about men and what’s considered masculine. References Morrissey at some points, mostly in connection with a man who went berserk and killed people. Lovely… not!
Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East; Brian Whitaker, swe, 230
Interesting, scary and occasionally a little bit hopeful.
Ingen behÃ¶ver veta; Christina WahldÃ©n, swe, 139
About male rape and how it does exist, but people find it hard to believe. Kind of a non-ending, but then I suppose that’s sadly the case in most instances of actual male rape also.
Ingen grekisk gud, precis; Katarian Kieri, swe, 217
Kind of brilliant tale of a young girl who falls for a teacher. Kind of brilliant mostly because the main character is into Morrissey, but for other reasons also. I was a bit worried where it was going to end, but it’s kind of perfect, really.
Sandman: The Kindly Ones; Neil Gaiman et al., eng, 335
I wouldn’t say Sandman is Gaiman at his best, but I do like the stories and so also in this volume. Not my favourite, though.
For the TBR reading challenge.
Doctor Who: The Nightmare of Black Island; Mike Tucker, eng, 255
Scary monsters and kiddies with nightmares. I liked it, but not as much as other DW books.
Doctor Who: The Art of Destruction; Stephen Cole, eng, 256
Farming in Africa, golden statues and creepy aliens. Good, but not great. Doctor’s always nice, though.
Doctor Who: The Price of Paradise; Colin Brake, eng, 255
References Franz Ferdinand and other pop culture a time or two. Not the best of the DW books I’ve read—I don’t much care for Colin Brake’s style of writing it, though I can’t put my finger on the exact reason.
Tro, hopp och burnout; Johan Unenge, swe, 228
YA story about a guy who’s really into cars and death metal, who ends up going on a confirmation camp. It’s a decent story, and I was happy to see it didn’t end up quite where I expected it would, but the writing style is very, very choppy and not at all my cup of tea.
For the A-Z reading challenge.
VadÃ¥ feminist; Lisa GÃ¥lmark, swe, 188
Basic guide to feminism. I wasn’t too keen on the writing and didn’t like the book all that much. Mostly it made me a little annoyed with the author, though it did contain sections worth thinking about. It bothers me that there is no question mark in the title.
For the A-Z reading challenge.
Homofamiljer; Sara Stenholm & Cecilia StrÃ¶mberg, swe, 312
About rainbow families and different ways to get one. Interesting, especially the personal stories, but not fab.
*Just a cold, but a bad one. I hate colds. And I’ve run out of Kleenex, which means my nose is very, very sore from regular paper towels. Woe.
Throne of Jade; Naomi Novik
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Filed under: Adventure
, Here Be Dragons
Throne of Jade
by Naomi Novik
For the Here Be Dragons reading challenge.
First line: The day was unseasonably warm for November, but in some misguided deference to the Chinese embassy, the fire in the Admirality boardroom had been heaped excessively high, and Laurence was standing directly before it.
Back cover blurb:
When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo—an unhatched dragon’s egg—Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon he named Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain’s Aerial Corps, man and dragon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte’s invading forces.
Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands—and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, the captain has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East—a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await.
Thoughts: I read the first book in this series back in January, then bought the second book in mid-February, but I haven’t got ’round to reading it until know. Don’t ask me why, as I have absolutely no idea.
It’s a really good story. There is adventure and swashbuckling and excitement, and I could hardly put the book down. I adore the main characters (Laurence and Temeraire) and their relationship with each other, as well as the plot that takes them to China. I was a little worried that I’d find the voyage there a little dull, but Novik manages to make eight months at sea quite interesting, by skipping over the parts where nothing much happens. Good on her!
I will definitely get the rest of the books as soon as I can, because this is a series I want to follow to its conclusion. There are already two more books out (possibly three by now, as I do not know the exact publication date for the fifth in the series, except that it was supposed to be sometime in June, which is almost all gone now), which is nice. The only thing is that the two books I own so far are the ones published by Del Rey, and the ones published by Voyager really have so much prettier covers. However, I refuse to mix covers.
As for the rating, it’s a B.
Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride; Helen Halstead
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Filed under: Back to History
Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride
by Helen Halstead
For the Back to History reading challenge.
First line: What a joy it is to have a worthy topic of conversation, to hold the power to amaze!
Back cover blurb:
In Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen brought together one of the most beloved literary couples of all time—Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Now, Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride continues the story of these passion-filled newlyweds as they enter London’s glamorous high society.
This page-turning novel finds Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy entangled in the frivolity and ferocity of social intrigues. Although Elizabeth makes a powerful friend in the Marchioness of Englebury, the rivalry and jealousy among her ladyship’s prestigious clique threatens to destroy the success of her new marriage.
Written in the style of Jane Austen, full of humour and sardonic wit, Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride brings Regency society vividly to life and continues the romantic, sometimes tragic, stories of other popular Pride & Prejudice characters including Georgiana Darcy and Kitty Bennet.
Thoughts: This is the first sequel to Pride & Prejudice that I have ever read (I tend to go for re-workings of the story, rather than continuations of it) and I can’t say I liked it much.
One of the reasons why was that the author felt that she needed to include explanations of who original characters were, and reminders of events of the original novel. It might just be me, but I would think that, if you decide to read a fan-written sequel to a well-known novel, you are probably quite a big fan of said novel already, and would know such basic facts as who Sir William Lucas is, &c.
It wasn’t all bad, though. I quite like Halstead’s take on Miss Anne de Bourgh, for example, and Lord Maddersfield (that’d be Lady Catherine’s brother and Darcy’s uncle) was quite amusing.
On the whole, though, it was not the best of reading experiences. I might add to this later (I have seven minutes before I have to leave for work), but for now, I shall leave it at this and give this work of fiction a D rating.
Heart of Darkness; Joseph Conrad
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Filed under: C
, Decades '08
Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
For the Decades ’08 reading challenge (first published 1902).
a Project Gutenberg e-book
First line: The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest.
Back cover blurb:
In this tale of colonial exploitation, the narrator, Marlowe, journeys deep into the heart of Africa. But there he encounters Kurtz, an idealist apparently crazed and depraved by his power over the natives, and the meeting prompts Marlowe to reflect on the darkness at the heart of all men.
This text refers to an edition other than the one I read.
Thoughts: I’ve heard this book mentioned again and again, and I’ve always sort of meant to read it, but I’ve never really known anything about it except the title.
This afternoon I took the time to read it and it was an interesting story. Very dark, but I should maybe have clued into that from the title, had I not been a complete idiot. I did find the narrative a little hard to follow at times, but I’m not sure how much that had to do with the format I read it in (e-book), and how much it was due to the actual writing.
Heart of Darkness receives a C rating. It was an okay read, but I had some issues with the flow of narrative, and at times I was made exceedingly uncomfortable by the blatant racism. It’s true that it was written over a hundred years ago, when racism was more accepted, but I’m reading it now, with 21st century sensitivities, and of course that’s going to colour my reading experience.
Strong Poison; Dorothy L Sayers
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Filed under: B
by Dorothy L Sayers
First line:There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood.
Back cover blurb:
Mystery novelist Harriet Vane knew all about poisons, and when her fiancÃ© died in the manner prescribed in one of her books, a jury of her peers had a hangmanâ€™s noose in mind. But Lord Peter Wimsey was determined to find her innocent—as determined as he was to make her his wife.
Thoughts: The back cover blurb lies. Harriet Vane was never engaged to the murder victim in this novel, and that’s the truth. I’m just sayin’.
This, then, is the story where Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane first meet. And it’s brilliant. Not as fantastically brilliant as Murder Must Advertise, Unnatural Death or Whose Body, but still loads better than a lot of things out there.
Here’s a few quotes from Wimsey’s first meeting with Harriet Vane, in which he’s just proposed to her:
“I wish you wouldn’t sound as if you thought it was rather funny. I know I’ve got a silly face, but I can’t help that. As a matter of fact, I’d like somebody I could talk sensibly to, who would make life interesting. And I could give you a lot of plots for your books, if that’s any inducement.”
“But you wouldn’t want a wife who wrote books, would you?”
“But I should; it would be great fun. So much more interesting than the ordinary kind that is only keen on clothes and people. Though of course, clothes and people are all right too, in moderation. I don’t mean to say I object to clothes.”
“People have been wrongly condemned before now.”
“Exactly; simply because I wasn’t there.”
“I never thought of that.”
“Think of it now. You will find it very beautiful and inspiring. It might even help to distinguish me from the other forty-six, if you should happen to mislay my features, or anything. Oh, by the way—I don’t positively repel you or anything like that, do I? Because, if I do, I’ll take my name off the waiting-list at once.”
“No,” said Harriet Vane, kindly and a little sadly. “No, you don’t repel me.”
“I don’t remind you of white slugs or make you go gooseflesh all over?”
“[…] It’s my hobby. Not proposing to people, I don’t mean, but investigating things.
Because this is not the best Wimsey-book, I don’t want to give it an A rating, but since it’s still brilliant and all, a B is a must.