azhure: (me phoenix)

I’ve been feeling a bit jaded with reading of late, having come up against a couple of books that just didn’t draw me in at all.  I read Some Kind of Fairytale, which was amazing, but then kind of flailed about trying to figure out what to read next.

I’ve been trying to keep up with reading along with the Writer and the Critic podcast, and have fallen somewhat behind.  I’m pretty much finding that I love or like most of the books Kirstyn recommends, while Mondy’s recommendations aren’t always for me, but I do appreciate reading every book that he does recommend.  Which is a long way of saying that his taste isn’t always mine, but I feel like Kirstyn’s taste and mine converges somewhat.

Anyway.  I am a few podcasts back, and so I picked up The Night Circus.

Fun fact: reading through the acknowledgements, there’s a referral to thanking Purgatory.  Ho, says I, someone who posts at Absolute Write. and specifically the No News Is Good News thread (known as Purgatory to its denizens).  Now, I used to hang out at AW a lot back when I was querying Shaede, mostly posting in Purgatory.  For me and for that book, it was close but no cigar, of course.  And I realised, very belatedly and after a bit of searching, that I’d actually been active in the thread at the same time as Erin.  My brain = boo, hiss.  Erin = squee!

Anyway, onto the book.

I’d heard a bit of hype about this book, but hadn’t really looked into it much.  I bought a copy on my Kindle and promptly forgot about it, as I am wont to do when I get distracted by too many other books.  And, in a general mood of ennui, I started to read.  And read.

This book is just gorgeous.  Like Kirstyn and Mondy, I wasn’t taken so much with the characters (though I think I like Celia a little more than they did) – but neither did I dislike them, per se.  I loved Poppet and Widget though.  I did have a few times when I got confused about characters, but I think that says way more about my own state of mental fogginess than the book itself.

Honestly, I didn’t read this for the characters, or the story so much.  It was the circus, and all the lush imagery of the circus and the magic being used.  I am not surprised at all that this has been optioned for a movie, but I’m not certain that any movie is going to do justice to it all.  It was just breathtaking, and wonderful and gave me such a sense of awe while I was reading.

Also, Morgenstern, you get a general frowny face for part of Bailey’s storyline.  No spoilers, but when you read, you will know.

I read this on Kindle, but I have now ordered the glorious UK hardcover, which I shall be very happy to have on my shelf.

And because I am a fool, I’ve also ended up with a paperback copy (don’t ask, just know that my brain is not to be trusted).  To reward anyone who’s actually read this entry, I shall be happy to post it to a random commenter (On livejournal, dreamwidth or at the website).  Happy to send anywhere in the world, so comment away!

EDIT: I will be picking a winner on Friday, my time, 9am, so you have until then to comment.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)

Here I have to make a small confession: Until now, I’d not read any Graham Joyce.

I grabbed a copy of this book mostly because Gary K. Wolfe talked about it on the Coode Street Podcast (I swear I get enabled so much by podcasts, and have never regretted any such enabling) – to paraphrase, I think he put it into the same kind of circle of awesome as Caitlin R. Kiernan’s Drowning Girl, which remains one of the most amazing books I’ve read over the last few years.

And so I bought it, and popped it on my shelf to languish for a little while.  I’m at the point where I’m going to have to start forcing myself to read everything on my TBR mountain soon.  It’s gotten a wee bit out of hand.

Feeling a bit disillusioned with some of the stuff I’ve been reading (or, more properly, picking up, reading two chapters and putting down again), I picked this up.  And noticed what I’d missed when I received it – the fact that I’d actually received a signed limited edition.  Thank you, Book Depository, you are kind of awesome.

And that’s a lot of rambling to get to actually talking about the book.  Which, when you look at it, has a fairly simple premise – Tara vanished in the woods when she was sixteen, and turns up twenty years later, looking no older than she had on the day she disappeared.  Her return sends ripples through the lives of her family – especially her brother, Peter and her boyfriend (when she vanished), Richie, who was actually a suspect for her murder and has pretty much been frozen in time since then.

Joyce doesn’t play with the mystery of Tara’s disappearance overmuch, and the reader is never really in much doubt about what happened to her, but this really isn’t a bad thing.  It really does feel like Tara’s reappearance is a stone thrown into a pond (or maybe a carpet of bluebells), and he moves through different characters’ points of view and timelines to show just how much that rippling affects.

There is so much gorgeous writing in this, and so many sentences that I literally stopped and reread about a dozen times, just savouring them, before I moved on.

And after I finished reading this book, I promptly went online and ordered a bunch of Joyce’s other work.

If you like literary fantasy, and fairy tales, I can really, really recommend this one.  I think it’s going to be a book that I reread many, many times.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)

I’m not usually a reader to become intrigued about a book based on the cover alone.  This series is the exception – one of the blogs I follow posted an image of the cover of World’s End, the first book of Mark Chadbourn’s Age of Misrule trilogy, and I was immediately drawn in.  Reading more about the trilogy and the two that follow on, and I was hooked.

As an aside, if you get a chance, check out the covers for the other US rereleases – they’re all as gorgeous as this one.  If I was Mark Chadbourn, I would be so stoked with the cover art.  Unfortunately, my books are a mixture of UK and US releases, based on what was available when I was searching out the books.  I’m sorely tempted to rebuy them all in the US covers, to be honest.

Anyway.  The covers are gorgeous, right?  And the subject matter is so up my alley – technology fails around the world, and all of the figures from fantasy and myth come back into the real world.  These books are set mostly in Britain, so it’s the Celtic gods we mostly see (though later books reveal that the gods of other countries also come back), as well as dragons.  Some of the imagery of the gods and fantasy creatures is amazingly breathtaking, and it would be very easy to imagine this series as a whole becoming a very successful television series.

I did have some issues with the books, most of which are character based.  All too much of the time the main characters come across as feeling more like stereotypes – there is effort made at rounding them out (usually in the form of tragedies that shape them), but it often feels like too little against the grandiose backdrop of the storyline.

The females also get pretty short shrift of things.  I found it frustrating that they were clearly delineated as powerful characters, but they never really ended up feeling like they grew into that power.  None of the characters ever really seemed to grasp the enormity of what was going on, and too often sank into petty squabbles.  Which, sure, are going to happen, but when the world is ending and you’re supposed to be one of these amazing powerful people who are supposed to save it, you should rise about that, right?  Hell, this is fiction, after all.

That said, I found the characters interesting enough to keep on reading for nine books.  I still found myself frustrated with them many times – there are places where they all act out of character, and there are a couple of completely meaningless deaths and acts of violence against the characters (women especially, who very much end up being damsels in distress a lot of the time – though, to be fair, they do their own share of saving others as well).

I feel like Chadbourn has really made an effort to try to make all the characters feel human – flawed, making bad decisions, and all of it.  Which makes them feel more real in one sense, but also makes them frustrating as heroic characters.

The whole series feels very much like it’s been written as a script, rather than a series of novels.  This does allow for some amazing visuals, but it does at times, feel like there’s far too much reliance on showing and not telling.  That said, telling the story instead of showing it isn’t the be all and end all of everything, but it does tend to make characters feel more like cardboard cutouts than real people.  And yes, I know that I’m pretty much contradicting myself here, but this series kind of lends itself to contradiction.

If you love Celtic myth and dystopic fiction, likely you’ll find enough (as I did) to keep you reading this series.  I will most probably come back to this for a reread at some time in the future when I don’t have a wall of books to be read.  And I do think it could make an amazing television series, if the characters were worked on a little more.  Some people might find the characters too frustrating for words, and find that they want to toss the books against the wall.

For all of my complaints, the characters made enough impact on me that I find myself thinking about them a lot, even while I want to slap the lot of them upside the head ;)  I can definitely recommend giving this series a go, just don’t blame me if you throw the book against the wall ;)

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)

One of the things I’ve been doing for the past year or so is reading every book that the podcast The Writer and the Critic talk about.  Kirstyn and Mondy are amazing people and the discussions they have about books are always worth reading to.

I’ve read some amazing books via the podcast – many of which I wouldn’t have picked up or come across afterwards (and I am dead excited that they’re going to be doing House of Leaves this year!).

One of the upcoming books for the podcast happened to be one that’s been sitting on my to-be-read shelf for way too long – Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes.

I think I grabbed this first because of word of mouth about it’s awesomeness.  And knowing that it involved spirit animals of a kind always had me intrigued.  I snapped up a copy and then, as too many books tend to do, it languished gathering dust on my shelf for far too long.

I’m really regretting that time now, because the book is damn awesome.  I love that it features many POC characters, and I love even more that they don’t all get “cool” spirit animals.  The way this world works is just unique, and while I want to know about the mechanics of how people get Animalled (and why), the writer in me loves that Beukes never really explains about it, just giving just enough information to make the whole thing fascinating.

I’ve now picked up Moxyland , Beukes’ debut (which has also been languishing unread for far too long) and am already sucked into it after only a few pages.  I have no idea if Beukes is going to revisit the world of Zoo City at any time, but I really, really hope she does.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (me phoenix)

 

In a far future where technology is all but indistinguishable from magic, Tanyana is one of the elite.

 

She can control pions, the building blocks of matter, shaping them into new forms using ritual gestures and techniques. The rewards are great, and she is one of most highly regarded people in the city. But that was before the “accident”.

 

Stripped of her powers, bound inside a bizarre powersuit, she finds herself cast down to the very lowest level of society. Powerless, penniless and scarred, Tanyana must adjust to a new life collecting “debris”, the stuff left behind by pions. But as she tries to find who has done all of this to her, she also starts to realize that debris is more important than anyone could guess.

*

A confession: I bought this book in part because of the cover.  And because from what I’ve seen from following Jo Anderton online and on Twitter, she seems like an incredibly nice person.  What I didn’t know was that she is also incredibly talented.  And that behind the sexy cover lurks an amazing story.

I am, quite honestly, burned out on a lot of fiction.  Tired of the same old same old, tired of the same plots, the same characters, the same tropes.  I have tended to seek out beautifully written books based in the real world of late.  And I think Debris has shown me that fantasy (0r is it sf? is it steampunk?  all I know is that it’s amazing) can be just as beautiful and entrancing.

I was sucked into the world from the first page.  Original magic/technology and gorgeous imagery combine into a world that feels real.  So much so that every time I put the book down, I found myself looking for pions in the real world.  And I adore Tanyana as a character – and have the feeling that this book only just scrapes the surface of who she is.

I am somewhat sad that this is the first book of a series, but I am glad, because it means that there’s more of this world and Tanyana to come.

Go and buy it.  Now.

 

 

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (dreaming tree)

 

Even though I haven’t been posting about it, I have been keeping up with my reading for both the Women of SF and Women of Fantasy book clubs.

I have to say this up front – I have been dead impressed with the selections.  I have read some amazing books this year, mostly books that I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise on my own.  My to-be-read pile/shelf/mountain is huge enough most of the time without me actively searching out more to add to it.

I have unfortunately neglected to keep up with writing reviews or participating in the discussions about the books.  If I get the time, I do want to go back and write something about the past selections

This book – Cordelia’s Honour by Lois McMaster Bujold – is the first one that I’ve loved so much that I’ve gone and bought the rest of the series unread (and have all of the free ebook versions loaded onto the iPad).

I will ramble a bit about the book, but will cut it to avoid any potential spoilers.  So if you want to know my thoughts, make with the clicky :)

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (dreaming tree)

Most of you reading this should know by now that I am a huge fan of the Galactic Suburbia podcast.

As an aside, if you’ve never listened to the podcast, please go and do so.  Alisa, Alex and Tansy have opened my eyes to so much.  And once you’ve seen it, you’ll never not see it.

The most recent episode of Galactic Suburbia was the Joanna Russ spoilerific episode (link goes to the shownotes on Tansy’s blog), in which Russ’ works The Female Man, How to Suppress Women’s Writing and the short story When it Changed were discussed.  I read all three prior to listening to the podcast (as I try to do with most podcasts I listen to, which always keeps my reading list full!) and had a strong reaction to all of them.

I still can’t summarise how How to Suppress Women’s Writing made me feel.  Angry? Sad?  Proud of the female writers who wrote and continued to write in a culture of bias?  Perhaps there will be a post from me in the future about it once I’ve reread it and can untangle some of the thoughts I have.

I can, however, write some thoughts about The Female Man.  I was going to email Galactic Suburbia this feedback, but I figured I’d do a blog post instead.

First things first: a found the book a somewhat difficult read.  I suspect that rereading will be easier, as I have the shape of all the women defined in my mind now.  It certainly isn’t an impossible read, but it’s a book that forces you to concentrate on what you’re reading.  Concentration isn’t always something I have huge amounts of, thanks to an energetic toddler.

There are two main reactions I had to the book, and interestingly, each of these reactions was mirrored by one of the Galactic Suburbanites.  I’m going to insert a handy dandy cut here, for mild spoilers about the book.  So read on at your own peril, if you’re horrified by spoilers in any form.

 

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (dreaming tree)

 

“That’s how you get deathless, volchitsa. Walk the same tale over and over, until you wear a groove in the world, until even if you vanished, the tale would keep turning, keep playing, like a phonograph, and you’d have to get up again, even with a bullet through your eye, to play your part and say your lines.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

I make no secret of the fact that I am a huge fan of Cathrynne M Valente’s work.   I will happily buy any of her work, subject matter aside, for the sheer beauty of her words and worlds.

As is so happens, I usually find myself entranced with her subject matter as well.  Deathless is no exception.  Based around the shape of a Russian fairytale, it tells the story of Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless.  Valente uses myth and fairy tale to shape a story that is utterly her own, peopled by creatures that cannot exist and places that feel like they should.

I lost myself happily in Deathless, and when I finished the last page and looked up to see a world without Koschei and Marya, it was this world that felt unreal, the one that existed only between words.

If you’re a fan of Valente’s work, you likely already own this book.  If you don’t, get it.  I am gleeful to own the lovely hardcover edititon.  The cover art is magnificent – probably the best that any Valente book has had so far.

If you’ve never read Valente, I urge you to do so.  You won’t find much as vivid and beautiful as her work.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn. Please comment there.

azhure: (dreaming tree)

I make absolutely no secret of the fact that I think Catherynne M. Valente is amazing.

I first came to her work via her online presence – in her blog she is sometimes brutally honest, ofttimes willing to strip herself to the bones, to share her very marrow with her audience.  Her fiction is the same: Palimpsest is probably my absolute favourite of her works, being that it deals with dream states (one of my areas of personal interest), but the Orphan’s Tales books run a close second.

Cat’s latest book – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – was released on my birthday this year.  I had dipped into the book several times as Cat originally posted it online, and had jumped to preorder the hardcover when it was announced.  And even though I had many, many other books on my to-be-read mountain (including Cat’s Deathless), I picked up Fairyland as soon as I could.

And I didn’t regret it.

Cat spins magic with her words and worlds.  And this book is bursting with it.  Without spoiling anything, I will say this – Fairyland is a book that I wish had existed when I was a girl.  If I had read it when I was twelve, I would have ached to have written it.  I would have ached to find my way to Fairyland, to walk in September’s shoes (or shoe).

Fairyland makes me want to have a daughter, so I can read her September’s tale.  And I look forward to the day when I can read Fairyland to my son, so he can share in the magic.

If you need magic in your life, you need this book.  If you have a child who you want to read to, read them this book.

Buy it, and then buy the rest of Cat’s back catalogue.  And weep with envy for the way with words Cat has, and be in awe of the power of her imagination.  Knowing that a single person can dream such a place as Fairyland gives me faith in the good of humanity.

I am so, so happy that there’s going to be a sequel.  I can’t wait.

This book also launched Cat onto the New York Times bestseller list.  Keep her on the list and buy a copy.  Now.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (dreaming tree)

Twelfth Planet Press recently released the first two books of the Twelve Planets – 12 short collections by female speculative fiction writers, to be released over the span of two years.

I signed up for the first quarter (mostly for financial reasons, so I could spread out the cost – I know that I’ll be getting all twelve books) and have received the first two books – Sue Isle’s Nightsiders and Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Love and Romanpunk.

First things first – check out the covers!  These slim volumes are gorgeous.  Unsurprising, since every Twelfth Planet Press book I’ve seen is amazing looking (and I have to confess to owning almost all of their catalogue).  I’m really looking forward to seeing these twelve books side by side on my shelf.

Each book contains four stories, which in both of these are interlinked.

Nightsiders was of personal interest to me, being set in a postapocalyptic Perth, my home town (and the home of Twelfth Planet press).  The future Perth is dry – an entirely possible future for our city, which seems to suffer from worse drought every year.  Most of the population has evacuated to the eastern states, and those that remain are active mostly in the cooler night – hence the moniker Nightsiders.  I was immediately engrossed in this world, and want very much to see more of it.  I was also immediately inspired to think some more about another novel idea of mine, also set in a postapocalyptic Perth.

Love and Romanpunk is another beast entirely.  And if you’ve read it, you’ve no doubt rolled your eyes at my bad pun here.  Combining fantasy and Roberts’ own knowledge of Ancient Rome (she holds a PhD in the subject), the four stories in this collection range in setting from Ancient Rome itself, to a replica Roman city built in New South Wales, to a Romanpunk future, complete with zeppelin.  I make no secret that I am a massive fangirl of Roberts work, and as such, I have high expectations of it – she has an easy way with words that gives her the ability to make you laugh and think at the same time.  Her own love of Rome is clear in each piece, and her characters live and breathe on the page.  She makes it easy to believe that all manner of magical beasts exist, and have done since Roman times.  I was left, as with Isle’s collection, desperate for more stories or a novel in this world.

And yes, that’s my not-subtle hint to both Sue Isle and Tansy Rayner Roberts – a novel or at least more short stories in these worlds, please?

If you haven’t looked into purchasing the Twelve Planets, my recommendation is to do so.  Based on the first two installments, these are going to be an incredible collection.  And I’m going to predict, ones that will win many awards.

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (dreaming tree)

I have just finished listening to the latest Writer and the Critic podcast, in which one of the books discussed was Connie Willis’ Blackout/All Clear (which has also just been nominated for a Locus Award).  And so I am going to ramble about the books, hopefully avoiding spoilers.

As always, Kirstyn and Ian are worth listening to.  And hey, I got a shout out for my feedback (and I don’t mind at all that you talked politics with Oryx and Crake).  And as always, they manage to define some of my own feelings about books.

I read Doomsday Book recently, and loved it.  I was very happy to move onto Blackout and All Clear.  I really love the detail that goes into the historical world building (inaccurate thought it may be, I’m not in a position to be knowledgeable enough to make any statement there).

I will state at the outset that I am a massive World War II buff.  I just find the whole war fascinating, at times in a gruesome fashion.  It still amazes me that the world was so different, and that such awful things really happened.  Which means that I would probably volunteer to travel back in time in the world of Blackout/All Clear.

I loved reading both books while I was reading them.  I burned through them extremely quickly for books of their size, mostly because I was totally immersed in their world.  And Willis has a very good hand with cliffhangers at the end of chapters which make you need to keep reading, even if the cliffhangers are sometimes very contrived.

However, thinking back over the books now, I have many of the same problems that Ian and Kirstyn did.  And this is in no way to say that I didn’t enjoy the books, because I did – and I would happily reread them.

My major issue is the time travelling characters.  I get that they want to travel back and study the periods of history that they’re interested in.  But there’s no why.  There’s absolutely nothing known about them outside the fact that they’re historians.  I wanted to know why they were so determined to see specific events, and I wanted to care about why they wanted to get back to their real lives in Oxford (apart from the obvious reason for one character, which I shall not spoil).  Ultimately, I ended up feeling far more for the WWII characters and what they were going through than any of the issues the time travelling characters were going through.

Also frustrating were the characters who kept on trying to protect others by not telling them what was going on.  Seriously, you’re all supposed to be academics who should be vaguely mature – just be up front with each other!  It’s a personal bugbear of mine, when characters hide things from each other for no real reason, and it just feels like a forced plot point.

I think Ian was dead on when he said that these two books could easily have been written as one, much smaller volume.  Or, to justify this length, we could have been given a lot more detail about the historians.  I want a reason to care about them – as it is, it almost just feels like a massively selfish thing that they do.  I want to know more about the future Oxford as well as the past that they travel into.

These things aside, I did really love the books, and I know that I will reread them many times.  And I absolutely believe that they deserve all of the award nominations they’ve been getting.  I’m only a newcomer to Connie Willis, and I already count myself as a rabid fan.

 

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

azhure: (dreaming tree)

I’ve been toying with the idea of blogging more about some of the books that I read.  Not doing formal reviews, but just rambling a bit about them.

And so I shall begin, looking at two books: Power and Majesty and The Shattered City, books one and two of The Creature Court by Tansy Rayner Roberts.

I have to say one thing first – Tansy is a huge inspiration to me.  I’ve been following her blog and Twitter feed for a long time, and have been constantly amazed by how she balances her life – she is a small business owner, a mother and a writer.  And on top of that, she reviews books, and is part of the podcasting team at Galactic Suburbia.

Tansy has given me so much hope that I can find balance in my own life – especially with balancing mothering and writing.  I was very happy to be able to meet her at Swancon and thank her for her inspiration face to face.

And now, onto the books.  Which, I have to say, have some amazing covers.  They reminded me at first of the Australian editions of Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels books (which may be intentional, perhaps, because the series do have similar feels to them, in my opinion, anyway).

I adore Tansy’s writing in this.  Her voice is so strong in all of it, her characters finely drawn and complex (something that I didn’t appreciate fully until reading the second book, and I suspect will appreciate even more when the third book is released).  Tansy has an amazing way with dialogue, too, and reveals so much about her characters through their speech.

I love the world of these books.  Honestly, at the beginning of the first book I wasn’t that enamoured with it.  I was intrigued, yes – especially with the shapeshifters, which are treated in a very original fashion.  It was only at about midway through the first book that I found myself truly lost in this world.  But from that point on, I was totally lost.

I am now desperate for the third book, which I believe is going to be released late in the year.  And I suspect that I’m going to read it, and then promptly reread the whole trilogy from the beginning again.  Because I know that there’s lots of sneaky bits and pieces in the first book that I missed on the first read through :)

If you’re a fan of dark fantasy – especially if you’re a fan of Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels books – the Creature Court books are highly recommended.

 

Mirrored from Stephanie Gunn.

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