kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2013-01-03 01:53 am
Entry tags:

[sticky entry] Sticky: Introduction - Read This First!

For five years (2008-2012) I posted brief reviews of most of the books I read to the LJ community [livejournal.com profile] bookslide, mostly for the benefit of my friends [livejournal.com profile] paperlibrarian and [profile] mackatlaw. As that time has passed, I've been doing more and more of my personal journaling on DW, more of my friends have joined me here, and the level of service at LJ has gradually deteriorated. As I write this, LJ is completely inaccessible to me much of the time, and even when it is responding, only the "older" update form (which is about to be retired) works on my iPad. I'm tired of fighting with it every few days.

What I've done at this point is to create a summary post here for the books from each year, with links to the original reviews I posted on LJ, which hopefully aren't going anywhere. Going forward I will post new reviews in this community, and possibly occasional summaries to the LJ community for the benefit of anyone who doesn't want to follow me here.

One word of warning! Some of my reviews contain spoilers. I used cut tags, but if you're clicking the links in the summary table, the cuts will be ignored!




An explanation of table columns in the summaries:

# is just enumerating the number of books I read that year.

JRI (Just Read It) indicates if this is a book I've had on my shelf waiting to be read for a while. I have an active library habit which distracts me from my backlog of purchased books.

✭ is the number of stars I gave the book on Goodreads. You won't see anything below a 3 very often since I usually abandon a book if I don't like it.

Author, Title and Series should be self-explanatory. I like fantasy, and most fantasy books are part of a series, and some of the series are getting ridiculously long. (I'm looking at you, Dresden Files. Not that I'm complaining.)




I think that's everything! I'm keeping this mostly for my own review, but comments are welcome!
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-09-13 05:09 pm

#15: N.K. Jemisin, The Obelisk Gate (Broken Earth #2)

Middle books have it tough. The intriguing setups happen in the beginning, and the satisfying conclusions happen at the end, and the rest is just the slog in between. This middle book keeps things interesting by spending half the story with Nassun, Essun's daughter, who was a complete mystery in the first book, but turns out to be more like her mother than either of them realize. It also provides more revelations about the Guardians, the stone-eaters, and the nature of the strange power contained in the obelisks. I'm excited to find out how everything comes together in the third book.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-09-05 01:58 pm

#14: Leigh Bardugo, Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons #1)

I only picked this up because I love everything else Leigh Bardugo has written, but I wasn't sure how her writing talents would fit with a well-known character in our world. Although the plot is fairly predictable, there are many fun moments that make this a worthwhile read. This Diana is very similar to the one from the recent film, except that instead of following Steve Trevor into World War I, she rescues a teenage girl named Alia and is drawn into our modern times. But her basic mission of preventing massive bloodshed and saving innocent life is unchanged, as is the difficulty of getting her allies to believe that ancient Greek legends are the true root of all their problems.

This appears to be the first of a series of DC YA stories penned by a diverse group of authors. I'll also be interested to see what Marie Lu does with Batman.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-09-01 07:28 am

#13: N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season (Broken Earth #1)

Much like Ancillary Justice, I had trouble finding my way into this Hugo winning novel at first. In fact I put it down after reading the first three chapters and almost didn't come back. But I did stick with it, and found it to ultimately be a deeply rewarding read, both in character exploration and world building. I gradually "sessed" the structure of the story, to the point where none of the revelations at the end were a surprise to me. But there were still enough unanswered questions to make me want to read the rest of the trilogy as soon as possible. (Which is why I generally try to make sure a trilogy is *finished* before I even get started.)

Warnings for infanticide, non-consensual intercourse, child molestation, and Lord knows what else. It's not a good world to live in, and that's kind of the point.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-08-24 03:24 pm

#12: Samantha Irby, We Are Never Meeting In Real Life

I'm not entirely sure why I keep picking up books of contemporary feminist humor at the library when I inevitably find them to be disappointingly unfunny. That said, I actually read most of this one, instead of throwing it across the room. I was able to relate to the author's grouchiness and reclusiveness, just not her various so-called-adult exploits.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-08-11 12:07 am

#11: Kelly Barnhill, The Girl Who Drank The Moon

Of course I couldn't ignore a book about women and magic and the lies we tell ourselves to survive, all wrapped up in a beautiful cover with a Newbury Medal on the front. That said, it was a bit of an odd stew that I didn't enjoy quite as much as I had hoped. The titular girl, Luna, spends most of the story frustratingly unaware of what has been done to her, and everyone else just muddles along, either in ignorance, or refusing to remember the past events that explain their current situation. One of the supporting characters is a potentially omnipotent being and all he does is sit around reciting poetry. I'm left with the impression that at least 95% of the conflict in this book could have been solved by a qualified therapist in five minutes.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-07-17 05:33 pm

#10: Marissa Meyer, Wires and Nerve Vol. 1 (Lunar Chronicles #6.1)

I was surprised to discover this lengthy graphic novel that follows the adventures of Iko, Cinder's trusted android companion, less than a year after the events of Winter. Cinder sends Iko back to Earth on a secret mission to capture rogue Lunar soldiers and return them to Luna. Iko gets to show off some kickass fighting moves and pursue a possible romantic interest while checking in with all of Cinder's allies on Earth. The storyline isn't resolved by the end of the book, but the fluffy nature of the plot doesn't build much tension; we know Iko and her friends will eventually triumph over the villains, and the only real question is whether she'll get the guy. We also get a teasing hint that we might find out more about Iko's origins in the next volume.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-07-14 10:30 pm

#9: Theodora Goss, The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter (Athena Club #1)

It's so frustrating when you read a fantastic book with a clear setup for a sequel that hasn't been published yet!

The premise of this book is that the daughters/female creations left behind by the famous fictional mad scientists of the 19th century (Jekyll, Frankenstein, Moreau) find each other and team up with Sherlock Holmes to fight crime. If that doesn't sound intriguing enough, it's made even more delightful by the constant interruptions of the various heroines who criticize and argue with the narrator and each other. I love them all.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-06-29 05:27 pm

#8: Martha Wells, All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1)

This was a fun, quick sci-fi read about a damaged bodyguard AI and the humans it works with. By turns blackly hilarious, thrilling, and surprisingly touching, it's hard not to love the protagonist and want to read about its further adventures.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-05-08 06:49 am

#7: Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures

I feel, after reading this book, like the movie Hidden Figures was the Disney fairy tale version of the story. It's a good movie, and the bones of the truth are there, but they took a lot of liberties with the material.

Obviously, they changed the timeline of events around so that the achievements of the three main characters would line up together. In reality, Dorothy Vaughan's quest to be promoted from acting supervisor to official supervisor took place in 1949 and 1950, and Mary Jackson completed her engineering course requirements in 1958.

The book also lends more focus to the timeline of the Civil Rights movement and how it lined up with the barriers that were coming down for the women of Langley, pointing out the sharp contrast between the more liberal federal policy and the hardline conservatism of the state of Virginia. One county in Virginia shut down its public school system for five years rather than obey integration orders.

The most jarring differences, though, were in characterization. Katherine Johnson never used the "colored" restrooms - the book does describe an embarrassing related incident, but that happened to Mary Jackson, and the resulting frustration was what led her to leave the computers and join an engineering group working in the wind tunnels. Katherine had only worked at Langley for two weeks when she was permanently assigned to the Flight Research Division, in 1953. Katherine's skin was light enough to pass, and by the time someone brought the restroom issue up with her, she simply refused to listen. By all accounts, whatever mistreatment she may have received, she simply ignored, and she never complained. Dorothy Vaughan was portrayed in the movie as some kind of mechanical genius, but in real life she never learned to drive a car. She certainly never led a charge of the full West Computing Group into the area where the IBM machines were set up - the girls were placed with individual engineering groups over time, and Vaughan was one of the last ones left behind when they shut down the unit and reassigned the remaining women in 1958. The author never indicated that Dorothy would have had to steal a library book to learn FORTRAN.

All that said, while the book is fascinating reading, it doesn't cohere into the sort of story that makes a compelling movie, so I understand why the screenwriters took the liberties they did. I just hope that people who love the movie are encouraged to pick up the book and learn the facts of what actually happened.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-04-22 07:58 am

#6: Cixin Liu, The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth's Past #1)

I surprised myself by powering through this in one sitting. Although the characters largely felt flat and uninteresting to me, and the amount of bloodshed exceeded my usual tolerance, the plot was well structured and full of delightful twists. I never would have imagined that solving an abstract mathematical conjecture could be the key to the survival of an entire civilization!

Unfortunately my library doesn't have copies of the other two books in the trilogy, so I will have to acquire them at some point if I want to know the ultimate ending of the story.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-04-21 04:16 pm

#5: Stowell & Dickins, Usborne Coding for Beginners Using Python

I don't think I've ever reviewed a textbook before, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one to anyone who (like me) learns best by reading code examples. Yes, it's for kids, and the overall tone and wildly creative illustrations speak to that audience, but it's a solid introduction, and the engaging design kept me turning pages in situations where I would often gets bored or distracted working through a drier text.

I mostly skimmed the examples toward the end, which focused more on GUI programming, but it does cover turtle drawings, a Minesweeper clone, and some basic Tk toolkit stuff.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-04-19 07:21 pm

#4: Jonathan Stroud, The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4)

At the end of the previous installment, Lucy had decided to leave Lockwood & Co. and go into business for herself as a freelance consultant. With her powerful ability to hear spirits, and the help of her whispering skull, she does quite well for herself, but eventually she crosses paths with her old friends again, just as a sinister new conspiracy begins to unfold.

Lucy is as adorably flawed as ever, and her banter with the skull reminds me of the relationship between Harry Dresden and his enchanted skull, Bob. Although the structure of each story begins to be a bit predictable, I still enjoy the characters, dialogue, and action, and look forward to seeing the deeper mysteries of this world continue to unfold in the fifth and final book.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-03-02 03:45 pm

#3: Taraji P. Henson, Around The Way Girl

I picked this up on a whim at the library. I was not familiar with Taraji P. Henson before she was cast as Katherine Johnson in Hidden Figures but like many Hollywood actors and actresses, hers is an overnight success story decades in the making. In fact, her first big mainstream role was almost ten years ago as Benjamin Button's adoptive mother, for which she received a supporting actress Oscar nomination, and she was doing outstanding work in predominantly black films long before even that.

Her voice in this memoir is engaging and colloquial. "Around the way" seems to be slang for some combination of "down to earth", "from the hood", and "girl next door". She talks frankly about her experiences being raised by a single mom in a bad DC neighborhood, and struggling to break out in Hollywood after becoming a single mom herself while attending Howard University. She reveals both the highs and lows of her career, and credits luck, the support of family and friends, divine guidance, and innate "hustle" in equal measure for her successes. She doesn't shy away from sharing her experiences of racism and gender inequality, and maybe the most intriguing topic is her nuanced appreciation of her father, whom she loved fiercely in spite of his flaws.

I've come away with the sense that Taraji herself is as much of a character as any of the roles she plays, which makes her skill as an actress all the more impressive.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-02-09 10:42 pm

#2: E.K. Johnston, Ahsoka

Continuing with the Star Wars for now: this is easily the best of the post-reboot novels I've read to date - the pacing, the balance between action and reflection, the setup and the payoff, all very satisfying, plus it doesn't hurt that there are so many women in the story. And I never watched the Clone Wars series (hated the animation style), so I knew very little about Ahsoka Tano going in, but I didn't have any trouble picking up the relevant backstory.

This story starts out about a year after Revenge of the Sith and takes place over several weeks, following Ahsoka as she tries to hide from the attention of the Empire, which has deployed special operatives with orders to find and kill any Jedi that survived the extermination directive. About halfway through the book, some other familiar faces start showing up. Now that I know a little more about Ahsoka, I'm looking forward to seeing her eventual appearance in the Star Wars Rebels TV series, which takes place some dozen years later.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-01-03 09:41 pm

#1: James Luceno, Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel

I've heard James Luceno described as an action novelist, in defense of his terse character and landscape descriptions. But I didn't find much action in this novel either, just a series of characters contemplating the various situations in which they found themselves over the course of about six years' time during the Clone Wars and the early days of the Empire.

That said, this does fill in a lot of backstory regarding the relationships between some of the characters featured in Rogue One. We meet Galen and Lyra Erso as young energy researchers expecting their first child. We discover that Galen and Orson Krennic had a boyhood friendship at a gifted prep school, which sowed the seeds for Krennic's lifelong obsession with Galen and his work. We see Krennic and Tarkin vying for early control of the Death Star project, with Krennic undermining Tarkin in order to advance his own career. We see the toll that Galen's kyber crystal research takes on his health and his family. And in the last few pages, we finally see how Saw Guerrera came to know the Ersos and help them escape the Empire.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2017-01-03 09:38 pm
Entry tags:

(2016) read: 38 / goal: n.a. / JRI: 1

#JRIAuthorTitleSeries
1 Hiawatha BrayYou Are Here4
2 Conner, Palmiotti & HardinNew 52: Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Hot in the City4
3 Conner, Palmiotti & HardinNew 52: Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Power Outage4
4 Rainbow RowellCarry On2
5 Jonathan StroudThe Hollow Boy4Lockwood & Co. #3
6 Noelle Stevenson et alLumberjanes Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max4Lumberjanes #2
7 Cece BellEl Deafo3
8 Tam O'ShaughnessySally Ride: A Photobiography3
9 Ursula VernonHarriet the Invincible3Hamster Princess #1
10 Nathalia HoltRise of the Rocket Girls4
11 Monica TeslerBounders3Bounders #1
12 Charlie Jane AndersAll The Birds In The Sky5
13 Leigh BardugoShadow and Bone4The Grisha #1
14 Leigh BardugoSix of Crows4Six of Crows #1
15 Claudia GrayBloodline4
16 Marissa MeyerCinder4Lunar Chronicles #1
17 Leigh BardugoSiege and Storm4The Grisha #2
18 Leigh BardugoRuin and Rising4The Grisha #3
19 Melissa LandersStarflight3
20 Marissa MeyerScarlet4Lunar Chronicles #2
21 Marissa MeyerCress4Lunar Chronicles #3
22 Marissa MeyerFairest3Lunar Chronicles #3.5
23 Robert BeattySerafina and the Black Cloak3Serafina #1
24 Rick RiordanThe Hidden Oracle3Trials of Apollo #1
25 Genevieve CognanThe Invisible Library2
26 Carlos BuenoLauren Ipsum4
27 Marissa MeyerWinter4Lunar Chronicles #4
28 Marissa MeyerStars Above3Lunar Chronicles #5
29 Robert BeattySerafina and the Twisted Staff3Serafina #2
30 Leigh BardugoCrooked Kingdom4Six of Crows #2
31 Rick RiordanThe Sword of Summer4Magnus Chase #1
32 Rick RiordanThe Hammer of Thor4Magnus Chase #2
33 J.K. Rowling et alHarry Potter and the Cursed Child3Harry Potter #8
34 J.K. RowlingFantastic Beasts: The Original Screenplay3
35 Emily Croy BarkerThe Thinking Woman's Guide to Magic4
36 Liesl ShurtliffRump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin3
37XKaren CushmanGrayling's Song3
38 Daniel José OlderShadowshaper3
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2016-12-10 04:15 pm

#35: Emily Croy Barker, The Thinking Woman's Guide to Magic

This is a really lovely, leisurely story about the evolving relationship between two people from different worlds. Nora is a graduate student studying English poetry and literature when a weekend trip to the mountains turns into a visit to the lands of the Fae - or the Faitoren, as they are known in the parallel universe Nora now unexpectedly inhabits. Their queen insists on betrothing Nora to her son, but when that ends badly, a cranky magician named Arundiel rescues Nora from their grasp. The rest of the book is about Nora's life as a modern woman in a pseudo-medieval world, and her gradual understanding of the world's magic. It reminded me a lot in pacing and subject matter of the world of Strange & Norrell, but with a decidedly more feminist slant. As long as the book was, the ending left me wanting more, and happily there is a sequel in development.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2016-11-22 11:17 pm

#34: J.K. Rowling, Fantastic Beasts: The Original Screenplay

If, like me, you went home from the movie to thumb through your copy of the original Fantastic Beasts guide in order to figure out which magical creatures were shown in the film, this screenplay will remove most of the guesswork. It also labels the Thunderbird, which wasn't explicitly named in the movie and wasn't included in the original bestiary.

It's interesting to compare and contrast the scene instructions with the stage directions in Cursed Child. The latter are less frequent and thus less intrusive when reading aloud; the former are more frequent but formatted in such a way that it's easier to skim over them when reading silently.

I found no deleted scenes - the published screenplay seems to mirror the final film precisely.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2016-11-17 10:13 pm

#33: J.K. Rowling et al, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (HP #8)

I liked it, but it didn't live up to my expectations. I was hoping to see more of the day-to-day activity in present day Hogwarts, similar to the previous "year in the life of Harry" format, although I understand that might not translate to the stage. But mild spoilers )

Good things: Scorpius is adorable, Delphi is interesting, and Albus is very sympathetic, even (especially) when making poor decisions.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2016-11-15 11:23 pm

#32: Rick Riordan, The Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase #2)

One thing I like about this new series is that Riordan is obviously making a conscious effort to introduce a more diverse cast of sympathetic human characters than we saw in his earlier books. In the first book we met Loki's mortal daughter Samirah al-Abbas (Sam), a Muslim in traditional hijab who is A-OK with being betrothed to her cousin, but whose secret identity as a Valkyrie complicates her life considerably. This second book introduces Alex Fierro, a fellow warrior of Valhalla and child of Loki whose gender fluidity is a huge part of his/her identity, which ties into legends of Loki shifting genders as well. Although I'm not sure the portrayal is entirely without problems, I'm impressed by the effort.

Unsurprisingly, Thor's hammer is missing. Surprisingly, Loki has arranged for Sam to marry a frost giant. The heroes must prevent the wedding and find the hammer in order to avert the usual variety of cataclysmic doom while also trying to avoid playing into Loki's mysterious plans. In the process, we learn more about Hearth's family and Sam's fiancé and also meet more of the Asgardians, including Heimdall and Sif. An epilogue hints tantalizingly at a larger crossover with the Percy Jackson universe in the next installment of the series.