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] kareila2017-07-17 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.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2016-11-09 06:27 am

#31: Rick Riordan, The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase #1)

So as anyone who has read any of the Percy Jackson books knows, Percy's friend Annabeth Chase is a daughter of the goddess Athena. Turns out Annabeth's mortal father has a brother, Randolph, who is a student of Norse history and mythology, and also a sister who has a child by an actual Norse god. Because if you're going to have a modern day universe that includes Greek and Roman gods, why not throw in the Norse ones as well? And if Olympus can relocate to the Empire State Building, why not have Boston be the actual literal hub of the universe, or at least Midgard?

Of course, at the beginning of the story, Magnus doesn't know he's the son of a Norse god. All he knows is that his mother died mysteriously two years ago and he's been on the run ever since, homeless on the streets of Boston. When Annabeth and her father suddenly show up looking for him, he sneaks into Uncle Randolph's house looking for information, and the next thing he knows, he's in a fight for his life with some sort of demon. And he loses.

This is not a spoiler. The very first page of the book says, "My name is Magnus Chase. I'm sixteen years old. This is the story of how my life went downhill after I got myself killed." But being the son of a Norse god and dying valiantly means you go to Valhalla, and that's when things get interesting.

Magnus' snarky sense of humor about everything, including his own demise, plus the setting in the city of Boston, a city I know very well, endeared me to this particular story pretty quickly. I was also charmed by Magnus' two friends, the svartalf (Blitzen) who wants to be a fashion designer and the deaf-mute light-elf (Hearthstone) who has an unusual talent for runic magic. I think I ultimately enjoyed this book even more than the Percy books.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2016-11-03 08:50 am

#30: Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom (The Dregs #2)

Surprising and satisfying conclusion to the story begun in Six of Crows. This time the heroes are confined to their home city of Ketterdam instead of embarking on a long, impossible quest across the ocean, so the action is more evenly paced, but both stories ultimately hinge on the success of an audacious plan. Even more so than for the earlier book, I recommend reading the trilogy ending with Ruin & Rising first, because some of the characters from that story make an appearance here as well. I do have a couple of complaints, in the form of random adversaries that pop up without sufficient justification, and a character death that felt completely unnecessary. I hope that later stories set in the same universe might weave these threads a little more tightly into the fabric.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2016-10-28 10:27 am

#29: Robert Beatty, Serafina and the Twisted Staff (Serafina #2)

This sequel picks up a scant three weeks after the end of the first book. Serafina is still exploring her new relationships and revelations about her past, when another evil threat emerges from the mysterious forest surrounding the Biltmore Estate. Serafina is warned not to get involved, to either shelter at Biltmore or flee to safety, but once again she and her friends are all that stand between malevolent forces and certain disaster.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2016-10-27 09:44 am

#28: Marissa Meyer, Stars Above (Lunar Chronicles #5)

This collection of nine short stories mostly expands on character backgrounds that were referenced in the series. We get childhood glimpses of Scarlet, Cinder, Wolf, Thorne, Cress, and Winter. We also see Cinder and Kai's first meeting from Kai's point of view. Of these backstories, the ones I found most interesting were Thorne's, because he's such an amusing character, and Scarlet's, because it filled in the mystery of Michelle and Logan's relationship.

The other two stories are completely new. "The Little Android" is a sweet and heartbreaking take on the Little Mermaid tale, about an android who longs to be human, saving the life of the man she loves. The last story in the collection is "Something Old, Something New" and takes place about two years after the end of the series, reuniting the eight main characters on the wedding day of one of the couples.
kareila: hidden between stacks of books (books)
[personal profile] kareila2016-10-25 08:59 pm

#27: Marissa Meyer, Winter (Lunar Chronicles #4)

Spoilers for earlier books... )

My only real complaint about this series is that as the story progresses, more plot points feel forced into matching fairy tales, with insufficient regard for timing or motivation. That said, the characters and their relationships are what make the story work, and I appreciated the variety of dynamics on display. Cinder and Kai are honest and diplomatic; Scarlet and Wolf are codependent and instinctual; Cress and Thorne have to work through the baggage of their false first impressions; and Winter and Jacin are best friends with the hope of something more if they can win their freedom.

This book finishes the main story arc, but there is a fifth book of related short stories.