Friday, August 26, 2016

Travel Reading: BC Summer

It is far too difficult to write up proper reviews when I've been away from regular internet access for extended periods of time. Thus I started this Travel Reading series, where I simply write a couple sentences about each book read, and leave it at that. So from a trip home to my family and friends in BC comes the following:

"Owl in Love" by Patrice Kindl
Grade: 3 stars
Strange little book, which seems to be Kindl's style. I like her best in fairy tale land, where strangeness doesn't seem unusual (Goose Chase made me very happy). But this one was surprisingly entertaining. The strangeness was less disconcerting than in The Woman in the Wall. Owl's voice is unique, even from Kindl's other heroines; her inhuman-ness was treated well. And I still want to read every one of the rest of her books, if only for curiosity's sake. 2 1/2 stars because I think it was a little young for me, but then an extra 1/2 star for the fact that I couldn't really stop reading it.

"A Coalition of Lions" by Elizabeth Wein
Grade: 3 stars
A sequel to the Arthurian retelling The Winter Prince, but not nearly as heart-wrenching and impactful. I still enjoyed it, especially in the enormous potential for a favourite new character that was young Telemakos (the future books follow him as a protagonist). The setting and politics were cool as well. But it felt too short, and like some of the relationships (especially Priamos and Goewin) and characters needed more background and build up.

"Port Eternity" by C. J. Cherryh
Grade: 2 1/2 stars
Not as good as the other Cherryh I read (Cuckoo's Egg) but that was expected. I'd read reviews beforehand that indicated this. I only read it as my next Cherryh because it was an Arthurian retelling of sorts, and I've been on a bit of an Arthurian kick recently (see A Coalition of Lions above and the Top Ten (Or So): Arthurian Retellings list). I think I would have preferred even more character development, though maybe that wouldn't be possible with the kind of characters these "people" were. Or maybe what I wanted was more action... It happened at the end, but there seemed to be a big, slow build up to some large character explosion, and that never happened as much as I expected. The mythic, idyllic ending seemd to suit more conflict and events than actually happened.

"The Curse of Chalion" by Lois McMaster Bujold
Grade: 3 1/2 stars
It was a little slow to start out with, but once I got far enough through, the Bujold-ness showed up, especially with the main character, Cazaril. The interaction between gods and men was great. There are certain elements of theism that Bujold seems to understand much better than most people (this also showed up in the Vorkosigan saga with Cordelia's beliefs).
Note: everything about this edition (the back cover text, the inside cover picture) indicates there's a cliched main romance, which there isn't. Just putting that out there because it turned me off for a while.

"Tomorrow When the War Began" by John Marsden
Grade: 3 1/2 stars
I appreciated the realism of this YA post-apocalyptic Australian survival story. The teens seemed to me to act and think much like real teens. There was even a religious (not just "spiritual") girl who wasn't stupid or puritanical! That was hugely refreshing. The Australian element also gave it a bit of exciting exoticism for me as a Canadian. I think I'd like to read the sequels, once I come back from my travels and adventures and start a normal life again. It won't be that high on my list, since I didn't become passionate about any particular element. But it was a great and exciting and highly readable start to a series, and I'd recommend it to people who were mature enough for the small amount of sexual content.

Romeo and/or Juliet

by Ryan North

Story summary: Two households, both alike in dignity... an ancient grudge and parent's strife... a pair of star-cross'd lovers... a battle with giant robots...

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • It's so funny.
  • The clever Shakespeare references!
  • The clever geek references!
  • It's Romeo and Juliet as a choose-your-own-adventure. How much more awesome can you get?*

And Why You Might Not:
  • Some Christians could be bothered by some of the dislike of marriage that appears. It's not all like this, but there's enough that it's not just a passing remark one can ignore easily.
  • If your sense of humour isn't the sort of self-referential nerdiness often seen on the Internet and such places, you're likely not going to get much out of this. (On the other hand, if it's not your thing, maybe this would the perfect introduction to just how funny it can be!)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Cuckoo's Egg

by C. J. Cherryh

Story summary: Summary from Goodreads:
"They named him Thorn. They told him he was of their people, although he was so different. He was ugly in their eyes, strange, sleek-skinned instead of furred, clawless, different. Yet he was of their power class: judge-warriors, the elite, the fighters, the defenders.
Thorn knew that his difference was somehow very important - but not important enough to prevent murderous conspiracies against him, against his protector, against his castle, and perhaps against the peace of the world. But when the crunch came, when Thorn finally learned what his true role in life was to be, that on him might hang the future of two worlds, then he had to stand alone to justify his very existence."

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Humanity from an alien viewpoint.
  • The characters, the politics, the writing, ahhhhhh, so good.
  • Father-son relationship.
  • It's a fairly short book and a stand-alone, so it seems like a pretty good introduction to this author's work. (I haven't read anything else by her, though, so this is pure conjecture.)

And Why You Might Not:
  • Not everything is explained simply, not every explanation is given to you straightly.
  • The ending is a little open, in some ways. I think it's perfect and suits the tone of the rest of the story and it doesn't feel unresolved, but I think it could be found bothersome by some people.