Among Others by Jo Walton

8706185

Hardcover 302 pages
Published January 18th 2011 by Tor Books
Source: Purchased

Synopsis:

Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled–and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…

Review:

Among Others is about the Welsh landscape, about fairies, about evil mothers and dead sisters. It is about witches and bad food. It is about an intensely complicated extended family. But mostly it is about books. Specifically SFF books. And libraries. The novel is an ode to libraries. Particularly the invention of the ILL (the interlibrary loan).

The novel is an epistolary one, written in a diary format and through the protagonist’s progression with her life after she comes to live with a long lost father, we learn of the events that had spurred her to escape from her mother and get to where she is at the moment of writing. Morwenna is an interesting character – though she does not read like a typical teenager, she doesn’t seem older than her years either. She’s atypical in her likes, interests and expressions but she also has this skein of immaturity and vulnerability juxtaposed with an optimism that I have come to think of as strictly belonging to teenagers.

The paranormal aspect of this novel, the fairies are not outside the realm of possibility but instead explained as something so entirely natural that human beings having immersed themselves in unnatural things have forgotten how to see them. They have lost the belief, the faith that lets them see these fairies. And the fairies themselves are entirely unworldly; not supernatural beings who you can fall in love with because they’ll be gone at the first hint of pain and what is love but pain?

The novel is quiet and introspective. Morwenna talks quite a bit about the books she reads; she discusses her reaction to them and whether she’d read any others by the same author and even though most of the books she talks about are strange to me, the fact that she loves books – reading perhaps ten in one week – is completely something I can relate to. Her frequent trips to the library, bookstore and the secondhand thrift store for books are things I do. Her complaints about the heavy bag she’s carrying because it contains all her books is also something I have experienced.

The story itself, the overarching plot, what there is of it, is important but secondary to Morwenna’s experience at school and the steps she takes to cleave herself from her dead twin sister and the sinister mother who keeps on sending spelled letters. This book is not YA or genre fiction so it is not plot driven. It moves very slowly and in directions you would not expect but it is a rewarding experience. I recommend it to anyone who loves books. This is prominently a book about books and how could you go wrong with that?

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

17303139Hardcover, 320 pages
Expected publication: August 5th 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Edelweiss

Synopsis:
There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.

Review:

Of Metal and Wishes is a sad story about human greed and human grief. Its setting is as much a character as Wen herself is and Gochan One presents a city that could easily fit into anyone’s nightmare. What I found so interesting is that the postcolonial discourse has moved to a different, perhaps fantastical group of people, but in this instance, neither of the races is blatantly Caucasian. The Noor have coloured eyes but their skin is coloured some shade of brown or red, I’m not sure and the Itanyai are Asian inspired. This gives the postcolonial subject a fresher perspective and finds new ways to discourse on the same subject – it brings oppression to the forefront of the discussion. I liked Wen very much as a character. She is not snarky and she is not particularly witty. She is human though and aware of her own flaws and powerlessness in a society that exploits the poor and rewards the rich. She changes as she experiences new things and challenges her own notions of right and wrong. In particular, the arc of her growth from the Wen who blindly believed her mother’s warnings about the Noor to the Wen who sees the Noor for the people they are is very rewarding.

The romance is poignant. There is a love triangle but without the whole mess that is the usual YA love triangle fare. The book has enough similarities to The Phantom of the Opera for me to call it a retelling of the classic tale with a twist. I enjoyed the novel more than I expected to. It’s sad; there is no frolicking in green meadows. It’s graphically violent at times and calls for both the reader and the character it focalizes on to deeply examine their motivations and desires. In other words, it has a lot more substance than I thought it would and I liked that. Also, it’s obviously the first installment in a series but unlike other books I won’t mention, the book contains a complete story that can be read on its own. Obviously there are questions remaining at the end but it doesn’t end on a dire cliffhanger but on a note that invites the reader to pick up the next book and find out what happens to Wen next.

I quite enjoyed this novel and recommend it to anyone who is looking for some depth in their novels.

Instagram Book Challenge! (Do it!)

So it may come as no surprise that I unabashedly love instagram. As far as social media goes, I think it’s one of the more creative ones. Now, I recently became acquainted with the idea of challenges and doing the 100 happy day challenge made me realize that sometimes it is nice to just stop and think about what makes you happy. And this has led me to think that doing something similar with books would be an awesome idea. And it is!

So the challenge is to post for 100 days a picture/day of a book that you really love.  And the rules, if one must have them would be:

1. A picture/day of a book you love. (for a 100 days)
2. Use the hashtags #100happybookdays, #reading
3. In a sentence or two, tell us why you love this book.

And that’s it. Oh, also, if you are going to be doing this challenge, let me know in the comments. Or follow me: my instagram is @nafizaaz. Yay!

Think about how many awesome book recs we can get this way!

Reading: What I Have Read, Am Reading and Will Read (and coconuts)

I just had my morning meal for Ramadan (it’s 3 am right now), saheri, (which we eat before dawn and during summer, dawn comes before 3, like seriously, why?) and I am totally awake and have been for the past, oh 15 hours or so (I am not at all sleep deprived) and I tend to get really chatty when I’m delirious and no one wants to talk to me about books right at this moment (which is unsporting of them) and I thought, why hello internet! Long sentence, eh? I know. I have lots of those in me. Anyway, so this is my equivalent (hungrivalent? only I’m uncomfortably full, I drank three giant tumblrs, er, tumblers of water) of a drunk call – drunk post.

Alright! New paragraph. So I was on Goodreads (as I usually am, what life?) and I was looking over the books I had read this year and it occurred to me:

“Whoa, I’ve read this huge variety of genres for once! Go me!”

Without intending to, I have branched out and gotten all adventurous-like in my reading habits. I’m thrilled but also cast adrift because I no longer know what kind of books make me super happy. And I just lied. I do know what kind of books make me super happy. I just haven’t reading any of them lately. Haha. That wasn’t funny at all.

I’m really into urban fantasy or I used to be but for some reason, I’m actively avoiding books in that genre and I have no idea why. I used to hate nonfiction but now, I am intrigued by memoirs and travelogues and stuffs like that. And graphic novels. I consume so many graphic novels I could single handedly power a mountain if people powered mountains. I recently read The Changeling Sea and I loved it so much. I will talk more about next month at The Book Wars so follow me there if you want. Actually, you should follow The Book Wars anyway because we post awesome stuff. I have read 228 books including manga and graphic novels and 99 books if you just consider books with prose alone. My favourite books so far in no hierarchical order are:

  1. The Changeling Sea – Patricia McKillip
  2. The Castle Behind Thorns – Merrie Haskell
  3. How To – Julie Morstad
  4. The Cracks in the Kingdom – Jaclyn Moriarty
  5. This One Summer – Jillian Tamaki
  6. Saga – Brian K. Vaughn, Fiona Staples
  7. The Palace Job – Patrick Weekes

These are not the only books I have given 5 stars to. There are many others and there are some that made me think or affected me more than these. These however made me happy. These books may not always have left me pondering but they always left this warm glow behind, a feeling of a story told well. Many others I read left me feeling unsettled or thinking or both and I value them for what they evoked in me. We’ll save talking about those books till the end of the year though.

I currently have lots of great books on my immediate pile of books to read but I find myself in the interesting mindset of not wanting to read out of obligation but wanting to read simply because I am in the mood to read a certain book or the other. I think I like a book better when I don’t force myself to read it. That’s why I apologise to anyone who is waiting for me to review a book or another. They will get reviewed but on my schedule rather than the books. I feel I like should be more apologetic about that but considering the fact that it is my own time and brain cells I am committing, I don’t much feel like being sorry.

In the books that are going to be released in the next few months, I am most excited for Blue Lily, Lily Blue simply because I <3 The Raven Boys series so damned much. I am probably going to reread the first two and then read the third one because I can. I am also plenty excited for (though I can’t remember why) The Young Elites by Marie Lu (as opposed, I suppose, to The Old Elites, hur). I really should finish her dystopian trilogy and I probably will get around to it sooner or later.

Also, recently, I have seen several people reading and enjoying the heck out of The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima and I think it’s time I dived back into that series. I mean, I need to and once it becomes a need it’s pretty much unstoppable. So that’s going to happen some time soon. Before the end of the year hopefully. There are also 14 series that I need to finish, well, 13 now. I somehow have a thing against reading the last book in a series, I don’t know why. I need to read them and find some closure for the series and move on. So I’ve challenged myself to finish as many as I can this year and then move on to the series where I have 2 books left to read and there are a number of those too.

I am sleepy now so I think I’m done.

Extremely Short Reviews of Books I Have Read

So recently I have been wishing I could just write two or three sentence reviews because I think I can be succinct about a book. Pare it down and get the fundamentals across. So I’m going to try it. Some reviews may run slightly longer than others but they will be short!

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I had no idea that Kim Harrison is also Dawn Cook and since I adore The Hollows series I figured I’d check out this one. The pacing of this one is very fast and while the characters are interesting, they are not as awesome as Rachel Morgan and her cohort. Still, I enjoyed this. If you want some courtly hijinks, this is a quick read. Nothing mindblowing though.

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This turned out better than I had hoped for considering the art style. The art I didn’t like as much because the novel is drawn mostly in a caricature style where everyone apart from the protagonist have heads that are far too big for their bodies. However, the writing is sharp, witting and on point. Plus, I’m a sucker for fun and quirky heroines. Check this graphic novel out for pirately fun.

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I may have a weak stomach because this book gave me the heebie jeebies. Not because it is scary because it isn’t. I figured out the plot very early on but the way it is written (and I’m not sure that can be translated onto the big screen) shows the depths to which human beings can sink – their relationships stripped off all softness and just ugh. I did enjoy this though, perversely. And if you like thrillers that mess with your mind, you may like it.

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59

This is the second Patricia Mckillip book I have read and I gave this one five stars as well. It’s short, pithy but oh so very effective. I loved it. Read it.

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This book is for people who like thinking. Who like philosophy and who like delving into rhetorical questions and thought experiments. It deals with consciousness and books. Still, though compulsively readable, it’s not an easy book to read and I liked it. Quite a bit. I may try her other books sooner or later. Right now though, I’m content to mull over this one.

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6634538

Another graphic novel. One set in Nova Scotia, a place I’ve never been but heard lots about. The book is interesting though the ending is puzzling. And vaguely unsatisfying. But I liked it anyway. I’m contrary that way.

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5267442

This book is long. Longer than it needs to be, to be honest. The writing is superb, the pace is too slow and its treatment of women made me want to hurl. This book is why I don’t read many books by men. Titular character, marries the same man just not a sentence earlier she had been worrying had sinister thoughts about her. She insists once and again how being a woman she CAN NEVER do magic but women can be witches with all the ugly connotations. The strong ones are the men who can be magicians. More cruelly, there is another girl who is confined to her room until she is begging for the sun by her brother who waltzes in and out of the house whenever he pleases. Only she is painted in a negative light (sullen, cold) while he is the sympathetic character. Ugh. The romance is horrible, two carrot sticks have greater chemistry. A whole ton of telling. Just, no. I didn’t like it.

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Another graphic novel. It was cute. I liked it quite a bit. You should read it too.

Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland

17671882Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by Random House Canada
Source: Publisher

Synopsis:

Worst. Person. Ever. is a deeply unworthy book about a dreadful human being with absolutely no redeeming social value. Raymond Gunt, in the words of the author, “is a living, walking, talking, hot steaming pile of pure id.” He’s a B-unit cameraman who enters an amusing downward failure spiral that takes him from London to Los Angeles and then on to an obscure island in the Pacific where a major American TV network is shooting a Survivor-style reality show. Along the way, Gunt suffers multiple comas and unjust imprisonment, is forced to reenact the “Angry Dance” from the movie Billy Elliot and finds himself at the centre of a nuclear war. We also meet Raymond’s upwardly failing sidekick, Neal, as well as Raymond’s ex-wife, Fiona, herself “an atomic bomb of pain.”
Even though he really puts the “anti” in anti-hero, you may find Raymond Gunt an oddly likeable character.

 

Review:

This darkly comic novel gives you the anti-protagonist, the anti-hero, someone you’ll just love to hate. Raymund Gunt (even his name is awful) does not seem to have any redeeming qualities and he’s the kind of person you’d secretly hire a killer for. He is the worst kind of chauvinist around, he has an inexplicably inflated ego and no one taught him any social mores whatsoever. His sense of entitlement would give Mount Everest a run for its money where size is concerned and just – he is a horrible person.

In Worst. Person. Ever., Coupland takes this character and well, he just has fun with him. The homeless dude Raymund picks up from the street to act his assistant when he goes to the Pacific to shoot a Survivor style TV show (Raymund is a cameraman) cleans up better than he would have ever thought. Where Raymund flaps around like a rabid dog in order to pick up women, his slave/assistant has women flocking to him like he’s the light and they moths. Everything goes wrong for Raymund but in the same circumstances, things go fantastically for his assistant who proves himself more masterful than his boss can ever aspire to be.

Reading Worst. Person. Ever. Was a strange experience – albeit an enjoyable one. Though I liked the way Gunt constantly got his ass served to him on a platter, my brain kept trying to find him sympathetic. I suppose it is because sympathizing with the protagonist (even if he is the worst asshole in the history of Man or actually, I’m sure there are others who will stand with him on that revered platform) is so automatic. Gunt does grow throughout the length of the narrative and one might argue that he becomes somewhat palatable by the end.

The novel is perfect for those who like experimenting with their reading choices and who are not afraid to take chances and try new books with different kinds of characters.