megwrites: A vertical stack of books, spines facing out leaning against a horizontal stack of books. (many books)
2012-09-01 12:19 pm

Review: Henry VIII: The King and His Court by Alison Weir




Title: Henry VIII: The King and His Court
Author: Alison Weir ( AlisonWeir.org.uk)
Genre: History/Biography/Non-fiction
Page Count: 656 pages
Publisher: Random House

Review: Henry VIII: The King and His Court  )
megwrites: A vertical stack of books, spines facing out leaning against a horizontal stack of books. (many books)
2012-01-01 06:21 pm
Entry tags:

Just taking stock

I know I haven't been around much in the last part of 2011. That's due to a lot of things, including some mental health issues that I'll talk about some time, but not now.

For now, it's time for the annual "how many and what kind of books did Meg read?" total. I didn't get as many read as I wanted to this year (I aim for 50 every year, haven't gotten there yet). But here it is:



Reading Stats
Books Attempted: 28
Books Completed: 24
Average Time to Read A Book: 10 days
Most Read Author: Alison Weir
Longest Book Read: The Broken Crown - Michelle West
Shortest Book Read: Sex With Kings - Eleanor Herman
PoC Authors Read: 14
Female Authors Read: 21
GLBT Authors Read: 1 for sure, but probably more


Genres:
History/Biography: 6
Science Fiction: 5
Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance: 9
Fantasy: 2
Mainstream/General Fiction: 1
Non-Fiction: 1


5 Favorite Books I Read In 2011:

5. Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir - A really wonderful and impeccably researched (as always) biography done by Alison Weir who has a talent for well balanced and carefully considered histories. Not only is Eleanor herself a fascinating subject for study, but the ways in which Weir makes sure to frame the history to show that even if she wasn't given credit for the things she accomplished or help accomplished, she certainly deserved it. I want to give this book to anyone who thinks women somehow become useless after 40. This woman rocked Europe well into her seventies.

4. The Broken Kingdoms by NK Jemisin - I love Jemisin's writing, I love how she's taken the fantasy genre into a new direction and I love that she gets characters so right. She understands how to build drama and delicious chemistry between her characters, both in love and conflict. A compelling and sympathetic narrator and impressive worldbuilding made this a book that set the bar high for books I read in 2011.

3. Four Queens by Nancy Goldstone - I simply devoured this history, partly because it's something I never got taught even in classes focusing on European history in that period and partly because Goldstone knows how to infuse her histories with a sense of humor and a human warmth in the writing. The book very much reads like a very smart, witty friend teaching you history. The topic of the four sisters from one family who all eventually gained the title of "queen" (of England, France, the Romans [which is actually Germany] and Sicily respectively) is complex and fascinating, but even though there are a lot of intersecting lines and things to keep straight, the author painted riveting portraits of the women who shaped Europe and both the high and low points of their royal lives.

2. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - This is one of those books that when a writer reads it, they go into a spiral of "why bother, I could never be better than this!". The God of Small Things is as close to a perfect novel as I think it's possible for a human being to write. Lyrical, wrenching, multilayered, heartbreaking, searing and whimsical by turns, it lays out a story that is both microscopic and epic in scope. Each time I left this book, I found myself surprised to be back home instead of there with Estha and Rahel and all the others.

1. Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson - It's no secret I love Hopkinson as an author. So when I scored this book in a bookstore by total accident, I was over the moon. And deservedly so. This book is sheer magic and everything that science fiction can be and should be, as far as I'm concerned. A story about all stories and their power, an exploration of a world where human and person aren't the same thing, a tale of just one young woman and of an entire world at the same time, it sings and whispers and bellows out beautiful things while being a damn good read and a very solid science-fiction novel that explores a lot of what the mainstream tech-obsessed canon in this genre neglects as being unimportant.



5 Least Favorite Books I Read in 2011:

5. Kingmaker by Maurice Broaddus - I wanted to like this novel badly and it isn't necessarily a horrible book or terribly written. There are a lot of deeply impressive elements. The worldbuilding, the marriage of mythology to a thoroughly believable modern setting and the interpretation of the King Arthur story in a way that sets aside the Disneyfied versions and gets to a truth. However, the plot, structure and pacing of the story were a hot mess. The real plot doesn't begin until halfway through, lots of threads are left hanging in ways that I'm not sure were deliberate, and while many of the scenes and characters were fascinating, their importance to the plot seemed flimsy at best.

4. Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh - I liked this much less than Singh's Guild Hunter novels. By an order of magnitude, really. The writing felt like it came straight off the Paranormal Fantasy Template and while the worldbuilding was uniquely Singh's, the writing could've come from any paranormal romance with a half naked guy on the cover. The romance isn't even romance, the entire society is problematic as hell and there are so many misogynistic alpha male shenanigans here that I debated not finishing. The sex honestly bored me. The best I can say about it is that it was at least paced logically and I didn't need to read any of the other books in the series.

3. Kiss of Crimson by Lara Adrian - The misogyny and creepiness just drip off of this book. An entire species that has no women in it, because The Breed can only be men. Women are "Breedmates" only and though they have powers of their own. Those names alone had me ready to check out and forget this book. I wish I had. While Breedmates have powers of their own, they don't get to do much. they tend to just sit around needing saving and being mystically bonded to guys. The Breed even has their misogyny enshrined in law. Breed men are permitted by law to order around Breedmates they're related to! Even the relative uniqueness of the vampires-as-alien hybrids couldn't save this book. At ever chance, the book takes the most predictable and boring path when so many interesting ones are available. The characters might as well be cut and pasted from other books, minus any trace of real personality or presence.

2. Gideon by Jacquelyn Frank - I rooted for the villains and wanted to set the heroes on fire. The book appropriates Jewish names/theology for Celtic-based demons for no reason I could discern. I've never read such weak and terrible writing. The dialogue was so stiff you could've ironed your shirt and the book meandered between couples, not even focusing fully on the main characters (not that there was anything to miss out on). The romances here are bland and sometimes worrying. The relationship between Jacob and Bella (yes, I laughed hard) goes down the checklist of things abusers do to control their partners. Throw in the constant misogyny and "women should leave politics and fighting to the men" nonsense and you have a recipe for disaster.

1. Seduced by Shadows by Jessa Slade - Where do I start? Problematic and appropriative as all hell, it not only abuses the Jewish religion, but doesn't even do it well. The entire world is based on a writer using the concept of teshuva wrongly and for no reason. As a side dish, there's Islamobigotry because the villains are all djinn while the angels are all Christian. The characters drip with self-pity and whine about their souls and salvation a lot. There wasn't even really a romance here. The hero's past owning of enslaved people on a plantation is handled atrociously and the heroine starting the book with a disability isn't done much better. For those reasons, the book landed dead last on this list.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (rainbow books)
2011-06-13 08:49 pm

Review: The Sun Sword by Michelle Sagara




Title: The Broken Crown (The Sun Sword, Book 1)
Author: (Michelle West (aka Michelle Sagara); [livejournal.com profile] msagara; @msagara)
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 764
Publisher: DAW

Review: The Broken Crown by Michelle West )
megwrites: A vertical stack of books, spines facing out leaning against a horizontal stack of books. (many books)
2011-04-18 12:36 pm

Getting through reviews!



Title: Seduced by Shadows (Marked Souls, Book 1)
Author: Jessa Slade (JessaSlade.com)
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Page Count: 378
Publisher: Signet Eclipse Paranormal Romance

Review: Seduced by Shadows )
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (rainbow books)
2011-03-29 10:08 am

Review: Gideon (Nightwalkers #2) by Jacquelyn Frank




Title: Gideon (Nightwalkers #2)
Author: Jacquelyn Frank (jacquelynfrank.com*)
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Page Count: 337
Publisher: Zebra Paranormal Romance

*Reviewers Note: WARNING for the author's site because it loads with a very loud, surprise thunder/lightning noise and the SOUND OFF button is at the BOTTOM of the page and is small and might be hard to find if you've just been nearly given a PANIC ATTACK by a sudden clap of thunder while you have your headphones on listening to quiet music (this happened to me). Very annoying and the thunder is on every single page. And not all pages have a SOUND OFF link. And even if you push SOUND OFF on the front page, it re-loads on subsequent pages. Accessibility and design fail.


Review: Gideon by Jacquelyn Frank. )
megwrites: Picture of books with quote from Cicero: "a room without books is like a body without a soul" (books)
2011-03-28 10:00 am

Review: Seduced by Crimson by Jade Lee




Title: Seduced by Crimson (Crimson City #5)
Author: Jade Lee (jadeleeauthor.com)
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Page Count: 339
Publisher: LoveSpell (Dorchester Publishing)


Review: Seduced by Crimson by Jade Lee. Warning: Spoilers. Trigger Warning: discussions of rape. )
megwrites: Picture of books with quote from Cicero: "a room without books is like a body without a soul" (books)
2011-01-21 09:25 am
Entry tags:

Quick Question

For those who read the reviews of books that I post, I have a quick question and I didn't want to go through making a poll (it won't show up on the crosspost to LJ anyway).

In my reviews, do you think it would be better for me to copy and paste the book's official blurb or description or to continue coming up with my own summaries. Because I feel like my summaries of the basic plotline/premise of a book are kind of for the fail and I'm not sure I'm doing a good job of describing the book in a way that's useful to a review.

But then again, some of the official blurbs or descriptions of books also do a piss poor job of describing the ACTUAL story contained within the book, so I'm sort of torn. I feel like it might be easier or less spoilery or somehow better to just cut and paste, but I'm not sure. So I'm asking. Let me know what you think in comments if you have an opinion either way. And if not, let me know that too.
megwrites: Beast, from Beauty & The Beast looking coiffed and unhappy. (beauty&thebeast)
2011-01-01 11:11 am
Entry tags:

Book report for 2010

So, I did this last year and in case anyone was desperate to hear about all the books I've read (and all the reviews I'm behind in posting), here's the numbers, crunched.

I read less books than last year, but I did meet my goals of reading a bit more broadly. Also, I got a pretty good batch of books this year, so selecting the five favorites as well as five least favorites was hard, because most were decent books, they just were the ones I enjoyed least of all that I read.

Oh, and btw, I am completely looking for recommendations for books to kick off 2011 with!


Reading Stats
Books Attempted: 27
Books Completed: 23
Average Time to Read A Book: 15 days
Most Read Author: Marjorie M. Liu
Longest Book Read: Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley by Alison Weir - 640 pages
Shortest Book Read: Snakes and Ladders by Gita Mehta - 297 pages
PoC Authors Read: 16
Female Authors Read: 24
GLBT Authors Read: 2


Genres:
Non-fiction/Memoir: 2
History/Biography: 3
Science Fiction: 4
Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance: 7
Fantasy: 10
Mainstream/General Fiction: 1


5 Favorite Books I Read In 2010:


5. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin - I devoured this book. Lovely, addictive, smart, at times lush and operatic, I remember feeling like I was watching a really, really wonderful epic movie. It could haunt, heartbreak, and humor with the best of them. The gods were delightfully broken and strange, and Yeine was the kind of heroine I long for more of. Not a perfect novel, but it entertained and captivated wonderfully and that's what a book should do.

4. Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler - Beautiful, terrifying, thought provoking and surprisingly even better than the prequel, Parable of the Sower. Not simply a bleak dystopian look at the future, but a portrait of what true survival, not just of body but of mind and spirit, costs. This book makes the reader fight as hard as the characters have to, and it is worth every page.

3. Snakes and Ladders by Gita Mehta - Sharp, searing, lyrical, elegiac and hopeful at the same time. Wonderful essays, little portraits put together like a mosaic of history and the present and the future, of what is and isn't. Wonderful non-fiction, it felt like reading both a stunning biography and someone's diary and an expose and a poem all at once.

2. The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu - It was kind of a toss up as to which of her books was gonna end up on this list. I love the Dirk and Steel books, don't get me wrong, but this book renewed my faith in urban fantasy as a genre. It's actually the kind of dark, gritty, atmospheric book that most urban fantasy wants to be but gets wrong because they decide that if they just dress everyone in enough black leather that will suffice. Liu ditches the leather, comes up with an actual reason for tattoos, constructs a plausible if shadow world and creates a wonderfully chilling at moments, gripping, and fierce novel as a result. Her heroine is strong on so many levels, not just the physical or magical, and there's a lot that leaves the reader guessing, wanting to know more. I loved the complexity of not just the worldbuilding, the emotions and moral consequences that come with it and how the heroine deals with those.

1. The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson - Hands down, the best thing I've read this year, possibly in the last decade. A breathtaking, bold, fearless interweaving of the stories of women, of a people spread out, of survival and death and life, of what freedom is and isn't. Subtle and poetic, full of hints and shadows. Hopkinson abandons a lot of traditional, linear structures of the book to create a fractal story and the effect works gorgeously. Powerful characters who become so real that you find yourself surprised to be back in the world you inhabit when you put down the book. I cannot say enough about how much I deeply love this novel.


5 Least Favorite Books I Read in 2010:

1. Ragamuffin by Tobias Buckell - I wanted to like this, because I did really like the first in this series (Crystal Rain). It wasn't a bad book, It just didn't satisfy the way the first one did, and that's sad, because there was a lot here that I think could've been really fascinating. The writing came across to me as stiffer and more mechanical, thus less organic and natural feeling than the last book, and that made the characters feel less real and vital, even the ones I'd met before. Still, I'd love to see it turned into a movie some day because it read like it would really make a fabulous action thriller, and I loved the cover of the book.

2. Spellbent by Lucy A. Snyder - Not a bad novel, per se, and there were promising parts of it, but out of all my reading this year, it ended up in the bottom five as far as enjoyment and quality went. It actually was pretty decently written, but the plot was too convenient for me, some of the dialogue and characterizations went askew, and there was a lot of blandness.

3. Blue Diablo by Anne Aguirre - Not the worst novel I've ever read, but I didn't really enjoy it that much and I wanted to. Badly. Weak worldbuilding, bland main characters, a romance that I didn't buy, a completely pointless love triangle, a boring a-plot that I didn't care about, and too many pet peeve buttons pushed.

2. Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon - I got as far as I could with this book but I didn't even finish. Usually I do, just so I can review it and nobody can say "but you didn't finish!". I didn't need to. Everything in this book read like a bad-to-mediocre romantic comedy complete with the "wacky family" trope and the "oh, why can't this smart/nice/good looking woman find a nice man?" trope. Add that to the fact that the main character gets rendered unconscious and wakes up handcuffed to a man in a basement and her first thoughts are "gee, maybe my sisters are trying to set me up on a weird date" and I just couldn't justify wasting time in my life to finish a book that obviously wasn't any better.

1. Dark Desires After Dusk by Kresley Cole - This book is everything that is wrong with the paranormal romance/urban fantasy genre. Creepy and occasionally a how-to manual on sexism and rape culture (and I'm not even talking about the parts where the characters admit that Cade is sexist) and not particularly entertaining or well written and on top of it were horrible sex scenes that remind me of every bad fanfic I've ever read, except worse. As I said in my review, there is not enough brain bleach in the world for this.
megwrites: Picture of books with quote from Cicero: "a room without books is like a body without a soul" (books)
2010-08-13 04:38 pm

Review: Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon




Title: Silver Phoenix (Kingdom of Xia #1)
Author: Cindy Pon (CindyPon.com; [livejournal.com profile] cindy_pon; @cindypon.)
Genre: YA/Historical Fantasy
Page Count: 338
Publisher: Greenwillow


Review: Silver Phoenix (Kingdom of Xia #1) by Cindy Pon )
megwrites: Picture of books with quote from Cicero: "a room without books is like a body without a soul" (books)
2010-08-09 03:04 pm

Review: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor




Title: Who Fears Death
Author: Nnedi Okorafor (Nnedi.com)
Genre: Science Fiction
Page Count: 386
Publisher: DAW


Review: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor )