May-June Book Review: Hild

hild_071713

Like Sugar, I had a similarly hard time reading Hild, until finally I decided to power through by ignoring the names I didn’t recognize, & political intricacies I didn’t understand. Regardless, it still took me so long to finish this book… my average is about 2 weeks – Hild took over 2 months.

First, the bad. For me, this book was just waaaaay too dense, too long, with too many characters. I couldn’t keep track of who was who, and there was no good index apart from the family tree at the beginning. Also, being such a long book, you forget many characters just because it’s been such a long time since they first appeared. It’s hard to follow the implications of such-and-such marrying his daughter to that-guy, and that-guy’s brother winning the battle at whatsitcalled. As a result, most of the politics went over my head, and the significance of events just didn’t register. All of which to say, I couldn’t really follow what was happening for over 50% of the book.

A final nitpick, using the old languages was cool, but often only added to my confusion of the plot. It could have been used more sparingly, and/or reserved for untranslatable words and concepts only.

Next, the good. It was a historical fiction book, and though I didn’t follow the political aspects, I absolutely loved the historical details from the daily living point of view. Culture and society at that time period was vividly brought to life in my eyes, with a huge range of experiences. These included: working in the dairy, the medical knowledge of women, metal- & jewelry-smithing, the clash of the old & new religions, large trading centers, female friendships, geisths battles, power of reading, dangers of childbearing, peasant foods & feasts, and more that I can’t remember just now. Her descriptions sparkle, and were the highlight for me. I especially loved the bits about nature, wilderness, animals of forest & farm.

“The great pattern” Hild kept seeing snatches of was evocative & haunting; the weft and fold weaving a great pattern underlying everything. It both echoed the mysticism & religiousness of her seer role, but also of her highly observant and, I would say, scientific mind. It made me think of the ideas tied to a famous quote by Gallileo; that “the Book of Nature is written in the language of mathematics”, and as such, nature is built of overlapping patterns.

Also, very cool how the author had historically accurate people of colour peppered throughout the novel, as well as woman/woman love & fluid ideas of sexuality. Many historical fiction, and even historical non-fiction, books tend to ignore or gloss over that these things (and more!) existed in medieval Europe.

Finally, the ugly/weird. SPOILERS BELOW
If you haven’t finished the book, and want to, then quit reading now, because I’m about to spoil the last 15 pages or so. So, I can’t help but be glad that Hild gets a happy ending, because at times it seemed like she would meet a tragic end. However, I can’t get over the fact that she ends up with Cian, who is in fact her half-brother. Maybe incest wasn’t quite as bad in that time period, but… kind of spoiled it for me. He didn’t have to be revealed as her half-brother at all. Since Cian was a completely fictional character, he could have been written as a distant cousin, or unrelated altogether.

My final thought: I found this book was very enjoyable and interesting when NOT focusing on politics. Unfortunately, the political parts overwhelmed and bogged down the narrative. I feel if it had been re-written as more of an ‘everyday life’ kind of novel, with heavily simplified politics (& a full, detailed character index!), it would have made for a much stronger & better read.

August Book Choices

32051912.jpg

1.The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

32938155.jpg

2. Option B by Sheryl Sandberg
After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. “I was in ‘the void,’” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.” Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It is a muscle that everyone can build.

5743462.jpg

3. Frederica by Georgette Heyer

When Frederica brings her younger siblings to London determined to secure a brilliant marriage for her beautiful sister, she seeks out their distant cousin the Marquis of Alverstoke. Lovely, competent, and refreshingly straightforward, Frederica makes such a strong impression that to his own amazement, the Marquis agrees to help launch them all into society.

25066786.jpg

4. Spider-Gwen by Jason Latour

IN ONE UNIVERSE, it wasn’t Peter Parker who was bitten by the radioactive spider, but Gwen Stacy! She’s smart, charming and can lift a car … just don’t tell her father, the police chief. Now, in the wake of Spider-Verse, Gwen swings into her own solo adventures! And she soon finds herself between a rock and a hard place when the Vulture attacks, and NYPD Lieutenant Frank Castle sets his sights on bringing her down. Then, still haunted by Peter’s death, Gwen visits his only family: Ben and May Parker. But what really happened the day Peter died? Find out right here as the spectacular Spider-Gwen steals not only the spotlight, but also the hearts of comic fans worldwide!

0393609391.jpg

5. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil Degrasse Tyson

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.

Click here for poll!

Link

June and July Book Review

I should confess now, I couldn’t get through Hild. I tried, boy did I try. But at one point, when you’ve fallen asleep for a second time while reading a book, that you need to cut your losses. Considering I never fall asleep while reading, this was a quick cut, though an unfortunate one.

Hild was many things, boring one, but also so long. So long with so many names of people and places I couldn’t place, couldn’t remember, and wasn’t sure what their importance was. So I gave up, and read others things.

Now to July: Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls.

I wasn’t expecting it to be about Body Positivity or how many, and few, chords it would strike in me. There were definitely a lot of lessons I learned from it, or became aware of. There were ways I started to see myself differently and the concept of fat.

It’s easy, I realized, to call yourself fat when you’re not and dig yourself into a deep pit of self-suffering. Reading this book made me realize that I wasn’t fat, not the way she describes it and how she lives it. It was kind of startling, that kind of realization, and I felt bad how often I’d kicked myself down.

It also brought great value to me in understanding that really breaking free of social expectations of what beauty should look like is trying not to be beautiful. Which is really hard for me, when I’ve been called pretty my entire life, but wanted to be more – more gorgeous and not pretty, or more sexy and not pretty. Pretty feels and continues to feel like it’s for small girls, but that lead to a lot of the lack of self-confidence I have, waiting for others to give me that stamp of approval.

So now I’m going to try to be different, in at least not waiting for someone else to tell me what or who I am. It’s a small step, reminding myself constantly in places that I feel like I want it like an itch under my skin. But, I don’t expect an overnight change, just one that I can look at a picture and think I look great on my own terms.

End of my rambling, I hope you read this book and give it a shot. You learn a lot about yourself as you read it, a lot of wrestling with yourself and your preconceived thoughts on value and beauty. It was a heavy and hard book to read, but never boring.

– Sugar Out

Book Review: Etiquette & Espionage

10874177

A little bit late but I’ve had a crazy month of weddings, travels and general business.

This one I didn’t actually “read” as I listened to it during long flights, meal prepping and bus rides. I should state now that I loved it, Gail Carriger has the kind of humour I get and enjoy.

I loved the sarcasm and wittiness of Sophronia, I liked how, though she is 14 at the beginning of the book, she isn’t overly childish or immature. She feels like a teenager, for sure, but it’s not over-exaggerated.

I enjoyed all the characters, especially the large female cast and some recurring characters. I liked how somethings weren’t black and white and some relationships weren’t easy. I enjoyed how these characters were flawed but it was okay, no one was judging them harshly for not being perfect in every way. Dimote with her lace and jewels, Sidhe with her boyishness and Agatha with her silence. I also liked the male characters, Pillover and Soap, and I’m excited to see where the romance goes.

Gail doesn’t seem the type to pick generic romantic pairings, so it will be exciting to see how to ends and why we don’t meet Sophronia in the Soulless series.

Overall I definitely recommend it, there’s something very enjoyable in reading such a feminine book, especially one teaching girls how to use that femininity to their advantage.

– Sugar Out

Comic Review: Gwenpool

Another one! I had a very busy June so I enjoyed having these comic books to have a quick break.

Although Batgirl was a great surprise from DC and I thoroughly enjoyed it, Gwenpool fell on the other side of the spectrum.

This was another two volume attempt, where I hoped maybe getting over the hump of a first book would get the plot moving along and endear me to the overall story.

It didn’t.

I don’t know what I didn’t like overall about Gwenpool, maybe how she was supposed to be an “outside” person who was a fan of the comics suddenly sucked into this world with no abilities or skills. How she decided to take on this brand new world by becoming a vigilante, again with said lack of capabilities. Maybe it was her personality which was meant to mimic Deadpools recklessness but just seemed dumb with her.

Like – why was she in that world? Why did she have this specific slightly suicidal personality? Why did she not want to go back home? Why was she not using her knowledge of the universe to, I don’t know, do something – like get back home? How is it that she can afford these guns and outfits from the beginning with no money? Why is it when she meets Dr Strange she’s like – nah, not gonna go back home?? Also why is she not freaking the fuck out about how messed up that world is?

Then she tries to use the whole comic book “world”, as if it has set rules when usually the one who sets the rules are the writers and the writers can change chapter to chapter – As she should know for someone who is *such* a fan.

It was contrived, obviously meant to play on the fame of the Deadpool movie and get some of the attention from that franchise.

The plot was basically cameo-ing, either using big name superheros to bring some attention to this lackluster comic, but had no overarching story to it. Gwenpool is not personable or half as interesting as the person she’s meant to be copying. Her whole schtick about playing with the comic book as a genre is boring, we get it – types of writing have certain themes and tropes commonly used by male writers. Good job on pointing the obvious by not actually trying to change them or criticize their use.

Also it’s basically one useless, slightly damsel-y girl surrounded by competent men, so….. whatever.

(I was also super disappointed it wasn’t a resurrected Gwen Stacey from another Spiderman comic who, because of her death, was slightly loopy and became a vigilante.)

(I mean, maybe that’s just another version of SpiderGwen but that would have been awesome okay?)

Overall the comic was just not enjoyable, men should just not write women without having a woman co-writer. That’s my key takeaway.

Also what the hell Marvel? You have Ms Marvel and Thor but you can’t bother to do Gwenpool properly? You have the money to hire better writers or at least decent ones.

Last bit before I’m out – why doesn’t she have pants? Like… she obviously should have pants… she’s in New York… it’s not exactly warm there all year.

– Sugar Out

Comic Review: Batgirl

As I trudge through Hild, I took a break to read another comic series from DC in June. Although Catwoman was definitely a mess and a huge disappointment, Batgirl was a pleasant surprise.

I read two volumes and I have to say it was enjoyable. The character development was on point, the plot didn’t waver and didn’t add any unnecessary plot points or devices.

I enjoyed having a story filled with a majority of fleshed out and personable women, I also liked how Barbara didn’t turn into some kind of hipster pixie like some of the shows geared towards women have become. I liked her friendships and how she depended on others to be successful, this wasn’t some lone-ranger Batman copy, which was great. Batman can be super tedious, especially now when everyone is mimicking the whole “Dark Knight” thing.

Although the second volume did have some mistakes here and there, I did enjoy it as a follow up. The discussion of Barbara after the Joker’s attack, discussing her state of mind and also about physical disabilities, was insightful and I wish they had spent some more time speaking to these issues and how she dealt with them. That’s my criticism of the second volume, there is material there that could have gone on to the following volumes.

This could be the case though but, from where it left off, it doesn’t seem to be a conversation they would be continuing. I would love to be surprised though.

Overall, I would recommend it, it was a quick and good read and, along with Ms Marvel, is a definite buy.

– Sugar Out

July Choices

01

Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living Paperback by Jes Baker

This is a manifesto and call to arms for people of all sizes and ages. With her trademark wit, veteran blogger and advocate Jes Baker calls people everywhere to embrace a body-positive worldview, changing perceptions about weight, and making mental health a priority.

Alongside notable guest essayists, Jes shares personal experiences paired with in-depth research in a way that is approachable, digestible, and empowering. Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls is an invitation to reject fat prejudice, fight body-shaming at the hands of the media, and join this life-changing movement with one step: change the world by loving your body.

Among the many Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls that you don’t want to miss:
1. It’s Possible to Love Your Body (Today. Now.)
2. You Can Train Your Brain to Play Nice
3. Your Weight Is Not a Reflection Of Your Worth
4. Changing Your Tumblr Feed Will Change Your Life
5. Salad Will Not Get You to Heaven
6. Cheesecake Will Not Send You to Hell

If you’re a person with a body, this book is for you.

02

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

(titled ‘What Sunny Saw in the Flames’ in Nigeria and the UK)

Akata Witch transports the reader to a magical place where nothing is quite as it seems. Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent” with latent magical power. Once she befriends Orlu and Chichi, Sunny is plunged in to the world of the Leopard People, where your worst defect becomes your greatest asset. Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality?

03

The Devourers by Indra Das

On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.

From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.

Shifting dreamlike between present and past with intoxicating language, visceral action, compelling characters, and stark emotion, The Devourers offers a reading experience quite unlike any other novel.

04

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.