September Wrap-Up (2013)

Last month I read a couple of hyped up YA novels, but wasn’t blown away by them. I’m also beginning to wonder if I rate too many books 3 stars, and am too stingy with my fives.

My favorite post of the month

My Most Anticipated SF&F TV Series This Fall

I use the following light grading system based on the GoodReads one:

1 out of 5 – I didn’t like it: badly written or just got on my nerves
2 out of 5 – It was okay: other people might enjoy it more
3 out of 5 – I liked it: a fun/enjoyable read
4 out of 5 – I really liked it: good characters & plot, maybe some theme that spoke to me
5 out of 5 – It was amazing: I consider it a favorite and will probably re-read at some point

This post is linked at “Best of the Bunch”, a monthly recap meme hosted by Always Lost in Stories.

Classic of the Month

Mansfield Park
Mansfield Park

By: Jane Austen
First published in 1814
My copy: Project Gutenberg free e-book

The daughter of a poor family moves into the house of her rich aunt and uncle.

This turned out to be my least favorite Austen novel. While it’s not bad – the language is as good as ever, it was easy to read through – the main character does remain somewhat distant from the reader, and the theme isn’t as clear as in some of her other books. During the first 50% of Mansfield Park, the story was told from the points of view of almost all the other characters than the heroine. After that, it switched to be told more from inside the heroine’s head, and also became more interesting. I wouldn’t recommend this for a first time Austen reader, but it was worth a read. 3/5

Further thoughts can be read from my discussion posts, which do contain spoilers.
Mansfield Park Read Along – Discussion, Pt. 1
Mansfield Park Read Along – Discussion, Pt. 2
The third and final part isn’t posted yet.

Fantasy Books

The Drowning Girl
Best of the Month sticker
The Drowning Girl
By: Caitlín R. Kiernan
First published in 2012
Genre: Dark fantasy / Weird fiction / Gothic horror
My copy: From the library

A schizophrenic woman tries to uncover the truth from her memories of meetings with mythical creatures, or perhaps with something else entirely.

Kiernan’s haunting, mesmerizing prose captured me again! The prose is far smoother and polished than in the early works by her that I’ve read. While I loved reading the book, I had to take pauses ’cause the narration took a lot out of me. The protagonist, Imp, is an unreliable narrator, a schizophrenic trying to dig the truth out from her own memories. The narrative is nonlinear, as Imp tells her story in in the way that she feels able to handle, skipping over some harder parts in order to return to them again later.

Who is the drowning girl of the title? There are multiple candidates – there’s Imp herself, the siren she met by the side of the road, the girl in an old painting – or is the drowning girl someone else entirely? So combine an unreliable narrator and a non-chronological timeline, and you’re left with the feeling that you don’t quite know what is real and what is not. Slowly the plot opens up to you, and you can start to put together the pieces of what actually happened. If you liked Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, you might enjoy the haunting atmosphere of this book. I almost slapped a five star rating on this, but I think the book was hard to embrace completely due to its challenging nature. 4/5

Poison StudyPoison Study
(Study #1)
By: Maria V. Snyder
First published in 2004
Genre: YA High Fantasy
My copy: From the library

A woman facing execution is given the chance of becoming the food taster for the ruler of the realm.

Poison Study was an enjoyable, if not very original, high fantasy novel. I found the characters likable, and the relationships were fun to follow. My favorite character was the multilayered and loyal Valek, but I also enjoyed Yelena’s camaraderie with Ari and Yanco. Perhaps because the protagonist’s name was Yelena, I started to imagine the setting as a sort of fantasy Russia with the neighboring people being Mongols, but as I read on I realized that it was off the mark… The neighboring country was clearly warmer than that!

Poison Study was a good read, but I’ve just seen this all before. For young adults who haven’t read that many fantasy books before, this will undoubtedly work much better, and I understand the fascination. The writing was mostly well done, but as this was Snyder’s debut novel, there were some places where she slips up and delivers clunky or clichéd language. Enjoyable, but not amazing. I most likely won’t be continuing with the series. 3/5


(Legend #1)
By: Marie Lu
First published in 2011
Genre: YA Dystopian SF
My copy: From the library

A young prodigy working for the government faces off with the government’s most wanted young criminal.

A normal dystopian YA adventure, nothing that new under the sun. This is quite a quick read with lots of action, so I can understand how it grips people. I just don’t quite get the amount of hype this has received. At the beginning I was intrigued, but I lost interest towards the end.

There were some mistakes in the book that the editor hadn’t caught, like a part where an officer’s buttons changed from gold to silver in the span of 10 pages. It wouldn’t have bothered me so much if the readers weren’t supposed to realize it was the same character from the description of the uniform…

One thing I really don’t get: why is Les Misérables mentioned in connection with the book? It really isn’t like Les Miserables at all… I mean, I know that the author got the idea while watching the movie version of Les Mis, but people get inspiration from many places that aren’t mentioned in the covers of their books. There just wasn’t that strong a connection with the story to warrant the cover mention, in my opinion.

Now, I realize that this review might make it sound like I didn’t enjoy the book at all, but I was entertained while reading, just not that invested in it. I won’t be reading the next book, this series just isn’t for me. 2/5

Graphic novels

Chew Omnivore Vol.3Chew: The Omnivore Edition, Vol. 3
(collects issues #21-30, trade paperbacks #5-6)
By: John Layman & Rob Guillory
First published in 2013
Genre: Special agent drama-comedy
My copy: From the library

This third Chew omnibus shifts the focus a bit from the Cibopathic (gets psychic impressions from what he eats) agent Tony Chu to the other characters.

This volume of Chew suffered a bit from being “all over the place”, with more focus divided between different characters. I do love all the characters (especially enjoyed Caesar in this one, and Olive is becoming very interesting), but there just weren’t that many new insights into the main plot. I really missed Tony, who was a bit sidelined here. I’m also not quite sure what to think about what the writer did to one of the characters – I think what happens next will decide how I’ll feel about it. In a side note, while I love Poyo, the badass fighting rooster, he suffered from a bit of inflation in this volume – I think there was too much of him, which took away a bit of the shine of this oddball character.

Overall I enjoyed the volume, but it was definitely weaker than the previous installments. 2.5/5

Marceline and the Scream Queens
Adventure Time: Marceline and The Scream Queens

By: Meredith Gran
First published in 2012
My copy: My bookshelf

Princess Bubblegum joins Marceline’s band on their tour.

This fun romp through the land of Ooo was a gift from my sister. The story and art was charming! I enjoyed the focus on the female characters – Princess Bubblegum is definitely one of my favorites from the show, and I do like Marceline, too. Meredith Gran did a great job capturing the look of the series. The little side stories by guest authors were also funny. Pretty math! 3/5


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