Nov 04 2017

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

So this is not the book to start with if you’re new to Liane Moriarty. Ordinarily, she writes suspenseful novels of the secrets hidden behind the facade of the average (Australian) suburbanite, and usually she makes good use of interesting plot mechanisms to create dazzling puzzle boxes of novels. But Truly Madly Guilty’s mechanism is far too clunky, creaky and slow, dragging us back and forth between the present-day and a disastrous barbecue several weeks in the past. Ms Moriarty’s characterizations are spot on, as always, revealing the good, bad and ugly of the people she writes about, but the build-up towards the revelation of What Happened on the day of the barbecue was less suspenseful than tedious, and I’m not sure why that is. I liked the characters (my favorite was Vid, and I’m not sure what that says about me) and I enjoyed the writing, but I felt it was far too drawn out in the before and perhaps not as accomplished in the after as I’m used to from her. I thought it most telling that the sentence that resonated with me most was when Oliver said to Erika, “Nothing bad has ever happened to them” and I whole-heartedly agreed: What Happened at the barbecue was rough but Sam especially was such a baby about it, tho I’m glad Ms Moriarty resolved it all the way she did. Just because someone is a big baby doesn’t mean they don’t have real problems that need solving after all (so that they can perhaps stop being big babies and start being functional people again.) That said, Ms Moriarty is a writer of great sympathies and talents, and this is still a novel far above the average of popular fiction.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/11/04/truly-madly-guilty-by-liane-moriarty/

Nov 03 2017

Tom Sawyer, Detective by Mark Twain

I didn’t even know this existed till I stumbled across a free Kindle copy. It’s really a novella (about 80 pages) of what happens when Tom and Huck get entangled in a murder mystery, based on an actual case that Mark Twain freely admits to using in the opening paragraphs. It’s an entertaining story set in the Tom Sawyer universe but nothing dreadfully ground-breaking (tho I did learn a bit more about the times and laws. I’m still astonished that a barely adolescent Tom was his Uncle Silas’ de facto lawyer during the court case, and that this was totally acceptable.) I’m actually more intrigued by the story that preceded this one in the canon. Apparently, Tom goes steampunk? I shall have to search it out.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/11/03/tom-sawyer-detective-by-mark-twain/

Nov 03 2017

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson

I HAD ALL THE FEELINGS.

I did not, however, cry for forty pages straight as I had with the first book in the series: instead, I burned with all sorts of emotions for and with the characters. There were parts where I literally wanted someone to hold me back, because were it possible to enter a narrative, I would have flown right in there in a justified rage. And I cannot even with how nuanced and considerate Brandon Sanderson is with the many, many moral dilemmas at play here in this book. What does it mean to be honorable? What is the moral value of lies? How does circumstance create evil, and how much can we forgive? There are no easy answers in Words Of Radiance.

And how much did I love that the newly introduced Big Ambiguously Bad hearkens back to a precept of evil I’d most memorably encountered in fantasy via Terry Pratchett’s The Light Fantastic? I super need to go read Edgedancer after this (and before my editor sends me a copy of Oathbringer, squeeeeee!)

That said, I was a bit disappointed by the ending, not for content so much as for how oddly rushed a lot of it felt. We know that Kaladin and Shallan are destined for great things, but I felt the bit with Dalinar and his son joining them near the end seemed, while natural on the face of it, handled without Mr Sanderson’s usual deftness. Perhaps I was just a bit bleary of mind considering that I stayed up till 7a.m. to finish the book, and am still feeling the after-effects these few days later (oh, for the resilience of my well-spent youth!) I do know that the coda with Wit has me convinced I need to seek out more of the Cosmere books so I can get a better handle on what’s going on.

Gah, so much reading to do! It is so lovely to have these problems tho.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/11/03/words-of-radiance-the-stormlight-archive-2-by-brandon-sanderson/

Oct 29 2017

Movie review: Kingsman: The Secret Service

This combines James Bond-like debonair spying (including some very nice toys) with a Quentin Tarantino-esque love of joyful violence (there is a massacre that is practically an exercise in interpretive dance), leavened with a lisping Samuel L. Jackson and random humor. Not a great film, not a horrid film, just an entertaining film, one that I liked enough to write something about, mostly because of the interpretive dance.

THE END.

(Interpretive DANCE)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/10/29/movie-review-kingsman-the-secret-service/

Oct 27 2017

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

Finally picked this up despite getting it free from Tor.com (thanks, Tor!) ages ago, due to Doug’s review tweet. I wanted to know if I’d have similar feelings towards this novella, and I’m going to write down my own thoughts first before reading his review and comparing our experiences.

So here is a really terrific, unique take on what happens to the children who return from fantasy worlds. Nancy has just come back from an Underworld that she longs to return to, spurred on by the bewildered insistence of her family on somehow normalizing her disappearance. Her well-meaning parents have sent her to Eleanor West’s school/sanitarium, ostensibly to “heal” i.e. revert to the Nancy they knew. Unbeknownst to them, the school is more of a refuge, a place where children like Nancy are believed and helped to adjust to their new reality. This school specifically is for kids who want to go back, as not all do (there’s another school for kids who just want to move on.) At first, Nancy is thrilled to be in a place where she’s accepted and can learn more about the doorway she traveled through, in hopes of finding it again. But then her classmates start being gruesomely murdered, and fear grips the school.

I loved how this novella just bursts with excellent fantasy ideas (like the Virtue-Logic dichotomies) and I really enjoyed all the different fantasy lands the children had been to. I also really liked the inclusion of the different sexualities even as I thought they could have been included in a way that seemed more seamless and less clunky. It felt almost as if Seanan McGuire took a deep breath and said “we’re going to talk about asexuality and masturbation and since I’m not sure how to have it come up organically, I’m going to just put it in the foreground here” via a really unlikely conversation between Nancy and her roommate. The stuff with Kade was handled much better. I was also wtf with how Nancy’s speed changed so drastically, as if Ms Mcguire forgot how she’d described it just a handful of pages earlier. It was a weird oversight in a book that had pretty good attention to detail otherwise.

I also don’t know how earned I felt the ending was, especially after poor Loreli. I’m not the hugest fan of people running away from reality, and I can understand having a refuge be used as a reward, but as a reward for what, exactly? Given the context, it felt as if Ms McGuire was essentially condoning suicide for the misunderstood, and that made me uncomfortable.

Anyway, gonna go read Doug’s review now and see how mine compares (you should, too! Click here.) Ha, unsurprisingly, we have similar feelings. I think I’m generally grouchier, tho, particularly when it comes to craft.

Speaking of which, I was annoyed by the ebook version that I had for immediately tacking on the first chapter of the sequel without a separating page announcing that this was bonus material. I thought it was still part of the novella, which threw me for a loop when it ended so abruptly. Hmm, do I even want to learn more about Jack and Jill? Enough to place a digital hold at the library, I suppose. That review will show up eventually (Doug, look, I made a Coming Attraction note!)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/10/27/every-heart-a-doorway-wayward-children-1-by-seanan-mcguire/

Oct 27 2017

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3: Crushed by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa et al

I’m incredibly impressed by how this book makes me care about the Inhumans. And also how it makes me like Agents Of SHIELD more, despite my extremely mixed feelings about that show. The Loki story was fun, but Kamala’s First Crush was better, and I’m totally looking forward to the day when her older brother has to eat that horrible speech he gave Bruno about how their parents would never accept Kamala marrying outside of her people. Those arguments might seem reasonable but they’re totally not (and hello, also the kind of things Nazis say in re: racial and cultural purity) and I’m quietly confident that G Willow Wilson et al only included it here in order to debunk it later. Terrific series that I’m rationing to myself in order to enjoy its wonderfulness over a prolonged period of time. Plus, the art is pretty much perfect for the storyline.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/10/27/ms-marvel-vol-3-crushed-by-g-willow-wilson-takeshi-miyazawa-et-al/

Oct 27 2017

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This was pretty terrific. Kambili is the daughter of Eugene, a Great Man: he’s a pillar of the community, and not just of the towns they shuttle between in a migration familiar to anyone who’s ever grown up middle class or better in a third-world country. He’s a big deal in Nigeria, a wealthy, self-made man whose fortune comes from manufacturing but who also owns a newspaper that fights for democracy and the rule of law: a tenuous position in a country whose fairly elected government has recently been overthrown by the military. He’s compassionate and generous to his employees and to the needy, but he’s also estranged from his impoverished father, an adherent to the traditional Igbo religion that Eugene spurned in his fanatical embrace of Catholicism. The fact that he’s also a complete monster to his family makes Purple Hibiscus a fascinating examination of the contrasts between one’s public and private selves.

When Eugene’s sister, a widowed university professor in another town who isn’t very well-off herself, invites Kambili and Jaja, Kambili’s older brother, to stay with her and her own three children for a few days, it sets in motion a chain of events that changes Kambili’s life forever. There’s an inappropriate crush, a lot of family turmoil, and a good, hard look at the culture and recent history of Nigeria, all written with compassion and an unflinching honesty that refuses to romanticize a country that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie clearly loves. I ached so much for the quiet, cowed 15 year-old who gradually learns that her home life is not normal and not okay, and whose personality begins to unfold like one of the rare purple hibiscuses of the title when exposed to the sunshine of a normal family’s unconditional love. The only thing I didn’t really like about this book was how rushed the ending felt, and how confusing it was in terms of when the poison was obtained and administered. The first 90% or so of the book was excellent, though. I can see why this was nominated for but ultimately didn’t win the Orange. Would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for good fiction outside of the usual white Western canon.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/10/27/purple-hibiscus-by-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie/

Oct 22 2017

Sonnets from the Crimea by Adam Mickiewicz

When Tsar the Polish poet southward sent
For stirring trouble and renewed dissent
He took his pen — described the lands he crossed
The steppes so vast, the palaces long lost

Exiles who before Adam M. had gone
And Muslims who so well had served their Khan
Crimean shores, the mounts above them ranged
The proudest peak, great Tschatir Dagh, unchang’d

All these and characters Mickiewicz met
Or conjured for the sonnets’ lines he set
Not twenty verses flowed fast from his pen
Yet famed across the centuries since then

Perhaps they are not read so much these days
So let me recommend them all with praise.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/10/22/sonnets-from-the-crimea-by-adam-mickiewicz/

Oct 22 2017

Glass Houses (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #13) by Louise Penny

Another excellent installment in the Gamache series, tho certainly not the best. The format is very clever: it opens in a scorching midsummer, where an unnamed defendant is on trial for a murder committed the previous winter in Three Pines, Gamache’s beloved village home. Gamache is on the witness stand as the star witness for the prosecution, but the Crown Prosecutor is treating him with a surprising hostility that does not go unnoticed by either the presiding judge or by the journalists who have packed the courtroom. As the novel unfolds, we go back to the circumstances of that winter’s murder, as well as of the greater problems facing the Surete de Quebec: of a war against crime that they will surely lose if they do not embrace the unthinkable.

Glass Houses is an excellent examination of the morality of crime-fighting. I’m not entirely sure how plausible it is in the context of current events in Canada, tho perhaps I just consider Canada an idyll in comparison to America (the grass is always greener etc.) Regardless, it is a fine meditation on evil and the rule of law and the cost of conscience, and is certainly one of the finest crime novels ever written. Yes, that does mean that certain other of the series are even better and that you should avail yourself of them when you can.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/10/22/glass-houses-chief-inspector-armand-gamache-13-by-louise-penny/

Oct 22 2017

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti

Oh, man, I remember what it was like to be young and reluctant to grow up and desperately seeking the otherworldly in a futile effort to refute how very prosaic this world is. If that is the kind of person you are or were, too, then our teenage heroine, Hawthorn, will very much resonate with you, as well. Her self-consciousness causes her to be prickly, which makes people dislike her, which heightens her self-consciousness: a very familiar adolescent cycle. When Lizzie Lovett, the most popular girl in school three years ago before graduating, goes missing in the woods, Hawthorn becomes obsessed with the case despite her initial scoffing. She doesn’t believe that bad things happen to people like Lizzie, and as the days pass and no sign of Lizzie is found, she begins to develop her own theory of what happened on the night Lizzie disappeared. Next thing you know, Hawthorn has taken Lizzie’s job at the diner and is starting to hang out with Lizzie’s boyfriend. Yeah, that goes about as well as you’d expect. Tho, I’m pleased to say, not as badly as I’d feared (spoiler: I got a distinct Swamplandia! feel partway through and am so, so glad it didn’t get as bad as that.)

The Hundred Lies Of Lizzie Lovett is a smart, funny coming-of-age novel about a teenage girl who’s kind of weird and kind of a loner but who’s really, really easy to identify with (tho I’m well aware that some people won’t find her as relatable. We all had different lives growing up, of course.) It’s also really readable — I crushed it in one day — and I’m glad I picked it up as part of the #BigLibraryRead global reading initiative. I’m very much looking forward to their next selection, given how good this one was and how I likely would never have read it otherwise.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2017/10/22/the-hundred-lies-of-lizzie-lovett-by-chelsea-sedoti/